Mountain Oasis

 

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View of Mt. Lafayette from the deck of the house

We’ve just come off a 12 day trip to New England, most of which was spent in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire. I had been looking forward to the trip ever since we planned it in back in February. Not only were we to take up the challenge of a half-marathon in the heart of the Green Mountains, we were also reconnecting with our tribe-our children, sister, niece and closest friends.

Emily and I at the summit of Artist’s Bluff

I love the new life I am building with my husband. He makes me laugh every day; we are true partners in our relationship. I am grateful that I am in a situation where I don’t I have to prove myself with every breath I take. Also, I have really enjoyed exploring some parts of this new landscape in addition to re-establishing myself as an educator in a supportive and positive school community. But hiking and being in the mountains is one of the things I miss the most about living up north.

If you are neither a hiker nor a runner, it may be hard to understand the joy found in the challenge of a long hard run or a long hard climb. Or even the purpose of arising early in the morning to begin the trek! Although my half-marathon time was slow and the hills nearly impossible to run, the landscape raised me up and the weather cooperated by staying cool. I was so happy to be there! Rolling hills, farm houses, red barns, fields of green and friendly folk enveloped by misty mountains had a medicinal effect even during the hardest parts of the race.

One of the best cures for post-race muscle fatigue (besides yoga) is a good, solid, short hike. My husband and I chose the Sterling Pond Trail at the top of Smuggler’s Notch. At 3000′, it is Vermont’s highest trout pond. With a 1000′ elevation gain, it proved to be the perfect antidote to the previous day’s rolling roads. Slippery, wet rocks and muddy paths were rewarded by the view at the summit.

Sterling Pond, Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont

I knew this was only the beginning of finding my joy and, despite my aches and pains, I was ready for what the White Mountains had to offer us for the rest of the week.

Upon our arrival at the house in Franconia, we were greeted  by this view:

Mt. Lafayette on a sunny afternoon

My eyes welled up. I felt as if I was coming home. And indeed, home came to us in human form as well. My friends rented a place five minutes down the road and we shared many a meal and hiking paths together that week. My sons and stepdaughter arrived a few days later along with my sister-in-law and niece. We had girlfriends, boyfriends and other young adults added to the mix. At times, it felt like herding cats for hikes, but in a good way. Emily and my youngest  and his girlfriend (along with my sister-in-law) were always up and ready to go. And truly, everyone else was a good sport about heading out and attempting (and completing) the climbs.

We talked a lot about finding the joy in the challenge. For me, it isn’t only about reaching the summit, but in touching the earth along the way.

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Wildflowers across from Cannon Mountain

Being in the mountains makes it possible to be embraced by nature in ways that living here does not. The silence, the evergreen scents and sounds and the refreshing tingle of cool air are a reminder of how blessed we are to live on this planet and the need to preserve it.

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Arethusa Falls, Crawford Notch

 

Dew Point 76

 

Photo Courtesy of: dailyburn.com

Running is a road to self-awareness and reliance-you can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet

.Doris Brown Heritage

Early Saturday morning, my husband returned from a short run and said “Take it slow and walk before you have to.”  I packed my gummies in my back shorts pocket, took the icy water bottle from the freezer and made may way out for an 11 mile run. The air was thick and the trail was still.   The usual weekend warriors were out-none exhibiting their usual speed of feet nor swiftness of wheels. It was not hard to hold back. I let my mind wander as I dodged other walkers or runners. We  whispered “Good morning” to one another or simply smiled, nodding ‘hello’. This was work. At the 4 and 1/2 mile mark, I stopped, following my husband’s advice. My legs were just this side of tired. Heat has a way of making all parts of your body feel heavier. Even your breathing. Each intake feels as if I’m rowing, pulling through water. I resumed running, passing by a homeless man soundly sleeping on a park bench.  Rounding the bend, through the underpass, I noticed the newest street art- gorgeous murals covering the extra wide posts in brilliant reds and yellows. I was nearing the turn around point. A small part of me wanted to push myself further but I knew the long slog back would be a challenge to say the least.

I don’t recall how many more times I stopped to walk. I remember developing a strategy, however. Run up all overpasses and run all away across the long bayou. I made the overpasses but stopped short on the bayou, in need of gummies and the last of my water. The campground on the east side of the trail allowed me to replenish my water bottle before heading further north.  I made myself move-not propel-just lift my legs through Blossom Lake Park and towards another overpass.

The shade provided zero relief.  The breeze was non-existent. At this point, all I could do was talk myself into running from one point to another. The split in the trail. The telephone pole. The couple walking side by side.

I noticed my shoes were soaked and my shorts and shirt clung to me like a wet bathing suit. Everything was dripping from my body. Beads of sweat were flying into the air. I was out of water again. The last leg of this soggy session was upon me, though.  A walk through the park behind my house and then a short jaunt down my street brought me to my doorstep.

My body has had a tough time adjusting to this climate. So training for our upcoming half-marathon in July has been awful. Actually, I told my husband on Thursday night (after completely our weekly bridge repeats and, again needing to walk), that this will go down as the suckiest preparation of my running life.

Lucky for me, my husband is quite positive and consistently encouraging despite my complaining and near apathy about this whole process. He reminds me that I’m still out there doing it. And my father says all this heat will only help when we get up to the mountains of Vermont. I hope so!

It’s easy to make excuses NOT to do something or even to set goals. But I know the reward is coming. The journey continues.