I stopped on the way down, almost turned back.
After filling my water at the base of Moxie Bald Mountain, almost hiked back up to the top to spend the night. I could imagine seeing the sunset, stars and sunrise. Longed to do so.
But I didn’t turn back and chose to come down, down here to the pond and I am glad now for it. It’s what I planned on doing and have been looking forward to all day. This cold plunge and paddle in the pond when there’s no one here but the loons calling across the lake.
Its been an amazing day. Impossible to describe just how beautiful it was up there on the top of Moxie Bald Mountain. Looking over towards Pleasant Mountain, I see why I’d struggled on those 5 miles down yesterday over what I can see now were three peaks, down and up, down and up before getting down to the stream where I’d camped last night.
And then, later atop North Peak, an open ledge peak with a clear 360 degree view all around. I don’t know if I’ve ever been anywhere more beautiful.
A dozen hawks, black and circling.
I declare it my favorite mountain ever, and the hiker I startle along the trail agrees. She never sees anyone out here, and yes, it is the most wonderful place. She comes here as often as she’s able. Sometimes the side trail is exactly where you need to go.
Down here at the pond, at the close of my day, I think that as much I might have imagined camping out on the mountaintop that in fact it wasn’t a good idea. I wouldn’t feel comfortable up there alone and walking around on the trails at night to see the stars and sunset. I chose the pond wisely. I look up at the mountain as the light descends. Imagine the sunset up there!
A first star appears as I sit here wondering when it will. A lone star above the lake.
I think of all those tears in the mountain labyrinth as I stood in the center earlier today. Every goodbye contains every other goodbye. So many tears today after months of no tears at all. What is this grief? What are these tears? An offering of what? For what?
I wake to the pond covered in dense fog. Sitting here on the rock, a flutter of wings behind me as I turn my head. Red squirrel crackling leaves, now chattering angrily above. A beaver hunches on the rock, gnawing wood. Slips into the pond, paddles by to another rock where she hunches, gnaws on another stick as the loon sings and sings. An owl calls. Woodpecker taps. The rock reflected in the still pond. The fog thick and still.
And as I sit here declare that I’m going to spend the night on the North Peak. Name today a retreat day that will give me that 5th night in the woods I wanted and not sure how I was going to get.
The loud couple who’d come in last night come down to the pond to take a look before heading out.
The woman in the hooded blue jacket says, “Oh, this is a pond. I wondered what this white thing was down here.” Heads with her partner off down the trail.
They are here for other things. Off to Katahdin or Georgia. As for me, to sit here this morning in the fog and listen to the singing of the loons.
The sun begins to rise, wisps of fog dance across the lake.
I stay by the pond until the sun breaks through. I will follow the days rhythm.
I know I could hike on to Horseshoe Cavern today and come out to Monson tomorrow. That too would be okay. And this is the day I choose, mountaintop receiving. For now, receive the sun’s warmth.
As the sun comes up, the cold descends. Sit here shivering and wondering why is it so cold. Silence but for my pen scratching.
And out of the fog, the groan of a moose, a moaning cow.
Receive this chill, this cold, this warmth of the sun’s dull orb through the mist. Receive, this morning, this moose call in fog, this grace of a day.
I cannot help but ascend.
Whose voice is it that calls me to go? How do I know it can be trusted? The voice that yesterday said I would not do this, today says, Yes. Yesterday, full of apprehension and considerations. Today, no fear. I choose to go.
Yesterday, I wanted to swim and be here by the pond in the late afternoon. Yesterday, dreamed down here of being up there on the mountaintop. Didn’t know what to do or trust. Today, do. Know what I desire.
The loon sings again, the red squirrel chatters. The snap of a tree that falls with a thump.
I lean back and fall asleep on the rock.
When I open my eyes, the fog lifted, the pond clear. The sky opens blue, so blue and warm after the descent of cold. How the pond changes in a thousand ways while I sit here.
As I slip on my pack, pick up confidence. The last vestiges of considerations fall away. I know why I am here and why. I remember what you reminded me: I can trust in the path and that God is with me. Trust I am going in the right direction. Trust being myself.
I ascend. Out to the labyrinth, I circle again. Receive: There is nothing to fear. I don’t even know what it means but trust it is true. What I do know is the wind picked up as I stepped in. The barking dogs in the valley are silent now.
A raven makes low croaking noises soaring overhead.
Some go to mountain tops for Vision Quests and to discern their Animal Spirit. Some to meet God. As for me, I’d settle for a sunset and sunrise, the view of the stars from the peak. That sunset like Mango woke to see, the stars on the peak we’d thought about trekking up to see on our hike a few months back and never did.
I can’t believe I’m here.
The mid afternoon light sublime.
A reflection of trees in the valley pond below.
A deer crosses the ledge, long white tail trailing behind. No fear.
What I hadn’t taken account of in being on a mountaintop is the wind, especially the likes of the wind on an open-ledgetop like this. The howling of wind, a wind that slides over and around the rocks I huddle behind in the waning afternoon light. A stilling silence, a whoosh and flap, a gathering gust.
I find a spot here at the peak to set up my tent. Exclaim at my good fortune to have found such a spot, to be out of the wind tonight, warm and dry.
The sunset descends over the mountains; the eastern peaks, darken.
Catch sight of a falling star. First time in forever!
All the considerations flap out of me into the night air.
Later, awake to the howling wind, clammer out of the flapping tent to see the stars. Keep waking all night to poke out my head, to see more, to know that it is true.
The next morning, wake to stillness. The night sky still ablaze and far to the East the first turn of color.
The loon calls from the pond below.
I descend for morning breakfast on the rock.
I remember how just the other day all the old considerations and clinging came up on the trail. The assurance of hearing from Popeye and Mango that it happens for them too. It’s not only me. All the things I don’t want to think that I think about. All the what if’s and if only’s. Getting lost in trying to unstuck what is dead and gone.
Today as I step out, its not old considerations, but joy I find. A kind of joy that inhabits me — Here in my ease of step, the swing of the pack. Here in this tapestry of color and light. Here in this beaming smile that I cannot wipe from my face.
Later, back here at Bald Mountain Pond. Sitting again on the warm rock, the lake clear, serene. The loon trills her morning call again and again.
What is possible for you now? he asks, days from now. Why anything, anything is possible.