Ode to the Outing Club


Annalisa Waddick

Outing Club members, including my sister and I, traveled to Italy over the summer for a week-long biking trip.

Annalisa Waddick, Opinions Editor

I generally try to live my life without regrets, and that includes my time at Washington and Lee University. I’m a senior this year (suddenly, crazily, terrifyingly), and I know that if I gave in to the what-if mentality, it’d be a train that would never stop — largely because my college experience has been so impacted by COVID-19. 

However, there’s one regret I let myself have: not joining the Outing Club, or OC, sooner. 

Outing Club is a club intended to help people get outside and enjoy the beautiful outdoors, and it is responsible for organizing hundreds of trips a year. Trips range from small, such as back-campus walks, to medium, such as reading-days biking trips, all the way up to international multi-week hiking trips. There is quite literally something for everyone — trips for people with different interests, abilities and time constraints. 

Once you pay your $40 fee, you’re a member for life and have immediate access to the chaotically beautiful calendar that lists near-daily trips. You also are granted the ability to rent all sorts of equipment from the OC pavilion. 

Last fall, a friend and I rented kayaks from the OC barn (the catalyst that finally drove me to join), drove down to the Maury River, and spent a few hours gliding along and soaking up the sun. I’ve gone boating enough times to know that this one single visit paid off the price of joining OC and that alone makes it worth it!

Beyond boating, in the last 13 months I’ve gone on nature walks, watched birds, tried bouldering for the first time, went stand-up paddle boarding on the Maury, and even got to go whitewater rafting in West Virginia — a mind blowing experience. 

I am by no means Bear Grylls (I’ve never been camping in my life and my fear of spiders is paralyzing), but there’s still so many options for me to get outside in ways I’d otherwise never do. 

West Virginia wasn’t the only place I traveled with OC though. This summer, my sister Emily and I — who doesn’t even go to Washington and Lee! — traveled with four other undergrads, one law student and queen Margaret McClintock, the associate director of intramurals and adventure programs, to northern Italy. We spent a week biking around the Dolomite mountains, eating pizza, and constantly talking about how fake the landscape looked due to its heart-stopping beauty. 

Calling this experience “the trip of a lifetime” sounds cheesy and overused, but I legitimately have never been on a trip like this and likely never will again. It was challenging and humbling (50+ miles of biking on day one will do that to you!), but it also led to incredible friendships I still maintain and memories that feel like they’re from a movie.

 I cannot recommend these longer adventures enough, and know that they are really something special — very few schools do things like this. 

The final verse in my ode to Outing Club goes out to all the people involved in it. McClintock and James Dick, director of outdoor education, are two of the most genuine, wonderful people I have ever met. They steer the ship and genuinely care in a way that is unique even within this university. 

Along with them, every Key Staff member I’ve interacted with has been warm and welcoming, open to trip suggestions or modifications. 

And of course the other club members are truly what makes this thing what it is — many of my favorite people on this campus are involved in the Outing Club in some way. I met one of my dearest friends on a random Chessie trail walk last year, and this really exemplifies the spirit of the Outing Club: you never know what you’re going to get, but you know it’s going to be good. 

I waited until the start of my junior year to join this incredible, outdoorsy group, and if I could go back to the start of freshman year and sign up little 18-year-old Annalisa I would in a heartbeat. As my sister says, “OC is so fun even a Bama girl participated in it.” So this is your sign: go join the Outing Club!