It’s hard to talk to Princeton freshmen without the topic shifting to Outdoor Action, or OA. Last fall, more than 700 members of the Class of 2017 participated in the annual “frosh trip” and over the past 40 years, more than 18,000 Tigers have been able to count trekking into the wilderness as one of their first Princeton memories.
But OA, like any other program, had to have a bit of a growth spurt to get to where it is today. When it first started in 1973, it had only eight participants and took place at the nearby Princeton Blairstown Center. Its original mission was to “propel incoming students into immediate contact with a number of their new classmates under sometimes character-testing conditions.” That part of the mission has remained; the 2011 OA trips (my year) had to contend with a hurricane, resulting in all 700 of us being evacuated from our sites. Weather aside, OA has the mission of decreasing feelings of isolation on campus while allowing freshmen the chance to meet upperclassmen who serve as informal guides to the Princeton experience. OA trips now travel to sites as diverse as Laurel Highlands (Pa.), Shenandoah National Park (Va.), the Catskills and Harriman (N.Y.) and portions of the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts.
Many Princeton alumni also fondly remember the experience of developing their leadership and wilderness skills through the OA Leader Training program. As one former leader reflected on the OA website, “Through the leader trainer program, OA promotes a tight-knit community, volunteerism, continuous self- and program-improvement, teaching skills, patience, and ‘work hard, play hard’ — all key for future personal satisfaction and career success.”
Readers: What are your favorite Outdoor Action memories? Share them in the comments below.