Outside In: Photo Essay Captures Spirit of Davidson Outdoors & Trip Leader Training

Two students on Davidson Outdoors trip

Kaspars Golos ’27 grew up surrounded by the natural beauty of a park system built around the James River, which runs through Richmond, Virginia. 

Time spent wandering within that urban oasis inspired his interest in photography. 

Now, as a student at Davidson College who works as a photography assistant for College Communications, Golos finds new ways to explore his love of landscape photography. 

He captured photos of his trip leader training (TLT) experiences with Davidson Outdoors (DO) for this photo essay. 

Davidson Outdoor trip leaders on the mountain before the hike

I’ve done a lot of hiking for landscape photography but had never backpacked before, and trip leader training played a role in my choosing Davidson.

Kaspars Golos ’27

To prepare for the training, the TLT group met weekly at DO to learn a combination of technical and interpersonal skills ranging from reading a map to conflict resolution. Caitlin Reilly, assistant director of DO, and student mentors Anna Baldwin '24 and Emily Bryant '24 led the training. The seven first-year students and two sophomores in the group participated in three backpacking trips: a weekend trip to South Mountains State Park, a fall break trip to the Appalachian Trail near Hot Springs, North Carolina, and another weekend trip to Mt. Rogers in Virginia.

Golos ended the semester confident in his skills. He has big plans for the summer — seven photography backpacking expeditions — and hopes to include a visit to some of his fellow trip leaders who live in California, combined with a photography expedition in Yosemite.

The fact that Davidson even has a program like TLT and DO is incredible. My fellow trainees in TLT were extremely supportive and fun to be around. They felt comfortable asking me for help and I felt comfortable asking them for help. I’m very excited to now be a full part of the trip leader community.

a group of young men and women sitting on picnic benches wearing hiking clothes
  • Fueling up with lunch before heading out on our first trip at South Mountains State Park
  • A lot of the students who did TLT had backpacked before. I was nervous both about my own skills and measuring up to the others, but everyone was very nice and supportive. 
  • For this trip we were basically just participants and our senior mentors, Anna and Emily, acted as trip leaders.
two young women participate in a team bonding activity in a camping lodge
  • Anna and Emily, the two senior mentors, fell down while showing us a comedic way to poop in the woods with a partner during TLT. 
three young people stand and sit in a grassy field with woods in the background
Davidson Outdoors Mt Rogers in VA Mountain Range
  • I tried to wake up at sunrise but when I got out of my tent it was so cold that I quickly retreated back to the warmth of my sleeping bag. 
  • Over the next 10 minutes I steeled myself and left the tent again to catch this last little bit of the sunrise.
  • The fog filling the valleys was gorgeous, and I’m a big fan of this photo.
  • My hand went nearly numb from the cold metal of my camera and the wind, which was stronger because our campsite was near the peak of the mountain.
Panoramic view of mountain range taken by Davidson Outdoors trip leader
  • Photos taken as we packed up camp and prepared to set off for the day. 
Mountain range panoramic photo taken by Davidson Outdoors trip leader
  • In the early morning the blue ridge was looking particularly blue. When I first started to edit these photos, I tried to correct that but ended up deciding to embrace it. 
Davidson Outdoors trip leader on the trail of a mountain
  • A photo of my coleader John in the rhododendron. This was taken on the Appalachian Trail as we headed toward Rhododendron Gap, which as you can see from the photo is aptly named. I love how he is framed.
Davidson Outdoors trip campsite on a mountain
  • An idyllic campsite that would have been amazing to spend the night at if we hadn’t had to stop sooner because of cold and fog.
  • I like how the branches frame the campsite. 
Mountain Range panoramic taken by Davidson Outdoors trip leader
  • This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. I find something appealing about the foreground silhouette of the tree with the distant mountains. 
Davidson Outdoors Trip leader photo of a Mountain view
  • Mt. Rogers had very diverse microbiomes as we moved up and down the mountain. It went from thick rhododendron patches to sparse fields, such as the one pictured, into deciduous and evergreen forests.
  • This photo really captured how dormant the landscape felt in those sparse fields.
a forested area with mossy tree branches
  • I really liked the tangle of the branches and the way the light fell among the trees in this shot. The moss also created lovely color. 
a brown and white horse on a grassy mountain top
  • Wild ponies on Mt. Rogers
  • My senior mentor for this trip, Anna, was very excited about the wild ponies. Every time we saw one, she would exclaim “ponies!” in a high-pitched tone, which eventually became an inside joke for our trip group. 
  • This is my best photo of the ponies. The framing by the grasses and the light is just perfect. The blue ridges aren’t very blue in this photo because I wanted to focus on the golden color of the grasses and the light. 
two brown and white horses eat grass on a mountain top
  • There is a term for the time of year when horses have children and also a term for young horses but I don’t know either of them.
  • The horse on the right is one of the younger horses, and my group assumed the one next to it is its mom. There was a third, more surly looking horse not pictured that we thought was the father. 
a hiker with a backpack on walks along a wooden elevated trail
  • During the spring and summer this bridge would have gone over a wetland.
  • Even in the winter the area was still very muddy, and without the bridge we would have lost our boots. 
  • The sun was starting to fall on the horizon and I really liked the highlights in the corner and how the light fell on Jennifer.