The rain has stopped, and the November moon, full and yellow, shines down on Lake Brandt, silhouetting a miniature armada of college kids in canoes that glimmer like large fireflies out of season. Disembodied voices ring out in the darkness, singing songs from Disney films, laughing, squealing in mock terror.

The Outdoor Adventures group has been well-prepared, traveling in a diamond-shaped pod. To keep the canoes visible in the dark, they taped glow sticks to bow and stern.

UNCG’s Outdoor Adventures office is accessed through a side entrance at the Student Recreation Center on Walker Avenue. Campus Recreation took the university’s Outing Club — in existence at least since the early 70s, nobody’s certain of an exact date — under its wing in 1996, says Mike Ackerman, Outdoor Adventures director. So the Outdoor Adventures moniker was born.

Mike and a graduate assistant go along the overnight trips but students lead all trips. Outdoor Adventures currently offers excursions in whitewater kayaking, whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, backpacking, hiking rock climbing and flat-water canoeing.

Although the program offered trips to exotic places like South America and even Nepal in more solid economic times, the focus now is on local trips with longer trips, to U.S. locales like the Grand Canyon and the Florida everglades, scheduled over semester breaks. Guests are welcome, and the average cost for weekend trips is just $80 per person.

“We amaze ourselves when we put the prices together,” Mike says.

The Outdoor Adventures space was initially designed as a rental center for outdoors equipment but now serves as both a rental and trip center that is almost bursting at the seams. Students, faculty and staff can rent equipment for trips at low cost.

“One misconception is that people maybe rule themselves out of our trips before they come on one,” Mike says. “I’d say that over 95 percent of our trips are for beginners. We design them for beginners. Literally people could walk in the door who have never slept in a tent before.”

Mike and the students created weekday trips like the Lake Brandt trip to offer short, simple outdoor experiences for students at an extremely low cost. The Brandt trip costs only $10 for students, $15 for others.

“It’s a way to get out for a few hours and have a good time outside of campus,” Mike says. “And to help students realize there are some really great local opportunities too. We often think about there’s the mountains and there’s the coast, but we rarely think about what we have right here in the Triad. It’s a great way to expose them to some of those spots.”

Back on Lake Brandt, one of Greensboro’s public lakes, the canoners drink in brisk air and moonbeams. With renewed vigor and body heat, the pod winds its way back toward the dock.

Photo courtesy Rob Lilley