Margaret Dener '22 reflects on her favorite hiding spot in Canton that served as comfort during COVID-19.
There are so many hiding spots in Canton, places that students never discover until mid-junior year, when important decisions need to be made, but the willpower to make them has crumbled. By then, these secret outdoor hideouts become a staple, a refuge where you can sit, think, sometimes cry, and listen to music to drown out the wild and scattered thoughts—or, maybe, actually listen to those musings for the first time.
The outdoors has long been woven into the campus life. St. Lawrence is home to the second university outing club in the country. The Adirondack Semester students live in yurts, and there is a plethora of hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, and skiing options. To celebrate the first day when the temperature breaks 50 degrees, some students might take a plunge into the still-freezing Grasse River.
However, not everyone has this connection to nature. I am more of an indoor person. As every Laurentian knows, Canton is reliably frigid throughout the spring with an almost guaranteed April snow shower piling up outside. It can also be hard to escape the schoolwork piling up on top of that pile of snow.
While navigating the highs (and many lows) of campus life during the COVID-19 crisis, I have definitely found myself craving my own outdoor escape. With pandemic restrictions, I found myself getting buried under more than just my classes, and I needed at least one, tiny moment to escape the gray walls of the library in order to find the blue, limitless ceiling of the sky and breathe in some fresh air.
This spring, on a walk around campus, I discovered a worn path covered by fallen branches and crunchy leaves left behind by autumn shedding. I decided to explore beyond the debris. There, I found a hidden perch atop a rock overlooking the rushing water of a creek and discovered a new hiding spot, my hiding spot.
I also discovered something else. At St. Lawrence, the trails are very much the heart of campus, even though they lay on the outskirts. These trails have a heartbeat drummed by the rhythm of hiking boots on the dirt and a soul illustrated by the laughter of friends on their afternoon adventures. They wind their way around the fringes like an elaborate, natural picture frame and guide those who venture on them in all sorts of ways. Since my first year, I have tried to explore these different paths. I tried the Avenue of the Elms which goes past the barn, ending on a random country road with no clues as to where it leads, and I found myself having to turn around to avoid getting lost.
The unnamed trail past Appleton Arena, beyond the debris—which follows a small river flowing peacefully—was my junior-year discovery. Technically, it is a cross-country trail, but it has twisted and turned into more. A new hiding place for thoughts to wander. Unmarked on a map, the small river connected to this trail is nameless, but it still carries ice in the winter and floods in the spring when you can listen to water rushing and hitting the rocks.
It does not feel too far from campus when the chapel bells are ringing, but it’s also far enough so that problems with classes or deciding future careers are manageably distant and can’t find me in my outdoor hiding spot.