History of the DOC
Fred Harris, Class of 1911, founded the Dartmouth Outing Club in the winter of 1909–10. Harris was a native of Brattleboro, Vermont, and by his own account had “skeeing on the brain”. This pleasant affliction had him making skis (the typical size was eight feet long, ash or hickory) and using them on the local hills and farm fields. When he arrived at Dartmouth, he found to his dismay that winter was considered a thoroughly dismal season, which most students spent cooped up in stuffy rooms playing cards in their free time. In the fall of Harris’s junior year, he proposed, in a newspaper editorial, that an Outing Club be formed, to take advantage of the winter through ski and snowshoe trips, and have an end-of-winter ski Field Day for students to try out their newfound skills. Several key members of the faculty were highly enthusiastic about this idea, along with some of the athletic team captains, and the idea burst into fruition.
The club’s leaders took two steps early on that gave it a tremendous boost. In 1911 the club decided to expand on the Field Day to create a Winter Carnival — and to make it a true midwinter weekend by inviting female guests, for a lavish round of indoor and outdoor events in addition to the sports contest. This innovation boosted interest and excitement enormously, far beyond Harris’s band of adventurers, and truly launched the club as a campus-wide phenomenon. The other thing was inadvertent, but its consequences greater. The club had taken over an old lumber shanty on Moose Mountain outside Hanover as its first cabin, and in 1913 raised money to build its first, full-sized and fully equipped cabin, nearby. The fundraising effort reached the Boston papers in the form of an article titled “Dartmouth Men Plan Line of Camps in the White Mountains”. In particular, this article reached the attention of one Johnny Johnson, class of 1866. Johnson (the legend goes) had invested in real estate, but had then taken ill and been out of contact with his finances for some years. When he was able to find his feet again, it was to find that his little flyer was now the cornerstone of a major western harbor development. He had sold his property for a tidy sum and now, with no descendants, was looking for a place to see his money to good use. As a result, he attended the opening ceremony of the new cabin and, at the proper moment, presented the deed of Skyline Farm in Littleton, New Hampshire, to Dartmouth President Nichols. This was to be the first installment in fifteen years of remarkable generosity, which at its end saw the full chain of cabins complete, a trail to connect them, and the core endowment of the Club, the Harrison Memorial Fund. Even today, Life Memberships in the DOC are deposited into the fund created by Johnny Johnson.
With facilities, money, a great annual event, and the enthusiastic support of many faculty, the club took the quiet Dartmouth campus by storm. It grew steadily through the teens and then, in 1920, came the most dramatic event of all. In February 1920, Harris published an article in the National Geographic titled “Skiing over the New Hampshire Hills”. The article was read in nearly two million homes across the country, and that spring, applications for admission increased from 825 to 2625. This forced the College to go to selective admissions, from which it never turned back.
By the mid 1920s, membership in the DOC reached 73% of students. In 1920, Sherman Adams ’20 and others created Cabin and Trail, the central club governing body of some eighty men, and soon membership was one of the most hotly sought honors on the campus. Ledyard Canoe Club, the Bait and Bullet Club, and Boots and Saddles were founded. Winter Carnival grew to an event of regional significance. The DOC chain of cabins neared 20 at one point in the early 30s, and in 1926 the DOC and its trail became a founding link in the new Appalachian Trail. With the scope of annual operations growing, the DOC hired first a part-time Comptroller, and then in 1929 its first Graduate Manager, Dan Hatch ’28, who served until 1937.
The Outing Club forged Dartmouth’s connection to Moosilauke. In Harris’s first letter to the Dartmouth he proposed a major annual trip “say to Moosilak”. While the club’s early big mountain adventures were on Mount Washington, two DOCers became the first to ski Moosilauke when they climbed it in March 1912 by the Carriage Road. The club established Great Bear Cabin in 1914 and the Beaver Brook Trail in 1916. Then, in a stroke of wonderful fortune, Charles (1907) and E.K. (1897) Woodworth purchased the abandoned Moosilauke Summit House, and gave it, and a circular tract of land centered on the summit, to the Outing Club. They had it in mind the then-new Appalachian Mountain Club huts which fed and housed mountain travelers, and thought the DOC could do the same thing. The club was happy to rise to the challenge. Soon the place had a superlative reputation among the local summer camps, and to be chosen to work on the Summit Crew became the plum DOC assignment. The crew came into possession of the Doc Benton Ghost story and perfected in on that windy summit, and by the mid ’30s were serving 3300 guests per year.
