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trips group photo

Last spring, I spontaneously signed up to be a First-Year Trips leader and it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made since starting at Dartmouth. If you're wondering what "Trips" is, it is a voluntary part of our orientation program where two trip leaders (trained upperclassmen, or "TLs") lead a group of about 8-10 first years, assigned based upon common interests. The TLs lead three-night trips with camping or cabin accommodations of various types including hiking, canoeing, kayaking, timber sports, museum exploration, social impact, yoga, and much more. Visit the First-Year trips website for a much more complete list! 

I had such a positive experience as a "tripees" last fall. As someone who was very overwhelmed during orientation week, I cherished Trips as a sustained escape from campus and unplugged time with a consistent group of my peers. I bonded very closely with my group, went on some beautiful hikes of Mt. Moosilauke and Mt. Mist, and received candid guidance from my two leaders whom I still reach out to today. In fact, the reason I applied is because of my leaders; we had a conversation about how valuable it has been for them to serve as a long-term mentor for several, impressionable first-year students.

So, I did it. First, an application, followed by a series of training sessions in risk management, group dynamics, leadership, and of course, outdoor practical skills. Then, it was time. I met my tripees on the lawn in front of Robinson Hall and greeted them with a smile (and a huge poster) before playing some get-to-know-you games. Everyone seemed excited, but a bit overwhelmed – I mean, it is a little nerve-wracking to be spending so much time with people you've just met. Nell (my co-leader) and I went over our trip itinerary and some practical information, like how to pack a frame pack, which eased their nerves a bit. Thinking back to my experience as a tripee, though, I know that my appreciation of trips as magical and grounding is much different than my initial perception.

The next morning, at the bright and early hour of six, we were off! We gathered our gear, ate breakfast, and then headed out for the bus to drop us off at the Cardigan State Park campsites about an hour from campus. Rather than telling you what we did, though, I'd rather show you all with some (beautiful) photos! Here we go...

swimming in river
Once we got there, we hiked out (about 2 miles) to a swimming hole where we waded and chatted by the water!

After heading back, we set up camp with our tarps, sleeping bags and hammock, and began to unwind.

cooking dinner
Then, we started to cook dinner – my favorite part of trips. Everyone has a different role at the campsite, making normally mundane tasks much more interesting and fulfilling. Tonight we had bean and lentil chili!

eating chili
And now we eat! Here's a full trip photo (well, without me.)

After a late night of chatting and getting to know each other, we headed out on our longest day of hiking where we significantly increased our mileage and elevation gain. Not to worry, though, because we had the entire day to ourselves, so we took our time!

Once we reached the top of Mt. Cardigan, we had lunch at the summit and met some other hiking groups/couples on the trail.

Then, my friend Ricky – who is on a support "Croo" – met up with us before we headed down into the second part of our day hike.

We ended the day with another wade in a nearby creek before heading back to the campsite for dinner – Annie's Mac n Cheese. I don't have many other photos, but this night, we had a very long, candid conversation about our Dartmouth experiences and offered some advice to our tripees.

The next morning, we completed a shorter day hike before heading to the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge for the cabin overnight portion of the trip. Here, we met up with other trips, played some games, made friendship bracelets, and relaxed in the nicer cabin accommodations. We had a very delicious home-meal from the Lodj croo, and then listened to a Dartmouth professor speak/offer advice.

... and a final group photo.

Even though Trips is over, we have all kept in touch and are continuing to have dinner/social events this term. I think the continuity and community Trips provides is one of my favorite elements of the community. I hope to keep you all posted on how my tripees are doing!

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