Author Archives: Amanda Kimm

“Little Wild Horse” by Jackson Yang

         I could feel the slow tingle of excitement work its way through my body as I boarded the plane to Utah this past April. Whenever I flew out to spend a couple of weeks with my mom’s side of the family, I knew I’d be bringing back a slew of good memories. Maybe it was seeing the family, or simply the drastic change in scenery, but I could easily find a sense of calm that was often hidden somewhere in the busy suburbs of Connecticut. Being a self proclaimed outdoorsman myself, it did not hurt that I would always make some sort of road trip or camping adventure with my crazy Uncle CJ. We had driven from San Diego to San Francisco and back to Utah one summer, then up to Montana another, all in his beat up FJ Cruiser. The odometer may as well have been counting the number of stories we made. I like to think that part of what makes an experience memorable is the people that you share it with, and Uncle CJ is the type of character where you know you’ll come back with at least one good tale. My most recent trip out west found me towards the south of the Beehive State, snaking my way through the Little Wild Horse slot canyon near Goblin Valley.
         We step out of the car on an overcast day, the threat of rain not to be taken lightly in an area where flash flooding through canyons has proven to be deadly in the past. Uncle CJ quickly points this out, and recalls how in this same place a number of years back his and his friends’ cars were washed down through the canyon on a stormy night. He laughs at it now, but I sense an air of gratefulness that the only fatalities that night were their automobiles. We take a brief moment to speak with a German tourist who has some questions about the area. Uncle CJ possesses the innate ability to immediately get along and converse with the strangers we often meet on our trips. His scruffy and hardened exterior is surprisingly approachable, perhaps because he gives off a strong impression of familiarity with landscapes that are so alien to others. After a few directions and pieces of advice, we gather some water and snacks in our packs and set off down the trail to the canyons. I take my phone along only for the camera feature, the suburbanite in me whining about the lack of service swiftly silenced by the digestion of the natural scene around me.
         Rocks of every size brought by the coursing waters of flash floods shift underneath our feet as we progress along the path towards the canyons. I look around and note the sparse shrubbery interspersed amongst the rocks and smoother areas, feeling that something that determined to live in a place like this deserves at least some acknowledgement. We finally reach the entrance into the slots, discreetly marked by a simple sign at a fork that points us in the direction of Little Wild Horse. My fears of a flash flood or of starring in some unfortunate 127 Hours sequel are assuaged with the first step into the canyon, mirrored by a slow placement of my hand on the nearest wall.
         The power of nature consistently amazes me, especially these lesser renowned feats. People are often so wonderstruck by tornadoes or earthquakes, which are indeed frighteningly strong, but the exertion of a lesser force over an uncountable number of years has made these slot canyons equally beautiful. The water carved its way through the rock to form the main slots, but it is the slow and steady wind that smoothes and even erodes through the rock in an unbelievable way. Never before have I experienced such a unique sensation brought about by slowly caressing and experiencing the texture of this canyon wall. It is not smooth in the traditional sense. Although my hand glides across the surface as easily as it would across a loved one’s face, it is apparent that the rock yearns to be coarse and rough, a tribute to the resilience of the great canyon to not conform to the manipulative elements. In some areas there is a physical deal being made between the two, the canyon still maintaining its structure but allowing the small wisps of wind to create networks of tunnels through the walls. They somewhat resemble a beehive, but perhaps my mind is tricking me and paying homage to the nickname of the great state.
         We continue our slow saunter through the canyon, any pressure from time constraint or other worldly responsibilities fading away as we traverse the maze cut out of the rock. We stop occasionally to disconnect from the experience in an attempt to document it with a photograph. I climb to the top of a massive rock in the middle of a clearing to pose. However, we both somehow know that no matter how many pictures we take, the true memory is something engraved into the mind and the bones; something that cannot be recorded in any way.
         After an array of movements and time, filled with both conversation and quiet, we finally reach near the top of the canyon. I tell CJ that I want to press on, but he insists that we stop and eat the few snacks we brought with us, mainly an orange and an apple, and go back from here. While resting he points out the spot where he and his friends took shelter when the flash flood surprised the poor teens. He speaks about the ferocity of the muddy water, comparing it to a swift river of chocolate milk, but with the ability to flip over cars or carry hundreds of pounds of rocks downstream. As he reminisces, I find a smooth pocket of fine sand in the rock that I am resting on. I subconsciously begin to fiddle with it, taking advantage of the opportunity to constructively exert some of the nervous energy that plagues me. We finish our light snack, careful to pick up all remnants, including the orange peels, so as to leave the scene as untouched by human presence as we found it. The purity of the natural setting created a profound experience for us, and we would hate to ruin that for the next travelers.
         Our descent, as expected, is much faster than our journey up was. The pathways and walls seem both familiar but slightly different seeing them in the reverse direction. There is one opening from a tunnel that has slanted rocks on either side, a brief widening of the pathway, which feels especially unique though. We stop here for a brief pause, and put down our packs. Sitting on opposite sides of the pathway, neither of us speaks, for we both can feel that this is a moment of thought and reflection. Silence has never felt this loud. The refreshing, clean air rejuvenates and expands the mind with every deep breath. The same wind that gently works through the rock of the canyon swirls around us, dancing on the skin and lightly whistling in the ears. I lean back and attempt to fully appreciate the serenity of the moment. I lay perfectly still, opening my mind up to the world around me. After what may be some of the longest ten minutes of my life, we set off back down the trail, leaving only the faint warmth of our bodies on the rocks.
         As we exit the canyon and work back towards the patiently waiting FJ, I recall how Uncle CJ told me about a substance-enhanced trip through the canyons he took with friends as a teenager, and what an experience it was. While I am sure he had genuinely enjoyed it, it is a different sense of satisfaction than what I gained. I left that canyon feeling that I had grown as a human being. The everlasting appreciation I have for nature comes from its consistent ability to amaze me and influence my own feelings. While I may never be able to have the exact same experience in those exact same canyons, I know that I now carry with me that walk as part of who I am. Life changes, and can move surprisingly quickly. However, whether I am sitting in the passenger seat of the FJ, or miles upon miles away at college, I will never forget the feeling of a simple stroke across a smooth canyon wall.

