Tag Archive 'mountain stream'

Jun 26 2015

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A Little Time in Wildness

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CampMedI’m going gangbusters on the bookselling business these days, but earlier this week I put it aside long enough to spend a little time in the Broadleaf Wilderness. My dog Matika accompanied me, of course.

I hiked to a favorite spot along the headwaters of the New Haven River and set up camp. After casting my fly onto the roily waters of that stream, and a simple dinner of ramen noodles and summer sausage, I settled into a comfy spot in camp. There I pondered matters while drinking tea and feeding sticks into a small campfire.

Every once in a while, I jotted down something in my field journal. But mostly I just took in the sights, smells and sounds of the forest, and appreciated the great good fortune of being alive and well in such a beautiful green world.

It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of modern living. Happens to me all the time. But every once in a while, I head for the hills to reflect. Such outings rarely disappoint, and on occasion I come away from them with a little insight into the human condition. If nothing else, it clears my head.

I threw a few more sticks on the fire and talked to the mountain stream tumbling incessantly towards the lowlands. In the face of such fluid eternity, nothing seems as important as simply being in the moment. I pondered that for a while.

Matika lounged nearby, chewing on a stick. The sun slipped into the trees and twilight soon followed. A thrush called out. I threw a few smaller sticks on the fire until all that remained was a pile of glowing orange embers. Then I went to bed, feeling more at home in the wild than anywhere else. Yes indeed, safe and secure in wildness.

 

 

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Apr 23 2015

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Slow Bushwhack

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PrestonBk.gorge.early springYesterday I visited a favorite mountain stream, taking a break from work and all other concerns. My dog Matika accompanied me, of course. First stop: a small gorge on the stream, where whitewater squeezed between rock walls on its way down to the already swollen Winooksi River.

Patches of ice clung to the rock walls of the gorge and nearby ferns were still pressed to the ground by snow that had just recently melted. Here in the mountains, the spring season is just beginning.

Above the gorge I meandered upstream following the semblance of a trail cut by deer, as small piles of scat indicated. Eventually I lost even that, finding my own way across the forest floor. I slipped between the trees without any sense of urgency, happy just to be in the woods – a slow bushwhack to nowhere.

As I walked, my thoughts wandered. Or to be more accurate, my thoughts gave way to a series of impressions: the fresh green verdure coaxed from the earth by warmer temps, the rusted remnants of early settlers, and ephemeral rivulets of snowmelt everywhere.

“Walking is not a sport,” Frederic Gros states outright at the beginning of his book, A Philosophy of Walking, though many people treat it that way. Walking slow and solitary, through the woods or in the city, opens the mind to introspection. Many thinkers have had their most profound ideas while walking. I know that is certainly the case with me. I do my best thinking while on the move towards nowhere in particular, slow and steady, with no trail underfoot.  After a while, it becomes a sort of mobile meditation.

A mile or so beyond the gorge, I found a nice spot to sit next to a feeder stream for a while. There my thoughts became more focused even as my eyes still wandered. Matika sat next to me chewing a stick. Time passed. When finally rain clouds gathered overhead, I got up and finished my walk, heading back towards my car. And that,my friends, is what I call a good day in the woods.

 

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Feb 11 2015

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Cutting Tracks

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snowshoeing in mtnsThere comes a day every winter when I have to drop everything I’m doing and head for the hills. That day came yesterday. I loaded my dog Matika into the car and drove an hour to my favorite place to snowshoe: a mountain brook where few people go.

I hiked half a mile up a packed logging road before putting on my snowshoes. Two feet of pristine powder lay before me. I figured it would be tough cutting tracks through it but didn’t realize how tough until I got going. My snowshoes sank 6-8 inches with each step. Matika stayed on my heels for the most part. Smart dog. I pushed forward, trying to set a steady pace, but was unable to go more than fifty yards without stopping to catch my breath.

I tramped for a little over an hour that way, following a mountain brook that barely murmured beneath the snow. I marveled at the silent forest – no birds, no trees creaking in the wind, nothing but my own heavy breathing. “This is why I come out here,” I kept thinking. Silence and a beautiful stillness.

When the going got really tough, I stripped down to shirtsleeves. I sweated profusely anyway. I was tiring but with temps in the teens and my thermal undershirt soaked with sweat I didn’t dare stop. Instead I pushed up a steep, narrow ravine, groping slowly back towards the logging road. Fallen trees blocked the way. At one point I passed beneath one. It showered me with snow in the process. Matika scrambled up the slippery sides of the ravine without success. Then she fell in behind me as I plodded forward, one carefully placed step after another.

