The Dartmouth Bucket List
By Lauren Vespoli, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 21, 2012
I didn’t think I would ever make it to the Second College Grant as an undergrad until I was assigned to lead canoeing for DOC Trips at the end of the summer. Initially excited to see Dartmouth’s casual extra 27,000 acres of forest, I grew nervous when Grant Croo informed my group that it was moose mating season. I prayed to Daniel Webster that the horny moose would have mercy on us.
After paddling down the Magalloway River, crossing the Maine-New Hampshire line and surprising some wild turkeys at our campsite, a grassy airstrip, we were welcomed not by lusty moose but by Dartmouth alumni from the Class of 1966. They drove down the airstrip in their Volvos, picked up our bewildered trippees and brought us to their cabin for dinner.
They indulged us with grilled chicken, salad and their memories of Dartmouth — a very different place from the college we know now. My co-leader and I laughed afterward about the fact that students like us, a woman and a man of minority descent, would not have been leading a DOC Trip, much less attending the College in those days. Over dinner, the ’66s told us about the buses that brought women up for big weekends and the Winter Carnival “Queen of the Snows” pageant where the visiting contestants were judged and crowned by professors and the dean of the College. They were surprised to learn that freshmen no longer have to wear beanies — the little green caps that demarcated first-years for a period of hazing known as Freshman Week — and match up against the seniors in a tug-of-war until they won the right to take them off. I pity the poor administrator who has to explain the new hazing policies to these guys.
We talked about trees, a lot. The ’66s bombarded the College forester (yeah, we have our own forester) Kevin Evans with very specific questions about hard and soft woods and forest management. Things start to get fuzzy here because I was so full and sleepy, but I did notice how interested they were and how much they loved this place that some of them were just visiting for the first time. They proudly mentioned to us that all the dressers, chairs and desks in dorm rooms on campus are made from wood from the Grant.
We talked about history. The New Hampshire State Legislature gave Dartmouth the Grant in 1807 after the College sold off the First College Grant land. Initially, the College sold the timber harvested from the Second Grant and used the profits to fund student scholarships. Today, the Grant is still used for sustainable timber harvesting, as a wildlife preserve and as a recreational area for Dartmouth students, alumni, employees and faculty.
After dinner one of the ’66s read us a poem, “Perhaps the World Ends Here” by Joy Harjo. As he reached the last few lines, he choked up. That’s the true beauty of the Grant. It’s huge, peaceful and sacred — it’s Dartmouth. You should go, but it’s OK if you don’t make it as an undergrad. It’s a legacy you can experience at any point in your life, maybe even 50 years from now, when the freshmen will be laughing at the ludicrousness of a Greek system at Dartmouth.