Making the best of where you are (i.e. The Green Mountain State)

On the last weekend of the short “Indian summer” here in Irkutsk, my Middlebury cohorts and I used our first weekend of downtime abroad to see the super-gorgeous, super-clean, and super-deep Lake Baikal. While getting a taste of life on the lake, taking part in a Russian sauna and making a beautiful 20 km hike back, I got to thinking. . . .

Foregoing Friday night for a weekend-in-the-mountains quick fix: As the semester is kicking in to 100% full swing for all of us, there’s no need to worry about how we already can’t wait for the end of the week. But, as you start to dream of your weekend nights, don’t forget that there’s a beautiful state just a few miles away from Bi Hall’s backyard, which with just minimal planning, can serve as an equally effective de-stresser as a night spent out dancing.

Count me in: Although it is possible to make the best of, say, the Russian variations on (extreme) mountaineering, winter swimming, and trail maintenance, you’re in luck with some much closer-to-home options: on any given weekend, there’s almost guaranteed to be an outdoors opportunity already planned and organized, waiting for you to take advantage of it.

  1. Gear Hours: Do your own trip with your own friends. Go to the FIC basement Tues/Thurs (7-10 p.m.) for maps, tents, sleeping bags, packs, and advice from the pros of MMC. Grab some food (if you plan ahead, your Commons can sometimes help with a reimbursement), and you’re good to go. Also check’s Outdoor Guide for ideas if you’re doing your own planning.
  2. Middlebury Mountain Club (MMC) weekend trips: Get on the email list from to receive updates on the backpacking, rock climbing, canoeing trips organized by one of the most active groups on campus. PRO: Relatively less logistics on you’re part, usually minimal cost, safe (trained peers lead all the trips), available for all levels and interests, and minimally awkward and maximally fun way to make new friends. CON: Sometimes fill up quick, as group sizes are limited. RSVP quickly.
  3. Middlebury Outdoor Programs (MOP): Take a look at the MOP Catalog (.pdf) of the college-sponsored, and peer-led expeditions, also connected with MMC. PRO: Awesome itineraries. Generally more involved than other trips, but options at all levels, too. CON: Sometimes come with a price tag, but rumored to be more than worth it. Contact
  4. Polar Bearing: Apparently in the academic course catalog as a requirement for graduation [citation needed], Polar Bearing is a Midd tradition, which all should try out at least once for stress relief or study break. Thursday nights ’til Thanksgiving, bring a towel, warm clothes, and a friend to Adirondack Circle at 10:45 p.m. for moonlit skinny dipping at Dunmore or East Middlebury river. Quote from the most recent PB email: “Abandon your obligations and your clothing!” PRO: Do something crazy, meet new people in a different light. CON: Rumored to be chilly.
  5. MMC Guiding: Been there, done that? If you’ve got experience and a few free weekends in your semester schedule, you might consider becoming a MMC guide. Certification and training process is relatively simple, and you can be out leading weekend trip groups in a month or so, if you plan it right. Contact for more info.

Just do it: There’s 29 days left until average nighttime temperatures of zip code 05753 officially fall below freezing. So especially for those of you skittish of winter weather, take advantage of where you’re at while you can.