“Racing Time” by Alaa Abdelfattah

         It was 6:05 at Middlebury College, Vermont when I stepped out of Ross dining hall, having filled my water bottle and decided to postpone dinner. I was eager to meet the sun as it set over the Adirondack Mountains and not even dinner would delay me. Besides, the walk was estimated to take approximately one hour and cover three miles so I reckoned I would be back for dinner with an hour to spare. I would march down College Street, and take the section of O’Neil Class of ‘97 Trail (part of the Trail Around Middlebury) that would lead me to Main Street, then turn left into College St at its intersection with Main Street and walk towards the sun as it set over the horizon.
         It wasn’t my first walk to see the sunset nor was it my first sunset, but it was my first walk towards the sun as it set. All through my childhood, whenever I hauled from Cairo to visit my grandparents in Alexandria, Egypt, I would saunter to the beach to watch the sun as it dipped into the Mediterranean Sea. It took no longer than five minutes to fully sink into the distant blue water. I would stand longingly at the edge of the water and admire the play of colors in the sky as the waves gently covered my feet then retreated. I loved it. It wasn’t something I could experience in Cairo where I have lived all my life.
         Ironic how three hundred kilometers could make all the difference. And now that I was nine thousands kilometers away from Egypt, I could finally reach for the sun in Vermont’s clear light blue sky unpatched by any wandering cloud or star. As I strolled down College Street, the sun was nearing the horizon and at that moment a child could be excused for drawing a full circle to represent it. Every tree crown around me was jeweled with red leaves at the top followed by a mix of amber orange and sunglow yellow contrasting the vibrant dark green leaves glowing at the lower branches. A few fallen maple leaves decorated the sidewalk, yellow lines penetrating their reddish color like veins.
         LaForce Hall on my right marked the end of familiar territory as the landscape opened up and vast greenery came into sight. A two lane concrete road stretched to the horizon disappearing down the hill then reappearing far away near the sun. Several thin cracks in the concrete looked as if an earthquake had forced it open. My eyes shifted to my feet begging them to keep within the safe white line separating me from the racing cars as I passed the first speed sign reading “Speed limit 50.” It seemed to me a rather slow speed for a deserted road; something wasn’t quite right about the sign, though I couldn’t say what.
         The gravel vibrated below my feet in response to a passing car, pushing any thoughts of the sign to the back of my mind. I lifted my eyes to look ahead catching the sun ray’s reflection on rows and rows of solar panels with chrome framing. They created an eye-catching sight while promising a greener future. Two hundred meters to my left stood a wind turbine rotating at a constant speed counter-clockwise, producing no noise that would alert passersby to its existence. Beyond it by another two hundred meters the left turn I had prearranged to take as part of my loop back to campus. However, as my eyes roamed over the landscape on my right further taking in my surroundings, a building located beyond the vast green land captured my attention.
         A farm. But not any farm. It closely resembled a Hollywood countryside montage that I have seen so many times in movies: a gambrel roof, roaming cattle, rolls of hay, and two glittering steel towers with round rooftops, the silos. The exactness of it shocked me, igniting in me a sudden insatiable desire to examine it closely, a desire that quickly replaced my longing to meet the sun. And at that instant of indecision, my feet ventured into the upcoming right turn in the road on a will of their own, the prospect of abandoning the plan exhilarating.
         On my trip up the slightly steep road, every step became a struggle, my mind still lingering over the wisdom of my decision to abandon the plan. Suddenly, purple flowers blossomed by the side of the road, transporting me to a blissful summer day in my childhood when I wandered to a bunch of colorful flowers to feel their texture while my mother read the announcement posted on a white board outside the building where we were heading. A few moments later, she had looked over at where I was standing and explained that sunflowers always tilt towards the sun, hence the name. Following this memory, happiness enveloped me and I smiled at the flowers, deliberately blocking any further thoughts that would obstruct the freedom of my feet to wander towards their desired destination, the Hollywood farm.
         Unsurprisingly, Bicentennial Hall, the furthest building northwest of campus, emerged on my right as the paved road ended in a partially full parking lot. On the left, a mini forest occupied the territory with an unpaved human path sneaking through the trees. The trail had a foreboding quality with no indication of where it led or to whom the land belonged. Yet one thing was certain, it travelled in the direction of the compelling farm. Fighting the urge to retreat into the safety of the known, I entered the trail.
         Walking slowly, I reached for my room keys in my sweatpants pocket; a gesture of a lifelong unnecessary worry inherited from my mother who had me running back countless times over the years to check if she had indeed locked the car! In my head, I could hear my mother reprimanding my decision to walk down this path alone, but I delved further into the forest anyway. At irregular time intervals, startling animal noises echoed from the bushes, causing me to pause and examine my surroundings, my body tensing involuntarily into a defensive posture.
         In contrast, the wind movement through the canopy produced a soft melody, and from the trees I could hear the birds flying away at the sound of my approach. Just the notion that nobody knew of my whereabouts triggered my anxiety once more; for I hadn’t even taken the simple precaution of telling my next-door neighbor where I was going. At every foreign sound, I feared the worst, a telling reaction of my detachment from nature like most city residents nowadays. Even worse, when the green trees gave way to leafless gray deciduous ones, my anxiety amplified. I mean the assemblage of leafless trees created a haze that had me blinking rapidly then rubbing my eyes uncertain if it was fatigue or a trick of nature.
         Soon my spirit lifted significantly at the sound of nearby rushing cars announcing a neighboring road. A few minutes later, the trail rose rather steeply opening onto another two lane concrete road, a more intact one, I noted, before my tense features relaxed into a huge smile and my heart raced at the sight of the farm now within a hundred meters. I hastened towards it then slowed down to examine the Dutch Belt cows wandering around the field now on my left. They had white and black belts rather than spots, hence the breed’s name.
         As I passed by, a few cows turned their heads to scrutinize me, and fewer mooed in acknowledgment of my presence. The air was now heavy with cow manure smell, a rude reminder that cattle are minor contributors to global warming in the form of methane release. Right in front of the farm, a rundown mailbox hung open with a 4-digit number printed on it which for some unfathomable reason I assumed was the number of the phone extension as well. To my disappointment, the farm had no exotic name carved at its entrance, only a small sign announcing the possibility of buying fresh eggs and cheese. Having satisfied my curiosity, I decided to continue down this road; reasoning that any left turn would lead me back to where I had begun this journey. Though when this ‘next turn’ would be, I didn’t know. Therefore, I willed my feet to move faster as the sky dimmed gradually forewarning of the looming night.
         The absence of a sidewalk proved fairly frightening in semi-darkness, especially with cars clearly exceeding the specified ‘Speed Limit 40.’ As a precaution, I crossed the road to move in the same direction as cars and mercifully a left turn appeared soon. It was in the form of a roughly paved road, covered with gravel and hardly wide enough to accommodate two cars, but it was a path nonetheless. The oak trees on both sides were well established with different shades of yellow and green that my fingers itched to capture on a canvas, but didn’t know how.
         Taking this turn, I marched uneasily down the street, doubts clouding my mind; should I retrace my steps or see this adventure through? Time became the deciding factor, with my watch reading 7:15; I decided to give it ten more minutes before retracing my steps to what had become a familiar route. Then a man in the passenger seat of a passing GMC waved at me and I cringed beneath my clothes fully, grasping the extent of my vulnerability, and instantly deciding to retreat the same way I came. I didn’t know if he was being friendly or creepy because I rarely walked and when I did, it was certainly not along an abandoned countryside road.
         As soon as I returned to the main road, I noticed for the first time the absence of street lamps, which empowered every passing car in the opposite direction to blind me. Racing darkness, I quickened my pace. On my right, another speed sign read “Speed Limit 35” which didn’t match the speed at which cars were breezing by. Then suddenly it hit me, I was in one of the three countries in the world that didn’t use the metric system which meant that ‘35’ implied 35mph not 35 kilometers! No wonder the speed limit appeared unreasonably low.
         Eventually I saw the trail from which I had emerged, unwalkable in the darkness as expected. “What now?” I asked my impulsive self, as I gloomily resumed down the road in search of a right turn this time. The answer came in the form of a familiar face that I recognized but couldn’t name since it was still the first month of college. He was jogging on the opposite side of the path sweating like it was 40 degrees Celsius rather than 14. With headphones on and a white shirt that was visibly drenched in sweat, he didn’t even glance in my direction. But I didn’t relent; I kept jumping on the other side of the screaming and waving to get his attention, which I finally did.
          “How can I help you?”
          “I am not sure which way would lead me to Middlebury College,” I confessed.
          “Any place specific?”
          “Ross Commons.”
          “Keep going along this road until you see the church at the furthest end of campus on your right, then walk up College Street to Ross Commons.”
          “Thank you,” I said to his retreating figure.
         Following his directions by 7:45, I was at Ross Dining Hall sighing with relief. I had made it on time for dinner! Shaking my head, I paused to reflect on my journey. Despite my divergence, I had travelled west, not only from campus to the farm, but from Cairo to the States. West, a word that didn’t only indicate a direction, but also a world of development and progress, a world that Egypt has yet to join just as I have yet to assimilate to my new intriguing surroundings, but first, dinner.

