The last time I hiked Mt. Equinox I’d just finished the first draft of my first novel, and I’d known Tim for less than a week. Last Sunday, we hiked it again, for the second time in thirty-one years.
Three decades later, and everything is changed. The trail isn’t what I remembered. In fact, I’m sure we climbed a different route. Last time, we had trouble finding the trail head and climbed from the north. This time, we used the internet (not yet available back in 1984), and used our on-board navigation to locate a well-marked and crowded parking area complete with kiosk and maps. We hiked the east side of the mountain, up a blue-blazed trail.
As we climbed, I recounted what I could remember from that first hike, including a story about a friend of Tim’s who of course I didn’t yet know, but who is now also a friend of mine. I also remember how chilly it was at the summit, and how Tim lent me his wool checked shirt.
There’s a photo of this moment, of me in this shirt, and others of the kids wearing it on different mountaintops in New England. Every once in a while, this same checked shirt resurfaces, as do the kids.
Kids. Three daughters we couldn’t imagine on that first hike, but who’ve filled our lives and have now fledged, leaving us no choice but to adopt a young dog for company.
We hiked with the girls, but never this mountain, so returning to it, just the two of us in the wake of the girls’ departures for California, New York City, and The Republic of Georgia, seems triply poignant.
On that first hike together, we couldn’t imagine coming out the other side of childrearing together either, yet here we are.
We both recognize our tremendous good fortune. We could have parted ways any number of times: after that first hike, instead of getting married, during those difficult years of early parenting while simultaneously establishing careers and feathering a nest, or now – when the imperatives of family life have abated.
We didn’t know what we were getting in to last time; we only think we do now. But hiking together has been a good way to build the endurance we’ve needed for the exertions of family life, our careers and our marriage. Hiking up and down mountains is a great way to gain perspective for living in place.