Don’t I wish! Clint and I just returned from an adventurous 3 day hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, superbly guided by folks at the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). If you’ve ever thought of going on a scenic hike in the mountains, read on…. this is a tale of ‘girl challenges mountain and the mountain nearly won’!
What was I thinking?!! A perky jaunt over well trodden trails to peaks revealing breathtaking vistas….. just the thing to challenge our aging frames? My aim was to get us out of our “comfort zone”, meet some like-minded people, and enjoy the summer mountain air. Let me say, Heidi I’m not – I totally misjudged my capacity for uphill hiking. Our comfort zone was stretched beyond all recognition and my short little legs quivered like licorice sticks by the time we arrived at our hut on the second day. Clint’s previously broken leg actually stood up really well – I was wishing I had some of that titanium riveted in mine on a few occasions (not really).
Day One saw our group of 12 happy hikers (plus two AMC guides) backpacks loaded, smiling and anxious to step off on our adventure. Our first day’s climb was graded moderate, but it was monumental to me. We traversed narrow trails overgrown with roots to trip your feet and large boulders to test one’s ability to lift your body weight up and over obstacles. Two hours + of heading uphill past towering pines and tumbling waterfalls brought us to Lonesome Lake, an oasis of beauty well worth the muscle strain to see. We even had enough energy left to walk a wooden planked trail for a few miles around the lake. – beautiful.
The AMC organization and the hut system are nothing short of fantastic! Every person we encountered was friendly, smiling, optimistic, competent and knowledgeable about the ecosystems of the White Mountains. If you need a jolt of enthusiasm for life, this is a great place to get it. The huts are entirely off the grid, using solar and wind power for electricity, cold water only, and composting for waste. Anything you bring in, you’d better take out – and whatever you put on your plate, you’d better be able to eat!! A hut staff of 5 young (strong) crew members tend to the needs of 45 overnight guests every day, plus numerous day hikers. They pack in the food supplies on their backs and pack out all the trash each week. – a VERY impressive operation! Dinner and breakfast were delicious, and oh, did I mention they put on hilarious skits to entertain everyone – WOW. Lights out at 9:30 pm – no problem.
Day Two we rose a bit sore but ready for our quick descent down the mountain. “BTW, did we mention, today’s hike would be twice as long… and TWICE AS STEEP as yesterday?” Really…..Is that possible?? OMG yes !!! I think I’m in trouble :< There was a mad scramble to empty out backpacks and leave every possible non-necessity behind – who needs clean clothes when it has to be hauled up a steep mountain on your back?
About 2 hours of the vertical climb was all the stamina I came equipped with. Can we just call for a helicopter to put an end to this misery?? I’m hot, sweaty, exhausted, and I can’t even complain… this trip was MY idea. Thanks to the patient and substantial moral support given by Clint, Nancy and Nate, in another 2 hours I reached the summit without stroking out – thank goodness (besides I wouldn’t want to even see the helicopter lift bill). The views at Greenlefe Hut were tremendous and spiritually uplifting. We were blessed with a cloudless day and could see forever. Nightfall brought a stunning sunset and scrumptious meal.
Day Three – With two days of strenuous hiking behind us, our little group had developed friendships quickly. The trail was alive with chatter and laughter as we made our way down the mountainside. Although tricky in places, it was such a relief not to be climbing uphill, that no one minded a slippery rock or two on the way down. As we stopped at a scenic outcrop to catch our breaths, we were reluctant to get going again as it meant our adventure was coming to an end.
So what did I learn in our time spent in the care of the Appalachian Mountain Club?
#1 – The mountains are filled with energetic, optimistic, friendly folks who want nothing more than to share the beauty of the White Mountains National Park with you. Immersing yourself in an environment where there are no TV shows, network news or politics is incredibly refreshing.
#2 – It’s a good thing to challenge yourself beyond your day-to-day norm (after checking with your Doctor), and if you’re like me, you may be amazed at what you can accomplish with a bit of (make that a lot of) encouragement.
#3 – life is short, if you don’t add adventure to it, who will???
I hope you will visit the AMC website as it is filled with great information and activities for every level of adventurer, from families with small and/or teenage children, singles looking for like-minded folks to hike with, couples and friends looking to chart their own course, and camps for every age (even adults). The new Highland Center built at Crawford Notch is amazing – a bustling hub of outdoor programs. If you live in New England, get off your butt and see what the mountains have to offer – there’s a whole other world up there.
And to Nancy Ritger, AMC Senior Interpretive Naturalist – you are a national treasure! Thank you for the level of enthusiasm and knowledge you share with everyone you meet.