Archive for the 'Blog Post' Category

Jan 17 2020

Profile Image of Walt

Frigid Walk

Filed under Blog Post

When the temperature outside got up to zero this morning, I put on my thermals and other warm clothes then went for a walk. Nothing special, just the local loop. A couple miles. Just enough to stretch my legs and get some fresh air.

The sun shined brightly through an azure sky. The naked trees cast blue shadows over snow that had fallen the day before. I cut fresh tracks through the woods, then walked the road as an occasional car passed. No one else was stirring otherwise, neither man nor beast.

My eyeglasses frosted over as I walked making it difficult to see. When a gentle breeze kicked up, it stung my exposed cheeks. I usually scoff at wind chill, but not today. Yeah, any kind of air movement when the temperature is zero degrees Fahrenheit gets my attention.

I crept along slowly, unwisely having left my crampons at home. I had expected the road to be clear. Slipped and fell once, causing more embarrassment than injury. Like it wasn’t silly enough for me to be out walking on a day like this.

Ah, but stepping back inside after a frigid walk was a true delight! And I’ll enjoy being indoors the rest of the day as a result. Sometimes a little exposure to the elements is just the thing to make one appreciate the comforts of home.

Comments Off on Frigid Walk

Jan 07 2020

Profile Image of Walt

Solitary Ascent

Filed under Blog Post

I strap on crampons at the trailhead then set forth on the Long Trail, north to Prospect Rock. In my office there’s a plaque that says: “The mountains are calling and I must go.” I felt that urge while working this morning, so here I am this afternoon.

A light snow is falling, obscuring the tracks of hikers passing this way on previous days. It also clings to tree trunks and weighs down the boughs of surrounding conifers. Beautiful to behold.

Layered in synthetics and wools, I sweat during the ascent despite the winter chill. White blazes show the way. I have a headlamp, a compass, and a few other essential items in my pockets just in case I get turned around. It isn’t smart for a sixty-something like me to be hiking alone in January, but sometimes a woods walk is a much-needed meditation. I leave behind the world’s troubles, left only with a creeping sense of my own mortality.

My thighs burn as the trail steepens. An easy hike in the summer, the six inches of snow underfoot make this climb a little harder. No matter. The forest silence makes it all worthwhile.

Near the top, a couple signs tell hikers to stay away March 15 to August 1st because peregrine falcons nest in the cliffs here. I wonder why there isn’t another sign at the trailhead. I trudge past the signs, reaching the summit lookout just as a squall partially obscures the view.

I linger at the lookout long enough to catch my breath, then head back down the trail. Good thing I’m wearing crampons. The icy crust beneath the newly fallen snow makes the descent a bit dicey. But the wintry woods aren’t nearly as dangerous as the slick road back home. And nothing is as dangerous as ignoring the soul-crushing effects of modern living – electronics, consumerism, bureaucracy, and all that. Glad I ventured out.

Comments Off on Solitary Ascent

Dec 21 2019

Profile Image of Walt

Winter Solstice Hike

Filed under Blog Post

Midmorning. With temps still in the single digits, I strap crampons onto my boots and head into the woods. Just a short hike today – enough to celebrate the shortest day of the year. Today is the Winter Solstice. That means the days will only be getting longer during the next six months. That’s music to my ears.

Technically, this is the beginning of winter, but it has been winter-like here in northern Vermont for well over a month. And it’ll stay that way for another three months. I can’t complain though. I do my best writing this time of year. If I lived in a place that’s warm year round, my literary output would be cut in half.

I tramp a well-beaten path up Aldis Hill. I like this pocket of woods because it’s close by, albeit right on the edge of town. On a cold morning like this, I have the place to myself for the most part. A few people and their dogs are out, that’s all.

A hairy woodpecker pecks away at a dead tree, but no other forest creatures are stirring. No tracks in the snow, either. Whenever it’s this cold, there’s not a whole lot happening in the woods.

I walk with memories flooding into my head – what has happened during the past year as well as those who are no longer with us. Bittersweet thoughts for the most part. I’ve become rather sentimental in my later years. But 2020 is right around the corner, so memories morph into hopes, dreams and big plans for the year ahead.