“Dak Bak Pak” by Kean Haunt

         On July 22, 2012, my right lung collapsed. It was four days before I was due to return home from my semester abroad in Costa Rica. I was sitting on my host family’s couch, laughing at a comedy on the television. I stopped laughing when a sudden violent pain and tension gripped my right chest. As my breathing hitched, I felt like a ship slowly listing to the side, about to swamp. What was happening to me? Was I having a heart attack? Five days, a few shoddy medical procedures, and a lot of battling with insurance companies later, I was on a medical evacuation Learjet, a tube poking between my ribs to drain the air that had accumulated in my vacant, lung-less chest cavity. Soaring above the stormy dustbowl states was the only time I’ve ever seen lightning from above. We touched down in my hometown, Billings, Montana, and after a surgery and another seven days spent languishing in a hospital room, I was free to go.
         That was the first time.
         In August of 2013, almost exactly one year later, my left lung dropped while I was changing costumes for a musical I was part of. This time around, the tube perversely felt like it belonged in my chest, like a dagger in a sheath.
         Less than two months later, I struggled up the brutal pitch of Mount Algonquin, unsure of how I’d been coerced into coming along. Algonquin is the second highest peak in the Adirondacks, a New York State mountain range covering an area the size of Vermont, with an elevation of 5,114 feet. I thought this would be child’s play compared to the highest peak in Montana, Granite Peak, at 12,807 feet.
         I leaned against a boulder, panting, the straps of my pack digging into my shoulders and hips. The path had disappeared miles ago when it intersected with this creek. The only sign that my group was still on a trail was the periodic flash of yellow from the small round trail-markers pinned to trees every seventy five feet or so along the steep streambed. When Andrew, Joe, Azelie, Lydia, and I trekked our first miles into the Western High Peaks Wilderness the day before, I had been impressed with the amount of maintenance that seemed to have been lavished on the trails by volunteer workers; flattened logs bridged muddy sections of trail and well maintained plank bridges crossed each ditch. In Montana, most trails are simple dirt tracks. So for me, this had been a welcome surprise.
         At least until now. It appeared that halfway up Mt. Algonquin, the trail-breakers had gotten lazy and decided that the easiest way to reach a summit was by walking straight up. Thus, they abandoned the concept of a trail and dumped hikers into this wet stone chute for the remainder of the climb.
         Above the boulder where I rested, the streambed rose in steep slabs and terraces, resulting in a jumbled landscape of waterfalls and eddies, small trickles and gushing streams. There was a definite path of least resistance up the falls, a vague staircase of boulders and logs that would take me over each small waterfall and onto the next slab of rock.
         Picking their way around the pools and drops above me were three of our group—shirtless, mountain-man, gung-ho, Idaho Joe; relaxed and loquacious Andrew; and cheerful, all-too-happy-to-be-hiking-straight-up-a-goddam-waterfall, California girl Azelie.
         As they walked, they gushed about the beauty of the day. I couldn’t argue. The hike may have been grueling, but the temperature was perfect—just warm enough that I was content in a t-shirt as long as I kept moving. Behind me, the majesty of the High Peaks spread to the horizon between breaks in the trees, the crumbling towers and sagging valleys reminding me of a child’s sandcastle abandoned and battered by the surf. Patchy sheets of cloud and mist patterned the landscape. The distant town of Lake Placid intermittently gleamed and dulled as the sunlight came and went. Every now and then, a flurry of snow dusted the rocks before fading as if the flakes had blown out of my imagination.
         Behind me, our final member, Lydia, labored up the rocks, her breathing even heavier and raspier than mine. Just a couple of days before, she had donated two pints of blood, effectively hamstringing her endurance. Nonetheless, she hiked doggedly upward. As she drew closer, I heaved myself upright and forced myself to climb. If the girl absent two pints of blood wasn’t slowing the group down, I wouldn’t either.
         I only knew one of these people before yesterday: my roommate Andrew. One day the week before he had burst into our room, afire with excitement, as he usually is.
         “Dude! Let’s go backpacking this weekend,” he said as he entered the room, slinging his schoolbag onto his bed. He engaged his whole head when he talked, bobbing it emphatically to punctuate his sentences. “I know a couple of great kids who are totally down. It’ll be great. We’ll get off campus, you’ll get to the see the Daks.” Andrew is from Pennsylvania, and the Adirondacks, or “Daks” as he likes to call them, are a childhood playground of his that he’d wanted to share with me ever since we moved in together at the beginning of the school year.
         That sounded good to me. It was a couple of weeks into October, the middle of my first semester at Middlebury College, in Vermont, and we had a four-day weekend coming up. College was harder than I had expected. I was stressed out. Backpacking could be relaxing. I hadn’t had a chance to escape to the mountains since arriving on the east coast.
         I agreed. It sure beat sitting around doing schoolwork.
         On Saturday morning, Andrew and I rendezvoused with Joe, Azelie, and Lydia and loaded our towering packs into Joe’s car. I crawled into the cramped backseat and Joe hit the gas. Joe’s driving set the mood, all acceleration and roller-coaster like turns. We zoomed west out of Middlebury on the 125, Lake Placid bound.
As we drove, we discussed the places we were going to stop on the way back from our two nights in the wilderness. A small gas station that sells maple ice cream. An outdoors store in Lake Placid that Andrew said was “super legit.” A burger joint.
         The hour and a half long drive evaporated like gasoline. The excitement in the air felt flammable as Joe turned the car onto a dirt road a few miles past Lake Placid, New York. The road was lined with the parked cars of other hikers and campers. We had to drive several hundred feet to find a spot to park.
         As quickly as possible, we distributed food, bear barrels, and other communal supplies. We were all itching to get on the trail. Finally, we hoisted our packs, heavier now than they had been minutes before, and set off back to the main road.
         We hiked along this road for three quarters of a mile, crossing a bridge under construction and climbing a mellow hill. Despite the clouds, the mood was bright and the conversation was as jaunty as our steps. Even in our heavy boots, none of us scuffed our feet as we walked.
         Within fifteen minutes, the pavement transformed from a road to series of parking lots. The trees thinned as the forest gave way to large, triangular Heart Lake. A couple of families camped in blue, dome-shaped tents on the grassy beach, and a few boats colored the steel-gray water of the lake. Tree covered slopes lined the far shores, but clouds obscured much of my view. To the right, a wooden, cabin-like lodge sat a short distance from the campers. This would be the Adirondack Loj, our last chance for tap water. I dropped my pack on a long bench outside and passed into the building.
         Adirondack Loj was built in 1927 after the original structure burned down in a wildfire. Today it’s a boarding house for hikers, owned and operated by the Adirondack Mountain Club. According to the lady behind the counter in the spacious entry room, previous owner (and inventor of the Dewey Decimal System used to organize libraries) Melvil Dewey, an advocate of spelling reform, decided on the strange spelling of “lodge.”
         After filling up our bottles, we located the trailhead at the back of the parking lot behind the Loj and signed ourselves in before beginning our trek south into the woods. Our destination for the night was Marcy Dam, an old structure surrounded by campsites and lean-tos. It was only mid-afternoon, so we weren’t worried about making the two-mile hike within any particular timeframe. Nevertheless, we moved at a steady clip, the easy, rolling trail quickly passing beneath our feet.
         At this point in the fall, the lack of foliage afforded me an easy view of my surroundings through a latticework of naked, bone-white birches and green pines. I watched as green, brown, and gray mountains rose up on either side of me, their peaks sharp against the clouds.
         We arrived at the dam, a wooden structure that held back the waters of shallow Marcy Brook, creating a small reservoir and a waterfall. We set about searching for a lean-to, but found that every one in the surrounding hills was occupied.
         The only thing to do, we decided as we hunched around a map spread on the wooden decking of the dam, would be to hike the three miles southwest to Lake Colden and see if we could find a campsite there.
         So our hike became a much longer, much more rugged walk than we had planned.
         The peaks grew higher and the cliffs on either side drew closer as we walked. After a couple of miles, we reached Avalanche Lake, a narrow, half-mile long strip of water squeezed from either side by the imposing rock walls of Avalanche Peak and Mt. Colden. We took a brief snack break on a soggy beach before returning to the trail, a thin strip of tumbled rocks and soil that occupied the space between the western wall and the water.
         The hiking here involved more climbing and hopping than actual walking. It was tiring, but fun to bound over the tops of boulders. In places, the shore strip disappeared entirely and we were left to walk on a wooden boardwalk that protruded from the cliff. These walkways are called hitch-up Matildas. The Adirondack Mountain Club constructed them during its early days so that ladies walking through the mountains wouldn’t have to get their skirts wet in the lake. There were ample gaps in the boards through which I could see the dark, cold water of Avalanche Lake. I kept my eyes glued to my feet during these sections.
         After Avalanche Lake, it was a short hop to Lake Colden. As far as I could tell, Lake Colden was a similar shape to Avalanche Lake, but about twice as long. The slopes that dominated the shorelines were more gradual, with fewer exposed rock faces. It was a simple matter to find an open lean-to nestled out of sight of the lake next to a shallow stream. We fell asleep that night with the sunset, abuzz with excitement for the climbing we would do the next day.
         And that’s how I came to be halfway up Algonquin, struggling my way up a waterfall towards the promise of lunch.
         “You know, I bet we could make it over Iroquois, Algonquin, and Wright today,” said Andrew from above me, his optimistic tone making the task sound almost reasonable. Andrew is intent on becoming a 46’er, or a hiker who has summited all 46 of the Adirondacks’ peaks over 4000 feet. Admittedly, this would not be a remarkable hike, but I wasn’t so sure about nabbing three in a day. As the crow flies, it was less than two miles from our campsite beside Lake Colden up the south face of Algonquin to the summit, but we’d been hiking for hours and the end was nowhere in sight. The going was steep, slow, and each glimpse through the trees to the distant ridge was demoralizing as it grew closer at an agonizingly slow pace. On top of that, we’d started our hike at about noon, allowing our bodies, more exhausted from the rigors of college than we had realized, to recharge a little bit.
         The painful haze continued for another undefined period of time. With every labored breath, I imagined that I could feel the rows of staples that pinned the tops of my lungs to my chest wall. We moved out of the tumbling streambed onto an even steeper bare ramp of rock. Water covered the ground in a thin film and rushed silently past where I had already walked. I hardly noticed as the trees on my left and right gradually grew smaller and the temperature dropped. Time ceased to matter. I only thought about finding solid ground where I could place my feet.
         The trees vanished from either side and I stopped walking. I turned a slow circle. I had broken through tree line!
         Below me lay the High Peaks Wilderness, resplendent from this height, now visible as a chain instead of a broken line of peaks. Above me towered a barren escarpment of rock, piling up in terraced layers like soft serve ice cream on a cone. Square boulders and cairns added jaggedness to the smooth rock flows. Here and there tough yellow tundra grass clung to cracks in the rocks. This new world above tree line belonged to the ice and wind. The western side of each rock and blade of grass was coated in a white blaze of snow and ice, the wind stringing out the crystals laterally so that icicles formed sideways. Where the ground wasn’t wet, it was covered in a thin layer of ice, creating a dangerous checkerboard of slippery and safe all the way to the domed peak a half-mile away. The wind howled, threatening to push me down the mountain. Behind me, the border between frigid, ice covered wasteland and sheltered evergreen forest was almost perfectly delineated. The ice found refuge among the needles and cones of the first few rows of trees only, and the ice on the ground didn’t extend into the forest.
         We assembled in a small rock alcove level with tree line and put on more layers to keep out the biting wind. Even Joe added a jacket and some gloves, although his legs stayed bare. I pulled on a down jacket, a raincoat, a woolen hat, and gloves before taking a seat on a rock to eat lunch. It was one of the coldest lunches I’ve ever eaten, but also one of the most delicious. Nutella slathered on a pita never tasted so good.
         The meal was cold, but it was invigorating. I was beginning to feel my second wind. I didn’t care what my lungs said, I was going to summit this mountain.
         We packed up our food and began to climb. I took the lead, treading careful lines from cairn to cairn, taking care only to step on wet portions of rock to avoid the ice. Some of the ice sheets were thin enough that water still ran underneath. Dark air bubbles cascaded down the slope, trapped under the ice, moving like tadpoles in a pod.
         In just a few minutes, I reached the summit. The only marker was a small brass benchmark imbedded in the rock at my feet. I nudged at it with my toe, dislodging the ice that had formed over its scratched surface.
         I wasn’t really sure what to do. There I was, at the top of a mountain I had struggled so hard for. Should I look around? Should I dance? Should I leave? Instead, I breathed, remembering what a privilege it was. We didn’t stay for long. The wind proved too insistent for us to enjoy the view, so we snapped a few pictures and prepared to go.
         Based on the position of the sun, we decided that we didn’t have time to summit Iroquois or Wright. We crossed the peak, following the cairns down another trail on the north face of the mountain toward our campsite for the night, Marcy Dam. We figured it was more likely that we would find a lean-to tonight, since most people would have school or work tomorrow.
         I had tapped into a new font of energy, and within the first few minutes of walking, the wind abated and the temperature warmed to the point that I could remove my outer layers. Nonetheless going down was more challenging than going up. The path was just as steep on this side of the mountain, and also made use of a streambed instead of a dirt trail. Several times I came close to falling headfirst downhill. I focused on the view instead of thinking about the damage I could do to myself if I hit my head on any of these rocks.
         The mile and a half descent went without mishap. Soon I navigated into the trees and my feet thudded onto a dirt trail. I felt light and hardly noticed my backpack anymore. With a view of Algonquin rising behind us, we stopped for a victory snack—crackers, cheese, and sausage—and chatted with a group of graduate school hikers who caught up with us while we sat. The two men and two women were on a day hike that had taken them up the south face of Algonquin and down the north right behind us.
         “I’m so glad to see you guys getting away from campus,” said the shorter of the two men. “That’s something I didn’t do nearly enough as an undergrad.” His three companions nodded their agreement.
         “How do you like the Adirondacks?” said one of the women.
         “Oh, I basically grew up here. This was always my playground as a kid,” said Andrew, ever eager to share.
         “I’m from Idaho,” said Joe, who had taken his shirt off again during the hike down, “so I wasn’t really expecting much. We like to think of the northeast as a bunch of mounds, not real mountains. But Algonquin really earned my respect. I was surprised. This was a great weekend.”
         Our snack finished, we found the fork that would lead us to Marcy Dam and chased the fading light, arriving at an empty lean-to in full darkness. As we cooked dinner, the conversation turned to burgers and ice cream. I sat, content with myself for what I had accomplished that day and already feeling warm from the burger I would eat the next. I was sore, I was tired, and I was thousands of miles away from home, but my lungs had held up. I relished the simple beauty of breathing as the day drew to a close.

