Monday, May 05, 2003

My Old Man. Everyone has stories about the Old Man of the Mountain, the ancient New Hampshire landmark that fell apart over the weekend. Here are a couple of mine.

In August 2001, I was driving home from a three-day hike to Galehead Hut with my then-10-year-old son, Tim, and his friend Troy. We'd had a great time, hiking up North and South Twin and Galehead Mountain, but the boys were exhausted. So they were less than thrilled when I pulled into a parking lot so they could see the Old Man.

After much grumbling, we walked down to the edge of a path so that they could see the great stone face. They obviously didn't care, and I figured, what the heck -- they're tired, they're grumpy, and there will always be another day.

About a month and a half later, just a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Tim and I returned to stay at Lonesome Lake Hut and then, the next morning, to hike up Cannon Mountain -- home of the Old Man. It was a tough climb, and an even tougher skid downhill.

But when we were near the summit, we and other hikers kept trying to peer around rock formations to see exactly where the Old Man was. I knew it was a silly exercise -- the Old Man was basically an optical illusion, seen only from certain angles, and there was no way that jumble of rocks would look like a face from where we were. But how could you resist?

Now it's gone forever. Unsurprising, given its fragility, and astounding at the same time.

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