The drive up here is never as short as I want it to be, but as soon as I turn onto the final quarter mile of gravel road, time disappears. I stop Jenny in her spot in front of the house, and open my door. The air is always cooler here than where I started. Of course, the goosebumps on my arms could also be from the tack-sharp milky way streaming overhead and the choir of crickets. Swinging the door open at 36 Bradstreet, is a guaranteed greeting by the two big German hunting dogs, Konrad and Milo. Then Paul is right there, ready to hit you with a droll remark along the lines of “I was just watching a great show on the back of my eyelids. Hate you missed it.”
Paul is my great uncle. Since starting school a little closer to him we have become good buds. I never know quite what to expect when I make the trek to the depths of Maine to spend time with him. I think that is part of the fun. On a couple occasions, we have climbed a mountain together. Occasionally, we have gone to the Church’s pie sale. On a different trip, we went to a train trestle just to walk out on it. Sometimes we have dinner and play cribbage with Alden who, even at 95, always goes undefeated. There was another time when we built a game stand like the Europeans make. Most recently, we went into paper country to do a hike Paul has wanted to do for almost ten years.
Getting to do Gulf Hagas with Paul was something special. Oftentimes in the woods, I am charging an objective, trying to make a certain pace, etc. Aside from the fact that Paul simply cannot do that pace, he takes pleasure in all the things I take for granted. The split rock, the puffy lichen, and how straight a cedar grew. Since high school my friends have ribbed me for being like an old man. It started from something to do with having a knee surgery, and raisin bran. They will all be happy to know I’m still the old man of the group. Quite honestly, I’m not ready to be an old man. I don’t have nearly enough wisdom, wit, or resilience.