The hike goes by quickly. Then I head home to attend to my book biz. There’s a cup of hot chocolate in my future, I think. That and a long winter nap.

Comments Off on Winter Solstice Hike

Dec 11 2019

Profile Image of Walt

Long Walk on a Short Day

Filed under Blog Post

The snow that had blanketed northern Vermont since early November melted off during the past few days. That gave me a chance to get out and really stretch my legs this afternoon, before it snowed again. So I did just that, heading for the wilder section of the nearby Rail Trail to hike hard and fast across barren ground.

Mid-afternoon and already the trees casting long shadows. The days are short this time of year. No matter. The nearly cloudless, deep blue sky lured me out of my warm car and into the seasonably cool air.

I became a little melancholy yesterday, while listening to holiday music during a book-hunting road trip. My mother loved Christmas so I couldn’t help but think of her, and my father as well. They’re both gone now, along with my canine companion Matika who walked the Rail Trail with me countless times during the past twelve years. But there’s a time to grieve and a time to get on with life. This afternoon, I chose the latter.

There was still ice in the wetlands this afternoon, and patches of snow lingered beneath the trees. It won’t take much for winter to reclaim this landscape, but for an hour I walked with a warm-season gait, leaving faint tracks in the partially melted surface of the trail. I crossed paths with a chipmunk that was also taking advantage of the day. This time of year, it’s wise to get out while one can.

Back home now, I’ll soon return to the work I was doing this morning. But first these words jotted down while savoring the last bit of daylight. The sun is sinking fast into the western horizon. Less than nine hours of light today. The Winter Solstice approaches. Glad I got out and soaked up some rays while I could.

Comments Off on Long Walk on a Short Day

Nov 27 2019

Profile Image of Walt

A Few Thoughts Concerning Climate Change

Filed under Blog Post

For decades I have consciously avoided giving my opinion about climate change, not wanting to undercut the fundamental belief of climate change activists everywhere. That belief goes something like this: we must radically reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that we kick into the atmosphere, as soon as possible, to avoid a global warming catastrophe.

Unlike climate change deniers, who have their heads in the sand, I don’t shy away from the overwhelming amount of scientific facts that point to climate change, or the climatological realities on this planet during the past 4 billion years. I simply believe that it is already too late to avoid global warming, that it was too late when we first became aware of the problem in the middle of the last century. After all, industrialization has been underway for hundreds of years. All we can really do now is damage control, and it may be a while longer before we even get serious about that.

The last thing I want is to be called is a prophet of doom. That’s why I avoid writing or talking about climate change as a general rule. But a recent article in BBC News paints a picture of the near future that is as bad if not worse than anything I can imagine. The amount of greenhouse gases we are kicking into the atmosphere is increasing, from year to year. And 15 of the top 20 richest, most industrialized nations don’t even have a net zero target. Add to this the harsh reality that the two biggest polluters, China and the USA, are effectively doing nothing, and it’s a fine stew indeed.

The problem, in a nutshell, is human nature. There are 7.7 billion of us on this planet – a number that keeps going up – and we all want the finer things in life, such as automobiles. Some of us have these finer things, others are just now getting them, and still others are waiting to get them.

There exists the technology now for us to manufacture and operate these finer things while making a much smaller impact on the planet, but the costs will go up if/when we go that route and we don’t like that. More to the point, retooling not just one industry but all of them, in addition to completely changing our infrastructure, well, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. The fact that humankind is subdivided into 200 nations and countless religions, ideologies and other opposing worldviews doesn’t help matters either. It would take cooperation and commitment on a scale never before seen in human history to pull off even a modest reduction in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. A tall order, indeed.

One could argue that the problem began with agriculture practiced on a large scale at the beginning of civilization 10,000 years ago. That’s what enabled our population to grow. A little Malthusian math makes it clear that we can’t keep having babies and growing more food for them indefinitely. Forget the finer things in life. How are we going to feed everyone without having a major impact on the planet? But that’s a longterm problem, isn’t it? Maybe not. Climate change could make it difficult to grow food. Food will be a lot more expensive in the near future, to say the least.

