Archive for February, 2021

Feb 24 2021

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Cutting Tracks in Deep Snow

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Late winter. I tramp the hard-packed trail leading into Honey Hollow wearing crampons until they clog up with snow. Then I take them off. Easier walking without them. With temps above freezing, it’s a pleasant hike in shirtsleeves and thermals. The sun peeks through the clouds as I pass the gorge.

Upon reaching a gate blocking the side trail, I affix snowshoes to my boots. From this point forward, the hike gets harder. I follow the snowshoe tracks of someone else who came this way a week or two ago – after the last big snowstorm. This takes some doing but it’s easier than breaking trail.

The older tracks go beyond the apple tree clearing. They turn around shortly after crossing a feeder stream tumbling down to Preston Brook. Then I’m on my own, cutting tracks in two feet of undisturbed snow. I work up a sweat in no time. I stop frequently to catch my breath. While doing so, I catch glimpses of open leads of water in the brook fifty yards to my left. That gets me thinking spring isn’t too far away.

It takes the better part of an hour to break half a mile of trail. Then I reach the tree along the brook where I pressed a fishing fly into bark last summer. That makes me smile. Not too far beyond that tree, I tamp down a spot to rollout my foam pad. Then I sit down for a while. It’s a lovely day in the snow-covered mountains. I eat a handful of nuts and an energy bar, and drink nearly a liter of water while listening to the deep forest quiet. The brook murmurs beneath the snowpack.

After lunch I retrace my steps, improving the trail I’ve cut. I had intended to do a loop, but backtracking is a lot easier than cutting tracks. I stop frequently just to look around, grooving on the wild beauty of the Green Mountains in winter. So glad I came out for the day.

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Feb 17 2021

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Cohos Trail Book Now in Print

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For years I had wanted to venture north of the White Mountains, into what is sometimes called The Great North Woods. This finger of New Hampshire jutting into Quebec doesn’t look like much on a map, but it’s country as wild as northern Maine. So imagine my delight when I learned that a relatively new hiking route is being blazed there. It’s called the Cohos Trail.

A patchwork of old woods roads, ATM and snowmobile trails, and local trails all tied together by brand new links, the Cohos Trail is something else. Starting in the Whites, it soon ventures into a remote, sprawling forest where people are few and moose thrive. This trail system is so new that sections of it are still road walks. But in June of 2019, I hiked the wild heart of it. Then I wrote this book.

The Consolation of Wildness is more than just another backpacking narrative. A few months before doing this hike, my canine companion Matika died. Then my mother died. On top of that, my 63-year-old body gave me some unexpected trouble during the excursion. So this narrative is infused with meditations on mortality, death and dying. The confusing mix of emotions that I experienced, ranging from wild ecstasy to undiluted grief, was a real roller coaster ride. Consequently, this tale is different from anything I’ve written before.

This book is now for sale at the Wood Thrush Books website. You can also find it at Amazon.com, of course. If you read it, let me know what you think.

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