Winter Hike, Mt. Tom

Like many of us these days, I was feeling the tension that resulted from a sense that our country was bursting at the seams. I didn’t feel above the moral degradation that seemed to be plaguing the land, but I felt entrapped within a culture leaning toward right-wing extremism, one that looked to be devaluing science and intellect, that kicked at public education and environmental law, and one that put blinders on the view of recent history. dscn9706

I needed to climb a mountain, and I found a good one near my place of residence. I had nothing to prove; Mt. Tom was there; it would help me vent; it would help me get a better look at the place where I lived and, hopefully, I’d gain more insight into the ground that I called “home.”

It was an overcast Sunday, with winds and snow flurries, with a temperature expected to peak around the freezing mark. I parked along the banks of Pine Creek near Ansonia, PA and proceeded on my climb.dscn9712

I was looking at a modest 2.15 mile climb to the summit of a mountain overlooking Pine Creek, a mountain relatively small even by Pennsylvania standards (ranking #135 in the state), but one that promised a work-out through the several inches of crusted snow, and one whose final push to the top would put old Winter Knees to the test on its critically acclaimed “1100 vertical feet” of rock.dscn9687

The trail’s first half mile of trail above the valley was a pleasurable walk above a small stream through enchanting stands of white pine and Eastern hemlock. After that, it crossed the stream and took an S-shaped turn into more open deciduous woods. Where the trail took on the character of an old timber road, it forked, with a sign to Mt. Tom summit indicating that a hiker could choose one of two ways to proceed. The long route would be 1.5 miles of moderate climbing, and the short route would be a “Steep” .6 of a mile.dscn9688

I figured that the short route wouldn’t kill me, despite the literature claiming “vertical” ground, and I hoped I wasn’t wrong.

I heard myself huff and puff and felt the sweat begin to form beneath my layers of clothing. I heard myself say, Be Gone. Be gone you noises in my head. Be gone you killers of freedom who would drown the voices of mystery past and present. Be gone, you demons of divisiveness and habit. Be Gone, dammit! Let me huff, and puff, put one foot in front of the other. There– a nice view!dscn9709

I was getting somewhere. The small brown creeper on a cherry tree, the common raven tearing through the wind above, helped me on my way.

Wildness was an urge that spurred me through the “1100 vertical feet” near the summit. It told me I belonged here for a minute or an hour, that the views would be worth the effort of climbing, that I’d come to know the buffer grown between myself and the world below.dscn9690

Whoever described the final push to the top as a “vertical” climb was prone to hyperbole but I know what he or she was getting at. I’ve had easier times trying to convince my wife that I was innocent and didn’t drink (that much of) her favorite liqueurs.

It wasn’t easy but old Winter Knees made it to the summit cairn, and the views, though tossed by wind and snow, were healing, like a craft beer savored in a bar (or a pull of European spirit pilfered from a shelf), the palate and the soul refreshed.

near the summit

near the summit

the view from Mt. Tom

the view from Mt. Tom

the palate and the soul refreshed

the palate and the soul refreshed

looking down on Rt. 6, west toward Galeton

looking down on Rt. 6, west toward Galeton

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About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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20 Responses to Winter Hike, Mt. Tom

  1. Bob Stanton says:

    Brother, you can flat-out write. Beautiful. I need to get “vertical” myself – the skis and snowshoes have seen little use this, ahem, winter. Might as well climb a hill and feel the exhilaration of altitude.

    • Bob, As you know, “flat-out writing” about near vertical climbs ain’t always easy, so I’ll accept the compliment, with thanks! Climbing a winter hill can be exhilarating, too, so I hope you get some time for it soon.

  2. Jet Eliot says:

    A lovely hike, thank you for taking us along. There’s nothing like a good hike to quiet the soul.

  3. Brent says:

    Nice little hike–is the trailhead near where the back road to Leonard Harrison and Wellsboro turns off to the right? While the final ascent may not be vertical, those views to the west look seem to indicate a pretty dramatic dropoff. Overall, your hike seems to have done its job: offer some great (literal) perspective on the world outside, and ample opportunity to reflect and find solace.

    • I like these little winter climbs. The bare-bones imagery of the season suits whatever it is that seems to ail us. And yeah, the trailhead is right where you indicate– at the Darling Run access to the Rail Trail. It’s quite accessible, and the summit is worth the bit of effort it takes to attain it. Thanks!

  4. plaidcamper says:

    A fine effort, Walt, from pathway to page. Very happy to read that old Winter Knees conquered the near vertical, and that you found yourself above the fray. A restorative hike, and maybe there was a quick nip of a European spirit to toast the day? (It’s not pilfering if left in reach…)

    • Thanks PC! For the sake of domestic tranquility and to stay elevated above the fray, old Winter Knees did not partake of any pilfered spirits on the summits (0k, I’m saying this before my wife has had a chance to read the post), but you understand where I’m coming from and hope to preserve myself a little longer!

  5. Will K says:

    Well said. Very well said!

  6. loydtruss says:

    Walt
    Who needs gym time when hiking beautiful terrain such as Mt. Tom; I can’t think of a better way to refresh the mind. Thanks for sharing

  7. JZ says:

    A wonderful write that took me step by step along your snow covered journey. The vista seen from a high topped perch had to be tranquilizing. A sleepy valley protected by far reaching mountains, help shield its natural way. If only other places could afford those kind of protections. What a wonderful world it would be Walt. But unlike your wonderfully painted version, there are vial artists waiting and plotting to paint a much darker picture at there easel. I will leave the protection orders to those who are willing to make sure that those sleepy towns remain sleepy safe and that BIG city dwellers can dream even bigger.
    Shifting gears, I hope to be found on a blue-line somewhere near soon. My heart aches for it actually Walt. Until then, I hope those mountains keep a light on for me so I can cast a line and a shadow in some hollow…

    • Thanks for coming along for this, JZ. The world could use some honest peace and tranquility right now, the kind provided by the hills and valleys, the streams and rivers when the sky is clear. I hope you’re on those blue lines soon. I’d say it won’t be long.

  8. GRANDPA MEL says:

    Up, Up, and Away from it all………………

  9. Walt, I don’t always totally agree with you politically but I very much admire the fact that you have found a way to take yourself out of the battle if just for a moment and share it with us. I have found Sand and Sage to be a great escape. Thanks for the inspiration and perspiration.

    • Thanks very much, Howard. I enjoy the aspect of sharing, and I’m glad that Sand & Sage hits a note of inspiration for you like a breath that’s taken, held, and then released like perspiration.

  10. Sounds like it was a great hike. I’ve always found walking to be just the thing to really help the mind sort itself out (or to work out an idea). There’s too many things to fidget with and pay attention to when you’re fishing. With walking, you can just let the mind go free. I suspect this is part of why I really enjoy hike-in lakes.

    • Douglas, I agree. To walk is to liberate the mind when all parts of the body work together as much as possible. Then it’s easier to focus the attention on something outside of one’s concerns, and it just feels right. Walking is a form of meditation, I’d say, and, like you, I enjoy a brisk hike before hitting the water with a rod. Thanks for commenting.

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