I arise early this crisp autumn morning, determined to make a day of it.
Out the door before sunrise, I stride down Winthrop Street, cross Main and cut through the empty lot behind the pub. Sauntering over the bridge, I face an endless string of southbound traffic; but the din melts away the moment I step into the woods.
I discover a shortcut to the old blue-blazed path and follow it deeper and deeper into the wood. It crosses what had been a narrow brook, now dried up in the long summer drought. I begin the diagonal climb up the ridge below spruce and hemlock, gingerly picking my way along over stretches of broken basalt rock. It isn’t long before I reach the top.
At the summit I step off the trail onto the rocky ledge high above the gorge. At my feet runs the river; directly opposite, nestled among the maples and oaks, lies the hamlet, now partially illuminated in the morning sun.
Off to the west a blanket of grey mist floods the far valley. Directly across from where I stand, the Barndoor Hills rise up from the valley floor. Roof-lines of houses and the spires of two churches wax sharp in the morning light as the sun cuts through the stands of trees behind me.
I bring my binoculars up to pan the landscape, then let them fall gently against my chest. I drop my gaze to the river below to study the current. It meanders by the old mill, then slowly picks up speed, forming ribs of white water as it cascades down past the old bridge abutments into the gorge.
Suddenly, a shadow flashes across my eyes. I glimpse an airborne form floating over the river below. A big black bird pumps its broad wings, then soars through the air, its white head and alabaster tail blazing in the sunlight.
Momentarily mesmerized, I scramble to reach the binoculars at my chest. I ease the eagle into focus and follow the final few wing beats before it disappears around the distant bend.