Last semester, rather than go home for a week during Fall Break, I went on my first ever Oberlin Outings Club Trip (read about that here). For a low cost (with a no-questions-asked financial aid policy), the Outings Club runs wilderness trips every break, ranging from car camping and hiking to backpacking to canoeing and kayaking (the Oberlin Climbing Club also does trips sometimes). This is a great option because it is cheaper than traveling home, and it provides an awesome opportunity to get outdoors and see beautiful parts of the US I didn't think I would ever see. Last semester I went to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with 6 other students and had an incredible, mentally rejuvenating time enjoying the natural world. That week served as a much-needed reset during a very hectic time—I left the trip determined to search for a sense of presence my semester had been lacking, and started journaling a lot more, a habit that I’ve maintained consistently since last October!
This semester, our Spring break was really late, so I decided not to go home, since my family would be in school/at work the whole time and most of my out of state friends from back home would already be back at their own colleges and universities. Instead, I decided to go on another Outings Club Trip since I enjoyed last semester’s trip so much! This past week, after an admittedly very beautiful 8-hour drive south (starting at 5 AM lol), I found myself in Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in southern Kentucky. The group included me and 5 first-year students. I didn’t know any of them before this trip, but we all got along super well and, by the end of the trip, had several fun inside jokes. Something that still amazes me about the Oberlin community is that even though the school is very small, I am still meeting new people all the time—and everyone is so great to be around. I was a little nervous before both of my trips, but there’s nothing like going into the backcountry with 5-6 strangers to contribute to group bonding! I am continually pleasantly surprised by my ability to find commonalities and make friends with new Obies. For example, this trip—besides the obvious mutual love of the outdoors among my group—we talked a lot about fantasy/sci-fi/adventure movies and books we particularly enjoyed as children. We got along swimmingly, told a lot of jokes, and were able to laugh at ourselves and our situation when we made navigation mistakes and kept running into trail closures that no one told us about. To sum it up, Obies are great, fun people to be around, and make great adventuring partners!
On the trip we did an average of about 7-8 miles a day, with our longest day being 11 miles (partially due to trail closures and having to use detours and accidentally making a wrong turn). It wasn’t quite Spring yet, but the weather was gorgeous. It rained and thunderstormed (is that a verb?) a few nights, but during the day it was in the mid-60s and SUNNY. I even wore short sleeves a few times and my pale pasty arms saw the sun for literally the first time in 2019. Between meals of oatmeal, peanut butter tortillas, and various legumes sprinkled liberally with Tony’s Cajun seasoning (a godsend), we wound our way through forests of skinny grey trees, creeks with mossy banks, and beautiful blue lakes. Unfortunately, there was a lot of litter throughout the area, but overall the scenery was gorgeous and it was a much-appreciated opportunity to soak in some sun, especially because there is STILL CURRENTLY SNOW IN OBERLIN.
The trip was definitely physically challenging for me this time, even though I regularly work out in various ways. The pace was a bit fast—but manageable—for me. Everyone in the group dealt with aches and pains (including some extremely raw heel blisters), but I made it through the whole 60-ish miles of trail and I’m so glad I did! We all majorly exerted ourselves, and stopping at a diner called Granny’s Kountry Kitchen in a small rural town and eating our body weight in breakfast food while surrounded by men in camo was the perfect way to end the trip.
After last semester’s trip, I emerged with some big take-aways. This time, I also came away with some lessons and things I want to keep in mind. Besides appreciating normal human food and amenities like clean water, toilets, and beds, I really appreciate how much camping and backpacking makes me slow down. There were times on the trip, when, after getting to the campsite, I sat in the sun and did literally nothing. I so seldom do nothing at Oberlin, even when I am “relaxing” I find myself doing something. Coming away from this trip I am trying to find small moments of slowness and trying to savor them as much as possible. Those moments can be few and far between in Oberlin, but I want to find them and appreciate them as much as I can as I come nearer to the halfway point of my Oberlin career.