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The Winds of Mount Tabor

It was one year ago.

I pulled my motorcycle off the main road, to the left, over train tracks, then a river, and into a small village — the village of Mount Tabor, Vermont. As soon as I had passed through and by those modest yet eccentric homes, the road began to gain elevation. There was a waterfall with beautiful white rocks and a bridge. It was a scene out of a Hemingway novel, if you have read him you know which one.

White Rocks National Recreation Area, Mount Tabor Bridge, Photo: Todd Tracy April 2020

 

I traveled across the bridge and continued up the mountain road. I saw it on my right, a humble dirt path; this was it. The girl had told me it would be here. The back wheel skidded-out as I motored over rocks and debris. I came upon the perfect camping spot for a motorist, in the national forest, where camping is free!

I set up my new tent. I had a new sleeping bag. I had bug spray. Everything was as it should have been. I was a little anxious because a storm was coming in. My tent was waterproof, supposedly.

There are black bears in the Green Mountains, who were probably just waking up from hibernation and on the lookout for any kind of food. I had granola bars with me so I decided to do the right thing and sling my foodstuffs in a sack over a high branch with a rope, so a bear couldn’t reach it if discovered by smell, my camp during the night.

The experience of being away from Westport and setting up a tent was wonderful and new. I hadn’t been camping for years, decades. I also knew that if I was a bear I would want to be very near that river, just hundreds of feet from my encampment. I heard a fox howling-forth a warning that I had arrived so all the animals would know.

 

It started raining as it got dark. I climbed into the tent. I was quite comfortable. The wind picked up right away. The thoughts I was having had to do with the wind and the precarious position of my tent on the slope of Mount Tabor. I didn’t have a car to climb into for safety in the middle of the night should the need arise.

I was thinking about the pandemic. I was thinking about my girlfriend back home. I thought about my job prospects. The rain began to rush all over. It was pouring, yet I was dry inside.

It was completely dark now. I was alone with myself, out in the wilderness. I could hear the wind begin to roar.

Suddenly, there was a huge gust and all of the trees moaned. The side of the mountain cried out in a high-pitched siren-like shriek. The entire forest erupted like a thousand trains crashing.

“Was it a tornado?”

“Was the mountain falling away?

The raw noise was so great that I began to shake and hyperventilate out of fear. It sounded as if tsunami waves were crashing over my head.

Strangely, the tent didn’t move. I had to look outside. I unzipped the netting then the fly-wall. I shone my flashlight out over the campsite, not a leaf was stirring. I looked up high into the trees, hundreds of feet above the forest floor, and saw the trees bending and swaying dramatically with the ebb and flow of the wind.

I zipped myself back in, reassured that I would be fine, seeing that my position was protected, if not from the sound but from the wind itself.

I lay there thinking about how vulnerable I was. A tree could easily fall on the tent and take me out or injure me. Maybe even just a branch could stab me. The dogs could come around, hungry wild dogs. Mountain lions were not unheard of, though attacks on humans were a rare occurrence for Vermont. Maybe the virus would kill me. I was feeling old and tired and scared.

I thought about my life. What did it amount to, out here in the wild on the side of a mountain?

I imagined there was a great and old wizard at the very top of Mount Tabor, conducting the winds like a symphony. He held my fate in his hands. I was like an ant to him. I was completely at his mercy. He would know of my presence, there on the side of his mountain, but his domain concerned more than just me. My life force was nothing compared to power of those winds.

The winds sounded organized. They sounded evil. The sound of millions of massive hundred-foot tall trees bending in unison for miles, back and forth undulating, culminating in the fury around Mount Tabor.

I was scared witless. It was a terror of the natural world and my small place in it.

For many hours I lay there, listening to those winds, my mind racing. Until just before dawn, I finally came to accept that I was powerless in the situation. I wasn’t in control. As I came to terms and just let it all go — I finally drifted off to sleep.

But what I dreamt about; I will never forget!

I dreamt that I was the Wizard of Mount Tabor. I was the conductor of those winds and the animals and the rain. They bent to my will. I was the old man on the mountain. My destiny was under my command. I was in control of my own fate.

I woke up that morning and something was very different about the world. Something was different about me. I remembered the drama of emotions that had been whipped up by the winds the night before. But in the daylight, all the fear had vanished and my ego was returned to me.

I had a new idea. I needed to climb a mountain!

The morning of the following day, I ascended to the very top of Mount Roosevelt in 8 feet of snow. From there I could see the whole of the Green Mountain range. I had taken too many risks to be up there, however, this early in the season. I was the first hiker/ climber to make it up to the Appellation Trail that ran the spine of the state of Vermont. I was breathing heavily in the sunlight, I could see Killington 40 miles to the south.

Then the idea popped into my mind. It was too dangerous to be up in these mountains, but… I could ride my bike… all the way across the country…

Two weeks later, I was peddling across New York State, making my way to Niagara Falls.

The following adventure is the true story of my experiences, of what I saw and felt while crossing the continent under my own power, while America was on lockdown from the pandemic.

The path leading to the summit of Mount Roosevelt, Vermont. Late April, 2020 / Photo: Todd Tracy For Odyssey X

The Appellation Trail, in late April 2020, is treachery of snow and ice, up there on top of the spine of Vermont, Mount Roosevelt/ Photo: Todd Tracy For Odyssey X

From the summit of Mount Roosevelt looking south across the Green mountain range to Killington. Late April 2020. This is the spot where I got the idea to ride my bicycle across the United States. Photo: Todd Tracy For Odyssey X