Oldest college outing club opens up the outdoors

by Rachel Osterman | 8/1/01 5:00am

For over 50 years, incoming Dartmouth freshmen have started their careers known not as students ready to tackle the world of college academia, but as "trippees" prepared to spend several showerless days in the woods.

As the organizer of Freshman Trips, The Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) provides many students with their first glimpse of Dartmouth and the surrounding wilderness. But Trips are only the beginning --- the DOC offers more opportunities than the average Dartmouth student will be able to take advantage of in four years.

A rich history

The DOC, the largest student-run organization on campus and the oldest of its kind in the nation, was founded in 1909 by a small group of students who wanted to liven up the snowy winters of New Hampshire.

During its early years, the DOC created Winter Carnival and encouraged skiing and hiking in the White and Green Mountains which surround the College.

Today, the DOC boasts an undergraduate membership of about 1,200 people, and it has also expanded into an umbrella organization of 11 affiliate clubs.

The "trippee" experience

This September, about 1,000 members of the Class of 2005 will travel to Hanover to participate in one of the most unforgettable of Dartmouth's myriad traditions -- the DOC run Freshman Trips.

When the '05s arrive on campus, an energetic "Hanover Croo" will greet them with lessons on the trips essentials such as "ass boxing" and the Salty Dog Rag, a time-honored square-dancing tradition.

At the Bema -- Dartmouth's "big empty meeting area" -- freshmen will participate in a series of group games and meet their trip leaders, who have been trained in leadership skills and first aid.

Then freshmen will get a head start on their graduation requirements by taking the 50-yard swim test in Alumni Gymnasium.

After one last night in civilization, students set off into the woods the next morning on trips which include hiking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing and organic farming. Some of the hikers will have the opportunity to participate in a service-oriented trip -- trail working.

Finally, after enough cous-cous and Alma Mater-singing to last a lifetime, all the trips in the section convene at the College-run Moosilauke Ravine Lodge on Mount Moosilauke, 42 miles northeast of Hanover.

There, the "Lodge Croo" provides plenty of good food and "crazy" entertainment, the details of which are traditionally kept a secret from incoming freshmen.

DOC offers many activities

For many Dartmouth students, involvement with the DOC does not end after Freshman Trips.

The DOC clubs include Cabin and Trail, Ledyard Canoe Club, Bait and Bullet, Snowboarding Club, Dartmouth Mountaineering Club, Biathlon Club, Boots and Saddles, Environmental Studies Division, Winter Sports Club, Ski Patrol and Women in the Wilderness.

In addition to sponsoring hiking trips and competing in forestry meets, Cabin and Trail helps maintain 70 miles of Appalachian Trail, 50 miles of side trails, nine cabins and nine shelters.

Students can receive discounts on cabin rentals by purchasing a four-year membership to the DOC for $35, or a single year membership for $15.

Though not run directly through the DOC, the Dartmouth Organic Farm is a great place to try out farming, ask questions and enjoy a beautiful piece of New Hampshire. Since its start in 1996, Dartmouth students have made the 15 minute walk out to the farm to learn about agriculture, work in the fields, explore the landscape, talk with friends or jump off the rope swing into the Connecticut River.

River fun

Taking advantage of the College's proximity to the Connecticut River, the Ledyard Canoe Club offers canoeing and kayaking instruction and houses a student-initiated program in white-water and flat-water competition.

The club also leads trips at all levels, which range from the annual summer Sophomores from the Source trip to a recent month-long kayaking trip through Vietnam.

Bait and Bullet works to stay active year-round with fly fishing, hunting and ice fishing trips.

Winter wonderland

The Snowboarding Club sponsors frequent trips to local New England mountains and leads clinics at the Dartmouth Skiway.

As the historic foundation of the DOC, the Winter Sports Club continues to promote winter outdoor activities like ski trips and sledding on the hills of the golf course.

Members of the Ski Patrol are certified to monitor the slopes of the Dartmouth Skiway.

Members of the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club can be found rock and ice climbing around Hanover and the Northeast. The DMC offers introductory and advanced instruction, taking advantage of Dartmouth's own indoor climbing gym located in the basement of Maxwell residence hall.

Year-round action

Active year-round, the Biathlon Club holds practice sessions and races at permanent outdoor and indoor ranges. It is the first collegiate biathlon club in the United States.

Members of Boots and Saddles gather for recreational and competitive horseback riding, and it is closely associated with the College equestrian team which is based at the nearby Morton farm.

The Environmental Studies Division works at local, national and international levels to educate and campaign for environmental protection.

Women in the Wilderness is one of the newer additions to the club and was formed to encourage female participation and leadership in all branches of the DOC.