September 23, 2015

Excursions available to student veterans

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale is expanding the scope of services it offers to student veterans with Veteran Adventures trips.  

Throughout the 2015-16 school year, a number of adventure excursions are scheduled locally and across the country. SIU’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center and Veterans Services are partnering to offer deer and goose hunting, backpacking, canoeing, whitewater rafting and other opportunities for fun, adventure and camaraderie. 

All student veterans, whether they attend SIU or other colleges in the region, are eligible to participate in the trips, according to Shane Brady of Touch of Nature. Each trip is “all inclusive” and the cost, which varies, covers transportation, food, gear, logistics/guides, and where it pertains, lodging and fees. 

However, organizers are seeking donations and sponsorships so that all veterans who want to go can afford to do so. Thus, the costs listed are the maximum possible costs. The prices could be less, depending upon the donations and sponsorships received and the number of participants.  

The schedule for the 2015/2016 trips, along with a brief description of each trip and maximum cost, includes: 

  • Oct. 9-13 -- North Carolina backpacking/whitewater rafting trip covering more than 20 miles of the Appalachian Trail that winds through Tennessee and North Carolina. The journey ends with a whitewater rafting adventure on the Nantahala River. $400.
  • Dec. 11-13 -- Veteran deer hunt giving participants the rare opportunity to bow hunt for white-tail deer on the 3,100 protected acres of Touch of Nature Environmental Center. In addition to hunting, the veterans will enjoy presentations from guest speakers about hunting, trapping wildlife management, field-dressing/butchering, food preparation and other relevant topics. Deer stands are included. $150.
  • Jan. 6-14, 2016 -- Florida Everglades National Park trip using canoes to explore the ocean, mangroves, rivers and swamps, even paddling among the manatees. $700.
  • Jan. 22-24, 2016 -- Touch of Nature Environmental Center is open for veterans to hunt Canada geese and snow geese with guides provided by local waterfowl hunt clubs. $225. 
  • March 12-20 -- Colorado mountaineering trip with participants visiting the Rocky Mountains, climbing to heights of 14,000 feet above sea level and taking in the scenery. No experience needed. $550.
  • May 23-29, 2016 -- Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area exploration trip, backcountry paddling in the swift river where experience is helpful, but not required. $350. 

For more information, or to sign up for any of the trips, call Touch of Nature Environmental Center at 618/453-1121 or email Additional information is also available online at The deadline to register for each excursion is one week prior to the trip.  In the future, organizers hope to set up online registration. 

To make donations or pledge sponsorships to go toward Veterans Adventures Trips, visit and click on “priorities” at the top of the page and select “Touch of Nature Environmental Center” and then “Underway Adventures.” 

SIU is a six-time honoree as a “Military Friendly School” according to Victory Media and has also twice earned the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Veteran Education.