What a relief it was to get back to the packed logging road! I took off my snowshoes then strapped them onto my pack. I stopped long enough to feed my dog some kibble and wolf down an energy bar with a half-liter of water. The walk out was as pleasant as it was easy.

Completely exhausted, I went to bed early last night. Tough outing but well worth the effort. I flushed a lot of gunk out of my system in the process and am now in a better frame of mind to resume literary work. No surprise there.

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Sep 30 2014

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Gaining Perspective

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PrestonBrookSeptAt long last, Judy and I went for an overnighter. We had planned on doing so this summer, and had tried again Labor Day, but circumstances kept preventing it. No matter. With unseasonably warm temps holding, we cancelled appointments, shouldered our packs and slipped into the woods together.

We have a favorite spot next to a mountain brook where we like to camp. Although there’s nothing special about it, we’ve infused the place with fond memories through the years. As a consequence it has become our number one destination whenever we feel the need to get away.

A hard September frost brought out autumnal color earlier than usual. The forest canopy was a beautiful mix of green and gold leaves. The stream, though running low, broke over and around rocks as it made its way downhill. The sound of it unraveled our nerves. We sat back and let rushing water work its magic.

As the forest filled with evening shadows, Judy and I conjured up a small campfire. We kept it going well past dinner – flickering flames dancing in the darkness. With each stick thrown on the fire we grew more reflective, more philosophical, slowly gaining perspective on the world beyond the forest. Campfire gazing is like that sometimes. While meaning with a capital “M” was not forthcoming, we went to bed with a better bead on things. And the incessant rush of the nearby stream washed away all worry.

The next day we sat all morning and part of the afternoon, tending the fire and listening to the brook. Eventually we broke camp and hiked out. Then we returned home refreshed, though we’d be hard pressed to explain why.  Every woods retreat is like that.  Simply reconnecting with the wild seems to do the trick.

 

 

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Jul 30 2014

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Brook Walk

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BlackFallsBrookAfter helping a friend move some stuff, I weighed my options for the rest of the day: do some work, sit and read in the backyard, or go fishing? I asked my dog Matika for her input. She made it clear that heading for the hills was the best choice. So off we went.

I parked my car along a dirt road then slipped into the woods. It was a short hike to the stream. With cool temps and a clear sky overhead, I expected the fishing to be half decent. But the brook roiled with runoff from two days of steady rain. The first few casts yielded nothing. No matter. I walked the brook anyway, casting into promising pools along the way.

Matika was in her glory. She ran through the woods, sniffed around, and negotiated the rock-strewn stream with surprising agility. I stumbled along feeling every one of my 58 years, thinking how much easier it was to brook walk back when I was in my 30s. No rises to my fly but I didn’t care. While grumbling to myself that fishing this brook was a waste of time, I listened to the tumbling water and inhaled the dank smell of the wet forest. My eyes feasted on the green foliage all around me.

Philosophers make lousy fishermen, I kept thinking. If I was serious about catching fish, I would have come out later on when the aquatic flies were hatching. But all I really wanted to do was walk the brook on a late summer day and contemplate the intricacies of wild nature.

The hours passed quickly. As I made my way back to the car empty-handed, it occurred to me that this would have been a great outing had I not been carrying a rod. Then, for a moment, I was almost as happy as my dog.

 

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Apr 22 2014

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Following the Brook

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PrestonBrk.AprilIt’s a dry day with temps in the 60s – a perfect day for hiking in the woods.  I put Matika in the car and drive to the mountains.  Before noon I am bushwhacking along Preston Brook, headed upstream.

There’s no snow in sight. Just grey rocks, the bleached brown of forest duff, the dark gray/brown of naked trees, and the occasional splotch of pale green conifers, moss or ferns that have wintered over. Not exactly a lush forest, but this time of year I’m happy just tramping the ground again.

The stream is clouded by silt and roiling with snowmelt. To avoid mudslide areas, I cross it a half dozen times while making my way upstream. The first few times I rock hop across, but eventually I get wet. I get muddy as well. No matter. I welcome this elemental immersion.

The sky overhead is mostly blue. A woodpecker knocks in the distance, otherwise all is quiet.  Just the steady rush of water obeying gravity, and the occasional creak of a tree swaying in the gentle wind.

Matika is so busy sniffing that I lose track of her a few times. I lose myself in dreamy, early spring reverie. When finally breaking a sweat after tramping a mile, I can’t help but smile.  Compared to thrashing around in snow, hiking like this is easy.

