Hiking Up Douglas Mountain

Getting to the mountain

Days off together are a precious commodity for Nick and I, since he works retail and I have a 9-5:30 job during the week. We never know when we might get a day together, so we try to take advantage when it happens. Yesterday was just such a Sunday. We slept in together, and headed up to Douglas Mountain in Sebago after we stopped off at DD so I could get my coffee.

The drive up to Sebago
The drive up to Sebago

The drive up was cloudy at the outset. Nick said that even if it didn’t get brighter or warmer, the view would still be worth it. He has already hiked to the top of Douglas Mountain a few times. The sun came out as we ventured further north and wound around the lake. We took Route 114 North up through Sebago to Douglas Mountain Road, past picturesque farms and bright green hills. The Maine countryside looked fresh from numerous April rainstorms. We saw no more signs of winter.

Peaceful green Maine countryside
Peaceful green Maine countryside

We arrived at the parking lot around 12pm, and prepared our backpacks with water and some snacks. This time of year the forest is busy composting millions of leaves, and recent rainwater helps to turn everything into a useful mulch. So we started out carefully, stepping around the thick mud and ankle-deep puddles at the bottom of the hill.

Nicholas climbs Douglas Mountain
Nicholas climbs Douglas Mountain

The hike out to the peak and back, using the Eagle Scout Nature Trail (map here), is about 3 miles. Both of us had brought our Apple Watches, but we forgot to “start” the hike digitally at first, so we both ended up tracking 2.65 miles there and back. Though muddy and full of many puddles that looked like mass mosquito nurseries, the trail up the mountain was gradual and provided many rocks and roots to step on during the climb. It was steep enough that I had to catch my breath a couple times on the way up.

 

At the summit

The 16-foot stone tower at the summit was originally named for Dr. William Blackman, a surgeon who had purchased the area in 1892 and built the structure himself. Later it was purchased by a nature conservancy organization, and given to the town of Sebago for all to enjoy. Thanks to Dr. Blackman and the kind hikers who passed before us, we made it to the summit.

A bridge over the Eagle Scout trail
A bridge over the Eagle Scout trail

By the time we reached the Blackman Tower, the sun had come out and the sky was a rich blue. It was gorgeous. We spent some time atop the tower, hanging out together under wide skies. We looked out at Maine, and west to New Hampshire. There was a sign which showed the different distances to at least 20 different hills, ponds, and mountains all around. It said the tower looked out over several hundred square miles. Nick said the sign was new to him, though he’d been here a few times last summer.

We were there for an hour, snacking on jerky, saying hello to other hikers, and reading aloud the playing cards we have that show edible wild plants on them. The wind was wild but not cold, and the sun shone warm for a long time. The mosquitoes were decidedly fewer at the top of the tower. Nicholas kindly offered me his warm sweater, because he’s a gentleman like that.

At the top of Dr. Blackman's 16-ft stone tower
At the top of Dr. Blackman’s 16-ft stone tower

Soon enough we decided to go back, and ventured down the Eagle Scout trail the way we had come, to the parking lot. It took us a little less time to get down than it had to go up, but that is only natural considering the 480-ft elevation gain we had climbed. It wasn’t a long ride home, where we both promptly relaxed after consuming a delicious home cooked meal (thanks Nicholas) and I took a nap. Here’s to more hikes, and seeing more of the Northeast this summer.

Blue skies over the Blackman Tower
Blue skies over the Blackman Tower

 

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

Continue Reading

A quiet morning [ short story ]

By Corissa Haury

Winter was on its way, but it was not yet present. It still felt like it could have been late autumn, when the cold doesn’t fall below 40 degrees and there is a damp stillness to the foggy air. One still put the seat warmer on when one got in the car, but it wouldn’t be the case if it weren’t for the fact that we are all spoiled by convenience. The atmosphere hung low, engulfing most of the road before any driver’s eyes. All of the sharp silhouettes of the evergreens looked pointy and mystic in the fog. Darkness had fallen on the North.

In a few weeks the snow would come. She could feel it in the colder mornings, when the temperature that had dropped twenty-five degrees the night before began to warm. She rose during the frostier parts of the early morning, leaving her partner’s warm slumbering body. He was a fulfillment of warmth underneath the bedcovers. It was hard to get up and leave him sleeping there. She envied his ability to do it so peacefully. Her own mind was an array of anxieties, images from technology, and uncertain dreams that turned out to be deja vu later.

