Nighttime Mountain Soundtrack Drive
Tired, dehydrated, setting sun, the trailhead behind you, your bed two hours south. Route 16 the beeline. Somewhere between the cramp and the driver's seat is earned muscle, tense but easing in for the long ride home.
The car air is stale, heat trapped from an afternoon in a dirt parking lot. The particles of dread and excitement you exuded this morning are finally released into the now cooler atmosphere of the cloud-covered mountains. The drive is a challenge harder than the thigh-busting trek you just accomplished, over peaks and under trees, down to the last minute of sunlight, pink at the roots of the forest to your back. Your car is only visible because the moon says hello, just to make sure you can find your seat.
And then the clouds cover it right up.
It's still hot and humid. It's always hot and humid and somehow the biting things still flail around your sweat-dried face, but when gravel grinds beneath you and the cloudy highway air whips into your window, you're on the summit again, arms out, wet wind slapping your face but holding its hand there, feeling your cheek as if to remember you.
You feel pretty good for a moment and you need appropriate music to soundtrack your way home. “Carry On” was a magical carpet ride up. “Rejoice! Rejoice! We have no choice, but to carry on.” Sunrise straight ahead, muscling up Chocorua, but now Chocorua no longer exists. Like its namesake, it's fallen into blackness.
“Hello darkness, my old friend.” The only light is your high beams exposing a sliver of pavement ahead of you and the little blue letters shining off your dashboard, spelling out “Sound of Silence.” Now is not the time for happy songs. You need something terrifying. Those spooky harmonies. Dreamy, lonely lyrics. The traditional structure with just enough wrong with it to make you roll the windows all the way down, letting all the spooky vibes out into the night.
Campfires and citronella whisper through the winds. Specks of both flicker now and then, whether candles or logs aflame. Like stars in the hills. Like any good trail's end, it's always just around the bend. There's still more to go, but you can hear a car driving by. Or you swear it – could have been the leaves rustling.
The clouds are pressed right atop the car, like an Algernon Blackwood spirit. It might be cliffsides where trees used to be. You might be in the bottom of a coal mine, your cramped bent body in the bucket, your lifeline snapped. But you have dug this hole before and the fresh air is an exclamation of victory, that it's all a mirage and you were there today and now you are here, and the moon is just on the other side of this highway.
In your driveway, welcoming you. And then, only then, will it seem appropriate to change the soundtrack to less daunting chords. Perhaps the radio turned low, something safe and familiar. But in these final miles you've been content with silence, the shine of the moon bouncing off the hood through the windshield, and the always unexpected, but welcome splash of light as you ceremoniously click your key from the ignition. And creak your joints to the front porch, dreading those few stairs, the moonlight following you in.