Thomas More College’s second annual Freshman Orientation trip to the White Mountains met with blue skies and balmy temperatures—for Northern New Hampshire. Early on the morning of Monday, August 31, Dr. William Fahey, College faculty, and the two-dozen entering freshmen piled into vans and drove up the heart of the state, through scenic Franconia Notch, to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Center at Crawford Notch. After a blessing by our chaplain, the new students climbed the Mt. Willard trail to have lunch on the ledge overlooking Crawford Notch. There before them was displayed the Willey Slide—the bare spot on Mt. Willey marking the spot of the deadly avalanche recounted by Nathanial Hawthorne in his short story “The Ambitious Guest,” which the students read as their first homework assignment at the College.
After descending Mt. Willard, the group took to the vans again, crossing the rugged Jefferson Notch Road, where deserters of Roger’s Rangers, fleeing with loot from their raid against the Indian settlement of St. Francis, lost their way and were destroyed by the elements and the retaliating Indians. Amongst the treasures lost was the “Silver Virgin,” a statue beloved by the Abenaki Indians, based on an image of Our Lord and Lady from the cathedral of Chartes in France.
Upon arriving at their “base camp,” the Horton Center on Pine Mountain, students enjoyed a dinner of hamburgers and hot dogs grilled over the campfire and a fireside chat on the virtues necessary for the academic life rounded out the day. Morning prayer and evening Mass were offered on the heights looking out toward Mount Washington, providing the liturgical frame of each day.
Dawn on Tuesday, September 1st revealed Mt. Madison standing out amidst a cloudless sky and inviting the students and faculty to take to the heights. The students chose expeditions according to their level of athleticism, with some trekking into Mt. Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine to relax by the shore of tiny Hermit Lake, while others joined the President Fahey in the assault of the Boott Spur, one of the high ridges of Mt. Washington. A final group tackled Mt. Adams, the 2nd highest peak in the White Mountains, ascending the celebrated trail known as the “Chemin-des-Dames”—named it seems in homage to the site of several battles during World War I that left many women bereft of husbands. No fatalities ensued in this ascent, and not even any injuries other than sore muscles. After a hearty huntsman’s pasta dinner, the students were treated to another campfire chat, as Dr. Fahey expounded the medieval notion of a “Collegium,” as both a society of those who read together and of those bound together in the common pursuit of truth. Well exercised in body and in mind, and with friendships fast forming, the new Thomas More College students returned to campus full of enthusiasm for their first year of studies.