The Bowdoin Outing Club encourages students to dream, organize and lead outdoor trips. This fellowship offers the financial support to shape the most creative and adventurous outdoor visions into real opportunities. The expedition should foster a spirit of adventure and encourage personal challenges and skill development and in the end, contribute to the growth of the Bowdoin Outing Club.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Supremely Anti-Climactic Evacuation Story by Walt, Cam, and Erica

Trip summary! We got an early start to spring break on Friday and booked it down to Concord Mass (home sweet home for Cam) for a quick car swap (thank you momma Adams).  With hybrid in hand we made it down to Harrisburg, PA that night.  Not a super scenic area so we spent that night in our Red Roof Inn.  After a quick breakfast at the local American Dream diner we started off for our second full day of driving with TN in our sights.  We hit three states before 10 am (PA, MD, and WV) and passed the birthplace of three American presidents before noon.  We knew we were getting close to Gatlinburg when we saw the billboard for the comedy show with the “mind reading pig” and “talking dog” (complete with human teeth!) and the reenactment of the Hatfield and McCoy dinner show.  Those of us who hadn’t been there before were expecting a cute little gateway town to the national park, but it turns out Gatlinburg looks more like a trashy Disney world than anything else.  More mechanical bull riding options, minigolf spots, and southern tourists than we’d ever seen before! Truly an experience. 

At the trailhead

After a night with Walt’s Aunt and Uncle and some much needed gear organizing, we got an early start on the trail the next day.  The entrance to the AT was mobbed with people because it was the first real day of summer, but once we got going it emptied out pretty quickly and became really peaceful.  Pretty much everyone we ran into on the trail was a thru-hiker, which we weren’t really expecting. Walt’s uncle (who works for the park) said the thru-hikers start form Georgia earlier and earlier every year so we might expect to see some, but it was even busier than we could have imagined.  Walt’s uncle hiked in with us a few miles and carried some beers for a quick trail break at a spot with completely amazing views before we continued on to the first lean-to at Icewater Springs.

Here we had to discuss strategy.  Erica had pain in her ankles that had been acting up in the past couple weeks.  She had been wearing heel-less shoes, icing, and taking pain medication to mitigate the pain, but had not been able to get rid of the tendonitis before we left for the trip.  The first day, although short, had caused a lot discomfort and we could all see that her achilles’ was inflamed and swelling.  We decided to cook dinner, spend the night, take some ibuprofen, and check on the pain again in the morning.  We laid out our sleeping pads under the completely clear sky to stargaze before going to sleep in the overly-crowded shelter.  When we finally submitted to the unexpectedly large slumber party, the thru-hikers gave us some good tips: don’t sleep with your head against the wall, there are rats.  Don’t drink water before you sleep, you will “evaporate” it and make your sleeping bag damp.  Unclear whether or not tip-giver had a bed-wetting problem.

Charlie's Bunion, TN

We woke up in the morning to misty fog rolling across our mountaintop camp.  Cooked oatmeal, packed bags, hit the outhouse, put on shoes… As soon as Erica put on her hiking boots Walt and Cam saw the light in her eyes flicker out.  “Guys… I can’t walk.”  The dreaded words had been said.  We thought about our itinerary.  We had a 10-mile day ahead of us.  Every mile we walked put us further in the backcountry, and further from access to medical attention.  Furthermore, there was still some ice on the trail, making the chances of falling and aggravating the injury much worse.  We knew what we had to do, but none of us wanted to say it first.  With heavy hearts, but clear heads, Walt and Cam took some of Erica’s heavier gear, took stations on her left and right sides, and the three forlorn section hikers walked, slowly, back toward the trailhead.

But resilience is the name of the game.  Yes, our planned itinerary could not be completed because of unchangeable medical conditions.  But no, the trip was not over!  We returned to Walt’s aunt and uncle’s house to use as home base.  Erica started an icing and elevation routine, and got on the phone with people more qualified than the present company to help with the ankle.  To savor the day we drove down to the Greenbrier section of the Little Pigeon river, doing some icing au naturale in the snowmelt and watching the sun set through the trees.  We had a BBQ that night and went to bed feeling as if not all had been lost, after all. 

