By Cory Johnston
Maybe it’s because I’ve been here before. In previous years, down to the day, down to the hour. Sweat pools on our shoulder blades. A Camelback is passed around the circle, same as always. But the view from atop Mount Kearsarge is different.
We see the same things, of course: the vast green forests of western New Hampshire that stretch out under the blue afternoon sky on their way towards becoming eastern Vermont. We hear the same sounds: the wind against the steel weather tower, the conversation of fellow hikers echoing off the stone mountainside before falling into the shaded forest path.
But to hear people’s words echo, to stop once more, and once more, to examine a small film of lichen on some nearby stone, summons no deep chill from my spine. That sense of awe does not return, as I do. I accept that the scene is beautiful. I consider the fact that it must be so. But the mountaintop that once blinded me with brilliant sunlight reflecting off stone and trees—reflecting off everything—today falls in the penumbra cast by a slate grey cloud that passes through the sun’s gaze.
The others laugh and breathe deeply. They exchange the Camelback’s water for bottles of pale beer I brought in my pack. They line up cameras and take pictures, then line up cameras at different angles and take more pictures.