View Full Version : Dear Trail : A Seasonal Good-Bye

10-05-2009, 09:48 PM
Dear Trail,

It's Fall again. Hard to believe. How quickly it comes. As always, that crisp air, that breeze that brings your forest floor to life, all about it, dancing, twirling, spinning - just like my thoughts. Its been three years we have spent together. Its a time when some in a similar spot may move on to another trail, something new. Others will decide to stay with what they have. As for myself, I can see both points of view. Now I am impelled to take the time to relate to you what you have meant to me.

On this October morning you greet me with the late-season song of a lone vireo. I arrive at your doorstep empty handed. Life, or the routine thereof, leaves us so devoid by the monotony and mundane of daily existence. Now, with just a few movements, I can slip through your forested passageways with ease, to the place I call home. The welcoming goodness of life is here in the woods. I come with nothing, and all you do is give.

I think often of the memories you have kept alive. Ones that seem so long ago, yet when I stay overnight under the threshold of your moonlit shadows it all comes back. It reminds me of my first overnight hikes as a little kid. All those friends of ours. Like Dennis & Ellen, who hiked with us at separate times, then started coming together with us, then eventually married, and honeymooned by hiking the Northern Presi's. Or of all those tested, grizzled veterans, friends of ours, Viet Nam vets. Who, when I carried a tent with me for my first overnighter, asked me what the heck I had brought that for. Be a man. Sleep in the woods. Sleep on the ground. Here's a wool blanket, be lucky you have that. They'd laugh now. Here I am using a tent, but I do still have my wool blanket. I laugh too. I know they now ride ATV's to their old hunting spots and cabins instead of hiking to them. Or the time I got sick while hiking Mt Jasper in Berlin. Started falling and throwing up non-stop. In minutes they fastened a make-shift gurney from poles they cut and stretched out clothes. Adroitly carrying me down like I was off to triage.

I also think of the memories you have provided.The memories of the fine people I have met while walking your length. So many I wouldn't have known without you. Some of the conversations being so quick, a majority of whom we will never see again, but we do remember the people. As well as the longer, forged frienships. The kind when my eyes excitedly scan ahead, anticipating the familiar face. The shared unity of family, working together. All the words and conversations spoken that may have nothing to do with hiking, but they happen because you provided the forum.

Oh, and there are the lessons of life you have reaffirmed for me. You have afforded me the chance to stand upon your craggy brow. To see all that has stood the tests of time. To realize that in the grand scope of all that is around us, how truly, infinitesimally small we really are. You stand in quiet acknowledgement of what I've learned. How rewarding hard work is. That the groove created by the heated slide of hickory or ash between the thumb and index finger produces a comforting, satisfying type of agony. What was once soft skin now channeled and polished to a high sheen. Or of the callouses located between the top of my palm and the joints of my digits, a mark of pride. That the scratches, dings, doinks, sap, paint splotches, broken handles, crushed fingers, bites of various swarming insects, foul trail breath, body odor, dirty clothes, or the ones that get torn - that every single bit of it is worth it. Falling on your back under the weight of so many tools, flailing like a turtle stuck on top of his shell. The inexplicable joy of emptying out on the Lincoln Woods Trail after days of work -doing so amidst strollers, bikes, and other things - looking and smelling like a 3-way intersection collision of a pulp truck, an Ace Hardware truck, and the flatbed hauling the return leg of all those Johnny-On-the-Job's. The reminder that there are some things in life you don't have to be paid to do.

At times though, especially when your forest floor is my evening mattress, I hear your voice. Like tonight, falling upon my ears as a whispering rain. Painfully remembering the time of your own misfortune. Your time as a muted victim. When you were but an object of another's ignorance and greed. Nothing more than plunder. Your wounds exist, but with the inevitable passing of time they will rust and be no more than a faint scar. In the end you will conquer. You may not reach the tallest height. You may not be the most challenging or demanding, but you will remain. Allowing hikers old and new into your woodland home so they can feel the rake of an alpine wind or bask in the shadows of a filtered sun. I hope now that the thump of a heavy boot or the sight of a forester's tools cause you no anxiety. They no longer come to pillage or harm. They come to keep open a path to your inner self, to show others who you really are. A pathway all the way from your woodland feet to your boreal soul. The vibrancy of your being. The sound of the axe, the thump of the pulp hook. They are but fleeting, then leaving you in your own serenity.

Now you have me in a bittersweet spot. As if I could watch a yearlong sun trace its way across a most glorious day. Thinking of you in all your ways. The days of spring, your perky, feisty manner. Catapulting life, then content to sit back and watch it grow. Your tempermental days of summer. When a gorgeous sea blue day is quickly subdued by a cobalt sky, with you sitting starkly beneath. Now fall, when your plumage slowly, floatingly bleeds back to earth. Soon the winter months, when harsh winds carry you through naked branches like a lost, forlorn spectre. Pulling a white cloth tighter about you as you endeavor to avoid being seen. Like finding footing on a hardscrabble slope, you can be described, but in reality you remain ever so elusive.

As I often do find my eyes affixed to the north, they will do so in a different way through winter. Though far away, you rest in your winter repose. It is indeed a sleepless rest. For underneath you are alive. Swirling around you the howling, bitter winds of winter. You await the gales of April and May. Those which bring life anew so you may enliven all of us. You know your own, you protect your own, you nourish your own. May we be fortunate enough to be counted among them every time we walk your steps.

So as the time of snow and hard ground approaches, I must say good-bye to this season. Comforted only by the thought of a return. Why? Because three years are just not enough. We'll be back. All of us will be back. To those who visit you these winter months, may they do so in peace. Sleep the exhausted slumber of accomplishment, and may you awaken refreshed to begin again.

Fisher Cat

Pics are here, if you like finding old stuff in the woods, you may like some of these. We dedicated time to exploring the old camp near our trail and other logging items we have found, as well as some old logging grades and tote roads:


PS To the Reader: If you haven't already, think of taking on a trail. This is, after all, a type of veiled plea. As one can see, there is much to be gained. Adopt it, but do more, love it. As many of us can attest - because we've seen it- anybody, and I do mean ANYBODY, can hike a trail. Its another type of individual that makes it their own. As one can see, its so easy to fall in love.

10-06-2009, 12:44 PM
Beautiful post, FisherCat.

10-06-2009, 03:42 PM
Great post and wonderful pictures. Thanks for posting.

KD Talbot
10-13-2009, 02:04 PM
Thanks for another top notch TR! Excellent pictures as well!

Thanks for all you do out there, and thanks for sharing the experience with us!