OCSJ Spotlight on:
By Vera C. Stek
It’s one thing to love the outdoors and participate in club activities, but those who take it to the next level and volunteer to lead outings deserve special recognition.
Carol Thompson, a professor at Rowan University is one of those people. Though she grew up in the Midwest, she had come to love the Pine Barrens and has thrown herself whole-heartedly into hiking with OCSJ as well as leading hikes and helping with the Tuesday trail maintenance crew.
She’s traveled throughout a lot of the U.S. to hike, not to mention to many far-flung places outside of the U.S., but South Jersey’s unique Pine Barrens is a particular favorite.
Here’s her story:
Q. Tell us about yourself.
Carol: I currently live in South Jersey, have lived in several other states, most recently Pennsylvania, and am part of the leading edge of the Boomer generation. I am the mother of one, grandmother of two; two of the three love hiking. I’m on the faculty at Rowan University.
Q. When and why did you join the Outdoor Club? What benefit do you gain by being a member?
Carol: I joined the Outdoor Club when I lived in Pennsylvania 15 years ago because some of my hiking buddies there also led hikes for the club. I was a member off and on, and then became a “steady” member 13 years ago.
Despite having read — or because of having read John McPhee’s book, the Pine Barrens was to me an exotic land which I have come to love. I’ve learned a great deal about the Pines from other leaders, who have tutored me on wildflowers, the ways of our rivers, and where the sand and stone came from.
The leaders in this club are generous in sharing their knowledge and excitement about both the human and natural history.
Q. How did you get interested in outdoor activities?
Carol: I grew up in a flat part of the Midwest, where I was introduced to the outdoors by a day camp in the woods. Family vacations to the mountains had night sounds and overlooks from which I first saw how land looked from above. I wanted more!
I love kayaking, but hiking is the constant, and I do it year-round.
Q. What are some of your favorite places in the Pinelands? What made you decide to lead hikes?
Carol: I first began leading hikes 40 years ago when I lived in North Carolina, and I’ve continued to do it off and on wherever I lived as my family life and schedule have allowed.
Favorite places: along the Batsto, Black Run, Ted Stiles.
Q. Where else have you hiked? Any place on your bucket list?
Carol: Places I’ve hiked include the Sierra, Olympic Mountains, Glacier, some parks in Utah and Nevada, several chunks of the Appalachian Trail, bits of the Alps, Dolomites, and Ireland, Wales and Nepal.
I don’t know where I want to go next, as I can learn a lot in many places.
My scariest hike was inside a thunderstorm inside (not over) the Grand Canyon perched on a ledge under a waterfall.
Q. What piece of equipment or apparel couldn’t you do without?
Carol: Gear I love: my Black Diamond poles, which have saved me from disaster many times and fold up into 12-inch lengths for easy stowage.
Q. Any tips for new hikers/kayakers?
Carol: Watch what other experienced hikers do, ask as many questions as people are willing to answer, and then try things out for yourself. We are all different.
Having said that, picking lightweight gear is usually a good thing. I carry a few extra plastic bags for muddy shoes (especially if carpooling), leftover food items, and so on.
Q. What other hobbies or activities are you interested in?
Carol: Before I was at Rowan I was a photographer and exhibited in New York and Philadelphia. I’m working to find a way to return to it.
Q. What’s something about yourself that might surprise others to know?
Carol: My photographic work might surprise people, as I rarely carry a camera these days.
Q. Anything else you want to say about anything?
Carol: Yes, my appreciation for the club’s stewardship of the places in which we hike, bike and kayak. Part of that stewardship is making sure that we follow Leave-No-Trace principles (
) on hikes (carry-in/carry-out everything unless there are trash receptacles)
Our club also does an amazing amount of trail work: shout-out to the Tuesday group!