Freedom of Hills, go take a hike

By Allen Crabtree

Guest Writer

GREAT VIEWS, GREAT FRIENDSHIPS AND GREAT FOR THE BODY — Allen Crabtree (front, right) poses for a photo with other Denmark Mountain Hikers after the group reached the peak of a Friday morning climb.

“Get off the couch and climb a mountain!”

Or, “Walk in the woods!”

“Take those boots and snowshoes out of the closet and go for a hike!”

This is the first in a series about hikes and non-technical climbs in the Lake Region and White Mountains. I hope to share stories and encourage you, the reader, to get out and enjoy the freedom of the hills.

Visitors to Maine often tell me, “You are so fortunate to live here, this is such a fantastic part of the country!” They are right. We are blessed to live amid the natural beauty of mountains, forests, streams and lakes. It is especially sweet for those of us who have “paid our dues” living in cities with congestion, traffic, noise and tension. Maine is “the way life should be,” but sometimes we take it all for granted. While we focus on our day-to-day lives, it is too easy to grow complacent. These natural wonders all around us become a pale background.

In Rachel Carson’s classic book, A Sense of Wonder set on the Maine coast, she said, “A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.”

Carson challenged each of us to open our eyes and ask ourselves, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”

Two years ago, our friend and pastor, John Patrick, challenged a group of us to recapture these “sense of wonder” moments in our lives and start a hiking group. The Denmark Mountain Hikers meet weekly and climb one of our local mountains, seeking the trail and mountaintop experiences that fill us with awe and take our breaths away. Sometimes, it is a riot of wildflowers blooming along a mountain stream, or the magnificent panorama from a summit, or the colorful wood mushrooms that were everywhere this summer along the trails.

The Hikers are an eclectic group of various ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles, but every Friday morning they meet and climb a mountain or take a hike of different levels of difficulty. We do this year-round and have learned to experience the wonders of each season.

W. Phillip Keller said, in Sky Edge, Mountaintop Meditations, “And though I am now well advanced in years, the lure of the peaks still grips me fiercely, constraining me again and again to respond to the challenge of the upward trail.” He tried to explain the “sense of wonder” that hiking and mountaintop experiences meant to him.

“There is a stimulation, an uplift, an all-engulfing enthusiasm which energizes the soul in such a setting. The person who has spent time at the edge of the sky is never, ever, quite the same again,” he said. “He or she has tasted the thrill of the lofty landscapes and learned to love them through intimate, personal contact.”

The Hikers have each learned to challenge and stretch personal physical capacities, doing things that they never thought they were capable of, while enjoying the confidence that comes with it.

Our outings are my way of keeping Father Time at bay. I have also been able to refresh old fond memories and reacquaint myself with mountains I climbed as a much younger person.

In the more than 200 miles of hiking we have put under our boots, the Hikers have grown as a cohesive group. We have shared both the efforts of the trail and the spiritual experiences of the mountaintop. Those who were once strangers have become close friends and compatriots, sharing something special in our weekly outings.

We encourage each of the public to partake in the same local natural wonders all around us, either with a friend or as part of a group. Loon Echo Land Trust (info@lelt.org) has regular hikes in the area, and there are groups like the Denmark Mountain Hikers who welcome new hikers.

In the following weeks, we will share some of the hikes that the Denmark Mountain Hikers have taken in our area. We hope that you will try some of them, to get revitalized and melt away stress; and find that special peace or joy in being surrounded by nature whether you’re all alone on a remote path or on a busy trail exchanging cheerful greetings with like-minded people.

“Go take a hike” and then when someone from “away” comments, “You sure are lucky to live here!” you can say from your heart, “Yes, indeed we are!”

Next time: A stroll up Peary Mountain in Brownfield in the winter.

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