It’s not hard to imagine why Mountain Day is among NMH students’ favorites of the year. An enduring tradition dating back to 1881, Mountain Day is typically announced just one day before the big event.
While 9th- to 11th-graders hike a gorgeous 3.5-mile section of the New England Trail, seniors hike and scramble to the top of New Hampshire's infamous 3,165-foot Mount Monadnock. As is the case each year, afternoon study halls were canceled on Mountain Day eve, as well as all classes on the day of.
Head of School Brian Hargrove made this year’s declaration on a rainy Monday afternoon in the packed and humid Memorial Chapel. Students applauded and celebrated, singing along as the Motown classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough'' played in the background.
Teachers and staff were posted at regular intervals throughout both of the climbs. It was science teacher Karen Jodoin’s first Mountain Day. “It’s fun to hear the chatter on the trail,” she said. “I've heard kids –– presumably returning kids –– talking to new kids about the social activities and how the school does a really good job scheduling social activities for fun and also allowing enough time to do schoolwork. It was nice to hear.”
A group of 9th-graders hiking the lower portion echoed this sentiment, explaining that they had relaxed with a movie night on the eve of the hike. “School isn't really just like school-school all the time,” said Sarah Julie Simeon-Fra. “There's a lot of fun.” A voice from the pack behind added, “And they make sure we have time to relax.”
Sophomore Colby MacIntosh was excited about his second Mountain Day. He and his wrestling buddies decided to use their night off from classes to cut their hair. “Everybody got buzzcuts,” he said. None of the sports team members seemed worried about the additional practice they had scheduled later in the day, in spite of the exercise-packed morning.
This year’s hike was cooler than last, the students reported. The leaves were in just the initial phase of turning to their fall oranges, yellows, and reds across the rolling hills of northern Massachusetts. Goldenrod and purple aster were in full bloom along the trail, along with many varieties of fruiting mushrooms.
Elizabeth Edwards, NMH’s new student activity coordinator, hiked along with some of the younger students. “It's a long-standing tradition,” she said. “It is so valuable for the incoming students to share this experience with a long string of alumni.”
She paused on the breezy trail for a moment, noting, “This day allows for different cohorts of students to really bond with each other, and for the classes to feel more a sense of cohesion. I can hear them up ahead there, laughing.”
Though some students jogged their way to their respective peaks, and others struggled, and even slipped here and there, everyone had a chance to take in the views and cool off at the top. The event concluded with an outdoor feast that featured chili, brownies, and iced tea under sunny skies. Another successful “day in the woods for all,” just as founder D.L. Moody had intended.