Originally Published Oct. 18, 2018; Updated.
This has been an unspectacular New England autumn—most leaves either staying green or simply browning and dropping. Too warm and too dry. But today remnants of Hurricane Nate breeze through, the ground is wet, bright yellow leaves flit down among intermittent showers and gusts. Good day for a hike.
So, sporting shorts, shirt, socks, and shoes, I saunter south into the gray and gusts and gloom. My ancient Vasque Sundowners suffer scuffed leather uppers and soles re-glued several times (marine epoxy holds better than Shoe Goo), but their intact Goretex linings insure that at least my feet should stay dry.
Twenty minutes bring me to the trailhead, and soon into the woods and uphill. Stood (not sat) atop ancient fractured granite boulders five meters high and eight across. Imagine a gray blustery day. Trunks darkened with the wet to nearly black, standing in sundry slants and sizes below the generally-green canopy, occasional bright yellows icing the tops. Rain is steady but not heavy. Quiet except for the rushing, restless breeze in the branches. No one else around. Wind strengthens and turns erratic. A more intense shower blows in so I stand tight to a tilting trunk to ward off the worst. Once it eases, on up the trail to a large granite bald spot and overview. The ragged cloud ceiling hangs low, alternately obscuring and unveiling the taller range a mile west across the valley.
When showers again strengthen I duck back into the trees. Even were my soles not worn smooth, the leaves and wet would render treacherous several stony slopes. Winds whistle; branches above sway and sing. Suddenly a twelve-footer snaps and slams the ground just behind me and to the left. Five minutes later, Crack! Yikes! Thud! Its elder brother, three inches in diameter, crashes directly on the trail four yards ahead. “Missed me by that much!” Time to head home.