Hiked on May 28, 2023
We were dreading this one a bit. Owl's Head Mountain is on New Hampshire's "48 4,000 footers" list. To climb it you must walk nine miles into the forest and then turn back around. The views are scant. The footing is just OK. Also--since some of the trails are unmaintained--there is the possibility to get turned around or lost. It is an exercise in perseverance. It is a test of your physical endurance and your ability to move about in the forest. The reward is...well...you get to bag the peak.
For me, this hike came at a moment of transition. I know I talk about this elsewhere, but I have a great deal going on. Much of it is life-stage stuff. Our eldest is in the process of moving out. Middle Son--who was the subject of many unschooling posts in my previous weblog--graduated from college the day before Owl's Head. Our youngest was in Kentucky competing in high school debate nationals. Also, there are vocational concerns for me. My rapidly-ending sabbatical has been about transitions. What will happen to the church in general? What will happen to the church I serve? In spite of plenty of thought and study...I don't know.
Anyway, what a great time for a walk in the woods. Nature, too, is in flux. Even without the brutal destruction of ecosystems. Change is in its nature when left alone. Out in the "wilderness" we can look around and see that living things grow, live their assigned cycle, and die.
The natural world reminds us that we are a part of it. We are presented with the fact that the continuous transition we witness and experience comes from being part of a whole vast organism. Our failing is when we lose track of this organism and start believe that we--the constituent parts--are the beginning and the ending.
This hike was hard. When we got back, my legs--relieved at having to walk no more--cramped up for a solid 30 minutes. Sometimes you choose a high degree of difficulty because the the challenge reminds you that you can do hard things. By doing these things in isolation--away from the high stakes areas of love and regular life--we can get the practice we need. We can develop the confidence that perseverance and problem solving bring. We can look back and recognize that--while no true mountain is the hardest mountain we climbed--we did the deed. We realize we can keep going on with hope even when we do not know the way.
That was Owl's Head. It was a reminder that we are part of something much greater than ourselves. It was a reminder that--in this time or trail--I (we) can push on to whatever comes next. In the video we get lost and I lose track of time. However, I am glad we did it. I will be thinking about walking through that epic tree tunnel long after specific views on prettier, easier hikes are forgotten.
Hiked On May 21, 2023
I am an anxious hiker. Each big trip gets me worried about all the things that can go wrong. The list ranges from the practical and semi-preventable (like running out of water) to the possible (like an injury that requires immediate attention) to the statistically possible (bears). I worry about getting to the trailhead, getting actually lost (as opposed to just confused for a while), forgetting some item, or maybe a meeting back home.
Anyway, these concerns are compounded when the hike is long or complicated. They are also compounded when the people "in the know" are also worried. Enter the Wildcats. Wildcat "A" and "D" are both 4,000 footers. They are connected by an undulating ridge with two more "named" peaks and a number of unnamed prominences.
We worked our way up to this after the winter and...at least some worries were justified. Even though we took the smoother route up a ski trail, it was rough. There was a large, rapidly melting monorail of snow covering much of the ridge. There were patches of ice and water. Near the end--as we summitted "D" on our return--my surgically repaired back started to give out. I was not a happy camper.
That said, it was beautiful up there. The trees did their "tunnel effect" I have written about on Cube. The views--when we had them--were top notch. Stretches and food got me back from the brink in the end. It was a hike to remember...but not in detail.
If you watch the video you will note that I go on about the boring letter-based names and speculate as to why that might be. Later, it occurred to me that Wildcat Mountain isn't on Wildcat A, which is officially just named "Wildcat." Maybe that is why? Does the whole thing need to have the same name for marketing purposes? Anyway, just a final thought...
Hiked On May 13, 2023
I have been wanting to do this loop for a long time. It was on my list in the fall but got bumped because Allison and my brother Dan wanted to climb Adams and Madison. We did that and my knees still hurt today! This, however, is no walk in the park either. Sandwich Mountain is the tallest of the 52 With a View peaks and the star of the Sandwich Range. Noon is more of a ledge than a peak. Jennings is it's own thing--reachable by a spur off the main trail--and counts to the 52 on its own. This means plenty of elevation.