“Up the West High Hill” by Mandy Kimm

         As I stood on the trail behind my house, facing east, the snowy path extended in front of me for a few dozen meters before a low-set long wooden sign stood in a fork of the path with carved black letters marking the “Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.” The sign was illuminated at that early morning hour by the incandescent glow of the lampposts lining the trail, and I could just barely make out the letters of the sign through the thick, silent snowfall. The Chugach Mountains bordering Anchorage on the east weren’t visible yet that morning through the falling snow, but knowing they were there comforted me nonetheless on my walk to school.
         The new snow that had fallen during the night formed a light layer of about four inches, still accumulating slowly as the large flakes continued to make their leisurely way down to the ground. My booted feet made a muted creaking sound on the powdery surface not packed down enough to make the typical crunch of snow, and I was glad that the municipal trail workers hadn’t yet come through with their snow machines to groom and flatten the path and carve out parallel grooves on either side of the trail for classic Nordic skiers. I had the delightful feeling that my footsteps would likely be filled in with new snow by the time the next person passed by.
         Years later when I started college in Vermont, the images of that morning were often in my mind—of over a decade of daily walks to and from school, that walk deep in the winter of my last year in Alaska was the one that came to represent familiarity and comfort.
         As I began walking at a pace quick enough to keep me warm but not so fast that I couldn’t enjoy the stillness of the morning, to my right the frozen surface of Westchester Lagoon spread out in an oval shape, lined by a tree-covered slope up on the far side. Following the trail along the edge of the lagoon I thought of how today would be a good day to go out skating on the snow-plowed and hot-mopped loops maintained by the city—but it looked like no early morning skaters had made it out just yet.
         Through my hat and hood I heard skis gliding over snow, poles punctuating the smooth movement and the ground; a Nordic skier approached from the left side of the fork in the trail ahead of me. At first just a shadow obscured by the thick snow in the air, as she neared her form became clearer, and she moved to the side of the trail to make room for me to pass comfortably. We exchanged a nod to acknowledge our shared experience of the untouched morning trail, before she resumed her wide skate-skiing strides once behind me.
         It didn’t occur to me at the time, when still living at home with my loving mother and sister, but once I left Alaska and my family I realized the importance of small heartening encounters like this one to my contentment with life. Sharing pleasant moments with others as with the skier that morning brought meaning and joy into my life when I felt isolated, as I did during the first weeks of college.
         Approaching the bottom of the hill that bounded the eastern edge of the lagoon, my eyes moved out of habit to a dark patch of pine trees where moose sometimes lurked. It was a fairly usual occurrence to meet moose on this trail, but it was always best not to surprise or be surprised by one of the bulky and easily startled herbivores. So I peered carefully at the shadows of the pine branches before passing by the clump of trees once I determined no large furry forms.
         I turned right to follow the trail up the hill, and the lagoon began to fall away to my right, blocked from my view by more pine trees as the path rose. The relaxed traffic of seven AM on a weekday glowed with sleepy red eyes along the four-lane Minnesota Highway connecting downtown to midtown Anchorage. The few cars that took the exit toward West Anchorage High School that paralleled my trail up the hill didn’t bother the still morning, as the snow in the air and on the ground insulated most sound.
         As the hill rose higher and I began to peel off some of my layers as my body warmed, to the west the shadowed form of Mt. Susitna rose from across the Cook Inlet, the water body that surrounded Anchorage on all but its eastern side. The mountain’s gently sloping outline was just barely visible through the white flakes that had begun to thin.
         The thought rarely entered my head on those winter mornings that these images of Anchorage would come to define home once I left Alaska. The assumption underlying my education was that if I wanted to do something useful in life, I would leave Alaska for college. This I simply accepted, and never once considered attending the University of Alaska in Anchorage—UAA was for the underachievers in the culture of West High School.
         It didn’t occur to me until later how unusual it was to non-Alaskans that I encountered moose and Nordic skiers on my walk to school, or that I went skating on the lagoon behind my house for exercise. The short winter days with many feet of snow were never extraordinary until I moved away from Alaska and realized what the rest of the world considered normal winter. The mountains surrounding Anchorage on all sides never seemed to me anything other than beautiful but formidable boundaries that I would have to climb out of to access the rest of the world.
         At the top of the hill I could see my goal—the pale face of West Anchorage High School, lit by the dulled yellow of streetlights, a huge mural of an eagle painted with outstretched wings grasping an anchor in its claws on the wall next to the front doors. What lay beyond high school was just as clear in my eyes as the mural—but was intangible until the day I walked on to a college campus as a freshman at Middlebury College.
         I paused at the bench on the top of the hill to put my scarf and hat into my schoolbag, as I had taken them off as I got warmer climbing the hill. West High cast fluorescent light from the windows and doors onto the street in front of me, and my breath clouded the air as I exhaled slowly before crossing the street to walk towards the front doors. For the moment, it was just another day—but looking back, it was one of the precious last days of my childhood in Alaska.

