The morning mist that greeted Colby-Sawyer students and alumni bound for the Osceola trailhead dissipated into a sunny day in the White Mountains. Shafts of light sifted through the branches of the forest, dappling the ground, and a subtle breeze cooled the air.
While Reeve Fidler ’13 joked around and Shaina Driscoll ’15 adjusted her CamelBak, Associate Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies Laura Alexander ’98 revealed she had more than 30 pounds of water in her pack — part of her mountaineer training.
The energy was right. It was a good day for a hike.
This was the mood early Saturday, Sept. 19, as Colby-Sawyer College alumni met for the third annual alumni fall hike with Professor Alexander. Alumni Relations Coordinator Amy Potter Drummond ’00 says the hike has been a popular event and hopes it will continue to grow. The first group hiked Mt. Washington’s Alpine Garden, and last year they conquered Mt. Eisenhower.
This year it was Mt. Osceola’s turn. The mountain bears the name of a 19th century Seminole leader and soars 4,315 feet above sea level. This year’s group hiked both Mt. Osceola and East Osceola (4,156 ft.), a journey of 8.4 miles. They covered ground comfortably until they hit a notorious section called “The Chimney” that is akin to vertical rock climbing. The group took frequent breaks to hydrate and catch their breath, but quickly scaled the first of the two peaks.
At Osceola’s summit, Professor Alexander replenished the group’s bottles with her water supply, drawing laughter from the group and other hikers reclining upon the stone peak. It was easy to see the professor enjoyed leading the hike, connecting with her fellow alumni and comparing their experiences.
This year she also brought two of her students, Anthony Riso ’16 and Owen Krol ’17, to study the mountain’s flora.
“Leading these hikes brings together my teaching and my passion,” says Professor Alexander. “I teach courses in White Mountain History, Alpine Communities, Exploring Nature, Outdoor Leadership and Teaching in the Outdoors, and the places we hike contain examples of the things students learn in those classes. My passion is spending time in the outdoors, especially above the trees, and I am fortunate to be able to teach about those places.”
The hike has a hint of nostalgia, for if there’s something that Colby-Sawyer alumni share it’s the experience of Mountain Day, a tradition that stretches back to the 1850s. “To be able to build on that and have alumni connect with students, faculty and staff while hiking in the beautiful White Mountains is a powerful experience,” says Drummond.
And with Professor Alexander leading the way, alumni are always learning, whether about White Mountain history, local geography or flora on the trails.
Aaron Records is a presidential fellow in the Office of Communications at Colby-Sawyer College, where he also received his B.A. in Creative Writing and Philosophy.