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Mountain Day

October 1, 2013

Today is Mountain Day. What is Mountain Day? You may rightly ask. I attended Mount Holyoke College. Every year, on the first really nice day of the fall, the Mary Lyon bells ring out to signal to the slumbering campus that classes are cancelled. Everyone then boards shuttle buses to Mount Skinner, to climb to the top and eat ice cream served by the president of the college. 

Yes, this is a real thing! Not a figment of our collective lady-imaginations. It’s pretty much the best tradition, second only to the Laurel Parade, and maybe singing Bread & Roses around Mary Lyon’s grave. 

I’ve been thinking about Mountain Day a lot lately. I think about it every time there’s an article about The Entitlement Generation/Generation Me/Jesus Christ These Milleniums are Lazy. I thought about it a lot last week, as I talked with a college friend who just this last Sunday was widowed. I thought about it a lot when I got the email this morning from the Alumnae Association, saying that today is Mountain Day, and then checked my twitter feed and found out that the U.S. Government apparently also wanted to celebrate Mountain Day and decided to give itself the day off. (Obviously that’s a very simplistic description of what is happening.) 

Mountain Day, on the one hand, is a fun vacation from your cares. You get the day off class. You get ice cream. You get the beautiful view from a mountain of the Pioneer Valley spread below you like a green hippie paradise. But on the other hand, you have to walk up a mountain to get the ice cream. And it’s not the most intense mountain ever, but it’s still a mountain, more hill than any of us New Yorkers encounter on a daily basis. (Unless you live in Inwood.)

Mary Lyon believed in exercise and exertion. She encouraged Mount Holyoke Seminary students to walk at least a mile every day. In addition to being a fun day of relaxation and skiving off class, Mountain Day is also a chance to test yourself, to challenge yourself to do something you don’t usually do. And yes, the mountain is a fairly easy climb, and yes, there’s ice cream as a reward, and yes, a lot of people spend the day sleeping instead of climbing the mountain. But the option is there, and the fact that so many MHC women choose to walk up to the top is something great. 

So yeah, these articles about how everyone my age is a lazy, entitled jagoff are partly true. Some people do choose to sleep in instead of waking up when they hear the bells ringing. But many more choose to climb the mountain. Or work three part-time jobs. Or go back to graduate school, or volunteer. For many of us, especially MHC students, every day is Mountain Day, where we get to choose which one we’ll be.  

N.B.: My first year I climbed the mountain, but my friends and I decided to be idiots and climb up what we thought was a trail instead of following the road like every single other person was doing. We arrived several hours later at the top, ice cream long gone, sweaty as hell, but with a feeling of idiotic accomplishment. 

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2013 3:20 pm

    I just helped train some officials with Pioneer Valley Roller Derby and a number of them were talking about Mountain Day. That’s an interesting tradition.

  2. Natalia permalink
    October 1, 2013 3:57 pm

    The trail takes 10 mins longer than the road … why did you all take so long? Hehe

  3. October 1, 2013 3:58 pm

    Natalia – I don’t think we were on a trail. We were just wandering around in the woods, basically. My senior year I drove. (In my defense, I’d messed up my knee the year before.)

  4. Mhc1984 permalink
    October 2, 2013 11:13 am

    Thanks for this post… I enjoyed it, but feel the need to point out that it’s not Mt. Skinner, it’s Mt. Holyoke, as in the same name as oir beloved college…

  5. rjrugroden permalink
    October 4, 2013 4:29 pm

    This is the tradition I’ve been needing all my life! I’m going to start one of my own, even though I live in Minnesota where everything is flat as a watch face. Perhaps it could be Lake day? That doesn’t sound quite as nice as Mountain Day, but “really tall hill day” doesn’t seem right either. Alas, I will have to wait until next year as our nicest fall weather has already passed.


  1. Mountain Day (repost) | Finger Steepling & Sharks

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