“Burlington, You’ll Have to Wait” by Kirk Horton

         My father Mark spent his 12th grade year living in Burlington, Vermont, attending Burlington High School. That may not seem significant, but for my father it was. His father, my Grandpa Max, was an army officer, so his family never lived in the same place for long. At age ten, my father moved to Heilbronn in southern Germany from Fort Sill, Oklahoma. His father had worked on developing, testing and firing the Pershing Missile in Oklahoma, and moved to Germany to command a Pershing Missile battalion. Pershing Missiles were medium-range missiles designed to become the United States’ primary nuclear-capable weapon at the time. Pershing Missiles lasted in the United States’ arsenal for over 30 years, before President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, effectively eliminating them.1
         From Heilbronn, the Horton family moved to Heidelberg, then Munich, and finally Frankfurt, where Max worked at the headquarters for the Army in Europe, specifically in the Pershing Missile department. After eight years in Germany, the well-travelled Hortons returned to the United States and to Burlington, where Grandpa Max took charge of the Vermont National Guard. My father became an American teenager, attending Burlington High School.
         It was in Burlington that my father assimilated into American culture for the second time and developed his love of nature. Spending most of his childhood in post-World War II Germany meant growing up on Army bases in urban environments.
         In Germany, my father learned strict discipline and how to follow directions. Surrounded by military officials and stern rules, there was no room for error in what he did, unless he wanted to be punished. He learned how to navigate the Army regimen and the German subway systems. With his father occupied with Pershing Missiles and military duties, and his mother taking care of four children, my father went through a lot of his childhood tied to the restrictions of Army life. Much would change when he moved back to the United States. So it was his year in Burlington, where he could visit a public library with books in English and where he lived in a house backing up against Ethan Allen Park (a local forest), that stands out for him as formative.
         The city of Burlington wasn’t always as warm and welcoming as it is now. Bernie Sanders ran for Mayor of the city in 1981, defeating six-term incumbent Gordon Paquette. With Sanders as Mayor, Burlington became the first city in the United States of America to fund community-trust housing. The socialist governor turned the city from a rundown mill town into the young, lively city it is today. He kept the surrounding wilderness intact, while developing the center of the city into an energetic nucleus of Vermont.2 With the thrilling city-center and endless wilderness adjacent to his home, my father had room to explore.
         In Vermont, my father discovered his enthusiasm for backpacking. With more freedom to explore his interests, my father spent hours planning trips into the wilderness. He explored the Adirondack Mountains and the surrounding wilderness, spending days at a time hiking through various trails. This love of the outdoors still guides him today, and is the primary reason why the current crop of Hortons (his kids, myself included), spends so much time in the nearest national park to our home, Yosemite.
         As a native of San Francisco, California, I had never been to Burlington. My first trip to Vermont came my junior year of high school on a college visiting tour, but on that trip, the city eluded me. However, because my father spent a defining year in the town, a year that convinced him to stay in New England for college, where he would eventually meet my mother, I had to go there. Given that Burlington was where my father found his love for the outdoors, it seemed fitting to enter the city via a hiking trail.
         On this trip to Burlington, I envisioned spending most of my time in the city on Church Street, exploring the shops, and talking to the vendors. Most of the current urban fabric appeared after my father left. He told us about the modern city and what he had seen in recent visits, so I heard about the dock area down at the shore of Lake Champlain, the jumping cliffs on the shore north of downtown, and the city center, including Church Street and Main Street. Church Street, the pedestrian shopping mall and marketplace, was where I planned on spending the majority of my day in town. As my father told me, over one hundred clothing stores, restaurants, and other shops line the street. One of my father’s greatest skills is his ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. Considering my circumstances and location, I decided to prove I had the same capability. However, I had to get to the city first.
         North of Burlington lies the beginning of the Island Line Trail, the 12.5-mile trail connecting the southern tip of Grand Isle, in South Hero, Vermont and Burlington. So, my plan was to walk the Island Line Trail, ending up in the city where I would begin an exploration of downtown Burlington. A friend of mine, who was heading into Burlington on Sunday, October 22nd to run some errands, heard about my plans and volunteered to take me to my starting point. With no other plans of how to reach the trailhead, I accepted.
         The Island Line Trail crosses Lake Champlain from Grand Isle to the mainland, and weaves through the northern sections of the city before entering the urban center. It almost immediately transitions into a long, narrow path known as the causeway. Elevated a few feet above the water of Lake Champlain, the causeway is about 10 feet wide; just wide enough to fit a bike lane in each direction, and nothing more. The causeway is mainly gravel and sand, lined with small evergreen plants, and bordered with large rocks on each side. Waves batter the rocks, but the trail’s elevation keeps travelers dry. Once a walker reaches the city of Burlington the trail becomes smoothly paved asphalt. The small, dark green bushes and trees on both sides of the trail had yet to change into their bright reds and yellows of fall, but the cold, whipping wind reminded me of the time of year. Mist from Lake Champlain frequently chilled my cheeks, and the low sun did little to keep me warm.
         About a half-mile into my walk, I came to where a significant chunk of the causeway was missing. In the spring of 2011, Lake Champlain suffered extreme floods, destroying sections of the causeway, including the section in front of me.3 After the storms, in order for the trail to remain effectively intact, a small bike ferry connecting the two segments was put into service. The ferry, a small metal boat that seats a maximum of 20 travelers, has a small plastic blue top and one propeller. The boat navigates easily; a necessity considering the countless trips it makes across the causeway every day. According to Mike, the young operator of the ferry, a turnstile bridge formerly united these fragments. The bridge connected both sides of the causeway, and could turn, or “open up”, allowing bigger boats to pass through. The bridge was used frequently, but the 2011 storms and high water levels destroyed it.
         Mike, a 20-something local, divulged as much information about Burlington and the trail as possible during our short ferry ride across the gap. In his perky, high-pitched voice, he told me about the floods two years ago, and the reconstruction that had taken place to preserve the causeway.
         “Yeah, just a couple of years ago, this was all washed out. Absolutely no chance anyone could get anywhere near this place. Now, it’s almost all back to normal.” he said. Apparently, countless visitors visit the trail each year on bicycles. He told me that, strictly speaking, the causeway was open only to bikers, and was not meant for pedestrians. However, given it was a Sunday, and because of my limited options at that juncture, he felt sympathetic and gave me the essential lift across the gap. When we reached the other side, he wished me luck on my excursion, and recommended a visit to a taqueria by the name of Boloco. Making a mental note of the location, I stepped off the ferry and onto the second section of the causeway.
         As I stepped off the ferry, the bikers that accompanied me on the commute over sped away, and I began to walk. My thick brown boots, loosely tied but sturdy, crunched the gravel underneath me and pushed the small stones behind me. I shaded my face from the sun with my hand. Three miles of causeway lay ahead, so squinting and shivering in my thick black fleece, I started walking. Locals, including Mike, told me that this fall had been uncharacteristically warm for Vermont, and that today’s weather was more realistic of what I should expect.
         As I met families of bikers passing me in both directions on the narrow path, a sense of loneliness and boredom gradually overtook me. The bikers all seemed to be laughing and smiling, and enjoying their Sunday morning together. I lengthened my strides, and increased my pace, trying to shorten the seemingly interminable three miles of causeway. I craved human interaction, and a family to laugh with, like the ones who were flying by me.
         Alone on the causeway, in the middle of a lake, without any obvious answer to the lack of conversation, I began to sing. At first I sang small, unrecognizable melodies in a quiet voice, but soon I bellowed full-blown songs. A short tune we would sing at family reunions escaped my mouth: “Father’s photograph is hanging in the hall, right beside the picture of the monkey on the wall. They make a lonely couple, but the worst of it all is you can’t tell which is faaaather.” Next came the Christmas Carol, “’Tis the Season.” Before long, I found myself at the end of the causeway, and I was back on the mainland.
         From the causeway, the Island Line Trail runs through several parks outside the city. It stays close to the water, but rises in elevation, giving a walker several lookout points. The first park I came to, Airport Park, was not particularly memorable. The park was empty, barring a sleeping homeless man, and littered with trash. The windy day blew the garbage in and around the swing set and slides, leaving the eerie impression of a playground for ghosts.
         Leaving Airport Park, the trail transitioned from rough gravel to smooth, paved road. Burlington was close. Anxiously, I passed through Delta Park, a dog park, and Leddy Park; I stopped only once. At the beginning of North Beach Park, I saw a large white sign pointing to my left. In large, plain black letters, it read “Burlington High School”. Although it was Sunday and there wouldn’t be any students, it required a change in course; I turned toward the school.
         I walked past the athletic fields and the track, where my father once ran. Grandpa Max had played baseball throughout his life, and missed playing for the San Francisco Seals only because he was drafted for World War II. He tried to convince my father that aggressive, body-contact sports were more worthwhile, but my father wouldn’t listen. My Grandmother, Yvonne, convinced Max to accept my Dad’s love of running, and to support my father in his sport of choice. My father pursued his running, and ultimately ran in college. Ironically, it was my grandpa Max who became my father’s biggest fan; my grandma never bothered to watch him run, even when he ran in the Vermont State Finals on this track, only a ten minute walk from their home.
         I walked on the synthetic track material that compressed under my shoes, and across the thick grass that tickled my ankles. The big brick classrooms lay beyond these facilities, and I reached them with a few steps. Locked. I peered through the windows, but the dark hallways and empty classrooms revealed nothing. Discouraged, I turned back toward the trail, imagining how the school might have looked 40 years ago.
         A little farther down the trail, the outskirts of the city appeared. Buildings started to pop up on the left side, the east side, of the trail. My goal was to reach Battery Park, then turn toward downtown. Battery Park, a small recreational park, was dedicated to William Wells in 1972. A statue at the end of the park depicted Mr. Wells with his right foot in front of his left, and a determined look on his face. His tall boots, long sword, and large brimmed hat suggested that he was defending Burlington, which seemed appropriate: according to plaque next to the statue, the Brevet Major General fought in the Civil War, and defended this very spot, formerly a fort, during the War of 1812. In August of 1813, the American gunmen defended the fort against an attack by a British navy regiment. Lake Champlain was a centerpiece in the War of 1812, as both sides fought for control of a body of water so far inland.4
         About 100 feet ahead of me, a large brown sign indicated the first part of my plan concluded. I entered the park, and stopped at the first lookout point. A metal bench faced Lake Champlain, and a brick wall stood in between the piece of furniture and a steep hill. I leaned on the sturdy brick wall, and looked out over Lake Champlain. Behind me, a grassy area looked like the perfect place for a summer picnic, and trees lined the path running through the park. Sitting here for a few minutes, I readied myself for the second portion of my walk. Channeling my father’s social ability, I targeted anyone who would accept a conversation.
         At the end of Battery Park, a painter worked on his easel, looking out of the lake toward the Adirondacks. Equipped with a worn out paintbrush, and tubes of blue, red and yellow paint, he captured the fall colors of the trees below and the lake beyond on his canvas. His painting looked fresh, but the sleeping pit bull at his feet suggested the duo had been here a while. I walked closer. His pants were torn, and there were holes in his boots. His shirt, which at first appeared beige, revealed itself as an old dirty white shirt. He failed to notice my presence until I stood three feet away, when his dog woke up and greeted me. The puppy looked tired, and wagged its tail as I scratched his ears. A muffled noise came from behind the thick beard of the painter. He kept adding layers of paint to his piece, although it appeared finished. The painter placed his paintbrush on the ground.
         “What do you want?” His question was more of a low-toned growl, and as soon as he spoke his dog lost any interest in being polite.
         “That painting is really good, man. How long are you going to keep working on it?” I said.
         “It won’t be done until I say it is. Okay?” Clearly talking with a stranger didn’t top his list of priorities. This didn’t deter me. I focused on my father’s ability to pick up a conversation with anyone, and continued talking.
         “Where are you from?” I said.
         “Here.” Still nothing.
         “Where around here? I’m not from Vermont so I don’t really know…”
         “Around. I don’t usually sleep in the same spot for long.” He cut me off. For some reason this question caused him to open up. He looked me in the eye, sat down, and asked if I wanted to join him on the ground. His puppy also perked up, and nuzzled into my foot, begging for a scratch. I sat next to him, and, surprised by his sudden interest, continued our talk.
         His name was Jonaton (pronounced as if it began with a Y), and he was born in Burlington. He, like my father, attended Burlington High School, before dropping out in 10th grade. He then looked for a job in the city, while simultaneously pursuing his art of painting. Over the years (he was 21), he committed more time to painting, and less to finding a job. Eventually, he gave up on his search, and started painting stills of the city. He entered his work in local competitions, and evidently his artwork was popular, because he earned prize money from a few small contests. However, rather than spend the money on finding a stable place to stay and a job, he bought his puppy, Ralph. In Jonaton’s words, Ralph was there “to keep me company, and also to sniff out some good spots to paint. He’s got a nose for it”. From there, Jonaton committed himself to painting full time. Taking to the streets, he painted whatever came to mind, forgetting about finding a house or a job. His art and his puppy were all that mattered to him, so he gave up everything else.
         Jonaton reminded me of Aunt Susie, Mark’s sister, who also moved to Burlington with my family to attend the University of Vermont. She, like Jonaton, dropped out within a year of starting college. What Aunt Susie did between then and now eludes me. My father declines to talk about it much, and whether he simply does not know or refuses to tell us is up for debate. She may have painted on the streets with a dog, or spent her time travelling across country on her own. All I know is that after a while of living on the streets, she made her way to Healdsburg, California, where she met up with her mother. She now has a house, a job, and many stories of her travels, and we see her every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Jonaton, like Aunt Susie, seemed like an entirely normal, enjoyable person who had made the decision not to live a structured, standard life. Fed up with how they were ‘supposed’ to live, they left on their own trail, without hesitation. Although I have no desire or intention to become homeless, I think there is a lot to learn from my Aunt and my new friend.

End Notes

1“Pershing Missile.” Pershing Missile. 3 Apr. 2009. Web. 29 Oct. 2013

2“The Wall Street Journal.” Bernie Sanders: U.S. Senate – VT. Web. Nov 30, 2013.

3“Friends of the Island Line Trail.” The Storms. 4 Jan. 2012. Web. 29 Oct. 2013

4“History: War of 1812.” War of 1812 (1812-1815). Web. 30 Nov 2013.

