Log Cabin Chronicles

In wilderness comes peace
to the heart


Mornings come slow and easy in mist-shrouded mountains. Being cozy in my sleeping bag I wasn't particularly in a hurry to get up, still tired from trekking twelve kilometres the day before to reach our designated campsite.

It was as though autumn had unrolled a carpet of colors before us. My brother Paul and I were hiking up the Lincoln Woods Trail, deep in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, in search of peace, solitude, and native brook trout.

When I peered through the noseeum netting of my tent door, sparkles of light in some nearby tree caught my attention. Upon closer observation and to my amazement, a spider web, skillfully spun with the precision of an engineer, had trapped morning dew and the tiny droplets were refracting the intermittent burst of sunlight through the morning fog -- phantasmal beauty.

After a good cup of camp coffee along with peanut butter toast, we grabbed our fly rods and headed up a side trail through aromatic stands of hemlock and cedar towards a deep pool on the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River, a boulder-choked stream draining the eastern watershed of the Pemi wilderness. We caught many brookies, releasing most of them, keeping the bigger specimens for the pan.

This area contains some of the best trout habitat in New England. The balance of the ecosystem has been restored and has again reached its climax after being disrupted by man through logging at the turn of the century. Now visitors come here only on foot and very few of them make it in this far. During our three-day excursion, we met one lone hiker. Solitude becomes an offering where serenity and peace are treasured.

About eight kilometres up river, Thoreau Falls cascades down a height of land. The falls were named after American author Henry David Thoreau, better known for his advocacy of individual rights and his opposition to social conformity. He believed in simple living. The books Walden and The Maine Woods are studies of Thoreau's experiment in living close to nature. They were published after his death.

My brother and I had guided a couple of friends to this spot two years ago. The area offers a beautiful overlook, where to the west, the huge backlighted dome of Mt. Carrigain looms over the head of the valley like some remote specter. I remember when we camped there, the evening was spent around the campfire, in the raconteur style, each of us having a favorite bear story. Needless to say, sleep eluded our two neophytes, their minds having succumbed to the legend of "Three Toes." Of course, the only probable danger here at night in the wilderness is having your tent trampled -- with you in it -- by some partially sighted ungulate.

That evening stars dotted the frigid sky. A waning moon levitated off the shoulder of Mt. Hancock, flooding the valley with an eerie glow. Here, everything is reduced to basics.

You are stripped of your security blanket called civilization. You are now alone with nature with only your thoughts and emotions as your reference points. You become an unwitting philosopher, questioning the significance of your existence and your role in the creation. You begin to see the environment as a partner of mutual benefit, something to share, protect, and preserve.

Once you have seen and felt this place, you cannot leave unmoved or unchanged. Later, I would retire to my tent and to the comfort of my down sleeping bag. The rumble of the river would come and go as I would drift in and out of sleep. The next day, we would pack up and leave... although reluctantly.

Guy Cloutier lives in Stanstead, Quebec.

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Copyright © 1999 Guy Cloutier/Log Cabin Chronicles/11.99