I am in the process of catching people up with some early hikes and other encounters with nature that I thought people might find interesting as part of a "How It Began" (HIB) series. Mostly this will describe specific hikes and perhaps some lessons learned along the way...if there are any. They are meant to be short and, perhaps helpful in some way to other hikers or fellow-travelers. I will post the dates of when I hiked a specific mountain since the ones in this series are NOT posted at or near the date I actually hiked them.
DECEMBER 14, 2021
Sometimes there are good things on even the least promising of days. This was a busy day for me. Holiday prep was in full swing. We had family things and church business going on. My post-surgery back had taken a turn in the wrong direction. There were other tragedies--not my story to share and therefore not discussed here--that occurred even as we took this walk. It is hard sometimes to separate all that from the trip up to Mount Tom by way of the Mount Tom Ledges, but I will. Somehow in the midst of all of the mess of life, this hike stands out as one of the best.
Now, some of you may recall that the name "Mt. Tom" has already come up in my post about the Tom, Field, Willey, Avalon post about a loop over three 4,000 footers and one slightly shorter (and super-gorgeous) mountain in New Hampshire. This is not the same Mountain. Apparently "Tom" is an evocative name when it comes to these sorts of things. This hike occurs back in the Pioneer Valley, my old friend. It is yet another rocky ridge surrounded by flat plains enabling stunning views wherever the trees part, or are low enough. This hike was about seven miles out and back and featured around 1,200 feet of elevation.
I really did not feel well. I was tired and distracted by a million things. We almost stopped at the first overlook (which was fabulous) but then--after a quick rest--we continued forward at first tentatively, then with purpose. I had to stop occasionally to answer emails and check messages which is something I never do on the trail. This really was a different time, though, so I made a couple exceptions. However, perhaps the chaos outside the moment made the time on the ledges that more special.
After that first overlook the landscape became rocky and rolling with constantly changing views into the farmland below. We covered a couple of smaller peaks and then moved along toward Mount Tom, itself. One of the big differences in hiking in Massachusetts is that there is much more evidence of humanity. With each view we could see houses and sometimes whole towns stretched out below us. We also passed cell towers, power lines, and windmills. There were decaying and somewhat-unidentifiable pieces of metal and glass sticking out from the bushes. There were service roads as well. Finally, on the very top of Tom there were a few industrial-looking buildings obviously there to maintain the radio towers that dominate the peak.
Also on the peak was a massive metal and wood star with Christmas lights on it. It turns out that this star is a local tradition in Easthampton. I love Christmas lights. Somehow all this evidence of humanity worked. There wasn't any "litter" to speak of and I loved the industrial elements. They seemed to go with the gray and hardy rock that was everywhere. Yes there was evidence of people communicating, celebrating, and making the mountain a centerpiece of their lives. That--at least on this hike--made all the sense in the world.
After a while we turned back around and experienced all the views again. I am tempted to hike this in every season eventually. I can only imagine that it has plenty more to give.
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.