The next day, Walt and Cam did a day hike to the Chimney Tops while Erica had some “me-time.”  They also got semi-lost in a creekbed that they wanted to use as an alternate trail route.  Hit up the local pub and watering hole for dinner called “The Three Jimmies,” which was supposedly started by three guys named Jimmy.  Experienced southern culture.

It was time for our adventure into the Smokies to end.  Ankles needed mending, and Asheville, NC, needed visiting.  We left Walt’s aunt and uncles in the morning to cross the state line and begin our trek back north after a quick stop in the famous music, art, outdoor, and beer haven of North Carolina.  The trip hadn’t gone as planned, but it hadn’t been a failure- far from it.  Our minds had been made up, 2.5 miles of the AT hadn’t been enough.  After graduation, we’d be coming back, and we’d finish it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Days 2-3: The Road to Moab, UT

We’ve made it to Moab and as we cuddle into our sleeping bags, camped just outside of Arches National Park, we bristle with anticipation, because tomorrow morning we’ll finally be on the green river!

Our drive down has been an adventure on its own. We hit the road early Thursday morning. After a quick morning pit stop at in-n-out burger we headed towards the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Our morning drive out of Berkley consisted of wonderful views of redwoods and the beautiful green pasture, but as we quickly ascended to altitudes of about 7000ft we found ourselves surrounded by snow, a sight all to familiar to us.

We then made our way onto Interstate-50, America’s loneliest highway. As we soared through the vast desert we felt the sublime euphoria and fear that embodies one when they look onto what feels like an endless flat plane of desert land.
Eventually, we had to rest and refuel. So as the son stood high in the are that afternoon we stopped in Reno, Nevada and took to the streets jort-laden. We quickly found, what we agreed must have been sight from fate, extremely cheap Reno-themed Hawaiian shirts. After all acquiring matching Reno shirts we went to a famous restaurant-casino named “The Nugget” where we ate burgers and chili that were topped with pounds of fries and beans. We earned some money at the slot machines and decided it was time to hit the road again.

Back on the loneliest highway we saw a small mound on the horizon, but as we continued driving in it’s direction we realized it was actually a giant mountain of sand! This was an something that could not be ignored. We drove up to it and learned it was naturally forming sand mountain and was frequented by dune-buggy drivers. After a surprisingly difficult summit of the mountain we  returned to the road.

As the hour rolled on, so did we. Darkness set upon us and we realized we didn’t know exactly where we were. But we weren’t afraid! With an incredible starry sky above us we drove through Toiyabe National Forest until we reached Illipah Reservoir. With all our wonderful stops and adventures it had gotten pretty late, so we set up camp as quickly as we could. At 8000 feet, the night air was pretty frigid. We shivered that night.

But the next morning we were ready to go again. We got back on the road finishing yesterday’s chili fries for breakfast. We stopped by an abandoned bullet-ridden trash can alongside I-50 for a quick jam-fest, but we were eager to get to Moab.

As we crossed from Nevada into Utah we realized that the flat desert slowly turned into GIANT CANYONSSSSSS!!!! It was awesome. Several more hours of highway brought us to Moab. We entered Arches National Park looking for a campsite but instead found love (Sarah the Park Ranger, if your out there, I love you and always will!). The wonderful Sarah directed us to a nearby campsite, which situated us just inside a canyon. We grabbed a quick Mexican dinner, stopped at the local supermarket for some last minute supplies, and now we’re ready to take on the River tomorrow!   

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Canyonlands Canoe Expedition

Deep in the heart of Oakland, CA, the energy is palpable (and the body odor is real) as we make our final pre-departure preparations. Bags have partly been packed, maps and permits have partly been acquired, and all floppy sun hats are present and accounted for. We are currently rejoicing in the arrival of Toby's rhythm bones, which will accompany our chorus of instruments (guitar, banjo, harmonica, egg shaker, kalimba, ukulele) as we venture into the southwest, also known as the pancreas of America.