Also, there were tons of fallen trees on the trail. This happens sometimes. A storm will hit the side of a peak and chaos will ensue. Down below we hardly notice but up on the slope...wood starts swirling. This appears to have occurred some time over the winter. At times the trail was concealed and we needed to bushwhack a bit to find our place again. Still, the degree of difficulty did not conceal the beauty of the trip. It will be one of the most memorable and enjoyable hikes of the year I am sure.
I will let the video tell the story. That said, it was part of our slow increase in degree of difficulty after the winter. Allison had to take a break for graduate school stuff. I hiked alone in the snow during that time. Mostly I did smaller peaks. With snowshoes on I tend to be interested in high-satisfaction-for-effort hikes like Watatic. Of course, it has all been a workout for me!
Hiked on May 5, 2023
One of the ironies of our current hiking project is that I don't get out to western Massachusetts very often. Part of the reason is that it feels so far away from our home in the east. While it is closer to us than many of our New Hampshire hikes, it still feels farther. That said, we finally got out to hike the famous Mount Greylock. We had driven up--because that is a thing--but it was special take the slow route.
I am glad we did it. Greylock is the tallest peak in the state and, while it doesn't break 4,000 feet, it has the atmosphere of something larger. Our primary reason for choosing this particular day had to do with flooding in the north. All these big mountains release massive amounts of melted snow this time of year. Greylock does too. However there had also been massive amount of rain in northern New England making both hiking and driving difficult. The southerly position of our hike today meant that not only did we not have much rain, we also were on a peak where the snowmelt had already occurred.
So... here is our hike! I highly recommend it, particularly if you live in the Bay State. We have many pretty and impressive natural sights that sometimes get neglected for what is right above us on the map. We should be proud of what we have!
HIKED ON APRIL 29, 2023
Stinson is considered one of the easiest hikes on the 52 With a View list. It is also one of the closest to where we live. It made sense as a half day trip on a busy weekend as we prepare for bigger things. As I note in the video, lots of people don't particularly like it. It is a common compliant on multi-use trails that the hikers become a bit of an afterthought in winter. Also, mountains like this lose a bit of their "wild" feel when they are super-accessible. This is even more true on the famous mountains like Washington, so it isn't Stinson's fault.
That said, it was a lovely day for a walk. The leaves hadn't really even begun to appear, leaving the greens of moss and small flowering plants to distract us from the browns and grays. I go on quite a bit in the video about skunk cabbage. It is usually one of the first plants to appear after the snow. Finally, on a frustrating note, I lost my poles on Stinson and still haven't quite relaced them...
Hiked on April 15, 2023
It is fun to get to make a new post! Through the late winter I was mostly revisiting old hikes that I had already written up. Of course I made videos for most of them--which was different--but I just placed those vids with the older weblog entries. This hike, however, was a new one. Also...it was about a week late. We tried it the week before and the water was high. Instead of risking advanced wetness, we turned around and hit Hedgehog instead. Hedgehog is always a winner.
We changed strategies for this attempt. Instead of parking in the Hedgehog/Potash lot we pulled over next to an access road that avoids the stream. We were not the only ones, either. There weren't many of us on the trail, but those that were took this little detour. It isn't "cheating" of course. It feels a bit strange to be off the regular route. That said, when we have done this in the past--as with Carter Dome--it made the journey more interesting. In this case--having hiked a bit of the other way--I think it was a lateral move.
There are a number of Potash Mountains in northern New England by the way. The wood on this and other similarly named mountains (and lakes and streams) was used to produce a variety of potassium salts that were--and still are--used in products we use today. When I was in high school I was taught to pronounce this word with a long "o" sound. Of course, since the word derives from one of the earliest methods of obtaining these salts--soaking then burning wood in a pot--the short "o" is fine. My US History teacher Steve Morris would not approve of me going rogue like that. Therefore it's the o-sound of potassium in his memory for me.
