Gone campin: Freshmen enjoy Wilderness Experience

Click here to watch a video of the trip.

Click here to view photos from the trip.

Summer camp. A beloved pastime of youth spent smelling dry pines, splashing in lakes and rivers, and meeting new faces that soon became old friends. During brisk nights, the moon and stars would shine like crystals as stories were exchanged around the campfire.

With such great memories from summer camps, why should they be isolated to our younger years? At The College of Idaho, they’re not.

Three days before the C of I freshmen sat in their first class, they boarded five buses and headed due north for the McCall Wilderness Experience at Camp IdaHaven. The unique orientation gave the 200-plus students a chance to meet fellow students, faculty and staff, and enjoy the great outdoors of Idaho.

“It’s been really cool,” said Caldwell native Tony Campbell. “I don’t really know any of the freshmen, I’m living off campus, so it’s been a really cool experience getting to meet students before class.”

After a three-hour ride, students clambered off the bus and were met by clouds and a cool breeze. But the weather couldn’t put a damper on their spirits. They soon broke out into groups to participate in a variety of team-building exercises, such as trying to fill a hole-riddled trashcan with water, playing dodgeball, or having their entire team balance on a wooden log.

“It’s been a good experience,” said Elisha Paris of Nampa. “It’s been a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t think we were going to have as many activities, but we’ve been pretty busy. And a lot of laughs.”

After a night under the clear sky of McCall, students enjoyed a sunnier day filled with hiking, volleyball, canoeing and more. And with every passing hour, more names were known and more connections made as students branched out to meet new people.

“It’s been awesome, because you don’t get to meet people like this,” said Colette Di Dio. “It gets you out of your comfort zone just enough that it’s like, hey, I’m going to sit with those new people that I’ve never met and suddenly, you’re like, this is the coolest group I’ve met here.”

But the freshmen weren’t the only ones on their first McCall Wilderness Experience trip. C of I President Charlotte Borst joined in on the festivities to see what the freshman trip was all about. While she’s seen other schools offer similar trips, the fact that all incoming C of I freshmen get to participate at no extra cost is an amazing opportunity, she said.

“This trip is what The College of Idaho is all about,” Borst said. “It’s about community, it’s about being in a gorgeous part of Idaho, and it’s about having a good time.”

But the trip couldn’t be a success without the dedicated C of I faculty and staff who volunteer to supervise and lead games—some have been coming on Wilderness Experience trips for almost three decades.

“There are two times a year that I love the most,” said history professor Steve Maughan ’85, who has been coming on the trip for 15 years. “One is graduation week, and the other is the first week of classes. Up at McCall, all the students are new to the C of I, they’ve never met each other before and they’re really excited to be going to college.

“This is a really fun time of the year to get to know people, hang out and convey what the C of I is all about—a very connected, personal space for people to learn a lot of different things. It’s not just about the academics, it’s not just about the classrooms—it’s about learning how to be a part of a community.”

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. For more information, visit