Heraclitus said you never step into the same river twice, because the river is never the same, nor are you

NORWICH RECORD | Spring 2021

Often colleagues and students will ask me, “Where are you hiking today?” My response is always the same, the old ski area hill. “Red Trail to the fields and the top-of-quarry, then Red Trail to the summit and back.” They ask if I hike it every day. My answer is yes, at least every day when I don’t hike a real mountain. Then comes the inevitable follow-up question: Don’t I get tired hiking the same mountain? But therein lies the secret. It is never the same hike twice.

The trails offer views of campus, of Dole Hill across the valley, and, most stunningly, views from the ski hill summit looking west across the Roxbury Mountain Range. You can spy the ski slopes of the Mad River Valley and Sugarbush. The summit still preserves the old chairlift “anchor,” a large cement structure that Norwich students have long decorated with spray paint. One side remains an unofficial memorial to Navy SEAL and Special Operations Master Chief Brian R. Bill ’01.

Those views and the trails that lead to them change by the day. Trees that burned with brilliant red and orange foliage on a Monday lose their leaves in an overnight rainstorm, opening more vistas on Tuesday’s hike. On an early morning, I catch the first snow of the season on the summit, even as it falls as rain on campus. When I return again that afternoon, the delicate white mantle is gone; sometimes it is a different hike from hour to hour.

Once winter arrives to stay, the hill’s 1,700-foot summit will keep snow on its western exposure until mid- April, while trails on it’s north-northwest slope cheat the spring and early summer, preserving their ice and snowpack until almost Commencement in early May.

An early morning hike after a fresh snowfall shows that humans aren’t the only travelers on the hill. Deer use the trails extensively to move from their winter-shelter yards to water sources at the bottom of the hill that flow year- around under cascades of ice. Small mammals scurry across, and sometimes under, the snow. At times the trails I perceive as my sole domain reveal themselves to be the highways of many creatures who had an earlier start on the day than I. Once, I saw a fox hunting in a field of snow, appearing to launch itself straight up and then dive, nose first, through the several feet of powder. Over and over it leapt and dove, until finally, with no meal caught, it trotted off, slipping into the tree line. Another time, one afternoon in late autumn, silent, great wings swooping to a high tree limb stopped me in my tracks. I saw a great gray owl—in day¬time, no less. That rare sighting, my first, reminded me again that my daily hike is never the same hike twice.

A lifelong criminal justice professional and educator, Anne Buttimer teaches in the Criminal Justice program at Norwich, specializing in courses on criminal procedure, criminal law, and courts.

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