Trails of the North Country | St. Lawrence University

Trails of the North Country

Max Lewis
2016

The summer before my first semester at St. Lawrence, various students and alumni introduced me to many of the university's defining attributes. Before registering for classes, I expected to leave SLU satisfied that I had been provided with a strong liberal arts program, an engaged campus community, an expansive and passionate alumni network and four years spent in the “middle of nowhere”.

I am now over a month into senior year, a time when the question, “What are you going to do with the rest of your life?” is a normalcy. I have not yet been able to answer that question, but I do know that most of my expectations that I came to SLU with have become reality, giving me confidence for my life after graduation.

One expectation that I have not found to be true is that SLU is in the “middle of nowhere”. Maybe this should never have been an expectation as SLU’s unofficial motto reads, “We have lit a candle in the wilderness that will never be extinguished”. Trails cut through and provide access to that wilderness, from the small and fragmented portions of Canton's forests to the large swathes of protected wilderness in the Adirondack Park. For myself and many fellow Saints, those trails are an essential part of the “candle” that is the St. Lawrence experience.

In my time away from schoolwork, I head straight for the loamy earth and tall pines of the surrounding forest. On days where little time is afforded it will be for a run on the Kip track, a trail system that meanders along the Grasse River and through St. Lawrence’s property. When more time allows, I find myself in the surrounding towns. Just 15 minutes away in Colton are the ledges trails, with developed mountain biking options, or beautiful riverside hiking/running/walking trails. Nearby and just past Higley Flow State Park (great XC skiing) is the Donnerville State Forest. Both of these locations offer canoe put-ins, hushed picnic spots and an opportunity to find the serenity that can feel unattainable while immersed in campus life. The same trails that I have used to escape campus life have played a big role in my education.

My environmental studies major has exposed me to a variety of different ecological, climatic and societal issues, ones that can be felt close to home, as well as around the world. One thing all of these classes had in common was a field component. I have had the opportunity to study the effects of my favorite recreational activities on the ecology of an area, the intricacies of old growth forest ecology, and to simply spend time outdoors in order to later reflect on that time. Times of joy, insight and uncertainty move fast on the trail, and in the “wilderness” that is St. Lawrence, yet in the end always time well spent.