Friday, December 26, 2014

Gift of New Skete

     "I'm dreaming of a wild Christmas."

     No white Christmas this year. Two days of warmth and rain washed that away. Our family tradition of a holiday ski tour had to take a break although Gwenne and Holly did manage some skiing (and splashing) on Christmas Eve.
     "Wild" filled in for "white" as we opted for a Christmas Day hike in the hills beyond Cambridge. From the village we drove east on Co. 67 to Ash Grove, taking time to admire the Scotch Highland cattle and, a little further on, the ghostly sycamores along White Creek. We turned right on Chestnut Hill Road where we watched Pumpkin Hook Brook staging a spring flood preview.
     Finally it's up the long hill leading to the New Skete Monastery, nestled beneath Two Tops. There had been a service earlier in the morning but all was quiet when we arrived. We strolled the peaceful grounds and were given trail directions by a gracious Brother. Then it was into the woods for a few hours of easy hiking.
     The Monks have over four miles of marked trails on their forested hillside. I've wanted to come back since going on a guided outing lead by Sue Van Hook several years ago. Stone walls tell of a time when this was open sheep pasture. Now it's mature hardwoods, full of wonder any time of the year. Reading the Forested Landscape  by Tom Wessels would be a good primer before a visit. It's a book that looks at the changes New England forests have experienced over time.
     We enjoyed our walk so much we hardly missed the white this year, and stopping for cheesecake at the Nuns of New Skete didn't hurt either. Brothers who create enchanting trails and Sisters who bake yummy desserts, now that's wild! Here's hoping you can visit and support the New Skete community in the year ahead. They are a part of what makes Washington County such a great place.

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