Trippin' over Trips: What to expect

by Elise Higgins | 8/14/17 12:50am

This article was featured in the 2017 Freshman Issue.

For many decades, Dartmouth Outing Club’s First-Year Trips has been a rite of passage for students starting the College. The goal of Trips, a five-day program of outdoor activities, is to welcome students into the Dartmouth community and ease them into college life. While many students are excited about starting college and meeting new people, many are also nervous, especially if they are trying something new. While Trips may push many students out of their comfort zone, it is an incredible way to bond with fellow students and learn more about the many traditions that color the Dartmouth experience. 

This year’s Trips director Doug Phipps ’17 said that although he was excited to come to Dartmouth as a freshman, he was also extremely nervous. He had even read a book on how to make a good first impression on the drive up. However, he began to feel more comfortable once he was on the lawn outside Robinson Hall with all the other incoming students.  

“For me, it was a really cool opportunity to be able to get to know a lot of other people in an environment that is at once really comforting and at the same time really challenging and scary and nerve wracking,” Phipps said.  

David Ringel ’19 agrees with Phipps that Trips was a great introduction to the College and his class. 

“It was a uniquely Dartmouth experience,” Ringel said. “No other school has this, and I thought it was really interesting.”

Ringel said he especially enjoyed spending the first night in Leverone Field House with all of the other students on his trip section.

“Sitting there and thinking, ‘Wow, all these people are going to be my new classmates’ was really cool,” he said. 

After the first night, each group departs on their own trip. At Dartmouth, there are many types of trips of varying levels. While many students choose less strenuous trips like nature photography, moderate hiking or cabin camping, students who are more comfortable in the outdoors have more challenging options, such as rock climbing or whitewater kayaking. 

Ringel said he chose Hiking 3, the second-most challenging hiking option, because he had previous experience doing outdoor activities.

“I thought I had done a lot of hiking before coming to Dartmouth, but it had all been in Wisconsin, so it was super different,” Ringel said. “The views [here] were way better and the mountains were bigger.” 

However, many incoming Dartmouth students have never been camping before. 

For example, with little prior outdoor camping experience, Phipps chose Cabin Camping for his trip. However, Phipps said he later felt inspired by the experience and decided to take part in the traditional sunrise hike up Mount Moosilauke at the end of his trip.

“I was already doing so many things that were so far out of my comfort zone that I was like, ‘What the heck, I’m going to do this,’” Phipps said.

Phipps said that the climb was a really exciting experience that made him feel particularly independent. In fact, Phipps enjoyed his trip so much that he served as a trip leader multiple times before becoming the director of this year’s program. 

While not all Dartmouth students will develop the same excitement for the outdoors as Phipps, many do enjoy stepping out of their comfort and discovering something they really love.

“I was not outdoorsy,” Morgan Lee ’19 said. “I’m definitely a true city girl.”

Although she said she was somewhat out of her element on Trips, Lee still enjoyed herself and did not find the camping to be too strenuous. In fact, she applied to be a Trip leader the following year. Although Lee is not leading a trip this year, she said it is something she is interested in doing again.

“I probably will try to lead one next year because I really enjoy the experience, and I think there’s something really special about it in terms of ... welcoming freshman to Dartmouth,” Lee said. 

Associate director of Trips Apoorva Dixit ’17 said that Trips was a great introduction to Dartmouth.

“It definitely did introduce me to people, but more importantly it introduced me to Dartmouth,” Dixit said.   

While not all trips will remain an extremely close-knit group, Lee said that it is helpful to have some familiar faces on campus. 

“I think that’s the best part of trips,” Lee said. “When you get to campus you’re not [alone] ... you’re meeting a lot of people, but just to have people that first week to hang out with and get a meal with is really, really nice.” 

Lee said that her Trip leaders planned occasional reunions, and she tried to do the same when she was a Trip leader. 

Phipps said that although the trip that he led drifted apart, he still feels connected to them as their Trip leader and reaches out to some of them individually. 

“None of my trips stayed particularly close as a group, but I definitely felt like I, as a Trip leader, got to know them all pretty well and understand them well as people and was able to connect them to resources that would be helpful for them at Dartmouth,” Phipps said. 

Ringel added that he believes Trip leaders can be particularly significant for incoming freshman, and that he saw that influence from not only his own Trip leader, but from a close friend’s leader as well. This inspired Ringer to be a Trip leader.

“I wanted to give back, and I think Trips is an amazing program,” Ringel said. “[It’s] the best way possible to introduce someone to Dartmouth, and I want to be part of that, and we need volunteers to do that.” 

This year in particular, it was especially important that students volunteer to assist with Trips due to the number of ’21s going on Trips. The 1,130 incoming freshman, making up 89 percent of their class, will participate in Trips. This is the highest number of students who have ever been a part of the program, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the class. 

While ’21s attending Trips this year will continue to take part in a decades-old tradition, there will be some new aspects due the renovation of the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, where students traditionally meet on the fourth day of their trip. Phipps said that the directorate and all the volunteers have been working extremely hard to ensure that Trips this year will be a success, even with the location change from Moosilauke Lodge to the Dartmouth Skiway. 

Dixit added that this change created many obstacles, but she along with the rest of the directorate have been able to overcome them. In addition, the Skiway presents many new opportunities. For example, in prior years students have had the opportunity to do a sunrise hike up Mount Moosilauke their last day at Moosilauke Lodge. This year, the hike will be up Holt’s Ledge, which is much less strenuous than Moosilauke, making the hike more accessible to all students on Trips. 

Although there will be changes, students attending Trips will continue to take part in decades-old traditions.

“I feel like Trips balances tradition and progress well,” Dixit said.

She added that although she enjoyed taking part in such an old tradition Trips remains up to date with today’s student body because the program is student-led.

“Having the autonomy to totally run a program this large as students has been so fantastic,” Dixit said. “It’s definitely been challenging ... but we have the insight of being a student here.”

“It’s been a really cool opportunity to try out new and exciting things about the program that haven’t been tried out in a long time, or have never been tried before,” Phipps said. “I think the ’21s are in for a really unique, creative and awesome trip experience.”