The Maine Outing Club is celebrating its one-hundredth year. Since 1923, students have gathered together in some shape or form to make memories outdoors. The club today functions as any does, but it sits upon a vast amount of rich, unforgettable history that not only resides in alumni’s minds but also within six boxes stored in the University of Maine’s special collections.
Today, a typical Maine Outing Club, or MOC meeting, begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday evenings in room 100 of Nutting Hall. An intimate crowd of reminiscing voices fills the lecture hall as the officers flip through a compilation of photos from the past weekend’s trip.
“I see our mission as providing inexperienced college kids with the opportunity to get their feet in the mud and to be safe and learn how to be safe outdoors,” said MOC president and studio art student, Sophie Fitz.
Many MOC officers are Wilderness First Responders. This group of students is able to curate trips for any regular college student who is interested in getting outside but may not be comfortable planning their own trip or going at it alone.
To become a member, all you need to do is attend a meeting, pay club dues ($25) and attend a trip. With this income, the club can provide incoming and established students with the opportunity to explore the outdoors.
This fall, the club hosted six trips: The Appalachian Trail work trip, Katahdin, Debsconeag Ice Caves, Clifton climbing, Take Pride in Acadia Day and the cabin work trip.
The AT work trip is a long-standing MOC tradition. In 1949, the club accepted responsibility for 16.9 miles of the AT, from Moxie Pond to Blanchard. Although the length of trail the club is responsible for has decreased significantly, they still take an annual trip out to their remote lean-to in the woods to keep the trail clear of blowdowns and to make sure the shelters and privy are in good condition.
Getting to their section of the AT requires a serene hour or so long canoe paddle, usually lit by the stars, across Moxie Bald Pond. Once they arrive, they set up their tents and head to bed to rest up for a big day of work.
Along with the club’s volunteer chair, Christopher Dorian and Benjamin Deering, both MOC alumni, play a large role in coordinating the AT work trip. They show up with a plan and the necessary equipment to execute such a plan.
“Lots of the time, we’re moving big, heavy rocks or gravel. Just making the trail more trekable,” said Fitz.
Katahdin is the largest peak in Maine, located in Baxter State Park. Records show that MOC has been doing this trek on and off since the club was formed. According to Fitz, this year, the club provided two trail options for the trip: Hunt trail, which is a 10.9-mile out-and-back trail, and a loop trail consisting of Saddle, Knife’s Edge and Helon Taylor trails. Usually, the club camps out on the golden road the night before the big hike.
The Debsconeag Ice Caves are also in Baxter State Park. To the officer’s knowledge, this year was the first year the club hosted this trip. They offered two options for club members: an overnight trip or a day trip. They brought the club canoes and spent a beautiful day exploring a cool cave structure in the Maine woods.
“They were huge rocks in the middle of the trail, with a ton of runs. Way more crawl spaces than I thought,” explained Fitz.
According to Fitz, they charged $15 for members to attend this trip. They spent another sunny day outside with AMG guides learning how to belay, tie knots and other climbing safety.
The Maine Outing Club is also well-known for their ski cabin, which is located near Sugarloaf Ski Mountain in Carrabassett Valley, Maine. The cabin was built in 1958 after the club leased some land from the Scott Paper Company. For over 60 years now, the cabin has stood tall, providing students with a place to stay after a long day of skiing.
According to Fitz, it works similarly to a lodging service, where club members pay cabin dues in exchange for a free cabin during the ski season. This makes getting out and skiing more accessible for the average college student. Cabin dues are $70 a year, but if you attend the cabin work trip, they’re $40.
The cabin work trip happens a week or two before the opening day of Sugarloaf. According to Fitz, the day’s main goal is to prepare the cabin for the incoming winter. Work on this trip usually consists of stacking or chopping wood, cleaning, collecting kindling and other small maintenance. At the end of the day, there is a large Thanksgiving feast for all who helped with the work trip.
“It just feels like a big family dinner,” said Fitz.
Kassandra Bruskotter is a third-year biology student and an active member of MOC. “The general energy of the group is very peaceful and like-minded. Everyone here has an innate respect for the outdoors, which I don’t find too often in other people in my generation,” said Bruskotter.
Harold Stanley Pike IV is a first-year undeclared student experiencing his first semester as a member of MOC. “Everybody is really friendly and nice. The trips are fun, and it’s been an overall good experience,” he said.
MOC not only offers trips to its members but also has a gear rental service. Anything you need for a two to three-day trip in the woods, MOC has got its members’ backs. All overseen by the club’s gear chair and electrical engineering student, Ryan Shetzline, canoes, tents, daypacks, sleeping bags, camp stoves and sleeping bags are just some of the gear available for members of the outing club to rent.
The Maine Outing Club’s history is a lot to sort through, but club historian and secretary Katie Richie has been hard at work the past two semesters piecing it all together. This past week, she hosted an Archive Raid on the third floor of the Fogler Library in the Special Collections room, where members sorted through the club’s six boxes of history, selecting pictures for a slideshow that will play at the club’s formal.
The formal is called “100 Year Barn Bash” and will be held on Dec. 2 from 8:30p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at Morgan Hill in Hermon, Maine. According to Fitz, the officers wanted to do something more special for the club’s centennial. The student band, Sizzle, will play before the officers take over with a well-thought-out playlist.
The Maine Outing Club invites you to celebrate 100 years of enabling students to get outdoors. Tickets for the 100-Year Barn bash are $15 in advance and can be purchased through their Instagram @maineoutingclub.
Jess Cleary-Reuning is a former MOC member.