Boulder Trail/ Straightback Mountain Trail/ Brook Trail/Mount Major Trail
5 Miles 1200’ Elevation gain
Kevin and Judy
It has been twenty days at this writing since our little girl took the trail we could not follow. I’d like to say it’s been getting easier, but it hasn’t. One drawback to retirement is having the time for the things we never had time for before, like grief. When you are working, raising kids, living in the prime of your life these things still happen, but the necessity of getting on with your life pushes things like grief to a backburner more quickly than when you have loads of time on your hands. With all this time you get to think, and when you get to think you begin to realize the full extent of your loss.
With each new wave of grief you realize that things that have long been buried in the sand are being uncovered and washing up on the beach. Loss is a part of everyone’s lives, and everyone somehow manages to live through it, we will too, but it is not easy. We try to face the things we need to face, like returning to places we had always gone with Emma. Returning to Kingston State Park was hard, we took the neighbor’s dogs to distract us. They had walked there with Emma and with us many, many times. Emma was queen of the park, everyone knew her.
We returned to Pawtuckaway, another place we had been to innumerable times with her, it was difficult, we shed many tears that first hike without her. Mount Major was another one we had visited so many times with her. As we started up the Boulder Trail the burden of our loss was heavy. The dampness and the new spring leaves were beautiful, but bittersweet. We wished that she was with us, she would have loved it so. As we continued to hike we began to come across Red Spotted Newts, still in their beautiful, cute Eft form, growing big and strong to prepare for their return to the aquatic life they were meant for.
We distracted ourselves by counting them: One, two... ten, twelve... as we passed the steep part of the trail we spread out a little, exploring ledges we had passed by before. We found huge blueberry patches where fire had burned the woods years before, and lots more newts. We went off trail and over to a southwest hump of the hill, I found a bone field and pondered on who it was that was taking their final rest in this place... I’m not sure.
We continued up to the summit, crowded with a busload of kids. The remains of thick fog were still lifting off the big lake stretched out below us. I hoped that eventually our grief would lift like the fog and the sun would shine through again. We continued on towards Straightback, exploring more ledges we had not visited, eventually weaving our way back along the Brook Trail. At the junction to the trail that would lead us to Straightback I didn’t feel like going over, but I made myself.
Along the trail there were more newts. We counted them, but decided we wouldn’t count them as we retraced the trail back from Straightback. In retrospect we should have counted in both directions, then if we had counted twelve in one direction and fifteen in the other we could have added three to the grand total. We’ll try to remember this if ever we are out counting newts again on a fine spring day.
We reached the trail junction at the very flat top of Straightback, a place we had shared many a lunch with Emma. I scanned the area looking for wildflowers of which I had seen only a few. Nestled in the brush and stunted trees to our southwest I could see some bright pink and realized there was Rhodora growing there. Carefully we picked our way along pathless ledge and through bushes to the spot. It was one of the most beautiful patches of Rhodora I had ever seen, in full bloom with perfect, intricate flowers.
Now I had not felt like even going to Straightback, but now felt as though my perserverance was being rewarded by being led to this spot we had never discovered before. Led, led by whom? Think what you want, I knew who led us there. It reminded us that there will always be beautiful things to discover even though she is no longer beside us.
We sat on a rock beside the Rhodora and had our lunch. It was the first fluffernutter I could remember eating in whole without breaking off pieces to share with a demanding little dog, I would gladly have given her the whole thing if I could. As much as it hurt to know she was no longer beside us there was the beginning of the knowledge that she would always be with us, whereever we go. As we started back after lunch I spotted some Lady’s Slippers not quite ready yet to open.
Back at the junction we turned and began to head down the Brook Trail, still counting newts. I guess I realized we were reaching an amazing number of newts when two women so us bent over one and commenting that they had seen many as well. I replied that we were on number one hundred and eleven, and we all had a good laugh, Holy Cow! We stopped along the brook, it was hard. Normally we would watch Emma splash along, cooling off and taking a drink: “Take as long as you need Sistah!” we would be saying, and waiting for her to splash up out of the water signalling that it was time to move on again.
We hiked along back to the car, sometimes barely seeing the woods as we scanned the trail for more newts, it had been a good distraction. Our final count was one hundred and thirty, each sighting confirmed with one another. It had gotten us through this longest of hikes, we know now that we must eventually return to all the places we had been with her. She will no longer be by our side, but we will carry her now within us...