Summertime in Williamstown and the livin’ is easy

Come summertime, throngs of Ephs depart our picturesque campus for sunny beaches or concrete jungles. However, a sizeable portion of the student body stays put in the pristine Purple Valley. For those who plan to stick out the summer in good ol’ Williamstown, we’ve assembled the ultimate guide for your entertainment. Here’s a look at what students have done in past years and a preview of what’s to come for summer 2012. So slip on some shorts and slather on the SPF – these next few months are sure to sizzle!

Enjoy the outdoors

For most of us – with the exception of a few brave and often unclothed Williams Outing Club members – Williamstown weather presents a narrow window of opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. Take advantage of the mild temperatures by exploring the natural beauty of the College’s surroundings.

Amy Levine ’14 recommended biking the Taconic Crest Trail, which starts at the parking lot at the top of Petersburg pass on Route 2. “This winter was probably too warm, but usually, about three miles down the down the trail, a deep but small canyon has snow at the bottom all year round!” Levine said.

And if you’ve got a hankering for helado (aka ice cream), try biking up Route 7 to the ice cream shop in the gray barn in Pownal, Vt. “There are wide shoulders and no turns, so it’s a safe ride and super delicious!” Levine said. And while you’re at it, hit up some summer tag sales on your way.

Take a dip

Of course, there are lots of enjoyable activities that involve getting wet (no dirty jokes, please!). Ian Nesbitt ’13, a Williamstown local, recommended rafting down the Green River. Last summer, he and some friends purchased cheap inflatable rafts at Wal-Mart and headed to the swimming hole near Hot Tomatoes. “We ended up floating all the way to the far end of Cole Field, near the baseball field,” Nesbitt said. “The whole trip down the river took probably an hour or an hour and a half. It was an excellent cure for an insufferably hot and humid Williamstown summer day.”

Several enthusiastic Ephs also recommended quarry jumping for more intrepid souls. The most popular location among students is the Dorset Quarry in Vermont, where marble used to be mined. The quarry consists of a water-filled basin surrounded by 30- to 40-foot marble ledges. Anyone daring enough to take the plunge can climb to the top of the ledge and take a leap of faith off the side.

First-time diver Julia Nguyen ’14 gave quarry jumping a try last summer. She highly recommended the experience, emphasizing that it offered her one particularly invaluable insight. “Now I feel like I know what it’s going to be like to die,” Nguyen said. “You feel yourself accelerating because you have so much time to fall!” Another tip Nguyen offered: Don’t try anything fancy. Forty feet is a long way to fall, so cannonballs, bellyflops or any other acrobatic dives might hurt – a lot. But with a perfectly executed pencil jump, you’ll get an energizing rush of adrenaline without the afterburn.

Rock out

Musically inclined folks should check out Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and outdoor concert venue, in nearby Lenox, Mass. Last year, a group from the Foreign Policy Institute jammed out to James Taylor while relaxing on a grassy knoll. The group packed a picnic and reclined on lawn chairs, enjoying the fresh air. “We weren’t very close to the stage, but we could lie back and hear the guitar strains,” Jennifer Chan ’14 said. “As it got cooler, we all huddled on a couple of blankets and used the rest to cover ourselves.”

Interested fans can catch Taylor again this year from July 2-4. In addition, Train will be playing on Aug. 31, which sounds like a great way to kick-start the school year.

Fair-skinned folks who want to minimize sun exposure (I feel your pain!) should check out the Williamstown Theater Festival. True fact: It’s legit. Last year’s performers included Justin Long – aka the “Mac Guy” from the commercials – who was rumored to frequent Lasell Gym. This year, the festival will play host to The Hangover’s dreamy funnyman Bradley Cooper (if you’re reading this, call me maybe?) who will, somewhat ironically, be performing onstage in The Elephant Man.

This year’s festival will include a number of other plays, including The Importance of Being Earnest, The Blue Deep, Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Far From Heaven, featuring Broadway superstar Kelli O’Hara.

Simple R&R

While summer brings new and exciting people to the Purple Valley, it also provides an opportunity to mix and mingle with longtime residents at local establishments. People-watching can become a bit dull during the academic year, but the summer introduces fresh faces into the mix. “It’s just fun to people watch at Tunnel City,” Sarah Sanders ’14 said. “The population is made up of such different people compared to during the year – lots of cultured adults and so many young hipsters.”

And of course, the most important gift summer in Williamstown can offer is the opportunity to breathe. Spending vacations on campus gives us the opportunity to enjoy the things that drew us to the College in the first place – the breathtaking setting, the booming metropolis of Spring Street and the brilliantly fascinating people who make this place what it is. So if you’re compiling a summer bucket list, be sure to include rest and relaxation among your top to-dos (maybe behind quarry jumping). As the temperature heats up, the Purple Valley is the perfect place to chill out.