We will leave early tomorrow morning, driving east on Interstate 50 (also known as America's loneliest highway) toward Salt Lake City, UT. We will then drive south to Moab, UT. This is a 14-hour drive, so we will camp on the way. We're shooting for Humboldt-Toiyabe national forest in the midst of the Nevada desert for tomorrow's campsite. 

Upon arrival in Moab, we will set out to find the legendary "cratdog" which, supposedly, is a rat on top of a cat on top of a dog. Trust us, it's real. The next day, we'll set out in canoes from the mineral bottom put-in on the beautiful Green River. Our next four days will be spent basking in the natural glory of Canyonlands National Park, home to some of the most scenic flat water canoeing in the world. We will play our way down the river, with petroglyphs as our audience. 

Following our paddling, we will make our way to northern Arizona, where we will backpack through Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in the world. We will then explore the Vermilion Cliffs/Paria Canyon wilderness area. Our backpacking foray will end at Lee's Ferry, where we will pack up and drive through the night back to the land of Oak, catching a red-eye home on Sunday night and making it back to campus just in time to sleep through monday's classes. 

After a long day of travel, everyone arrived happily in San Francisco and we made our way to Tim's house. All of us (except Tim) were inculcated with wonder upon the unveiling of personalized canoe paddles, crafted by the able hands of Tim from the timbers of his domicile's former siding.

Current status:
Morale: High
Physical condition: Top-notch
Odor: a soft 5 out of 10
Hats: Floppy
Mustaches: Quivering with excitement

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Grand Canyon Backpack



 Just over 48 hours ago, our journey began in Brunswick. As we exchanged jokes and recounted inebriated escapades, our unified spirit of adventure waxed large as we started south on I-95. However, as the sun set on our first day, this spirit died at a roadside McDonald’s in Buffalo, New York. We then passed through Erie, PA, Cleveland, and the entire state of Indiana. After three hours of fitful sleep in a seat meant for a twelve year-old, I awoke to a disturbing scene in the front seat. By the time we entered the Chicago industrial corridor, Ben and Wilder had stripped down to their briefs. They stunk of poorly rolled cigarettes and a rainbow of artificial M&M colored their hands, but in an unlikely locale, the spirit of adventure regenerated and thrived. The West beckoned. Onward!

At 4 AM, Chicago’s eerily vacant cement forest enchanted the dark ghosts inside of us as perception became slave to cosmic, post-modern fantasy. As monoliths of human desire and creation, cities of today connect us to our collective, pervasive Life Force, as Will Eisner might contend. But after half a dozen missed turns, Chicago departed, allowing me, in turn, to submit to the lesser power of sleep and dream. 

            Ben and Wilder’s spirit maintained us through Illinois and into Davenport, Iowa, where we consumed breakfast at the World’s Largest Truck Stop. The plains had clearly taken a toll on the night drivers, and they would sleep for the next dozen hours. The road beckoned me next, and after half a dozen cups of free coffee, my mind drifted to the singular most powerful force in the human universe, Kate Upton’s breasts. For the next six hours, conversation slowed as the wisely procured SI Swimsuit Edition 2014 dominated the minds hanging from our abdomens.
            Save for an exciting college basketball game on the Qdoba television and a homophobic slur hollered from a pickup truck in Lincoln, Nebraska, little about the high plains interested us. As we entered our 30th hour in the car, a Western Nebraska sunset drenched the plains in hues of red and yellow, reminding us of the world that exists beyond our box of metal and plastic.

