Well over 25 years ago, I hiked my first 4,000 footers - Mt. Lincoln and Lafayette. Those are the ones (like it has for so many other people) that hooked me to climbing a multitude of mountains since then. I've done this loop a total of 5 times already, this being my 6th, but hadn't hiked them in over 10 years. In some ways, it was like seeing an old familiar friend again. As I'm coming near the end of completing my 48, 4,000 footers, it also feels like I'm sort of coming full circle. To top off the whole hike, I took someone who has never hiked a 4k before. I was great to see the beauty of this special hike through his eyes as if it's my first time hiking them as well.
When s the last time you've taken care of yourself? This subject comes up, because some of the parts of this goal have helped me to gain confidence, self-discipline, and an overall better understanding of my physical limits. Many days I’ve forced myself to get up early, drive 3-4 hours, hike 10 or 11 miles, then drive back home the 3-4 hours again. This Sunday I was due to do the same thing by planning to hike Owl's head, an 18 mile slog, and recognized that my time was better off sleeping late, spending time with family, and re-assessing some things that needed it. I knew hike another day. There is indeed a fine line as to walking away from our goals too easily, and accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, but if we listen carefully, we can usually separate the two to come up with a logical reasoning that is the best thing for us in the long run.
With that said, and time taken to mentally and physically recuperate, I decided to hike Wildcat A. A firly steep, but sort of uneventful peak. My plans were also to finish my 48 on Wildcat D, it's cousin, not too far away. Long story short, I not only hiked A without issue, but felt so good, I pressed on to do Wildcats B, C, and D as well. Making a grand loop, and walking down the ski slope, then 3 miles up busy route 16 back to my car at 19 Mile brook. It felt SO good to push myself a bit, and try something a little unplanned. Sometimes those calculated risks we take in life are so fulfilling!
If I hadn't decided to take care of myself earlier by not hiking Owl's head, I would have never experienced this one. As for my last peak? I don't know. Bondcliff maybe?
After a false start on Saturday, I got my butt out of bed and hauled myself up to the Carter range to hike Mt. Moriah.
Have you ever come to a point during the completion of a goal, when you thought "What's the use?" or "Why on earth am I doing this?"
No? Yeah, I didn't think so.
So why do I keep going? Because I know that I will appreciate later, what I'm working hard with today. During a bout with major depression, I kept telling myself that it would be the best thing that ever happened to me. Did I feel like it during that depression? Oh hell no. After going through the depression, did I feel like it was the best thing that ever happened to me? Oh hell yes.
So I'll keep getting up early, and I'll keep hiking mountains. After it's done, It will be one of the best things that ever happened to me.
"Where did you come from? You just popped up from out of the blue. What do you want?"
"Nothing much, I just want to knock you down a few pegs before you get too full of yourself."
After completing Adams and Madison, without issue either the day of, or the next for that matter, I decided to tackle Cabot. I almost gloat about Adams and Madison not being a big deal, because they're two of the hardest peaks you can do. Supposedly brutal. They didn't turn out to be too bad, actually. Cabot, on the other hand, is supposed to be one of the easiest. Decent footing, just over 4,000 feet. Long ride, but a moderate, and easy climb. This is one of those peaks where people recommend it to others for their 1st 4k. Well, with all this easy talk in my head, I figured I would skip all the way up without a whimper and prance all the way back down. Then humility came to visit (see interaction above). This mountain kicked my ass. I simply wasn't ready, or prepared for it. I did it, but not without some disappointment in myself, and perhaps some creative cussing. I was reminded of a few very important things in this mountain.
1. Most of hiking is mental, not physical.
2. ALL the 4k's are hard. That's why people hike them. There are no easy ones. Easier than others, yes. Just plain easy? No.
3. Never get too full of yourself. You will take the fall. That's the way the universe works. You push, it pushes back. You flow, it flows.
A good lesson learned, and a promise to myself to never take any of these mountains or their difficulties for granted.
