October has arrived, and for Williams, the changing colors, crisper air and crunching leaves mean one thing: Mountain Day is almost here! As work starts piling up, the whole school eagerly awaits the chiming of chapel bells to the tune “The Mountains” and an e-mail announcing the cancellation of classes for the day.
Mountain Day is one of the College’s defining traditions. It is a time when the entire school community can step back from the regular academic routine and take advantage of the beautiful Berkshire scenery. Each year, the Outing Club organizes a variety of fun-filled activities encouraging everyone to get outside together. Traditionally, hundreds of students hike up to the Stony Ledge area opposite Mt. Greylock for a capella performances, cider, donuts and gorgeous mountain views.
For the hardcore outdoor enthusiasts, there is a 10-mile hike leaving at 8:30 a.m. that finishes atop Stony Ledge in time for festivities. Another option is the newly renamed adventure race, The MISHBAR (formally known as the Eco Challenge). The “Mountainday Intense Super Hardcore Badass Adventure Race” will challenge co-ed teams of four with rock climbing, a scavenger hunt, swimming, biking and running up to the finish on Stony Ledge.
For the less ambitious, there is also an all-campus picnic on Chapin Lawn followed by various shorter hikes up to Stony Ledge (most leave Mission Drive at 12:30 p.m.). Another great option is the Stone Hill venue – just a short walk from campus – featuring the traditional cider, donuts and singing groups. There are also numerous schedules of events posted throughout campus detailing Mountain Day festivities.
Dating back to 1796, Mountain Day is firmly entrenched in Williams history. The holiday’s name originates from President Griffin’s journal in 1827 referenced the occasion as a day to exercise “muscles obsolescent from study.” For more than a century, students received a day off each year to enjoy the mountains, but with dwindling participation, the College canceled the holiday in 1934. Efforts to resurrect Mountain Day continued for several decades until the holiday was reinstated for the College’s bicentennial in 1993. However, until recently, Mountain Day took place on a designated Sunday. In 2000, Mountain Day returned to its spontaneous roots when the faculty voted to move the holiday to one of the first three Fridays in October, allowing President Schapiro to choose a sunny day for the event.
“Mountain Day is a time to appreciate that we are all present in this beautiful place with so many wonderful people,” Director of the Outing Club Scott Lewis said. Since continued participation and enthusiasm are vital to the success of this event, celebrate Mountain Day the way it’s supposed to be celebrated. When you hear the bells tolling, don’t hit snooze on your alarm, get outside and take part in this unique Williams experience.