As we come up the ridge the fog thickens. Our headlights burn dimly through the milky-white morning and visibility is down to something less than 500 feet. Out of the soup, on the side of the road, a shack takes form then quickly recedes again, like some strange specter. Walden’s Ridge, when the fog is thick, seems to be made of cloud. Or perhaps it is part of the clouds, the massive waves of mist breaking free of the forest and rising up through the trees, rejoining the sky.
But by the time we reach our survey site the fog is burning off and the barren clearcut has come into view. We put on our packs, set our GPS coordinates, and start the walk down the valley toward the creek. Once at the bottom we will start back up again. This will be repeated, up and down, back and forth, until we are out of time or stamina or both.
The work is hard and dangerous, though not as dangerous here as it will become elsewhere. There are sheer bluffs to be scaled and then descended again. The terrain is steep and rocky at best, impassable at worst. Yet the forest, a second or third-growth mix of oak, maple, poplar, and hemlock remains majestic, punctuated by rocky falls and cliffs.
We return to our lunch, the photos no longer as enchanting. When we are about to move on I leave a bit of apple for the turtle. It moves its head slightly, but that is all. Soon it will be dead. But we have other things to worry about.