My Davidson | A Student Blog Davidson Outdoors Ventures to Joshua Tree National Park

Addie and Isabel in Joshua Tree

Davidson Outdoors Leaders Addie McDonough '23 and Isabel Morichi '23 reflect on their winter break trip to Joshua Tree National Park.

About the Authors

Addie McDonough ’23 (she/her) is a political science major and religious studies minor from Takoma Park, Maryland. 

Isabel Morichi ’23 (she/her) is an environmental studies major and East Asian studies minor from Washington, D.C. (just a few miles away from Addie!)

As the Davidson Outdoors (DO) officers, we have had the enormous joy of leading teams of Trip Leaders (TLs) through countless backpacking trips, whitewater canoeing adventures, and more. A core tenet of DO adventures is “Challenge by Choice,” which emphasizes the choice to push yourself to try new things, to learn, and to adventure. Most recently, we embraced this tenet by leading the first Davidson Outdoors trip to Joshua Tree National Park.

Neither of us had been to Joshua Tree before, so the challenge originally felt quite daunting. Most of the trips DO leads are in the western North Carolina mountains, forests and rivers. Joshua Tree is in California and is a desert, and it couldn’t have been more different than the rainforests of the Blue Ridge mountains. But with the mindset of Challenge by Choice, we spent months packing, route planning, budgeting and dehydrating homemade meals to eat on the trail. At the blink of an eye, we were standing at the trailhead with eight wonderful participants getting ready to start walking.

a group of young men and women wearing hiking packs

In true DO fashion, we have debriefed the eight day trip out west by including a rose (a highlight), a bud (a moment of growth or something we look forward to) and a thorn (a challenge).

Addie McDonough ’23

My Rose

Leading this trip was the culmination of all sorts of Davidson adventures. It was the ultimate adventure, problem-solving exercise, and most of all, fun! I got to lead this trip with Isabel who, along with being my co-officer, is one of my dearest friends. Leading with her is just the best! I have DO to thank for so many wonderful friendships, so being with some of them in this ultimate adventure was amazing.

a desert landscape with blue skies on a sunny day

My favorite moment from this trip was starting at the trailhead as the sun set. As we began walking, I recognized the mountains surrounding us at sunset from the posters we made to advertise this trip months before. It was so cool to see the results of a semester of hard work. Additionally, our crew had the best attitude. They all took on teaching wonderful lessons. Watching them experience the beauty and the challenge of the trip was the best feeling ever.

My Bud

Our second night on the trail, we encountered some pretty fast winds. At first it was a little scary, but our group was super resilient and had a blast anyways. We all ended up cramming into one tent for dinner, which caused a lot of laughs. The crew made a difficult situation fun — and funny!

My Thorn

It was bittersweet knowing that this trip would be one of the last I led as a Davidson student. I never expected to fall in love with the outdoors. But the atmosphere of challenge and “come as you are’’ spirit in Davidson Outdoors is unlike anything I have ever experienced — it is amazing. DO taught me the joys of being outside with incredible people. I am sad to be leaving, but so proud to be a part of this community. Plus, this trip was a great reminder of the adventures to be found after Davidson, too!

a vivid sunset

Isabel Morichi ’23

My Rose

Before going to Joshua Tree, I had never been to a National Park on the West Coast before, so it was a unique and amazing experience to not only go there but also to lead a trip there with my co-president and one of my best friends, Addie. Getting to spend a full four days and five nights in the park allowed us to truly feel secluded from the rest of the world. It felt like we were fully immersed in the desert ecosystem. Seeing everyone get to have and create their own unique memories on the trip was also a highlight, because it only made the group experience more amazing.

My Bud

This trip was a great culmination of leadership experience, exploration of a new place and getting to know new people. Throughout the trip I was able to reflect on how I can translate the variety of skills I have learned and practiced on DO trips to my life after Davidson. Although it is a bittersweet bud, I am looking forward to being able to use all of the leadership, teambuilding and goofiness that I have discovered through DO in future trips that I lead and my everyday life after Davidson.

a group of young people hiking with backpacks and a desert in the background

My Thorn

Similar to Addie, it was insanely rewarding to get to lead this trip as one last hurrah with DO, but it was also incredibly sad because it represented the end of our leadership. I would not have traded those seven days for the world, and I am grateful for all of the laughs, silly trail moments and dehydrated meals we shared so far, yet so close, to Davidson.


  • February 20, 2023