Madonna rises ahead. The ski lift passes out of sight. Mira and I walked hear all the way from Mountain Laurel 15 via the Meadowlark. Now I wonder what we were thinking.
gravel on grass Summit enshrouded in gray clouds
A maintenance worker sporting a wheel tattoo on his left forearm recommends a pathway. We like his advice and start. A steep beginning: I already breathe hard. We follow the ski slope underneath the Madonna I lift. Tall grass and sapling pines mix with gravel and jutting rock. Our boots are slick with moisture in short order.
snacking early peeling paint on the racing ticket booth
I point out a butterfly on one of our many ascents. She can’t be bothered. Her boots are waterlogged. She showed me the toe. It separates from the sole. Fifteen years: they had a good run.
puddles on the trail always more trees ahead.
We pause, breathing hard. The wind picks up. Another steep climb awaits. Pressing one tired foot in front of the other, we press on. She sees the junction for the Long Trail first. Escaping the ski trails we’ve taken, we follow the path through the encroaching trees. It steeply ascends into a gauntlet of raised roots, wet rocks and scrambles nearly 80 degrees in pitch. By the time we’re through, it’s so cold I can see my breath.
floating hawk shiver in the latest mountain wind
We see the structure—a small cabin atop a platform. The exit for the lift stands to the left. We climb the staircase to the platform. It’s a warming hut. Sitting at the closest of two picnic tables, we take off our boots and socks. Time for lunch. A man and three children rest on the rise below us. One of their backpacks rests against a railing.
clouds depart the summit eating our PB and J sandwiches
The man greets us while we’re talking. Mira just finished a call with Colleen from MHA, turning down a $10/week Social Work position. Evidently, the man overheard Mira’s analogy of accepting a job being like a good marriage and misconstrued things. He asks if we’re seeking marriage counseling. He’s a psychologist, having privately practiced family counseling for years. We talk, sharing our occupations. We then examine views and help each other take pictures. Two girls with him—one of whom has a pixie cut—are his daughters; the boy is his nephew. Soon, they all gear up and head out.
gazing at Mansfield hiking boots crunching gravel
The descent is so much easier and gentler. We see Morrisville and Stowe before the trail turns toward Morse. Wildflowers grow. Mira, wearing my dry socks, smiles as butterflies alight on them. We walk on past runoffs, heading down. The trail turns toward Smuggs. We see Rumrunners and eventually the same trail from which we started. A jaunt down Meadowlark back to morse, and we arrive just after Frankie returns from camp.
aching knees and feet kissing the ground at ML15
Photo by Banter Snaps
first published in Image Curve, August 1, 2019