‘It almost feels like coming home’: Moosilauke Ravine Lodge serves as space for connection

Seniors reflect on the importance of the Lodge in forging a sense of community at Dartmouth.

by Angus Yip | 6/12/22 5:10am

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by Lila Hovey / The Dartmouth

This article is featured in the 2022 Commencement & Reunions special issue.

Moosilauke Ravine Lodge — a place loved and cherished by Dartmouth students, alumni and hikers alike — has a rich history that makes it a special landmark within the Upper Valley. Students and alumni shared their appreciation of the Lodge in honor of its reopening to the public this spring. 

According to admissions officer and “unofficial Dartmouth Outing Club historian” Kevin Donohue ’21, Ford Sayre ’33 and his wife Peggy first renovated an old logging camp to be a ski camp in the early 1930s, though it burned down in 1935. Subsequently, the College built the Ravine Camp (later known as the Ravine Lodge) on the site, finished in 1939, under the direction of Ross McKenney, the newly hired woodcraft advisor to the DOC.

Donohue explained that the Lodge fell into disrepair after World War II and “was pretty much abandoned” by the 1960s aside from its use during First-Year Trips. However, people began frequenting the Lodge again after it was “revitalized” in the 1970s. Donohue said that in 2016, the College decided to tear down the Lodge due to the high cost of renovations and built a new one in 2017 with improved accessibility features.

Due to restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lodge was closed to the public from March 2020 until the spring of 2021. Since the summer of 2021, the Lodge has begun accepting dinner and cabin overnight reservations from students, faculty and staff again and reopened to the general public earlier this spring, according to Donohue.

Moosilauke Ravine Lodge manager Margaret Nichols ’20 said that since the Lodge has reopened to students, its staff has made an effort to welcome them back to the Lodge. Nichols added that since the pandemic, efforts have also been made to make the Lodge more accessible to students, such as offering free transportation to the Lodge as well as free accommodations to stay the night. 

"Before [COVID-19] undergraduates had to pay for dinner and overnight and find their own transportation here. Since [COVID-19], we've started the van program, and right now, dinner and overnight is still free for undergraduates,” Nichols said. “We hope to keep it that way.”

Cabin and Trail chair Alex Wells ’22 said that since the reopening of the Lodge, the Dartmouth Outing Club has organized several activities at the Lodge including a “spring weekend” with several dinner and overnight trips, the DOC formal, band performances and contra dancing.

Seniors recounted how the Lodge was a space where they forged important connections with the communities around them, influencing their academic and social circles at Dartmouth. They noted that despite the year-long closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the high energy at the Lodge has remained.

Maya Khanna ’22 said she first visited the Lodge during her First-Year Trip, where she met up with other groups during the final night for dinner and stayed overnight. She said she also participated in a sunrike up Mount Moosilauke the next morning. She said that even though she had never done a hike that strenuous before, spending time with other ’22s and Lodj Croo — the volunteer team based at the Lodge for First-Year Trips — at the top of the mountain was a “magical” experience.

“I really remember what it was like to share that experience of spending time together in a space where everybody cares about other people,” Khanna said, adding that the experience helped her feel “welcomed to the College and really cared about by the community” and motivated her to consider participating in the DOC.

Both Wells and Khanna emphasized the sense of community that they have gained through their experiences at the Lodge since First-Year Trips. Wells said that he volunteered for Lodj Croo in his sophomore year, and it was a transformative experience for him.

“It was really amazing connecting with the ’23s, and then also with the other upperclassmen [on Lodj Croo],” Wells said. “It was a really unique way to get some mentorship, and some of the things I learned ended up changing my academic trajectory, like taking classes based on suggestions from some of the upperclassmen.”

He emphasized the numerous “special” experiences that he had while on Lodj Croo. 

“There were so many moments where we were sitting out on the porch, talking about our lives and really listening to each other and feeling connected,” he added. In particular, he recalled how at midnight on his birthday, his croo captains surprised him with a birthday cake.

Wells also recalled other moments at the Lodge, including a snowball fight during the DOC formal in his freshman fall, an impromptu trip to the Lodge after a hike was canceled and listening to a “really cool and intimate” band performance where everyone “was having a good time.”

Khanna said that this spring, she has been to the Lodge at least every other week.

“[The Lodge] is a space where my community and the people I care about — the DOC — really feel comfortable, and for us, [it’s] a way to get away from campus,” Khanna said.

Beyond the space that the Lodge provides for her to spend time with her friends, Khanna added that the Lodge is “a space of intention.” She noted that there is no internet connection at the Lodge, allowing her to disconnect from her other commitments on campus.

“At the Lodge, I can really take time to focus on the people around me and my own wellbeing … I always feel very present when I’m at the Lodge,” she said. “That [sense of presence] is something that I hope other students will continue to find there as well.”

Wells expressed mixed feelings about the reopening of the Lodge to the general public.

“It was really cool to connect with other people, whether they're hikers or just passing through, or alumni from ages ago … but while it was only open to [the Dartmouth community], it really felt special to us,” he said.

Donohue said that with the full reopening of the Lodge this spring, the Lodge feels like it’s “coming right back to life.”

“I think people are flocking right back [to the Lodge],” he said. “The Lodge relies on First-Year Trips to establish a sense of place and draw people back, and the ’24s and ’25s didn’t quite get that, but I still see the same kind of connections being formed at the Lodge.”

Similarly, Khanna expressed excitement about the reopening of the Lodge.

“With the [COVID-19] restrictions being lifted this past spring, it almost feels like coming home one last time before we graduate,” Khanna said. “I think that’s been really, really special.”

Maya Khanna is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.

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