Off-the-hill adventures lure students to outdoor club — The Kenyon Collegian

As Kenyon continues to recover from the pandemic, many students are taking advantage of the vast natural beauty Gambier and surrounding areas have to offer. Places like the Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC) and Kenyon Farm provide opportunities for students to enjoy the natural world, but in recent years the Kenyon College Outdoors Club (KCOC) has been increasingly tasked with bringing students outside. Kenyan students.

KCOC, which has been active since the 1990s, organizes a variety of weekend trips ranging from camping to hiking to fishing, as well as longer trips during October and spring break. The club also sponsors an annual pre-orientation trip to West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest, which it has hosted since 2009. Club president Wyatt Henneman ’23 wrote in an email to college student that “The Outdoors Club’s mission has always been to facilitate experiential learning, create opportunities for students to connect with one another, and encourage engagement with the natural world in an organized setting, affordable and safe.

According to Henneman, he became involved with the Outdoors Club “from the start” during his first year at Kenyon when he went on the pre-orientation backpacking trip. He credits the trip with helping students find a place on campus, a sentiment that was echoed by other participants in a recent college student experience profile. A strong believer in the unifying power of the outdoors, Henneman noted the bonding opportunities presented by club-sponsored activities. “You can get out of your routine, go somewhere you’ve never been before, and experience something completely new.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Hannah Ehrlich ’26, who recently went “Bigfoot hunting” in Salt Fork State Park with KCOC. “It was nice to meet new people, especially some upperclassmen, and it was great to be able to take a break from studying and get off campus,” she said. Ehrlich also expressed his joy at the unexpected moments that can come up while traveling, quoting one from the outing: “We drove to a hiking trail that led to a historic house, and two volunteers gave us an unsolicited tour. ”

The club offers many offbeat activities that break away from standard hiking and camping, including canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, rock climbing, biking, sledding and downhill skiing. Discussing a rainbow trout fishing trip in Ohio’s Vermilion River, Henneman referenced his past experiences with nature and the outdoors that shaped his current philosophy: “My dad taught me how to fish when I was young, and I want to use that knowledge to create a safe and accessible learning opportunity for as many students as possible.

Henneman said in the aftermath of the pandemic, there has been an increase in interest in experiencing the outdoors, which has led to more students getting involved with the club in recent semesters. This posed some challenges, as Ohio’s unpredictable weather can make it difficult to plan outings for large groups in advance. Another, more unprecedented challenge, according to Henneman, is a troubling trend of students canceling trips on short notice, not giving the club time to fill their spot with someone on the waiting list.

Despite this, Henneman was very optimistic about the club’s future. “The number of students interested in traveling shows the school’s interest in the Outdoors Club. We are always looking for thoughtful, organized and passionate students who want to get more involved and bring new ideas,” he said.

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