The transition into college comes with a lot of changes: starting over in a new place, making new friends, learning to thrive away from family and friends. For me, it was living in a city.  

After growing up among redwood trees in a small town on the California coast, I was unsure how I would adjust to life in an urban environment. But I soon realized the nature I craved was closer than it appeared.  

I chose Hopkins because it was perfectly suited to my academic interests—public health and creative writing—and I figured I was an adaptable enough individual that I would be fine wherever I ended up. But when I first drove into Baltimore, I felt claustrophobic. Although I was reassured by the beautiful campus and nearby Wyman Park, Stony Run stream, and Sherwood Gardens, it was still a small substitute for the mountainous landscape of my hometown.  

College started out better than I could have hoped. I made friends fast, enjoyed my classes, and adjusted to a more flexible schedule compared to high school. But the outdoors has always been a huge part of my life, and without my weekly hikes, it felt like there was still something missing.  Two months into my first year, I applied to The Johns Hopkins Outdoors Club (JHOC). Since I first got the call that I was accepted, the club and its incredible members have transformed my entire college experience.

Exploring the Great Outdoors

Over the past three years, I experienced the most unbelievable outdoor adventures. When my parents check in on weekends, they often text “Where are you?” rather than “How are you?” Whether it’s biking at Rosaryville State Park, climbing Sugarloaf Mountain, or canoeing on Little Seneca Lake, I always have an exciting answer. During breaks, we undertake extended journeys to learn the skills necessary to lead trips for other students. Over spring break of my first year, I took an eight-day First Aid course. After completing the course, I earned a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certificate, and I now feel confident in my abilities to help others on the trail.  

Besides the WFR course, my favorite extended trips have included five days of backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, ten days of canoeing on Lake Moomaw in West Virginia and on the Potomac River, and six days of rock climbing at Pilot Mountain in North Carolina. Although I’ve lived on the West Coast my whole life, I feel like I know the Mid-Atlantic region like the back of my hand.  

For my most recent excursion, my JHOC friends and I embarked on the famed Four-State Challenge in which we hiked 45 miles of the Appalachian Trail in under 24 hours. Our adventure began at two in the morning at the Pennsylvania/Maryland state line. We made it to the halfway point—the Washington Monument State Park—by early afternoon, passed through West Virginia several hours later, and finally finished in Virginia at 1 a.m. the following day. Excluding my rolled ankle and six nasty blisters, it was the most incredible experience. I’ll always look back on those 24 hours and be proud of our determination. 

Backpacking in the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia.
Vertical caving in Whiting’s Neck Cave, West Virginia.
Committed Friendships

In addition to the exciting outdoor opportunities, JHOC has given me a close-knit community and my most valued college friends. Growing up, the adults in my life would always reminisce about college as the time where they met their “kindred spirits.” For me, students who care about the environment, go on day-long hikes for fun, and are willing to spend a week without their phones are my type of people. I’m lucky JHOC allowed me to find them so early in my college experience.  

While I am dreading the day I move on from Hopkins and leave JHOC behind, I know I will remain close to everyone with whom I have bonded. The club has a strong alumni connection. Many alumni join us for personal trips over the summer, and two years ago, we hosted a camping reunion for JHOC’s 50th anniversary. I met individuals who were in the club several decades ago and remain connected to the friends they made and the lessons they learned during their undergrad adventures. My experiences with JHOC have also influenced my post-college goals. I’m currently planning on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (2,190 miles from Maine to Georgia) after my graduation next May.

Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.
Connection to Baltimore

JHOC has provided me with the chance to foster a greater appreciation for the city of Baltimore. I love being close to Orioles games at Camden Yards, trivia nights at R. House, and seasonal events down in the Inner Harbor (like the annual Christmas Village). I would never have had these opportunities if I hadn’t ventured out of my comfort zone and moved away from small-town life. With JHOC, I get to experience both fast-paced city life and the calming nature of the outdoors. 

Canoeing on the Potomac River in Maryland.
Annual camping trip to Assateague Island.
The JHOC Mission

As an avid outdoorswoman, the JHOC mission—getting as many people involved in the outdoors as possible—is something to which I will always feel connected. All our trips are free, and we provide gear for students to try activities ranging from canoeing and caving to rock climbing and mountain biking. If you’re reading this as a current Hopkins student, come on some trips with us! And if you’re reading this as an incoming or potential student, know that Hopkins cares about getting students into the outdoors. They strive to ensure trips are accessible for individuals from every background and every perspective, and for that, I’ll always be appreciative.