The birds are singing? The air finally doesn’t hurt your face? Are we still in Rochester?

So, the bricks really are finally starting to thaw. You lift your head off your textbooks, crawl out of your windowless lab, actually walk to the next building outside of the tunnels. We’re pretty used to exclusively thinking of Rochester as a freezing vortex. But what do students at RIT even do when it’s nice out and there isn't any snow? 

Well, there’s always the hiking trails behind Gracie’s. If you fancy yourself climbing rocks instead of mountains of homework, head to the Red Barn. The community gardens just behind the tennis courts can give you your daily dose of orchestrated green space. Plots are available for students to plant if you will be on campus in the summer. And if you need to get a little further off campus? The Lehigh Valley Trail — an excellent path for a hike or a run — is just across the road from Barnes and Noble. But what if you want to stretch your legs a little further off campus than that? Without a car, the great outdoors can feel very inaccessible to those here at RIT.

The RIT Outing Club runs two to three hiking trips and other activities around the Rochester area each week. They meet in Gosnell A300 on Wednesdays nights at 9 p.m., and you can connect with them on their Facebook page. All of their events are also posted on Facebook every week.

“We try to have some beginner and advanced trips,” said current president Alessandra Suchodolski, third year Biomedical Photographic Communications major. “People in the beginning trips can learn how to backpack and how to pack, what to bring and kind of what it’s like.”

RIT’s Outing Club dates all the way back to the granola-munching hippies of the '60s. “They actually went on a lot more advanced trips back then. They climbed, like, Mt. Mckinley and crazy ... advanced trips,” Suchodolski recounted. “We found a postcard from there ... then we’ve got some drawings people did. The club room is kind of an archive.”

The RIT Outing Club is located behind that door in the tunnels by the NRH loading dock that's painted with a backpacker and a sunset. Suchodolski gave a more detailed inventory of their headquarters. “We have lots of different equipment to rent — we have sleeping bags, snowshoes, tents and backpacks. We all have a few canoes and we also just got an ocean kayak.” The best part is you don't even need Tiger Bucks to rent equipment. “We’re a pretty unique club. We don’t charge dues, we don't charge for gear,” Suchodolski said. “For some trips we do charge just for food and renting the campsite and all that."

Suchodolski talked about Outing Club's involvement with other RIT clubs. “We’ve done some rock climbing trips with the Rock Climbing Club," she said. "We’ve gone to a rock climbing gym in Canada. This year we’re going to help out with Earth Week with SEAL ... the week of the 17th of April. We’re actually going to have a bake sale and we’re going to educate people and hand out flyers about 'Leave No Trace.'”

Suchodolski said the Outing Club hasn’t really connected with any outdoors enthusiasts in the greater Rochester area. Despite the lack of a centralized outdoors hiking community, Rochester has miles of beautiful hiking grounds and parks that the City of Rochester has preserved and cultivated.

According to the City of Rochester’s website, the Flower City has over 3,500 acres of parks. Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous designer of New York City's Central Park, crafted some of Rochester's very own parks, some of which include playgrounds, picnic grounds, sports fields and even some beaches. One of the city’s programs, the Flower City Feeling Good Series, will be facilitating Thursday Night History and Nature Hikes this summer at 6 p.m. from June 2 to Aug. 25.

It's always interesting meeting other people and just chatting with them,” Suchodolski commented. "Get out and tackle a trail — you might end up meeting some fellow hikers as well!"

"Get out and tackle a trail — you might end up meeting some fellow hikers as well!"

Recently, the city has been working on engaging residents outside in a new way. A number of new initiatives are turning the Flower City into a biking community. Bicycle parking has been added across the city, including the Public Market. The city finished The Bicycle Master Plan project in January 2011, which is serving as a model for their other projects that are currently underway. bikeROCHESTER began in 2011 and has modified 64 miles of Rochester streets to accommodate bicycles safely. The end of 2017 will see the completion of 30 more miles and plans to add 140 more miles have already been drafted. The Inner Loop East Transformation Project, which has been transforming portions of the expressway to include bicycle and walking paths, will be completed this year. Separated bike lanes are also being added along Union Street from Chestnut Street to University Avenue. These routes now link the Genesee Riverway Trail to College Town. The New York State Department of Transportation supplied 80 percent of the funding to the project.

There are many ways to get involved with the Rochester community through biking and other outdoor activities. Rochester will be hosting Bike Week from May 10 to May 16 of this year. Last year’s festival included events such as Bicycle Film Festival, Light up the Night Ride and the Unity Ride to advocate for peace and justice in the community. The Flower City Feeling Good Series also has programs for bikers this summer. Pedal out on Tuesday evenings beginning June 7 until Aug. 30 for guided bicycle tours of the city. Those looking for a way to give back can volunteer with R Community Bikes, an organization that collects unwanted bikes, polishes them up and gives them away to those in need. Their website states that they donate over 2,000 bikes every year.

Whether or not you will be at RIT or in Rochester during the summer to take advantage of many of these new opportunities and initiatives, we should be proud and excited that our city is working to transform itself into a green, healthy community. This area has been endowed with great natural beauty that finding ways to enjoy and protect that beauty for future generations is one of the greatest things we can do. So get out and stretch your legs a bit! Everyone needs at least a little study break. Don’t forget to smell the fresh spring air — the textbooks will still be there next semester.