(HOST)Commentator Alen Boye thinks that one of life’s greatest pleasures may be hiking with a friend.
(BOYE)My friend Jon and I are headed for a snow-covered trail up a steep canyon on Vermont’s Mount Monadnock, a 3,148-foot tall hunk of granite in the remote northeastern corner of Vermont. Unlike the better-known mountain in southern New Hampshire, Vermont’s Mount Monadnock doesn’t get many visitors. It has taken us a long time simply to drive here, but just as we start wondering if it will be worth the trip, we round a bend in the road and see the massive mountain. It jumps straight out of the narrow dark valley of the upper Connecticut River.
Moments later we’re starting up the trail. Except for some crusty old boot prints near the trailhead, no one else seems to have climbed this mountain all winter. We soon lose the trail and then simply follow a stream up the hill.
Here, in the deep cleft of the cold canyon, snow covers the ground, but the brook is thawed. It’s full from another recent rain and melted snow from this winter’s meager snow pack.
We come upon an old foundation high on the rugged mountain’s slope. We inspect it carefully, climbing amid the large square blocks of stone. After a bit, we resume our walk.
As we climb up the canyon, we speculate about the old foundation and what kind of building it might have been. Jon favors the utility of a logging camp, and I the romantic notion of a hermit’s hide-away.
It’s good to get out in the woods with a friend. Even Thoreau at Walden Pond liked to have company.
Jon and I share the easy talk of good friends, and then fall silent to the plop plop of our snowshoes, and the sound of rushing water.
“Look at that,” Jon says. Just upstream, a small waterfall tumbles over some boulders. We climb to the lip of the falls and discover a footbridge. We have finally found the trail up the mountain, but now the day is late and we still have the long drive home.
We linger a while at the falls, admiring its simple beauty, not really wanting to leave.
Finally we head down the mountain following the trail. We walk around huge boulders, and catch glimpses of the beautiful winding valley below us.
We drift in and out of conversation. During a silence, I reflect on how grateful I am for the beauty and solitude of these Vermont hills and for the grace of a good friend with whom to share them.
This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.
Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke from our studio at the Fairbanks Museum in Saint Johnsbury.