Fall Break gave the leaders and members of the Hamilton Outing Club a spectacular opportunity to get out and enjoy many different beautiful wilderness areas and outdoor activities. The four-day vacation (Oct. 14-18) saw trips go as far as Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains and Maine’s Casco Bay, taking advantage of all that the East Coast has to offer in the way of outdoors activities.

Shenandoah Backpacking
Charlie Ross ’17 and Laura Kwasnoski ’18 led a backpacking trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. After leaving campus on Wednesday afternoon and driving south, the group spent three days hiking and enjoying the beautiful fall foliage.

“Our first day out we hiked Old Rag, which is an awesome bald peak [meaning it is treeless on the summit] and summited under amazing blue skies” said Kwasnoski. The next day saw the group hiking past six spectacular waterfalls and also encountering three bears, an experience that Ross described as “really cool and interesting but a bit nerve-wracking too.”

The group’s third day on trail saw them summiting Mt. Robertson where they enjoyed even more spectacular views. The trip wrapped up with an early-morning hike ending at the group’s van at sunrise. Even though the hiking was over the drive back was still picturesque. “We drove back on Skyline Drive, which is a highway running along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains and that was just unbelievable,” commented Ross.

“All in all we had a phenomenal trip. The scenery was beautiful and the group was great. Everyone was willing to do new things and put themselves out there. Old Rag was definitely one of the most challenging moments of the trip since we had to squeeze through many slots between boulders and scramble over ledges but everyone pushed themselves and did great,” said Kwasnoski wrapping things up. Ross got the last word though, “people were very happy and close by the end.”

Casco Bay Sea Kayaking
Madison Atterbury ’17 and David Morgan ’16 lead a sea kayaking seminar to Casco Bay off the coast of Maine with Director of Outdoor Leadership Andrew Jillings acting as an advisor. “We began in a harbor in the middle of Portland and then paddled out into Casco Bay until we were on the open Atlantic Ocean,” said Morgan of the trip’s itinerary.

The group slept on wilderness islands during the night and explored the rocky coastline during the day. As a skills-based seminar “the trip was focused on having fun and teaching participants how to kayak on the open ocean,” commented Morgan. In addition to moving between campsites each day, students learned how to navigate using nautical charts, paddle in complex and swirling currents, and handle conditions including five-foot swells. “We even got a chance to play around in rocks and surf,” added Morgan.

The final morning of the trip was a highlight for many. In order to meet their van on time at the end of their route, the group got up before the sun had risen and prepared to paddle. “We ended up getting onto the water just as the sun was coming up over the horizon lighting up the world with the most amazingly beautiful glow that I have ever seen,” described Atterbury.

After launching their boats, the group paddled the last few miles of their trip through incredibly calm, glassy waters under breathtaking skies. “It was a great trip, the rugged coastline and tricky conditions were incredible and the group really rose to the challenge. Many of the people on the trip were underclassmen looking to learn to become sea kayaking leaders at some point in the future and they all made a tremendous amount of progress on their skills and also had a ton of fun,” commented Morgan.

Green Mountain Backpacking
Blaire Frett and Emily Rubinstein (both ’16) led a backpacking trip in the Green Mountains of Vermont. The group spent the entirety of their trip hiking along the Long Trail, a path that stretches the entire length of Vermont from the border with Massachusetts all the way North to Canada. Along the way the group summited several of the highest peaks in the Green Mountains. “We climbed Mt. Abraham which had some really awesome 360° views (and spectacular fall colors, of course),” said Frett.

At night the group slept in lean-to shelters along the trail, often being treated to views of the Green Mountain Range and Camel’s Hump Mountain from their backcountry doorstep. October weather in the Northeast is notoriously fickle and this Fall Break was no exception. Frett described a moment that was a highlight for many. “One day there was literally a blizzard while we were hiking so we made snow angels and snowmen on top of Mt. Ethan Allen.”

Despite inclement weather, the group made the best of things and ended up having an incredible experience. “It wasn’t an easy hike by any means but the group really came together and crushed it,” concluded Frett.

Leader Trips
In addition to the trips offered by the Outing Club, several HOC leaders took Fall Break as a time to run personal trips developing skills and exploring the Northeast. A group of four leaders striving to hike all 46 peaks in the Adirondacks over 4,000’ high during their time at Hamilton used the holiday as an opportunity to check a few more off their lists.

The group faced challenging weather but nonetheless enjoyed themselves. “It was really cold, I don’t think it got above freezing the whole time and we ended up hiking with microspikes [a piece of gear that straps to the bottom of boots to improve traction] on some tricky rocky and icy trails. We still had a fun time though!” said Elise LePage ’18.

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