Thursday, March 10, 2011

Appalachia, White Mountains, and Dreams

Last month when I was back east for a conference (Washington, DC), I bought the journal, Applalachia, at the Barnes and Noble in Bethesda.

I hadn’t been in a Barnes and Noble in years so I slowly walked through my favorite sections: New Non Fiction, scowling at the popular reality show characters who actually get books published. I smiled at the great titles of new memoirs and their no-name authors who scored book deals. If I had all the money in the world, I would have bought those beautiful hard-cover memoirs and literary fiction with great titles and beautiful covers.

I continued to the sports section looking for triathlon books that I needed to read, ending in the magazine section. I looked for literary journals and magazines about the writing life. I picked up a British triathlon magazine I’d never heard of and in the outdoor section saw the journal, Applachia.

Appalachia is “American’s Longest-Running Journal of Mountaineering and Conservation" according to the cover. It is an AMC book and I had never read it. When I lived in New Hampshire I was an AMC member and every month got the magazine, but never got the journal. I skimmed a few pages and kept seeing "White Mountains" and photos of mountain tops I've been on and knew I needed to buy it.

I didn’t read it on the plane home. I waited until I got home so I could savor every word that was written about hiking in the White Moutains. I wanted to read every article slowly and remember the time spent in the woods and mountain peaks of New Hampshire and Maine.

The cover photo of the Winter/Spring 2011 edition is taken from a logging camp to the north of Owl’s Head, a 4,000 foot peak that I never got to. But I swear, if that photo was in a different magazine or somewhere on the internet unnamed, I could tell it was taken in the White Mountains.

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today and reading the first lines of Pemigewasset Dreams by Jonathan Mingle, I start thinking about the Pemigewasset wilderness and the time I spent wandering its trails. Those two words together are magical to me today: Pemigewasset and Dreams. His story starts: “I am walking through Zealand Notch, south toward Thoreau Falls.” I’m there. I want to be there. The second paragraph keeps me reading: “But the forest disrobed offers me a chance to scan for signs of the cataclysm, so I do.” He is wandering the valley in winter admiring a reborn forest after decades of logging.

He says the place names that marked my world so long ago such as Carrigan, Zeacliff, Zealand Falls Hut, Mount Tom, and Pemigewasset.

Reading the story, I think about how little wandering in the woods I’ve done this winter. I’ve skied and hiked short trips with the dogs. No long skis on the trails in Winter Park and no long hikes up the mountain behind my house. I am feeling that I am missing winter and bemoaning the cold; very uncharacteristic of me.

Today, I will go out my front door, dogs on leash, and wander around a bit more before the afternoon of triathlon training. Today, I will spend more time outside than inside. It’s a beautiful day on the western slope, blue sky, temperatures hovering in the 30s. Earlier this morning as I write, like William Stafford did, "before first light" that I am living my dream. All this time I thought my dream was Montana, but it really is Colorado.

For now, the Rocky Mountains are my dream and I will wander its valley and mountain peaks. 
I’ll get back to the Whites and the Pemi and Owl’s Head, some day. It’s part of my history. And, it will be part of my future.

1 comment:

  1. Kristen, I'm so happy to read this post. I'm the editor of Appalachia journal, and thanks to the persistence of the AMC's communications director over several years, we finally convinced our distributor to place Appalachia on the newsstand at Barnes & Noble. That's so that people like you can find it.
    Christine Woodside