This video is one of the shortest I have done. This is not a reflection of how I feel about the walk! The hike was lovely and the view was excellent. It is just that I didn't have much to say. I didn't have any special insights. Nor were the views all that different from what I had seen in other places. Allison and I have hiked quite a few mountains now. I, in particular, have been exploring the Sandwich range and its environs. Many of the peaks in the distance seem like old friends. I could see Hedgehog, Chocorua, the Sisters, Passaconaway, and Whiteface, among others. All of those were good memories. Some new mountains appeared--like "the Captain" and Green Cliffs. Both of those require bushwhacking to the summit. So I think I will enjoy them from afar.
I would recommend the trip to Potash. Just don't climb it right after Hedgehog.
In my previous post I wrote a bit about the "whys" of the process of making youtube videos. You should probably check that out for more information. That said, the reasons are pretty basic. One is that they provide a creative outlet for me. They are a way to generate a dialogue with nature and with others who might be interested in the experience. Also, this experience is a bit of an experiment into the possibilities for spiritual communities, who will increasingly find themselves in need of creative ways to reach out beyond their doors.
In addition to the previous post, you might be interested in the reasoning behind the initial project or my attempt at a method for sabbath walking, which underlies a lot of this work.
However, what I would like to do in this post is share some videos, talk about my motivation to make them, and discuss a little about what I have learned from them. I will be going in reverse chronology--most recent to least recent--as it may help to set where I am now before talking about where I have been.
Mount Watatic in Winter:
This video is fairly typical of what I have been trying to do. The format is fairly well established at this point. It opens with a description of why I am hiking the trail and what I--or we--hope to see. I also talk about my relationship with the walk. In this case I am climbing my favorite mountain. Earlier hikes up Mount Watatic helped me to refine my thoughts on mindful walking.
Technically there are still problems. While the music has improved a bit, I am still not a great musician. There are compression issues and sound issues, too. These are all problems that could be fixed with money...which I do not have. I am using my phone for all the elements of recording. I am using a fairly basic editing platform (Filmora) which is probably best suited for end-of-year high school slideshows. The musician is free. Also, I was not terribly satisfied with much of the footage I recorded initially. It took quite a bit of work to tell this story.
Mount Kearsarge (South) in Winter:
This video was fun to make because I had the company of my wife Allison! She did some recording of me and I could also record her. The addition of people--including an anonymous fellow traveler--gives the video more motion to carry the story. Also, while Watatic is important to me, one could argue that Kearsarge has more general importance. There were a lot of human (historical and artistic) resources for this video, which helped. The view from Kearsarge is also one of the best in New England.
By the time I got to this video I felt I had hit a wall technically. The music needed to be updated. You will hear some of these same cuts in every video as we go back in time. Why bother with music? It helps to move the story along. There are walks-and-talks that need a little something sometimes. There are moments when the view is the story and some framing is necessary. That said, it went together fairly quickly, which was nice.
Tecumseh in Winter
This was a fun one. I recorded it just a couple days before the Kearsarge hike so many of the points in that video are relevant here. I had a friend with me--Andy Linscott--and we knocked out one of our favorite 4,000 footers. Here we had the challenge of too many people, which made recording awkward at times. For some reason editing was a BEAST. You will note a couple spots where the sound gets clipped a bit. I will say that after this video I tried to develop a method for layering the various elements together; completing one layer before starting the next. The system is imperfect but having one was probably the adjustment that made the Kearsarge and Watatic edits go more smoothly.
Finally, this marks--I think--the ideal length for one of these videos. Keeping it Between 8 and 9 minutes tells the story before tedium sets in. I feel this way about sermons, too. However, it seems easier to stay tight when you have another hiker with you. My solo climbs are all a bit longer.
Poet's Seat, Deerfield, MA
I had the most fun making this video. It is different from the others in that the hike, itself is relatively unremarkable. Instead I spent time talking about the poet Frederick Tuckerman. He is relevant to the walk. Things don't always work out that way so I took advantage of the opportunity You will note there is no music in this. My one assignment from my son was to record voice overs instead of leaving long stretches of relatively silent (or scored) walking. Thankfully Tuckerman had enough poems to fill things in.
