How would you feel if this were the view from your backyard? After a little while, the mountains probably go the way of everything else. Not even noticed while going through the motions of doing the dishes and obsessing about the roof, but every once in a while being striking again over a cup of coffee. Heading out into the mountains has been my plan for falling back in love with Maine. While Portland, to me, is a great little town, it also reeks of stagnation and extreme class separation. I feel like my own history is erased as I pop coins in the meter next to the same shops (thankfully still mostly locally owned), feel a sense of deja-vu from ten years ago, and remind myself that I have been to Mongolia in the meantime. There is a Maine outside of Portland, and it is like another world.
My brother commented earlier this year when I was observing that for economic reasons I will be “stuck” in Maine for the time being, that I’m more comfortable when in survival mode. Never one to be an adrenaline junkie, I don’t think that’s quite it. It’s not the rush, but the adventure of the unknown; a first-hand acquisition of knowledge and experience. I am still seething from a comment made by a friend earlier this week that implied there is something inherently wrong with me for avoiding settling down. I feel the same way about people who shack up in their dream house and begin the process of erosion that familiarity works on our senses and perspectives. There must be a middle ground where connections can be maintained, but the mountains don’t fade into the background of the everyday.
So off to ramble in the White Mountains near Evan’s Notch. I was looking for a short hike called The Roost, but I couldn’t find the trail head. The Caribou trail had parking, and a clear map, so I headed off. I was planning to make a loop around that was described as Caribou to Caribou MT to the Muddy something-or-other trail. What this heavily wooded trail lacks in views of the surrounding area, it makes up for by following a river that it crisscrosses over several times dotted by waterfalls.
It took me significantly longer to get through the Caribou trail to the head of the Caribou Mt. trail than I thought it would. But at this point I wasn’t going to not see a summit after a couple of hours. I half ran up the first part of this trail into what turned into a mythical scene of short pine trees, mosses, and the start of a granite instead of wooded landscape.
As I sat down to enjoy the view and finally eat my hard-earned sandwich, I realized the sun was looking awfully low. I double checked my time, and noticed it was actually an hour later then what I had thought I’d read the first time. Shit. I was at the very least two hours away from the car with exactly two hours of sunlight left.
Here is where the adventure of the unknown mind took over, and was insisting that I continue with my original plan of completing the loop. But when I followed the trail marker, it dead ended. A cliff on one side, and extremely dense bushes and pines with no trail on the other. I backtracked and tried again, but the same thing. I was going to have to backtrack down the trail I came up. Something I never do if I can help it when hiking. I realized a quarter of the way down the original trail, that this was the best thing that could have happened. Not only was it significantly darker in the woods, but I moved as fast as possible because I already knew where I was going, and the landmarks in my mind kept me motivated and with some idea of how far out I was. I even patted the half way marker and called it old buddy outloud as I passed it.
Perspective changes instantly when the conditions change. On the way up I was plodding along feeling the thrill of each new water fall and getting up each rise. On the way down, I was racing against time, and each landmark turned into a checkmark to get to next. All the things that were in my car, and not in my backpack, that would be useful if I did for some reason get a stuck kept flashing through my mind: two flashlights, two sleeping bags, a reflective heat blanket, a tent, a pocket knife…..
I made it back to the car at 4:42, the sun set yesterday at 4:18, although I could still see well enough. The tree stumps had only just began turning into boogiemen and wild animals. When I got back to the car it was pitch dark in a matter of minutes, and promptly began pouring.
So much for my life in Maine becoming routine.