Saturday, May 10, 2008
The Deception of the Mountains in Spring
Spring is definitely making itself known in northern New England. The last snow patch beside our driveway should be gone by suppertime.
My urge to be up in the mountains is powerful but it will still be a few more weeks before the trails are ready for visitors.
Last year about this time, Ethan and two of his friends decided that they wanted to backpack during the week prior to their college graduation. Their plan was to hike the Mahoosuc Range. They drove up from Massachusetts late the night before their planned hike and somehow Archie convinced me that he should be able to skip a few days of school and go with them.
The Mahoosuc Range is a 30 mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail from Gorham, New Hampshire to Grafton Notch, Maine and the 1 mile stretch through Mahoosuc Notch is considered the most difficult mile of the entire 2000 mile trail. The boys woke up early and drove themselves to the trailhead with my promise to pick them up 3 days later in Grafton Notch. C had researched the trail conditions on line and warned them that there was still 3 feet of rotten snow, blowdowns across the trail and raging river crossings due to the snow melt. Young men between the ages of 16 and 22 are not easily deterred but I wish that I had exerted parental influence over the one of them that was still a minor.
So, they set off on a Monday morning. I had a busy work week but had my cell phone with me and on all the time. On Tuesday afternoon, it rang as I was in a meeting. I left the room and heard Ethan's crackling voice say "Mom, the trail is really bad and Archie's in trouble."
To understand the impact of those words you would have to know Ethan. He is the oldest of four siblings. He is the most responsible brother in the world and he loves and fiercely protects his mother. He would not have told me something that would scare me to death unless things were really bad. Ethan had little battery on his cell phone and poor reception but he told me that they all had inadequate clothing for the terrible conditions and that they were all experiencing symptoms of hypothermia. He was looking at the map and hoped to be able to get off the ridge before going through the "Notch."
My helplessness and terror in the face of that phone call was only balanced by my belief in Ethan's ability to take care of everyone. They did manage to get off the ridge the next morning and were picked up with warm clothes, blankets and soup by my father while I was in court with a mother who was surrendering her parental rights--there's irony there, I'm sure.
The story of that harrowing experience is for him to tell and I hope he will write about it soon on his new blog.