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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sugarloaf Mountain

Today I sought out something easy - instant gratification. Of course I was too lazy to get going early, which is quite usual for me. I am trying to motivate myself to hike more often, and this blog is one of the ways I am trying to do this. However, it has been extremely hot in my area lately, to the point that it has even gotten dangerous. As usual, it was impossible to get anyone to go with me. To beat the heat I set out for Sugarloaf Mountain in the late afternoon. Sugarloaf Mountain is quite close to me - it's probably the closest mountain to where I live. It is a monadnock - that's a mountain that was created by erosion when the land around it was worn down by wind and rain. The photo above is the mountain from a distance, taken in the surrounding valley. That photo is not mine, it's from the website that I just linked to. My photos will show this place in more detail and up-close.

To hike this mountain, you park at the top. You can park your car on the east side or the west side, and the summit is a bit higher in between the two. I parked my car in the west side lot. I took this next photo from one of the parking lots:

I think that this view is not too bad for a beginning. From these parking lots, you are almost at the top of the mountain already - you have driven up it. Therefore, the stretch from either parking lot to the summit is relatively short. This factor, together with the mountain's relative proximity to the city, are what make the place so accessible to folks like me who cannot plan time well.

The next batch of photos are from the trail that goes from the West side up to the summit. It's true that there are rock formations (people sometimes climb them), but the staircase is far easier than navigating the rough trail that goes up from the East side. Look at the staircase and the rock formations in this section:

The next couple of shots are of rock formations on the summit. There are some pretty interesting ones here:

And here are some wide views from the summit. These photos were mostly taken in the early evening towards sunset, and I believe that these came out the best.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon how you look at it), these last few wide shots show you how close to civilisation this mountain really is. The presence of another person on the top, for example.
Since Sugarloaf Mountain is so close to the city, it is more crowded than many other mountains here. It's very much "on the beaten trail", as it were. Several groups came and went while I was up on the summit, although you see only one other person in the photos here. You can also see the smokestack in the distance, especially in the first two photos in this last series.

Having contact with other human beings does not always have to be unpleasant, though. When I reached the West parking lot again, a nice guy approached me and asked me about the digital camera I was using. We got to talking and continued until it was very dark. As it turns out, we had a couple of similar interests, and he was an immigrant originally from El Salvador named Nelson. I had been an expat in Germany and Japan myself, so we compared our experiences. I would have included a photo of him here, except that it was too dark by that time. So, Nelson, if you find this blog, please feel free to type a comment!

What does this have to do with my hike? Well, the people you meet in the mountains can be very interesting. The fresh air and relaxed setting make people more friendly and willing to chat. What I also found is that a lot of hikers come from other countries. As I think I mentioned before, most of my friends who like hiking have been from other countries, not my local friends who are just too lazy. Hiking and exploring nature can be part of international and intercultural communication. It's true that you don't want things to be too crowded on the trail, and you have to find the right balance between crowds and utter isolation. However, running into an occasional human being does not have to be a bad thing, and at Sugarloaf I have met a number of very nice and interesting people over the years. It's about quality, not quantity. And the scenery is nice to boot. As you can tell, I'm a sucker for sunsets. Not bad for getting a late start on a lazy Sunday, huh?


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