When you think of mountains, what do you picture? Snow capped peaks? Carpets of moss upon generations of forest? Sweeping vistas? Enchanting glades,vales, and ravines? Trails that talk to you,brooks and rivers that speak in a tongue you can understand? Or of the alpenglow? Or waking up after a good nights forest rest, watching the shadows chased away by soft golden light? Its fair to say all of the above, maybe more. But, what mountains are you thinking of? Truth is, such descriptions would be apt for all the mountains on this earth. Today I'm thinking of a wooded summit. A wooded summit not too far from the home of my youth.
Uncle Donald told me to beware I didn't spend all my time hiking the Presi's. There was so much more to see in the Whites, he would say. I admit, I did not listen. Over 20 years later while on a hike to the Tripyramids, it finally hit me. What an exquisite wilderness. As usual, he was right. It reaffirmed to me that unfortunately most of our youth can be spent by being stupid and bull-headed. You know what I mean.
Waumbek has always exerted an almost parental influence on me. This due to the fact, that like a parent, it seemed to always be there. Right outside our picture window-when it wasn't frosted over- dancing just above the front porch woodpile, to the left of our sugarin' stove.Always putting on a show. Its frosty winter cap,its light green spring plumage,its deeper summer growth, and its collision of fall colors. Sad thing is though, I never hiked it till now. I was off here and there, everywhere BUT Waumbek.
From that window I could see all that makes growing up in the Whites the greatest thing that could happen to any child. Mountains, friends, and family. There was Waumbek. There's the Notari's house by Bois Mt,(or Boy Mtn, whichever you want, when I was young either was acceptable.) I can see the church steeple. There's the logging patches growing in off Ingerson Rd. Somewhere over there is my piano teachers house. I think I'll ride my bike up to my old summer job today, up Stag Hollow Rd, past Morty's house, and push the bike up the embankment to Rt 2. Hmmm... better not. Its all here in one sweeping view.
Today I have other thoughts as I near the finish of this goal, and I'm trying to tie them all together. This is #47 for me.How does one feel after their 48? How are they supposed to feel? Is there an answer to that? A sense of accomplishment, success, even elation? They are all true. Yet, there are other feelings creeping in, almost a sort of ambuscade, that I feel I have to walk right into. Such feelings as thankfulness,gratitude, even debt.
One can debate, argue, or study, but I believe this truth rings as simple and true as a struck anvil: Mountains define us.They are our friends, members of our family as it were. For many, myself included, they are also our lovers. We can't get enough of them. Like parents, think of the nuturing they provide. Be it strife,confusion,loss,sorrow,in both our personal lives and those whom we love. Sometimes its our own choices,sometimes forces beyond us. We've all had them. I have, you have too. When we were children we would run to our parents, now as adults we may still do so, but we often run here too, to these mountains.Even in our darkest we seek hope and stability. Something that will not break. A fortress. That's what these mountains are to me. More than a friend, they are family, mentors, teachers, and playground. They raised me. If we expose ourselves to them, even when at our weakest, they become a part of us, and eventually in their benevolence, they allow us to become a part of them. They are loving and forgiving. They ask so little in return, just to be treated kindly. Not too different from our literal parents, are they? For many of us the Whites are family, they are home. They are my home. Let's make them proud of us.
As I contemplate this "wooded summit", "barely poking above 4000 feet", as an individual whom I greatly respect wrote, I know now what I will do. If someone asks what my next hiking goal is, I will simply say that I'm coming back to places like this. By that I mean that I will not be keeping track of specific goals, fenced in by seasons, number of visits, or specific routes. I want to be with my wife as she finishes her 48, and that will be great, just like visiting members of the family again. Then, just like looking after my own parents, it will be my endeavor to look after my mountainous parents, right here in the Whites. I will spend all the days I can muster right by their side. Here, on small wooded summits like this one. They've been here when I needed them, now its time to return their sacrifice. To stay in the land of my youth is not elitism, snobby, or a martyrdom. Its very simple. Here in the Whites I am a content man. I know there are mountains higher, longer ranges, more awe-inspiring, dramatic sights, but this is home. Life seems to offer too few opportunities to feel so content. It doesn't mean I wouldn't hike elsewhere if I travel. It just means I'll always want to be here.That is my honest confession. The honest confession of a simple and content hiker.
When you have become displaced from your homeland it creates within you an appreciative angst. You can't wait to walk the fern-draped corridors,rest upon a solid bed of granite, feel the cool touch of white quartz on a hot day,smell the pine carried by a dry northwest wind, or the musty earth of a southeast breeze. To fall forever in the embrace of these mountains. To walk the trails that flow like life-sustaining veins, not only through the mountains, but through my very person. I would like to think I will descend Waumbek a better man, a man with clear vision.
And as I take a final gaze, yet certainly not the last, toward the direction of our little log cabin from here atop Waumbek, I see that life really does pass in cycles. Thank goodness. With a new determination I look upon this land, my home, my identity, and my future - now realizing that sometimes the best way to guide your life to come, is as simple as a good look at where you started.
Funny thing about our hike today. It was cold, rainy, and windy as well. A day most people would stay inside. Somehow those yellow blazes guided us through windows of light framed by birches, drapes of lichen, down hallways of spruce, granite boulders inviting us to sit a spell-all the while telling me, "Welcome home", - again.
PICS here, rainy day as usual: