Those of us that love this quaint valley see something that others don’t.

Waterville Valley isn’t for everyone. The ski mountain is small, trails are short with crowds at the base and season passes are expensive. There isn’t a lot to do in this little New Hampshire town and dining options are few. Shopping in town square is an exercise in tourist crap and aside from the opportunity to buy a sweatshirt if the weather turns, you might not find what you need. There is a deli, small convenience store and once upon a time there was a wonderful little coffee shop, but that is gone.

Still, when my ex and I divorced in 2006 after 18 years of marriage and roughly ten years of winters and summers in the valley, I was wild with grief; this place had been home to me. The condo was not part of my settlement. Waterville Valley held me with her solitude and beauty and calmed the chaos of my crazy-town marriage.

Though I attempted once or twice, return visits were painful. I might drive through town after a hike in Franconia Notch, perhaps even drop in to see a friend or two, but I had to be heading home within an hour. The reminder of all I had lost remained sharp and unrelenting for years.

I eventually moved to Colorado in 2010 and years later finally took up an offer from friends who insisted I come for a visit and stay in their guesthouse. Thanks to that invitation, I began my new relationship with the valley, this time as visitor.

Those of us that love this quaint valley see something that others don’t.

We see a place where our children made friends, roamed freely, where the hiking and cross country trails felt endless. We knew when to ski which trails in the morning and which ones were better after they softened in the afternoon sun. Sure the mountain was small, but that meant we ran into our friends and felt like we skied with family. Especially if your children skied with BBTS ski school (Black and Blue Trail Smashers) and you ate ramen noodles heated up in the microwave for lunch in the clubhouse.

The very fact that there was nothing to do meant we paid attention to the important stuff. No movie theater, no mall to shop, and at the time, no cell phone service in most areas meant. Social gatherings were primarily outdoors.

We hiked, skied both cross country and alpine, swam and took yoga, and skated in the winter once or twice, and held family nights. Nights involved potluck while the kids played games outside in the park behind my condo.

This was where I made some of the best friends of my life to this day. There is the tiny hill I learned to use my edges on with my cross country skies.That’s the trail Chris and I spent so much time stopping and talking on while skiing, that we suddenly had to book it home before darkness fell.

That is the restaurant where we frequently enjoyed a night out and almost always ran into a friend. This is the condo which kept the rest of the world, ‘real life’ at bay.

Home was a western suburb of Boston. It was a place I knew I didn’t belong. I wasn’t sure I belonged anywhere in those days, but Waterville Valley, yes, oh yes, there I belonged.

Summers included impromptu dinners, swimming at the Eddy or dunks in the Mad River, hikes all over New Hampshire, hikes with a group of women who talked and talked when we set out, but who on the way home, became quiet after shedding hiking boots, stretching out legs and looking out the car window watching the sun dip low and the summer shadows prepare for evening.

Route 49 is the road I always associate with a song by the Indigo Girls, “Get Out the Map.” The first time I heard the song, it was the end of August and I driving to Plymouth on 49. Soon it would be time to return to my suburban home in a town I knew I didn’t belong in. I dreaded the end of summer.

These lyrics spoke to me, “Why do we hurtle ourselves through every inch of time and space?I must say around some corner, I can sense a resting place.”

There would be homework for the girls, carpools, interacting with people who were always busy, so busy, so living on the surface, people asking for plans, or demanding attention. My solitude and peace would be shattered. In fact, on my first few encounters after I returned, I was often confused. Where was everyone going in such a hurry? Why was there no time to watch a sunset?

I would be homesick for the quiet of the valley, the easy company of my Waterville girlfriends and our glass of wine and maybe French fries and steak after a hike. But eventually I would succumb to the schedule of my life in suburbia.

When I return today, I am intoxicated by the smell of the forest. The deciduous trees have more variety than Colorado with maple, birch, and oak. The bubbling brooks and the smell of decaying fall leaves, the moisture that creates moss on rocks, all these things whisper to my heart.

What excites me today is how much hasn’t changed, though some trails have shifted thanks to Hurricane Irene back in 2011. I think we all long for spaces that haven’t become unrecognizable despite the unraveling of time.

I learned to ski in Waterville Valley, took my first real hike here, my first yoga class. My first bike as an adult was a mountain bike and though it took me a few weeks to become strong enough, eventually I climbed up the road to the ski area parking lot on those big tires. The speed of my descent terrified me.

The mountains, a hard packed dirt trail, trees showering the ground with leaves in fall, the sound of a busy river and long shadows of late afternoon. This, yes this, is home. This, the outdoors, is where I belong. This has not changed.