Meditation on an Autumn Evening

Autumn leaves crunch beneath the purposeful plodding of my hiking boots. Fresh, brisk air and dappled sunlight play on my face as I hike among the mossy trees and rocky streams. This is my favorite time of the year. I love hiking out in the mountains, enjoying that particular feel and smell of autumn beauty, the kind of feeling that happens for only a few weeks each year.

After passing through a yellow-gold canopy, I arrive at my destination. Perched upon the lookout point is Ridge Cabin, where I will stay tonight. Ridge is only one of Merck’s nine cabins, scattered and perched across the rolling, forested landscape. The view from the cabin is incredible: the Taconic mountains, blanketed in a patchwork of trees, tumble off into the distance. Every color seems to be represented and the retreating sunset is making them glow with the last vestiges of summer warmth.


As a cool evening sets in, I enter the cabin laden with firewood and look around at the rustic structure, paneled in natural, honey-colored wood. It’s not long before the chimney is puffing and I’m enveloped by notes of earthy woodsmoke as my dinner simmers nearby. My sleeping bag sits on a nearby cot ready to keep me snug through the night.

After dinner I sit outside the cabin for a few solitary moments and look up into the sky brimming with stars. They are so bright that the clear, crisp evening is like a crystal, bringing them even closer. Shooting stars abound. Snuggled up in my sleeping bag with a last cup of tea, I read until my eyes are closing. As the embers burn low I am lost to the immense quietness of the Vermont night and the mountains.

Time like this, hours spent in nature, are a tonic to reconnect us with the landscape during what can be a busy and hectic time of year. A backcountry cabin can provide a wonderful place for reflection, for quality time with family and friends, and for reminders of what matters most. A trip out here is a glass through which to see ourselves in the vast context of the changing seasons, the beauty of nature, and the simpler things.

As an apprentice, Kat Graden is usually pretty busy … thankfully she had time to savor a quiet moment!