Celebrating its 50th anniversary this past year, the Johns Hopkins Outdoors Club (JHOC) resumed normal activities after a pause during the pandemic. JHOC returned to hosting a variety of outdoor trips every weekend for any interested Hopkins students to join. These activities include hiking, mountain biking, caving, canoeing, climbing and backpacking.
As outdoor trips have to be conducted in person, JHOC faced difficulties in continuing regular club initiatives at the height of the pandemic. The past few semesters have seen most of its club meetings focused on planning for future trips as well as internal leader training trips that are not open to the public.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Mountain Bike Leader Dorothy Thompson reflected on the mental health benefits of being a part of the organization.
“I think we did a lot of hopeful planning for post-COVID. We realized how important our club was for our mental health when we couldn’t be part of it,” she said.
In an interview with The News-Letter, JHOC Director Anthony Garcia described how this is the first semester that JHOC has been able to run trips at a pre-pandemic level. He shared that this year, the organization was able to lead the pre-orientation trips for the incoming freshmen and also run at least two or three trips every weekend.
Publicity Leader Sadie Friesen highlighted in an interview with The News-Letter that JHOC trips can be a safe and easy way for participants to get off campus and take a break from the constant academic pressures inside the Hopkins bubble.
Likewise, Thompson believes JHOC provides an opportunity to discover and learn new people, places and skills.
“It’s really special when you see someone that you don’t know and you would not have met unless you met them on this trip, and you teach them something really cool in the outdoors,” she said. “We went on a trip to a new park in Baltimore, and everyone is like, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t know this place existed.’ Those moments of discovery with people from all across campus are really great.”
The members unanimously stated that the best part of JHOC is the tight-knit community. In particular, Garcia emphasized the importance of being part of a supportive and enthusiastic group on campus that is not academically focused.
“It’s so easy to fall into the academic culture here, and having an outlet that allows me to be with passionate people is something that made my college experience really interesting,” he said.
Thompson agreed with Garcia, saying that JHOC is special because it is a community that is not based on grades but rather on interest and love for the environment.
“We have a great club spirit,” she said. “I love the energy of the club and how it’s focused on passions and everyone’s different personalities. I think it’s a safe space for everyone to be in.”
The outdoor activities led by JHOC are open to any interested Hopkins students for free. The leaders explained that any student can sign up on Hopkins Groups for any open participant trip and that the trips do not require any prior experience or equipment.
Thompson spoke about the group’s main ongoing goal of increasing the number of participants for each trip.
“We want to reach out to students that have never thought about what it would be like to leave Baltimore,” she said. “We’re trying to reach more people than just people who have been outdoors through an outdoors network or other tactics.”
Friesen also voiced that JHOC is a great opportunity that not many people know about. She emphasized that free trips are something that does not happen too often, especially after graduation.
“I find it crazy that more people don't take advantage of the fact that you can click a button and then go mountain biking just one random day,” she said. “I just think that many people should be aware of that opportunity.”