"It's Mountain Day!" were the first words on many Mount Holyoke students' lips this morning. Throngs of cheerful students boarded buses that began running at 9 am between the College and the foot of Mount Holyoke for the climb to the Summit House. At the Halfway House, students had the choice to stay on the paved road or to take a steeper but shorter trail to the top. Having opted for the trail, some students soon found themselves winded. "Don't stop. It makes it worse!" one student said to her friend. Near the midpoint of the trail, another exclaimed to her companions, "I'm going into anaerobic respiration. Let's take a break!" Further along, a shiny black dog named Abigail ran happy circles around her human companions, urging them forward.
The sound of the flag atop the Summit House flapping in the steady breeze signaled to the hikers that they were almost at the peak. "Phew, we made it," climbers said, their cheeks flushed as they rounded the last corner and the Summit House loomed into view against the nearly cloudless sky. At the top, groups of students struck poses for their friends' cameras or collapsed in rocking chairs on the balcony to admire the view. Others sprawled on the rocks or sat at picnic tables eating ice cream provided by the College Dining Services. "Happy Mountain Day!" they called out to new arrivals at the summit.
This Mountain Day is a bit cooler than others in recent memory, but it's a gorgeous day and no one seemed to be complaining. "It's not too cold for ice cream," said Sarah Bacon, associate professor of biology, who makes the trip every year. "There's always a faithful cadre of faculty," she said, nodding to her colleagues Mike Robinson, professor and chair of economics, and Jill Bubier, Marjorie Fisher Associate Professor of Environmental Studies. The physics department is always well represented on Mountain Day, according to Mark Peterson, Professor of Physics and Mathematics on the Alumnae Foundation and chair of physics. "It's an old physics tradition," he said. "Like hiking in the Alps."
While you'd be hard pressed to find a Mount Holyoke student who is unhappy that classes have been cancelled today, Mountain Day is more than just a day without classes. "It's so beautiful up here," said a student making her first climb this year. "It's really cool to see the displays in the Summit House, and how the house has changed over the years. It seems that the trend of Mount Holyoke students appreciating nature has always been there."
Mountain Day is the College's oldest tradition, dating back to 1838, one year after the College's founding.