REDDING, Calif. —Simpson University Outdoor Leadership cleaned up coastal debris and helped clear trails during an annual 14-day backpacking excursion along Northern California’s Lost Coast. It was the seventh year for the Outdoor Leadership service project in this remote area.
Students partnered with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for one day of service that included collecting and hauling trash to a location where rangers could pick it up. Another day and a half was spent helping clean up invasive species and clearing trails in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.
“We do this trip each year for multiple reasons, including to serve and love our neighbor by caring for creation, and to help instill an ethic of care in our students,” said Outdoor Leadership professor Amy Smallwood. “We want them to realize that the amazing experience of hiking this awe-inspiring stretch of coastland is made better by helping to restore its pristine beauty.”
This year’s trip was led by Christopher Shughrue, an ’18 graduate, and Keleigh Jusczak, who has one more year in the program. Participants included Sanna Kahlvik, Noelle Sayre, Benjamin Burkwhat, Daniel Painter, Sean Tiner, Sherry Madison, David Duxbury, and Joseph Alexander.
The group backpacked the entire length of the Lost Coast Trail, from the Mattole River to Usal Beach, approximately 66 miles. The trail’s remote location makes it challenging for the government agencies that maintain it, Smallwood noted.
“Our group has become instrumental to trail clearing as we are some of the first backpackers to come through each summer, and we help pave the way for other hikers,” Smallwood said. “I’ve had strangers stop me and thank me for the work that we do every year.”
This year’s trip had a special ending. Duxbury proposed to Jusczak when the group reached its final campsite location.
Duxbury had arranged for professor Smallwood and Shughrue’s wife, Jordan, to hike in 7.5 miles with a picnic blanket, engagement ring, nice clothes, and smoothies packed in dry ice, among other items, to meet the group and set up. Co-leaders Shughrue and Jusczak arrived later, having let the group travel on their own that day.
Jusczak first saw her dress hanging from a tree and began to realize what was happening. A note directed her to follow a trail of rose petals and tea lights to the beach, where Duxbury met her and proposed.
“In my four years of being in the Outdoor Leadership major, the Lost Coast has definitely been the most memorable expedition for me,” Jusczak said. “Students were confronted with many risks and challenges that resulted in a lot of growth as well as connection in community. It was an honor to be a leader on this trip, and watch students grow in many different capacities.”
For more information on Simpson University’s outdoor leadership program, visit simpsonu.edu/outdoorleadership.
Top, Simpson University Outdoor Leadership students pose with the marine debris they picked up along the Lost Coast. From left, standing: Noelle Sayre, Sean Tiner, Joseph Alexander, Benjamin Burkwhat, Sherry Madison, Sanna Kahlvik, David Duxbury, and Keleigh Jusczak. In front, from left: Daniel Painter and Christopher Shughrue.
Middle photos: Daniel Painter, left, and Benjamin Burkwhat, right, help clear trails of invasive species.
Bottom photo by Christopher Shughrue: Daniel Duxbury proposes to Keleigh Jusczak.
Simpson University, established in 1921, is a Christian university offering undergraduate, graduate, and teaching credential programs. The university celebrated its 25th year in Redding and the completion of a Science and Nursing Center in 2014. Academic programs include ASPIRE, a degree-completion program geared toward working adults with both on-campus and online course offerings; the Betty M. Dean School of Nursing, A.W. Tozer Seminary, the School of Education, and the School of Graduate Professional Studies. For information about the university, or to arrange a campus visit, call 1-888-9-SIMPSON or visit simpsonu.edu.