Jarvis Coffin: Off the Highway – Getting out more

  • The view from Crotched Mountain. COURTESY of JARVIS COFFIN

  • Jarvis Coffin

Published: 9/13/2022 9:04:41 AM
Modified: 9/13/2022 9:00:46 AM

By now, you know the world is divided into two kinds of people, mountain people and water people, although a friend suggested that the difference is between mountain people and people beguiled by horizontal plains, which could include anyone from Kansas.

But in our house, the distinction is between people who like the mountains and those who prefer the ocean. I am a mountain person. My wife Marcia is a water person. And the deal was that after finishing the course as owners of the Hancock Inn, we would redeem some of the time remaining for an ocean view.

Marcia has embraced a view of Hunts Pond in Hancock, instead. It does not come with distant horizons, but it does come with morning mist, loons, bald eagles, the occasional otter, beavers and lovely views of Skatutakee and Thumb mountains. Everyone can be happy.

We have spent most of our time by the pond this summer since selling the inn this spring. People ask, “Are you going to take a trip and get away for a while?” It is not like that, we explain. When you live above the store, you are never home. If you go upstairs, it is to rest.

So, after many years of being above the store, we are enjoying being home, squeezing an inn’s worth of furniture into a small cabin, establishing gardens, and cutting down the understory of growth around the property that has come up since we bought it several years ago. We have been away, you see.

We don’t plan to go anywhere except to see our grandchildren.

In the meantime, there is catching up to do around the Monadnock region. We are getting out more. Over the past couple of weeks, that meant a hike for me up the back of Crotched Mountain with my brother Tim. He and his wife Amy live in Francestown.

We stepped off one early afternoon and hiked up to the Old Mountain Road, then up the Summit East Trail. We followed that across the top to Upper Link, walked Shannon’s Trail to Lower Link, then to Summit West, which we took down to Scot’s Trail and finally out to Joslin and Farrington Road.

Later, sitting around their house, joined by Marcia and Amy, enjoying a bit of dark rum with slices of lime and waiting for the charcoal fire to mellow, Tim announced we walked seven miles. My brother is an inveterate hiker. Seven miles is an average hiking day for him. It took me a couple of days to recover.

It was worth it. Each peak of Crotched offered spectacular mountain views, the sort to cause an ocean person to cross the aisle. The region would welcome more rain, but the sunny, high-pressure days are great for summit vistas. We were able to see Boston on the far horizon. We had great views of North Pack, Pack Monadnock, Temple and the Grand Monadnock.

Sitting on the outcrops, we looked down into the valleys at small farmhouses and distant villages, roads that disappeared below the foliage and at turkey vultures, surfing the updrafts in wide, lazy circles below us.

The four of us had a casual dinner that night. As the sun set, we could make out the outline of Crotched against the darkening sky. An ocean person will point to an island on a map and say, “I have been there.” Mountain people will stand at the base and respond, “I have been to the top.” Each always has thoughts of returning.

I am 65 years old. I cannot say for sure when I may be back, dear Crotched. There are still many mountains nearby that I would like to climb.

Jarvis Coffin and his wife Marcia owned New Hampshire’s oldest inn, The Hancock Inn, during which time he wrote a popular newsletter for the inn’s mailing list. Retired from innkeeping, he now writes full-time, mostly essays on rural life and fiction. You can reach him at huntspond@icloud.com, and keep up with his other musings on the Monadnock Region at postcard-from-monadnock.ghost.io.

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