Mounting It ~ Part 1: The Hike

Like some other famous upstate New York destinations (Saratoga Race Track as the most glaring example), John Boyd Thacher Park is one of those places I’ve never visited. I’m not sure what took me so long, but the long over-due trip was made a few weekends ago, on a Friday I had off from work. The foliage was just slightly past its peak (though still, as exhibited here, more than brilliant). The park itself had officially stopped charging for the season (there’s no fee to park after Columbus Day). I had the morning – and most of the space – to myself.

I stopped at the overlook first, which seemed a world away from Albany. With the shifting clouds moving swiftly overhead, spotlighting areas of open green fields and fiery-hued forest in alternating swaths of glory. It reminded me of overhead drawings of the land of Oz, everything Munchkin-small at such a great distance, patches of farmland and meandering streams, and the almost-surreal color palette of a Northeastern fall.

At my second stop, I noticed a sign that said all visitors had to stop to pick up a parking permit, and that if no one was at the gate (they weren’t) to go to the visitor’s center. Not wanting any trouble, I made my way there and talked with a friendly woman who gave me a map and an introductory explanation of what the basic trail was like. She warned that the waterfalls were dry since there had not been much rain, but other than that the day was a beautiful one for a hike.

My first official hike. Granted, it was short (barely a mile), and well-tread and well-marked (there were even sections of stairs), but for a first attempt – alone no less (which everyone had warned against), I did all right.

More importantly, it reminded me of childhood days when I would go walking in the woods, far as any trail – marked or unmarked – would take me. I’d forgotten how important walks like that could be. How grounding, and centering, and calming. I felt that again as I started along the Indian Ladder Trail, descending along moss-lined stone and the first blanket of fallen leaves.

The best part of a space like this is the extreme juxtaposition of the most minute, microscopic views of the world – in the lichens and mosses and seeds – with one of the grandest views in the region – of a valley and fields and forest.

It is a humbling feeling. A good feeling. A feeling I’d been missing.

{To be continued}


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