Land in the Sky: A Blue Chair

Today is the day I climb Vly Mountain. It’s one of the lesser-visited peaks in the Catskill Mountains of New York. I have not been up it before. I have a route in mind. The guidebook says: “This route is rarely used. It is a longer route. Few people ever use this route.” So I choose this route. I wonder why it’s so unpopular. Maybe I feel bad for it. Maybe I have a soft spot for unpopular routes. Maybe this is just a pity-hike.

I arrive at the trailhead at the end of a lonesome dirt road. A hoot-owl calls from the boughs of a dark pine. He could be warning somebody about something. Or he could just be hooting because that’s what hoot-owls do. I’m a human being, so I start walking up the unpopular route. The venerable trees—sugar maple, beech, oak—look too tired from a long winter to muster any interest in putting out leaves. None of this helps the route with its popularity problem.

The unpopular route gains elevation quickly. The ground is bare for the first mile. Then I run into the snowpack. It’s deep. But the temperature last night was below freezing so the snow is still hard. I’m able to walk on top of it. The snow gets deeper and deeper but I’m still walking on top of it. I’m feeling pretty good despite the steep unpopularity and the slovenly clearcut I pass. After while, I take a break. I look off into the woods. Something unexpected. A blue chair in the middle of nowhere!

I make my way over to it. The blue chair is surrounded by white snow. It too looks like it’s had a rough winter and is only now coming out of it. Behind the blue chair is a makeshift table installed between a couple of tired trees. Somebody has gone to a lot of trouble to give a touch of hominess to this unpopular route. A jar of strawberry jam would look really good on that table. I wish I had one. All I’ve got is a notebook. I sit down in the blue chair and write these words in the notebook.

I don’t know how popular this story is going to be. Nothing much has happened on this hike. Except I found a blue chair in the wilderness. When I finish writing this, I will get up from the blue chair and continue my hike. I will resume my journey, via an unpopular route, to the summit of a lesser-visited peak in the Catskill Mountains.

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