Students Celebrate 40th Mountain Day

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On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, Northwood School students continued the tradition of Mountain Day, a day off from classes where the entire school community hikes an Adirondack high peak. This year was the fortieth annual Mountain Day for Northwood School. Combined, the school covers well over 1200-1500 miles hiked between the individual groups.

Students had nothing but positive things to say about the annual event. William Arquiett ‘20 enjoys hiking and has hiked many times before. He and his group hiked Cascade Mountain, and he did not find the hike challenging. He wishes the school had many days of Mountain Day.

Keeley Rose ‘18 hiked Hurricane Mountain. She had never hiked before, but enjoyed her Mountain Day. Keeley believes Mountain Day should be twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.

Mr. Mellor organized Mountain Day, and he has been a part of all forty Mountain Days. “It’s really unusual to do, to put so many kids into some risk…160 kids in the woods,” Mr. Mellor said. “That’s a large risk that someone is going to fall down and hurt themselves or get lost and have something bad happen. I think it distinguishes us as a school and that we have so much faith in the students. I think a lot of schools keep students on a short leash and don’t trust them enough. I am proud of our trust in students,” he said, “and I am proud of the kids for being so tough. We’re not a typical group of kids, because our kids are so athletic, so we can really throw it at them.”

“An obvious function of having [Mountain Day] early in the year,” Mellor added, “is to get kids out with new people and they get to share something really hard and beautiful together…I want to keep reminding kids that we’re in one of the coolest places in the country. The Adirondack Park is as big as Connecticut. Certainly civilization is creeping in on all the wilderness areas and we’ve got a pretty special place here. When someone goes hiking to a wild place, I think that person comes down a little bit more aware of the world.”

“I think we go about 1200-1500 miles per year,” Mellor surmised, “and about 40 years worth is equivalent to over two times around the equator. We try as hard as we can to make the hikes appropriate for the kid because some are really hard, and others aren’t.”

One interesting Mountain Day excursion was Mr. Eaton’s human powered trip up Whiteface. Eaton’s group left on foot from the Northwood campus, canoed across Mirror Lake, portaged over to the marina, paddled the full length of Lake Placid to Whiteface Landing and began their Whiteface ascent from there. After descending, the group paddled back home through a fierce headwind. Another notable trip is Mellor’s hike to the summit of Colden via the Trap Dike, where rope belay was needed.

Director of Advancement Mr. Alex Niefer observed that “alumni say over and over again that Mountain Day was the best thing they did while at Northwood School.” For new and returning students, Mountain Day provided a greater understanding of what community and sense of place means to Northwood and its people.

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