Sunday, February 05, 2006


New England, weather-wise, is currently an unacceptable, unholy mess.

Turboglacier exhausted himself yesterday with a 15-mile backcountry slog, seeking but not attaining the summit of Owl’s Head mountain. I try to pretend that I love them equally, the 48 mountains I’m obsessed with, but it’s a lie. This unworthy little mountain has repelled me twice, and I’m starting to hate it.

Though nothing specifically bad happened, I feel vaguely traumatized by the expedition. The entire day seemed steeped in preternatural creepiness. The air, far too warm for February, had a witchcrafty texture. The abandoned logging railroad bed I skied in on had glare ice that intermittently reflected my body in a mangled and warped quasi-likeness. Then a mile of climbing to Black Pond, which I had to either cross or work around. A path of footprints led across the slushy ice to the far shore, but how old were they, and how much had the ice melted since those travelers passed safely? I put skis back on to spread my weight and sped across as fast as I could. Some bubbling, gurgling sounds below made the hair on my neck stand up.

Next came an hour of bushwhacking through swampy sapling thickets, where the very trees attacked me. With skis on the pack, tips protruding overhead, the twisting tentacled branches grabbed hold from behind, wrenching me backwards or spinning me in circles. Dozens of switches whipped me in the face, leaving red welts. In some places the snow was deep and I sank to my knees. In others, the ground was bare and mucky, seemingly heated from below. In these, bright green ferns grew, as if in a hothouse. My boots sank in muck. I cursed the trees. I passed a bog pool skimmed in black ice, with rotten stumps protruding at odd angles. I thought of the Witch of the Westmoreland. I thought of the Blair Witch Project. I thought of the Molasses Swamp in Candyland.

Finally, I emerged at another trail along a granite bedrock river. Here I had hoped to ski again, but no luck—the trail’s snow was washed out every hundred yards by muddy seeps. On foot I plodded upwards. Suddenly, a violent noise stopped my heart—a noise of cracking demolition, a noise that should not be in the woods—I spun round to face the sound and saw a boulder the size of a washing machine crashing down a rockslide across the river. It landed with a deep boom, out of sight. Nothing moved. The river gurgled. I moved on.

At the height of land where the river peters and the next step is to climb a rockslide to the summit of Owl’s Head, I hesitated. My legs ached. The shadows had grown long, then disappeared as dark clouds had gathered over the sky. I thought about the boulder. I shivered and looked around for the presence I felt behind me. “This,” I decided, “is not the day.” I turned around. Back at the trailhead, the VW wouldn’t start. Rain splattered the windshield. I waited and waited for someone to come by and help me with a jumpstart.

This morning the church bell in the Very Small Village is tolling ominously. The river behind 777’s house is rushing grey and swollen. The whole world is washing away to a slushy, icy hell. It’s time to fade to a better climate.


Blogger Will said...

Do you carry a GPS system with you or is that considering cheating?

2/5/06, 1:20 PM  
Blogger Turboglacier said...

Not considered cheating-- it's not an orienteering competition. I often carry one, mostly for fun. But not on this last trip-- that bushwhack was better done with a compass.

2/5/06, 11:51 PM  
Anonymous girltuesday said...

a little haiku to the mountain for your troubles:

Wishing and wanting
to see you,
I step on thin ice.

-Madoka Mayuzumi

2/6/06, 11:20 AM  
Blogger Turboglacier said...

That capures a lot in eleven words, GT...

2/8/06, 11:38 AM  

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