I woke up today to see the sunrise, folks. Mark this day on your calendars. Ring the town bells. I’ve slept on or near (what feels like) 5 kazillion glorious summits, and will happily hike through evening dusk to get to them. But…. mornings?
I don’t do that ish, she wrote happily, ignoring the fact that this is very much untrue and can be denied by many humans although if you want coherency you must either be prepared to wait a while, or put coffee in first.
I am here to tell you a tale of the summer solstice, or National Hike Naked Day: June 21st. We did not see any nude hikers, thank heavens…
It dawned a fine and glorious morning, and for the first time in a long span of mornings, I was not the last to leave camp, although I did leave my pack and hiking pole there… For, before setting out to climb the mountain, I didst go down by the river; whereupon, I did stare upon it and write things down and make observations, and in all manner of speaking, I did the science. Yay science.
This took about half an hour; and so, when I returned to camp, my pack and pole stared blearily at me, abandoned in pine-needle-strewn space. Alone. Avast! We shall climb this mountain.
In the interests of full disclosure, here, I should state that at 3 o’clock on the previous day, with plenty of daylight remaining to climb previously mentioned mountain, I had crossed the gravel road at the base of it, looked at the nice signpost they had by the nice gravel parking lot with nice cars and nice wildflowers growing by the trail, with tremendous loads of butterflies flying about. It was 3 or 4 miles to the summit. “This is all very nice,” says I, “But I refuse.” So then I had sat down in the sunshine, illogically, in all my despair, and that is how my camp-mates found me an hour and a half later. Despairing. Moving on….
We climbed that morning, my pack and I, after our sciencing. It was glorious. The birds were singing; the sun was shining; the hike was not so steep; and as we gamboled upwards through the conifers, we thought to ourselves wonderful and magical thoughts about how, on this mountain (Mount Stratton) in 1909, the idea for the Vermont Long Trail was conceived, and in 1921, Benton Mackaye had the idea of a wee trail, extending from Georgia to Maine, for the betterment of us all. Incredible.
We reached the top without much ado. Imagine my surprise when I found, not only all 3 of my campsite companions, but also two fine humans who have been the caretakers of this mountain for some many decades, who eventually offered us mugs of tea, crackers with pepper jack cheese, and conversation about enfoldment and mathematical topology and the way this mountain used to be, before they rerouted the AT to pass by the old fire tower. What a wonderful way to spend noontide on the longest day of the year- on the mountain that saw the inception of the Appalachian Trail.
After looking over the tower view, we rambled down the mountainside, through sweet-smelling firs (the forests are changing the forests are changing! From deciduous to coniferous. Wow wow wow wow wow) and out into the bright sunshine by a lakeshore. It is Stratton Pond! It is… we dip our toes in. Not very cold. We stare across the pond, which glints and waves at us underneath rocky shoreline. At each other. At the pond.
It was really not so cold after you stand in it for a while and then stick your head underneath, and then catch an eft in its aquatic stage. This is the first large pond I have legitimately swum in on the trail. (Alabama had streams, but we did not swim in them, last year. Oops.)
Glorious. Again, onwards. This next shelter is half a mile off the trail. This is half a mile too far. The last shelter I went down to that was half a mile off was back in Massachusetts, with our imaginary friend Lauren-who-calls-the-porcupines, and it was all steeply downhill off the Appalachian trail to the shelter, past moss-covered rocks and eroded hillside and wee tiny waterfall, and then we made popcorn and fed it to ourselves and people there, and found trail magic tortellini and pasta sauce, and ate like kings. So worth it. Not doing it again.
We continue past the shelter’s side trail. There is an overlook further down the way! Huzzah! Perhaps we can camp there for the night? Aww yisssss, awww yisss. We trundle on down to the overlook, and I think to myself things like, “Aha. This is an overlook…. Maybe I have service!”
(This is relevant. See picture.)
Please remember at this moment that it was June 21st.
I turned on my phone then, Best Beloveds. It was before I had eaten dinner; but mothers are more important. I had 3 bars! This is the perfect amount for calling my mother for her belated birthday. I’ve been hoping for service for days, but- you know. Mountains. Vermont. It happens. A couple texts come in, from my sisters. “Hey….. It’s Mom’s birthday. ….Call her.” Yeah, alright… I’m calling her, and ignoring food to do it. (Such is hiker love.) I ignore the rest of my texts, push in her number, and press the wee green telephone button… “Hi, Ma!” says I, all bright and happy.
There is a short pause.
“I called the police on you,” she says.
It appears the Williamstown police station has been searching for me for days. Too bad I am in the woods. Huh. Well, ok, gee, thanks Mom.
It was all right. They called while I was talking to her, and apparently were much amused. Mom, I am hungry, says I after a while. Apparently, I had a legion of well-wishers praying for my safe existence. No wonder I had such a wonderful day. Okay yes very good okay now can I go eat please, said the very-much-not-lost daughter, with no regard for the terror she had put her mother through. This is what I get for not calling my mother on her birthday. Jiminy crickets, Ma, really? Love you. Bye.
We then ate dinner, watched the sun set, waited as the light faded and two planets came into view, and obtained intelligence about good breakfast places from a couple folks who had come up (from the town below) to see the end of the longest day of the year. The day drew to a close with the unexpected arrival through the deep dusk of two more friends, late evening conversation, a hammock slung between two fragrant pines, and the gleaming silvery light of a quarter moon.
In other news, don’t scare your family, kids. Happy summer, and happy trails!