            The others tan outside, and I’m anxious to spend what time I have at home with my family. Tonight we begin our drive through Colorado and Utah to the canyon, but in the meantime, we relax.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Skiing Vermont's Catamount Trail: 
The Story of How We Did Something Completely Different"

We totally did the "Catamount Trail"

Our trip to the Catamount Ski Trail began with us driving right past Vermont to upstate New York’s Five Ponds Wilderness due to a lack of snow in Vermont. We had planned to ski one hundred miles along the Catamount Trail, but several warm spells had reduced most of the Northeast’s snowpack to a few inches at best. However, things looked promising and we headed to our first campsite at Janack’s Landing on Cranberry Lake.

The trail started off even and snowy...
Partway through the day, we ended up removing our skis as the weather warmed up and the snow began caking. After several involved river crossings and arduous sledular navigational tasks we made it to our lean-to on the lake. The night was spent exploring the mysteries of the frozen Cranberry Lake, namely a shiny plastic cone.
"But what does it mean?"
Day two also started off promising, though the warm weather again quickly thwarted our efforts to cross-country ski along the trails. The trails were also becoming uncreasingly uneven and rocky; we just couldn’t ski. After removing our skis, we hiked to a massive beaver dam. With a little bridge building and sled shuffling we safely got ourselves and our gear across the river and continued on our way.  

Dam beavers
Once across, we hid our gear in the woods and made a side trip, bushwhacking up Cat Mountain. The top (though only a modest 2267 feet) had a great view showcasing thousands of blown-down trees from a righteous storm back in the ‘90s.  

"Shhh I'll sneak up on him"
We changed our plan slightly and camped at the Cowhorn Pond Lean-to due to the snail’s pace we had been managing all day. Our campsite featured a sick boat that we used to tow each other around the pond. 

Paddling was not an option
We also made a snowman and videotaped Dan destroying it with a flying ninja kick.

Day three was rough, rainy, and treacherous. We walked back to our sleds and dragged them to a trail junction, where we stashed them for the next few days. After a few hours of wet slogging, we got to an awesome campsite at High Falls. This area hasn't been ravaged by logging, so we got to see a lot of virgin pines that went Beyond even The Bowdoin Pines in grandeur, age, and beauty. 

Where's Karl?
The campsite was situated within earshot of the roaring falls and was surrounded by towering pine trees.

Also this thing
The next morning, we awoke to a light dusting of snow on the ground.  We shouted to the heavens, “Too little, too late Nature!” to which she had no response.  After a few hours of hiking, we reached some parts of the trail that had entirely transformed into a swamp, leading to a bit more bushwhacking and a few unfortunate foot dunkings.  

Dan's goal of the day was to keep his feet dry. He dunked them twenty minutes later.
By early afternoon we decided to backpack no farther. Wet boots, wet feet, blisters, and a beautiful campsite meant we were staying put for the day. We dropped our gear at the lean-to (Big Shallow), put on our stylish fanny packs, and went out to explore nearby while there was still daylight. 

Fanny packs are in style
Once back at camp, we got the opportunity to make a fire as some past hikers had kindly left a lot of dry wood in the lean-to. We decided to stay at the lean-to for the next night as well.

With our fannies stuffed, we started the next day heading out on the trail for Sand Lake, with the intention of bushwhacking up to another lake. Turns out Karl can’t read a map, so that didn’t work and we just did an out and back, with a quick stop at the Wolf Pond lean-to. It’s too bad we weren’t able to stay there; it may have been the nicest of all the campsites we encountered. Meanwhile, Kyle spent the day in camp as he recovered from some foot ailments.   

"Go on without me..."
That night, we stood on the lake enjoying the full moon and cool trees. The sunset that day wasn’t bad either. 

It would've been nicer if it didn't mean it was time for bed at 6 PM
On the way back to Janack’s Landing, we picked up our skis and sleds. We arrived in the early afternoon and that’s when the magic happened. Cranberry lake was fully frozen with a thin layer of powder, making for some fast skiing conditions. We skied 8 miles straight down and back the lake. It was as close to flying as a we’ve ever come with our feet on the ground. By some miracle we hit 25 mph and saw a magnificent sunset that looked like a demon face. We spent the night eating copious amounts of chili and listening to the ominous, tumultuous, heaving cacophony of ice cracking (it sounds like whales shooting lasers at each other). Karl also got a good look at some pretty neat caddisfly larvae in a stream.

