Archive for June, 2014

Jun 22 2014

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Talking, Not Doing

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HPICYesterday I did something rather strange. I drove to a major trailhead in the Adirondacks to give a presentation at the High Peaks Information Center about hiking the Northville/Placid Trail. After the talk, I spent the night in a walled, canvas tent with my wife Judy and my dog Matika. Then I drove home this morning. Didn’t actually set foot on a trail.

Such is the life of an outdoor/nature writer out promoting his work. In this particular case, I was promoting my NPT hiking narrative, The Allure of Deep Woods. Since I was in the Adirondacks, it made sense to be talking about hiking in the Adirondacks. All the same, there’s a big difference between talking and doing.

I haven’t been feeling well lately. Just a little pain in the gut that will probably amount to nothing. Judy accompanied me just in case it developed into something serious.

Our campground neighbors were chatty last night. Temps dropped into the low 40s. Judy crawled out of bed this morning all disheveled, looking like she hadn’t slept well. But I didn’t fully appreciate her sacrifice until she emerged from the restroom a while later, carrying a toiletry bag with the phrase “J’aime Paris” written on it.

On the way home we stopped at a small park where I tossed the ball for the Matika. Judy sat on a rock for a while watching the Ausable River rush along beneath a mostly sunny sky. It was a compensation of sorts, certainly. On the second day of summer, neither one of us is inclined to complain. As for Matika, well, she goes with the flow no matter what.


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Jun 15 2014

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Bagging a Peak

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JayPeakViewEvery once in a while, I get the urge to climb a mountain. They aren’t hard to find in Vermont. One of my favorites is Jay Peak simply because it’s close to home. The trailhead for it is only an hour from my doorstep.

Jay Peak is also fairly easy as mountain climbs go. Only takes a couple hours to get up and down it. And there’s a great 360-degree view on top.

I set foot on the trail to Jay Peak a few days ago. Had my dog Matika with me, of course. She got up front right away and stayed there during most of the hike. I stopped several times along the way to catch my breath and admire wildflowers. Painted trillium was in abundance, and yellow clintonia was just coming out. I also found patches of Canada lily, false Solomon’s seal, and wild ginseng – all late spring wildflowers. Yeah, it’s that time of year in the mountains even though summer has already arrived in the Champlain Valley.

Jay Peak is the last mountain on the Long Trail headed north, just a few miles shy of the Canadian border. Every time I climb it, I recall my thru-hike along the LT back in the 90s. There are plenty of good views of the Green Mountains towards the top, with Mount Mansfield usually visible. Makes me realize how lucky I am to live in Vermont.

Since Jay Peak has ski trails on its eastern slope, there’s a lift going to the top of it. That killed any desire I might otherwise have had to linger on the summit. After consuming a granola bar and half a liter of water, I was ready to descend. I daydreamed all the way down – one of the nice things about hiking alone.

I felt rejuvenated when I got back to the car, having cleared the stinky thoughts from my head. Bagging peaks is good for that. And the rest of the day was gravy.


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Jun 07 2014

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By the Sea

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low tideFecund. That’s the word leaping to mind as I walk the Maine shoreline at low tide. At my feet lies the detritus of the ocean: shells mixed with seaweed, spread along the beach as far as the eye can see. Knotted wrack, barnacles and snails cling to every square inch of nearby rocks exposed by the retreating sea. In shallow tide pools I find more snails, hermit crabs, and so many smaller life forms that it seems the water itself is alive.

My wife Judy takes a wider view – her eyes locked on the distant horizon as the incessant, low roar of crashing waves washes her mind free of mundane thoughts. Impermanence is the word that leaps to her mind, and the shifting sands underfoot confirm it. All human constructs are like the sand castles built along the shore that the incoming tide dissolves.

A few days later, we board a 65-foot boat that takes us twenty miles off shore, to the feeding grounds of finback whales. For an afternoon we are sandwiched between low, gray clouds and sea swells. The edge of land grows fainter in the mist until it disappears altogether, unsettling a landlubber like me. When the captain kills the boat’s engine, all we can hear is water spraying upward from blowholes as those behemoths surface.  Their slick bodies shimmer in the dull light as they break skyward. Then they disappear beneath the waves. When finally we see one sucking in the ocean with its great mouth, we get a sense of what’s going on here.  “Lunchfeeding,” the captain calls it – tons of fish converting into tons of whale.

Back home, hundreds of miles inland, I return to my daily routine and the comfort of a green world that makes more sense to me. But for a few days I was reminded that we live on a water planet along with countless other life forms both great and small. The ocean is humbling, to say the least. I can’t grasp the sheer magnitude of it.


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