Tag Archives: winter

Shelter From The Storm

As we traveled south toward home from a hike, my son Arthur decided to listen to Bob Dylan and eventually “Shelter from the Storm” played. The song’s title instantly took me back to the night before.

Arthur and I had decided to use the long route to the summit of Cardigan Mountain in New Hampshire by following a trail called the Back 80. We headed out about 12:30pm thinking that we would have more than enough time to reach the summit and the “High Cabin” one half mile below.

At first the going was great; snow covered the ground and it presented no early impediment. We pushed forward on level ground for a mile or so, but then the terrain began to change. We now were breaking trail with snowshoes that did not function perfectly, slowing our pace down significantly. Finally, we reached the Elwell Trail intersection that would take us up the steep eastern side to the ridge leading to Firescrew Mountain, and finally, Cardigan summit.

cardigan mountain-arthur 01.2017

Arthur Kampmann, Cardigan Mt. 2017

Even before we attained the ridge, we realized we had a serious problem with the clock. It was now 4pm and we had to cover two miles to Cardigan over rough terrain and drifting snow. I was losing energy and both of us were losing the light of day. The wind gusts told us that the summit would be inhospitable at best and dangerous at worst, but we kept pushing ahead. Arthur even took my backpack as its weight was definitely slowing me down. As the time approached 5pm, we came across a shelter that offered some cold comfort, but we decided that we could make it to the summit and High Cabin and so we kept going.

From Firesrew Mountain to Cardigan the trail is completely exposed. The path moves over granite slabs and is marked by cairns. Often we would lose the way as dark had descended and the windblasts had increased in frequency. Finally, after much effort, Arthur and I reached the fire tower at the summit of Cardigan We had arrived but we were not done. The wind, snow and dark made it very difficult to find the way off the forbidding summit to the cabin. We hunted around looking for cairns or a sign, but had no luck until I spotted an ice encrusted signpost fifty yards behind the fire tower.

We did not hesitate. We followed the direction given on the sign and soon found a series of cairns that led to a trail and eventually to the High Cabin, the happiest site in the entire world. We were safe and incredibly grateful that our winter adventure had not turned into something very different.

cardigan mountain-high cabin-eric 01.2017

Exhausted and thrilled to be in that cabin. Cardigan Mountain, 2017

Our dilemma had begun back at the base of the mountain in the warmth of Cardigan Lodge. We had studied the trails and decided the direct route to the cabin would be too short. We had too much time for a short ascent and so chose the Back 80 Trail that looked doable from the warmth and comfort of the lodge.

But maps do not show snow depth, winds or fatigue. We were using summer thinking to analyze winter conditions and so we miscalculated. leading to a potentially bad situation for us as we entered a very dangerous and forbidding world at the icy summit of Cardigan Mountain. In the end, though, we found shelter from the storm and the “mighty tempest.”

Winter Light: Intimations of a Kinder Season to Come

IMG_0483In early February, the light of day begins to change. Without much warning, the steel gray of deep winter gives way to intimations of a kinder season ahead. Daylight lingers longer into the afternoon and the warmth of the light reflecting off the windows of distant skyscrapers battles the forbidding coldness of the moment.

And in the late afternoon, when the sky is clear, the setting sun paints the western horizon in vivid oranges and reds, hinting that the cloistered winter months will soon be a memory. It’s then when I begin to feel the draw of the hills and mountains of the countryside beyond the shores of this water bound city, even though snow and ice still covers much of the land. It’s then when I begin to dream of new adventures along the trails that I have traveled in seasons past. I have a particular love for the Appalachian Trail that crosses twelve states from Georgia  to Maine.

Web Pictures Group 2 086I am often asked why I leave the comforts of home for a less predictable environment.  I guess there are many reasons, but what I always come back to is the way the trail connects me to the mysteries of God’s universe. I may inhabit a world constructed by the hands of man and I may marvel at all its complexity and brilliance, but the city of man with its activities and diversions never seems to be enough.

The Bible gives us one explanation for this unquenchable desire to reach beyond the circumference of place and time. Solomon in Ecclesiastes says that God “placed eternity in the hearts of all men and women” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Elsewhere it says that Cain became a restless wonderer of the earth, and as such, he became an example of the seeming restlessness of people who, like ghosts, bustle to and fro in dances of endless activity. It is this desire for the eternal that is built into our human makeup, and it is the fact that we live in an impermanent world that we feel the strong, nagging need to seek places that provide the peace that comes upon us when we finally find a place that connects us to the God who brought everything into existence.