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Epicenter of awesomeness
Roommates Phil Salonek, left, and Tyler Rybicki, added hammocks and decorations to the cabin they live in this semester as outdoor education students at the CWC Sinks Canyon Center. Photos by Katie Roenigk

Epicenter of awesomeness

Mar 13, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

CWC's outdoor ed students have cabins, not dorms

Seven Central Wyoming College students have found a home in Sinks Canyon this semester as part of a pilot project through the school's outdoor education department.

The cabins at the CWC's Sinks Canyon Center became available last year after the facility's main client moved to a new facility. Center manager Frank Burch said the college recognized the opportunity to offer a unique experience to its more advanced outdoor education students. If the pilot project is a success, he said, the privilege of residence in the canyon could be a sort of reward for second-year students with the required credits.

"You can go to schools all over the country and study outdoor education, (but) not sitting at the base of the Wind River Mountains with the (Shoshone) National Forest in your backyard," Burch said. "It's beautiful here."

The students who took advantage of the pilot project agreed, enthusiastically.

"This is like the epicenter of awesomeness," outdoor education major Anthony Dube said. "You truly feel like you're out there with the mountains in the canyons."

Dube, who wants to be a back-country ranger, has appreciated his proximity to the wilderness during his time living at the center.

"You can go hike out your front door if you want," he said. "You just pack a pack and leave."

He also tends to get more work done in the quiet of the canyon.

"There are definitely less distractions," Dube said.

The group may be removed from life on the main campus in Riverton, but student Tyler Rybicki said the people who chose to live at the center seem to belong there.

"It's the people who would enjoy this," he said. "The ones that live here, would."

The students who live at the center still spend time in Riverton, and resident Connor Bailey said their in-town peers often come along on climbing trips, caving adventures and bonfires.

"A lot of people come here on weekends to hang out with us."

Joan Brandenberger, an outdoor education major who lives in Riverton, said she regrets her decision not to apply for a cabin.

"I wish I lived here," she said during a visit to the center. "I just spent the whole day in the canyon, and I wish it was in my back yard instead of a 45 minute drive away."

Darran Wells, an assistant professor of outdoor education and leadership at CWC, said he anticipates that more students will want to live in Sinks Canyon in the future based on the experiences of their peers.

"(The) students living out there have been able to share stories with the other students who are living on the main campus," Wells said. "So the freshmen are very excited about the opportunity, (and) we expect enrollment numbers to grow as a result of tis program change."

Twelve can fit in the cabins, and Wells said the college has plans to add 12 more condominium-style units through an upcoming construction project at the center.

"We could have as many as 24 students living there," Wells said.

It's not always glamorous in the canyon, though. The students moved in during a winter blizzard, and even in warmer weather Anna Rowland of Sheridan said the walk from her cabin to the center's bathroom facility can seem long.

"It's fun ... showering early in the morning when you're in a rush and you have to go back to your cabin (to get dressed)," she joked. "Or when you forget to turn on your heater (at night) because it was a nice day."

The minor headaches are all part of the "semi-rustic" lifestyle, and Rowland doesn't mind.

"Every single day is great," she said, pointing to the center's television, which sits unplugged and unused in a corner of the main hall.

The students say they're too busy to watch TV. In addition to their outdoor activities and schoolwork, Rybicki and his roommate, Phil Salonek are completing internships with Burch at the Sinks Canyon Center.

"Tyler is (creating a) recycling program," Salonek said. "And I'll do some mapping of the property."

He said the canyon offers a variety of subject areas he could study, from natural history to game trails, wildlife habitats and watersheds.

The students also helped Burch with educational outreach at the center. Last month, for example, they taught a group of local middle schoolers how to show shoe, developing lesson plans to cover basic techniques as well as emergency preparedness skills.

"They're incorporating the theory of teaching in the outdoor setting, then applying it to a real audience that doesn't bite too hard," Burch said. "That's exactly what this is about -- to give them real world experience. ... To be in this setting here at Sinks is a great opportunity for them to take that theory (and) put it into practical application."

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