This week’s morning-swim air temperatures (6:30-7 am): 58, 58, 58, 58, 62, and 56 degrees Farenheit. I don’t know the lake’s temperature, but at this time of the morning it is much warmer than the air.
In my life August means vacation. When they were young the boys went to sleep-away camp, which lasted eight weeks and ended two weekends before Labor Day. (Now summer camp sessions are seven weeks.) We would pick them up from camp and spend the next two weeks on a lake in northern New England–Pocasset, Rangeley, or Mooselookmeguntic, certainly the most fun to pronounce. Late-August vacation means hot dry sunlight, waning daylight, cool nights, and pre-autumn melancholy.
Saturday we hiked Old Speck in Grafton Notch, Maine’s third-highest peak. The air temperature felt like August, not October. The trail climbs steeply through thick woods to a ridge, traverses the ridge line, and climbs steeply again to the summit, opening on to a handful of ledges that provide views across the notch to Table Rock or down the valley east to Newry.
The Old Speck summit is not above tree line. Trees have been cleared to open a view lane, and a sturdy fire tower offers a 360 degree view. By the time we summited the sky was hazy, flattening the color of the foliage and obscuring the distance in gray mist.
Rain started to fall on the descent. The last clear ledge before the trailhead opened onto Old Speck’s flanks, swathed in leaves a few days past peak. Most of the brilliant reds are gone, the gold and yellow hues holding on.
My favorite part of every hike is at the end when I remove my shoes. After 7.6 miles we were sweaty, hot, creaky, and tired–except for the dogs, who cover at least three times as much distance running ahead and then back to check on us. A few deep drinks from a mountain stream, a few hunks from my PB&J, and they were ready to push on. Four legs are better than two.