Luke is one of three top-scoring high school students in this year’s Writing about Place. He is a student at Newburgh Free Academy and studies English with Virginia McCurdy. Luke and his classmates will hike Mount Beacon in May. You can read winning elementary school poems here, a MS essay here, and learn about other middle grade and high school winners here. Check back for more student essays in the coming weeks.
Let me take you to a place of excitement, wonder, and breathtaking sights. Where the cool wind flows like water through the trees and the smell of the earth swallows you as you take more and more steps further into this beautiful place. What is this place?
This place is Mount Beacon, located in our very own Hudson Valley. Each day, many people come to climb this mountain for a number of reasons, such as exercise, wonder, pleasure, you name it. No matter what reason, the experience fills you with amazement each time. Let’s begin our climb, shall we?
This climb will take us to the overlook at the old casino ruins. The first challenge to this climb begins at a set of about 200 stairs, which, believe me, is a WORKOUT. If you are not used to getting a little dirty and sweaty, this climb will pull you right out of your comfort zone. As you gasp for air at the top of these stairs, you can peek your head over the lush greenery, you can already see a small view and you’re getting much higher off the ground.
This was the spot where my little brother Christian on his first time up Mount Beacon was already asking, “How much faaaaartherrrr, and are we there yet?” Then I would tease Christian by saying, ” Come on Christian, a baby could climb faster than you.” Christian would roll his eyes and then continue up the trail, and I think that comment I said gave him that little burst of energy he needed to get to the top and prove me wrong and how he’s definitely NOT a baby. Let us continue our climb.
By now the scent of the earth has caught your nose and the mud has definitely caught your boots. Each step through those small patches of muddy ground can be heard by their little *squish* *squash* *squish* *squash* and you can feel the mud suck on your boots as you try and lift your foot off the ground for another step. ” Ewww.” Christian would say. Not too far along the trail comes a few stretches of rocks. “Watch your steps,” Mom would say. And she was right.
Any wrong step and you could easily injure yourself either by tripping and falling on one of the rocks or rolling your ankle on one of them. Any of these would hurt really bad, and an injury at this point in the trail is NOT good. You would need to hobble down the steep trail through the mud: *squish* *squish* *squish*, and then limp down the 200 some odd number of stairs putting yourself at risk of a major injury. So please, watch your step. It is a hard trek up the long stretches of rocks with the *click* *clock* of your boots and many times I sit down and take a rest. Where? On the rocks of course! The rocks on the side of a trail provide a perfect area to sit down and catch your breath.
Further and further up the trail you go, if you turn around while taking a breather, you can look beyond the dense trees to see a great view. You’re getting closer! As you plod up the mountain, you feel the sweat run down your face like rain on a car window. You climb higher and breathe heavier, inhale the crisp, cool, clean mountain air. Your feet pound through the earth, hopping over small muddy areas, jumping over large rocks, searching for any and every crease in the earth that will give you a surface to push off from.
Soon enough, you reach the overlook and my oh my, what a beautiful sight! “You can see everything from up here!” Christian and I would say. For a short while as we eat our granola bars and apples and drink our water, we would all point out familiar things we see across the river in Newburgh. “Look, its Broadway!” “Look, it’s the hospital!” “Look, its Billy Joe’s!” This is one of my favorite parts of the trip, looking over our familiar, yet different in perspective, hometown called Newburgh.
That’s it, right? No! If you still have that last bit of energy in your body, I’ll take you up to the fire tower right at the top of the mountain. Oh, relax! It’s not too far anyways, you’ll live. Come on, let’s continue our journey.
Back on the trail again, only this time, the trail is much more flat. Yet as you continue further up the trail to the fire tower, the terrain starts to become more rough, rocky, and steep. But this wont stop you from getting to the top. You keep charging your feet into the earth each rigorous step you take. Your heart races again, giving you the compelling feeling of wanting to climb more and more as you journey up the mountain. The feeling of success and accomplishment runs through your mind and body as you take the last steps up to the top of the fire tower.
Then everything stops, and the pounding pulse in your ear seems to fade away as you gaze upon beauty. Your jaw drops and you ask yourself, “This whole time, I was missing all this?”
You find yourself staring at just about the entire Hudson Valley, and even a part of New York City. You feel like you’re on top of the world, looking out at this historical gem of an area you call home, this beautiful place many know as the Hudson Valley.