Take a Hike! Executive Director Discovers a Passion

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“It opened up the Georgia Tech community in a way that was meaningful to me and in a way that I might not have experienced otherwise.” Executive Director of Affiliated Organizations, Aisha Oliver-Staley shared how faculty and staff wellness hikes through the Campus Recreation Complex (CRC) introduced campus relationships, revitalized her spirit, and challenged her physically. Now leading her own hikes and adventuring across the U.S., she is an unstoppable living testament to the profound effect that the faculty and staff hikes have on the physical, spiritual and social aspects of health and well-being. For those interested in experiencing these effects, faculty and staff hikes return Saturdays this fall with four trips to some of the most beautiful trails in the state of Georgia.

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield State Park

To kick off this season, ORGT will head to the familiar Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield State Park on September 23. Hikers meet at the base of little Kennesaw then venture to the top of Big Kennesaw. This was Oliver-Staley’s first trip with ORGT and also the hike that triggered the social aspect of health and well-being for her. She enjoyed the experience and conversations with colleagues that differed from the typical campus interactions. For this trip, participants can meet at the Mountain Biscuit company at 7 a.m. for preliminary fellowship as well.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Next, ORGT will venture to Sweetwater Creek State Park on October 7. Just minutes from downtown, this hike follows a spirited stream through fields and forests. Exploring Sweetwater solidified Oliver-Staley’s passion for hiking. She fell in love with what she described as “an enchanted forest.” The beautiful landscape combined with the meditative sound of running water inspired something within her.

“I find Sweetwater very magical, and those early morning hikes at Sweetwater brought together the outdoors and the people in a way that I had never experienced. That is when things really took off,” she said.

The hikes have challenged Oliver-Staley physically and also contributed to a spiritual rejuvenation within her. The soothing calming nature of them give her a high that she says is addictive, and nothing beats the way she feels when she completes a hike. For her, the spiritual experience mirrors that of attending church.

“I think my spirit may have really needed it, so maybe, it resonated with me. I can’t shake that feeling of what it [Sweetwater] did for me that day,” she said.

Emery Creek Falls and Red Top Mountain State Park

The final two destinations will take place at Emery Creek Falls and Red Top Mountain State Park on October 21 and November 11 respectively. Emery Creek Falls is reserved for more advanced hikers, and transportation from the CRC to the falls will be provided for this trip. Assistant Director of ORGT, David Knobbe hopes to convince Oliver-Staley to help lead the Emery Creek falls trip which is something not unfamiliar to her. As her hobby grows, so do her followers. Friends, family and colleagues have reached out to her for leadership on weekend hikes. While the hikes have inspired Oliver-Staley, she is inspiring others.

For those who are new to hiking or apprehensive about getting involved with ORGT, Oliver-Staley says to do it. It has changed her life in a way that is immeasurable. So take a tip from the expert and sign up for one of the faculty and staff wellness hikes through ORGT. Register through or at the Wilderness Outpost. For more information on faculty and staff hikes, visit


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    Kate O'Neill
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