Apr 06 2010

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Hallelujah Hike

Posted at 4:11 pm under Blog Post

Record breaking warmth descended upon New England last weekend, giving everyone cause to celebrate.  It came just in time for Easter.  No doubt more than one churchgoer said a little prayer of thanks for it.  More hedonistic folk headed for the beach to bask half naked in the sun.  At the very beginning of the heat wave, I celebrated the only way I know how.  I grabbed my rucksack and headed for the hills immediately following a round of writing.

By the time I had pulled my car into a small turnout next to Preston Brook, it was noon.  The air temperature had soared into the 60s by then, making short work of a remnant patch of snow nearby.  I wasn’t sorry to see it go.

I hiked up the dirt road following the brook until I heard the roar of water from the gorge.  I stepped into the woods and went over for a quick look.  Sure enough, the brook was completely free of ice and cascading down through the rocks with all the force that early spring runoff could muster.  A quiet little stream in mid-summer, Preston Brook was a raging torrent that afternoon.  And I reveled in it.

I broke a sweat as I bushwhacked farther up the hollow, following the stream back to a favorite camping spot and beyond.  Matika cavorted about just as happy as any dog can be, lost in the many sights, sounds and smells of the wild.  The sun blazed through naked trees, illuminating club moss, polypody and evergreen woodferns springing back to life from a forest floor covered with bleached leaves and other detritus.  Rivulets of water ran everywhere.  My boots sank several inches into the spongy earth but I didn’t mind it one bit.

After hiking a while, I came upon a fresh rectangular cut in a dead tree – the handiwork of a pileated woodpecker.  Matika sniffed the pile of wood chips at the base of the tree as I looked around for a shady spot to break for lunch.  I found one beneath an old hemlock.  There I listened to the brook while scribbling in my journal and munching away.  A pair of deer stumbled upon us and Matika immediately gave chase.  But she turned right around the moment I called for her to return.  Good dog!

The brook sang and my heart sang with it – a wordless “Hallelujah!” at the dawn of a brand new growing season.  During the course of the hike I found coltsfoot in bloom along the dirt road.  Its small, yellow, daisy-like flower was a sure sign that I wasn’t dreaming.  I reached down to touch it and was amazed, as always, by the power of regeneration that is so common in this world yet no less miraculous.  And the squirrel that Matika and I passed on the way out seemed as happy as we were just to be alive.  Yet another winter has come and gone.  And all three of us have survived it.

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