A letter from a kayaker,


A few years ago, I discovered Venture Outdoors and signed up for my first kayaking trip.  Since then I’ve been hooked. These trips mean a lot to me because they provide a great way to escape from the many stressors of work and everyday life.  I’m an ICU nurse who works long hours and I always look forward to trips with Venture Outdoors. Fred, who also has a busy life working as a policeman in a hospital, just recently started going on trips with Venture Outdoors and is already looking forward to more trips.  His first time kayaking on the river was with Venture Outdoors.  David, our guide, helped Fred to feel more comfortable and confident kayaking on the river.  Both of us agree that the kayaking and hiking trips that Venture Outdoors organizes are well planned and are always in areas that are very scenic and safe.  Everyone whom I’ve met on these trips (both guides and venture seekers) are very nice and often share their knowledge regarding the area we are hiking or kayaking through.  Venture Outdoors definitely offers an opportunity to destress, learn how to maneuver in the outdoors, and to meet great people!  Also, we are both looking forward to becoming members!

Thank you so much!!
Denise & Fred 

What do we do that benefits others?  We create access to outdoor experiences.  Why is that important?  It provides stress relief, exercise, overall wellness, an escape.  A chance to pursue moments that bring happiness and joy.  All of this enhances the quality of one’s life.  

Every year, we hear countless stories like the one that Denise and Fred have shared here.  Stories about how we help others feel more alive and enjoy the wellness that only nature can provide.  Maybe you have a story that is like this one.  Maybe you are chasing moments like these.   


Removing barriers to the outdoors

We try to make sure that everyone enjoys the outdoors.  Whether that is through fishing, biking, hiking, kayaking, and much more, we work every day to remove any barriers that may be preventing others from enjoying outdoor experiences.  If you are passionate about this cause and want to learn more about the work that we do or how that you can get involved, visit www.ventureoutdoors.org/yaksofkindness.   

We love to hear your stories.  If you would like to share your favorite Venture Outdoors story with us, please email Ebony@ventureoutdoors.org.   

Inspire. Educate. Equip.  We remove barriers and create access to outdoor experiences.  


Become a Venture Outdoors Member

Venture Outdoors Members support programs that help get others outdoors. Membership starts at 7/mo and goes a long way in removing barriers to the outdoors.

Inspire. Educate Equip.

Picture from Marc's Pittsburgh to New Orleans Trip, Courtesy of Marc Oddo

Marc Oddo is heading to Europe this Summer for an incredible kayak adventure

By Elena Shahen, 2019 Summer Intern

Marc Oddo, a Pittsburgh Native, will be embarking overseas on June 5th  to the Danube River. This is where he and a friend plan to kayak almost 2,000 miles. This is his second big Kayaking adventure.

Marc’s first big trip happened a few years ago. He saved up enough money working at Kayak Pittsburgh to paddle from the North Shore Kayak Pittsburgh location, all the way to New Orleans.

He first fell in love with kayaking when a friend gave him a kayak and he used it as a mode of transportation to get back and forth from work every day. 

I’m chasing clarity and a calm mind, and I feel like I should at least learn to appreciate life before I die
- Marc Oddo

Marc is inspired to take long paddling trips with two simple things in mind; the first being that he is going to die one day, and the second is clarity. Marc explained how kayaking allows him the space to think without worries of the past, present, or future. The river can pull his worries away on its current.

I’m chasing clarity and a calm mind, and I feel like I should at least learn to appreciate life before I die,” said Marc. More specifically, Marc has an appreciation for being able to wash his clothes and hair in the river every morning.

Picture from Marc's Pittsburgh to New Orleans Trip, Courtesy of Marc Oddo

So Marc takes to the water again, but this time he’ll be passing through 11 or 12 different Eastern European Countries. His journey will  begin in the Black Hills of Germany and end down at the Black Sea of Romania. This trip will take 2 to 3 months, with Marc averaging about 25 to 35 miles of paddling per day.

This is not new to him, being that he had paddled between 45 to 70 miles a day on the Ohio and Mississippi. Marc says he plans on steadily moving down the river, but looks forward to stopping in the bigger cities to check out any National Forests, Monastery Breweries, or other beautiful attractions along the way.

One of Marc’s favorite kayaking memories was when he pulled an overnight paddle during a full moon. He was coming from Louisville and was passing Fort Knox when Marc and his friend thought they both saw a UFO.

The rest of the night was eery, foggy, and quiet. By the time the sun rose and he could see the mile markers, Marc realized they had paddled over 70 miles. After that he found an amazing camp spot on the side of a cliff, and had the best sleep of his life.  

Picture from Marc's Pittsburgh to New Orleans Trip, Courtesy of Marc Oddo

“I’m still wary of taking on more exotic rivers of the world, so this is kind of a kiddie hill for me. I’ll get to understand logistics of travel better and hopefully it will lead me to other amazing river adventures across the world,” said Marc.

