Fred Harris, class of 1911, from Brattleboro, Vermont, founded the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) in 1909.
1769, when Eleazar Wheelock founded the college, the surrounding peaks
and the Connecticut River were largely unexplored, not sources of
recreation. Winters were long, cold, and snowy. Hiking and canoeing were
not extracurricular activities. They were merely a means of getting
from point A to point B in the rugged north country.
the early 1900s, undergraduates had more time and interest in
recreational pursuits. One of those students was Fred Harris, class of
1911, from Brattleboro, Vermont.
Harris was keenly interested in skiing, particularly ski jumping, a
huge spectator sport at the time, and “down the mountain” skiing, which
would become modern alpine skiing. He founded the Dartmouth Outing Club
(DOC) in 1909 to promote skiing at the college and to give everyone
something to do outdoors during the winter.
a few decades, the DOC had a year-round roster of outdoor pursuits,
trips, service projects, and outdoor leadership training. Today, around
25 percent of the college’s student body (about 1,500 students), plus
another 1,500 or so alumni, faculty, and others, are members of the
student-run DOC. It’s considered the first and largest collegiate outing
club in the country.
Interestingly, not everyone in the DOC arrives in Hanover with a hankering to get outside. Many people who work or study at
the college or who come to Hanover for other reasons don’t have any
experience in the mountains or on rivers, yet they are surrounded by
outdoor opportunities. Some are curious but don’t know where to start.
Others feel intimidated by what seems wild and risky. Most don’t have
the right gear or even know what to get. For these folks, the DOC
provides a gateway into the woods.
Leading the Way
Students gather at the new Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.
Scarlette Flores, the 2022–23 student-president of the DOC. A city gal
from Houston, Texas, Scarlette was not outdoorsy when she arrived in
Hanover. She had never hiked up a hill, let alone a 4,000-footer in the
Whites. She has now, thanks to the DOC. When Scarlette matriculated at
Dartmouth, the world was in the throes of the COVID pandemic. The
college was locked down, with mask mandates and social distancing in
place. No gatherings were allowed, except for small groups outdoors.
first year, we were stuck in our dorms,” recalls Scarlette. “The
outdoors was the only thing available in person and not on Zoom. The DOC
offered some local trips, like hiking up Gile Mountain or to Velvet
Rocks. I was nervous at first, but the DOC made it easy. I could go on a
mountain right outside my door.”
climb mountains she did, sometimes in her sneakers and other times
using rental gear from the DOC, which students can borrow for free.
Scarlette, who is Mexican, soon joined a DOC group called People of
Color Outdoors (POCO), where she met other Latin students like herself
who were first-timers on hiking trails. The DOC became a social outlet
in addition to being a source of fresh air and new but doable
friends and I would sign up for a canoe trip,” says Scarlette. “I had
been in a canoe before, on a couple of manmade lakes in Texas, so I felt
comfortable with that. Plus, all of the DOC’s programs are student-run.
Everyone is welcoming. I figured if they can do it, so can I.” At
first, Scarlette mainly signed up for outings offered by POCO. Then she
tried a climbing trip through the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club (DMC),
which is also part of the DOC. The experience was life changing to the
point that Scarlette now identifies herself as a climber. Last spring,
she went to Arizona with other members of the mountaineering club to
test her mettle on more rock.
years ago, the DOC added another club called Diversity, Inclusivity,
Justice, and Equity (DIJE) to address issues related to inclusivity
within the DOC. Scarlette added DIJE to her outdoor resume and proudly
points to some of its accomplishments. For example, DIJE created
standardized norms at Dartmouth’s climbing gym that benefit beginners and has brought athlete speakers to the college from Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports to talk about how to make outdoor activities more accessible.
“My vision as DOC president is to make the DOC inclusive to everyone,” says Scarlette. “Take me. I went from no experience to running the DOC. I want others to have that path. I also want
people to realize not only the physical but also the mental health
benefits of getting outdoors and ensure there are scholarships and gear
available to those who need it. Mainly, my goal is to get people outside.”
The DOC and the Public
the DOC is first and foremost a college program, its scope goes beyond
Dartmouth, benefiting residents of the Upper Valley. At Ledyard Canoe
Club, anyone can rent a canoe or kayak and get out on the Connecticut
During the fall, if you want to tune up your shooting skills before hunting, Dartmouth’s shooting range, located beside its organic farm, is open to the public by reservation.
During the winter, you can rent cross-country skis, snowshoes, and sleds for use on the trails maintained
by the DOC on the former golf course and at Oak Hill. When there’s no
snow on the ground, many of those ski trails become mountain biking
trails, to which the DOC provides passes. The DOC also supports ice
skating on Occom Pond during the winter and invites the community to
listen to guest speakers who appear periodically
at the DOC House. Year-round, if you climb any mountains between Hanover and Mount Moosilauke, you’ll trod on trails maintained by the DOC.
The DOC keeps up 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail between Ledyard
Bridge in Hanover and Route 112 in Woodstock, and a number of side
trails. The DOC also maintains and rents to the public a number of
backcountry cabins. “The mission of the DOC is to
allow as many people as possible to enjoy the outdoors,” says Scarlette.
“We have the Connecticut River right here. We share it and teach others
about it. It’s hard work to maintain trails, but it allows us to share
those spaces and engage in the outdoors
together in whatever capacity we can.”
DOC is an old club that’s been around for 140 years, but it’s an
adaptable one, keeping some of its time-honored traditions while
discarding others based on what outdoor desires are at the forefront.
Ski jumping, which founder Fred Harris so loved, disappeared during the
early 1980s, yet the club has maintained the same 50-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail since the 1930s. And as Dartmouth has become more diverse and inclusive, so has the DOC with programs like POCO and DIJE.
1849, the French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr coined the phrase
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That’s certainly
true about the DOC. While the club has changed, it still offers myriad
ways to enjoy the outdoors. H