Opinion—Outdoor recreation: preparedness, recommendations and rental options


Andie Balenger/NW

WONDERLAND-Although temperatures and wind chill have been extremely cold of late, there are still safe ways to enjoy the outdoors provided you prepare adequately.

Andie Balenger, contributing writer

For most of us at NMU, the winter semester has been off to a strange and rocky start. From classes being bounced back and forth between face-to-face and online learning, to current campus restrictions prohibiting the meeting of student organizations in person, there seems to be a general feeling of uncertainty and melancholy floating around the campus air. While it is unfortunate that campus life is not necessarily what it used to be, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with others outside of the traditional college means. Thankfully for us Wildcats, Marquette is home to an abundance of outdoor recreation and wilderness areas that are waiting to be explored.

Not only are outdoor activities a great way to temporarily unplug from the anxieties that accompany schoolwork, but they are also a great form of exercise and meditation that can be enjoyed while abiding by COVID-19 guidelines.

For me, there is nothing quite like the boost of happiness that results from a deep breath of fresh air and the sun shining on your skin. However, the frigid temperatures that accompany Marquette’s winters may discourage many students from participating in any form of outdoor recreation. Thankfully, there are many ways to prepare yourself for the cold so you can enjoy your time spent outdoors.

Depending on the length and difficulty of your outdoor adventure, the best way to physically prepare yourself for the weather may vary. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recommends wearing multiple, thin layers of clothing and proper footwear no matter the outdoor activity. Remember, you can always take a layer off.

Besides proper attire, there are other important items that you should have with you on all your outings, especially those of greater distance. Make sure you bring an appropriate amount of food and water, first aid supplies, a multi-tool and fire-starting instruments that all fit nicely into a hiking pack. It may seem silly to pack these items, but mother nature can be unpredictable, and it is better to over-prepare than to under-prepare.

Lastly, some form of a mapping device is essential to a stress-free adventure. While keeping a physical map as a backup, I primarily use an app called AllTrails to track myself and my outdoor activity. AllTrails automatically locates trails and recreation in your area, providing you with a map of your chosen trail that automatically locates your position in real-time. It is a great tool that gives you peace of mind while exploring a new wilderness area.

As of late, I have found myself cross-country skiing Blueberry Ridge on weekday mornings. The area is tranquil and alluring, providing several loops that vary in difficulty. On days when I do not feel like skiing, I settle for a relaxing hike. My favorite spot at the moment is the Wetmore Landing Shoreline Trail. But, after our most recent snowfall, I broke out my snowshoes and hiked up Hogback Mountain. While Hogback is a bit more of a challenging endeavor than Sugarloaf Mountain, the view at the peak is well worth the physical effort. And if you are into a more fast-paced outdoor activity, Marquette Mountain provides a great downhill skiing and snowboarding experience.

If you do not have your own equipment, there are plenty of resources available to students on and off campus that offer equipment rentals. The PEIF offers 24-hour winter equipment rental for free to NMU students. Their current selection includes cross-country skis, poles, boots and snowshoes. Along with the PEIF, Marquette Mountain has paid rental options for all the downhill essentials: Skis, snowboards, boots, helmets and poles.