A hike down memory lane for Bluffton alumni
Bluffton graduate and retired assistant to the registrar, Del Gratz ’73, recently led a group of Bluffton alumni on a trip down memory lane, also known as a hike up several Colorado mountains. Gratz cohosted a four-day hiking excursion at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp along with Julia Szabo, director of alumni engagement.
The experience was similar to the Colorado mountaineering experiences Gratz’s father, Delbert Gratz ‘42, head librarian and professor of history, led during the 1970s and 80s. “He loved the mountains, and he loved climbing, but mostly, he loved sharing them with everybody,” said the younger Gratz.
Fifteen people took part in the trip ranging in age from preteen to early 60s and ranging in location from Pennsylvania to Arizona. The itinerary included favorites from the mountaineering experiences of the 70s and 80s such as hikes on Raspberry Mountain and Horseshoe Mountain and rock formations known as The Eyebrow and The Crags.
Suzanne Lang ’77, of Middletown, Calif., took part in the mountaineering experience as a student and felt a sense of joy upon returning.
“It has been 41 years,” said Lang. “A lot of what I know and practice in hiking I learned from Delbert Gratz, and I see a lot of similar qualities in his son.”
The initial experience led Lang to move to Colorado after graduating from Bluffton. “I lived there for eight or nine years almost as a direct result of falling in love with it when I took that hiking trip, and hiking has remained a big part of my life ever since. It’s something I’ll always be grateful for,” said Lang.
Lang noticed that Delbert and Del Gratz both encouraged the participants to hike one step at a time but to have the goal in mind.
“Nobody can make those steps for you, but I think we egged each other on and helped each other reach the top,” said Lang. “That’s what I found was very similar about the two experiences.”
Szabo agreed. “We are all Beavers, and we know how to look after each other and how to adapt to the group’s needs. It was such a thrill when we all made it to the top of Raspberry Mountain.”
The trip gave alumni plenty of time to connect, reminisce and discuss the upcoming Beaver-athletic season while enjoying views of the alpine tundra. Participants connected with Bluffton graduates Jenelle (Musselman ’05) Roynon, RMMC program director, and her husband Colin Roynon ’06 as well as RMMC summer worker and current Bluffton student, Mickie Gonwick ’17, an early childhood education major from Hicksville, Ohio.
The trip went so well that Szabo says she’s ready to plan the next one.
“It was the perfect trip, with the perfect people, with the perfect hikes,” said Gratz.
It was the perfect trip, with the perfect people, with the perfect hikes,” said Del Gratz.