Illustration by Joe Lai. 


Illustration by Joe Lai.


After a three-day, 27-mile trek up the edge of the northernmost coast of California — aptly called the Lost Coast — during which they were forced to overcome obstacles such as untimely tides, bears, bugs and poison oak, a small group of backpackers found themselves overlooking a beautiful ocean panorama among a sea of black sand and grassy knolls. 

This ragtag group of hikers, self-proclaimed on their Web page as UC Santa Cruz’s “best-kept secret,” is a student-organized backpacking group dedicated to exploring the finest parts of nature. Averaging around two to three hikes of varying difficulty each quarter, the backpacking club is known for its free admission and affordable trips, each one costing only $30 per student.

“It’s cheaper than OPERS, and you get to discover the landscape more,” said Jonathan Kinnear, a second-year ELP exchange student. “We go to the places the tourists don’t go to.”

During weekly Wednesday meetings, students come prepared with backpacking trail ideas. Meetings are open to student input, reflecting the laid-back approach the club prides itself upon.

Tamsen Peeples, a second-year marine biology major and current leader of the backpacking club, emphasized the casual style in which the group conducts itself.

“The logistics of the trip involve people shouting out ideas,” Peeples said. “The backpacking club is a really low-key kind of club. People come and go every quarter.”

Many suggestions for trips this quarter have also been discussed among its members, including a hike through southwest Lake Tahoe, a trip to Yosemite’s Half-Dome and possibly another visit to the Lost Coast in Humboldt County. Though many ideas have been mentioned, the trips are often dependent upon the availability of its members and whether or not the group can get a permit.

“Permits can be limiting,” Peeples said. “If you don’t have a permit, you can’t get in [to the trail].”

Few plans have been finalized this quarter, but the backpacking club has activities and events in mind for their next trip, including T-shirt making and a “make your own trail mix” contest. They also have hopes for a night hike, preferably on a night with a full moon.

Though Peeples expressed her joy for hiking, she said that it is being with fellow backpackers and friends that she considers the most fun part of the club.

“They’re a great group of people,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun to be with them.”

Torsten Wendav, a fourth-year physics major and transfer student, joined in the conversation to add his opinion.

“It’s a cool group,” he said. “Not many kids hear about this.”

As a few members of the backpacking club talked about their hiking experiences together, Kinnear expressed his gratitude toward the club.

“We found it from the start, we were really lucky,” he said. “There’s no way we could have done [these hikes] without it.”

The backpacking club is open to all students regardless of experience. Though some hikes, including the Lost Coast, can be quite strenuous, Peeples said, the pain is worth it in the long run.

“It’s all mental,” Peeples said. “You know how fast and far you can go. Cherish the scars.” 


The backpacking club meets Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. above the OPERS office.