A few notes…this is long overdue! I haven’t blogged since July, because I’ve been busy having fun. But this was too awesome not to blog about, so let’s travel back in time! Also, you should grab a beverage or a snack, this is going to be a long one.
Long before it started to feel like summer around here, I was thinking about what I was going to put on my Summer 2013 To Do List (which I never shared here, please forgive me). I can’t remember what first inspired the idea, but hiking Mt Washington in New Hampshire was at the very top of that list. I didn’t know if Pete would be interested, but I knew my friend Mark would be – Mark is an avid hiker and probably the person most responsible for my realization, about six years ago, that I love to hike. Most importantly, Mark is a “yes guy”. As in:
Sarah: Hey, I’m thinking about doing this crazy/random/adventurous/weird thing…you interested?
Mark: YES, of course.
I knew that all I needed to do to make Mt Washington happen was to plant the seed of thought in Mark’s head, so at some point a few months back I mentioned to him in passing that it was on my Summer To Do List….and Mark said YES! And then our friend Erica said “HELL YES!”. And that is how this came about:
Much like my trip to Melbourne, there are heaps of photos (see all of them here) and I could tell you stories about our trip for hours, but I’m going to (try to) spare you and take the “things I don’t want to forget” approach:
- We stopped for gas and snacks just after getting off of Route 3 in the White Mountains, at a podunk general store. We were so focused on trying to decide what exactly we each wanted to snack on, that it took us a while to notice that the photos plastered all over the wall? They were 8.5×11 printouts of pro-gun slogans/photos/memes. Covering Every. Inch. of wall space that wasn’t dedicated to displaying product. This is one of the signs that was just next to the door.
- We decided to drive to NH on Wednesday after work and stay overnight about fifteen minutes from the base of the mountain, so that we could get an early start without having to get up before dawn. We got to the hotel around 10:30 and as we were checking in we asked if the pool was still open. The kid checking us in pretty quickly replied “no”, so I asked what the pool hours were, knowing it was unlikely that it would be open before we were planning to leave the next morning, but figuring it was worth checking. That’s when our young friend backtracked a bit…”well, technically it’s open until eleven, but you won’t have enough time.” CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, young sir! It took us less than ten minutes to finish checking in, get to our room, change into bathing suits, and get ourselves to the pool. And then we enjoyed twenty glorious minutes of swimming and splashing and hot tubbing, before someone came to clean up and close down the pool. Erica and I are pretty convinced that if we had hidden Mark somewhere, we could have flirted and convinced the kid to let us stay longer.
- It is so surreal at the summit! You have this grueling three hour hike, scrambling up boulders and picking your way through boulder fields…and then there are all these cars and people in flip flops drinking Starbucks iced coffees all over the place! And full on civilization. We were shopping at the gift shop! We had cell service! We mailed postcards! We bought lunch at a cafeteria! You launch straight back out of the wilderness (on trails where death is not that small of a possibility) and back into civilization with the snap of your fingers…and then you hop back on a trail and it’s gone again in a few minutes.
- Trail names! We had Bruiser (surprisingly, not my trail name!), Frenchy, and Cai (that one’s me) to start…we added “Rob”, Viagra, and He Who Has No Trail Name after making friends at Lakes of the Clouds.
- Speaking of making friends – that was easily one of my favorite parts of the trip! Lakes is a hut run by the Appalachian Mountain Club that is around 1,000 ft below the summit of Mt Washington. And it’s amazing. They feed you a crazy delicious family style dinner and breakfast, have bunk rooms (with mattress and pillow provided), and bathrooms with cold running water. The bunk rooms sleep between 10-15 people per room, I think – ours had 5 sets of triple bunks. And ours was, obviously, where all the cool kids were. We LOVED the people we met in our bunk room and had tons of fun getting to know them, generally harassing them by giving them trail names they didn’t want (I don’t know why he’s not proud to be Viagra!), and forcing them into playing crazy eights with us past lights out (or “poor man’s Uno”, as our new English friend Rob – trail name “Rob” – dubbed it).
- Post-hike swimming (in the lakes for which Lakes of the Clouds hut is named). It started with just soaking our feet in the cold water. Then Mark went in wearing his boxers. Then Erica was convinced to go in wearing her tank top and underwear. Then I was convinced to go in wearing my capris and sports bra (and heart rate monitor…oops! No worries – it still works). It was pretty awesome, despite how cold the water was. Later, while playing crazy eights, we were talking about our respective swims and Rob commented “I felt like that swim really put hair on my chest. Like I could actually feel it growing when I jumped in” and I was all “Oh my God! ME TOO!” ;)
- We made friends on the trails, too – I love that it’s so natural in that environment. When you’re all bumping into each other hiking around a mountain, it seems like everyone is super nice and ready to chat. We met Joanna, who was participating in Seek the Peek, along Lions Head Trail on our way up. She and I chatted for a while as we picked our way through the boulder fields – about the mountain, hiking, and how lucky she is to live with the White Mountains in her backyard. Then we ran into her again at the summit – she’s the one that took the first photo in this post! On our second day, we bumped into two parents looking for their kids. We chatted with them about what trails they were hiking and what we were doing and then went on our way. We ran into them again later, after they had reunited with their kids (who aren’t really kids – they’re in college) and were chatting again. As we were heading past them, their daughter looked at Erica and I and said “hey, it’s the crazy eights girls”. Maybe we were a little rowdy?
- This conversation highlighting my complete lack of US History knowledge:
Erica: “Pierce – was he a president?”
Sarah: “If it wasn’t on West Wing, I don’t know!”
- Fog, fog, fog. You guys, there was so. much. fog. While I love getting to the top of a mountain and seeing the sweeping views you are rewarded with…there’s something pretty awesome about hiking in the fog, too. It’s eerie and awesome and gross and beautiful all at once.