I’m a bleeder. Blood pours unbidden from old wounds as if I were some St. Gertrude for unbelievers. I attribute it to the 12 pills doctors make me take daily, one of which, I’m pretty sure, is to remember the other 11. So when we arose in the early rain near the top of Dix Mountain, it looked as if I had single-handedly fought off the bear. Worried about our water supply, we eschewed coffee and slogged uphill. We arrived at a face of rock, only 30 feet long, but very steep and shaped like an open book. We could not get up it with our packs on. The moment of truth had arrived. “Do we have rope?”
“Yes, I packed it.”
“Where is it?”
“It’s in here somewhere.”
“Go through your pack again.”
We sent Michael up with the rope, then hooked up the bags and followed ourselves. Soon we were at the top of Dix, where we took in the two-foot view of fog and rain. It would be “all downhill from here.”
When you reach a certain age, that phrase has a depressing ring to it – and it turns out to be true, of hiking as well as life, that coming down is harder than going up. It seemed an eternity before we arrived at a small lean-to on Slippery Brook, where we at last had our breakfast of coffee and sweet-and-sour chicken.
Like many Americans, I have come to expect my wild to be tame – trails marked, nature benign and pretty. And let’s be honest, pretty much it is. But that is because we have made it so. As Michael, Anne and I sipped our coffee, our bond strengthened, our souls revived, our fears behind us, we knew that this had not been just any walk in the woods.