Holding on

We took a drive last week through the Adirondacks, Vermont and New Hampshire. Compared to last year, winter seems to be hanging on—judging by the snow still on the fields.

The roads we took often ran through rocky outcrops, many of them covered by ice formations that curve just the right way to look like the heads and long trunks of pale blue elephants.

Our destination was Franconia Notch, a wild and pretty wooly part of the Granite State that looks unexpectedly like the Rockies.

Lonesome Lake. Photo: Chris Dailey, used with permission

Appalachian Mountain Club hut in Franconia State Park, New Hampshire
Photo: briperry CC some rights reserved

I thought the White Mountains would be like the Adirondacks—and they are in some ways. The yellow birch and hemlock looked familiar enough. But the stone walls of the ridge surprised me.

The Appalachian Trail runs through this part of New Hampshire and there are huts. Not lean tos, mind you, huts. Four walls. What Adirondackers call “cheating.”

Our little troop made it to a great big hut on a hill over Lonesome Lake. We had breath-taking views of the surrounding ridge line. And we had company.

The hut was filled with nearly 50 people: from kids in their teens to kids in their 60s. There was a lot of chatter as people talked about the snowy hike up, the winter storm expected to blow through and hopes that the sleeping bag they humped up the trail really would keep them warm at 10 below. A lot of games, too: cards, Scrabble, other board games.

And then it hit me: this was the first time in recent memory that I’ve been in a group of people and no one was looking at a phone or computer.

We were in a preserved landscape. It had that important visit-don’t-remain character that helps a place seem like wilderness.

Funny spot, then, to see civilization—or at least civilized socializing—holding on.


If you go: go with someone who passionately enjoys you and all the little lunacies the two of you share.

Have an early breakfast in Burlington (Vermont) at Penny Cluse. If you’re not there when the door opens at 8:00, you’ll wait. The food really is that good. You’re driving, so down a couple mugs of regular, but try to steer your squeeze toward the decaf.

It’s just two hours from Burlington to Franconia Notch. The morning light will pour into the car, the carbs will work their soporific magic and you’ll soon see Wynken, Blynken and Nod in the passenger seat. With your right hand, interlace fingers with her left.

You’ll know sleep has set in when her hand makes those little twitching movements. If you’re prepared (or really lucky) Bobby Short will start singing Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered through your car speakers (or just in your head).

Those small twitches that start on the passenger side will feel like tremors on yours. It might seem contradictory, but take my word for it: those tremors will break you free of the asphalt and granite bedrock beneath you. You’ll feel like you’re floating miles above the earth and every care on it.


4 Comments on “Holding on”

  1. Bob Falesch says:

    That segue from the visit-don’t-remain majesty of a place that “seems like wilderness” to the visceral and immediate reality of companionship and little lunacies of romantic love caught me by surprise (and delight, frankly).

    Which is the more real…

    It’s the twitch that stays.

  2. Jonathan Brown says:

    So true, Bob.



  3. Ken Hall says:

    Jonathan says: “It’s just two hours from Burlington to Franconia Notch.”

    Why would one want to race across VT and NH on the interstate highways averaging 55+ MPH to make the trip in two hours?

    Back in 1992 about a year after my second wife and I married we and her two daughters drove from our mini farmstead in MD up through PA, across the Catskills of NY, over the Hudson into VT, on into NH and up to Fanconia Notch. As I had traveled much in VT and NH and reveled in the beauty of the countryside I insisted we take the “roads less traveled” and shun the interstates. When we returned we also went to Burlington and then on over to the Potsdam area to visit my folks, again without putting a wheel onto an interstate highway. To this day the girls still reminisce about that trip.

  4. Jonathan Brown says:


    I didn’t want to race across VT and NH. But we only had a few hours to get there — to meet friends and celebrate a birthday — spend just a short time together, then get home.

    Like lots of people, we’re constrained by busy and demanding schedules. Someday, maybe, we’ll have that kind of time. If we do, I hope we make as much of it as you did.


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