Thirty years, I figure after doing the math.  That’s how long I’ve been following this brook. Sometimes I have a fishing rod in hand, sometimes I carry a daypack. I stop by a favorite camping spot and find the fishhook that I pressed into the bark of a young tree years ago. Yeah, this brook and I have history.

A couple miles deep, I reach the small, narrow bridge where the dirt road in this valley crosses the stream. I follow the road back to my parked car, occasionally stopping to look around. Not a spectacular hike but a pleasant enough afternoon in the woods all the same. In another month or so, once the trails have dried out, I’ll go higher.  Until then, these mountain stream rambles will do.

 

 

 

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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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May 23 2013

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Wet and Wild

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spring bushwhackInstead of hiking a well-maintained trail as planned, I changed my mind yesterday morning and opted for a bushwhack along a favorite mountain brook. Glad I did. A great weight lifted from my shoulders the moment I stepped into the trackless forest.

A carpet of foamflower in full bloom was there to greet me. The mountain brook, bank-full from the previous night’s storm, roared nearby. The intoxicating smell of ozone and raw earth hung thickly in the air. And when a vireo called out, its wildly undulating song filling the trees, I too felt like singing.

The dripping understory soaked my pants. Soon my shirt was damp with sweat. I crossed the brook several times to avoid the mudslides on steep slopes, thereby drenching my boots. After tramping for an hour and a half, I knelt down beside the brook and dunked my head to cool off. Then I was wet from head to toe.

I howled with delight as my eyes drank in the brilliant green world surrounding me.  I reveled in the wildness of it all – the mud, the bugs, unfurling ferns, rotting wood and leaf litter, moss-covered stones, songbirds, wildflowers and all the rest. I was crazy happy, or was it only the ozone going to my head?

Springtime in the Green Mountains. It doesn’t get much better than this. I hiked out a much healthier man.

 

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May 14 2013

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Springtime Overnighter

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spring hikeA tidal wave of green sweeps through the Champlain Valley during a succession of warm, dry days, giving me a serious case of spring fever. There’s no sense fighting it. I load my backpack, usher my dog into the car and head for the hills. Next thing I know, I’m hiking up a logging road winding deep into the mountains.

The road narrows to a trail shortly after crossing a brook. I leave the trail, following the brook upstream until I reach the edge of spring. There I find painted trilliums just opening up. There I set up my tarp on a high piece of ground, just in case the clouds gathering overhead deliver the rain that has been forecasted.

The stream rushes along incessantly. A few black flies swirl around my head without biting. I collect enough dry wood to keep a small fire going after dinner. Matika chews a stick, then another. The intoxicating smell of pollen, warm earth and forest rot fills the air. A slight breeze spits a few raindrops my way. I don’t care.

I feed sticks into the campfire for hours on end. A hermit thrush sings in the distance. Darkness descends. Then an eerie calm overtakes the forest.

A light rain falls shortly after Matika and I slip beneath the tarp for the night. It doesn’t last. I toss and turn a while before falling into a deep sleep. I awaken to a Virginia waterthrush singing loudly at daybreak. Matika licks me until I rise.

I stumble down to the brook to splash cold water into my face. The sun clears the ridge, peeking through the trees as I lounge before a breakfast campfire. When all the sticks in my woodpile are gone, I break camp.

An hour hike out takes two hours. I admire a patch of bleeding hearts along the way and stop by the brook crossing to daydream. Matika sniffs around. A forest calm lingers within long after I return to the car. The green overtaking the valley seems richer than it was the day before. I revel in it.

 

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Aug 27 2012

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Time Out

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A few days ago, Judy and I went for an overnighter in the woods. Our work schedules aligned, making it possible. It was a bonus outing for me, and a much needed getaway for Judy. She hadn’t been overnight in the woods in years.

We have a favorite camping spot along a mountain brook about an hour from home. It’s less than a mile from the dirt road where we leave our car. Half that distance is a bushwhack, though, so the spot is very private. We’ve never seen another person there.

We didn’t do much during our stay.  Judy read a book. I did a little fishing. We stared into a campfire, talked, and went for a dip in a nearby pool. Our dog Matika was with us, of course. She chased the chipmunks out of our camp then lounged about. All three of us slept well during the cool, dry August night.

Few bugs, great weather, and the constant rush of a small stream. Completely immersed in a green, leafy world. Can’t imagine how things could have been better. These hybrid outings – part camping, part backpacking – suit our purposes well. We’ve learned how to make the most of them, anyhow.

We lingered the second day. Neither Judy nor I wanted to leave. Next year we’ll make it two nights in the woods, but for now we are satisfied. It was a perfect time out.

 

 

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