For his Europe trip, Marc is preparing for anything that could happen, from bad weather to gypsy robberies,  or maybe even some aggressive wildlife. He has only packed the essentials, tarp, hammock, bug net, cooking supplies, and rain gear. As for clothing he is taking a more unconventional approach and plans on having one pair of zippable pants, water shoes, and one or two shirts. One shirt reppin Venture Outdoors 🙂

Marc feels that his first steps at Kayak Pittsburgh is what lead him to go out and take big adventures like this one. Not only does he credit Kayak Pittsburgh for helping him learn how to judge if a river is save to paddle, river navigation, kayaking techniques, and general safety, but how Kayak Pittsburgh taught him about being okay with being an amateur.  

Picture from Marc's Pittsburgh to New Orleans Trip, Courtesy of Marc Oddo

“Seeing people kayak for the 1st time and coming back with huge smiles on their faces made me feel like if they can do it for an hour out there, I can do or a few hours anywhere,” said Marc.

So what is next for Marc Oddo? He definitely wants to plan for another big river trip next spring or even travel to the Southern Hemisphere for a paddle in the winter. Marc tells us he has something exciting brewing up in Sicily in September and will update us more when he can talk about it.  

I know everyone here at Venture Outdoors and Kayak Pittsburgh look forward to seeing Marcs updates on this journey, and if you want to learn more about his last big trip you can check out his blog 

Marc Oddo

When we look back at how we are today and our successes, we tend to think of our hardships first. So I say bring it on, and hopefully there will at least be a cold beer waiting for me somewhere.”

-Marc Oddo

Hey! Feeling inspired from Marc's Story?

Want to learn how you can get on the river? Get your feet wet and become a member at Venture Outdoors!

Reframe Your Morning Commute: Polar Vortex to Poké Walk 

By Mara Addison

As a Venture Outdoors Trip Leader, I regularly participate in hikes that last two hours or more through heat, and cold, and nasty precipitation, over creeks, and through trees, and up long hills. So why was the thought of a flat 23-minute walk across downtown Pittsburgh so daunting to me? 

For four years I worked at the Steel Tower on Grant Street and would occasionally make the walk from my parking lot in the Strip District to the building. It was a 13-minute walk. And unless I was walking with someone and chatting, I found it pretty miserable. 

In the summer of 2018, I switched jobs and now work near Point State Park. Parking is inexpensive in the Strip, so it made no sense to change where I left my car in the morning. Every day, since June 2018, I took a shuttle from the Strip to the Steel Tower. From there, I walked two blocks to jump on the T. This took at least a half an hour, much more if the shuttle or the T were running late. On the few days the T wasn’t running or the shuttle was MIA, the walk was 23 minutes.   

Let me repeat – 23 minutes. You may notice, this is faster than relying on transportation. 

Yet it seemed like such a harrowing thing, that 23-minute walk. From the Strip! To Point State Park! *GASP* Coworkers gawked at the distance. Friends agreed this was far too long of a walk to tackle. You’ll be exhausted, they said. It’s too hot, too cold, too wet, they said. Why walk when you can ride, they asked. 

And then, at the beginning of the New Year, I had an epiphany. 

I’m a hiker. That’s what I do. In any weather, pavement or woods, hot or cold, heavy backpack or not. I hike. 

I teach people how to hike safely. I lead children on hikes and show them the beauty of the trails. I hike and don’t watch the clock but watch the trees, the wildlife, and the people. Walking through downtown is a chore. But hiking? Hiking is a treat, for the body, for the soul, for the senses. 

I traded my running shoes for hiking shoes, gathered my hat and gloves, and made the decision to simply start hiking. Not walking – but hiking. 

I started by taking the shuttle to town and skipping the T, hiking exactly 13 minutes from Grant Street to Point State Park. After several weeks, I added an afternoon hike from work to the Strip. After that, I just started hiking back and forth every day. 

I watched the trees, the birds, and the people walking their dogs. I decided to say something nice (in my head) about every person who caught my eye. (“Ugh, look at that awful jacket” became “What great shoes that man is wearing.”) I made it a goal to pet at least one dog per day. I ran into an old friend and made lunch plans. I saw the mayor and chatted and shook his hand. (He is also an urban hiker.) The time flew by. I was disappointed when I got to my destination. Through the Polar Vortex, heat waves, and rainstorms, I hiked. 

About a month ago, my nine-year-old daughter rediscovered the Pokémon Go app. As a good mother would, I started to look for Poké Stops for her downtown when she was short of Poke balls. (If you don’t know the lingo, no worries. Follow along anyway.) 

After two weeks, I started going after some of the Poké People myself. Just for fun. Suddenly, my 23-minute hike expanded to 28 minutes. There were certain stops through downtown and the Strip I had to hit on way to and from work … for my daughter, of course. 

And the best news? We are currently planning a Venture Outdoors Pokémon Prowl for the end of summer.  I’ve discovered many other people who walk around looking for imaginary creatures to trap on their smart phones. Why not have everyone explore together, kids and adults, in a safe and fun group? Look for more information on the website soon. 

