Since the beginning of the school year, I’ve been showing up to Kalamazoo Outing Club (KOC) meetings regularly, planning trips, and helping out on the budget committee. Until spring break, however, I hadn’t actually been on any of the trips sponsored by the club, missing countless opportunities to rock climb, snowshoe, bike, and more. When my spring break plans fell through, I signed up for the KOC trip last-minute.
The trip was originally planned for about twenty students to go hiking and rock climbing in Red River Gorge, Kentucky. Later on, a few more spots were added for hikers only, and I was eager to join this group given my lack of climbing experience. Putting down my deposit not knowing who was signed up for the trip (and knowing that most of my closest pals would never dare to join me) was both nerve-racking and exhilarating.
The drive was long and the nights were chilly, but the hiking was extremely gorgeous. We’d wake up before the sun rose, boil river water for oatmeal, and start our hikes along trails that took us down to the water flowing through the gorge, up to the highest points where we could look out over the terrain, and back down again. I learned how to cook with limited ingredients, the best way to pack a backpack, the importance of staying hydrated, and a slew of good riddles to pass the time.
Above all, I met a group of people with whom I would never have interacted otherwise, and I got to know many of my peers better than I anticipated. I used to think that, after freshman year, friend groups were solidified and turning acquaintances or even strangers into friends was a tricky process, but the KOC taught me otherwise. Student-run and student-centered organizations are wonderful places to make this happen. Consider signing up for an upcoming trip!