For those looking to experience God’s creation firsthand, Southern’s Outdoor Adventure Program (SOAP) offers a variety of opportunities for people to get active and enjoy nature during the Sabbath hours.
The Student Park Cave is opened for the public the first Sabbath of each month from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The cave is about a mile long and includes walking, crawling, and swimming passages. Once cavers arrive at the Student Park, they are given basic orientation, a helmet, and a headlamp. Admission to the cave is free, and cavers are advised to wear old clothes and shoes with good traction.
Goliath Wall was an abandoned rock quarry until extensive excavations led to its reopening in 2006. The wall now features 200 horizontal feet of 40-foot to 60-foot climbs and has been bolted for top-rope use. SOAP leaders offer free instruction at the wall a couple of times each semester.
SOAP offers a special vespers at the beginning and end of the school year. Led by faculty and staff, students canoe out to the Nickajack Cave located on Nickajack Lake in Chattanooga. After a vespers service together on the water, thousands of bats emerge from the cave just after sundown. Miller says that while some students find the canoe trip back to shore in the dark a little scary, the experience is worth it. The event is free and counts as a vespers credit for students. This semester’s bat vespers takes place April 20.
“We live in an instantaneous society and many times we are over stimulated with technology, even during the Sabbath hours,” said Marty Miller, associate professor in the School of Education and Psychology. “Our activities help cut out the distractions and give us all an opportunity to truly appreciate God’s special day through marveling at His awesome creations.”
Recently, a volunteer organization called Friends of White Oak Mountain was formed to help renovate Southern’s Biology Trail. Outdoor enthusiasts now enjoy 11 miles of new paths for hiking, running, and biking on this path that leads from the bottom of the valley to an overlook on the ridge above the university. The trail has become increasingly popular with mountain bikers, earning a top 10 rating from singletracks.com.
Chattanooga was recently ranked as the top city in the country by readers of Outside magazine. There are a variety of places to climb in the area, and Lookout Mountain’s Flight Park is a great place to try hang gliding. There are also many parks in the area to enjoy hiking, and both the Tennessee River and nearby lakes provide ample opportunities to be active on the water.
SOAP also sponsors other outdoor Sabbath activities such as camping trips and backpacking. Visit their website for more information on these and other SOAP events.