Also, this was the first time I used a tripod mount for my phone. This enabled me to film myself sitting and walking. It feels ridiculous while you are doing it. However, it does help to give motion to the narrative. This is a worthwhile practice...if you can avoid other people.
Starting Seeds and Hiking High Ledges
Before these videos--and you are welcome to look--my channel was mostly either panoramic views of mountains I climbed, sermons I wanted to share, or music from our various music ministries. I think one can also find some of the earliest pandemic worship services hosted here before we got the church youtube page updated. That was fun too. The services were even necessary. I do feel, though, that the two videos below mark the beginning of something new.
Like the pandemic worship videos, they are self-contained and internally consistent. The goal is not to record something and say "look what is going on out there." Instead they say "look what is happening right here." That is an important distinction between, say, an edited youtube worship video and a recording of a live-streamed worship video. The first has an immediacy. The second is a document of something that happened in the past. With these nature vids I am looking for immediacy. They differ from the pandemic material in that while they may be spiritual or even worshipful in some ways, they are not beholden to the traditional ideas behind those concepts. They are meant to have their own patterns and pacing because both the media and the context are different.
I am putting these two together because they show some of the same challenges. They are both too long, The planting video in particular drags in the middle and is saved by my cat. There are too many musical interludes in the hiking video and there is a sort of "reflection" bit that goes on too long at the end of both of them. I think that somewhere in my subconscious was the form of a traditional worship service. I wanted a "sermon" of some kind.
Still, I like them. They are watchable and they represent an effort to do something creative and new.
The struggle in all this video-making is the same struggle any artistic act has. I try--as in preaching--to ask myself how I am inviting others to inhabit this world I am presenting. After all, true inhabitation of life is part of the goal of a good sabbath. Putting yourself out as a religious or spiritual professional means building those bridges so that people may cross to that "place" (an emotion, idea, action, or actual place, for example) that we would like them to journey to and dialogue with.
The goal is not to impress others with your accomplishments or enlightenment, but to reach out to where they are and welcome them on the journey. It isn't what I see but what you see that is important. I am just pointing out good places or moments to begin.
This change in media has helped with this process of mindful composition. I hope to do more when I can. That said, I am back at work. Palm Sunday and Holy Week are on the horizon. These are steeped in tradition. It may be a while before the next great explore...
Hiked On 3/1/23
Anyone who has spent time in the Pioneer Valley in New England has seen the proliferation of long ridges that spring up from the otherwise relatively flat landscape. Most of these are good hiking. Over a week ago I was in a car traveling north and noticed a particular ridge that looked promising. Further examination revealed that it is the location of the "Poet's Seat" a castle-folly and the monument to the relatively forgotten 19th Century Romantic poet Frederick Goddard Tuckerman. A few days later--on an appropriately romantic and rainy day--I went out to walk and explore.
It really was snowing and raining for most of the time. However, the gray moodiness for this hike worked well. The trail along the long ridge undulated and the the snow shifted slightly under my feet. The rain and mist rising up from the warming snow was atmospheric, creating the sort of atmosphere that must have inspired a writer like Tuckerman. He preferred to keep to himself, after all. In 1860 when he published his first and only book--perhaps unimaginatively named "Poems"--he received a confused response. Many of his friends and acquaintances among the New England Literati didn't actually know he was a serious writer before their complimentary copies arrived. Tuckerman's book was only a mild commercial success. The response from his transcendentalist and romantic friends like RW Emerson, Jones Very and the Longfellows indicated that he had potential. However, only Nathaniel Hawthorn seems to have actually enjoyed it entirely.
That said, most saw moments of brilliance, particularly in his collection of sonnets. They praised his close observation of nature. Later he would be described as a writer of herbariums. His focus on the minutia of the natural world could--when his writing was on point--create an immersive effect prized by readers of the day. His description of beans--in a poem ostensibly about coffee but really a story about some local characters--is typical of that work;
"The bean, the garden bean I sing--
Lima, mazagan, late and early
Bush, butter, black eye, pole and string
Esculent, annual, planted yearly"
He was also known to make up place names and allude to people he invented as if they were from the Bible or ancient literature. The dude could create a world, which is something that--as a gamer and reader of speculative fiction--is something I can get behind.