“The Imprecise Trail” by Kirk Horton

         Our bodies stirred as the sun squeezed through the blue tent flaps. The valley below 12,000-foot Mount Wahoo lit up as the sun rose over the summit. Birds sipped on the cool water in Little Basin Lake, and my father, my younger brother and I emerged from our tent.
         Having completed many trips in the California Sierra backcountry at lower elevations, we decided to take a new approach to backpacking and explore somewhere off trail with this trip in early August, 2013. My father had researched trips relatively close to our home in San Francisco that would still prove challenging. After reading numerous books about the Sierra mountain range in eastern California, we settled on a five-day portion of the 195-mile Sierra High Route trail. The particular section we chose, known as “Whitebark Country,” begins on well-maintained trails, before heading off trail, above the timberline, and up into high-elevation “Lake Country.”
         In two weeks I would leave for college, and my brother Reed would head off to boarding school shortly after. We had tried to convince my older brother, my mother, and my younger sister to join, but various commitments meant we departed for the mountains alone. With one more chance to spend time together before parting ways, we took a risk with a more difficult itinerary, and left for the mountains.
         To start the trip, we hiked up and over Bishop Pass in the Northeast section of Inyo National Forest, down into LeConte Canyon, and to the base of Muir Pass. From there we turned off trail, hoping to see parts of these mountains that only a few people witness every year. The Sierra High Route is known as a demanding trail, which almost no one completes in one attempt. The trail runs parallel to the John Muir Trail, staying farther east and at a higher elevation. It is full of class-3 rock faces, meaning footholds and handholds are unstable, and must be carefully picked. Without a blazed trail leading the hiker, anyone who walks the route needs a detailed map and compass. Making sure we prepared as thoroughly as possible, we followed the imprecise trail.
         On the third morning, we moved slowly, and hobbled to the water source to start the slow process of cooking a meal above 10,000 feet. The toll of the past two days showed; oozing blisters and aching muscles needed treatment before the hardest day yet began. I pulled out the powdered eggs which, when mixed with hot water, would serve as our first meal of the day. We stuffed our remaining gear into the large packs. Three bear canisters, a three-person tent, clothing, a medical kit, sleeping bags and pads had to squeeze into three 65-liter backpacks. Boiling water meant one thing; the food for the morning was almost ready.
         That day’s journey on the Sierra High Route appeared simple enough on paper: hike west down Little Basin, turn north and circle the base of Wahoo, head up and over Snow Tongue Pass, and finish down in Piute Basin. We found out soon enough, however, that our task required much more work than we anticipated. Starting down the basin, the rocks and trees thinned to reveal, thousands of feet below, the entirety of Evolution Basin, lined with lakes and foliage. High Sierra peaks toward the south and southwest completed the picture, and a bright blue, cloudless sky topped it off. We saw below in the valley, where hikers of the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail meandered through the much easier terrain than what greeted us several hundred feet higher. But when planning the trip, we intentionally chose not to tread on these well-worn paths.
         As we rounded the final bend high above the basin, the top of Snow Tongue Pass emerged, tucked between a knife-like peak to its right, and the dome-topped Mount Wahoo on its eastside. Seemingly endless talus led up to the saddle. Realizing we had a heavy amount of work ahead, we began to climb. At first, small boulders here and there were easily avoidable. A creek bed provided cold water to drink when we desired, and soft grass to walk up, consoling our already tired feet. The rocks grew in numbers and size slowly but steadily, and before we reached the halfway point of the climb, the pebbles disappeared and truck-sized behemoths provided a precarious walkway. We had to preplan every step; a misguided foot plant onto an unbalanced rock could lead to an eight-foot fall into a crevice between the stones. Slowly, we made our way up, sometimes shaking off our bias toward foot travel to use our hands to haul our bodies and packs up. New leather boots dug equally into mineral and flesh, cutting hands and scraping knees.
         Now only a hundred vertical yards from the top, we took a much-needed rest to regain our breath, and enjoy the view. In the distance, 13,000-foot peaks Mt. Darwin and Mt. Goethe stood as humble reminders that our particular climb paled in comparison to treks up these mountains. I dipped my hands into the cold creek, and washed fresh stream water down my face, cooling it instantly. Relinquishing our comfortable positions, we started again; we knew many miles lay ahead of us, and the day was only getting hotter. Another thirty minutes of physical exertion, and we reached the top.
         From the pinnacle of Snow Tongue pass, typical High Sierra terrain unfolded in every direction. To the west, jagged rocky peaks towered above deep blue lakes. Thunderclouds hovered around the spires, threatening to ruin any plans of travel in the backcountry. Looking east, the vista was harsher. A near vertical drop greeted any High Sierra hiker daring enough to try. Stable boulders became loose scree, which in turn changed to sand, and a slippery snowfield. After coming to the conclusion that this was in fact the trail, we braced ourselves for a long, nervy down-climb.
         Descending by age, we began our slide down. My father went first, outlining the path my younger brother and I would follow shortly. After all, he had planned this “goodbye” trip, and although we knew it would be challenging, he wanted to make sure it was as unproblematic for us as possible. The rocks acted as hand-holds, as the footing appeared too unpredictable to rely on. Slowly, we improvised switchbacks in the mountain, to avoid any chance of falling down the slope. Footing readjustments here and there caused nervous glances and reassurances that everything was under control. Rocks flew down unannounced ahead of each of us, mandating precaution. We descended in shifts. My father made his way a few yards down, then cleared the area so I could begin. Once I reached him, my younger brother started, knowing my father and I rested safely out of harm’s way. After two hours of hesitant ambling, we finally reached the bottom, where Wahoo Lake greeted us.
         Once we arrived at Wahoo Basin, glances up toward Snow Tongue Pass raised skepticism; had we really just come down that rock face? There was no obvious path on the hillside. Boulders and gravel hid any possible combination of footholds, and the grade of the mountain appeared too steep. However, yes, we really had just come up, over, and down the pass. Marveling, we relaxed in a comfortable location next to the warm lake. With the hardest day of the trip behind us, and two relatively easy days ahead, relief enveloped our group.
         A quick dip into the cold Wahoo Lake explained the origin of its name. Then, pots and pans emerged again, and we began the tedious process of heating up water for dinner. The day’s hike took a lot out of our bodies. Even with our immense fatigue, we all smiled and laughed. We knew this would be the last time we would be together for a long time, so our emotions overtook our exhaustion. Once again, a powdered delicacy was the prize for completing a physical task. As the sun faded behind Snow Tongue pass, the blue tent flaps zipped up, and we tucked our tired bodies back into the welcome warmth of our sleeping bags.

Halcyon Days by Wyatt French

         I am nine years old and I am dressed in red Spiderman boxers. With my plastic golf clubs on my back, I walk down the crumbling front steps of “Wilton,” my Bermuda house. Each limestone step like a slab of feta cheese threatens to crumble under pressure. Entering the crabgrass garden, I soak in the powerful 11 am sun. The grass is soft like a sponge. With every stride, my feet push it down and it springs back up like a temperpedic mattress. It seems as though I could jump off a tree onto this grass, and it would cushion me like a pillow.
         I set my golf clubs down and make my plan. The tee box will be where the front yard meets the house steps and the hole will be the trunk of the palm tree. It’s a slight dogleg left, with a pink hibiscus bush hazard looming on the right side of the fairway. Which club do I hit? Driver, 7 iron or putter. I choose the faded blue plastic driver—I’ve been shanking the 7-iron lately. I tee up a plastic golf ball and swing. Whack! Darn, it’s a slice, right into the hibiscus bush.
         The bush is dense. I peel back branches, trying to find my ball while making sure not the hurt the pink hibiscus flowers that each stem so beautifully erects. The beginning of each pedal is dark pink while the tips of each pedal are light pink. In the middle, the two colors meet, and together they create the purest pink I have ever seen. I try to find the point at which one color stops, and the other begins, but it is a fruitless task. Nature’s perfection cannot be measured.
         There it is! I find the white golf ball lodged between two low branches and yank it out using my seven-iron. Once I have the ball, however, I don’t want to play anymore. I would rather look at the colors around me, soak in the sun, and marvel at plants. I leave my golf clubs at the side of the hibiscus bush and start to explore my yard.
         The palm tree at the front of my yard has a curved bow trunk that juts out to the right diagonally from the ground and then curves back at the top. I walk onto the trunk, its stringy sandpaper bark brushing my feet. Then I hug the tree with my arms and legs and spin around so that I am hanging from the tree with my back hovering above the ground like a monkey. I release my feet and return to the garden.
         The little wooden gate at the front of my yard looks delicate. Its royal blue paint is chipping and its hinges are rusted. It doesn’t take much time for the humid Bermuda climate to erode what is man made. With a push, the gate squeaks open and I step onto the light grey asphalt road that runs past my house. The street holds the heat of the summer sun and burns my feet. I dance on my tiptoes and hustle onto parts of the road that are shaded by foliage. Turning left, I walk down the left side of the decaying street. Pastel colored limestone walls line the road, separating public from private. To my right, a cumquat tree droops. After looking both ways, I eagerly skip to the other side of the road.
         Little orange ovals dangle from the majestic tree. The ones that have already fallen lie cooked and deflated on the hot asphalt. I climb onto a green stonewall, reach up and pick a handful of ripe cumquats. Continuing along the road, I snack on the delectable fruit, filling my mouth with sweet summer nectar.
After a minute, I take a right on Paget road. Salty air meets my nose and sticks to my skin. Sand fills the crevasses in the crumbling tarmac road. I feel more sand crunch between my feet and the street until the street is gone and I am on the sandy beach. I look down and watch pink sand squish between my toes and then fall back down. I turn to my right and start to climb a large sand dune that looks over the bay. On the steep dune, green weeds stick through the sand and dance in the ocean breeze. From the top of the dune, I can see the bay that makes a horseshoe and faces the sea. I feel powerful looking down at the tiny people that look like figurines.
         Returning to the beach, I start walking close to the dunes where the sand is deep and dry. After a while, my legs fatigue and I decide to go closer to the water where the sand is wet. With each step, I make a footprint on the supple sand. I try to make my steps the same distance apart, then I try to step only on the balls of my feet, leaving a mysterious set of tracks behind.
         As I move closer to the water, the sand becomes harder. Incoming waves erase the faint tracks that I lay. Waves wash over the sand, so that it is perfect, so that there is no trace of me, so that there is no trace of anyone. After a while, I step shin-deep into the water and feel the refreshing water tingle my legs. As I stand there, my feet start to sink into the soft sand below and the small waves slap my legs. Overcome with serenity, I fall back into the shallow water, landing on my backside. As the refreshing seawater cools me, I lean on my elbows, close my eyes, and absorb the warmth of Bermuda’s summer sun.

