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On Backpacking and New Beginnings

Lafayette RidgeIn my earlier days, when I had younger knees, I loved to go backpacking in the mountains of northern New England. My favorite place to hike was the Lafayette ridge in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire. The exposed ridge goes on for a mile and half along a knife edge, from the summit of Mt. Lafeyette across Mt. Lincoln to Little Haystack. For the entire way, there are magnificent views in all directions, that is, if the weather cooperates. And there’s the rub. The mountains of northern New England host some of the most violent and unpredictable weather on earth.

I made six attempts to climb the ridge, succeeding in only four. In the two others I was forced to turn back due to high winds that took my breath way. Each time, I’d park at the trail head, stare up at the craggy summit, and steel myself for the ascent. I was both exhilarated and scared, knowing how hard it would be, how far I had to go, and how the possibility always existed that I’d make a wrong choice and have to turn back. But always there was the upside of that magnificent view if I succeeded.

I’m reminded of that experience this week as I begin work on my fourth novel, the sequel to There Comes a Prophet. While writing a novel is easier on the knees, it’s a lot more work, a commitment of a year or more. It’s also fraught with risk, where one bad decision can lead down a thorny path that leads to nowhere or worse to a cliff you don’t see until it’s too late.

But worst of all, there’s always the possibility that you won’t find your way to the end, that some obdurate character will rebel or some miscreant plot element will rear its ugly head and shout: “No! You’re wrong! There’s no story to be found here.”

But as I once again venture into the literary woods and take my first tentative steps along the path of blank pages, I’m reminded that, like with backpacking, there’s the hope of reaching that glorious summit. And that, after all, is why we writers write.

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6 Comments

  1. Yes, the Franconia Ridge hike is a popular and spectacular one. All the best with novel number four.

  2. Jenn Oldaker

    I would love to be able to do that! Definitely would be an out of this world experience!

  3. Sounds so awesome!!! I am an odd girl in that I like roughing it and camping on occasion…. I was a huge history buff as well… and maybe roughing it… and enjoying the great outdoors naturally brings me bacjk to my roots!

  4. Fiona White

    I always loved mountains and camping. I often go camping with my boyfriend and we enjoy it

  5. I love hiking and dream of hiking in the mountains or a ridge would work too. But unfortunately living in New Orleans, I don’t get a chance to do any mountain or ridge climbing. I do understand you concept comparing your literary challenge to hiking mountains or ridges and it’s pretty cool!

  6. Richard Hicks

    I would like to go backpacking. From the looks of this photo, it must be so exciting

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