College Outdoors Trip Leaders discuss their path to leadership

Photo by Sherlock Ortiz

By Julia Warling

Whether it be a short day hike to the Coast or a week-long Spring Break retreat to the California Redwoods, Lewis & Clark College Outdoors knows how to have a safe and adventurous time in the wilderness. But without Student Coordinators, Assistant Leaders and Trip Leaders, none of the programs run by College Outdoors would be possible.

“As a leader, I really enjoy the day snowshoe hikes,” Nicole Godbout ’20 said in an email. “It’s super fun to spend a day at Mt. Hood frolicking in the snow. A lot of participants go on their first snowshoe hike ever with College Outdoors and get hooked — I think it’s an overlooked winter activity. CO has a tradition to bring maple syrup for homemade snow cones, which is always a hit!”

To reach Trip Leader status, you must first pass a van driving and trailer exam that tests the ability to navigate successfully with a trailer attached to the van, have a summer of wilderness work experience and be Wilderness First Responder certified for the outdoors.

Grace Greenfield ’19 expressed her excitement about reaching this position.

“When I first decided that I was going to go to LC, I applied to be a part of the Outdoor Pursuits Living-Learning Community and I signed up for a backpacking New Student Trip (NST),” Greenfield said. “Both my leaders were super awesome and encouraging. I was pretty darn stoked to go to Open House (a weekly event in which attendees learn valuable skills for becoming leaders) because (my NST leader) was Open House Coordinator. I started working in the warehouse, because I have work study, and then I worked my way into being a Student Coordinator.”

Becoming a College Outdoors Trip Leader can be a long process because of all the requirements, but also fun for these students as well because they are doing what they love. During the process of moving up the Leader Ladder, which includes “rungs.” Some students like Echo Miller-Barnes ’20 choose to stay at lower levels on the Ladder, although reaching those levels still require dedication to the program.

I am an Assistant Leader and a Paddle Captain with College Outdoors,” Miller-Barnes  said. “[As] Paddle Captain, I lead all of the rafting trips … Thom (a member of Professional Staff in College Outdoors) helped me find a job as a raft guide this past summer. That allowed me to come in this year and be a Paddle Captain. I led the rafting NST this year, which was really cool.”

College Outdoors is not just about progressing up the Leader Ladder. It is also about having fun.

“I went on a Waterfalls and Ethnobotany day hike with (CO Director) Joe Yuska and he found a ton of edible plants along the Columbia Gorge,” Godbout said.“I had no idea there were so many!”

“I did a snowshoeing trip (on Mount Hood) and I had never been there before,” Greenfield said. “There were some really funny jays who were trying to eat our food and one of them actually took a sandwich out of my friend’s hand! They were dive-bombing us and it was really fun.”

Greenfield is not the only leader to encounter hostile wildlife on a College Outdoors trip. During a trip to the Deschutes, Miller-Barnes overheard some coyotes while she was trying to sleep.

“We heard them yapping and I was sleeping and I was having this terrifying dream of being chased,” Barnes said.“Then I heard the coyotes wake me up. I just sat bolt up and was like ‘Oh my god, something’s gonna come eat us’ but it didn’t, they were just coyotes.”

If you are interested in becoming a Trip Leader for College Outdoors, or even just a participant, head down to the Templeton office and sign up for a trip — it may just change your life.

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