That said, not all was happy in his life. Most of his poetry is dark. His later poems--after the death of his wife--are even more gloomy. As a young man he retreated out to Deerfield to be away from society and from the many connections cultivated by his family. He was the brother of a famous botanist, Edward Tuckerman, and a composer, Samuel Tuckerman. Henry Tuckerman--another writer--was his cousin. Far from Boston, apparently, he could be his romantic self.
In the early 20th Century, Tuckerman was rediscovered...or...in some ways discovered for the first time. But the discovery was brief. At least it got him a monument, right? Now you can find his work in some anthologies of poets from the era. However, the easiest way to read him is to get his one book for your e-reader. After all, it is free online.
There is more about Tuckerman and about the hike in the video below. Also, I turned it into a podcast
Hiked on February 14, 2023
This was a spontaneous hike. Thursday's weather looked hideous as usual and I wanted to see the sun! I decided, therefore, to hit Route 2 and head over to the High Ledges Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary on a Tuesday to catch the view. I had been saving it for a perfect day...and this was pretty close. The loop I chose was around 5 miles and featured an undulating landscape with a small mountain, a fire tower, a valley, and some hills. The snow was fairly compact to start and then it got loose as the air warmed it up. This made footing a bit of a challenge...and I brought out the micro spikes.
I could use the workout though. There has been quite a bit going on. The church is wrestling with some big questions. Finally, I have a few weeks of sabbatical starting soon. I will give thought to the church's questions then and add in a few of my own....
Lately I have been thinking about life-changing moments. Specifically those times when we make a decision to leap into the abyss and become a miniature or occasional "knight of faith" in the old formula of Kierkegaard. There are times when our lives change because of something that happened to us. However, when we are able to exercise of free will, our moments of decision change the trajectory of who we are, how we are perceived, and maybe who other people are around us.
These decisions aren't always drastic. This is a good thing. People can wait their whole lives and miss the turning points if they believe that our choices only come in large sizes. Sometimes we hardly notice them at the time. Either way we make them, don't we? They are the beats of our lives. Looking back they are the decisions we mark to say that life was different afterward...in some way large or small.
I remember deciding to become a minister at the foot of Doubletop Mountain in Maine when I was 19. It wasn't momentous at the time but there I was...and here I am. I just went for a walk in the evening and decided that--given my interests and my emerging skill set--the parish and I would be good for each other. My ministry outlived the campsite we stayed at. It seems to be a much bigger deal now.
A short time later I met my future wife at a meeting of college activists. In an uncharacteristic fit of optimism, I thought I would like to get to know her better. Turns out I didn't make much of an impression on her at the time...but here we are three decades later.
There are decisions that change our lives in smaller but still-lasting ways. I remember the first time I played the ukulele in the middle of a sermon. Everybody was surprised. These days--many music ministries later--it isn't a big deal anymore. The same can be said for Dungeons and Dragons Club and the "Snow Posse" (sidewalk shoveling) youth group events that grew into something for a few years then seemingly faded away. Those youth are grown up now and some keep in touch. I am always pathetically happy to see them when I can. Two of the gamers now help me teach their parents in "adult" D&D. Maybe it didn't fade after all.
Each of these decisions and many others started small and even commonplace. What grew out of them was a life. I feel like there will be a few more decisions like that soon. Maybe I will make them. Maybe someone else will. Right now with the church it feels like many, many big decisions are coming down the line. However, it will be the small ones that lead to another and another that will determine our future.
I say all this now because hikes like this are a series of small decisions. This week on a Tuesday I decided to get up and get going. I decided where to go. There were all kinds of micro decisions that helped me to focus on the day. How would I get there? Would I do both the out-and-back to the tower or just the ledges themselves? Was this a good use of my time? How would I deal with the vagaries of weather?
Also, on this trip, I decided to do some more extensive filming. It has been a while. Many of you are aware of my interest in 21st century communication. This weblog is part of that. My podcasts are as well. For a long time I was into making youtube videos of sermons, church news, meditations, music and--during the plague--entire worship services. Sometimes this meant collaboration. At other times I worked on them by myself. I got into it through a series of small decisions that brought me joy. A series of small decisions may bring me back...or maybe they come to nothing. It is too early to tell.
