At opposite ends of the U.S. members of the Outing Club swam in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans during the second week of spring break. In Big Sur, California, a stretch of land along the coast about three hours south of San Francisco, nine students waded into the frigid Pacific Ocean waters. They had just hiked for three days in the mountains, which rose directly out of the ocean and constructed the coastline. Thousands of miles away, on the east coast, nine other Hamilton students paddled to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, where water from seven different states meets the Atlantic Ocean.
While both trips took place on coasts, the trip in California spent the majority of its time in the mountains. The trip began in the suburbs of San Francisco at the “base camp” home of co-leader Anne Emanuels ’16. Emanuels and co-leader Gabby Pilson ’17 set off with seven student participants down the Pacific coast. They hugged the sides of the mountains on the Pacific Coast Highway until they drove into the region known as Big Sur and headed into the mountains to a trail called Pine Ridge. The leaders set out with fellow students Emma Reynolds ’17, Kathryn Hobbis ’17, Sungmin Kim ’18, Emma Morgan ’18, Megan Bates ’18, Jack Confrey ’19, and Sophia Zacharakis ’19 to backpack and camp for two nights in the forest.
Dwarfed by “staggeringly tall” redwood trees, as Emanuels described them, the students hiked along the Big Sur River and into the mountains. Every so often, the trees by the trail would suddenly drop, opening the view into an expanse of sky, jagged forest, and even the occasional glimpse of the ocean. “The group loved the redwoods,” remarked Emanuels — they quite literally embraced the redwood life, linking arms to see how many students it took to hug one.
After spending three days in the woods, Pilson and Emanuels lead the students back to the coast, where they spent one last night by the ocean. During the extra day in the sun, some of the participants dared to venture into the crashing waves of the frigid Pacific. After watching the sun set over the ocean, the group mastered the art of ice-cream cone s’mores. This marvelous concoction combines marshmallows and chocolate chips in a waffle cone, which is then wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a fire until properly gooey.
Across the continent, Hamilton students swam with the fishes along the eastern coast of the Chesapeake Bay. For four days, leaders Andrew Jillings, director of Hamilton’s Outdoor Leadership program, and Anne McGarvey ’17 paddled with seven students through salt marshes that connect the Delmarva Peninsula to barrier islands just off the coast. Most of the land the group explored, such as the Assateague Island National Seashore and the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, is preserved for migratory birds to land and nest on during the summer months. The Chesapeake Bay is a haven for wildlife, and during the trip students spotted peregrine falcons, egrets, herons, ospreys and dolphins.
Though the group planned to spend some nights camping on a barrier island, the wind was too strong to safely travel out to the only island available for camping. Instead, the trip was based out of a cabin in Kiptopeke State Park in the Virginia section of the Delmarva Peninsula. Just offshore from the park, nine concrete ships used in World War II were partially sunk to create a breakwater for a ferry that used to operate from what is now the park’s pier. This provided the perfect playground for the trips leaders and Peter Skaggs ’16, Alex Wang ’17, Bryan Ferguson ’17, Amanda Lodge ’18, Lauren Boyle ’18, Marie Buendia ’19 and Clare Ryan ’19. These massive ships offered protection from the Chesapeake’s large waves so the students could practice paddling in calm waters and maneuvering between the massive ships.