It’s a rare gift to live in a place where there are so many opportunities for hiking. I live near City Point and the end of the Rail Trail. Across the street is access to the Hills to Sea Trail and, not far away, off Doak Road, there are trails in the Head of Tide and the Stover Preserves. I’ve hiked them all. Sometimes it isn’t enough to admire the land from your backyard or the window of your car. Sometimes you just have to go deeper into that beauty.

When I was younger, I was bolder. I hiked barely marked trails, climbed Devil’s Head Mountain in Harmony with only word of mouth as a guide. Fortunately I never got lost, though I remember a few times when I thought I was. I always managed to find my way back to the trail. But with so many fine hiking trails in Maine, including the Appalachian Trail, we often read about lost or missing hikers.

One of these disappearances struck Troy poet Carolyn Locke hard enough to inspire a poem. She said, “I had been on those trails in Acadia myself. I kept trying to imagine where he was on that trail, how long he could survive, what the final moments of his life would be like if he didn’t, whether he regretted deciding to hike on that particular day.” It’s too easy to imagine this scenario, too easy to put yourself in the lost hiker’s shoes.

Less than a week after the hiker went missing, Carolyn noted, “…my husband and I were cross-country skiing on Cadillac Mountain on a snowy day, and I realized we were looking across the valley at the very mountain on which the hiker was lost.” Many people like to hike alone, to set their own pace, to experience the grandeur and the risk independently. I suspect they don’t think about those they leave behind, unless they become lost or hurt, and then it’s too late.

“I thought again about the hiker dying alone and about how my husband, like the hiker, insists on hiking by himself … At that moment, my husband, who was far ahead of me on the trail, disappeared behind a curtain of snow, and a poem began to form in my mind about the hiker as well as my husband and my own relationship to the risks he takes,” Carolyn said.

Carolyn Locke is the author of four books, most recently “The Riddle of Yes,” from Maine Authors Publishing. Though currently retired, she taught for many years at Mount View High School, where she developed the ninth grade English curriculum as well as electives in creative writing and a seminar class in the humanities. You can see more of her work at http://carolynlocke.com/.

For the Hiker Lost in Acadia

Six days after you set foot on the path,

I look across Eagle Lake to Sargent Mountain

and all the hills between, try to imagine

what could have happened to you that day.

 

No doubt the wilderness called you,

as it called us today, into the bitter cold,

the biting wind, and the thick gray clouds

promising snow by dark. No doubt

 

you believed in your own invincibility

as we all must if we’re to keep going.

And so what was your undoing?

Ice on a steep slope? A fall

 

and a broken limb? Heart failure?

Or did you merely lose your way?

A last phone call from the mountaintop, then

silence as snow fell through the long night.

 

You disappeared without a trace.

I want to believe in your final hours

you had no regrets, want to believe

you were where you wanted — even

 

needed — to be, and that you came

to rest peacefully beneath the snow.

Far ahead on the trail and so small

against these mountains he loves,

 

my husband disappears in swirling snow.

With a catch in my throat, I tell myself

once more, Everyone deserves to live

and die on his own terms.

 

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