The COVID-19 pandemic caused many changes for College Outdoors (CO) last semester. The New Student Trips (NSTs) were postponed, gear rental for students was suspended and fall trips were made to be shorter and COVID-safe. Now, with new students potentially having the opportunity to participate in “May Trips” and exciting opportunities being offered to the LC community at large, CO Program Director Joe Yuska highly encourages students to take advantage of CO’s accessibility.
Referring to the May Trips, Yuska explained how they can be a safe and beneficial way for new students to finish up their first year of college. He did go on to say, however, that there is some uncertainty as to whether they will happen.
“We are really optimistic about them happening,” Yuska said. “It does realistically depend on the course of the pandemic, the governor’s orders, what the college will allow us to do and how these new (changes) will affect everybody.”
In regard to the spring trips offered regularly, the ethnobotany, truffle hunting and backpacking events highlight an impressive array of CO activities, all of which can be found on their section of Lewis & Clark’s website. The backpacking trips in particular entice lots of student involvement.
“Our overnight backpacking trips were really popular,” Yuska said. “We have six or more of those planned starting at the end of February. Participation was really good last semester and so far, in terms of people signing up for this weekend and next weekend, it’s really strong again.”
According to CO Assistant Leader Katie Varness ’21, the trips offered this semester are highly accessible because they are free and much shorter than in years past. She believes that some of the positive characteristics of these trips can be replicated in the future.
“Being able to take all of the trips that were really successful in this time and then carry them into possibly next semester or the semester after that, when we can start offering trips off campus again, but still having the option for people that want to do shorter trips and have more free options (would be great),” Varness said. “So I think that’s one good thing that’s come out of this.”
Varness also talked about how excited she is about specific events, including DIY Wind Chimes and Mushroom Hunting. Ultimately, she feels proud of the work CO has done to involve the student population in fun and informative outdoor activities in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m just happy it’s providing a handful of people a really good time when they need it,” Varness said.
Open House, a community skill-sharing program in CO, is also set to begin the week of Feb. 1. Whereas the spring trips involve going to various locations near campus, Open House meets weekly on Tuesdays in the Sequoia Gear Warehouse to learn practical skills for the outdoors.
Emily Clark ’22 expressed her excitement about these weekly meetings.
“For Open House, we do a lot of skill-related activities,” Clark said. “Next week’s Open House is tying knots, so it’s an hour or two of just learning how to tie knots, which I think is a really awesome skill to have.”
Clark went on to talk about the leadership and employment opportunities offered to students, which range from leading NSTs to working at the gear warehouse. The “Opportunities and Applications” section of CO’s website provides specific information. Clark encourages the LC community to check out the website given how valuable its services are for students.
“You learn so much — not even just about certain skills,” Clark said. “You learn a lot about other people, leadership dynamics, and it’s really useful for anything you do moving forward.”
With new and exciting events on the horizon, students can stay informed by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to automatically receive their comprehensive newsletter or for any questions they have about the website, which is currently under development. For students looking for outdoor job opportunities, they can ask to be added to the Outdoor Jobs mailing list. Students can also email members of the staff for more information on Open House activities and skills training for CO leadership, both of which began this week.