This Vermont Life: A Hike up Pico Peak

I can't honestly tell you how many times I have hiked Pico Peak. A lot, let's leave it that. The number isn't important, and neither is the number of steps, stories and calories taken, ascended and burned along the way, but I kept track of them anyway. What is important, after a long, hot summer, is the crispness of the air that feels great on my skin and the soft crunch of the dessicated leaves underfoot.

My constant companion Hermione, a feisty Cairn Terrier, sprints after a chipmunk and disappears into a covey of ferns. Further up the trail, Herm resurfaces from the forest and stops on the trail to lift a tiny leg in the direction of a stand of birches. A minute later a brace of grouse explodes into the air and disappears into a spruce thicket.

Two-thirds of the way up we break out of the green tunnel and merge with a ski trail (see pic above.) Herm and I sit on a rock and sort through the various sundries I have stored in my backpack. There's an apple I forgot to eat the last time, a package of neon gummy worms and the stump of pepperoni left over from the last month's poker game. I wasn't that hungry anyway.

Herm gets a dog treat.

The trail goes straight up the pitch of the mountain from here, and Pico is a true peak, which means that it's damn steep and that it's time to put my head down and just get to the top. The view from the summit is spectacular. Mount Washington--the highest mountain in the Northeast--is discernible off to the east; Killington Peak dominates the skyline to the south. But to be honest, most times I don't even look around, stop to snap a picture or take a swig from my water bottle.

Why not? Usually because I didn't take the time to fill the bottle in the first place, but it's more than that. Sometimes I think we're so focused on getting to the top we forget to enjoy the ascent, and also that we're so busy recording the process to "share' with others that we miss something--that we miss alot of things actually--like the obese porcupine gnawing on a pine branch or the murder of crows floating on a thermal above my head.

The trip down is my favorite part, and only partly because I have gravity on my side. There's a rhythm to the descent, a pattern that repeats itself again and again. I have hiked this trail so often I know where to put my feet without paying any attention at all, and my mind wanders all over the place. I think about the plot twists I need to create in the book I am editing, the main character that will make everyone forget about Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train or Razor Girl. (I make a note to write my next book about a girl of some kind.) I think about the beef short ribs simmering away in the crockpot, and what to do with the basket of plums a friend gave me (plum torte? or something a little more exotic like Plums Alexander?) and if I my daughter's soccer game is at the polo grounds by my house or the field by the school.

The trail runs out and the hike is over. I get into the car not having made a decision about the plums, but I have decided to saute some of my neighbor's Swiss Chard to go with the ribs. And I took 12,467 steps, ascended 157 floor and burned 826 calories, so it look like I will go with the Plum Torte...

Cheers, peter

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at



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