SMCM Institutions: An Introduction to North Woods

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On the northern side of campus, beyond the din of Dorchester circle and far from the hearth of the Campus Center, lies the descriptively named North Woods. There is no clear consensus regarding how much land the forest encompasses. Those who have looked at a satellite map of the area tend to argue that the woods stretch from Fisherman’s Creek to Mattapany Road; others consider Point Lookout Road and Three Notch Road to be the proper boundaries of the forest. Those who have ventured into the woods themselves usually report that the trees extend from the edge of North Campus to some point between Canada and the Arctic Circle.

Those wishing to venture into North Woods have two land entrances to choose from. The first, and most popular one, is a gap in the trees about 50 yards from the back of Waring Commons (WC). This opening leads directly onto a relatively well-beaten path that winds a random route through the forest. An alternate approach exists between the baseball diamond and the rear right side of the Lewis Quadrangle (LQ). This entrance is poorly marked and less easily traversed. For those interested in maritime exploration, the woods may also be accessed by chartering a kayak through the Route 5 spillway and up Fisherman’s Creek. This route includes several perils, Poseidon’s fickle tide being one of them, but also enables adventurers to arrive in the middle of the woods without having to follow the mad windings of a reasonless path.

During the day, the North Woods are a pleasant and almost story-book like setting that is well-suited to picnics, quiet walks, and thoughtful meditation. Couples and would-be romancers should make for the peninsulas which overlook Fisherman’s Creek. Those with an affinity for history should seek out the Fields of Rust, the site of the first drag race between the Europeans and the Native Americans. The rusting hulls of ancient sports cars and pickup trucks dot the landscape to this day, chilling monuments to the brutality of colonial conflict.

Those who enter the woods after nightfall may relate their experience to that of the early settlers venturing beyond the safety of the Roanoke colony into the untamed wilderness of North America. The lights of WC reach to the edge of the woodland. Even after you enter the trees, those lights will remain comfortingly visible for a few minutes. Then, abruptly, the path will twist and the lights will disappear. Upon descending into the first valley you shall come upon a hanging rope. Fear not! This rope is not a noose, an instrument of death; rather, it is an instrument of recreation. Swinging on the rope is easy and safe. However, care should be given to dismounting. Few people have fallen from the rope. More have slipped while dismounting and found themselves either rolling down the valley slope or being dragged through the air by their foo, much to the amusement of onlookers.

Beyond the rope swing, the path winds up along the top of the valley. You will pass a derelict bonfire pit and several abandoned tents. First impressions can be misleading. The pit may look like an abandoned hobo site, littered with garbage and drug paraphernalia. If you look closer, you will see that the pit is actually an abandoned party site, littered with garbage and drug paraphernalia.  On the subject of drug paraphernalia, those who stray from the beaten path are likely to come across a variety of camps made of bamboo, tarps, and scrounged furniture. These camps were likely built by the Viet-Cong during the Vietnam War as bases for their deployment of militarized communism. Now that the war is over, these sites have been re-purposed as havens for similarly un-American activities. The exact nature of those activities need not be stated here.

Returning to civilization is one of the most trying challenges of the North Woods experience. Following the path is a good bet. If you reach the end of the path, simply turn around and pray that you are following the true path rather than an impostor conjured by the Woods to deceive those of little faith. For those who recklessly wander off the path and find themselves hopelessly removed from it, only one viable option remains: pick a direction and begin walking. Do not stop or deviate from your path. If you encounter a thorn bush, you go through it. If you encounter a fallen tree, you go over it. If you encounter water, then God help you. Eventually, you will emerge from the woods and be forced to establish your surroundings. Try to determine if you are on Mattapany Road or Route 5. If you are unable, then make your way to the nearest Canadian Mountie outpost and begin the formal process of securing reentry to the United States. Either way, moving south is your best bet. Good luck, and godspeed.

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