During outdoor odysseys, new friendships form

by Jennifer Johnson,

  • Outdoor program Campus Rec
  • Outdoor program Campus Rec

Willamette’s Outdoor Program offers 120 trips per year to Oregon’s coast, mountains and other popular spots.

Willamette students explored 82 miles of Oregon’s coastline, rode horses at Black Butte Ranch and backpacked near Tunnel Falls.

And that was just in one weekend.

Through the Outdoor Program, students can visit various breathtaking spots within a three-hour drive of Salem -- from Canyon Creek Falls to Crater Lake National Park, one of the snowiest spots in America -- at a steeply discounted cost.

The program offers 120 trips per year that provide students with remarkable access to northwest Oregon’s lush wilderness, coast and rivers, as well as other popular destinations like the Oregon Zoo in Portland. For the second consecutive year, the program can help individual residence halls create customized trips. Excursion costs range from free (trips within Salem) and top at $50 for a five-day spring break trip to see the Redwoods in California.

But the program isn't strictly for hardcore outdoors enthusiasts. Bryan Schmidt, director of campus recreation, says that all trips — apart from the Adventure Series— are designed with newcomers in mind.

“If you’ve never been to the outdoors, you could try any of these trips,” he says. “The idea behind college is to explore who you are, to try new things. You simply couldn't’t participate in any of these trips on your own at this cost. So why not try one?”

For underclassmen who might not own cars, the trips can provide a healthy escape from campus and a chance to get to know new people.

Program coordinator Grace Graham ‘18, says, “We have such a wide variety of students who participate, you end up seeing a lot of familiar faces around Willamette by doing a few trips.”  

Trip participants are also consistently patient, welcoming and considerate of others. During one hiking expedition, program coordinator Andie Dibiase ’17 says she watched participants go out of their way to make Japanese students from the American Studies Program feel comfortable.

Schmidt points out that, unlike some programs, there’s no commitment beyond the trip a student signs up for. If they attend even one trip with an open attitude, they might be surprised by what they experience.

“You don’t know the next person you’ll sit next to,” he says. “It could be your next best friend.”

Upcoming trip dates are available on the Outdoor Program’s website. Sign-up times are 4:30 p.m. on Mondays at Montag Center. Students must show up to pay for the trips, and a line forms quickly, so program coordinators advise people to arrive early. Students can also send a friend in their place. Cash, checks and student account charges are accepted.