A rustling on the trail ahead slowed my march. Maybe animal, probably hiker, I thought. Maybe both.
I rounded the boulder and a pair of YAMs (young adult males) appeared, perching trailside among the moss and roots. The one whose idea it was was staunchly puffing on the stub of a cigarette, gazing affirmatively straight ahead. The one whose idea it wasn't looked fearful, guiltily sneaking a long look at me as I moved along.
I promptly passed through their cloud of pot smoke and chuckled at the cute cigarette charade. Boys, I thought...
I emerged from the forest about an hour later to the bright granite face of Old Speck's western flank. This view of the Mahoosucs is one of my favorites. The backdrop of blue-gray mountains on this day was seven layers deep. The foreground was mostly air -- Here, the ground falls away before you. Rock then sky. With articulate timing and the right gust of wind, perhaps you could step into flight, sailing over the sea of evergreens below.
One cannot see Speck Pond from here. It's roughly 0.8 miles hence and 600feet below. A green hump shields the secret from view. I descended very slowly, wondering if it would be at all like what I'd remembered. I was here in on September 12, 2007, and I remember parts of that adventure with vivid, uncharacteristic clarity. Trek For Peace's first entry details a bit of it. I dare not read it.
It was midafternoon when I reached the Pond and my thoughts drifted back to Lifesaver, Uncle Silly, and Silly's yellow dog, Katie Daly, who snuggled up with me 6 years ago as I shivered. So did Lifesaver. Uncle Silly was mere inches away too, though I'm not sure I'd ever spoken with him except at dinner when he gave me a clove of garlic as I was cooked the last of my couscous. Birdlegs and Birdman (not related.) were taking up most of the the other side, she no doubt telling wild stories and making us all howl. And then we all went quiet when Silly took out his banjo and played us to windy sleep...
I'm alone this time and it's 2014. I have a lock of Wyatt's hair in my pocket to set free. I regret that I didn't bring a sleeping bag. This is no place to rush.
I sat by the sparkling blue for a long time as the afternoon thought about evening and I thought about everything. Then I started thinking about the gnarly climb back up, and bid farewell to this wild and precious place. It was a delicious climb. Not too much, but a lot. Steep ups can seem intimidating, but in the moment, to me, they inspire a lifeline of focus.
I was back at my favorite view within the hour and gave it another long stare. Finally, I greeted Mount Washington, where I look forward to being in a few weeks.