I recently sent off a reservation form for a winter camping trip to Baxter State Park. The anticipation of these journeys is one of my favorite things in life.
From the moment we last went through the park gates — headed south towards a shower, clean clothes and other civilized things – the mountain has been there…waiting.
We associate waiting with animate objects of course — not mountains. But we also know that some mountains have an aura of consciousness. Native Americans attributed Katahdin’s special character to their god named Pamola.
And yes — we are far beyond the days of believing Indian legends about part-human, part-moose and part-eagle giants who inhabit mountain tops. In our modern, objective minds we know that Katahdin is merely an interesting rock outcrop – part of an ancient range of towering peaks that were worn down to their present form by the tides of time.
But if you have climbed the mountain — even once – you know that Katahdin is more than the sum of its geological parts. And it is no huge leap to imagine the huge bulk of it standing there silently waiting for those who will inevitably come to admire it.
Instead the mountain waits for us in the sense that the only changes over time will be those wrought by nature itself and not the hand of mankind. We can safely turn our backs for a week or a year or twenty years – the mountain and the land around it will remain almost completely unchanged. This is the value of wilderness – even for those who don’t go to it.
Because it has been set aside from society’s vast powers of getting and spending — we can go to this mountain any time in confidence that it will remain undiminished. The mountain doesn’t wait for the next road to be built or the next tree harvest.
Instead, it waits for us.