“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what people think.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” – Oscar Wilde
I left the Wilbur Clearing Shelter and began my descent toward the Hoosic River. About halfway down the mountain I saw Foxfire talking to two southbound hikers. It turns out they were a Canadian couple from Quebec on a section hike, and were out doing trail magic. After eating some of their raspberries, I thanked them and hiked on.
At MA 2 I headed west 1/2 mile to a grocery store on the outskirts of Williamstown. I did a big food resupply and had a couple of blueberry muffins and chocolate milk for second breakfast. I returned to the trail, crossed the Hoosic River, and began a long gradual climb out of the valley.
At mile 1596.3 I arrived at the Vermont border and celebrated with a Snickers bar and good conversation with several southbounders. This is also the southernmost point of the Long Trail, as it runs concurrent with the AT for the next 105.2 miles before breaking off toward Canada. A mile later, around 3 pm, I crossed paths with Long Strider on another of his southbound slack pack hikes. Little did I know that I would not see another human being for the next 24 hours.
After a 12.9 mile mile day I stealth camped near Roaring Branch Pond. I was glad to be in Vermont and excited to be hiking in its famed Green Mountains. Fun fact: Green Mountains is the literal translation of the French Verts Monts, which is how Vermont was named. The idea was suggested in 1777 by Dr. Thomas Young, an American revolutionary and Boston Tea Party participant. Remember that, as it will be on the final AT exam.
During my morning hike I stopped for water near the Congdon Shelter. The water was cold and clear. The shelter was a dump and in need of attention. I learned later that Foxfire tented near the shelter the previous night and battled mice throughout the night. They got into her food bag hanging from a tree branch and were crawling on her tent. Bummer.
By mid-afternoon I reached Harmon Hill and saw a group of girls in their early teens from a day camp taking in the view. Although they were the first humans I’d seen in 24 hours, I didn’t stay long because all twenty of them were talking at the same time and no one was listening. Too much humanity in one spot. It made me dizzy. I may have become an INTJ. Later, at the footbridge at Hell Hollow Brook, I caught up with Foxfire and Pigeon Toe, a retired coal miner from Kentucky.
I ended my 18.6 mile day near the crowded Goddard Shelter, just as a light rain began to fall. There was an interesting combination of hikers there, including northbound and southbound AT hikers, Long Trail hikers, and day hikers. I enjoy the friendly rivalry between AT NOBOs and SOBOs. SOBOs trash talk us for not yet having done the most difficult sections of the AT, the Whites and southern Maine. We trash talk them because we have hiked a thousand more miles than they have and are smarter and better looking.
I looked forward to today’s hike because I would be climbing the 3936-foot Stratton Mountain. The mountain holds a special place in hiking history. While on the mountain in 1909, James P. Taylor came up with the idea of a trail from Massachusetts to Canada which would become Vermont’s Long Trail. While on Stratton’s summit during construction of the Long Trail, Benton MacKaye, a forester, planner, and conservationist, conceived the idea of a trail spanning the entire Appalachian range. His grand vision would eventually culminate in the completion of the Appalachian Trail.
I have always admired visionary leaders and I have worked with and for some great ones. Jonathan Swift, an 18th century Irish writer, said that “Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.” I love that. I think it starts with talking to people (customers, family members, etc.) about their challenges and problems. What’s not working in our family, company, church, or even society? And then you start using your imagination and brainstorming about what could possibly be done to address that problem, even if it would require considerable resources, has never been done before, or initially sounds absurd. You then have to sell your vision, acquire the resources, and champion the cause until it comes to fruition.
Benton MacKaye, like Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Steven Jobs, and others, was a visionary. He had a big idea and saw a really long Appalachian Trail in his head. I’m sure there were cynics coming up with all sorts of reasons why his idea wasn’t realistic or plausible. There will always be cynics. Sometimes the cynics are right, because not all grand visions succeed. And yet, some grand visions do succeed. Some big dreams become a reality.
So what’s your vision? What do you want your family, business, church, or community to look like in 5, 10, and 20 years? What’s the biggest challenge each of them faces? Have you ever really thought about it? Have you sat down with a pencil and paper and brainstormed solutions? Better yet, have you gone on a long walk in nature to think deeply about the challenges and possible solutions? You may not be the next Steven Jobs who revolutionizes an entire industry. But not all visions have to be grand. Maybe you start by just solving a persistent problem facing your family.
I grew up in a family that had problems like any other family. But I always knew that my dad was somehow working on them. He was the family visionary and big problem solver, whereas mom ran the daily operations of managing the household and keeping everyone clothed, fed, and alive. As a youngster, knowing that gave me a lot of comfort. Is your vision and your approach to solving problems bringing comfort to your family, business, church, classroom or others that you may be called to lead? Or are you satisfied with the status quo, thinking the problems are too big to solve? Something to think about.
So as I climbed beautiful Stratton mountain, I thought about Benton MacKaye up there dreaming big dreams of an Appalachian Trail. I also spent some time thinking about my future after the trail. I prayed about it. I thought about some things, big and small, that I’d like for Janet and me to do. I thought about some problems that need tackling and brainstormed solutions. It was a fun exercise that took my mind off the grueling climb.
At the Stratton summit I walked by the tiny caretaker cabin and met the sweet couple who live there and keep an eye on things during hiking season. They grow their own food, get water from a spring, and offer helpful advice to hikers. I walked by the fire tower but decided not to climb it because I was tired and needed all my energy to get down the mountain before it got dark.
At the base of the mountain I took a .5 mile side trail clockwise around Stratton Pond to the campsite on the north shore. I tented there along with Foxfire, Other Brother (an Air Force veteran and former C-130 crew chief) and a few other hikers. I built a big campfire and sat there with Foxfire discussing today’s hike. It had been a good 19.5 mile day of hiking and thinking and dreaming big dreams.
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