“Bleak” is the word used by the authors of the latest UN report on carbon emissions, so don’t call me a prophet of doom. I’d love to be proven wrong in my assessment of human nature. In fact, there’s nothing I’d like more than to see all of humankind come together to tackle the problem while our efforts can make any difference at all. But I’m not holding my breath. We still have climate change deniers to contend with, not to mention determining whose fault all this is. Yeah, once the deniers are gone, then we’ll get serious about playing the blame game. That is, after all, how humankind goes about things.

Comments Off on A Few Thoughts Concerning Climate Change

Nov 18 2019

Profile Image of Walt

Early Winter Hike

Filed under Blog Post

Last week a big storm dumped 8 inches of snow on northern Vermont, and temps haven’t warmed up enough since then to melt it off. Not unusual for this time of year, but it caught me off guard all the same. I still haven’t put winter tires on my car.

Snow or no, I had to get into a pocket of woods and stretch my legs yesterday. Too much time staring at a computer screen makes me cranky. So I grabbed my boots, pulled the a set of crampons called Microspikes out of my closet, and headed for Niquette Bay State Park. I went into Burlington to meet a friend for breakfast, actually, and stopped by the park on the way home.

By the time I reached Niquette Bay, it was late morning and temps had already reached into the twenties. The sun was shining brightly, as well. Without a doubt, it was going to be a pleasant walk.

I pulled the Microspikes over my boots and voila! Excellent traction despite packed snow and ice. I hiked along the trail effortlessly and shot up the icy ledges as if walking across bare ground. The air was crisp and clean, and the climb just rigorous enough to get my blood up. Descending the ledges on the other side, I came upon three people struggling on all fours to negotiate the treacherous, icy slope. Their crampons were still in storage.

Upon reaching the beach, I was surprised to see nothing but open water in the bay. The lake hasn’t even begun to freeze over yet. Then again it’s only November. A few ducks floated close to shore. Why are they still here? Evidently, they haven’t received the memo yet: winter has arrived.

I could have kept going, but a couple miles was enough. I looped back on a shorter trail and reached the parking lot about fifteen minutes later. I’m not a big fan of winter but crampons sure make it a lot more tolerable. With them I can stretch my legs just about any time the snow isn’t deep enough for snowshoes. So I think I’ll keep them in my car until spring.

One response so far

Nov 08 2019

Profile Image of Walt

Walking the Shoreline

Filed under Blog Post

Taking advantage of a two-day, off-season special at a hotel appropriately called The Seaside, Judy and I escaped the leafless landscape of Vermont for the late-season foliage and slightly warmer temps of the Maine coast. As far as Judy is concerned, it’s all about the water, of course – her passion for the ocean matching mine for wild forests.

We arrived on the coast in a driving rain at dusk so we simply went out to dinner then settled into our hotel room for the night. But we stepped out on the beach first thing in the morning, before breakfast. By then the rain had passed, leaving the rising sun all by itself in a calm, clear blue sky. Light jackets were all we needed to keep the early morning chill at bay. We walked the length of Kennebunk Beach, taking in the sight and sound of waves breaking gently to shore, between encounters with a few dogs and their owners. We collected pieces of sea glass as we meandered along, deeply inhaled the salty air, and basked in the negative ions emitted by the sea.

During the middle of the day we did a lot of nothing – window shopping, a nap, another meal, a little cafe sitting. When the sun sunk towards the western horizon, we went back out to walk the shoreline again, enjoying the play of light over water, rock and sand, happy enough to keep things simple.

The next morning we went out for one last oceanside walk before checking out of the hotel and driving back to Vermont. With temps in the 30s, we were bundled up. Still ours was a pleasant, late autumn stroll along the beach. What a shock it was, then, to return home later that evening and find two inches of snow on the ground. From one season to another in the same day. Good thing we got away when we did.

One response so far

Oct 30 2019

Profile Image of Walt

The Long Shadows of Autumn

Filed under Blog Post

With the sun shining brightly and temps approaching 60 degrees, I decided it was time for a walk in the woods. Now that she’s retired and her time is her own, Judy asked if I’d mind her coming along. I told her I certainly wouldn’t mind. In fact, I was thinking to going to the Saint Albans Town Forest, which would be a perfect fall walk for us to do together. After all, it’s short, easy and she hadn’t been there before.

