COC offers spring break trips

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March 19 marks the beginning of spring break, and, for many students, this time off is an occasion to relax.  Some students will head home, catch up with family and friends, and watch Netflix. But for some students, the absence of the dull roar of classes allows the call of the wild to enunciate itself better, and, as a result, they will take it upon themselves to brave the outdoors.  For these outdoor enthusiasts, the most appealing option is often to sign up for a Colby Outing Club (COC) spring break trip.

The COC offers a number of student-led trips throughout the semester, but the pressures of classes and other on-campus activities means that neither the leaders nor the participants can afford much time off.  As a result, the majority of these trips are day or overnight hikes in areas no more than a few hours from campus. Spring break offers a week-long vacation from college obligations. Thus, students can lead more extensive trips to areas further from campus.

In an effort to reach as many students as possible, all trips are subsidized by the Student Government Association. Each trip costs between $250 and $500 per student and covers all planned expenses. Additionally, trippers are selected by lottery in order to provide each student who signs up a fair chance of going on a trip.

“[Going on one of these trips] gives people a option to push themselves and learn something new,” said COC Trip Facilitation Committee Head Owens Strawinski ’17, who will be leading the backpacking trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas. “It’s going to be a tough trip, but so rewarding,” she said.

In the past, these trips have consisted predominantly of hiking and backpacking. This year, however, there is much more diversity in both location and trip activity. “One of the trips this year is to the Zion”, said Seth Butler ’16, who will be leading the snorkeling trip to St. John in the Virgin Islands. “[Zion is] somewhere you’d want to go on your bucket list.”

Changes within the structure of the club, as well as more involvement from the administration this year, particularly from Director of Outdoor programs Ryan Linehan, has allowed the club to more efficiently organize these trips and streamline the process of leading trips. “No one wants to play legal games. Everyone just wants to get outside,” Strawinski said. “but we have to … so we have to work with [the system] rather than against it.”

These changes have helped to alleviate many of the pressures of organizing, but the process of navigating the logistics remains a complex and multi-faceted one. The club is doing what it can to make the process more efficient, but Strawinski believes the club can make improvements in the near future. “There’s an unbelievable number of moving parts, and they all have to line up,” she said. “It needs to be more streamlined.”

In the case of many students, COC trips offer unique and perhaps otherwise unattainable experiences. “I’m a double major, minor,” Butler said, “so not much time to leave campus.” For him, leading a spring break trip provides the opportunity to travel abroad, which is something his course load would otherwise prevent him from doing.

There will be four trips this spring ranging in difficulty, from the beginner-oriented combinations of day trips and base camping to more intensive expeditionary backpacking in Big Bend National Park, St John, the White Mountains, and Zion National Park. With about ninety sign-ups this year and limited space on each trip due to safety and budget constraints, the club has had to turn many of these students away.

Strawinski, however, thinks the trips themselves are a solution to this issue. “One thing we would love is for people to get psyched about these spring break trips and become outing club leaders,” she said. “The more awesome leaders we can get leading trips in the outdoors, the better.”

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