If we use the model of "Sabbath Walks" that I write and talk about here and elsewhere, all of these endeavors--these choices made and sometime pursued--fall into the category or "frame" of dialogue or creativity. On this hike, for example, the choice to film meant stopping and starting; recording sections of trail, talking to the camera while imagining future viewers, editing after getting home while re-living the excursion, and improvising a soundtrack. I had to make decisions about equipment. If I keep doing this there will be more decisions to make as some things may need replacing.
There are many little steps. After all to even get to the point of recording there was research. There were skills that could use some improvement through repetition. That said, I am learning. While this decision may not lead to anything more, it just might...probably in surprising ways. After all, nobody thought the skills I learned from my "hobby" would help hold online worship together during the early months of Covid. Ultimately we found somebody more skilled. Of course, nobody thought that the skilled person we found would be a beloved former member of the D&D Club and the Snow Posse who had moved away. Decisions keep on rippling out, don't they?
Anyway, I have included the video. I think it is pretty good for a first attempt! I also started a Sabbath Walks YouTube page that you can subscribe to to get notifications. Just click on the video above and hit "subscribe." I may decide make more of these moving pictures. We shall see. Both I and the church are looking for ways to communicate. Perhaps this is the way.
Here is to your decisions and dialogues. I hope you have found something to bring the sabbath "walk" to life regardless of what it is or how you go about it. Many blessings on your travels until next time. I will see you out on the trail.
The glory of the mountains is color. A great many people think that they see all that there is to be seen of the White Hills in one visit...but what if you could go into a gallery where the various sculpture took different attitudes every day? ...Would one season be sufficient to drain the interest of it? Thus the mountains are ever changing. They are never two days the same. --Thomas Starr King
Hiked On October 12, 2022
Many years ago my mother-in-law came across a Walter Launt Palmer painting in a thrift shop in New Jersey. That painting eventually got her an appearance on the Antiques Roadshow. Back then this name was new to me. Palmer worked mostly in New Hampshire in the White Mountains and his work was heavily influenced by the Hudson River school that began about a generation earlier. Since that time I have seen his work in many American museums. I remember, too, an exhibit of "New Hampshire school" painting at Fruitlands where the emphasis was on the use of light, how it falls, and how it changes a scene. Light and color are both evident in his work. Somehow his paintings seem both over-the-top and true-to-life at the same time. He creates spaces the viewer can recognize and inhabit, while also understanding that the perfection of these works makes them somewhat other-worldly.
It turns out Palmer is a big deal. Looking at his paintings--easily available for viewing online--you can experience some of the dynamism of the natural world. They draw us in. They compel us with their familiarity. We inhabit the scene because it is magical, too.
The appearance of our lived landscapes alters with the season and the time of day. We experience this in all its glory when we leave our homes to journey farther into the wild. However, we are familiar with it from our own more mundane lives as well. Looking at the trees outside my window I can see them cycle through the seasons; from brown, to green, to yellow and red, then back to brown. When it rains they look different from when they are in the sun or the snow. We are used to this phenomenon. Still, for most people it remains fascinating.
The Universalist and Unitarian minister, Thomas Starr King also saw this aspect of light and color. He is most associated these days with California, where he ministered and where a seminary is named in his honor. However, Starr King was a New Yorker and a New Englander before that. In fact, he wrote a book in the 19th Century style about what he called the "White Hills." Now one of those "hills" is named after him and resides on the 52 With-a-View List. The quote at the top of this post refers to something that many people who visit regularly have observed. The light changes constantly. So, too, does the color...and not just in the fall.
The mountains "are never two days the same." This is why we go out into the natural world more than once a year. When we return to the same place at a different time, we are reminded that this thing called life is dynamic and ever-moving. We are all these things as well.
I climbed up Hedgehog on my own about 30 seconds after peak foliage. The weekend before--when we did the Carter Loop in the snow--was the busiest the Whites had ever been...or, at least, had been since the previous Indigenous People's Day weekend. Our drive home after that hike was a bit of a nightmare, actually. As I mentioned in my previous post, most peaks were crawling with people.
