The other week, when I was at Stratton Pond, I heard the season’s first calls of the Hermit Thrush. I’m not very good at identifying wildlife on the trail, but from the time I’ve spent on the trail, I do have a few favorites. The Hermit Thrush is at the top of my list for song birds (very closely behind loons as favorite birds in general) because of how beautiful and serene the song is.
When I worked on the trail crew near Stratton Pond in Vermont, I was very often stressed out of my mind. I was responsible for a crew of six to eight young adults, living in the deep woods and trying to get a heck of a lot of hard work done in a limited amount of time. During the day, my co-leader and I supervised and tried to stay a few steps ahead of the game, which always left us drained. There was very little opportunity to relax, with no downtime away from work.
But every morning, I would lie awake in my tent at 4 or 5 AM, just as the world began to come alive, and listen to the echoes of the Hermit Thrush. The bird’s call seems to naturally echo in its throat, but the deep forest added another layer of echoing, giving the call a lonesome and ghostly quality. I would lie there and listen for what seemed like hours, sometimes, imagining the bird was talking just to me. Now, whenever I hear it, I imagine it’s an old friend I’m visiting in the forest. In a way, that’s exactly what the bird is for me. That call embodies everything I love about hiking in New England– the beauty, the loneliness, the feeling of noticing something that you would otherwise miss in the hubbub and rush of everyday life.