Meanwhile, the DOC became the leading group in the East in the organization of competitive winter sports. The DOC organized the Intercollegiate Winter Sports Union in 1926, and Prof. Charles Proctor ’00 and his son Charles ’28 became leaders in the field. Prof. Proctor organized the first downhill and slalom races in the East, and ran the first slalom ever organized in the US under internationally accepted rules, in 1928. In 1927, the first Down Mountain race on Moosilauke was held, on the narrow, winding Carriage Road. This event proved an annual hit, and in 1931 John McCrillis ’19 filmed the race. This tape convinced the National Ski Association to sanction the first ever National Downhill race, held on that route in 1933. Meanwhile, Otto Schneibs took over as coach of the ski team, and built it into the unquestioned national champions for most of the 1930s. Skiers like David Bradley ’38, Dick Durrance ’39, Eddie “the Snapper” Wells ’39, the Chivers brothers, and Harold Hillman ’40 became nationally known. Coach Walter Prager followed in this heroic tradition, leading the teams to glory in the late ’30s and early ’40s, before leaving for several years to be head ski instructor for the 10th Mountain Division, the vaunted Ski Troops of the U.S. Army. Many Dartmouth men served with distinction in this corps, and then went west after the war to lead the development of skiing.
On Moosilauke, the success of the Carriage Road race led to grander schemes. The valley of the Asquamchumauke east of the summit, had been logged off but only in a half-hearted way, and in contrast to the rest of the flanks of the mountain, held substantial stands of virgin timber in the late 20s. Two students, Warren Braley and Farmer Kirkham ’33s, won permission from Sherman Adams, then head of the Parker Young Company that owned the land, to build Jobildunc Cabin, in the heart of the upper Ravine. This was truly wild, untouched territory, and the cabin they built proved to be a jewel that opened the eyes of club elders to the possibilities in this remove valley. In Braley and Kirkham’s explorations they had bypassed the logging company’s Camp 2, at the confluence of Gorge Brook with the Asquamchumauke. But schemers like Dan Hatch, Prof. Proctor and Otto Schniebs saw the opportunity to seize the initiative in eastern skiing which others were pressing. They managed to persuade Sherm Adams to sell the DOC a chunk of land from the old Camp 2 to the South and North summits, and on this triangle build the famous Hells Highway Ski Trail. Then they renovated the old logging stable at Camp 2, and Ford and Peggy Sayre ’33 agreed to run it as a winter ski base. It proved spectacularly successful in this brief era before ski tows.
But in 1935, the camp burned. The DOC elders knew they should purchase the rest of the land in the Ravine, so that a major building investment could be protected. But raising the money proved painfully slow and two years went by without action. In 1937, the logjam broke when Sherm Adams agreed that Parker Young would not log the land in the foreseeable future. At the same time, Ross McKenney, a legendary Maine woodsman, arrived at Dartmouth in the fall on 1937 to be the DOC’s Woodcraft Advisor. He went with J. Willcox Brown ’37, newly minted Graduate Manager of the DOC, to Camp 2, and they came back with a plan to use the land money and some of the remaining virgin timber in the valley to build a ski camp. It proved to be a vast undertaking, but Ross’s skill and the determination of some legendary workers from the town of Warren won the day. By the winter of 1939, with a crew of ten and two horses, and no power equipment save a gas-powered cement mixer, the Ravine Camp was built — one of the largest log buildings in New Hampshire.
Through this period, the DOC remained heavily involved in a variety of other projects and business ventures. The Dartmouth Outing Club House was built on Occom Pond in 1929, to serve as a clubhouse and a center for skiing and skating. The DOC soon was running what became a full-fledged and well-respected restaurant in that building. C&T member Elly Jump ’32 organized the Intercollegiate Outing Club Association, fostering co-ed trips among member colleges, and was a huge success. The DOC built one of the very first ski tows in the East, on Oak Hill in 1935, and used the area for training and competition. But the biggest thing of all continued to be Carnival, which involved nearly a year of preparations annually, ranging from huge outdoor pageants to snow sculptures, to the Carnival Queen contest. It became the highlight of the winter season.
