The Last Movement

Sometimes, in the Whites, I’d close my eyes at night and still see a rock wall directly in front of me that I’m supposed to climb. Each day was crazy. Hiking was no longer about walking, and more about launching myself up these slopes, bit by bit, sweat streaming down from the effort of each and every move–and then clinging for dear life onto the rock when I’d have to go back down on the other side, my feet dangling until I could find a foothold. Usually it would all be slick and slimy with water too. I was in my element. The excruciating difficulty of the hiking–which I stopped even noticing after a while–lent so much purpose to my day. “I have to tackle this monster today,” I’d say–and the reward would be so dramatic a view that it shouldn’t even be called a view. It wasn’t so much about what I could see in front of me as much as the openness that extended into my peripheral vision, the sensation of being at the top of the world. Unless we were in the clouds, in which case you couldn’t see a damn thing and the reward of the climb was just the fact that we’d done it–which was quite rewarding in itself, as it turned out.

The whole entrance into the Whites that I was perseverating about in my last post was actually delayed a few days, because after four months of no significant injury I suddenly found I had shin splints. I lounged in Hanover to rest them, initially eager for the chance to finish A Clockwork Orange, but soon bored out of my mind and ready to hit the trail again. When I did I still had to take it slow, which was frustrating, but by the time I got to Mount Moosilauke, the start of the insane terrain, I was back to my old self. I charged up the mountain–there was a moose up there, incidentally–and crossed into the country of rugged beauty. My friends and I were enjoying it so much we did an 8-mile roundtrip side trail to see the Bond Cliffs, an especially gorgeous mountain surrounded by others. You couldn’t see any roads or houses, and the Presidentials–those legendary, formidable, completely bare peaks–were visible in the distance.

Soon they weren’t so much in the distance, and then we were on top of them. I stayed up there as long as I could, partly so I’d have a clear sunrise on Mt. Washington but partly just to be so immersed in that Lord of the Rings-like world that I got used to it, as if I were living up there for a little while.

So now I’m deep into Maine, and despite a terrifying but intermittent pain in my left foot, I’m cruising towards the finish. In some ways, this last stretch of the trail has the feeling of the final movement of a great symphony. There’s plenty of new material, splendid views, inconceivably steep climbs, wild forests. But memories from the earlier days on trail are constantly working themselves into my thoughts, like the themes from movements prior. As I get closer and closer to Katahdin–where I am now, I’m about 220 miles away, barely 10% left–I appreciate more and more how my progress is the sum of all of the individual days of pushing myself back in the South, in rocky Pennsylvania, and just now in the Whites. Even they are part of the past now; I can’t even see them anymore from where I am. The terrain’s eased up temporarily, but it’s about to get harder again, until the final crescendo up Baxter peak. A grand finale indeed.

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Comments 1

  • Kathe Davridge : Aug 5th

    Ronen, my heart is full of pride for your success in nearing completing this trek but more, i am touched by your courage, dedication, mindfulness, expressiveness, strength and elasticity that has shown itself in your beautiful writings. and PS….i love your long hair!


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