“The trail leads beside the clear-running brook and a chain of emerald pools, some of them big enough to go swimming in, with the water so transparent I can see the shadows of the schools of minnows passing over the grains of sand in the bottom of the basins. Along the canyon walls are the seeps and springs that feed the stream, each with the characteristic clinging gardens of mosses, ferns and wildflowers. Above and beyond the rimrock, blue in shadow and amber-gold in light, are alcoves, domes and royal arches, part of the sandstone flanks of Navaho Mountain.
A hot day. Delicate, wind-whipped clouds flow across the burning blue, moving in perfect unison like the fish in the pools below. I stop at one of the largest of these pools, undress and plunge in. Happily I flounder about, terrifying the minnows, and float on my back and spout cheekfuls of water at the sun.”
* * * * *
“For the time being, around my place at least, the air is untroubled, and I become aware for the first time today of the immense silence in which I am lost. Not a silence so much a great stillness -- for there are a few sounds: the creak of some bird in a juniper tree, an eddy of wind which passes and fades like a sigh, the ticking of the watch on my wrist -- slight noises which break the sensation of absolute silence but at the same time exaggerate my sense of the surrounding, overwhelming peace. A suspension of time, a continuous present...”
Dark clouds sailing overhead across the fields of the stars. Stars which are usually bold and close, with an icy glitter in their light--glints of blue, emerald, gold. Out there, spread before me to the south, east, and north, the arches and cliffs and pinnacles and balanced rocks of sandstone (now entrusted to my care) have lost the rosy glow of sunset and become soft, intangible, in unnamed unnameable shades of violet, colors that seem to radiate from -- not overlay -- their surfaces.
A yellow planet floats on the west, brightest object in the sky. Venus. I listen closely for the call of an owl, a dove, a nighthawk, but can hear only the crackle of my fire, a breath of wind...
I wait. Now the night flows back, the mighty stillness embraces and includes me... I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of loneliness I feel loveliness. Loveliness and a quiet exaltation.”
-- Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (Ballentine Books, 1968)
* * * * *
In the 6/5/17 journal/blog entry I briefly addressed the subject of swimming and wading on summer hikes, which are wonderfully refreshing ways to cool off in warm weather.
Some people stay off the trails during the summer months, assuming it’s too hot for hiking. It’s true that exercising outdoors during a heat wave can be problematic.
Especially on city streets, for example, or at any low-elevation location with lots of concrete and little shade, which can make for oppressive conditions on a hot day.
That’s one of the primary reasons we head for higher mountain elevations during the summer months, since temps there can be 15-20 degrees lower than at home.
Meaning when temperatures are in the 90s at sea level, they’re often in the 70s on high mountain trails in the Catskills and in the shadier areas of the Shawangunks.
The deep shade provided by many mountain forests helps keep things cooler, and refreshing winds and breezes blow regularly across mountain terrain as well.
The cooler waters of the lakes we visit -- and the rivers and mountain streams we often hike alongside -- also help to lower the local air temperature somewhat.
There are usually quite a few summer days when it’s actually somewhat chilly in the mountains, when we may even need to put on a sweater to be comfortable.
But that contributes to the sense of refreshment, since hiking in cool temps feels wonderful – another reason why summer is a superb season for hiking.
-- Charlie Cook