Hiking down the Zealand trail with my brother in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, he suggests taking a spur to “somewhere with a really good view.” My 12-year-old is more game than I expect, and we hike along an easy wooded path, in a valley where he and I surmise a railroad must have been laid for logging, many many decades ago. It takes longer than we imagined, because, well, hiking always takes longer.
Suddenly, the woods drop away, and the view is way more than terrific. It’s unbelievable. High above, sheer granite cliffs end in autumn-yellow woods. We step out on enormous granite boulders and gaze up and down the valley, flanked on either side by steep mountains. In the distance at one end, we see the Zealand Falls hut; to the other side, the valley funnels down to silhouettes of blue mountain ranges.
We spread out on the rock. It’s just the three of us and a dog and the sunlight and the leftover blue cheese and chips from lunch. My daughter’s brought beer for my brother, and she’s proud that it’s still cold. In the mountain valley, with foliage turning scarlet in flashes against a muted sea of gold, the place reminds me of Frijoles Canyon in New Mexico, of Washington’s Mt. Baker territory where I lived as a grad student, of so many hikes I’ve taken with my daughters. All the best memories of my hiking life are folded into this one wide valley.
My daughter wanders off with the dog. My brother and I talk about hikes we took together as kids, laughing about how we never packed enough water. A raven calls, and then another answers. We stay there for a good long while, in no great rush about anything, talking, surrounded by all that landscape, all those layers of mysterious life in the forest and the river below, those lines of receding mountain ridges leading to the sea.
The autumn evening.
The buses are in line,
One goes out.
– Nakamura Teijo