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Wild Blackberries on Temple Mountain - nhpeacenik
Wild Blackberries on Temple Mountain
After the peace vigil today, Denise and I were tensely driving home, bickering with each other. Finally Denise admitted that she was taking the decision of our long-time friend and companion to end her life very hard indeed. I asked if she wanted to stop at Cunningham pond to swim, and she said she'd forgotten to bring her bathing suit. We drove past the pond and I was feeling more and more hopeless, when Denise suddenly asked, "Can we stop at Pack Monadnock"?

It was a great relief to be able to do something concrete to lower the tension, so I took the sharp left turn into the parking lot at the foot of Pack Monadnock. Pack Monadnock is the second tallest mountain in the ancient Monadnock chain, which had been buried when the Appalachians were uplifted in a massive seismic event and finally reappeared when the forces of nature had worn away the younger, softer mountain range to expose them again. The Monadnocks are made of what is called the "Monadnock formation" a line of hard brownish schist with brilliant mica sparkles in it, wrapped in outer layers of granite. In the parking lot, we were greeted with the unwelcome news that we would need to pay $6 to drive or walk in the state park (when we first moved to the area, parking and recreational use were free of charge). We pulled back out of the parking lot and crossed route 101 to the parking lot of the bankrupt Temple Mountain Ski Area. For the first time in years, there was no "No Parking" sign, and we took that as a sign that it would be OK to walk up Temple Mountain.

I grabbed my pennywhistle and stuck it in my pocket. Already the emotional strain was gone. Stepping out into the unseasonably cool dry windy day, we were delighted with the smells ... spruce and birch and wildflowers on the breeze. We set off up the old ski slope that paralleled the Wapack Trail. As we passed a picnic table where the ski-lodge had once stood, we met three women coming down the mountain. They asked some questions about the mountains, which neither we nor they had visited in many years. They remembered being able to see Boston on a clear day from the top of Pack Monadnock, Turning to the northeast, I pointed out that we could see the grey outlines of the White Mountains and the glinting roofs of suburban Manchester. This was the clearest day I remember ever having seen on this mountain. Denise and I continued up the steep ski run, a trail that was more and more overgrown as we ascended. To our right and  left were bright wildflowers and  blackberry bushes overflowing with sweet, dark fruit. We ate as we went, since we hadn't had the forethought to bring containers with us. Every once in a while I played a tune on the pennywhistle, partly because it makes me happy (and I hope it makes Denise happy too) and partly to alert bears to our presence on their feeding grounds.

We came to a place where distinctive Monadnock schist was exposed, then moved on upward to where Denise found a small dead tree and asked me to help her fashion it into a walking stick. We found a place where the construction crews disassembling the ski-area infrastructure had left a perfectly good aluminum ladder behind. We were almost at the top of the mountain, where the view of the White Mountains to the northeast and northwest, with Pack Monadnock in the center to the north, was spectacular, when we turned back downward again. I sat for a while in a soft patch of reindeer moss for a while to play the pennywhistle while we ate some more blackberries.
Near the foot of the mountain, we came upon some bear scat, black with berry juice, and realized that we were correct in assuming the bears were around. Denise said, "It's always so sad coming down to the foot of a mountain..."

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Current Location: Greenville NH USA
Current Mood: calm calm
Current Music: Vashti Bunyan "Rainbow River"

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