Tucked under West Virginia in the Virginian peninsula sits a section of the Appalachian Mountains called the Grayson Highlands. Known for its wild ponies and rocky terrain offset by mountain meadows, Grayson Highlands State Park offers a unique, outdoor experience that tempts hikers of all levels. Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Pursuits staff saw the park as an opportunity, and therefore chose the Grayson terrain for the fall 2017 freshman orientation trip. All they needed was a leader, and Lou Duloisy was up for the challenge.
Duloisy, a junior studying environmental biology, has a genuine passion for outdoor recreation. After experiencing all an Outdoor Pursuits freshman orientation trip has to offer when she was an incoming Bobcat in 2016, she set her sights on becoming a trip leader. The following year, she did just that, leading a pack of her peers through the Appalachian mountains of Grayson Highlands.
“[It’s all about] getting to go out there and have these experiences,” said Duloisy, “It’s so cool to teach something that I’m really passionate about.”
For even the most experienced hiker, backpacking takes outdoor adventure to a new level. According to Outdoor Pursuits Assistant Director Judd Walker, backpacking require advanced skills in outdoor navigation and survival, while day hikes allow for a more leisure experience.
“Backpacking involves carrying a 40-50 pound pack with everything you’ll need for several days in the field,” said Walker. “On our backpacking trips we teach more advanced skills in map and compass navigation, bear and animal safety, campsite selection and setup, drinking water treatment, and Leave No Trace ethics. We also teach leadership skills, conflict resolution and feedback skills. On our day hikes, we are aiming to get folks out of town and in nature.”
Walker echoes Duloisy’s enthusiasm for the freshmen orientation trips offered by Outdoor Pursuits, which are called “New Adventures.” According to Walker, participants get a “leg-up” on the first-year experience, getting to know their peers on an authentic level. No phones―just real, genuine conversation. Important life skills such as “increasing self-efficacy and resiliency and improving decision-making and group work skills” are naturally ingrained in the backpacking trip experience, he added.
“I think a lot of people come into college and it’s kind of just checking off the boxes, and you’ve never really experienced a setback as difficult as being in the rain for three days. I think if you experience that, you can take that back and transfer that to maybe not doing well on a test. You know you can bounce back from that,” explained Duloisy. “A lot of these skills don’t seem transferable, but they are. Also, [it teaches you] a general appreciation for the world around us.”
Duloisy is not only a proud environmentalist and Bobcat, but a proud Margaret Boyd scholar as well. After hearing about the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program from her high school best friend and OHIO Fellow Brendan Hogan, she knew she wanted in. Duloisy was eventually accepted into the program and, in Margaret Boyd Scholar fashion, she soon began pursuing exciting new leadership roles.
Duloisy credits her leadership skills to the inspiring and supportive environment offered through the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program.
“It’s important for me to know that there are twenty other girls in my year who are trying their best so that I want to try my best too,” she said. “It’s a nice push.”
For Duloisy, it only made sense to combine her love for the outdoors with her love of being a Margaret Boyd scholar. And what better way to do so than a trip to the scenic Grayson Highlands? From this concept sprang the 2018 Margaret Boyd Scholars Program backpacking trip. From Duloisy’s records, ten scholars of all class levels signed up to attend, an exciting turnout for a first-time program.
According to scholars Clancy Thomas and Jayda Martin, the trip exceeded their expectations, challenging them while allowing them to reconnect with nature, something their busy schedules at OHIO don’t typically allow for.
“I had been looking forward to the trip since Lou said she was planning one,” said Thomas. “The week before we left, however, was very hectic for me, and I was feeling worn out and worried that I wouldn’t have a good time. But it ended up being the best way to conclude a busy week! I had the absolute best time!”
Duloisy’s goals were two-fold: She not only wanted to share her love for backpacking with peers but also teach them a greater appreciation of the environment. Scholars were taught the principles of “Leave No Trace” (a set of environmental ethics that promote environmental conservation) and were challenged to push their limits. Participants climbed mountains, walked miles across the highland grasslands, cooked their own dinners and prepared their own sleeping arrangements.
“I went into this trip expecting nothing but a simple hike in the woods for a couple days. Because of that, I got significantly more out of the trip than expected,” said Martin. “Even though all of these events took a great deal of time and effort, once I went to bed or ate or finished hiking for the day, I felt an endorphin-driven sense of pride and joy.”
For many scholars, the highlight of the trip were the connections formed.
“Often times, when taken out of typical settings, you are more comfortable sharing your thoughts, feelings and experiences,” explained Thomas. “I came away from the trip feeling as though my relationships with the scholars I already knew were strengthened, especially the women in my cohort. I was also pleased to meet and learn about the freshmen who came, and I’m happy to now call them friends!”
According to Thomas, the trip earned such “rave reviews” that the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program hopes to offer the trip bi-annually in the future. For backpacking enthusiasts, and particularly for outdoor superstar Lou Duloisy, this unique adventure offers an ideal setting to learn and grow.
“This collaboration of the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program with Outdoor Pursuits has filled a niche that I have been trying to fill since the program started in the fall of 2013,” said Patti McSteen, director of the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program. “The connection that the women made with one another, the leadership skills that they acquired and practiced, and the confidence they built while on the trip fulfills the mission of our program. To have our very own Lou Duloisy lead this effort and share her skills and passion make it all the more special to us.”