Zealand Falls Hut


Posted from Whitefield, New Hampshire, United States.

The Whites are as beautiful and rugged as I imagined. I am going much slower through here – partly because the terrain wears on your body and partly because who wants to rush through here? Two nights ago Raindog, Hitching Post, and I hiked to the top of Mt. Lincoln to see the sunset, moonrise, and sunrise. The spectacular beauty was almost beyond description, but I will try.

I felt like we were children sneaking in late to an unoccupied box seat at the symphony. We barely arrived to make the second half of the first movement. The triumphant sun itself had already sunk below the jagged, distant horizon. But it was not through yet. It fought and struggled to keep the darkness at bay. The brilliant reds and yellows were the army of the sun and the deep blues and purples were the army of the night. We cheered and rooted for the sun, but we knew it could not win. It was like watching a sad movie of which you already know the ending. And sure enough the Army of the Night drove the Army of the Sun down below the horizon. The Army of the Sun did not go quietly and there were several last clashes – like the hail Mary shots at the end of a basketball game. But more and more ground was gained by the Night. The battle began to quiet down as the symphony began to end. And then, at the quietest moment, that point when you believe that all hope is lost, then quietly the second movement begins.

Sunrise on Franconia Ridge
Sunrise on Franconia Ridge

At first we did not see this new battle. Who could fight against the night and hope to win but the Sun? But off in the East a dull red glow was definitely present. This battle was smaller and muted, but present none the less. It was then that we realized that the giant face of the the night sky was coming to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Yet the night was not done. Great tendrils of fog whipped up the side of the mountain and obscured the moon. Through this dense lace one could only see the faintest glow of the distant battle. But the night could not hold its ground and the fog dissipated and the pale light of the full moon illuminated the crowd. For we were not alone. Great monolithic peaks and long humped ridges, dark valleys with quiet streams, dotted lights of distant towns far below – all were witnesses to this never-ending symphony in the sky. And as the entire landscape was glowing in a soft purple light we settled down to sleep under the stars. For we knew that this was simply intermission and that the final movement was still to come.

Sunrise on Franconia Ridge
Sunrise on Franconia Ridge

Sure enough, as I awoke early in the morning, the battle had already begun. Not big and tragic like the first nor soft and harmonic like the second, this battle was fast and furious. The red glow began to race higher in the sky, followed by the yellow. And you could see that the stalemate with the moon was quickly becoming a route as reinforcements from the sun drove off the night. And then the sun itself came racing into the sky above the largest mountain in the distance as the grand finale. And the crowd went wild! The birds whistled their praise, the wind was the low rumble of applause, and the mountains themselves were the smiles of the crowd. And we stood in awe. For while this performance occurs every night, never had it been so big, seemed so clear, lasted so long, of been so dramatic. And as the day moved on the quiet memory of what we saw lived on inside us and we knew that even if we lived a thousand years we would never see the equal to that performance.

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