Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

Lycoming College urbanites enjoy a glimpse of the wild outdoors

Lycoming College urbanites enjoy a glimpse of the wild outdoors

From left, front row: Ellison; Francisco Ocampo, a freshman with an undeclared major from Chicago, Ill.; Joshua Martinez, a sophomore with an undeclared major from Houston, Texas. Back row: Cesar Dominguez, a freshman with an undeclared major from Houston, Texas; Aaron Guzman, a freshman with an undeclared major from Houston, Texas; Alex Montes, a freshman with an undeclared major from Mexico City, Mexico; Kaitlin Barmore, a freshman with an undeclared major from Succasunna, N.J.; BeVier.

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Six Lycoming College students took to the trails in the Shenandoah National Park during spring break from March 7 to 12 to learn about community engagement and testing themselves in the backcountry. The trip challenged their notions of backpacking — teaching them that the physical aspects are more demanding than expected, the pride with overcoming them sweeter, and the natural views more breathtaking.

“None of the students knew each other well before the trip and initially were reserved with each other,” said Jae Ellison, director of Lycoming College’s new Outdoor Leadership and Education program that is offering a range of open-air experiences for the first time this semester. “By the end of the five days together, they better understood how to work together as a mini community.”

The students, five freshmen and one sophomore, hiked more than 21 miles with backpacks weighing about 50 pounds. They learned how to set up and take down a campsite, minimize their impact on the environment and how to work together to overcome the challenges faced while living in a backcountry environment. The occasional uphill grades and rocky terrain made them appreciate the mountaintops and the beautiful vistas they worked so hard to achieve. Joining them on the trip was Lycoming College volunteer Corey BeVier.

“Hiking mountains was physically more demanding than I expected, but as we struggled upward, we would pass beautiful clearings that would remind us the pain was not in vain,” said Aaron Guzman, who hails from Houston, Texas. “Knowing my fellow students were also enduring gave me power to persist. We sang to prevent complaining and once we reached the summit, we could relax because the wind and the mountain sang for us.

“The trip taught me how to chop large goals into manageable chunks, that no pain is too much to endure if you stay lighthearted, and that the best route to success involves cheering your peers. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn this,” he said.

At the end of the journey, the group said they wouldn’t change a thing and spoke about the importance of other Lycoming students taking part in wilderness trips as part of the Outdoor Leadership & Education program.

Lycoming College is grateful to Mel Campbell ’70 and Dale ’67 and Dallas ’68 Krapf for their strong interest and leadership support of outdoor education. Their generosity has provided the resources to launch the outdoor education program aimed at developing leadership skills and learning beyond the traditional walls of the classroom.

Additional glimpses into their trip can be seen on this video.

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