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Monument Mountain

Tic tac toe in Stockbridge

Back alley in Stockbridge. I was looking for a piece of fruit and couldn't find one in the whole town.

So there I was climbing up the old lady this morning, thinking about how far we go back and how she's changed over the years. She's so much taller than she used to be, and more pointy and steep. Her rocks at the top are more sheer, the toeholds so much smaller than they used to be.

We first met, I want to say 34 years ago. I wasn't impressed at first, didn't care for the approach essentially on Route 7 which can be noisy with trucks. Her paths were few and too well-worn, really just dirt, it never felt like going into the woods when I walked her paths. But as the hills of the Berkshires became too odious for me to run on, ok, maybe too steep, I needed another form of exercise and the steep path up, if done fast, would get my heart pumping and rewarded me at the top with warm rocks to sit on while looking to the Catskills and sometimes the Adirondacks to the west and the AMC ridge line that goes along Beartown Forest to the east. Sometimes I'd sneak down at lunchtime for a quick climb.

To say that we've got to know each other is an understatement. She's been my place I go; together we have heralded spring with her blooming mountain laurels, hosted friends and relatives, had picnics, appreciated Whale Rock and remembered the story about Edith Wharton, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville taking a horse drawn cart to the summit so they could have an elaborate picnic. We have also said hello and goodbye to important people over the years.

Today, I was just there for fun and exercise. The "mountain", OK, she's actually only 1642 feet, has always been "maintained" by the Trustees, but for many years, that meant one or two trail maintenance days a year. When I go up now, I get a little crabby about all the signs that include lawyer language about hiking at your own risk, the gravel in a color that doesn't blend with nature, and all the pressure treated wood, but I also appreciate them keeping it in good order and safe for all. At the summit, I wonder why the Trustees don't tinker up there, as much of the view is now obscured by some recent birch tree interlopers.

It was pretty early morning, before 9, when I heard a man's voice, who when he came into view, apologized, as he hadn't been talking to someone else, but reciting Shel Silverstein's The Devil and Billy Markham, thinking he was alone. He was tall, had grey hair with a bandana on, a smiling face, bright colored clothes, and was carrying a big pack, which is unusual for such a short hike. Almost to the top while he was on the descent, I had just been thinking about the creative energy I feel whenever I'm in the Berkshires. What better demonstration than a hiking poet/dramatist? We chatted a minute or two and went on our ways.

On my way down, there he was, coming up again. I asked him if he'd forgotten something at the top, and he replied, "yes, the lines of my poem", well not really. He's hiking the Presidential range next weekend with his buddies and said "I'm not gonna lie, I'm not in good shape", so thought a double loop might speed his fitness along. He said that to distract himself, the only thing he thought about on the second loop was throwing out one of the dumb bells in his pack, and the lines of the poem. This reminded me of that very funny passage in Into the Woods when Bill Bryson gets so frustrated with the weight of his pack that he begins tossing his food out over a cliff.

The poetry reciter

He told me about moving from NYC to the Berkshires and called Great Barrington the Upper Upper East Side, he's an actor who apparently has continuous work on Broadway. Just another big personality in the Berkshires. He certainly made my time with the old lady fun.

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig. Missed some reporting on Toronto and last night in Albany, here's a synopsis: It was fun.


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