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

 

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Ammona, Part 4 [Short Story]

“State your name. Last name first, please.” A computer voice said. It carried the note of a tenor, and spoke in a British accent.

“King, Ammona.” The young woman watched the screen calculate for a moment to find her in the registry of accepted students. Its background was an image of the Sierra Nevada mountains in western America. The mountains looked so beautiful they might not be real. Ammona wondered briefly if the image had been enhanced or created by someone in any way, as the computer brought up her room assignments for the trip to Pluto Colony.

“Welcome, Miss King. Please make your way to Bunk Room 942.” The screen blipped, and a beautifully rendered map of the space ship appeared. An animated arrow started at a dot that said You Are Here and moved around several corridors towards Bunk Room 942. “Please do not leave Bunk Room 942 until after departure. Your Bunk Room monitor will inform you when you are free to roam about the ship. Enjoy your stay, and please call for any assistance on your Bunk Room monitor.” The cheerful British voice had politely told her to go find her bunk room.

Ammona grabbed her bag, which she had placed on the grated steel floor, and turned around the assignment console, to the right. She smiled to herself in excitement.

Miss King followed a few right and left turns down a series of hallways that looked identical to her. She’d been on a few starships before, but not many. It was expensive to fly unless someone else was paying for you. Ammona slowed her rapid walk, and observed her environment. There were not a lot of other students wandering around the halls. They were, no doubt, faithfully stowed away in their various quarters.

The hallways were covered in steel grates, everywhere. There was no space wasted on the ship. Beneath Ammona there was floor storage. On either side, storage bins covered with the steel grated gates that held the cargo safely intact. There was symmetry to the pattern of storage bins, in many different shapes and sizes. Ammona saw a bicycle storage bin, and another bin that had a motorcycle. Another held three beautiful magnorcycles, shiny and clean. Ammona’s breath caught when she saw one with a royal blue seat, and matching handles.

You’ll have to find out who owns that. She told herself, and tried to reach through the grate to touch the shiny chrome and leather seat. The gate’s bars were too close together. She gave up after a moment, and moved on. More reason to find the owner. Ammona liked giving herself goals, so she wouldn’t be bored.

The rest of the storage bins were full of indiscernible crates, plastic bins, and dark packages wrapped in canvas. The hallways became just as indiscernible, and Ammona looked at some of the numbers by the doorways to indicate where she could find Bunk Room 942.

914. She read the numbers to herself. 926, 928, 930, 932. This is the even side. She followed the even numbers around a left corner and saw the worst person stepping into a doorway. Please, god, let this not be 942. She thought, as she approached the doorway Eric Barrett had entered. Seriously, the last thing I need. Someone tempting me to sock them in the mouth. She stood outside the door for a moment, and saw the comm panel on the outside.

Ammona pressed an access key into the awaiting touch screen on the wall.

“Welcome, Miss King.” Said the British computer man, and Ammona watched the door slide to one side. The bunk room was tiny. She stepped in.

The room was a 12-foot by 12-foot by 12-foot box with a bunkbed on either side. Ammona tried not to let panic engulf her, show on her face, or even change whatever she felt like saying next. She didn’t have time to think about any of that.

“Hey!” Said a friendly voice, and she looked down into the face of an androgynous person with a heart shaped face, clear brown eyes and a shaved head. They sat on the bottom bunk on the right, and their sheets were a purple-blue that appealed to Ammona. They wore a casual green t-shirt that said Lucky Stars and had an interesting illustration of the constellation Sagittarius, the Archer. Their jeans and high top black boots struck Ammona as neopunk, and she liked it. “Nice to meet you. I’m Hian.” Hian extended their hand. “Welcome to BR 942.”

“Nice to meet you, Hian.” Ammona said, trying to smile away her shock at the tiny room she was going to be in for the next several weeks. “I’m King.” Hian laughed, as if it were a joke. When they laughed, their eyes twinkled. It made Ammona smile.

“That’s pretty cool.” Said Hian.

“It’s you!” Said Barrett, who had undoubtedly taken the other lower bunk. He’d had his back turned before, but turned to see Ammona after she announced her name. “How funny that we’ll be in the same bunk!”

“Yes,” Ammona swallowed her irritation. “How funny.” Hian looked at her, and Ammona ignored their gaze. “I’ll take this bunk.” She threw her bag up onto the bed above Hian’s and climbed up the attached ladder.

“Well, it’s going to be nice to get to know some people before classes start.” Said Barrett. “You know, get a crew going. We’ll be best friends before this is over.”

Somehow I doubt that. Ammona thought. Barrett continued to mess up his sheets with his hands.

“Bunk friends aren’t necessarily best friends.” Said Hian.

“Just doesn’t feel like home unless I get the sheets all messy.” He said. “I wonder when our last roommate will get here.”

“Who knows?” Hian shrugged.

We are not roommates. This made her think of her favorite roommate and her real best friend. Ammona took out her PTD* and checked her messages. Still nothing from Drea. She thought. I wonder what’s she doing now. 

The room was quiet for a little while. Ammona was grateful, though from time to time when Barrett shuffled around or moved on his bunk, she felt awkward. Social guilt plagued her, but she would truly rather read a book on her PTD than listen to Barrett gab on. Ammona looked around and saw that there were two lockers on either side of the room, at the foot of the bunk beds. She hadn’t noticed them before because they were on her right and left when she walked in. Cool, at least we have that. She thought. I wonder when we’re taking off.


