Cold Winds Coming

basin pond

“We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.” – Henry Rollins

The house is cold this morning. Fingers stiff from the lingering chill brought on from last night’s sudden drop in temperature. My steaming cup of coffee is a welcome friend on this cool, overcast day. The wood pile is calling, the remnants waiting to be stacked. A final repair to the roof to be made before the first coming snow; leaves are slowly transforming into a brilliant array of color once again. And as always, the woods are calling. Fall has come to New Hampshire.

I have lost count of how many nights I’ve spent in the woods this year. Since March I’ve wracked up close to two months of camping and hiking. Not long ago I estimated that nearly 25% of all of my total time has been spent in Maine since May.

When I look back over this year there is so much I haven’t written about: the cold, wet week in May on the Allagash; the week spent on the Mattawamkeag and Penobscot rivers honing my outdoor leadership skills with other future Maine Guides. Friendships have been forged. I’ve spent more time hiking in the Whites this year than I’ve spent in the Whites over the past ten years – and in doing so I’ve met some awesome people.

It’s amazing that when I look back over this year’s adventures I barely remember the peaks I’ve hit. The summits are so unimportant. I remember the hikes, the people I met along the way, the conversations I’ve had with friends who have joined me on and off the trail. And I remember the new friends I’ve met out there, made over stupid tree jokes and bone rattling trail work. I remember the AT thru-hikers who would talk the ear off of anyone willing to listen. I always listened. They have the best stories and the biggest smiles.

I remember the late nights sitting out under a starry sky at a secluded cabin in Maine with a group of my newest guide friends, knowing that in our future I’ve got a couple guys I can always call to help me out. I remember being able to spend time learning about guiding from my uncle, who I haven’t had the opportunity to connect closely with much over the past few years. He’s been a great mentor already and I’m looking forward to the years to come.

I remember diving into icy cold river water to wash off four-day-old grime. I remember the laughter, so much laughter. I also remember the quiet times alone at a campfire with the sounds of owls, coyotes, and mourning doves singing me to sleep. And there was that curious little skunk who wandered into camp one night, within a few feet of me before scurrying off into the scrub brush. That was a close call!

One thing has been glaringly clear all year: you can have your resort vacation at a four or five star hotel. Me? I’ll take the wilderness and a million stars, any day – any time of year.

This fall is already promising more adventures. Next week I sit in front of a couple of Maine wardens to finish my guide testing. (I’m reviewing like crazy this weekend.) Then it’s back to the Whites for a weekend in the Pemigewassett Wilderness. There will be a couple more trips of trail work with the Jolly Rovers Trail Crew and an epic end of year party in December. January and February will bring on the winter hiking season. Perhaps there will be a New Year’s Day hike up Monadnock. Who knows? In the words of the legendary Joe Strummer, “the future is unwritten.”

For now, the wood pile is calling my name, and I must go. I’ll see you on the trails.

Photo: Basin Pond, Maine – by Marc Patterson