Lost on Hawk Hill

The map showed a narrow trail that ran up one side of Hawk Hill, meandered three quarters of the way around its broad low peak, and descended quickly to the other side. I walked up the dirt road to where the narrow trail should have begun. I saw nothing but a small cairn on top of a large rock and no evidence of a trail. At last I decided that the trail must go up beside the cairn, and I headed up the hill in the general direction the map showed.

For a while it seemed as if I might be on a long-abandoned trail, until it petered out. The woods were open, and I thought if I kept going perhaps I would happen onto the trail. The hill got steeper; in places the hillside was strewn with rocks, in other places it was open bedrock, but mostly it was tall trees with a few lowbush blueberries growing underneath. Once or twice I struck a deer trail that I was able to follow for a few hundred feet until it disappeared.

The ground began to level off, as if I might be approaching the top of the hill. The ground began to be covered with low, shrubby oaks, which I had to fight my way through. I gave up on finding the trail, and enjoyed being mildly lost. I came upon an open area with a view of another hill, which I decided must be Buck Hill; for Buck Hill had had a brush fire this past May Day, and the hill I looked at showed several places recovering from effects of fire.

I climbed further up, walking across more bedrock, pushing through more shrubby oaks, coming across little openings and hidden glades here and there: a shady glen under a tall dense pine which cast such a shadow that nothing grew under it; a stretch of open bedrock with lanky late summer grass and little scraps of pineweed growing in its cracks; an odd little peak of stone almost hidden in the trees; some more open bedrock which, when I got close, turned out to be part of a well-worn narrow trail marked by a low cairn and a faded blaze painted on the rock.

So I followed the trail down the other side of Hawk Hill. It wound around the broad top of the hill, through an open ledge from whence I could see Buck Hill again, and further off the Interstate highway, and further still two reservoirs split in two by a narrow dike. Then the trail dove down into the trees, and brought me out on the other side of Hawk Hill.

On my way back to the car, I walked along that same dirt road from whence I had begun walking. I stopped and looked around the little cairn again, but no trail did I see. The ancient Greeks said that Hermes, god and guardian of the traveler, lives inside cairns to help guide people along. Hermes was also a mischievous god who even tricked the great Apollo; it would be no trouble for him to fool me. I considered taking down the little cairn so that others wouldn’t be fooled by it, but decided I better hadn’t.

Nor did I see any hawks on Hawk Hill; just an immature Peregrine Falcon at the top of nearby Chickatawbut Hill, starting out on it first trip to the south, who swooped down and sat in a tree top surveying the woods while all the other birds kept quiet and hid.