Published Date Written by Ed ParsonsIn the mountains, it is easy to find a stream or river. This week, with the hot arrival of summer, I have enjoyed solitude while visiting a few.
There are many things to do along waterways. One of my favorite, is to scramble up a mountain stream — enjoying the challenge of safe passage, rediscovering what is around each corner, and taking a dip when needed.
To get into the right frame of mind, here is a quote from a great modern philosopher. "'Oh, Eeyore, you are wet!' said Piglet, feeling him. Eeyore shook himself, and asked somebody to explain to Piglet what happened when you had been inside a river for quite a long time."
Early this week, I did a favorite scramble up a stream in the Ossipee Range. The hot spell hadn't quite kicked in yet, and alas, the water was too cold to totally submerge in. But it was great to find my way up a rocky gorge, climbing next to waterfall after waterfall.
Another great activity is fishing along a river. I am re-learning this activity, and not as experienced as many. One late afternoon this week, I walked down a modest river, casting out a worm, with a non-lead sinker a foot above the hook. I only got a couple insignificant nibbles from tiny trout. But the river narrowed and spilled through a small gorge out into a placid pool, where old cement dam abutments stood on each side. It had been partly cloudy, but the sun came out as I stood by the pool, looking upstream. Suddenly the scene grew intense as rapids and ripples were set afire.
Now a few day later, I remember fisherman/poet Norman Mclean. "Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters."
Mid-week, summer came with a bang. Thursday morning I wanted to get out on a modest river walk. I wasn't aware that the Eeyore in me would emerge so dramatically, when I started down the Brook Path in Wonalancet.
I hadn't been on the Brook Path in quite a few years-- one of those "too close to home" scenarios, when your eyes are set further on the horizon. I parked out on Route 113A next to the sign for the Brook Path, located across the street from the Cabin Trail. I walked in the woods, and immediately met the swift and clear Wonalancet Brook, and followed it east.
I didn't realize that at the first deep bend in the brook, I would have to jump in. But I did. The cold mountain water was at that perfect early summer temperature — frigid but tolerable. My Patagonia hiking shorts kept me relaxed in case a camp group came by. My t-shirt was sufficient for a towel.
I continued down the trail, transformed from the cold water. I thought of doing walking meditation on the flat trail along the river, and got into it.
With a half dozen other Conway residents, I had gone on a three day meditation retreat the previous weekend in upstate New York. So on the Brook Path I fell into walking meditation quickly, like entering a quiet room in an old familiar house.
The trail followed the brook, which churned downhill through giant glacial boulders, and then grew silent again on the flats. The trail crossed a bridge, climbed up to an old road and turned left downriver. Soon I passed an old dam, and in 1.1 miles reached the dramatic Wonalancet Falls. I went swimming again in the deep pool below the falls.
Thoroughly refreshed, I headed back to my car, but had to stop at my first swimming spot for another, final dip.
There are a couple other river walks I am looking forward to this summer. Both are difficult. One is an old friend — the Cutler River from the first bridge on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. You start up the right side of the river from the bridge, scramble past Crystal Cascades, and continue up a mile or so, and cut across back to the Tuck Trail.
The other walk I have never done before. It is up Sleeper Brook from the Saco River, in Hart's Location below Crawford Notch. It is one of those interesting bushwhacks where you continue upward after the source of the brook disappears into the mountain. In the trees above, you hit the Davis Path, and return to the highway.
I've read some recent Blog entries about that hike, and would like to do it. But it couldn't be on a really hot day
Flowing rivers have generated great literature. I'll end with a quote from Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse. "Have you also learned that secret from the river, that there is no such thing as time? That the river is everywhere at the same time — at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains-- everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, nor the shadow of the future."