02 October 2013

Hello dear readers!

My name is Jessica Kostka and I hail from Auburn, California. I’m a first-year student here at L&C, which means I don’t have to choose a major yet – thank goodness! I’m juggling the idea of studying either SOAN (which is what we call Sociology and Anthropology) or English, so I am currently taking one class in each of those departments – Introduction to Cultural Anthropology and Introduction to Poetry and Poetry Writing. I am also in Exploration and Discovery, which is the required humanities course for all first-year students, and Deep Space Astronomy. I originally took that class to fulfill my General Ed science requirement, but it is so fascinating that I am actually toying with the idea of trying to take more classes in the Physics department and maybe even minoring in Physics! Crazy, I know. I just love learning about the structure and origin of the universe and supernovae and nuclear fusion! The only problem is that I have a very “love-hate” relationship with math. I guess I don’t have to figure it out just yet. Anyway, I’ll tell you all more about my classes in another entry. Right now I want to tell you about how amazing College Outdoors is!
After much deliberation, I decided to go on the Backpacking the Wallowa Mountains New Student Trip even though I had only been backpacking once before, back in California when I was 9. The Wallowa Mountains are in Eastern Oregon (near the border with Idaho about 8 hours away from Portland) and are incredibly beautiful. Even though I had my doubts beforehand (since I was such a novice), that trip was the most rewarding experience I have ever had. There is no more powerful catalyst for friendship than coping with terrifying lightning storms and steep, steep trails while being surrounded by nature and great camp food. It was a fantastic way to bond with people in a deep way and make lasting friendships before I even got to campus. But don’t let me bore you with the touchy-feely stuff. Have some pictures!
Our first campsite was in this meadow surrounded by mountains. The mountain behind the tents here was calling to us, so we decided it would be a good idea to climb it. We thought it would take just a few hours.

Famous last words. It took SEVEN hours and was way steeper than we thought it would be. Also, the summit in the picture above was a false summit, meaning the mountain was much taller than we could see from camp. Here is a picture of Forrest and Marielle about halfway up. Even though we didn't make it all the way to the top because of how steep it was, you can see we had some great views. We could see a whole second ridge of mountains and some lakes that were too high to be visible from the meadow.

That hike was probably the toughest part of the whole trip and we were all glad to be back safely. After camping at the meadow for another night (which was when the lightning storm hit), we moved on to Cached Lake and Heart Lake, which were even more beautiful – especially because the weather cleared up!

Out of all the things we ate, my favorite was the pizza. It was incredible. There were so many good things we brought to put on it, like avocado, high-quality sharp white cheddar cheese, chicken, peppers, onions… Fabulous. I made mine into a calzone.
Here’s a picture of Mariah’s pizza.

So College Outdoors pretty much has the best trips ever. Beautiful locations and top-notch food, just like a five-star resort! Well, not really. Backpacking is a lot of work, and everyone is expected to carry their own weight on a trip (pun intended). But you don’t have to have tons of experience to have a great time backpacking. I’m living proof of that. However, if backpacking is really out of your comfort zone, there are also lots of other New Student Trips, like service trips based in Portland or trips where students stay in cabins in various locations. Then there are lots of trips during the year such as day hikes at the coast or at Mt. Saint Helens and even a yoga retreat weekend! These are actually very affordable for students as well. You can also get involved with College Outdoors by being a student coordinator or trip leader.
Stay tuned for my entry next week! I’ll tell you more about my classes and also about what it’s like to live on campus! Feel free to shoot me an email at jessicakostka@lclark.edu if you have any questions. I’ll leave you with this picture of our whole group that Jamey took right before we embarked on the long drive back to campus. That’s me in the middle wearing red.