Woman. Wife. Mother. Friend. Sister. Business Owner. Designer. Photographer. Type-A A** Kicker. House Renovator. Seeker of Useless Knowledge. Goal Crusher. Hiker.
This blog has been a long time coming (with so many topics available)…and it may just be for me, or my kids to read some day, or hopefully a few will find this a helpful start to seeking their own adventures or answers to health questions. My ultimate goal is to have a place where I journal all of my hiking adventures and create an easy way for others to start hiking in NH and beyond….Because they have helped me find my happy place and I hope they can do the same for someone else.
I started hiking in October of 2016 (yes, just a few months before starting this blog)….to summarize, hiking was not something I thought would become my love. The story starts with a really bad first hike with my mom on Mount Hight in 1996. A few weeks prior to my high school graduation, my mom and I went to hike my first big mountain. I remember now that I was wearing what must be the dumbest hiking outfit, with the least prepared pack and I want to scream at my mother for being so irresponsible. Clearly she didn’t know what she was doing at that point in her life in terms of the trail. I started the hike in gap boxer shorts (I remember them being very cute) with a cotton tank top and a tissue thin cotton long sleeve shirt. It was pretty warm on the bottom and when you are a teenager you also think you are warmer than you are!
First mistake…we planned on hiking a different mountain (and this pre-dates cell phones), so no one knew where we were now that we changed our plan. Changing the mountain also meant we didn’t have trail maps…again, very, very bad! We started our hike and thought how strange it was that the trails were so wet and we had to cross so many rivers (I now know hiking in the spring means the melting of snow and extra waters….little streams become full on rivers). We laughed and thought we were on quite an adventure. As we got into the higher elevation we started seeing a little bit of snow, then more snow and then we were in very deep snow. We still were having fun but we did loose some of our steam. Nearing the summit we had to start climbing….and this meant bare hands in the snow pulling ourselves up a steep climb to the summit. Once on the top (4675′ elevation), I don’t even remember enjoying the view….I was so very cold. The wind was ripping and my hands must have been frostbit. My mom started worrying….again, big mistake was the panic that led to future bad decisions. There was a sign for a hut….I now know this would have been a 2 mile trek….but mom said we had to get help. She was panicking big time. As we started our trek towards the hut we went across a wooded ledge…at this point my mom and I were falling knee deep into the snow (with just sneakers, ankle socks, and shorts)…and the point when it all turned bad was when my mom fell into her waist. My mom started singing amazing grace somewhere along this pass….when I joined in, I knew that I was giving up. I honestly thought at one point I was going to die up here. My mom decided we couldn’t go any further in the snow….she wanted us to go back to the top of Mount Hight and take shelter under a rock cave that was up there….she thought that soon we would be missed and someone would try to find us. AGAIN…how dumb! First of all, my parents had recently separated so there was no one waiting for us at home to know we were missing (maybe my younger brother eventually), and secondly we didn’t go anywhere near the mountain we were originally going to hike (I may be remembering incorrectly but I think she wanted to hike Mount Washington…can you hear me giggling!?!?….at least on that mountain there would have been people to tell us we were not equipped and to turn back). So after a few very cold moments on the top of Mount Hight she decided that we needed to try to head back down. I am not sure where it comes into play in this story but my mom had slipped and hurt her ankle…so I remember having to help her down and have her lean on me on our trip down. We made it off the mountain without any injuries….shockingly(!!!) in the dark (without headlamps, of course)…I don’t really understand how that miracle happened now that I know what I know…especially with soaking wet sneakers the entire day due to the earlier river crossings. There was one more sour spot to the day at the end of the hike that I will share at a later point in time but suffice to say, I decided hiking was not my thing.
Whammy number 2 to the possibilities of hiking are that I suffer from chronic lyme disease….so any forest activities were a no-no in my book. I definitely didn’t want to hang out anywhere these crawling creatures thrived.
I had been on two other hikes since that first hike…I went with a friend and hiked garfield (Im 99.9% sure that was the mountain)…I liked it but it wasn’t something I wanted to do anytime soon…and I hiked Mount Chocorua with my brother. Now this hike I liked but several factors led to it not being as great as it could have been. First and foremost, I had no idea how many calories I was burning…and I didn’t eat or drink properly….Secondly, my brother and I practically ran the Piper Trail….roundtrip of under 4 hours. So coupled with not eating I was exhausted. But this time the view got me. I had a really good time….but it was heading into winter and it wasn’t something I was going to do in the winter and definitely not by myself.
