The Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) continues to provide trip opportunities for students living on campus despite the limitations on student activities due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). While the trips do look different, the BOC’s goal to provide outdoor experiences driven by student interests while cultivating a sense of community remains the same.
The BOC has been running trips every weekend since the College entered “yellow” status last month. Trips are open to all students living on campus, and they have been wildly successful among first years who are itching to get outside and meet new people.
“The trips fill up really quickly, and it’s kind of a mad dash to sign up” said Paul Wang ’24.
Wang said that he initially did not know whether trips would be possible this year, so he is very grateful for the opportunity to go outside and to explore Maine.
Although masks are worn at all times in the van, once students are outside and are able to socially distance, they can be unmasked.
“Once we get out on the open trail and we’re not passing a bunch of strangers, then we all feel pretty comfortable taking our masks off,” said Ludwig, who feels that having to wear masks for some portion of the day is a small price to pay for these trips.
The BOC has offered a variety of trips, including canoeing down the Kennebec River, hiking at Tumbledown Mountain, watching the sunrise from the Giant Stairs and enjoying a beachwalk at Popham Beach. The trips are mostly local, with the furthest destination being a two-hour drive away.
“BOC trips this year have taken on added importance in the lives of students,” said Max Freeman ’22, a trip leader this semester, in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “There’s something more valuable in them this year, even though they’re not as creative, because they’re so vital and [because] of the scarcity of activities and experiences that we have in COVID.”
For many students, BOC trips offer an escape from the virtual world and a way to connect with the beauty of Maine in the fall.
“Especially with online learning, you can kind of be online all the time in some capacity, and there really isn’t a break,” said Bjorn Ludwig ’23 in an interview.
Outing Club Assistant Director Tess Hamilton ’16 said that a silver lining of this unprecedented semester is the opportunity to focus on introducing first years to the great state of Maine.
“[The Outing Club] is a space for everyone, and no experience is required,” she said in an interview.
Almost all of the trips this semester require no prior experience. Hamilton said that the BOC is focused instead on simply getting people into the outdoors during the fall, which she noted is one of the most beautiful times to be in Maine.
In previous years, BOC officers and student leaders planned the majority of the trips. This semester, though, Hamilton and Outing Club Director Mike Woodruff are planning all trips. BOC student leaders, who go through a rigorous training program to be equipped to lead trips, are upperclassmen and are therefore mostly not on campus this semester.
Hamilton and Woodruff are taking a multitude of factors into consideration while planning for trips this semester, such as COVID-19 safety, availability of van-certified drivers, proximity of destinations to campus and students’ interests.
“The limiting factor is that there are not enough van-certified drivers or drivers willing to or having enough time to lead trips, so that’s the most important thing that I have for the BOC—not even my leadership qualifications, but just the fact that I can drive a van,” said Freeman, who is van certified.
Bjorn Ludwig ’23 had not previously been involved in the BOC, but he noticed a need for drivers and decided to help since he is also van certified.
After driving for many trips, Ludwig has begun to lead some as well. He led a hiking trip to Grafton Notch this past weekend and plans to continue leading one or two trips each weekend.
While BOC officers cannot be directly involved in trip planning this year, they continue to be involved in virtual programming and are working to help facilitate an inclusive community for students on campus.
Aine Lawlor ’21, a BOC officer, said that she and her fellow officers hold Zoom office hours to meet first years and are working on an activity guide to the outdoors in Maine.
“What makes the BOC special is the BOC community and spending time outside with people,” she said.
“There are a lot of constraints this year that I think have reduced the creativity of BOC trips,” said Freeman. “But, on the other hand, our reference point has changed so drastically that the mere fact that we’re able to put on BOC trips is much more gratifying than just that fact alone would have been in a previous year.”