Summer in New England, and I am Appalachian homesick.
Now don’t misunderstand me; the New England mountains are surely grand. From the majesty of Katahdin in Maine to the prominent summit of Mount Washington — from the imposing Mount Mansfield in Vermont to the bucolic ridgelines of the Berkshires, there is nothing anywhere like hiking and backpacking through New England.
But if the topography of New England juts out like an intimidating porcupine, the heights of the Appalachians down south unfold like a woman lying on her side, her sinuous and appealing curves beckoning the walker to sooth their soul amid her lush landscape. Don’t blush. It’s just the way things are down in the coves and valleys of that land. Misleading, because the pathway to the peaks are sometimes without switchback, muddy, rock, stump-infested, and unforgiving. The reward is hard won for the backpacker, yet the payoff is sweet. From the cool and nestled springs amid the breath-taking green to the soothing breezes atop the ridges where redtail hawks glide lazily below the view. There is nothing to compare.
The souls of the people are woven into the mountains, a common dependency which sustains a rugged and hard life, even today. Why live there? Why not? Some things are beyond the ability of the dollar to procure, beyond barter or trade. People give more than the shirt off their back. I dare say “trail magic” is most powerful here and that others, hearing about its power, have adopted the tradition, giving in love without requirement, helping a hiker who is in need.
Oh, bury me there, if it be possible. Lay my tired and weary body down among the trillium and the pine, the balsam and the rugged hills. Though my spirit go to God it will retain a thread spun around the Appalachians which will feed my nurtured soul all the more beyond the gates of glory. I may be living in New England today, but I am Appalachian homesick.