We reached the trailhead early in the afternoon, after Judy had done some work on the end-of-life doula class she was teaching, and after I had done a round of writing and a little work on my book biz. With all that out of the way, we both felt free to take our time. So that’s what we did, meandering along the trail, stopping frequently and hardly breaking a sweat. “Forest bathing” Judy called it in reference to the recent fad. We both found that humorous. We’ve been grooving on nature for decades, long before it became the therapeutic thing to do.

We kicked up a lot of leaves as we walked, now that most of them are on the ground. Evergreen wood ferns, moss and a copse of hemlocks still shouted their greenness into the world, but most of the forest around us was gold, burnt orange and various shades of brown and grey. It’s that time of year, after all – a time when hunters are ready to chase down deer, geese are heading south, and the days are noticeably shorter.

There is something both beautiful and melancholy about the long shadows of autumn on a pleasant afternoon in the forest. The earthy smell of drying leaves is intoxicating, and their color is still dazzling when the light catches them just right, even this late in the season. That said, we all know what comes next. For those of us living this far north who love to watch things grow, that means waiting another four or five months for the growing to begin all over again. Yet the cycle itself – this endless parade of seasons – speaks volumes about the passage of time and our place in it, doesn’t it? That too is beautiful.

One response so far

Oct 15 2019

Profile Image of Walt

When the Foliage Peaks

Filed under Blog Post

The setting sun illuminates the treetops and suddenly the sugar maples in my backyard are a fiery orange. If I were looking at a picture of these woods, I’d assume it had been photo-shopped. But I’m seeing this with my own eyes.

It’s a hallucination of color – the kind of thing that folks in the big cities to the south drive hundreds of miles to see. I just happened to step outside at just the right moment in the day, in the middle of the foliage season here in northern Vermont. We’re getting towards the end of the season, actually. The trees here in the Champlain Valley are the last to turn, a week or so after the foliage peaks in the higher elevations. That’s one of the things about fall color that makes it so elusive. It happens at different times in different places. Chasing it can drive a person crazy.

But here I am, standing in my backyard, still coughing after a week in bed with the flu, thinking that I’d missed my chance to get out and really enjoy the color. Here I am surrounded by peak foliage that’s completely illuminated. It’s a lucky break to be sure. And one that brightens my outlook while I am sandwiched between sickness and grief after the recent loss of both of my parents.

I have stepped into the light. Once again I am reminded how beautiful the natural world is, how absolutely phenomenal its most commonplace occurrences can be. It is good to be alive.

Comments Off on When the Foliage Peaks

Oct 03 2019

Profile Image of Walt

Life Goes On

Filed under Blog Post


Today I went for a walk for the first time since returning home from Ohio. I went back to Ohio to help my sister move my suddenly incapacitated, 90-year-old father into a nursing home. He died before that happened.

I went for a walk right after doing a round of writing and a little work on my book biz. I’m back into my routine now – writing, publishing, bookselling, and occasionally going for a long walk or day hike. Back into the daily routine, as if being there in the hospital room the moment my father died ten days ago was nothing out of the ordinary. The hard truth of the matter is this: life goes on.

I walked through local woods where the trees are just now turning. The autumnal season is well underway. There are splashes of gold and orange in the trees, fiery red sumac, purple asters in full bloom, a touch of rust and brown here and there, yet still plenty of green. Cool temps beneath an overcast sky. The high-pitched trill of crickets. I passed the nearby quarry where a couple dozen Canada geese have landed. One of them honked alarm at my approach. Soon they will continue their long journey south for the winter as they do every year. Life goes on.

The world keeps spinning and nature goes about its business despite the loss we experience at any given time. Nature is eternal. Individual life forms come and go, yet nature lives on. It’s a very simple truth really. But there are times, like now, when I find that hard to grasp, and even harder to accept.

My father lived a long, full life. He was independent and ambulatory up until the very end. I should be so lucky, the dementia he suffered notwithstanding. We weren’t that close in later years. That much said, I will still miss him, as I do my mother and my dog Matika who also died this year. It’s a lot of loss to deal with all at once, but I’m getting back to my affairs now, as all living things do. I grieve but I’m still alive and well. The seasons change, nature persists, and I will roll with it until my last day comes.

Comments Off on Life Goes On

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »