Leaving the paved road where a collapsed fieldstone foundation molders, I break trail on six inches of snow thawed and frozen, melted and refrozen. My footsteps squeak and crunch. High cirrus clouds filter sunlight sieved through pines before reaching the ground. Deer tracks wind along and across the trail and around laurel thickets. I pause to catch my breath and a blue jay’s harsh shriek shatters the quiet.
Gnarled, low growing oaks are thick near the summit. Some bronzed, desiccated leaves still cling to their branches. In a slight breeze they rustle with a dry, papery hiss.
The peak is busy with a cluster of structures. A couple of low concrete block buildings squat beside a tall needle-like tower painted red and white, a fire tower, and a lower framework of skeletal steel. Like thorns clinging to a wool coat, all are cluttered with communications antennas and transmitters—dishes and drums, shiny cylinders and tubular metal bent to a precise shape. There must be an earful of chatter, music and data flowing around me. But all I hear is a hairy woodpecker tapping an ersatz Morse code on a hollow oak limb, and the wind’s low whistle. From Olympus to Sinai to Katahdin and beyond, messages have been sent from mountaintops.
Snarl of antennas
silent sounds pervade the air
I hear wind, birdsong
(Haibun is a marriage of prose and haiku. It was first practiced by seventeenth-century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho who perfected the form in a journal he kept on a trip to the remote regions of northern Japan. Gary Snyder, James Merrill, and Jack Kerouac are among American interpreters of the genre. Haibun best expresses the spirit of the New England Trail because it combines clear-eyed prose descriptions of people, objects and places along with poetry that awakens the imagination.)
The New England National Scenic Trail, a unit of the National Park Service, runs 215 miles from Guilford, Connecticut to the Massachusetts/ New Hampshire border. The trail is maintained by volunteers of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association in Connecticut and the Appalachian Mountain Club in Massachusetts. For more go to https://newenglandtrail.org/