For many former Bowdoin Outing Club members, their first introduction to the Maine outdoors was on their pre-orientation trip prior to embarking on their four years at Bowdoin. Despite numerous excursions in their later years, pre-orientation trips often remain favorite memories throughout time spent at Bowdoin and beyond. The pre-orientation experience is often one marked by tremendous anticipation, nerves, and a growing feeling of camaraderie with fellow Bowdoin students throughout the trip. Members tell of experiences hiking, canoeing, sailing, and moose sightings as some of their first times in unique Maine locations such as Acadia, Moosehead lake, and Baxter State Park. One alumnus recalls how she had to be rescued from her pre-orientation trip when she fell ill while on the trail. Several alumni tell of bike trips from Brunswick to Camden Hills, and the joy and relief they felt upon successful completion. Over the years, pre-orientation trips have grown to include elements such as environmental education and community service. One alumnus tells of his experience on the first pre-orientation trip to Kent Island that was part of a growing emphasis on environmental education in the BOC.
For those who survived their pre-orientation trips, many recall the joy of then leading trips for other incoming first-years in the following years. One individual tells of how he left his trippers at quarter mile intervals along the trail so that they could enjoy "a few rare moments of silent contemplation".
Another leader tells of the particular difficulties of leading pre-orientation trips. She writes, "On one of the trips, a new freshman was not in the best of shape, and was having trouble keeping up with the group. The rest of the group wanted to go on, so I came back to where she was and helped her carry her pack. On parents weekend the same year, her parents mentioned the episode. I told them their daughter had done just fine on the trip. As I reflect on that now, I do not know if I did the right thing. Sometimes it is hard to know what being a good leader means"
The experience as a leader is one that complements the initial experience of being led upon entering Bowdoin; experiences that served as sources of challenge and growth for many involved.
The element of challenge is often recalled in some of the most memorable stories of outing club trips. One alumnus describes his most memorable trip as a winter snowshoe trip that suddenly became difficult as participants found themselves in a whiteout on the trail. Another remembers the harrowing experience of hiking the "knife's edge" trail of Mount Katahdin in strong winds and having to reach out and grab a fellow hiker who was nearly blown off of the ridge.
He writes, "Several of us grabbed him so he didn't fall to an untimely death. Fun." Another student describes the first and last sledding trip to Tuckermann's ravine, whereupon students drove through a snowstorm to arrive at night at the ravine. "After spending a sub-zero night in lean-tos, we awoke to find one participant who had the ole 100 yard hypothermic stare as we tried to pack camp and get the stoves going. "Schelegel, you have to put your hat and gloves on". With zero visibility, several mildly hypothermic participants and avalanche conditions, we never scaled the head wall, but had to content ourselves with a less exhilarating, but none the less pleasant sled down from our position at the base of the headwall through the woods back to the van".
While not all trips were quite so adventurous, for many the most memorable experiences were those that challenged personal limits and brought individuals to a unique position in nature.
A consistent thread throughout the vast majority of outing club experiences is that of humor. One alumnus describes a canoeing trip near the Forks of the Dead and Kennebec Rivers where her boat became beached on a rock mid-river. As she writes, "Mike Woodruff [was] laughing so hard he couldn't paddle and I almost fell out of the boat". For some, the humor was found following a safe return to Bowdoin. In responding to the question of what is your most memorable experience in the BOC, one alumnus writes, "Freezing my ass off on a winter hiking trip to Baxter. It got below 30 that night".
The Outing Club provided a unique opportunity for many students to take individual initiative during their time at Bowdoin. The process of planning and leading trips, particularly longer length trips over spring break rank as some of the most memorable experiences for alumni. One individual describes how the trip to Utah that he and two friends organized was his most cherished experience among his many other BOC trips. Another describes a similar trip to Utah several years later, writing, "During spring break of 1991, we went to Canyonlands National Park in Utah for two weeks of camping in the desert. We had many wild adventures along the way and had the trip of a lifetime". Several respondents note a biking trip through Georgia over a spring break that took them from Atlanta to Savannah. "Fantastic people, and a great tour through rural countryside". A participant on the same trip writes, "It was an extraordinary trip and one I would not have done alone as I didn't have much biking experience at the time". Others describe the experience of building the BOC Cabin on the Appalachian Trail. Some members returned as alumni to help in the process, writing ...
"Perhaps the strongest memory (both good and bad) was building the cabin near the Appalachian Trail north of Monson a year after graduating. What was a dream for many of us, Jeff Christie drove to completion in the spring of 1990. We hauled lumber and supplies up to the site and were ravaged by blackflies and mosquitoes while we set the foundation blocks and built the floor. There was a great sense of camaraderie among the builders. It was amazing to work on the project from start to finish"
This story, among others, demonstrates the importance of personal initiative and the satisfaction of completing a challenge that form the foundations of the Outing club experience.
Common throughout the majority of memorable experiences was the opportunity to reach to favorite spots in Maine through the BOC. Alumni write of hiking in Baxter State Park and Camden Hills, Acadia, Moosehead Lake, the BOC cabin on the Appalachian Trail, and more. One former leader writes that her most memorable experience was, "Leading trips to Acadia's Otter cliffs. This is still one of my absolute favorite places in the world". For many alumni, the friendships formed in the process of enjoying favorite locations in the Maine outdoors remain treasured memories of the BOC.