DOC trips see major changes, high demand
Though ’24s spent the first two weeks of the term largely stuck in their dorms, many have used the post-quarantine period as a time to get outside and explore the area. The Dartmouth Outing Club has offered a wide range of outdoor trips that have been filling up fast.
This fall, the DOC is running around 10 to 15 trips each week, including activities like hiking, canoeing and bouldering. While this number is consistent with previous years, each trip is now capped at nine people in order to comply with the College’s COVID-19 regulations. With low supply and high demand, many trips have accumulated long waitlists.
Elliot Ng ’21, a DOC trip leader, said that while freshman engagement in DOC trips is always relatively high, ’24s are looking for things to do more than ever this year. He suggested that, for many students, participating in these trips is a way to make up for the First-Year Trips that were canceled, though he added that it is common for upperclassmen to participate in the trips as well.
Because relatively few upperclassmen have “on-campus” approval this term, there are fewer DOC leaders available than usual, Ng said, which has made it difficult to keep up with the demand for more events.
According to Ng, most DOC subclubs have 70 to 80% fewer leaders available this term than they would normally have. The few student leaders who are on campus this term have been taking time out of their own schedules to put together trips as often as they can, while still balancing prior commitments, Ng said.
In addition to being pressed for leaders, the DOC has had to adjust its transportation. In normal years, the DOC’s fleet of vehicles shuttle students from campus to hike starting points or other trip locations. Since the College has forbidden the DOC from using its usual fleet, new DOC-provided electric bikes have become a common mode of transport for trip participants.
“The e-bikes are awesome, and kind of surprising and new,” Kevin Donohue ’21, leader of Cabin and Trail, said. With the investment in electric bikes, the DOC has been able to take students to popular local sites outside of easy walking distance, including Gile Mountain.
DOC president David Vonderheide ’21 said that while there are fewer leaders available this term, the circumstances posed by the pandemic have prompted the DOC to get creative with trip offerings.
“The DOC looks a lot different this term than it normally does,” he said, “but that’s also led to a lot of creativity with the leaders. They’re finding places we didn’t know existed super close to campus.”
Freshmen have also been navigating the trips’ popularity. Tianxiao Wang ’24, who has participated in a number of DOC trips this fall, said she keeps a tab on her laptop open to the DOC's signup platform so that she can quickly pop onto the website to check for new trips and availability.
“I really like being outdoors, and that was a really large part of the reason why I picked Dartmouth,” Wang said.
She added that Dartmouth’s location does not offer many opportunities to explore museums or other cultural activities that a bigger city might have, making DOC trips an especially important opportunity. Wang also said that she has been able to make friends with a number of other students on trips.
Katie Walther ’24 shared her own similar experience. She said that for her, being part of the DOC was a good way to connect with other students and socialize, especially since there aren’t otherwise many opportunities to meet other people. Walther has participated in hikes to Balch Hill and gone stargazing on the golf course.
“I think it was a good chance for freshmen to feel like they were being welcomed to campus,” Walther said. She added that though it was initially hard for ’24s to know where their place was in the community, DOC trips have helped them to feel accepted.
“Having upperclassmen lead trips and be excited to have [’24s] here was also a really fun reminder and introduction to the community,” she said.
Donohue noted that upperclassmen leaders have had similarly positive experiences on trips this fall.
“We’re all going to be sad when the ’24s aren’t here in the winter,” Donohue said. He noted that he had been concerned about freshman engagement in the DOC prior to the term starting but was pleasantly surprised to be able to welcome an excited group of students.
Correction appended (Oct. 16, 2020): A previous version of this article indicated that Dartmouth’s Engage platform was used to sign up for DOC trips. The article has been updated to reflect that the DOC uses a separate signup platform.