Only a year and a half into his job as Assistant Director of Outdoor Education, David Crye has affected the college experiences of a large majority of CC’s population. This week, The Catalyst sat down with David to reflect on his love for outdoor education, his ideal co-leader, his favorite backcountry meal, and his next adventure that is fatherhood.
Interview by Sam Silverman
The Catalyst: Growing up in Wisconsin, what began your love for the outdoors, and how did it develop throughout college?
David Crye: I was always running around outside with my brothers and my younger sister, but my parents weren’t super outdoorsy in terms of getting into camping and that kind of thing. My grandparents would take us and do a trip of some kind from when I was a baby. So we would go camping all around Wisconsin, Minnesota, and eventually we would sort of do longer trips over the summer when we were older and could handle longer times in the car. My biggest memory was coming out west and doing a two-week tour when I was in third grade, I think. From then on out, I was all about getting outside, but I didn’t have that much of an outlet until college— I didn’t have any gear or anything like that —except for through my grandparents. But once I got to college, I joined the outdoor club—one like ours—except we didn’t have orientation like we have now. I went out on my first backpacking trip with the program and with my college roommate, actually. After that, I was like “this is awesome,” They had student leaders and I was like, “you guys get paid for this? This is so cool! I wanna do that!” So they hooked me up with a job and I worked with them for the rest of my college career, whether supervising the challenge course or climbing wall, being a trip leader, or working for the gear house.
I was a business major in college so I had no real intention of going into the outdoor education realm. I didn’t really consider that a job until my senior year, when I was about to graduate and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, which I think is a common dilemma with students, that at some point you gotta figure out what you’re doing next. But then my supervisor at the time said, “you know, you can do what I do,” which is what I do now. So I went to grad school with the intention of working in collegiate rec. I think the reason I wanted to work in a college-aged environment was because of the effect it had on me during my time in school. It really changed my focus and what I spent my time doing. I learned a lot, I loved working with people, and I loved taking what I learned in class and applying it to the outdoor program, like leadership development and team building in our challenge course, which I fell in love with. It was so impactful for me and I learned so much about myself and got to interact with crazy amounts of people. Learning I could do that as a career really intrigued me.
TC: How have you seen Outdoor Education grow at CC since you started working here?
DC: It’s kind of tough because I didn’t re-ally know what it was before, but I know there has been a ton of growth over the past five years or so. Looking at past documents and talking to Ryan [Outdoor Education Director] and past students and alumni, it’s like wow, things have changed quite a bit. I’ve been here a little over a year and a half and what I’ve noticed is the Gear House expansion. Just moving it into the [Outdoor Education Center] really helped drive it in terms of getting a wider variety of gear, and we are continuously increasing that still. Even in terms of clothing, getting rid of any barriers that would participation. A bunch of us started around the same time—us being Rachel, Grace, and myself—so we really came in with goals on what we wanted to expand on from the inclusivity side, and make sure our programs were open to everyone and perceived that way through all lenses. We can think we’re open to everyone, but if we’re not marketing right or talking to the right students or types of programs, we’re not going to reach all the students on campus. I think New Student Orientation (NSO) has continued to grow and build off of its great history. We need to make sure it keeps getting more efficient as it gets bigger every year. Our trainings too—we’ve kind of revamped our ALI (Ahlberg Leader Institute) Programs and I think it has gotten as many students through trainings and out leading trips as possible.
TC: How would you like to see NSO look 10 years from now?
DC: You know, to be honest, it has been around for quite a while and morphed and changed, but it has been pretty true to the original intent, which was to provide a unique, cohesive experience for every incoming student, regardless of where you’re coming from, whether it’s international, scholarship, not on scholarship, whatever. It’s just trying to bring everyone in, say “this is what CC is, and you belong here.” And so in the past couple years, CC as a whole, with rebranding, it really brought into NSO the idea that we want to make sure everyone knows they have a place. The first couple weeks on campus can be really tough. NSO 10 years from now… I’d like to continue that, and get even better at that. I’d like to diversify our student leaders as our student body continues to change. We want to make sure NSO mimics that. I’d like to see us do that before 10 years… as well as new sites and a better, more relevant curriculum.
TC: If you could lead an NSO trip, what would it be, and who would be your co-leader?
DC: Oh wow, who would be my co-leader… Which trip would I lead? That’s hard, there are so many good ones. In the past, trips have gone down to the Moab area in Utah and worked with Canyon Lands Field Institute. We didn’t work with them this year, and I love Utah so much but I’ve never done service work down there. I’ve always taken groups explored it myself, but going down there with that intention would show students that it’s so awesome. Utah is one of my favorite places. As far as my co-leader, that’s hard. Oh man. You know, Jake Lauer would be a pretty fun co-leader. He would be a good time.
TC: What would your last meal be, un-der the restriction that has to be cooked on a Whisperlite?
DC: It would definitely be this one, one of my favorite backcountry meals. It’s kind of gourmet: baked mac and cheese with broccoli, depending on how long the trip is and if it’ll last. You bake it on a fry bake and you put grape nuts on the bottom so it’s like a little crust and sprinkle some on top. You layer the pasta and the cheese in alternating layers, cut up the broccoli real small, and then bake it. It’s fantastic. It’s tough with a large group, but I’ve done it. You need big fry bakes and you need at least two to make sure you have enough food, but it’s good. You can eat really good in the backcountry if you want, but it takes a little extra effort.
TC: What’s the most intense backcountry experience you’ve ever had?
DC: So it wasn’t that intense, but one of the most challenging, in retrospect, I was just young and didn’t know much. I was leading a group—one of the first extended trips I was leading—and we just had a ton of issues—medical issues—that we had to deal with throughout the trip constantly, and temperatures, and cold, and ice. It was in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee. It was over Spring Break, a 12-day backpacking trip. It was hard, mainly because we knew so little as leaders. Looking back, it’s like wow, how did we get everyone out of that trip? We had asthma attacks, we had allergic reactions, we had ice and sleet. It was a tough trip from the leading side of things.
TC: What makes you most excited about becoming a father?
DC: It’s just a whole new adventure. I think it’s going to change my life quite a bit. I’m excited to instill a passion for the outdoors, and just adventure. Hopefully I can do that, but not push it too much. Just really looking forward to doing things with my kid. From hiking with a stroller to maybe when they’re a little older to carrying their own pack and we can go out and explore. That’s just really exciting for me.
TC: What’s your favorite element of your job?
DC: I would say the constant interaction with students; that’s why I got into the field. I have a really valuable staff that have really helped guide my career path and keep me excited about my job. And I think with that is the constant challenge and change that keeps it fun and exciting. Yeah, student interaction and the challenge that comes with it: constant ideas, different needs that are always coming up.
TC: How many Colorado 14ers have you done and which one is your favorite?
DC: I think I’ve only done two true 14ers in Colorado, only being here a year and a half. Maybe I should have more under my belt right now, but sadly I don’t. I did Pikes my first summer here and I came out here and we hiked out something… I guess I gotta go with Pikes.
TC: What is your favorite day hike in the Springs?
DC: There are so many. I really like Section 16. It’s really easy to get to from our house and you feel like you quickly get away from the roads. It’s not too challenging, but it’s really beautiful—lots of scenic overlooks. It’s nice to throw into a morning or afternoon.
TC: If you had $100 and had to spend it all right now, what would it be on?
DC: Right now, it would be on baby supplies, to be completely honest. I mean, I could always use more gear; I kind of have a backpack fetish, if you will. I like having a lot of backpacks for whatever the situation might entail. So maybe a new backpack then.