She crept from the warm bed to the cold air, wondering if the promise of winter that had kissed her rosy cheeks aflame would stay, or whether they would have a mild cold season. The oceanside climate was unpredictable in the North. No one ever knew these days, with the way of the Earth and its turning tides and unhappy hurricanes, what the winters would be like. They could be full of snow, and ice, more than twenty feet of it. They could be mild as a spring day on the coast, 50 degrees and sunny. She looked in the mirror, thinking of how winter made people hardier. It made them skinnier, it made them have to try more. It made them have to survive.

Everyone has to survive. A little piece of her mind told her. Even these days. Another piece of her knew this was bullshit, and that she loved the knowledge that those in the city didn’t really survive so much as they sustained the life they already had. A winter in the city didn’t mean shit. She had learned that. It was a winter in the mountains that mattered. Perhaps the definition of true “survival” was well beyond her knowledge. She let the thought go at that. She had been working lately on her lifelong tendency towards arrogance.

After she went to bathroom and made herself fresh enough to stare at, she found her way into the kitchen and washed the dishes. She played a documentary on a small tablet video screen, resting precariously upon containers of lemonade powder and beans. It was not a long one, and very possibly inaccurate, but a fascinating exploration of the potential archaeological evidence of a mythological object. Of course most of the “documentary” was conjecture, so she did not enjoy it as much as she would have liked. She learned enough during the time she washed the dishes to satisfy the surface of her curiosity.

The kettle whistled, and she flicked off the stove’s flame and grabbed the handle of the kettle with a cloth. It was not long before she was pouring the boiling water into the french press. The rich, earthy aroma of her favorite coffee rose to the top of the press with the water. The coffee and water mixed, and she put the lid on it to let it sit. The kettle was returned to the top of the stove, and the cream brought out of the fridge for its sole purpose in this household.

The dishes were done soon, and with a warm mug in hand, cream and coffee swirling into a tide pool of creamy liquid, she sat on the couch and looked around the tiny living room. Having the time to herself in the morning was a routine she often appreciated. Grateful for her day and hoping the rest of it turned out as well as her coffee, she sipped on the dark, rich liquid with closed eyes.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

Continue Reading

Wander in a Cemetery [short story]

Copyright H. E. Remus 2915

by Corissa Haury

My sister and I wander amongst the veterans’ graves on a rainy day in May. The cemetery is bigger than I had originally thought; so much so that we will get lost on the way out, but I don’t know it yet. We are making a sort of pilgrimage towards a World War II monument. We won’t see it is the Hebrew Star of David, a great sculpture ten feet high, mounted on a set of steps covered in small stones, until we read the plaque in front of it. We pause to fix the floral leavings from the veterans’ families that have been blown aside by the violent winds of the rain storms over the past 12 hours. The day of our brother’s wedding was, thankfully, a beautiful day, but this day afterward is dark and stormy as the family parts our every which way again. Our brother and his new wife are already gone on their honeymoon, having taken an early train out together to travel across the great western United States to California to meet our grandparents. Well, to meet our grandmother.

My younger sister and I talk about our grandfather, also a veteran, as we right the floral arrangements for veterans we never knew. He was a World War II veteran. The rain drizzles on us, and we are not wholly prepared for it. I am leaving this afternoon, and this morning when we woke up we did not anticipate this weather. I bought my sister an umbrella when we were at the grocery store just a little while ago. We can’t go back to Dad’s apartment yet because he has the keys, and he isn’t home. We can’t go back to our other sister’s house yet because she has her keys, and she isn’t home. So we stay out and we wander the cemetery. Neither one of us was at our grandfather’s deathbed. My sister was one of the last of our family to see him. I remember two years ago, when I visited him. Our grandmother, his wife of 70 years, was stronger than I was when I saw him in the hospice. I try not to think about these things which I cannot help thinking about, and I distract myself by wandering towards the memorial.

