The vast 27,000-acre wilderness of Dartmouth's Second College Grant is just north of Errol, N.H., adjacent to the Maine border. It's the kind of place that might inspire an urbanite to observe, "there's nothing up there," but its majestic trees and rolling mountains have provided recreation, relaxation, and education for generations of Dartmouth students. Created by an act of the New Hampshire legislature on June 18, 1807, the grant celebrates its 200th anniversary this year.
"I feel like it's my own—that I share it with Dartmouth students before and after me," says Victoria Allen '06, who stays with friends at Peaks Cabin and canoes on the Magalloway River. For Chris Polashenski '07, it's about timelessness. "There are trees here that are centuries old and beaver meadows that existed on some of the grant's earliest maps," he explains. Others go there to mountain bike, swim in the Swift Diamond River, hike mountains, and snowshoe through pine groves. Many capture the beauty of their surroundings in photographs or writing. "I visit for the fresh air, scenery, and peace," says Jacob Jurmain '08. "Sometimes, even Hanover's too urban."
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Matthew Ayres, who leads winter field trips to the grant, describes it as "an immensely valuable asset for research and education." His field observations have included "sow bear with very young cubs, fishers, osprey, active salamanders in ice water, and flocks of nomadic crossbills."
Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey '29 once showed off the grant's splendor to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Nelson Bryant '46 wrote about it for The New York Times. "Smoke was rising from the Pete Blodgett cabin in the snow-covered, windswept clearing at Hellgate Gorge as we carried our food, clothing, and gear across the suspension footbridge that spans the Dead Diamond River," began his 2002 article, "Hunting Deer and Waxing Nostalgic." Another well-known grant devotee, Professor of History Emeritus Jere R. Daniell '55, recently completed Dartmouth's Second College Grant: A History, with co-author Jack Noon '68. The book will be unveiled at a celebration at the grant on June 24.
About 4 percent of the grant's acreage is logged each year, producing 7,500 cords (1,000 truckloads) of red maple, yellow birch, spruce, and fir-much of which goes into campus furniture. (All 3,285 beds in the residence halls are fashioned from grant wood.) Selectively cut areas recover for at least 15 to 20 years. "It's a model for responsible forest management," says College Forester Kevin Evans. "This is a gem of northern New England," adds Director of Outdoor Programs Andrew Harvard '71. "The more people go, the more entranced they become."
Even someone who prefers the city has to admit—there's a lot going on up there.
By STEVEN J. SMITH
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Last Updated: 5/30/08