and Snowshoeing Enliven January Term
For eight Mount Holyoke
students who took the snowshoeing and dogsledding class over January
Term, "mush" now means
something more than melting snow on campus pathways. "The
only prerequisites were a love of dogs and outdoor winter activities," said
director of athletics Laurie Priest, who taught the course. Priest
was surprised by the popularity of the course. "I was amazed," Priest
said. "Students contacted me even before J-Term registration
began. We had a long waiting list."
Snowshoeing enthusiasts hit the trail in
Vermont’s Green Mountains.
The students had two meetings in South Hadley to learn the basics
of snowshoeing and dogsledding before spending two action-filled
days in Vermont putting their preparation into practice. By all
accounts, the experience was fabulous.
Arriving at their lodgings in Vermont in time for a quick lunch,
Priest and her students strapped on their snowshoes and explored
the Robert Frost Memorial Trail
Green Mountains near Middlebury all afternoon. In the evening the group met their
dogsledding instructor, Lissy Heminway, at the Middlebury Public Library for
a lecture and slide presentation, complete with sled dog Merlin and a sled for
demonstration. While some folks might have been ready to pack it in, the students
headed out for a late-night snowshoeing trek under the stars. "They were
so energized," Priest said. "It was great."
The next morning, the
group headed over to Heminway's house and kennels for a day of
dogsledding. The students jumped right in, playing with the 14
and helping to load them into the trailer for the quick trip to the sledding
trail. "The students were helpful and involved in the whole process, harnessing
the dogs and hooking them on the gangline," said Priest. The students discovered
that dogsledding is harder than it looks. When the dogs get tired, explained
Theile '04, you have to jump off the sled and run alongside them so they don't
have to pull your weight. This often happens when you're going uphill, so it's
definitely a workout."
View from the dogsled driver’s
Priest developed the idea for the course after her first dogsledding experience
last winter in upstate New York. Her only reservation about the course was that
the students might not be as enthusiastic about dogsledding as she was. "Every
part of me loves it, so if my students didn't feel the same way, it would have
been hard for me," Priest said.
Priest need not have worried. When the group finally unhitched the dogs later
in the afternoon, it was clear that the students shared her passion. Theile said, "it
was one of the most fun things I've ever done in my life. It was an absolutely
amazing experience." Another student, Candice Bolger '06, told Priest, "I
love this so much. It's touched my soul."
Priest acknowledged that trying a new course for the first time—especially
one that involves complicated logistics and uncertain weather—could be
tricky. She couldn't say enough about how well her students rose to the challenge
of the class. "They bonded really well. They wanted to get involved and
learn by doing. They fully immersed themselves in the opportunities that were
available to them and made the experience wonderful."
Priest said she will definitely offer the course again next year.