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Smiley, sweaty hikers!

As you may know, Dartmouth's winter break is long. Like, REALLY long (42 days). So there's plenty of opportunities to spend time in a variety of ways, college-sponsored and not! For example, I applied for an 8-day backpacking trip through the Viva Hardigg Outdoors Club (VHOC), a sub-club of the Dartmouth Outing Club. VHOC sponsors trips for people whose gender identities are generally underrepresented outdoors. 

Our trip was 8 days of backcountry backpacking on Catalina Island, a small island off the coast of Southern California, around a 40-minute ferry ride from Downtown Los Angeles. Admittedly, I was super scared! 8 days in the woods with 7 women I had never met before, and no showers! 

A sunset on Catalina!
A sunset on Catalina!

Before I tell you about the trip, I want to take a second to talk about the financials of college-sponsored travel. Because of generous subsidies from the DOC and the College itself, out-of-pocket costs for the trip were $250 + airfare. In addition, if students receive college financial aid, financial aid extends to cover an additional percentage of the trip. This came out to around ~$30 per day of travel, which felt reasonable given that all trip expenses, including food, were covered. 

We hiked around 8-10 miles each day, taking in the sights and sounds of the island. We also ran into some pretty gnarly storms, including our third night of the trip, when 30 mile per hour winds collapsed our tents in the middle of the night. I know to some of you, this sounds like your worst nightmare. Stuck with strangers, dealing with rain, cold, and wind in the middle of December, working on packing up your tents. And you would be correct, it's absolutely not fun at that moment — but it's character building and relationship building. We endure the moments in the rain and the cold so that we can enjoy the views from the peaks and the sand on the beaches and the sunshine, as cheesy as that sounds. 

Views for Days!
Views for Days!

We hiked every day, making progress on our 60-mile itinerary. Sometimes, as we walked, we would chat, getting to know each other through silly questions and also telling deeper stories. Sometimes we hiked in silence, either because we were winded by the elevation or because we wanted time for quiet reflection. 

We saw dolphins, bald eagles, bison, and lots of bugs. We visited the Airport-in-the-Sky and the Catalina botanical garden. I felt really proud of myself when we finished. It was 60 miles of blood, sweat, and tears, but it was 100% worth it. My body and my determination are capable of amazing things, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone. 

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