Archive for July, 2013

Jul 25 2013

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Walt, trail's endI stepped away from my desk this morning to go for a hike.  It wasn’t a long hike – just long enough to remember who/what I am.

The moment I slipped into the woods I felt a tremendous sense of relief, as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  It’s always this way.  I am a denizen of the forest, first and foremost. Not so much a trekker, naturalist or adventurer as a simple woods wanderer. I wander, then wonder, then sit down to write about it all.

The other day a newspaper writer asked me to send a photo of myself to to accompany a short news release about my new book. She wanted a shot of me backpacking through the woods – an action shot, I suppose, or something where I look the part. I sent her  a photo of me sitting against a rock at trail’s end, instead. Lost in thought and scribbling in my journal, with by my dog Matika by my side. Yeah, that’s who I am.

A big part of book promotion, or any kind of promotion for that matter, is branding the work and its creator. In our culture of media hype, this cannot be avoided. That said, it is important to remain true to oneself, otherwise one can quickly become lost. The forest keeps me oriented. I can’t imagine trying to make sense of the world without it.

My dog knows who I am. She was with me during that grueling hike across the 100 Mile Wilderness. She has been with me on countless excursions since then. If she could be my publicist and speak for me, I’d be all set.

My wife Judy also knows who I am. After all, she’s the one who took that photo of me at trail’s end. She caught me by surprise that day, before I struck an inauthentic and self-conscious pose. Spouses are good at that.



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Jul 17 2013

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Chilling Out

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greg walking brew rivMy brother Greg drove all the way from Ohio to visit Judy and me, and to reacquaint himself with Vermont. He lived here for several years so he knows well what this part of the country has to offer. Seeing waterfalls and mountains, and doing a little antique hunting were on his to do list, but when temperatures climbed into the 90s, a cool stream grew more appealing. We grabbed a picnic lunch and headed for one yesterday.

Judy had to work so she couldn’t go. My dog Matika had nothing on her calendar, though. She was happy to escape the hot, stuffy house for a day. As soon as we reached the Brewster River, I tossed a tennis ball in the water and she went after it with a vengeance. Matika’s not a big one for playing in the water, but she likes both playing ball and staying cool. I kept throwing the ball. She kept going in after it.

The Brewster River is more of a mountain stream than a river, actually. Its clear, cool water flows out of Smugglers Notch, making it a good place to be during a midsummer heat wave. The dozen cars in the parking lot convinced us that we weren’t the only ones who had figured this out. No matter. We hiked in flip-flops up the trail following the stream until we found a nice pool to call our own. We didn’t have to go far.

I gravitated to a small, sandy beach in the shade next to the pool. Greg went directly to the two-foot waterfall feeding the pool to groove on fast-moving water. We both got sufficiently wet then lounged on big flat rocks, completely chilled out. Yeah, this is the thing to do in Vermont on a hot summer day. Hard to beat. Leave the more sophisticated entertainments for another day.


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Jul 05 2013

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A Red Eft Day

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red eftYou know it’s a wetter-than-usual day when the red efts come out. They disappear when the forest is dry and seem to be everywhere after a good rain. On a particularly wet day, it is hard to keep from stepping on them. And that’s exactly the kind of day it was yesterday. 

Savage forest: hot, dripping wet, incredibly humid, and overgrown. Pools of water everywhere, and the trail underfoot nearly hidden by knee-high vegetation. Mosquitos in their glory. Not for the feint of heart – for those who think the good life is all about being comfortable all the time.

The savage forest brings out the savage within. Twenty minutes into it, I was bug-bitten, sweaty, wet from the waist down, and happy. A mood like this cannot be explained. One either recoils from savagery or embraces it. There are no half measures, not when the woods get like this.

Nature isn’t just pretty flowers, rare glimpses of wildlife, picture postcard waterfalls, and rainbows. Sometimes it has an edge. Sometimes it can be downright inhospitable. Yet there is something magnificent about its endless variations. I wouldn’t want it any other way. So let the mosquitoes and red efts have their day. I will wander the woods all the same.


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