Look alive! Mountain Day is rapidly, stealthily approaching

Mountain Day – it’s coming. For some, Mountain Day calls to mind an invigorating hike full of fall foliage and fresh air. For others, it means sharing the view at the top of Stony Ledge with friends, professors, acapella groups and plenty of donuts and cider. For the die-hard, Mountain Day is the EcoChallenge, a Williams style triathlon that consists of trail running, biking and scavenger-hunting your way to the festivities on Greylock. And for a small but worrisome number of students, Mountain Day is a day to hit the snooze button, roll over and spend the day the one way Mountain Day isn’t meant to be spent: inside.

Although last year approximately 700 Williams community members gathered at the beautiful outlook at Stony Ledge, it is the students who were not there that threaten the survival of Mountain Day. Meant to be a day to enjoy community and surroundings, Mountain Day will only continue as long as the administration feels it is accomplishing this end. Although the idea behind Mountain Day is more than 200-years old, it was only in 2000 that an academic day was granted for the celebration of the mountains. If you have enjoyed Mountain Day in the past or hope to enjoy it again in the future, be sure to get up, get out and see why the faculty feel Mountain Day is worth a day off from classes.

The first inklings of Mountain Day can be traced to as early as 1796, when Williams students would have classes off on Chip Day to clean the grounds after the long winter. Eventually, a second day was spontaneously granted once a year for students to go enjoy the mountains; the first written reference to it is in President Griffin’s journal in 1827. This tradition continued through the early twentieth century until 1934 when only 40students participated in it and Mountain Day was abolished. Although work to resurrect Mountain Day began in the 1960’s, it wasn’t until 1993 that Mountain Day came back to Williams. Even then, Mountain Day wasn’t the Mountain Day that we know today; until 2000, Mountain Day was scheduled for a Sunday in October. Since then, Mountain Day has returned to its spontaneous roots, occurring on one of three Fridays in October and announcing itself to the campus by Thompson Chapel’s playing of The Mountains.

Mountain Day traditions are continuing to evolve this year because of a new requirement by the State of Massachusetts demanding that the Williams Outing Club pay $3500 for the use of Stony Ledge. Although the State is giving the school its “non-profit organization” discount, the fee is a significant blow to the spirit of the event. The Outing Club is still determining how to pay this fee, but one option is to compensate the State with trail work rather than money. In this scenario, students will have a chance to “save” Mountain Day by literally working their way up to Stony Ledge; be aware for this trip’s addition to the schedule in the near future.

As you anticipate the ringing of the bells, be sure to check out the schedule that is included below and posted all over campus. Hikes will be leaving from Chapin Steps from 8 until 11 and festivities will commence on Stony Ledge at 2:30 p.m. New additions to the traditional Mountain Day schedule include an advanced mountain biking trip with fearless leaders Tim Patterson ’04 and Galen Holt ’04 and a 3-mile bushwhack led by equally fearless leaders Ross Smith ’05 and Dave Cohen ’05. Faculty and community members are heartily welcome to participate. Please note that buses will be provided to those not interested in making the 2-mile trek to Stony Ledge or students who wish to be back at campus by 4 p.m.

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