One week after completing Carter Dome, my legs still feeling it, I joyfully climb one of the hardest set of peaks in the Whites. Adams and Madison. Rocky, difficult, and over 5,000 feet of elevation gain. I simply ate them up, AND I woke up the next day feeling more alive and refreshed than ever. Not only have I been killing the 4k's, I've also been hiking locally every day. It's been energizing and a purposeful habit for sure. One I could use right about now. Hikers are also my tribe. Finding a tribe in life can be a long, slow, lonely process. When you do finally find your people though, watch out!
Who are the people in your neighborhood?
We ran into many kind hikers today, one who had undertaken this hike as her first in the White mountains. A daunting feat indeed! There's lots of people you meet on the trails. The new, and unprepared. The old and over-prepared. The uninformed (much like I was on my first summit so many years ago). And the experienced, willing to share their knowledge with the world about what they've learned hiking.
Another solo trip this round to another peak on the list. Carter Dome. This is a rugged and steep one for sure. My legs were aching a bit after climbing this summit. A lot on my mind lately, but I've certainly caught the hiking bug again. For the first time, I have a series of goals lined up for myself, and this one (the 48 by 50) is taking me by storm. I do have to admit, I like it. The long drive up, the long hike up the hill, and the seemingly even longer trip back home sometimes equals 14-16 hour days. Most of it I enjoy. Some of it I don't. But that's an important aspect of life. It isn't always going to be all roses. There are parts that suck. There is nothing you will enjoy doing all the time. Some things are hard and they suck. But it's those things that make you great. THOSE are the defining moments in your life that make the rest of it seem that much easier. The suck is what makes you great.
5 peaks in just over 2 weeks. I'm pleased, and I really think I'm going to get this done in time. Only 18 left. You know, life is really just about putting one foot in front of the other, isn't it? Eventually, we all get to where we need to be. One small step at a time. Sometimes we get lost and need to retrace our steps to find the path. Sometimes we just need to bushwhack through the shrubs and undergrowth, sometimes it's all uphill, and other times it's just a casual stroll. Most times, the walk is never quite as bad as we had envisioned it would be though. One step at a time. Forward, onward, and upward. Little by little.
With the help and encouragement of a friend, we banged out two more. This is another hike that had a frightening part to it. Blueberry ledge. The guidebook states as being "one of the most difficult in the Whites". I wasn't very intimidated by this one though, and I think there's two reasons behind that.
1. I've been on some tough hikes that didn't seem so tough after I finished them.
2. My friend was actually more petrified than me, so I went into "we can do this, no problem" mode to help her, much like so many people had done for me before.
My friend has done 44 of them now, and if she can keep doing these, scared or not, I know damn well I can as well.
A recent epiphany; being scared and excited are the same thing. Now every time I'm scared, I tell my self I'm excited. There's a lot of power and truth in those statements.
20 left, and about 6 months to do them, and you know what? I'm not scared, I'm excited.
That may actually be a great title for this hike. As with several before this (when will I learn?) I misled my self in thinking this would be a far harder hike than it actually was. I heard warnings of how tough and steep it was in the end. I was given warnings about the slide, and I exaggerated them. Fear has a way of doing that, making things sound worse than they really are. As with several other hikes, this one took a bit of relentless convincing to get up, but I did it. That seems to be a new theme to me in my life, and I'm not complaining. I didn't want to do it, but I did it.
Onward and upward. A little break from my last 4k, but now over the half-way mark, and the wind at my back, I'm newly energized for the completion. We picked another beautiful day for this one. February in the White mountains can be brutal. They can also be gentle and calm. We chose a wonderful, warm, and calm February day to do this one. I'm glad we did.
As with past hikes, having the company of a friend to share both the challenge and the victory of completion made a big difference.
Since the beginning of this venture, I've learned so much. I've learned so much in general from hiking, actually. One of the biggest is the act of self-discipline, and the concept of onward, and upward. Simply put, keep moving forward, and keep climbing. Life isn't all hiking the easy parts downward. I've also learned that we can still enjoy some of the suffering of life if we simply change our perspectives and attitudes. Keep on keeping on, folks.
Hello and welcome.