Above: 1975. Photo courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives.
Nestled in the Chenango Valley, with a campus surrounded by sugar maples and northern red oaks, Colgate’s campus is stunning.
So, it makes sense that Colgate students like to be outside. More than a century ago, students formally realized this, coming together to create a club for outdoor activities. While it’s had various iterations throughout the years, the organization thrives today as the Outdoor Education Program.
On your mark
Following in the footsteps of Dartmouth Outing Club, Colgate founded its own organization for enjoying the outdoors. In 1914, sociology and economics professor E.W. Goodhue (a Dartmouth man himself) started the Colgate Outing Club, which focused on winter sports, such as ski-running, snowshoeing, and tobogganing.
Off to the Adirondacks
In spring 1915, the group took its inaugural Adirondacks excursion. The trip to Big Moose Lake cost $8/person (camping and railroad expenses), and conditions were favorable for skiing and snowshoeing.
The Great War
While the club still existed during wartime, its activities would “assume military nature,” according to the Dec. 5, 1917, Colgate Maroon. Members learned the art of map drawing, studied the “contour of the land with special emphasis on its strategic value in war,” and went on hikes that consisted of patrolling duty. After the war, the club reverted back to normal.
Call for a new club
In the early ’30s, the Outing Club was alive and well, but according to a Maroon letter to the editor on Jan. 12, 1937, the latter half of the decade wasn’t so active. “We sit around in rooms overheated by steam radiators and holler to the high heavens about Hamilton’s horrible climate,” wrote “a junior.”
The Ski Club, founded in 1935, reorganized in 1940 to become the Outing Club, but when the United States entered World War II, many college outing clubs went dormant — including Colgate’s.
The 1952–53 Outing Club needed a way to get around, and the most obvious answer (to them), with a large backseat fit for several, was a hearse. The 1954–55 club discontinued its use after it obtained a grant, and a less-morbid station wagon was acquired for off-campus trips.
The times, they are a-changin’
The club remained active through the ’50s and ’60s, with highlights including merging with the sailing club, trips to Colgate Camp, and the formation of the Outing Club Ski Team. It made another resurgence in the ’80s, boasting year-round activities such as whitewater rafting and spelunking. In the mid-’80s, the recreational sports department created what would become Outdoor Education, adding an instructional aspect, and the two had a brief overlap until the Outing Club eventually ceased. In 1988, Wilderness Adventure, a pre-orientation program, was created.
Today’s the day
Even before they arrive at Colgate, first-years can get involved with Outdoor Education through Wilderness Adventure. The 150–200 new Raiders form friendships and learn outdoor skills while traveling in small groups to hike, climb, paddle, or bike in central New York. If students want to take it up a notch, they can complete nine months of training (made up of several excursions, including backpacking and ice climbing) to become student staff members.
The organization offers both quick trips (some for physical education credits) and long hauls, from whitewater kayaking to outdoor rock climbing. Besides physical activities, Outdoor Education teaches skills such as leadership and a sense of cultural and natural history.