“Solo Adventure in Boston” by Alessandria Schumacher

         The Red Line subway shook as it slowed and came to a stop. “Now arriving at Park Street. Doors will open on both sides,” said the automated voice. I stepped off the T, the subway system in Boston, Massachusetts, and walked up the steps straight onto Tremont Street. It was noon on October 20, and the sunshine was warm and blindingly bright. On my right, the Boston Common, a 50-acre public park in the middle of the city, was already filling up with people enjoying the Sunday afternoon. The cars on Tremont Street crept slowly through the traffic. Vendors sold roasted nuts and soft pretzels along the sidewalk.
         I was a freshman at Middlebury College in rural Vermont, and this weekend was my fall break, so I was out to explore Boston by foot, from the Back Bay to the North End, and even across the Charles River. My adventure had begun Saturday morning when my father dropped me off at the bus station in Northampton, Massachusetts, my hometown, at 7 a.m. The bus brought me from Northampton to the dingy Springfield bus station where people lay sleeping on the seats next to garbage bags full of clothes and the air reeked of cigarette smoke. There, I switched buses and headed to South Station in Boston. I rode the Red Line of the T to Davis Square, right outside of Boston in Somerville, where I met my friend I had known since second grade, Ana, at Tufts University. We spent the day together, took the T to Cambridge for a 10 p.m. improv theater show, spent time with her new college friends, and talked together for hours. The next morning, I left on the T and continued my adventure alone for the next few hours on foot, then ultimately met my parents, who had come to Boston that day for an art exhibit, to bring me home. From the Boston Tea Party over 200 years ago, to the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon six months ago, Boston has been filled with layers of important moments and changes. I was setting out to see the city where these changes had taken place and to have an adventure of my own.
         I walked down Tremont until I hit an intersection where I took out my map to see how to get away from downtown Boston and out toward the part of the city with colleges such as Northeastern University and Wentworth Institute of Technology. Boston and the surrounding area is home to over 250,000 college students, and as a college freshman, I wanted to visit this part of the city where other students like myself were living and studying.i Huntington Avenue would get me there, so I closed the map and set out to find Huntington, down Boylston, Charles, Columbus, Stuart, and Saint James streets. The city was massive, and overwhelming, but thrilling, especially coming from Middlebury, a town of 6000 people.
         Walking down Huntington, a cobblestone plaza opened to my right. A massive brown concrete building with square columns lined the far side, so I stepped off the sidewalk and onto the plaza to look around. A rectangular pool of water at knee level stretched at least 100 yards. The water looked almost motionless, but it trickled slowly over each wall of the stone pool. The back of a cathedral, with arches, a rose window, a spire, and two domes, stood on the opposite side of the pool next to the concrete building. I walked parallel to the reflecting pool, past other walkers, people sitting on benches, and a little boy wearing a Yankees jacket. This church was the head of the Church of Christian Science all over the world, founded here in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy, who grew up on a farm in New Hampshire and relied on the healing powers of Christ in her life.ii I turned back to admire the gorgeous church and reflecting pool and continued down Huntington.
         A family walked by in red Northeastern University sweatshirts. The T tracks came above ground here, so I crossed over them and onto the Northeastern campus. Two posts, each with a scarecrow and hay bales at its base, held up a sign announcing “Parent and Family Weekend – Welcome.” Just last weekend my parents had come to visit me at Middlebury for our family weekend. My typical college student jeans, fleece jacket, and backpack camouflaged me, so no one would know that I was an outsider at this university. I went to Middlebury College, with gray granite and white marble buildings, many from the 19th century, so wandering around this college campus was entirely strange. A concrete engineering building lay next to an equally ugly student center. The sidewalks wove between the buildings on campus. The closeness made me miss the open space of Middlebury, surrounded by farms and mountains.
         I started thinking of the students I know at Northeastern and how I could run in to any of them. The overstuffed campus opened up into a quad with people gathered around grills. The smell of hamburgers cooking spread through the area. Someone familiar was walking down the quad toward me. We made eye contact and stopped walking. “Georgia?” I said.
         “What are you doing here?” I said. “Don’t you go to Oberlin?”
         “Yeah, wait, you go to Middlebury.”
         She, too, was a student home for break and was visiting a friend at Northeastern. We chatted, then headed in opposite directions. She was a sophomore at Oberlin, but we had gone to high school together. I never knew her well, but nonetheless I recognized her.
         I emerged from the campus opposite a yellow lettered sign that said “Wentworth,” an engineering school in Boston. A little ways down the road was Mass Art, an art school where my friend’s sister, Melissa, went. The Museum of Fine Arts lies next to the street and a metal sign on a brick building reads “The School of the Museum of Fine Arts.” Every street in this part of Boston seemed to have a different college. I followed the path along the Back Bay Fens, a park in the Back Bay area of Boston that was once a swamp full of pollution from the nearby mills and factories.iii
         The Fenway, a road that follows the perimeter of the Back Bay Fens, led to Boylston, the next street I wanted to reach. Businesses and shops lined the street, and cars sat in traffic. Men and women dressed in business suits and wearing name tags walked swiftly in front of the Hynes Convention Center, a huge glass and concrete tower. A plaza with benches separated the two halves of the building. I sat on one of the benches and pulled out my map to get my bearings. In planning my trip to Boston, I thought of the bombing that had taken place there just six months before. At some point, I would have to visit that site on this walk, and I knew it was located where Boylston meets Copley Square, a major intersection in the city.
         Going straight down Boylston to Copley Square seemed too simple, so I left my spot on the bench and crossed the street to take Fairfield and Commonwealth Avenue. On other side of Boylston, a banner in the window of a Fidelity Investments office said, “We support the spirit of community that makes BOSTON STRONG.” The familiar phrase “Boston strong” reminded me of why I had wanted to come this way. On April 15, Dzokhar and Tamarlan Tsarnaev detonated two homemade bombs here on the route of the Boston Marathon, which killed 3 and injured more than 140 people.iv I wanted to approach Copley Square from Boylston to find the site.
         A green with grass and trees divided the lanes of cars, and trees were beginning to change color. Four story brick houses stood next to each other, touching. Each had a slightly different wrought iron balcony, bay window, and double wooden door. At the next cross street, I turned right to return to Boylston.
         The back of the Boston Public Library, the hideous part that looked like a concrete parking garage, stood across from me on Boylston. I walked down the side of the street opposite the concrete library, toward Copley Square passing through a construction site. Chain-link fences lined either side of a segment of the sidewalk, leaving it just wide enough for two people to pass. The fence to my left was partly covered with a dark green tarp, so the building behind the fence was hard to see. I stopped just as I had passed through this site. Something was odd about it, but everyone walked through so casually, their gazes barely leaving the path straight ahead. It looked like something had crashed into the building and left a hole. This was Boylston and Copley Square was just a few storefronts down the street. This must have been the site of the marathon bombing.
         A couple stopped next to me, talking softly, and looking at the site. The man pointed up above the green tarp. The bottom panes of glass on the bay windows were missing but the other glass was intact. The white ceiling tiles framed by the empty window panes were intact, but the rooms were vacant. Just behind the green tarp, the concrete sidewalk near the building had been turned to rubble. The sidewalk I had walked on was newly poured concrete. The walls of the first floor were missing. There was no floor. The metal supports of the building looked like they were covered with pumice stones from a volcanic eruption. Next to the chain-link fence, a running store called Marathon Sports had a printed sign in their window entitled “THANK YOU BOSTON” with a three paragraph long letter about April 15 and the response. It ended with the phrase “BOSTON STRONG.”
         Reading this letter, my eyes filled with tears. I squeezed them shut, still mind blown that this happened. All of my muscles tensed and a shudder ran through my body. I thought of Melissa at Mass Art who had gone to the marathon earlier that day. When the bombing happened, she called home to tell her parents she was okay. She told her parents of the event even before news of the bombing had left Boston. Joe and Stephanie, our family friends who often run marathons, could have been there, but this year they decided not to run the Boston marathon. My friend Ana had been heading into Boston that day to look at colleges the day after; what if she had gone a day earlier? I turned away from the sign and walked back between the fences, more slowly this time. The curb along the road was new. Signs hang from both fenced in areas that read “DANGER Construction Site Unauthorized Persons Keep Out!”
         I walked back through once more, stopping again in front of Marathon Sports. The soles were coming off my sneakers, they were ripping around the ankle, and the shoelaces were frayed. I had been meaning to buy a new pair of running shoes, so I considered buying them there, but realized that I would not be able to walk in and buy them calmly. More practically, there was no place in my backpack to carry shoes. I had paid my respects, and it was time to head toward Copley Square.
         Organ music coming out of the open doors of the Old South Church stopped me before I reached the Square. The music made it seem like everything was alright, like I didn’t just walk past the site of a most recent Boston massacre. Calmed by the music, I crossed the street and sat on the steps of the old part of the Boston Public Library looking out over the square.
         Various shops, the brown stone arches of Trinity Church, the reflective glass Hancock Tower, a fancy hotel, and the Boston Public Library formed a ring around Copley Square. People milled about both walking with purpose, and aimlessly wandering. Some stepped back to take a picture of something, like the library, the oldest large public library in the country.v From the steps, I took out my map, plotted my route to the start of the Freedom Trail, and set out: Clarendon Street, Comm Ave, Boston Public Garden.
         Music was playing somewhere farther down Clarendon Street. The jazzy sound of the drum set and electric guitar made me walk in time with the music. A crowd on the corner of Clarendon and Newbury bounced and swayed, and I hurried across the street to join. The electric guitar soloed, and the drums and electric bass played along. The man up front wore cuffed jeans, purple fuzzy socks, a baseball cap, and a purple bandana around his neck. He held his clarinet and danced to the music. The guitar player stopped and the man with the purple bandana came in on clarinet with a variation on the Maroon 5 song, “Moves Like Jagger.” All the spectators were bobbing their heads or tapping their feet.
         They finished and the crowd cheered and applauded. Some people moved on, new spectators joined, and some of us stayed for another song. The guitar began the next familiar sounding song. The bass and drums joined, and the clarinet came in with the melody of “Party in the USA,” by Miley Cyrus, the best rendition I had ever heard. The clarinet played the full, deep low register tones, up to the high, wailing notes three octaves above, without squawking or losing a strong tone. I took a dollar from my pocket, dropped it in the box, took a business card, and walked away, humming “Party in the USA” down the street, onto Comm Ave. The business card read, “Rashad Richardson.” He was the bassist, band leader, and producer of the group, with a degree from Berklee College of Music.
