The best day.

IMG_0821Yesterday, August 28, was a clear, sparkling late-summer day in Maine and I decided to seize it by dropping everything and driving up to the Bigelow Range and hiking the “Iron Triangle”– the “Horns” trail up to the Appalachian Trail, the A.T. across the Bigelow ridge to West Peak, and down the Firewarden’s Trail and back to the car.  Bigelow is sometimes called Maine’s “Second Mountain,” after Katahdin, and in many ways it’s reminiscent of that monster in its isolation, its ruggedness, and its beauty.  It was a good way to note the end of summer, and the dawning of the fall.  My son Sean started 8th grade on Thursday, and today, Saturday, I’m off to Colby for the first pre-semester bit of work with student leaders, so summer’s end is not just a theory: it’s here.  We take our leave of our summer headquarters, and the lake house, and return to our normal working lives this weekend.

IMG_0811The trail was hard, though, and not only because I’m no longer a young thing.  Ten hours for me round trip, and most of that alone. Late in the day i got the willies, hiking alone through the slowly-deepening twilight.  Raised my spirits by singing (also in order to scare off any black bears thinking the coast was clear.)  So if anybody heard a voice in the woods singing, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” or “The Lakes of Pontchatrain,” or “Arthur McBride and the Recruiting Sergeant,” or “Uncle John’s Band,”… well, now you know. That was me, walking all the way from bright Maine summer and into autumn.

Thought a little bit about Stephen King’s commentary on “how to write a novel”– i.e., “one word at a time,” the response that often draws a laugh, but which is, essentially, how you do it–or anything, really.   I’ve thought about that advice a lot this summer as I’ve mined deeper and deeper into the now 700+ pages of Falcon Quinn II.  It’s also how you climb a mountain: one step at a time.  One foot after the other.

Got home at 8 PM and drank a beer and had hot chipotle mac n cheese with the family. And told them all about my day in the sky.

A few lovely surprises on the trail:

• met up with a family– mom, dad, two kids, and grampa– doing the circuit with a three month old labrador retriever puppy.  They lapped me a couple times, and I thought, as I nursed my middle-aged knees:  Okay.Fine.  I’m slower than a puppy.IMG_0810

• met up with a couple, about 60, painting blazes. Trail names: Old Moose and One Step.  I introduced myself by my trail name: Spider.

IMG_0822• on the A.T. a bunch of through-hikers came through at lightening speed– four hearty young men, about 23.  One wearing a kilt.  They passed me like a vast diesel Mac passing a kid on a tricycle.  Met up with them at the summit– they’d started in Georgia on April 4. One of them used the name “Tweak.”  I asked, What was the best day on the trail?  Without a pause, the four of them said, in unison,  “Today.”IMG_0817


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4 Comments

  1. Posted August 29, 2009 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous views!

  2. Johnny
    Posted August 29, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Great story.

    Coincidentally Karen, Riley, and I had a best day on August 28th, hiking a favorite spot on the Pacific Coast trail, with spectacular up-close views of Mt. Rainier and more blueberries than Yogi Bear could eat in a lifetime. Back down to Enumclaw, WA to have ice cream, coffee and chocolates. Then home to have a gourmet-ish meal cooked by chef Riley, followed by a rare family movie watching. It was the Soloist, and Riley was unfortunately not quite ready for it, emotionally or developmentally or something. Too heavy I guess for his sensitive heart. Perhaps mine as well.

    Our summer extended family reunion on the east coast included battalions of mosquitoes, 135% humidity, and niagra amounts of rain, and a rerun sighting of your family on Oprah. (Riley stumbled onto it while flipping channels with his cousins, and thus the entire Stuhldreher clan got to watch. Many questions were answered.)

    One other best day memory from summer: Tooling around with childhood buddies (and my Seattle family) in a sailboat in Narragansett Bay, listening to the 50th anniversary concert of the Newport Folk Festival (and watching it too, before the fog rolled in big time.) I knew of a local Irish session in a pub, and dragged everybody there, with Riley’s fiddle in tow. Much wow-ing, and a great connection with a 13 yo pennywhistle player from Ontario. Photos on FB.

    Love to y’all…

  3. Posted September 1, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Awesome Jenny, the pics are beautiful. I’ve hiked bits and pieces of the Trail down here in PA and have vague ambitions to hike the whole thing one day, but then again, maybe that’s me biting off more than I might be able to masticate without drool puddling at my blue-mail-tipped feet.

    Where’d the summer go? I feel like June just started. The kiddos here started school yesterday. A big jump for us… the eldest is in high school now, and our last child is no longer in elementary. We’ve apparently advanced to the Big Leagues. The next landmark is terrifying (Junior Driver’s License, eep).

    You might be slower than a puppy … but you’re still able to frolic like one. :D

  4. Posted September 14, 2009 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    “For the day bein’ pleasant and chaaaamin’”

    Nice choice Spider.

    I live 10 mins from the A.T. on the VA/WV line. Anyone I catch singing that song on the trail will be forced to drink a shedload of pints with me.

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