Location: Pachaug State Forest, Voluntown, CT
Date: October 18th, 2018
Time: 9 am – 12:30 pm
Hike Duration: 5-5.5 miles; 3.5 hours
Stats: About 12,000 steps; 34 floors
Weather: Sunny, clear blue sky; 35-45 degrees F
Such a beautiful day for a hike! In this autumn of rain, a sunny and clear blue sky is a blessing, even if it was cold enough to need some of our winter gear. The last time we hiked Mt. Misery, a recent snowfall of about 3 inches coated the trails. This was a much different hike!
Today, the colors were more spectacular. Crystal blue sky, golden sun, greens and yellows and reds in the trees. The kind of day where the sun feels like it’s brightening your mind as much as it’s brightening the sky.
I like the feeling of wanting to be warm…the way it feels when I’m outside and I want to feel the sun shining down on me, warming me. The way it feels when we get a good hike going and it feels good to have my body heat up from the exertion, while still feeling the contrast of cool air on my face and in my lungs. Yet another reason why we prefer hiking from October to May, rather than the summer months.
We started out following the same trails as last time, beginning with the Rhododendron Sanctuary. We have yet to be here when the rhododendrons are in bloom. Hopefully, we’ll remember to visit again this coming spring.
Then we made our way up the trails leading to the overlook on Mt. Misery. There are some steep areas, but overall more strenuous than treacherous. Although that was a different story last December when the trails were coated with ice and snow.
The Mt. Misery overlook is at an elevation of 441 feet and offers a view of the Pachaug State Forest. It may have been too early yet to eat lunch, but that didn’t stop us from finding a place to sit and bask in the rays of the sun.
In her talk, Trusting Who We Are, Tara Brach discusses how we have a tendency to register the negative stuff in our lives (a negativity bias), but we don’t do so well with registering the life enhancing stuff. We tend to gloss over that.
She offers a practice: rather than glossing over a good feeling when you experience it, pause and immerse yourself in it. Sit with it. Breathe with it. Feel it in your body. Get to know it. Even just 20-30 seconds is enough for your brain to register this “resource state”, as she calls it. And as you continue to do this, you have more access to that “light shining through”, because you’ve allowed yourself to get more familiar with it.
I practiced this while we sat atop Mt. Misery. We were mesmerized by a bird circling in the air around us. It was a moment filled with an inner and outer sense of stillness, calmness, and peacefulness. True quietude. Just sitting there, breathing. Watching the graceful, circular pattern of this amazing creature as it soared above us. I can look at this picture now, as I write this, and access that resource state once again, because I took the time to fully experience it with mindfulness.
Once we had our fill, we began our descent. Last time, we made our way to Firetower Road and followed it back to the car. This time we decided to explore the woods on the other side of that road, including a small camp shelter. Perfect spot for a rest!
But still not for lunch…
It took us a while to find a lunch spot. Eventually, this was determined by the hungry growls of my stomach. Our lunch with a view today may not have been the kind of view atop Mt. Misery, but I’m totally down with a view of the woods. Especially when those woods are mostly pine trees!
So we sat among the trees, on some rocks in the middle of the trail, and enjoyed our lunch. After our bellies were satiated, we began our trek back to the parking area. This tail end of the hike took us through pine tree forests on an “unblazed footpath”.
Every so often we encounter something along our hike that rouses our curiosity and stimulates our imagination. Usually it’s old stone foundations or structures. Today it was a carving in a tree from a more recent time period. I’ll leave you to ponder the questions we will probably never have an answer to!