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Hayat's Last Sunset Hike

by Brianna Jackson, '16

The view of Sunset Hike from Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield, MA.

After leading hikes for six years, Hayat Abuza led her final Sunset Hike on April 26, 2014. The hikes originally started as Sunrise Hikes, but Sunset Hikes took over to accommodate Smithies who were not early risers. This particular hike took place on Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield, MA, a relatively short trail that is still extraordinarily scenic.

Rain poured on the day of the hike, but we braced ourselves knowing the view at the end of the hike would be worthwhile. When we discussed the current weather, Hayat described other hikes she has led through even more intense weather conditions. Winter hikes would often involve walking through deep snow when the road leading up to the mountain was not plowed. As we climbed, Hayat entertained us with a story of a particularly icy hike in which she had to slide down the mountain in a seated position to avoid tripping and falling down the slippery slope. We made it up the mountain without getting too wet, and when we reached the top, we saw the wide Connecticut River, rectangular plots of farmland and dark mountains looming in the distance. The panorama of the Pioneer Valley tinted bluish from the rain made us pensive and ready to read poetry.

Reading poetry on the summit of Mount Sugarloaf was a restorative experience. Some hikers chose poems from Hayat’s collection, while others recited poetry from memory or read from poems they brought on the hike. Sharing these beautiful words brought warmth and rejuvenation in the rainy weather. On our hike back down the mountain, we relished in each other’s company as the sky darkened.

After the hike, students gathered for snacks inside the chapel. The exercise from our brisk hike gave us the strength we needed to power through our studies. Thanks to Hayat’s initiative, the Sunset Hikes have brought Smithies together for years in the transformative love of poetry and nature.