World War II saw a substantial and long-term diminution in the club’s activity. The Summit Camp burned in the fall of 1942, ending that wonderful tradition; wartime made it impossible to consider rebuilding. The Ravine Camp stood empty for most of the war. After the war ended, it became clear that the club could not sustain all of the large operations of earlier years, and the Ravine Camp, Oak Hill Ski area, and DOC House were reassigned to the Manager of Outing Properties, Bob Monahan ’29. John Rand ’38 (JR), who had served with great valor in the 10th Mountain Division, returned to head the DOC, which he did from 1945 to 1975. With so many men marrying earlier, campus life growing more diverse, the DOC could not pull in quite the numbers of the late ’30s, and with that the 50s and 60s became a period of relative quiet. However, many areas were as strong as ever. The Mountaineering Club, founded by Jack Durrance in 1936, became a major expeditionary force, leading numerous first ascents in the northern Cascades and British Columbia in particular. Doug Wade was hired in 1943 to be College Naturalist, and he inspired a group of environmental activitists twenty years before the term “ecology” was popular; many of his protégés came to leadership roles in the postwar research boom. Ross McKenney, JR and Bill Robes ’32, seeing the decline in skills of the woods, founded Woodsmen’s Weekend in 1947, as an intercollegiate contest in woodcraft, a tradition that survived intact after Ross retirement in 1959. DOC men organized by JR and Ross fought numerous huge forest fires resulting from drought and the ’38 Hurricane debris; one fire on Mount Sunapee involved 11,000 student man-hours in its control. Ledyard Canoe Club continued strong as well. One annual tradition — the Trip to the Sea, following the paddle strokes of John Ledyard — reached its apex (or nadir) when two paddlers braved an April flood to make the entire 210 mile trip in 33 hours 50 minutes.
Skiing was strong through this period. Walter Prager led a number of Ski Team skiers to national and international fame, including Ralph Miller ’55 and Chiharu Igaya ’57, among many Olympians. Walter retired in 1957 and the job fell to Al Merrill, a standout skier from UNH. He led the team to its only outright victory at the NCAA in 1958, and many close finishes throughout the 60s. On the recreational side, George Ostler developed the Ski School, which had as many as 800 participants, using the facilities of the new Skiway, built in 1956–57. Aiding in the running of races for Ski Team, Ski school, and a variety of regional ski events was the Winter Sports Division of the DOC, running as many as 25 races in some years in the mid ’60s.
The Ravine Camp (renamed Lodge in 1949) struggled financially throughout the 50s. A brief push created a rope tow and some new trails in the late 40s, but it was impossible to compete with the new chair lifts elsewhere, especially with the numerous logistical challenges of the place; and the winter operation folded in 1953. The only winter use thereafter was the New Years Wing-Ding, a great alumni-student get-together sometimes lasting a week. Though it had taken over the Summit Camp’s summer camp business and there was some local traffic, it was not enough to be financially sustainable. A famous blizzard in 1962 trapped the New Years revelers, and the combination of Trustee nervousness about liability and the longterm financial drain, caused them to outlaw the Wing-ding and close the Lodge in 1963. It was clearly a white elephant and might well have been burned down were it not for one thing — the Freshman Trip. Born in 1935 as a way to encourage new students to get interested in the DOC, it grew rapidly in popularity and was undertaken by close to half of the incoming students by the early 60s. Dartmouth President John Dickey ’29 was a particular believer in the power and importance of the Trips as a way to introduce students to a “Sense of Place” that he saw as critical to the College experience. With his concern, and the care of Gordie DeWitt ’60 of the Business Office who had been a cook at the Lodge in the late 50s, enough money was found to do the basic repairs necessary to keep it from falling down. This effort was considerably aided by the 1965 gift of Pennington Haile ’24 of roughly 1/3 of the old Parker-Young property in the Asquamchumauke, giving the College more security at the Lodge site.
The blossoming of the environmental and outdoors movements in the late 1960s sparked a new era for DOC. In order to support JR and give a broader base for programs, the College created the Office of Outdoor Affairs in 1970, and appointed Al Merrill to run it. In addition to overseeing the DOC, the office was given responsibility for recreational programs in the College Grant, and for recreational management of the Ravine Lodge. Al began this process in spectacular fashion by kicking out a commune that had gotten started in the Lodge bunkhouse, and hired Earl Jette to be Assistant Director of the DOC, following the Woodcraft Advisor position that Jim Schwedland ’48 had taken through the 60s. Earl and his family occupied the Lodge for the summers of 1971–73, providing an environmental program and the first attempt to get the mountain trails back under control. Meanwhile, the Freshman Trip, spurred by the surge of outdoor interest at that time, expanded to over 70% of the class by 1973, which put the old Lodge systems to a severe test. In response, in 1974 the College gave full operational control of the Lodge to Al and Outdoor Affairs, and agreed to a substantial shot of funding to replace the septic system and various other life-safety elements. After further improvements the next year, the Lodge was reopened for summer business in 1976 under the direction of Jack Noon ’68. A major spur to summer opening — in addition to the overall increase in interest in the outdoors — was the start of the Dartmouth Plan, putting students on campus for the summer. The Freshman Trip, having reached its standard form of two nights on the trail and one night at the Lodge, expanded still further, and by the end of the 70s was taken by 80% of incoming students, making it the largest program of its kind in the country. In 1979, Outdoor Affairs was finally able to close the final loophole in the Moosilauke plan, by purchasing the remainder of the old Parker-Young tract on Moosilauke, making a nearly 4600-acre parcel with the Lodge at the center. Penn Haile again helped, as did the Culpepper Foundation.
