The alarm-clock tone on my phone is titled “By the Seaside.” Most mornings, when its trite melody breaks the still silence of my dorm room at 6 a.m., it doesn’t conjure the idyllic milieu its name implies. But, on Tuesday, April 28th, I hear the alarm tone and, after a millisecond of confusion, I remember why it’s sounding so early. Today is our sunrise hike at Pawtuckaway State Park! My grogginess drifts away. I have been looking forward to this excursion since we first received the syllabus at the start of the term. I have always been a ‘morning person,’ and I love being outside as the world is waking up.
The Lit and Land’ers climb into the Red Dragon and are greeted by a delightful box of Dunkin’ Donuts (Dunkin’ is still such a novelty for me, a Californian). While nibbling my apple crumb donut, I watch the New England countryside roll by and doodle flowers in my Rite in the Rain. We wind down a narrow country road and arrive at the trailhead.
For the first half of the hike, we walk in silence as the sun inches further out of the cumulus clouds and into the pastel sky. As we stroll past boulders for which Pawtuckaway is famous, Mr. Bre encourages us to take a look at the sky behind us, which is painted in a rainbow of colors— a reminder that sometimes, if our eyes are too focused on the trail ahead, it can be easy to miss the lovely colors in the sky above and or the landscape behind.Whenever I hike, I am always torn between keeping my eyes focused on the feet of the hiker ahead of me (for stability, so I don’t trip) and gazing into the sky and my surroundings. I suppose striking a balance is possible.
Suddenly, an eerie sound ricochets through the empty woods. I would use an onomatopoeia to capture the sound, but my sound-word lexicon doesn’t include one that would do it justice. Mr. Bre explains that it is the sound of a pileated woodpecker pecking at a hollow tree or log. I wonder: does the woodpecker know his efforts are fruitless? When will he realize that the log is hollow? Or, maybe his efforts aren’t fruitless. Maybe he’s a musical fellow, an instrumentalist. Music for music’s sake.
After about half a mile, we arrive at a lake, and the water is entirely flat and reflective of the dawn.
The shore is decorated with stately pines, and I am immediately reminded of the quintessential scenes of New England (mostly Maine) summer camp lakes which I have seen in movies like The Parent Trap. Our ascent toward the summit begins. We wind past more boulders and through duff-strewn groves, until, finally, we can see the fire tower structure through the trees. When we arrive at the summit, we are greeted by a sweeping view of the mountains and lakes and Maine in the distance; it feels like we are gazing down at a real-life topographical map!
A few Lit-and-the-Lander’s start ascending the narrow and precarious steps to the top of the fire-tower. Soon, we are all on our way up to the top, tip-toeing up the ladder/staircase! A tepid drizzle starts to drip from the sky, and, as we stand huddled on the small platform at the top (with dimensions of about 7 feet by 8 feet), something beautiful and indescribable and entirely lovely occurs, something I will likely never forget. A double rainbow appears in the sky! Yes, folks, you are reading this correctly! Double. Rainbow. Double rainbow, all the way!The phrase echoed through our minds. We posed for a few group photos and Mr. Bre took a video for the blog (see below), and then we began our descent back down the staircase, which was kind of scary. Before winding back down the mountain, we played a game of “Ninja” to warm up, as we were all a bit chilly, having paused our hike for a few minutes to soak in the views at the top of the tower. Sadly, I was the first one eliminated in “Ninja.” We always used to play that game in the Student Oceanography Club (a marine-science and conservation group I participated in as a middle schooler), so I thought I would still be a pro. I guess I’ve become a bit rusty in my Ninja skills!
As we stroll down the mountain, we discuss environmental education at Exeter, and possibilities for “place-based” classes in the future. In my one year here at Exeter, I’ve had the opportunity to take three field-based courses, including Marine Biology, Ecology, and Literature and the Land; interacting with the local landscapes, both marine and terrestrial, has been a highlight of my time here at PEA.
On our way back to the bus, we make a few stops to explore boulders. Michael, Sage, and Marcus adventurously climb some of the boulders, and we all have a chance to notice some of the signs that rock climbers have been here recently. Chalk marks are the telltale signs! Mr. Bre tells us that each type of rock-formation has a special name in the lexicon of rock-climbers, such as the “right-facing open book” which Michael, Sage, and Marcus climbed!
All in all, sunrise, double rainbows, boulders, Dunkin’ donuts, and “Ninja” made for a pretty epic morning. For the rest of the day, I felt so energized!