Field Trip :: Mt. Greylock


Image: Rand Lemley
By Rand Lemley, BArch Candidate
 
There comes a time for many people when the chaotic life of the city needs to be replaced by something more calming. People use different strategies to tune out the city's din. I prefer to escape into nature far outside the city. Recently, I went on an overnight backpacking trip to Mt. Greylock with a friend. It was a perfect way to decompress just before the semester reached high gear before studio finals, but viewed through the lens of a designer, I also found that the trails had much to teach me.

Image: Rand Lemley
A diverse body of thresholds -- natural and manmade -- populate the trail to Mt Greylock's summit. Some are very important, such as the the trial heads and intersections marked by signs giving direction to each traveler. Others are quite subtle, like the change in density between deciduous and conifer forested areas. This rich variety allowed me to forget turnstiles at T stops, stop lights and white "walk" signs left behind in the city. Instead, I felt free to explore; the thresholds operated as suggestions rather than mandates.

Image: Rand Lemley
My favorite type of threshold in the woods were those caused by trees fallen across the trail. At some point, a trail maintenance crew removed the portion of each trunk that interrupted hikers, which left two sections of the tree separated and decomposing on either side of the trail. Due to the variance of geometry and proximity of each fallen tree in relationship with the trail and other fallen trees, each threshold had a different personality. 

Image: Rand Lemley
I was also surprised to find that nature -- probably at some point planted by a human -- framed beautiful views. At one point, I heard what sounded like distant quacking. The sound grew louder as I continued down the path until I emerged onto a pond populated by frogs. Low hanging branches over the trail framed the pond and a rustic shed on the opposite shore to perfection. My friend and I enjoyed this spot so much that we decided to call it home for a night. After summiting Mt Greylock, we returned to the pond and set up a tent and campfire. Looking toward the vivid sunset over the pond, we dined in warm comfort. The frogs slowed their chirps until a still quiet set in just in time for us to sleep. Even the sounds of nature framed our experience.

Image: Rand Lemley
I am well aware that backpacking into the middle of a forest is not for everyone. However, I do recommend taking advantage of the summer months to get out of the city and into the wonders of nature. With open eyes, who knows what can be found as inspiration just around the bend?