The next morning we all went for a pre sunrise ski and caught the beginning of the day sitting in the middle of the huge lake. We trudged through the last few miles to get out at Wanakena.  Once there, we regaled the bored old man at the General Store with tales of our successes. In return he told us about how the town and its historic foot bridge got wrecked by some ice flows, which we checked out before leaving. 

Ice versus Town. Ice wins.

Putting together a satisfying and tasty menu for a long trip is not an easy task. It's especially difficult when some group members have dietary restrictions. Kyle only likes to eat “healthy” things. Dan is intolerant of both gluten and dairy. Karl doesn’t eat any meat. Peter eats anything and everything. While preparing our meals with our limited cooking equipment (two pots and a frying pan) we had to be really careful about keeping ingredients separate. We usually cooked as much as possible in one pot and then added the rest to our own individual bowls. Overall it worked out very well; we were full of tasty food after each dinner and we nailed it on portion estimation (no unhappy games of yum-yum).

Here’s a quick outline of our dinners, which include some BOC staples along with some new delicious creations:

Pesto Chicken Pasta:
• pasta (or gluten-free "pasta" for Dan)
• pesto
• bell peppers
• onions
• canned chicken
• cheese

Stir Fry:
• pasta
• thai flavoring packets
• bell peppers
• onions
• peanut butter

Pizza Pasta:
• pasta
• tomato paste
• pepperoni
• cheese
• bell peppers
• onion

Mexican Night: (so good we had it twice)
• rice
• instant beans
• avocados
• bell peppers
• onions
• salsa
• cheese
• tortillas

Quinoa Chili
• instant beans
• quinoa
• bell peppers
• onions
• tomato paste

* we also ate two pounds of raw garlic, divided roughly evenly among our dinners

We actually smelled like garlic

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains Backpack


t-10 days until departure in the wee hours of FRIDAY MARCH 7.
Plan is to drive halfway that day, arriving in Gatlinburg TN on Saturday in time for dinner.
Sunday is a short four-mile hiking day, so we'll have the morning to recover from the drive and start practicing our Tennessee accents/harmonica tunes,  drive the hour to the trailhead, and hit the dirt (snow?) for a few hours. We're packing snowshoes, but it looks like weather is in the mid-40s in the hills and the 60s in the valley.

Lean-tos are booked for Sunday-Wednesday, our menus and gear lists are made, and Cam's mom's spiffy car is awaitin'. Tennesee here we come...

Until then...

Station Wagon Wheels
Headed down south to beyond the pines 
And we're thumbin' our way into North Caroline/Tennessee border 
Starin' down the road 
Pray to God we see headlights

We made it down the coast in 17 hours, 58 minutes 
Pickin' us a handful of sweet souvenirs
And we're a hopin' for the Smokies 
We can see Walt’s aunt and uncle tonight

So rock me mama like a station wagon wheel
Rock me mama anyway you feel 
Hey mama rock me 
Rock me mama like the wind and the rain 
Rock me mama like a south-bound train 
Hey mama rock me

Runnin' from the cold up in New England
We were born to be hikers in an AT dreamland
Our hubbies lived in Baxter
But we do BOC now

Oh, the North country winters keep a gettin' us now
Lost our money buyin’ textbooks so we had to up and leave
But we ain't a turnin' back
To livin' that old life no more

So rock me mama like a station wagon wheel
Rock me mama anyway you feel
Hey mama rock me
Rock me mama like the wind and the rain
Rock me mama like a south-bound train
Hey mama rock me

Drivin’ to the south out of Roanoke
We’ll spend the night in Philly
Tell some nice long jokes
But we're a headed west from the Cumberland Gap
Towards Gatlinburg, Tennessee

And we gotta get a move on before the sun, we hear the trails callin' our names
And we know that they’re the only ones
And if we die by black bear, at least we will die free ...