Fast forward to 2016…I visited the Colorado for my daughter’s soccer nationals…every day my plan was to see a new mountain…because you could drive to the top of so many, every day I drove a new mountain (sometimes two) for the 5 days I was there. Driving in Colorado is a surreal experience…the land is so flat and you can see mountains in the distance on all sides of you. Every day I would find myself tearing up while driving because I had never experienced such beauty. At the top of the mountains, I felt such awe and amazement for the wonder of this world and I wanted to see more. When I got back, I was a little disappointed in the white mountains (now I find this silly)…but they seemed like babies compared to Colorado. But my yearning to experience that feeling of awe and wonder again had me itching to try hiking. A friend of mine and I had talked about going hiking…she had done Mount Major recently and we wanted a girls day activity. We decided on Mount Chocorua because of its proximity to us and I felt safe hiking on our own on a mountain I know I had climbed and succeeded. Being the leader instead of a follower was a different experience. I went at a comfortable (though Jenna would say fast) pace and it was what they call a blue bird day. We were the only car in the lot for a weekday in the fall and had the mountain to ourselves. My favorite moment was when I reached what I knew was the false summit and waited for Jenna to get to me….when I pointed to the real summit and told her we had to get up there….my very reserved friend said with a shocked face “up there, okay….okay….okay, if you say so”. I told her she must get to the top and find the marker….which once she got to the top she thought it was a sign not a small medallion in the rock. We did meet a man at the top who took a photo for us who had come up a different trail. The top of Chocorua is exhilarating….it feels like a much larger mountain than it is because it is a rocky summit and pretty solitary. On our return down we ran into some humans, a few snakes and made it to the car in about 4.5 hours from the start of our journey. This time I was bitten by the bug. I couldn’t wait to plan my next hike….and then I learned that there were lists and patches!!!! What?!?! Give this girl a goal and she is going to step to it.
When accessing my hiking goals, I thought the NH48 was going to be too much to take on right away….first off, I knew I was going to be hiking alone a lot. So I set my goal for the 52 WAV (52 with a view patch….which really has 53 mountains on it). It was my 38th birthday when I officially started the list and I hoped to have it done for my 40th….little did I realize that my need to hike became more infectious with each hike. I was officially half way done with my list in just 2 months. Every week I hope to get 2 days out there with a lucky 3 day week once in a while. Fortunately when I hike with people I work on the drive so I am able to get out more than just once a week when I have a heavy work load. I also give up sleep in order to get all of my work done to hike…I will do anything to get out on the trail now!
So for my birthday this year…I had a lofty 3 mountain goal on poorly marked trails that led to me getting severely lost…BY MYSELF…with little to no cell service…that eventually led to a dead cell battery….and finally I made it out of the woods 18 miles from my car. With the only way to get back to my car was to hike aimlessly to try to find the trail or hitch hike. I chose hitch hike! You would think my adventure to earning a hiking patch would have ended on its first day. Shockingly, I was determined to have at it again 2 days later and reaffirmed my new love.
Hiking is like a first boyfriend…or maybe a hard-core drug (I have never tried one so I couldn’t say for sure)….I can’t stop thinking about it….I get off of a mountain and start planning when my next hike can be and where I will go….It makes me smile and light up inside….
I am a crazy busy person…because I want to be. I am a hard-worker who wakes up and starts right in and works until 12/1am in the morning. I am always working, perfecting, finding new projects to work on….my brain is going 24 hours a day. I don’t sleep well without sleeping pills because I can’t shut my brain down. There is this non-stop noise in my head….
THE ONLY TIME MY BRAIN IS QUIET IS IN THE MOUNTAINS….There is a calm that takes over my body…I forget about my kids, my house duties, my responsibilities, work, worries, stresses, it all goes blank. I didn’t know I could experience what I truly believe is ZEN….Its the air, the freedom, the smell of clean earth…OH, AND THE VIEW! There is nothing more incredible than when you reach the summit and everything gets so small….you get so small….everything else is so insignificant in that moment. I hear Ray Charles’ rendition of America the Beautiful every time I summit. I equate hiking mountains like childbirth….you work really really hard on the way….there are moments where you feel you couldn’t push any harder…and then you make it….and you can’t believe you did it…YOU DID IT!!!!! Its incredible, its beautiful….that moment is pure bliss. Its love, its wonder, its amazement…its every good thought and experience rolled into one moment. And then you have to go back down….for those that have birthed children I equate this to after childbirth when they start pushing on your stomach to get the afterbirth…there is pain, fatigue, but I always feel amazed at what I accomplished.
I hope this blog inspires you to find your own zen…wherever that may be…happy trails!