Saturday, August 10, 2019

Sleepy Hollow

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s grave site.

Someone wrote Hawthorne a birthday note

He’s buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, in Concord, Massachusetts. He died in 5/19/1864, and his pallbearers included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Amos Bronson Alcott (Louisa May Alcott’s father). Hard to imagine the conversation that took place that day.

As Mr. Alcott stood facing Hawthorne’s tombstone he could have looked over his right shoulder and viewed his own future grave site, and that of his daughter, 24 years later. It’s no more than 40 yards away. Amos and Louisa died two days apart and had a joint funeral. 

Adjacent to the Alcott’s family plot is the grave of Henry David Thoreau, who died of tuberculosis 2 years before Hawthorne. Walden Pond, the place where Thoreau lived for two years and inspired his classic book “Walden”, is close by.


Emerson could have walked up a short hill past the Alcott’s and viewed his future grave site. It’s only a stone’s throw from where he stood as pallbearer. He died 18 years after Hawthorne of pneumonia.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery has beautiful rolling hills and trees that may be as old as those buried there. I have read that Hawthorne and his wife Sophia would walk this area when it was still farmland and dream of building a house on one of the hills. Later it became their grave site, but she was not moved there until 2006, after their descendants moved her and their daughter from their burial site in England.

Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts on July 4, 1804. His birth house was saved from being torn down in favor of a parking lot in 1958, and it now stands on the same property as the fabled House of the Seven Gables. Hawthorne first became acquainted with the place after his cousin inherited the house and estate. She suggested he use the house as a backdrop for a story, and the wrote his famous novel after publishing "The Scarlet Letter".

Walden Pond is now a state park and a walking trail circles the pond and woods that inspired Thoreau during his two year stay there. The location of his cabin is marked, although the cabin was removed after he vacated it.  .

Sign at the site of his cabin. Fans have built rock cairns in the background.
The trail around Walden Pond

Wednesday, July 3, 2019


     Shadowy distortions fall across the page. Some are pronounced, like those cast by my left hand as I write. Others are more diffracted, like the translucent shadow from my water bottle, or those filtering through trees before reaching my notepad.

    Words are that way. We must look beyond the reflections to dig out true meaning. Some words are sharp and defined while others are murky and deceptive.

    My writing is like that by design. Let the reader fill in some of the blanks using their own life experiences but don’t overdo it. Readers want to be presented with a story rather than write it themselves. The meaning of my words can vary from person to person. Obscurity can bring out a childhood memory; they may wonder “where did that thought come from?” and then it becomes clear. Merge between darkness and light by stepping over a distinct line, like the sharp edges of my hand’s shadow. The reader’s experience can range from happiness to old memories that cause despair, and anything in between.

    Peeking around a sharp-edged wall of shadow and looking outward, the world seems much brighter but less defined. What can be more uniform and steady than darkness? You can’t see what surrounds you. Your eyes adjust, but shadows loom that are impossible to see through. Sounds hidden during the day present themselves after nighttime settles in. Perhaps this is the greatest fear. Instead of stumbling among familiarity you must deal with unfamiliar nocturnal creatures of the night. Daytime birds retreat and other creatures emerge. A stranger who hides in darkness is not the same person lurking about in daytime shadows.

    A new world emerges. Familiar ground becomes fresh again. And I like to use this realm of the unknown in my writing.  It’s obviously fiction, but close enough to reality to make one pause.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Rocky Top

On December 18,2018 I did my longest hike to date, accompanied by my daughter Marissa. 20 miles with 4,587 feet of elevation gain. We started near sunrise at 7:30am and headed up the Lead Cove Trail, which intersected with Bote Mountain. We continued upward to the Appalachian Trail at Spence Field and took a break at the same spot where we experienced the solar eclipse of August 2017.

The section from Spence Field to Rocky Top is a tough hike. It starts up, and then goes back down, then up again. It’s only about a mile, but I found it to be the toughest part of the day. The scenery was fantastic from the top, so it was worth the effort.

We continued on to Thunderhead Mountain before turning around and heading along the AT. The section from Thunderhead to Russell Field shelter is a pleasant stroll, although there is the uphill section after Rocky Top.

 A few patches of leftover snow covered shaded grassy areas, but nothing was on the trail form the previous week's 18" snowfall. 

We hiked a short distance past the Russell Field Trail intersection, but turned back since this was within a day or two of the shortest day of the year. The afternoon was fading and we had a ways yet to go.

We made it to the car after 7pm at the Lead Cove trailhead, so it was dark at this point. A long day but full of memorable scenery and time well spent with my daughter. Making memories in the Smokies-

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Mosaic of Life

On the first morning of my annual pilgrimage into the Smoky Mountains for a mental reset and some great hiking, I was greeted with the scene below.

A gentle breeze took away any coverings of an inspiring morning.  Morning’s light, full of hope and new beginnings, faded in and out from behind a thin sheer of clouds off to my right, above a high ridge line. After a while the sun lit up the side of my face and felt like a warm cloth. The trees were bare, leaving a mosaic of the winding road below, and the hills beyond.
The road below; it was there before me and will likely be there long after I am gone. Beauty is carved out through time, following natural terrain. Nature’s flow. A beautiful life should follow that pattern with the natural mountains and valleys (our belief systems) carving out a boundary for when we step out too far. But not too rigid. It’s okay to have the hairpin turns to slow us down from imminent disaster, and we can go around a mountain when it serves no purpose to climb it.
The view can be spectacular along this twisted journey, but we can’t see too far ahead with the upcoming turn. Be spontaneous, enjoy your road trip, stop along the way, and soak in a good dose of life.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year End Hike in the Smokies

Did a 9 miler today in the Smokies to close out 2017. Hiked just over 600 miles this year, which is a nice improvement after the back issues I had.

Temps never left the twenties today
Chestnut Top Trail
.Had an unexpected snowfall late this afternoon into tonight, with the temp at 23 degrees, and the road is completely white. Looks like tomorrow morning will be a good one to stay in and read a good book.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Trillium Gap Trail to Mt. LeConte

Marissa and I hiked the Trillium Gap Trail (from the Grotto Falls trailhead) to LeConte yesterday, with a side trip to Brushy Mountain on the way back down. 14 miles, 3,448 feet of elevation. Nice weather, just a few sprinkles on the way down at dusk, but otherwise clear all day. I didn't check the temp at the LeConte Lodge, but the forecast showed temps in the 30's all day at the top.

Trail conditions were good, but some of the water crossings were more work than normal after the heavy rains the day before. We talked to a couple of hikers that were headed down from an overnight stay at the lodge. They had hiked up the previous day in the deluge and had nothing dry on when the reached the top.

The vistas, flora, rock formations, waterfalls, and beauty of the trails as they hug the side of the mountain are worth the hike up. The llama pack goes up Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays on the Trillium Gap Trail with supplies. 

This was our first hike to LeConte since 2014 due to my back issues. Our last two hikes this year have been 14+ milers so the back is getting stronger.

Colors were not spectacular but we did hit a sweet spot during the elevation climb with some yellows. We started late at 9:20 and got back to the car at 7 after spending some time up top.
Pictures taken with a point and shoot so they are not the best, but you get an idea of the scenery.
Near Grotto Falls

Boot prints. Looks like a message was left behind

Walking behind Grotto Falls

From behind Grotto Falls

At the LeConte Lodge

View from the back porch of the LeConte Lodge dining area

View from Brushy Mountain Trail

View from Brushy Mountain Trail

View from Brushy Mountain Trail

2017 LeConte shirt

Just below the top, on our way up