I’d like to tell you that I know the college’s 17-odd miles of trails like the back of my hand, but that would be lying. Actually, it’s fair to say that I get a little bit lost out there on a fairly regular basis, but last Saturday was a different story: A couple dozen students, faculty, staff and other local community members noisily took to the trail together, breaking into small groups armed with loppers, chainsaws, shovels and other “implements of dee-struction” to get the trails in shape for winter. It was the annual community trails day, the inspiration of President Ellen’s husband Chris Lovell, an avid cross-country skier. I was grateful to travel with a small pack of lopper-snapping, chainsaw-revving, hoe-hacking trail hands, one of whom had a map. Between the four of us, we managed to open up a goodly section of Squirrel Loop and Old Oaks Trail, and even looped back without getting entirely lost.
Back at Chris and Ellen’s house, a banquet awaited us hungry trail hands with enough hearty chili to feed an army of Mexican federales. Speaking of old oaks, Chris took this chili-chomping occasion to initiate three well-aged veterans of Marlboro trails into what he called the “Old Oaks Society.” Of course you will probably recognize Tom Ragle (left), president emeritus and step-dad to Olympic skier Bill Koch, and Edmund Brelsford (right), professor emeritus of a thousand languages and 2010 national cross-country ski champion in the emeritus age bracket. Between them is John Caldwell—I’m not kidding—Olympic skier, coach and author of many of the books that made cross-country skiing more than just the pursuit of a few knee-sock-wearing Scando-philes. Apparently in his copious spare time John has also been a great friend to Marlboro College, and was instrumental in the design and establishment of the Old Oaks Trail. When Chris complimented him on the graceful, weaving turns of the venerable trail, John humbly recalled that a six-pack of beer had something to do with it. Okay, I’m waxing a bit sentimental here, but it felt like I was part of an honored historic legacy or something to have pushed a few fallen trees off the trail.