Introduction to the Middlebury Outdoors

This outdoor guidebook is the culminating project for seven senior Environmental Studies majors. The idea arose out of the frustration of having spent nearly our entire four years at Middlebury hearing of many outdoor opportunities, but lacking the direction to go explore on our own. We feel that an education at Middlebury should include learning both inside and outside of the classroom. We are fortunate enough to reside in an area where the landscape is constantly calling us to establish a deeper sense of place. Whether you admire a sunset over the Adirondacks from Bicentennial Hall or Ridgeline Woods, marvel at the Green Mountains from Battell Beach or the athletic fields, or gander at the Otter Creek Falls from the bridge in town, our rural setting in Vermont must be recognized as a special place. This guide is the answer to: “What can I do and where can I go to enjoy the outdoors around Middlebury?”

We made a concerted effort to write more than just a typical guidebook. Our senior seminar class theme of Environmental Education included reading and discussion which led us to believe that any experience outdoors can and should be an educational one. In particular, Rachel Carson’s The Sense of Wonder, David Sobel’s Beyond Ecophobia, and Tom Wessels’ Reading The Forested Landscape inspired our feeling that exploring the outdoors is a critical part of our lifelong education about deeper spiritual connection to the land. We advocate experiential learning as a central tenet of environmental education, and this guide aims to serve as encouragement to take part in such personal development.

We do, however, realize that this guide in no way exhausts the possibilities for outdoor exploration in our region. We adamantly recommend that once familiar with the immediate area you should explore further; it is our intention to leave considerable opportunities unexplained. We have, however, provided suggestions for other guides in each activity to help you.

Above all, just have fun out there!

Brewster Boyd, Derek Esposito, Andrew Gault, Peter Huoppi, Mike Kautz, Scott Leach & Andy Wall


Cultural History and Natural History of Vermont.  Adapted from: The Story of Vermont: a Natural and Cultural History of the Green Mountain State, by Christopher McGrory Klyza and Stephen C. Trombulak, 1999.

Environmentally Clean Camping: “Leave No Trace

Before you go camping, you should know about…

An individually dug “cathole” is the most widely accepted means of backcountry waste disposal.  Catholes should be located well away from water, trails, camp, and gullies.  Use 200 feet as a good guideline, but remember that local regulations or environmental factors may dictate greater distances.  With a small garden trowel, dig a hole four to eight inches deep and four to six inches in diameter. After use, mix some soil into the cathole with a stick, cover it with the soil plug, and disguise it with natural materials.  To promote decomposition, locate catholes in organic soil rather than sandy mineral soils.

Sump Holes
For depositing dirty water from cleaning dishes, a sump hole is recommended.  This is a hole dug similarly to a cathole that is re-covered after use.  Sump holes concentrate waste water and associated food odor, rather than broadcasting it over a larger area.

Portable Fire Pans
Fire pans are metal trays with sides high enough to contain wood and ashes (over 3 inches).  They should be lined with several inches of inorganic soil, or propped up on small rocks to protect the ground from heat.

Mound Fires
First locate a naturally occurring source of mineral soil or sand and carry the dirt to the fire site.  Build a circular, flat-topped fire platform, 6-8 inches thick and about 2 feet across, with the mineral soil.  A tarp should be laid down beneath the soil to facilitate clean-up.  The thickness of the mound is critical for insulating the ground cloth and surface underneath from the heat.  Once the fire is out and cold, the leftover ashes can be scattered widely and the mineral soil returned to its source.

Bear Bags
The most widely used method of storage is to hang food at least 10-12 feet off the ground and four to five feet away from the trunks of trees.  The goal is to keep bears from detecting and accessing food.