Today’s my birthday. It’s also the first day in weeks I have been well enough to leave the house for an excursion longer than grocery shopping. Being cooped up, and feeling myself age like a fine wine, I was desperate for some fresh air. Sadly it was raining… apparently everywhere. I wanted to go to the White Mountains, raining, hike up one of the local mountains, raining, go to Vermont for some foliage photos, raining. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer though, I NEEDED TO GET OUT.
So I waited until after noon when it was supposed to stop raining. It didn’t. I munched on a potato sandwich (I wouldn’t ask) and waited some more. Still raining. At two o’clock my patience finally dissolved. I slipped on a hoodie, threw my camera over my shoulder, and headed to the car. Where was I going? I didn’t know and didn’t care. I was just going to drive until I could find some unfamiliar dirt roads to soothe myself with.
That’s how I ended up in Mason NH. I had this gut feeling that I’d just know when to turn off. And wow. Despite spending some of my childhood in Mason I know remarkably little about it. There are winding dirt roads everywhere with just stunning views of forest and trees, hills, pastures, farms, huge farm houses, tiny cabins, just such a wonderful diversity! Yep… this was working. This was feeding something in my soul that was starving. It fit in nicely with the music I have taken up listening to once again – a poignant and heady mix of 60’s folk and classic rock. I’m thirty-two years old today and I feel like I can almost see time passing me by. I don’t have a career, a home of my own, a relationship, or children, I blow effortlessly in the breeze like a leaf gliding to the earth. Perhaps that is why I had the ethereal tune of Can’t Find my Way Home whispering through my mind all day. “Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.” There is some sort of deeper sadness in that song that I have always connected to – that feeling of belonging nowhere and to no one. Yet strangely hopeful. Maybe there’s still time to find home both physically and metaphorically. For now I wander aimlessly, concentrating on the beauty of the moment, not letting the future crush me as it always seems to be trying to.
I had looped around a great deal of dirt roads and kept coming back to the 143 so I drove that for a little while until I spotted a big green sign aside the road denoting a historical landmark. As it turns out I had driven to Uncle Sam’s childhood home. I didn’t even know he had any connections to New England. I parked aside the road, took a photo of the sign and the house which was obviously owned by someone who I was hoping wasn’t home and watching, and then meandered only about 50 or 100 feet down the road where I noticed a trail head. Yup, this is where I was supposed to be. I could feel it.
I was at the Florence Roberts Forest. There was a trail bulletin board here but I don’t think any of the papers have been changed in a long long time. The mailbox with the maps only contained a used tissue. I hoped this was a loop trail and headed in following the white markers.
It was cold. And wet. And cloudy. My camera wasn’t happy with any of these conditions but I told it to buck up, we’re doing this thing. It actually turned out to be a sweet little trail! The rain made it all the more magical to me, the damp seemed to add a sense of whimsy. Moss covered rocks lined the path to either side, a few stone walls were scattered throughout likely marking property boundaries from a few hundred years ago, and since it was such a wet day there were salamanders everywhere. They were the bright orange kind you see so frequently here if you’re the kind of person who looks under damp logs which I am.
The salamanders weren’t the only critters out today. I also go to see a number of chipmunks. For being so common they sure are hard to photograph! I feel the aggravation of wildlife photographers as I set my eyes on these tiny fuzzy beasts. They chipped and alerted me to a spot a little off the path which had clearly been used as some dumping ground for spare metal and glass at some point. Pieces of cars and machinery I couldn’t identify scattered the ground next to a rusted out metal wash basin filled with broken glass bottles from God knows when. I inched up to it slowly, hoping it wasn’t an active campsite of someone who was just deranged. Luckily it wasn’t and I took a moment to look at the rust and decay. I smiled knowing nature was taking care of this mess.
Towards the end of the trail was I super happy to find a huge cluster of mushrooms which I think were Hens of the Woods, edible. I am not that ballsy to try my hypothesis but I did enjoy finding them! They smelled delicious – which probably means I’ve misidentified them and can kill a small village with them. That tends to be how these things go… In any event I took a photo of this find next to my shoes to compare them for size.
I was soaking wet by the time I took myself out of those woods, my hands were cold enough to hurt, my nose was running, but for the first time in too long I was smiling. This was a great find! With just a little daylight left I continued to go down dirt roads trying to find odd little vignettes. I found a gorgeous cascade waterfall in someone’s front yard, their house perched right next to this natural wonder, I witnessed a bald eagle fly over my car, and I even found some sort of bridge or trellis which was so quaint and sweet on these back country roads!
Once again I was at ease.