And that’s no fluke – but I won’t bore you with stats. Numbers numb, say the communication honchos. Stories sell. Make ‘em cry, not think.
The curly-haired ranger who takes my fiver and gives me a map of Monadnock has a tiny nose stud and a friendly manner. “Any dogs?” she asks, peering into the backseat. I shake my head. Do people really smuggle them in? She directs me to park next to a Subaru with a Trees Not Towers, No Northern Pass bumper sticker. Everyone’s against something, I guess: mothers-in-law, light beer, income inequality, transmission lines on steel towers bringing hydroelectricity from Quebec. I can’t get behind this one much: if we environmentalists want to smack climate change in the mouth, we can’t object to every form of producing and transmitting renewable energy that offends our eyes or, in the e-lingo, “compromises pristine viewsheds.”
On the other hand, if those dread towers try to climb Monadnock…
And so, up the Old Toll Road. It’s mostly shaded, but my t-shirt gets soaked through in ten minutes. This sweaty male of the species takes a right onto the Parker Trail running east across the mountain, and the bugs make a coordinated attack. Liberal application of lotion works well except for the dive bombers buzzing my ears. I take an uphill left onto the Cliff Walk, marked by white C’s painted on rocks and plastic blazes nailed to tree trunks. The trail’s matted with aged oak leaves. After clambering up a log ladder, newly-hewn, I examine lacy moss, ivy, fungi and paint-box lichen. As if saying, hello mountain. Then I slap away, slap away, and finally kill a greenhead going for the vein on the back of my hand, and I feel bad about it. What a softie.
My bumper stick: Vitality Not Frailty. No to Debilitating Old Age.
The Cliff Walk takes a sharp right into thick pine woods. The trees’ lower branches have been snapped off by wind or fire or bears or G-d knows, and I pass a trailside boulder plush-carpeted in moss. Very sleek. Green globules of moss are scattered up and down the trail, as if spit by some monster with a bad summer cold – and there’s that bird call I’ve heard before, the hard, scraping skiiirrkk of the blue-bearded grumbler, or some such creature. A hundred yards more and I come to another stunning vista, this one on a ledge of rock protruding from the mountain. Here I’m completely exposed, beyond the treetops. From this spot I could be picked up by a swooping glider or one of Tolkien’s giant eagles. A helicopter could hover and drop a rescue rope. An alien spacecraft or NSA satellite might even mistake me for a mountain offering. I’m tempted, vaguely, to take a running leap and soar out, soar free, and fall parabolically…instead I just stand there and admire. The world is lush green, a hundred hues of green.