My daily hikes are a great life lesson in perspective. If you look at a task with fear or derision, it’s going to remain drudgery. But if you reimagine it, and find a way to embrace it, wow, what an adventure you may have. 

Isn’t that the way with most things in life? Isn’t it better to find one good thing about every person you see? To see the beauty in the bare trees, to keep your eyes open for doggos to pet, to listen for the songs of the birds and keep track of the shimmering ice on the river? Isn’t it better to be proud of your accomplishments? 

I wish you your very own burden to overcome, and the imagination and enthusiasm to conquer it and make it a thing of daily joy. 

By: Grace Eggleston, Previous Photography Intern

I figured out a long time ago that there are two things I really enjoy: being outside and playing around with cameras.

After graduating from Pitt this past year, I thought about what kind of career path I wanted to go down and decided I wanted to try out film school. I wanted to get the technical training with cameras that I’d never had before and learn how the freelance filmmaking/photography business works. But while looking for schools I found myself in a weird position. I didn’t want to go to NYC or LA for that classic Hollywood/fiction film school experience. My perfect school would allow me to focus my creative work on what I love most: wildlife conservation, outdoor adventures, and peoples’ relationship with nature! I was pretty sure this type of program wasn’t a thing, until it fell right into my lap after a day of intense Googling. American University’s MFA concentration in Environmental Filmmaking!

So here I am in DC, almost finished with my first semester of grad school in a program that has exceeded my expectations. The work is intense but it’s SO much fun! My classmates and I are learning how to set up and run professional cameras, audio equipment (so hard!), and lighting. We’re learning how to edit short films, practicing how to interview documentary subjects, and the logistics of traveling and setting up equipment in different locations. Perhaps most importantly, though, we’re learning how to identify an important story and shape it into something interesting and new for an audience. For me, those stories are about the environment and our relationship with it. I’m so excited to be in a program that will help me explore this in the next few years as I begin to make my first films! (Next year I get to take classes like Producing Environmental and Wildlife Films and Classroom in the Wild where we’ll travel to the Chesapeake Bay to shoot film projects and live in the field!)

It’s also inspiring to be in a city with so many environmental nonprofits and to be in school with other people that are passionate about a niche topic like this. Just the other day I got to run sound and camera on a classmate’s project where she interviewed a lifelong climber/conservationist. We filmed at Carderock, an island just outside the city that’s full of small cliffs that plunge down into the forest and the river. Earlier in the semester, a professor met us out at the same island to try to teach us how to repel while holding camera equipment!

Long story short, I’m thrilled to be here, mashing my two loves of cameras and nature together!! Thanks for reading and have fun on your next outdoor adventures!!

By: Kaitlyn Gallagher

Mornings are not my time. Every morning, I set at least five alarms and snooze them all. I am a miserable person in the mornings; I am grumpy and will say some things I don’t actually mean if someone crosses me the wrong way. I have definitely slept in past 2pm, and I consider any time before 10am early. In summary: I hate mornings.

I had just begun my semester abroad in Cape Town, South Africa when my new housemates suggested we take a sunrise hike on a mountain called Lions Head. Honestly if I had known my housemates better I would have laughed in their faces, but I was trying to be adventurous and make new friends so I agreed. When my alarm went off at 4am, I wished that everyone else in my house had forgotten about the ambitious plans. I wanted nothing more than go back to sleep. Against my wishes, my housemates were up and ready to take on the hike.

When we got the bottom of the trail, it was still pitch black. I thought of all the lucky people in the city around me who had more hours of sleep ahead of them. My friend told me that there were people who ran up the mountain every morning, and I assumed that those people were absolutely crazy. I personally clung to the side of the mountain and cursed myself for leaving my bed. As we approached the top of the mountain it was a scramble, and I was passed by more experienced people who were used to racing the sun. The whole way up the approximately hour long trek I didn’t get the whole point of the hike. Why did I have to wake up so early? Why couldn’t we have done this just a few hours later? Then we got to the top and I got my answers.

The sun slowly crept over the horizon, stretching through the valleys and into empty streets. It was beautiful. Watching the sunrise was a truly amazing experience which cannot be accurately described in words. My head was clear, and I was able to take a deep breath for what seemed like the first time in a long time. There were all sorts of people at the top of the mountain, old groups of friends, couples, and those crazy people who ran up the mountain. I felt bad for the people in their beds who were sleeping through such a precious life moment. I realized those people who ran up the mountain were probably not crazy, because starting the day off on the top of a mountain watching the sunrise is arguably the best way one can start a day. Realistically, I will not be a person who runs up a mountain every morning, because I still cherish my sleep. However, when the opportunity arises to take a sunrise hike I gladly set my alarm.

So from the bottom of my heart, set an alarm, grab some friends and get out there. I don’t remember the days that I slept the morning away, but I remember every second of that first sunrise hike. It’s worth it.