WHITE ROCK AND MOUNT HUNGER, AFTER SNOW-- painting by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor on paper.
You might know the feeling. Having been gone from high country for a while, you are on the return trip. You turn a corner and, suddenly, the shape and line of a certain mountain in the distance lets you that know you are truly home.
For the past twenty years I’ve been getting that heart-tugging welcome from central Vermont’s Worcester Range; in particular from the sight of the bare-rock half-dome of Mount Hunger and the sharp little point of White Rock Mountain, a short ridgeline away.
As a distance runner, I’ve made the 30-mile round-trip from my house to the Hunger summit and back at least seven times; I’ve run and hiked the trails around these two mountains in all kinds of weather, with the trails in varied conditions-- from clear and dry to barricaded with wind-fallen trees.
I won’t ever forget my first trip to the summit of Hunger, starting on a sunny, leaf-strewn late October day in Montpelier to arrive at a snow-covered summit. Looking in all directions from bare rock, I had the powerful sensation of a shifting self; of somehow, deeply—in ways beyond words—arriving instantly at a new relationship with the place I called home, its hills, valleys, rivers, meadows, forests; the further distant mountains and the silver band of big lake that marked my horizons.
These sort of ineffable experiences of connection in the outdoors are, of course, not limited to those who encounter mountain ranges, distant or close-up. The hunter in crisp autumn woods, the farmer in a sun-baked summer pasture, the angler in a forest-shadowed late-spring brook are just a few of those who can feel, in their own very personal ways, the stirring of deep connections.
For myself, I know that after the descent of my home mountain, there is always a point at which I look back to see it behind me—-in full, from some distance. At that moment, I am often struck by the paradoxical feeling that, while I know the mountain—-its rocks, trees, trails, and vistas—-a little better than I did before, I also have a compelling sense that the overall mystery of the mountain has somehow deepened.
I’m pretty sure it’s the same mystery that continues to call me whenever I turn that highway corner and think, “Home.” And it’s what keeps me coming back to the mountain for more.
-Kevin Macneil Brown
(This piece originally appeared, in slightly different form, in the BARRE-MONTPELIER TIMES ARGUS)