Monday, April 11, 2011

along the trail

along the fine veil of memory there are millions of individual threads. these threads occasionally become frayed and some get loose and, over time, wiggle free, fall away, and are lost forever. other threads separate a little from the veil, just enough to get noticed, but they stay attached and remain smoothly intact. the trail of memory threads is often intricate and rich and invites examination.

i see a place in the mountains of new hampshire. it is one of my earliest recollections. i am about five years old and it is the middle of summer. my parents pack up the car for a camping trip to the white mountains. i remember this part so clearly: i am unbearably excited to finally get on the road....the road is boring until we see the mountains....i help set up camp....the next day i am thrilled beyond words to be hiking up mount chocorua on a trail in the very dark spooky woods. (spooky to me, anyway - at this point in my life i am a little city girl from boston harboring the most vivid imagination; believe me, the trail is a perfectly ordinary hiking trail.)

[note: the mount chocorua area in 1963 was not the crowded place it is today. then, as now, the miles and miles of interconnected trails allowed hikers the benefit of exploring multiple trails and summits without ever leaving the woods. in those days there was plenty of space for everyone to roam around and not bump into too many other hikers along the way. it was still a real wilderness; a bit of solitude could be had in those woods back then. the word spread about the chocorua area, though, and now many hikers populate the trails.]

we are all alone. i ask my dad will we get lost? he holds up a small detailed guidebook with trail maps of the area, and assures me there is no chance of getting lost. i am reassured. i skip ahead along the trail, my head immersed in the formation of my own little collection of stories. the trail becomes steep. we are high enough to see the summit in the distance. it looks like a pyramid. my dad tells me how the shape of the mountain's peak changes depending on where you are standing. from the east chocorua is like a camel's hump; from the north it resembles a shark's fin.

we grab at birch trunks to pull ourselves up giant granite boulders. we stop and take a rest and drink big gulps from our silver metal canteens which are covered in dark gray boiled wool with snaps and a loop to hook on your belt or knapsack (back then we never said backpack, only knapsack). i love my own special canteen. we pass through scrubby woods of short pine and spruce and finally get to the top of chocorua. my parents oooo and ahhhh over the view of the swift river valley. i am sweaty and the refreshing summer wind feels good. i cool off and put on my sweatshirt.

on the way back down we head east on a spur loop trail to see champney falls and pitcher falls. one of them (i don't remember which) has flat step-like slabs of granite where the water gently tumbles down into shallow pools filled with smooth stones, and lined with large mossy ones spread out like sleeping, prehistoric beasts, cracked and bumpy gray with pink, green and black mottling. my dad says in the spring, unlike summer, a torrent of water gushes down the mountain and hurtles over the falls forming deep, dark, icy pools. i take off my sneakers and socks and stick my hot feet in with the stones in one of the chilly pools.

we are tired so we decide not to take a side trip along the trail over to middle sister today. we will hike again soon. we go back to camp and get a campfire started. it gets dark and i catch fireflies and put them in a jar.....but just for a while.....then i set them free.....

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