This past week it was still crowded. However--just as with the Carters--one can find hikes where the more casual tourist doesn't go. They are looking for either the easy view or the famous mountain. I don't really blame them and have done so occasionally myself. Driving down the Kancamagus Highway on my way to the trailhead for Hedgehog, I saw overflow parking--cars along the road--at all the major trails and viewpoints. Random pedestrians popped out into my path to get a better angle on pictures of the Saco River and God knows what else. It was a bit chaotic even for the tail end of foliage season.
Since I was in New Hampshire for a few days this time, I had planned at least a couple of more obscure hikes. This was the first of them. Pulling in the trailhead parking there was only one other car. The little mountain was pretty much neglected in favor of the more famous ones. That, of course, was my gain.
After a quick conference with the couple in the car next to me, we chose different routes. My new acquaintances had a steeper climb straight to the peak. I decided to go counter-clockwise. I wanted to start with a clear view from a series of ledges over the Oliverian Brook valley toward Chocorua, Paugus, and then--most strikingly--to Passaconaway only two miles away. Passaconaway is a massive mountain I would rather look at than climb a second time. I knew that the direction I was going would put it front-and-center as I walked along.
The early ledges were pretty much all that I expected them to be. Colorful hardwoods crawled up the slopes from their lower vantage point, attempting, maybe, to pull the dark, massive, pines back down toward them. I had to concentrate a bit on the early ledges that ended abruptly in a steep drop toward the valley floor, but that was not too much of a challenge. Also, having to focus on the ground gave me the opportunity to look at some of the reddish alpine communities growing in the cracks and crevices near my feet.
Eventually those ledges ended, followed by a dip and then a steep climb toward the top. Somewhere before that final climb, I encountered the couple from the parking lot who told me that we no longer had the place to ourselves. Still, I only saw a few more groups over the course of the day. Some encounters were welcome. Resting at the peak, in fact, I had a conversation with a young person from Germany. She had rented a van and was spending a month or so hiking on the east coast. We got maps out, identified some peaks, and compared notes on our respective future and past hikes.
She was also concerned about some older folks she had passed on her way up. They were moving quite slow to her mind. As a somewhat older person myself who is known to hike slowly, I told her I would check on them. They were fine. They had chosen to move steadily toward the seat we had recently vacated, careful to monitor their progress and their condition. This wasn't their first rodeo. They knew what they wanted from the climb. One can accomplish a great deal with an awareness of one's own strengths and limitations. The people I worry about are more confident--or overconfident--ignorant, and ill-prepared.
After the peak I started down. With a little gas left in my metaphorical tank, I decided to take the diversion out to Allen's Ledge. Here, again, I could look over the Oliverian Brook valley. These ledges were off the main trail. There was no one else around. I spent about 40 minutes admiring the silence and the colorful display. It was easy to imagine being up there in other seasons. Probably winter, in particular, would be delightful on the ledges here. Maybe I will go see it then.
The change of seasons that we witness in this way--just by looking out our windows every month or week of the year--can reflect our own personal seasons. Spring and fall have their easy, spectacular demonstrations of life and death. However, we also live through the pulsating heat and drought of summer. We survive the freezing cold of our winters. It is important to understand that there is beauty in times of desperate survival as well. Otherwise we will not get through the journey as well, will we?
The next day--after a climb of Mount Israel that will be the subject of another post--I hiked along the Oliverian Brook. I was curious what the space between the mountains looked like from below the ledges. While I was there, the ferocious rain stripped many of the trees clean. The leaves gathered in muddy puddles along the trail, becoming soil in real time. Peak foliage is over for another year, but this new landscape had its own beauty to observe.
I sat under the roots of an old tree along the brook and watched the current, the rain, and this year's bright color turn to the browns and grays that the snow will later outline like a Palmer painting. The cycle of life continues. Creation never ceases. We are blessed to participate and witness.
And one final video. This one is not about peak color--quite the opposite--but I did do a longer video about Hedgehog...
I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.