John Ledyard was a Dartmouth student, and he paddled a canoe from Dartmouth, all the way to the ocean. So every year now since then, we do something called the “Trip to the Sea”, where they model his journey, and you canoe from Dartmouth down the Connecticut river out to the Atlantic Ocean, over by Connecticut.
The informant was a student at Dartmouth College, where she observed this tradition taking place. She did not participate in the tradition, but knew closely someone who did. Dartmouth College is situated high on the Connecticut River, which drains out south through Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and then to Connecticut, connecting it with the Atlantic Ocean.
The informant is a 23-year-old women, born and raised in Southern California. She graduated Dartmouth College in 2018, having attended since 2014. This information was provided to me while seated outside her family home in Palm Springs, California, on April 20th, 2019.
I would love to claim to want to participate in this tradition, but after consulting a map, I don’t think I would want to. The trip is really long, spanning four different states! However, I love that this tradition has continued and that they do it every year! I think that the students who complete the Trip to the Sea must feel very proud and accomplished, and I bet receive great respect from other students. This seems typical of Dartmouth – they seem to have many outdoor activities and traditions, probably from being so isolated up in the woods! I also find it interesting that this John Ledyard has two seperate traditions rooted with his name at Dartmouth – must have been very influential. According to the additional research I did in the Dartmouth Folklore Collection, this ritual has a further tradition: the participants row nude through Hartford, Connecticut, until they reach the city boundaries. It is also only the seniors who take part in the trip – making the ritual into something looked forward to over their Dartmouth career, truly cementing the ritual as a kind of initiation-like ritual, including the students into a longstanding history of others who have completed the trip.
For another collection of this ritual, please see the Dartmouth Folklore Collection. It can be found online, or currently through this hyperlink: https://journeys.dartmouth.edu/folklorearchive/2016/05/27/trips-to-the-sea/