An Independent School • Grades 5-12
by Sophie L. '18

At some point during every Lakesider's high school career, it becomes their duty to take risks, try new things, and venture out into the unknown. Lakeside has been facilitating this spirit of adventure by displacing students in various locations across the Pacific Northwest for many years. Ah, yes – the highly anticipated, sometimes dreaded, week-long outdoor trip. As the second quarter begins and we plunge into the nitty-gritty of academics, it is important to remember the benefits of an outdoor program that enables us to surround ourselves with wilderness and escape.

According to Upper School Outdoor Program Coordinator (and outdoorsman extraordinaire) Chip Mehring, in looking at the history of the outdoor program, it is important to look at "the changing of the times." When Lakeside was an all-male school, the classes were small enough for the entire grade to camp out together. However, in the mid-seventies, Head of School Dan Ayrault recognized a need for more formal organization. He hired Bill Vanderbilt, the first director of Lakeside's "wilderness program." Mr. Vanderbilt "strengthened the program," said Mr. Mehring. "Several week-end trips were offered, and you could take the outdoor program as a class for an academic credit, a PE credit, and service hours." Although many students enjoyed the extensiveness of the program (they called themselves the "Wildebeests"), it changed once again, seeking to take all students out of the city, albeit less thoroughly. Hence, the program that we know today: shorter trips, more destinations, and no experience required.

Although times have changed, the original value of the program holds true today. According to Mr. Mehring, "one of the values of outdoor programming is that it can address so many different aspects of a growth experience... the exact same experience can mean very different things to different people." Two students may go on the same trip but leave having changed in unique ways. Mr. Mehring is also convinced that "students don't have as much contact with the outdoors and nature as human beings should," leaving them "out of balance" in their highly pressurized lives. Thus, "part of the value of outdoor programming is the escape of what you're leaving behind."

Whether you will become or have already become a waterlogged voyager on the Deschutes Rafting, San Juan Sea Kayaking, or Ross Lake Canoeing trips; a backpacking wonder of the Cascades, Grand Canyon, or the Canyonlands; a fearless Mt. Baker mountaineer; or even an intrepid White Pass skier – appreciate the time to learn something new for a change. Marvel at the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest. Even if just for a week, completely let go and escape.