The World War II memorial stands tall, but down in a tiny manmade valley paved with a thousand bricks. I have to go up a little hill before I can walk down on the brick path that leads to the monument. The path leads downward into the valley of bricks, lined with long beds of rocks. Many of the rocks have tiny pickets next to them, with carved stone labels above them. There is a lone column beside a wall of vivid and horrid pictures. Pictures of World War II. Memories of a Nazi with his gun to a pregnant woman’s head, as she cradles another child. Images of a pit of bodies, a grave full of a hundred starving corpses. Depictions of things I have never experienced, things I can hardly believe were real in the world. I know there are things happening at this moment I would have a hard time believing were real. Our grandfather was a part of the fight against the evil I gaze on, and for that I am proud. The rocks in the beds around the monument represent the thousands of Jews who fled Europe and ended up in Nebraska, or Nebraskan soldiers who went to fight in World War II. So many lives, even in a place this remote. A place this small, a place that seems insignificant to me, had even felt the sting of the great World War.

My sister and I wander around the monument, reading many of the names on the stones, names of soldiers and immigrants. We read the names on the bricks below our feet, of families who had donated to the memorial. The pictures on the wall is too moving to stare at for very long. The volume of names is sobering. My sister and I are quiet for a long time while we read and look at the descriptions of the families and their experiences. We wander through a butterfly garden dedicated to the millions of children that lost their lives in Europe. I cannot help but cry a little, for all the sadness I feel in the air of this place. This is a place of great sorrow. It is death, all around us. My sister and I wander away after another quarter of an hour paying some respects with our whispers and tears for the grieving dead.

We had our own sorrows as we walk back to the car the long way, wandering around to other graves and talking to each other of our lives on separate sides of the country. She lives in the Northwest and I in the Northeast. We have grown much wiser over the last few years, and have the capacity to talk of our emotions actively with clear words and healthy debates. We share emotions around our parents’ recent divorce. Over the last year, we’ve seen them more and more separate. Grandfather died last week in California, days before our brother’s wedding, no hushed memorial service afterward.

A cremation, Says my sister. They are waiting until Grandmother has passed away also.
The darling man has been in pain for years, and he did not deserve to suffer as far as I know, I say. We are glad he can rest in peace, without pain. We are glad for our brother and his marriage, and talk of our own partners and the joy we can share in our intimacies with them. We are both treated well by kind young men, committed to us.

How lucky the universe is for us right now, we say to each other. How kind it is that we have such men for ourselves when others struggle to find someone. We thank whatever higher power may or may not exist.
Cemeteries have that hushed way of imparting the knowledge of your ignorance to you. This cemetery does the same to us. Everything we say is a speculation, so that we may not offend any listening spirits, whether it be Death himself or a ghostly apparition listening from a nearby tomb.

Soon we return to the car, the drizzle hardens into a heavy rain as we get lost a few times before finding our way to the right exit.

This place is a lot bigger than I thought, I say to my sister.

She laughs and tries to direct me the right way, but I go my own way (the wrong way) and we get lost again.

She laughs at my inability to listen, still in my older years I am the oldest sibling, forging ahead without thought.

I laugh, too, and we stop at a coffee drive through on the way back to Dad’s. We got the text. He will be home soon so I can grab my things and go to the airport.

I will miss you so much, I say to my sister.

I know, she says. I’ll miss you a lot too. You have to come visit.

I know! I say back. I am trying not to cry. You’ve already seen my place twice. It’s not fair to you.

She laughs. But you’ve been to my place once, she argues my side.

Still, I say, I owe you one. Plus, I want to bring August to Seattle.

All right, she says, as we pull up to our sister’s house in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The street is covered in overhanging trees. The front of our younger sister’s shared house looks comforting. There is a nice big porch. I am happy that she has some independence this summer, away from both of our parents’ separate abodes. I learned this weekend how easy it is to get trapped in their inner cycle of conflict again, living so close by. I am glad she does not have to live with either one. We all need that. We need the independence, the way of thinking on our own and dealing with the world on our own. We don’t have that yet, not altogether. I have it. My sisters have it. I think all my younger brothers have it, too. I know the one who just got married does. But the two youngest are just teenaged boys. My sister is getting out of the car, and our other sister is running down the steps to kiss me good bye. Something about this is so bittersweet. I can’t wait to get back to my little oceanside city in the Northeast, but I hate to leave these beautiful, strong young women I am so proud of. We all hug and I cry a little.

Of course the oldest one cries, says the youngest girl, laughing.

Oh, hush. I say. You’ll cry a lot too some day. It’s good for you.

Then I am back in the car and off to Dad’s so I don’t miss my flight in Omaha in a couple of hours. I need time to drive through the Eastern edge of Nebraska and Iowa to a bigger Midwestern city, where an airplane will carry me home.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

Continue Reading