Spring is coming. Birds are congregating. The greyness of snow and ice is melting away. I am dreaming of mountain hikes a few months from now, in Vermont, New Hampshire and upstate New York.
I took the above photograph of Monte Rosa with an Alpine lake in the foreground, while hiking in the Italian Alps. I went there to get a better idea of what Leonardo da Vinci had experienced, when he climbed Monte Rosa (elevation: 4634 metres or 15,203 feet) in the 1480s, taking notes on the formation of glaciers. Nobody can say whether Leonardo got to the summit. Petrarch had climbed Mont Ventoux in Provence in 1336 (elevation: 1912 metres or 6263 feet). That is about the same elevation as Mount Washington, in New Hampshire.
Petrarch writes about the sensation of reaching the top of the mountain: “At first, owing to the unaccustomed quality of the air and the effect of the great sweep of view spread out before me, I stood like one dazed. I beheld the clouds under our feet, and what I had read of Athos and Olympus seemed less incredible as I myself witnessed the same things from a mountain of less fame. I turned my eyes toward Italy, whither my heart most inclined. The Alps, rugged and snow-capped, seemed to rise close by, although they were really at a great distance….”
I love the babbling music of mountain waters, the exertion of hiking, casting off layers of anxieties, losing that gritty, saturated, over-stimulated feeling of city life, and then reaching the tundra zone above treeline, opening out onto new perspectives and being able to see far-distant geographical features. From the summit of Mount Washington, I once saw the Atlantic Ocean off Maine, which is 130 kilometres or 80 miles away. But it took a very clear day, in early September.
I enjoy the company of fellow hikers, Nature-lovers randomly met on the trail. It is so rare to meet disagreeable people in the wilds. A reassuring kind of fellowship develops, as we plod along together.
Spring is like the morning of a new day. Everything seems possible. Another world beckons, from the heights.