Six Students, One Summer and a Resurrected Log Cabin

Popular Mechanics

April 1, 2011

By Jim Collins

On a foggy spring morning in 2009, Dartmouth College junior Greg Sokol and a few friends got up before classes and paddled canoes down the Connecticut River in New Hampshire to check on a log cabin not far from campus. It was owned by the school's Ledyard Canoe Club, of which Sokol was a member. Recent rain had swollen the river, and the current was running fast. Sokol led, angling his canoe away from the mouth of Mink Brook and into a tiny cove along Gilman Island's steep northeast shore. He picked his way up the bank and glimpsed the cabin's chimney—too much chimney, actually. Sokol scrambled to the top. In front of him lay the charred remains of Titcomb Cabin. Police would later determine that a fire the night before had probably been set by high school partyers, then blazed out of control.

Like nearly 60 years' worth of students before him, Sokol knew Titcomb well. At Dartmouth, an outdoor spirit is practically grafted onto collegians' DNA. Students maintain cabins and trails throughout the southern White Mountains. This cabin, named for Jack Titcomb, a Dartmouth alumnus who had died fighting in World War II, was Sokol's outdoor base camp. He had forged friendships around its fireplace, slept on its porch and swum in its shadow beneath the moon. Now it was gone.

Oh, well. Sokol was an engineering student. He'd never really constructed anything, but he knew his way around a CAD program. And he had a bunch of smart friends. By the time Sokol had paddled back to campus, he'd made up his mind: The cabin would be rebuilt, and he would spearhead the effort.

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