         My clarinet sat at home in my closet untouched since the Memorial Day Parade. The beautiful sounds coming from the street musician’s clarinet made me miss playing. I had spent hours both working on piece to near perfection, and trying to play songs I like by ear. Over the past nine years, I had played in the band at my school, and on my own.
         Across Arlington Street, I entered the Boston Public Garden, the first public botanical garden in America. It contained exotic plant species, a lagoon, and the swan boats that take visitors out on the This time of year, there were no swan boats on the lagoon, but as I stood on the bridge looking at the water the sustained chords of a bagpipe, with an accordion over it, seemed to come from the other side of the bridge. Curious, I crossed the bridge where a white-haired man sat hunched over an instrument. He wore a blue beret and an argyle sweater to match. The instrument on his lap looked like a viola, but he was turning a crank with his right hand and plucking strings with his left. When he finished his mysterious, haunting song, I clapped with the other onlookers and said, “What instrument is that?”
         “A 17th century-style French hurdy-gurdy,” he said.
         I repeated it back just to be sure. “A 17th century French—”
         “No. 17th century-style hurdy-gurdy. It was hand made for me 32 years ago in France.” The hurdy-gurdy was a stringed instrument that made noise when he turned the hand crank.
         I thanked and complimented him on the music and kept going over the bridge. As I reached Charles Street and the Common, I heard pots and pans crashing, but with a tune that reminded me of “Octopus’s Garden.” It was Ramblin’ Dan, wearing a tie-dyed shirt and red pants. He was covered head to heel with tubes, pots, pans, ropes, cymbals, hula hoops, and a harmonica. With each step, he made noises and sang. Two little boys stood near him one with a tambourine, the other with maracas. When that song was done, he asked them what song to play. “Something spooooky!” one boy said.
         “Yeah, it’s almost Halloween,” said the other.
         “The Monster Mash,” whispered their mom from the side.
         “Alright, we’ll try that,” said Ramblin’ Dan. His sign said “Only those who attempt the absurd achieve the impossible.” With that motto, he’d have to try any song they suggested. He played a bit of its beginning, then moved into a jazzy version of “Stand By Me.” Some people gathered started mouthing the words. I took a dollar from my pocket, left it in the bucket with other dollars and chocolate bars. Leaving the crowd, I went over to the Boston Common singing out loud, “No I won’t, be afraid, Oh I won’t, be afraid, Just as long, as you stand, stand by me.”
         The Common is on a hill with the State House on top, visible above the trees. Glare from the gold dome blinded me for a moment as my eyes adjusted. A woman from Springfield, Illinois, in Boston for the first time, stood with group talking loudly, waiting for the trolley to pick them up and shuttle them to the next destination in this perfect walking city. The bus pulled up and “Tim the Tour Guide” sat up front with the driver, talking into a crackly microphone. On the other side of the steps, a guide told his followers, “It was all about preserving the union.” They all nodded, and furrowed their brows, like this was something new about the Civil War.
         The phone in my pocket buzzed. It was my mother. She and my father were over by Faneuil Hall. “I’m by the State House,” I told her. “I’ll be taking the Freedom Trail that way in the next hour or so. See you there in a bit.” I hung up, and began to follow the red line on the ground, which tried to lead me down Park Street. I could barely move because of the tour group plodding along in front of me, so I turned and escaped down Beacon Street, knowing I could easily get to Faneuil Hall without a red line as my guide.
         The Freedom Trail takes a circuitous route from the front of the State House through the narrow streets of Boston, to the North End, and across the Charles River. It passes historic buildings that were crucial in the formation of the United States: the Old North Church where Paul Revere hung two lanterns, the cemetery where three signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried, the Old State House which was the site of the Boston Massacre and home to the fire that sparked the American Revolution.vii
         For the next several miles, I loosely followed the trail to my first destination, Faneuil Hall. Passing Kings Chapel, I decided to give the suggested $1 donation and entered. A woman was singing opera, accompanied by a man on the organ. Every surface of the pews was covered with plush red cushions or cloth. The seats were inviting after hours of walking, so I sat down, closed my eyes, and listened. The music then stopped mid-phrase and the accompanist softly instructed the singer on what not to do. Since the music had stopped, I went outside and continued to Faneuil Hall.
         Just before Faneuil Hall is the Old State House, built in 1713. It’s the oldest standing public building in Boston. Rebellious colonists argued against English rule here in 1761, sparking the idea of independence. In 1770, five men were killed in the square by the English army in the Boston Massacre, which was used to incite the colonists and stir up anger against the English. On July 18, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed from the balcony. The unicorn and lion, English royal symbols, were ripped from the façade and burned.viii
         An overwhelming number of tourists stood outside the brick building. I wove through the people who were standing still, walking in every direction, and waiting in line for roasted nuts. The smell of the nuts was making me hungry and I realized I hadn’t eaten since ten. The clock on the Old State House cupola read five after three. On either side of the cupola stood two life-sized statues, a unicorn on the right and a lion on the left.
         A motion across the street caught my eye when I stopped at the cross walk leading to Faneuil Hall. My parents were waving to me. It was good to see people I knew after traveling solo through a city of strangers. I crossed the street and hugged my mom first, then my dad. We exchanged questions “How have you been?” “Where are you headed?” my mom said, “Have you eaten? Do you want something, like real food? Or ice cream?”
         “Yeah, I want something,” I said. We walked to Faneuil Hall, a historic brick building with a gold cricket weather vane, which has been as a market and meeting place since 1742.ix The main floor now holds vendors selling everything from New England clam chowder to sushi. In the packed corridor lined with stalls, I recognized someone wearing a Middlebury t-shirt with three people behind her. One of them was Stuart, who lives two floor above me.
“Stuart?” I said. He was startled, but stopped and we talked. I asked about their visit to Boston, and I introduced my parents to the people I knew from my new life at college.
         Ice cream sounded better than real food, so I ordered a small peanut butter Oreo ice cream in a sugar cone with chocolate sprinkles. As my parents and I talked, we wandered through Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, and to the North End. They told me about the bizarre but interesting outdoor art exhibit they had gone to in East Boston, and the Australian place where they had eaten lunch. “Which way do you want to go? Do you want us to leave, and we can meet later, or do you want us to stay with you?” my mom asked. We were in the city together as a family, yet she didn’t assume we are all on the same agenda, which I realized was true. She was talking like we are just meeting up for a while as any two parties might on a walk.
         “I want you to stay with me,” I said after thinking for a moment. “I want company, but you have to keep up.” As we walked, my mom’s calmness surprised me. She had asked me about my Saturday, but she didn’t seem to need every detail of my last 32 hours: the bus, the T, Tufts, my walk. I was not concerned, but it seemed like something my mom should want to hear about. She would want to hear about my adventure and if I had done anything unsafe that would upset her. Even if she wasn’t asking to hear, I wanted to tell. I had not traveled by bus or subway much, never mind alone. I had just walked around a city I didn’t live in for three hours. The last day and a half had been new to me, and meeting my parents like this, as an adult in the city, was new to me as well.
         We walked through the North End, the Italian section, and across the Charles to the Charlestown section of Boston. Still on the Freedom Trail, we visited “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution. From the last stop on the trail, the Battle of Bunker Hill monument, we overlooked the harbor and the Boston skyline. The battle was technically a loss for the newly forming United States, but it showed the English that the colonies were on a steady path to independence and could put up a strong fight.
         By 5:30, we had arrived back in the North End. Walking down Hanover Street, we tried to remember the restaurants where we had eaten in on previous visits and who we were with. “Let’s go to this one,” I said. I pointed up at the red and green neon sign. The letters C, N, and T are lit in the word “cantina” running vertically in red. Below it were the words “Italiana Restaurant” in green, the oldest restaurant in the North End. Surrounded by murals of Venice, we sat around the table eating warm, delicious pasta dishes and I gladly told my parents all about my weekend adventure and my walk.
         Countless times in my life, I had sat in an Italian restaurant in the North End of Boston at the end of a day trip to the city. Once it was after seeing a special exhibit on Pompeii in the Museum of Fine Arts with my parents and friend, Maureen. Another time was with my parents, several aunts and uncles, and my cousins when my family was visiting from Hawai’i and we had spent the day at the Museum of Science. Several times as a child I had spent the weekend in Boston sightseeing with one parent or the other, while the other parent went to a conference. This was the first time I had come to Boston on my own, visited my friend, and spent the afternoon in the city alone doing something that only I needed to do.
         Since the time in 1997 when I had eaten at in the North End at Pagliuca’s with my family and grandfather, I had taken steps toward growing up: going out to play without parents, riding my bike outside the neighborhood, walking into town with friends in 6th grade, going abroad with a high school trip, learning to drive, going to college. In the month and a half since I had left for college, I had taken some of the biggest steps yet. I had never gone on an adventure of my own and for purely my own reasons. At the end of the day, I reunited with my parents after coming from different paths as I had never done before.

End Notes

i“Boston in Profile and Other Fun Facts.” N.p., 2009. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.

ii“Christian Science.” Christian Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.

iii“Back Bay Fens.” City of N.p., 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.

ivTracy, James F. “Boston Marathon Bombing Timeline.” Global Research. N.p., 18 Aug. 2013. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.

v“A Brief History and Description.” Boston Public Library. N.p., 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

vi“Public Garden.” City of N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

vii“Official Sites on the Trail.” The Freedom Trail Foundation. N.p., 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

viii“The Old State House.” The Bostonian Society. N.p., 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

ix“City of” Faneuil Hall. N.p., 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.


Solvitur Ambulando: It is solved by walking. With this Latin saying in mind, first years at Middlebury College in Vermont set out walking across the landscape and wrote about what they saw, heard, felt and discovered as part of their first year seminar with Professor Christopher Shaw. This blog is a collection of some of the final pieces that came of those walks. Feel free to read and comment, and enjoy!