It was foggy the morning I wanted to hike St Regis, so I went for coffee nearby.

I saw someone’s grandma at the deli’s Green Mountain Coffee dispenser. Her mask was below her chin. She saw me with my mask on, and scurried to put hers up. I found it funny, because I was doing it for other people, too.

“Miss,” I mention, because I thought Miss would make her feel younger, “you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to, I don’t mind”.

“I DO”, she snapped. “It’s about respecting each other. You respect me, I respect you”.

I’m never sure what to say during a dressing down at 7AM. So I just stood there and took it.

“You can go now,” she said, pointing to the dispenser. “If you keep your mask on we are cool”.

I paused, half smiled and walked out. I didn’t want her to feel bad, but saying something would have been worse. And that wasn’t the point of the day!

The point was St. Regis. It has a firetower and 3 hours round trip of moderate to steep hiking. I put it in my head, morning hike, afternoon swim. Chips and salsa for dinner. Yes, it’s called freedom.

I didn’t wear a mask on the trail. Regardless, I try to be respectful on the trail to people wearing them. Some put them up as they passed me.

I caught up to three students from Paul Smiths. “You’re making good time” the man said. “Yeah” I replied. “We were trying to make good time, but…” “Ok, you can blame it on me,” one of the girls said. “You’re with friends,” I offered”. I’m just alone with my thoughts!” 

You ever say something off the top of your head and it just comes out wrong? After a quick pet of their dog, I gave a “See you up there!” and kept moving.

When I reached the summit, I had it to myself for 3 minutes. Nothing but the chirping of birds. I ran up the firetower to appreciate the moment. The wind was intense and loud. “My heart is full,” my brain told me. Is this possible when I’m not on the top of a mountain?

People came. I saw the delightful woman I passed by on the way up who brought her two rescue dogs, now passed out on the rock.

I saw a son my age, his mother and father going towards the ledge to settle in. The father wore a mask. Maybe this was his first time out in a while. The freshest air in the world!, I thought. On a summit!

10 minutes passed, and the father took his mask off. I heard him talking about the awful couple he traveled with when he went to Rome.

“And (his friend) said he had a coupon for the local McDonalds. We can eat for 5 dollars, he said. I told him, we’re not eating at McDonalds! He’s a great guy, but if he can save money…”

I had no real plans, so I decided to stay longer on the summit. Didn’t want this guy heckling his friends wife, because she lost her luggage, and would make fun of her for wearing the same blouse to dinner every night, to be the memory before I came down. But that’s what it is. A couple of nice people, this guy advertising his thoughts to the world, and the quiet I got for 3 minutes. Not bad for a summer hike.

The beach at Buck Pond has a wide open view of the lake and the peak of a small mountain. When I arrived, there were some kids in the water, laughing and yelling for a truce when it got too splashy.

There was a giant space in the middle of the beach to leave my shirt and jump in. I swam out and got tired immediately. I tried to float on my back. Coming up, my eyes took in the coastline of evergreens. “I am here,” I said to no-one.

At night, my neighbor gave her kids chocolate to eat and then yelled at them to get in the tent and go to sleep. And they left their fire on the whole night. She asked me the next day, “hey, we have extra firewood if you need it”. I smiled and waved. “I’m good”.

One thought on “St. Regis and Buck Pond by Matthew Schechter

  1. I loved this piece. It’s all about relating to others and living with yourself solo – the judgments we make and the experience we have as individuals. Love it. Lots of humor here – dressing down at 7:00 a.m.; coupon to McDonaldd’s; truce when things go to splashy. Great fun.

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