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.