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For many years now, when summer enters its last weeks, my thoughts have turned to autumn hikes in the Great North Woods. I haven’t always been able to turn these thoughts to action. Sometimes good things have intruded, like trips to other fine walking places. Sometimes bad, or at least unexciting, stuff has got in the way — an injured knee, the demands of work. But often enough I’ve scraped together a few days and set off to hike the magical landscape of a northern fall.
I’m not sure that the Great North Woods are a precise place, but their location is clear enough in my mind. They’re up there, beyond the sprawling cities and suburbs, up where the press of civilization is lighter and nature still dominates the shape and rhythm of things. In New England, the North Woods can be found from Vermont to Maine. But for me, more than any other place, they have come to mean New Hampshire’s White Mountains.