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Above the Rainbow

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ~ John Muir

Yesterday I wrote of a meditative walk in the woods replenishing my spirit. Today’s hike was a different exercise in mindfulness. Keywords being both ‘exercise’ and ‘mindfulness’. In addition to nourishing my heart, I strengthened my body and mind, climbing to the summit of Haystack Mountain, acutely aware of each step over rock, root, puddle, and squirrel. (More on the squirrel shortly.)

I fortified myself with a hearty breakfast, returning to Betsey’s Dots of Dover for my favorite: sausage gravy biscuits with a couple of fried eggs, coffee and fresh-squeezed OJ. I had a happy reunion with Bestsey herself, whom I met during ITVFest last fall. She told me of the passing of Holmes, an ancient dog I met then, but let me know the owner had recently acquired a puppy. While chatting, Che, the puppy himself (yes, named for the revolutionary), made an enthusiastic entrance, and we were instant friends.

After breakfast (okay, brunch if I’m being honest), I headed to the Haystack Mountain trail. I knew I’d arrived when I saw the cars parked along both sides of the road. I was advised the mountain would be crawling with folks attempting this year’s Green Mountain Adventure Challenge. I parked and began making my way up the mountain.

I knew right away this was not a nature walk, but a HIKE. The USDA Forest Service designates the Haystack Mountain Trailas intermediate, ascending 1020 feet over 2.4 miles to the summit (3445 feet above sea level). I was drenched with sweat in five minutes, though this may have had something to do with the cup of coffee I chugged when I parked the car. (I don’t recommend it; my gut sloshed for the first 20 minutes of climbing.) This city mouse is definitely not used to climbing mountains. I hit a moderate “wall” about twenty minutes in, but pushed forward.

Because so much of my attention was on my feet, it wasn’t easy taking in the surroundings. There were not as many wildflowers, but the plethora of moss and ferns, the pervasive damp and the mud, made me think I was hiking a temperate rain forest, despite the brilliant sunshine.

I reached the summit after hiking about an hour. Was it worth it? Absolutely. The photos speak for themselves, but cannot convey the joy of actually standing on those rocks. The vista included Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire and Mt. Ascutney, Vermont. each over 40 miles away. I met the Gallups when I arrived, Adventurers from upstate New York on their THIRD Green Mountain Challenge. When they left, I was alone for a bit before Mike and Stacey of Connecticut joined me with their dog Finley. In the course of our conversation, I learned Mike has a side business recycling vintage skis at (The adirondack chair is my favorite.)

Once they left, I wasn’t alone for long. More hikers arrived as I was packing up to head back down, when I noticed a tiny squirrel attempting to hide in a shallow crevice in the rock. I nearly stepped on him. I could see his sides pumping like a mini-bellows and I bent down to examine him more closely. He scurried a short distance away, but exhibited no signs of fear or illness. He eventually sequestered himself under a tree, out of the way of the growing crowd.

About this time a rainbow appeared. I would have missed it if not for the squirrel encounter. Between the squirrel and the rainbow, the large gathering now at the summit was a gregarious group, some Adventurers, but most not. Andy, a first-time Adventurer with his wife Carol, explained the Challenge to curious non-Adventurers. By now, I had stayed at the summit for over an hour. As one hiker remarked, Happy Hour had begun and it was time to get back to the party.

The climb down was easier, though I continued staring at my feet most of the way. By the time the road was in sight, my knees were wincing, betraying their age. I drove home a different and beautiful way. After a shower and a sandwich, I walked over to the firepit behind the 1846 Tavern & Restaurant at the West Dover Inn. It was time to put my feet up, chat with Adventurers swapping stories and clues, and celebrate with a little whiskey. Vermontime.

Needless to say, I slept VERY WELL.


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