|Photo: A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson|
"When, after ages and ages, you finally reach the tell-tale world of truly high ground, where the chilled air smells of pine sap and the vegetation is gnarled and tough and wind-bent, and push through to the mountain's open pinnacle, you are, alas, past caring. You sprawl face down on a sloping pavement of gneiss, pressed to the rock by the weight of your pack, and lie there for some minutes, reflecting in a distant, out-of-body way that you have never before looked this closely at lichen, not in fact looked this closely at anything in the natural world since you were four years old and had your first magnifying glass. Finally, with a weary puff, you roll over, unhook yourself from your pack, struggle to your feet and realise--again in a remote, light-headed, curiously not-there way--that the view is sensational: a boundless vista of wooded mountains, unmarked by human hand, marching off in every direction. This really could be heaven. It's splendid, no question, but the thought you cannot escape is that you have to walk this view--and this is the barest fraction of what you will traverse before you've finished.
You compare your map with the immediate landscape and note that the path ahead descends into a steep valley--a gorge really, not unlike the gorges the coyote is forever plunging into in Roadrunner cartoons; gorges that have actual vanishing points--which will deliver you to the base of a hill even more steep and formidable than this, and that when you scale that preposterously taxing peak you will have done 1.7 miles since breakfast, while your schedule (blithely drawn up at a kitchen table and jotted down after perhaps three seconds' consideration) calls for 8.9 miles by lunch, 16.8 by teatime, and even greater distances tomorrow.
But perhaps it is also raining, a cold, slanting, merciless rain, with thunder and lightning playing on the neighbouring hills. Perhaps a troop of Eagle Scouts comes by at a depressing trot.
Perhaps you are cold and hungry and smell so bad that you can no longer smell yourself. Perhaps you want to lie down and be as the lichen: not dead exactly but just very still for a long, long time.
But of course I had all this ahead of me. Today I had nothing to do but traverse four middling mountains over seven miles of wellmarked trail in clear, dry weather. It didn't seem too much to ask. It was hell." --------- Excerpt: A Walk in the Woods, Bill BrysonHappy Weekend!