For the DOC, there were several other consequences of the new interest in outdoors and the environment. The Environmental Studies Division of the DOC was founded in 1970, and took on a variety of projects on campus and off, including recycling, environmental conferences, nature walks, and political activism on several environmental issues of the day. Meanwhile Cabin and Trail, which had become a division of DOC rather than its central body in 1937, underwent a major revival in the early 70s. With a strong push from Jim “Porkroll” Taylor ’74, C&T got back into Woodsmen’s Weekend in a serious way, and began the tradition of hosting the annual Spring meeting triennially, starting in 1974. Coeducation (1971) was a struggle at first, but by the 1976 meet women were fully integrated, and won the Spring Meet that year. The Men’s team won the spring meet (then dominated by the University of Maine and Paul Smith’s College) in 1978, for the first time in 22 years. Meanwhile, C&T got into the Trails business in earnest. The Appalachian Trail was protected by Federal legislation in 1968, but DOC’s 75 mile section needed to be substantially relocated onto federally-purchased lands to have the most desirable route. This resulted in a great surge of student interest and dedication to new trail construction and erosion control on the portions of the old “cabin chain” route to be maintained. Bob Averill ’72 was one of the exemplars of this new interest. One of the things that began to happen regularly on the trail was the Trail Walk, which involved hiking the 50-mile distance from Hanover to Moosilauke in 24 hours.
The DOC celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 1984 in fine style with a year of events, including a Dartmouth (Nova Scotia) to Dartmouth bike trip, a Source to the Sea canoe trip over two weeks, and a 70-mile Trail Walk from north of Woodstock Vt. to Moosilauke. Perhaps the most spectacular event was the Peak Bag, when on a flawless clear, cold October 6th, DOC became the first organization to place hikers on all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000-foot peaks on the same day.
Several newer sports were added to the DOC in the ’70s and ’80s. Trap and Skeet, an old sport, became popular in the ’70s, and Earl Jette led the team to the National Championships, with Dennis DeVaux ’78 the national champion in 1977. Interest in road biking led to the formation of the Bike Club, which competed throughout the region and hosted the [Eastern/?] Championships in 1981. Biathlon, a popular sport in Europe involving riflery and cross-country skiing, became an established club of the DOC in the ’80s with the support of several local enthusiasts and a number of strong Ski Team members. Cabin and Trail played host to a tremendous burst of interest in backcountry (Telemark) Skiing. And in 1987, the DOC responded to the national boom of interest by creating the Snowboard Club, one of the club’s largest at this date.
The club continued to enjoy strong institutional support through this period. John Rand retired from the Executive Director position in 1978, to be replaced by Earl Jette. With Al’s retirement in 1984, Earl became the director of the renamed Outdoor Programs Office as well as DOC Director, with Brian Kunz assisting. David Hooke became Facilities Manager of Outdoor Programs in 1994 after three years as Ravine Lodge manager. 1995–96 saw the club take its current form. In 1995 the club collapsed its “Divisions and Affiliated Clubs” structure in favor of an arrangement where all 12 member clubs have equal say in club affairs. David Hooke was named DOC General Manager while Brian Kunz was named DOC Trainer; these two became administratively partnered with various of the DOC’s clubs and programs, to provide a higher level of support. The DOC Board was reorganized to consist of the heads of all student clubs plus Brian and David, and began to meet every two weeks. The DOC Advisory Council of community, faculty and administrators plus student leaders now meets roughly monthly. This support and the initiative of several recent club leaders has resulted in a substantial surge in new “central DOC” programs designed to provide introductory experiences for a wider spectrum of the campus. At the same time, the traditional Clubs have remained strong.
The DOC stands today at one of the strongest points in its history, a healthy and vibrant contributor to the image and stature of Dartmouth College.
For more information on the history of the DOC, please see David Hooke’s Reaching That Peak: 75 Years of the Dartmouth Outing Club published 1987.