Friday, September 16, 2011

Still Trippin'

What had started with just 16 tripees and a few trip leaders had grown by 1970 to the point where nearly half of the incoming class participated in Freshman Trips. Today the program involves over 90 percent of the freshman class and more than two hundred upperclassmen student leaders.

Over the years, the Dartmouth Outing Club has devised new and creative ways for freshmen to break out of their shells during their first days with their new Dartmouth peers. The first day in Hanover usually involves a variety of semi-embarrassing activities such as dancing on the lawn in front of Robinson Hall and humorously choreographed safety talks. After that they head out on their trips, which have evolved from just hiking to include a variety of activities including, kayaking, canoeing, fly-fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, nature photography, organic farming and even nature writing and painting for the artistically inclined.

After two nights in the outdoors, the groups reconvene at the Ravine Lodge at the base of Mt. Moosilauke and are treated to stories from administrators, faculty, or alumni about their own Dartmouth experiences.

In the morning, the freshmen enjoy a complete breakfast of green eggs and ham, inspired by Dartmouth alumnus Theodor Geisel (class of 1925), more commonly known as Dr. Seuss.

This common experience has become a vital part of acclimation to the Dartmouth community, and many first-year students make some of their best and longest-lasting friendships with their tripees. Because of this, Freshman Trips have come to symbolize the strong sense of community and camaraderie that brings former students back to Dartmouth year after year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Freshmen Trips and the War Years

1946 Freshmen Trip
crossing the dam at Moosilauke
Roger Brown leading
By 1941, the popularity of the Freshmen Trip, which had attracted a mere 16 first-year students in 1935, had grown significantly, swelling the ranks to over 100 participants. Trip leader Harry Bond’s report on the 1941 trip included his concern that numbers over 125 could not be handled well. He felt that with too big a crowd, trips would be come “more like an army moving in maneuvers than a good friendly hike.”

The military allusion was prophetic; later that year, the United States entered World War II. The resulting decrease in civilian student population and the curtailment of travel, compelled the DOC to limit the 1942 trip to the first 50 applicants. The entire trip that year was based at Moosilauke (the hike up the mountain was described as not difficult: “girls frequently make the trip up and down the Mountain in a day”). Since Dartmouth accelerated its academic calendar during the war, the 1942 Freshmen Trip took place in July over the course of a weekend, returning the Class of 1946 to campus in time to register on Monday, July 6.

Allowed to use only one truck in 1944, the DOC was forced to limit the trip even more, to 30 students. However, it did not take long after the end of the war for Freshmen Trips to experience their due success. Within a decade, the number of students participating reached 200, divided into two sections of several trips each, all fed, transported, led up and down mountains, informed and entertained with the precision Harry Bond had feared… but which has done nothing to detract from the success and enthusiasm for this happy introduction to Dartmouth for over 70 years.