Off the Map ... Week Two: Ridgelines and treelines

Ever notice how people, without trying to be sarcastic or duplicitous, can say one thing and mean the exact opposite? Consider, for example, the statement, 的知 sure you値l be fine, given by a middle-aged backpacker after hearing I was going to start the arduous Appalachian-to-Lincoln Gap hike at 11:30 in the morning. What she meant was, 的知 sure you値l be fine, if there痴 a guardian angel for complete idiots. I think she was put off by the fact that at the end of this one-way hike, I also needed to hitchhike back to my car on a Sunday evening in rural Vermont. Everyone seems biased against my risk-assessment capabilities even complete strangers!

The hike itself seemed quite manageable. After all, I壇 decided to do the six-peak traverse from north-to-south, which psychologically though not factually means downhill. The magazine and internet descriptions had promised beautiful views and warned of dangerous exposure along the high-altitude ridgeline. But my expectations slowly contracted as the afternoon progressed.

In the Rocky Mountains, a 途idgeline almost guarantees a panoramic vista. I壇 forgotten that in the Green Mountains, ridgeline hiking usually requires a healthy imagination, because without a chainsaw, it痴 difficult to know whether you池e standing on a mountaintop or somewhere near sea level. Most summits along the route were cloaked in forest and occasionally featured platforms that poked out above the trees. For almost the whole journey, branches obscured every horizon, and treeline was a theoretical 1,000 feet above my head. I found myself wishing I壇 brought a compass in case I lost my bearings, but the trail was a straight shot, north-to-south. I couldn稚 really get lost if I just followed the ridgeline, right?

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