“I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.”
-- Mary Oliver
* * * * *
No two seasons are alike from one year to the next, of course. Some years the differences are dramatic, and other years they’re a lot less striking.
People who haven’t hiked lately often ask me “what kind of year or season are you having”? My answers vary, but for me there’s really no such thing as a bad season.
When it comes to hiking, some of us don’t even believe in bad weather, except perhaps for unusually severe storms. The natural world is beautiful in all weather.
Which is far from the way our media likes to frame it, given their preference for scare-mongering, to try to get us to stay home (and tuned in) whenever possible.
As I often say, even the rare times when we’re out hiking in extreme cold or heavy rain, nobody tells me they think they made a mistake in coming. People usually say they’re really glad they came, even in the face of relatively rare weather-related challenges.
Most notable about this summer, so far, is the fact that we’ve had more rain than most years. Which is obviously totally preferable to a parched-earth drought.
[As sometimes happens, the rain was far from evenly distributed: Harriman Park in the Ramapo Mountains received a big surplus, whereas locations like Fahnestock State Park and the Catskills have received, on average, a great deal less].
The effect has been that we’ve had to wade through flooded streams several times. We often cross larger streams on wooden bridges, and where they’re absent, we can often use large rocks -- but in high water the rocks are sometimes under water.
Having to take our footwear off and wade through water on a summer hike is by no means an unpleasant experience. It can feel more than a little refreshing and fun.
Plus the streams, rivers and waterfalls become spectacular after heavy rain, making them quite memorable, as they’ve been on many hikes this spring and summer.
Aside from several heat waves that didn’t last too long, we’ve also seen less hot weather than some other summers. And since temperatures in the mountains can be 10-20 degrees cooler than at home, on many hikes it’s been in the near-perfect 60s & 70s.
If you haven’t been out enjoying the delicious, oxygen-rich mountain air lately, it’s not too late to make plans to join us on some hikes this August and/or September…
-- Charlie Cook