Previously, with Ammona:

Ammona, Part 1

Ammona, Part 2

Ammona, Part 3


Glossary of Acronyms

* Personal Tech Device

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Ammona, Part 3 [Short Story]

Ammona knew she had to contain her excitement. Otherwise, she might scream, dance, or freak out, and then the STSA would probably suspect her of something other than travel. So she stood in line like any good citizen would, and waited for someone to tell her to step through the weapons detector. With her boots and bag off and in a glass bin, she had nothing to clutch nervously. Her hands felt sweaty, warm. She tried to dry them on her pant legs. The denim felt scratchy, and her hands were still slick with their salty film afterward.

I can’t believe this is actually happening! She thought.

“Please step forward,” an orange-suited STSA* agent beckoned her through the scanner. She nodded and did so. Ammona placed her sock-covered feet on the two blue feet at the bottom of the scanner. It was over in a minute. She put her boots back on and laced them up. She grabbed her bag, and was off towards her destination, Docking Bay B-12. She looked at her watch, which told her the time, the temperature inside the station, the cycle of the moon, and held her flight pass. She had time to get coffee.

Should you really get a coffee when your hands are already sweaty? She asked herself. Ammona knew she probably shouldn’t pump more caffeine into her nervous body, but something about it was appealing. The dark, toasty liquid steaming up toward her over the edge of a coffee cup. The creamy taste of earth and cream, swirled together in a hot storm. Yeah, I need coffee. She decided. She looked at her watch again. Not boarding yet, I’ve got time.

There was a coffee shop near Docking Bay B-11, and B-12 wasn’t far. She could see the sign for it down the clean, aluminum hall teeming with passengers. There was a line of students, perhaps a few hundred, waiting. Not going to miss that flight. They all have to board first.

“We’ll have time,” said a voice behind her. She turned to face a young person with dark hair and a round face. His nose sloped towards a chin that made his face look much like a cheerful basketball.

“Eric Barrett,” he smiled a polite smile, and extended his hand to shake hers. “I’m going on the same flight.” He was younger than her by a few years. She could tell because of his attitude and his round cheeks. He seemed comfortable in his own skin, though, and that was a mark of maturity. Maybe. She corrected herself. Cautiously she extended her sweaty hand to meet his. His grip was soft, cushioned with a little extra flesh. Not a laborer by any means. Ammona calculated whether or not she cared to be friends with this person.

“I see,” she broke her silence. “Sorry, I’m in another world right now.”

“You said it,” said Barrett.  “We’ll be on another world soon enough.”

Ammona groaned. A cheesy jokester. Great. 

They moved forward in the coffee line.

“So what’s your specialty?” Inquired Barrett.

“Don’t have one yet.” Ammona shrugged. “I’m just happy to be going to the Academy.”

“That makes, oh, 500 of us or so.” Barrett produced a cheshire cat grin that split his round face with a fence of perfectly white teeth. Blinded by the light… Of teeth. Ammona preferred her own sarcastic humor.

“Indeed.” She said, smiling. But not at his joke.

“So, you a first year, too? Or are you returning?”

“First year,” she said, and stepped closer to the counter. Just two more people in line

“You seem a bit old for a first year, I’d have pegged you for a fifth year at least, maybe sixth.” Barrett chattered on.

“…Thanks?” I can’t help it if this kid brings out my inner sarcasm. “And you look like you belong in high school, who cares what year people look like they are?”

“Oh, oh!” Barrett grinned again, then chuckled. “Got ourselves a live one?”

“Yes, I’m alive. Coffee time.” Not a moment too soon. Ammona knew she could turn into a bully quickly, but didn’t want to let herself. I have to be better this time. I can’t give in to being shitty if I want to make it at the Academy. “Yeah, I’d like a medium dark roast please, with room for cream.” The cashier nodded, and they exchanged money via Ammona’s PTD**.

Coffee in hand, cream swirled in, first sip taken, Ammona marched towards the line of students. Hundreds of them had gathered in the area to wait for the flight. She knew Barrett, looking for a friend, would probably try to find her. She got lost in the crowd on purpose. At least he got the message I don’t want to talk very much… For now.

Most of the other students were chatting with another, listening to something on their PTD, or looking out the huge windows down on Earth. Ammona could see the moon in the far distance beyond the horizon of the planet, but it was hard. The sun was bright.

She was excited and scared. Her heart had moved into the bottom of her throat, right where her neck met her torso. She could feel that it would live there for a while, just sitting there. She wished she could already message Drea but they’d said goodbye less than an hour ago.

Maybe I’ll send her a message. She thought. But I don’t have anything to say, other than lame goodbye shit. She hates that. Ammona thought of her best friend’s face, angry, and sad. She tried to think of something else.

“The Luna V is now boarding.” A robotic voice announced to the general area.

The line began to move. She stepped closer to the ramp entrance. I’m getting on a ship and going to Pluto Colony, where I’ll train for the outer regions of space. Train for space flight. Specialty, she thought of Barrett’s question. She had lied to him when she’d answered. I want to fly among the stars. She thought. Maybe it won’t happen right away, maybe it will take me years. But I want to fly, I want to explore, I want to see worlds no one has ever seen. But first… Classes, and grades, and teachers. And before that, getting on this two-week flight to Pluto Colony.

She held her coffee cup, hot in her hands. Her bag was slung over her shoulder. Her heart was with Drea, somewhere else on the Base. Her hands were still slick with perspiration, their warmth amplified by the coffee cup.

“You can do this,” she whispered to herself. “Grandfather did it, you can do it.”

She stepped forward in line, ever closer to her goal.


Previously, with Ammona:

Part 1 of the Ammona Series

Part 2 of the Ammona Series


Glossary of Acronyms

* Space Travel Security Agent

** Personal Tech Device

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