Sometimes the awe and beauty of the mountains can stop you in your tracks, erase all from your mind that is not present in that moment, and focus you on the here-and-now in a way not readily achieved in our daily lives. Like the runner’s high achieved by the long distance runner, it is a euphoric trance that centers you in the moment and in the world. It is the restorative power of wilderness and the reason so many work so hard to protect such wilderness experiences. In the early evening hours, as we crested Carter’s Dome, we were treated to a divine display of sun and clouds as the realm of the Appalachian Trail and surrounding mountains stretched out before us. This is why we hike.
We awoke by a cascading falls and packed up quickly to make it to the AMC’s Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center in time for the all-you-can-eat breakfast. After filling ourselves with delicious food, I stopped in to see a few of the AMC folk with whom I have spent many an hour on the telephone over the past few years as their attorney in Maine working on their Maine Woods Initiative (read about it here). I was pleased to hear that they had recently received their first check from the sale of Carbon Sequestration Credits on a project in the north Maine woods (read about it here)that I had been helping them with in the last few years prior to taking this long walk.
As a land conservation attorney at Drummond Woodsum, one of the best firms in northern New England for such work, (read about the practice) I have the pleasure of working with many conservation organizations throughout northern New England as they strive to ensure that wilderness experiences like the Appalachian Trail are available for future generations. It is a pleasure to work professionally in pursuit of the realization of such goals. As a father it is equally important to directly share such experiences with my children. For my wife and I, that is why we are out walking this trail together.
At the turn of the twentieth century such a trail was merely a dream had by Benton Mackaye and others. Many worked tirelessly to make that dream a reality. Today, early in the twenty-first century, many continue to work tirelessly to further that dream, as well as to make a reality of other conservation dreams, both grand and small.
Today, after we left Pinkham Notch, we had a long ascent up Wildcat Ridge then dropped down into Carter Notch where we had tea and cake. Then we crested Carter’s Dome and were stopped in our tracks by the full force of the AT’s majestic realm. Sharing moments like this as a family is all too rare in this day and age, and it is one of the reasons we are out here. I have no doubt that experiences like this will mean that our kids, regardless of the career trajectory the choose, will recognize the importance of wilderness to our society, and to our individual souls.
After the sun finally sank beneath the horizon, we awoke from our reverie and donned our headlamps for our first night-time hiking of the trip. The trail was too steep and rocky to afford many spots to setup the tent, so we continued on until we could find one. The kids were enthralled by the sparkling bits of mica embedded in the granite, which reflected back the light from our lamps, lighting the Trail with pixie dust as we made our way. We eventually found a nice site to tuck in for the night. It was a transcendent day.
I encourage each of you, when you next have thee chance: go take a hike.