The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

More Steps Towards Outdoor Inclusivity: Outing Club Begins Introductory Hiking Series

Sam Skinner ’25, a trip leader for the Bates Outing Club (BOC) and the student behind the club’s Introductory Hiking series, gazes into the ocean on a BOC trip. Colby Green/The Bates Student

Students receiving the Bates Outing Club’s weekly emails might have noticed a recent addition to the trips they are offering for the fall: a series aimed towards shifting the culture around the accessibility of the outdoors. Spearheaded this year by Sam Skinner ’26 and other Bates Outing Club (BOC) trip leaders, the Introductory Hiking series aims to provide beginner-friendly Outing Club trips for students. The program doesn’t assume prior experience or knowledge of hiking and is a crucial component of opening the outdoors to people who might not otherwise be able to.

Outdoor recreational activities have primarily been practiced by historically socially advantaged groups of people, and the BOC in particular has faced criticism for being overwhelmingly white, socially privileged and racist and exclusionary. (In a 2020 statement, the club acknowledged that they had “failed the entire Bates community, particularly BIPOC” students; they also pledged to become more inclusionary.) What may seem like down-to-earth fun for those groups can be an inaccessible luxury for others. Introductory programs like these are important for shifting the culture surrounding outdoor recreational pastimes to give everyone the chance to experience the great outdoors, said Skinner.

So far, the series has completed two of the planned hikes. The first went to Peaks Island, an island only a ferry ride away from Portland, and hiked around the island to explore. The second trip hiked Bradbury Mountain, a 30-minute drive to an area near Freeport, which has a less steep slope than other mountains in the area but still leads to picturesque views. 

The third trip, to Albany Mountain, is the culmination of the series, and will take place Oct. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The trail is great for beginners and is rated as one of the best hiking trails to see the fall foliage. The word “mountain” shouldn’t be a deterrent since the mountain is rated a moderate activity level. Someone who completes the first two should be able to hike this one. The trip is upcoming, so look out for Sam’s emails or the event sign-ups on Bates Engage.

Because Skinner grew up in a city without outdoor opportunities and only began hiking when he was older, he empathizes with those who are new to hiking and is inspired to provide introductory level experiences to fellow students. 

Skinner said that he “really enjoyed [hiking], but it took a lot of time and resources to become confident in my own abilities. I created this project to facilitate that learning process for others.”

For those who have schedule conflicts or want to get started hiking and don’t know where to start, Sam has advice:

“Remember that you don’t have to hit the gym every day, hike every weekend or own seven Patagonia fleeces to get involved with hiking. You get to decide what kind of hiker you want to be and what kind of hiking you like. Set achievable goals and remember that there’s no shame in turning around if you feel like you’re pushing yourself too far. Lastly, find a hiking buddy! Hiking is safer and more fun with a friend.”

The Bates Outing Club offers other introductory series on a wide range of outdoor and indoor activities. From surfing to cross-country skiing to backpacking, the BOC has moved towards making the outdoors more inclusive. They even have an equipment room for students to rent all sorts of gear for free located in Chase Hall.

Mitchel Soederberg ’25, one of BOC’s Outdoor Program Managers, explained how this program was different from other Outing Club series: “What Sam is doing is pretty unique in that it not only welcomes first-timers, but it’s catered to them. I’m hopeful that it will enhance a lot of students’ Maine experience and give them skills to join us for more challenging trips!” 

By attending the meetings, getting on the email list or even just joining the Bates Engage group, students can go on trips of various experience levels, suggest trip ideas and even gain the confidence to one day lead a trip themselves.

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About the Contributor
Hadley Blodgett
Hadley Blodgett, Assistant Arts & Leisure Editor
Hadley (she/her) is a Sophomore from Buckfield, Maine which is really close to Bates. She is a member of the Brass Ensemble and also the Jazz Band, and does music in her free time too. In her free time volunteers with the Auburn Community Concert Band providing free community concerts through the summer and winter. Besides a minor interest in music she also enjoys being outside and exploring parts of Maine she hasn’t been to before. Her favorite hike is currently Eyebrow Loop Trail. In her free time she writes, works, and also dabbles in photography.

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