The Last of Summer


DAVE WAS WAITING, his red BMW parked in the dark outside Lowell House. He wasn't too pleased by my lateness and was non-plussed by my offering of a warm bottle of beer. TK was even later, coming up the drive in bow tie after early morning oysters in Chinatown. But soon we were all tucked in and off through the lifting gray of Central Square on what was to be our last attempt at summer.

The rain started, but we were heading for four days in the clear summit sun of the Adirondacks so it didn't matter. After coffee and donuts in an awakening town we wove through New Hampshire and Vermont, colors blazing about us, a steady stream of roadside red breaking to reveal soft-colored hills, lone magnificent hardwoods and occasional white church steeples. We cut across New York state at the foot of Champlain and as we rose into the mountains the road narrowed and twisted; we had trouble taking the turns as our excitement grew.

We tramped up Johns Brook Valley in the rain, our way lit by leafy yellows and oranges where only greens had shown a few weeks before. After four miles we found shelter and set up camp to wait for the morning and for the downpour to stop.

It didn't. We spent a long day waiting, the water pouring off the shelter roof making a little moat around us. We sat in the cold and damp with cold, sopping feet, watching the usually docile river before us swell and grow violent and more brown toward afternoon. Some serious books had crept into our packs since August and these occupied our attentions for a while; an attempt at playing Philosophers' Camp soon bogged down in an absured debate on symmetry. We cheered each other with thoughts of rainbows stretching over the mountains, but as the afternoon wore on and the Ranger stopped by with news of endless rain we wavered and soon had to admit that we weren't going to wait anymore. It felt good to be moving again as we sloshed through the leaves which cascaded down around us in the strong wind. We reached the car by dark.

As the sky cleared and the full moon rose (and we cursed ourselves), we drove back toward our warm beds and books. We talked about whether it was the leaves wafting across the road or the slow jazz on the radio that was sad; whichever it was we regretted having witnessed the summer change to fall.

We did find a crisp cold beer waiting on the back seat.