Poetry Illuminates the New England National Scenic Trail

By Charles Tracy

Hikers on the New England National Scenic Trail (NET) in 2013 may have discovered something unexpectedly glowing. The Hespera Stones, a temporary sculptural installation inscribed with poetry from Emily Dickinson, quietly greeted visitors as they explored the NET along the Mt. Holyoke Range in Skinner State Park in Hadley, Massachusetts. The three successive stones were placed alongside the shaded path, gradually revealing the lines and stanzas of Emily Dickinson's "The Mountains Stood In Haze". As artist Christopher Frost describes in the accompanying video, the look of these softly glowing stones is a combination of green technology and sculpture--the stones were cast with embedded LEDs and powered by solar panels hidden within the trees.

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The Hespera Stones exemplify the NET's goal to be a national model for advancing the arts in the interpretation of national scenic trails. The project is strongly aligned with National Park Service's Relevancy, Diversity and Inclusion (RDI) initiative--using the arts to celebrate the experience of parks and trails and to invite new audiences.

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Christopher Frost's previous work includes art in national and state parks in Massachusetts, including Boston National Historical Park, Bradley Palmer State Park and Maudslay State Park. In consultation with park and trail managers at the Appalachian Mountain Club, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the National Park Service, Frost chose the scenic Holyoke Range as the site for the installation. The Hespera Stones were located near Taylor Notch—an area noted for its long-distance views and popularity with NET hikers. The project was funded by the Fund for the Arts, a restricted fund of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible by generous support from anonymous donors.

Charles Tracy is the Trail Administrator for the New England National Scenic Trail