Friday, July 10, 2009
Somewhere off to the southwest of Mt. Willey where Molly and I hiked on monday is the least of the New Hampshire 4000 footers called Mt. Tecumseh. I know that it is a true favorite of Tom and Atticus--they (well, Tom, I presume) wrote about it here. I have never climbed it and tomorrow, I think, will be the day.
There are 67 mountains above 4000 feet in New England. 48 of them are in New Hampshire, 14 are in Maine and 5 are in Vermont. In my younger days, I climbed some of them and some of those many times (Washington, Camels Hump and Mansfield) but that was before I began the quest--so anything that I climbed before June 21, 2005, does not count.
On the morning of June 21, 2005, I was on the last day of a short vacation in North Conway, New Hampshire, with Molly and Archie. We had driven over and stayed in a hotel for a couple of nights while the kids took a rock climbing course with International Mountain Climbing School.
That last morning, we sat in a Friendly's restaurant eating breakfast and I gave Molly and Archie a couple of options of what we could do with our day--a water park or go for a hike. They both immediately said they wanted to go climb Mt. Washington. Well, I had climbed Mt. Washington several times but not in recent years and, in fact, I wasn't really in very good shape for climbing up the tallest mountain in the northeast--especially as an impetuous decision over pancakes--but, OK!!
So, we drove to the trailhead and headed up. They beat me up by a good margin but waited at the top and then we headed down--they beat me down by a long shot, too, but by the time we met at the car I knew that I would find the peace and healing and strength that I had been looking for in the mountains.
Molly had her learner's permit and so I let her drive home since my legs were very sore--we took a shortcut down a road (and I use the word loosely) called the Jefferson Notch Road. It was full of huge potholes and our little VW Jetta bottomed out several times. Between my exhaustion and Molly's inexperience, we did not notice the oil light. We had ruptured the oil pan on a pothole. The engine seized and that was the end of the VW Jetta. But, that worked out too--I decided to buy a car better suited to my new life as a lady of the mountains and we picked out a Ford Escape.
A few weeks later, I climbed up to Mt. Madison by myself. It was the first time that I had hiked alone and it was fine--I really liked it. A few weeks after that I climbed Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln--Ethan and Molly went with me on that long hike--although they were jackrabbits who I only saw at pre-arranged catchup spots. Not long after that I hiked Mt. Jefferson alone and then Mt. Eisenhower and then in a memorable hike in October, I hiked to Mt. Monroe along the historic Crawford Path. The Red Sox were playing the Yankees that Sunday and as I hiked I met up with two men who were hiking with a radio on their backpack--we hiked together and listened to the game as all the world stretched below us dressed in red and gold. At that moment, I knew that I was experiencing what for me was perfect bliss.
There were many more hikes throughout that fall and winter some in New Hampshire and some in Maine. Mostly I hiked alone, but sometimes with one of the kids and once, in the winter, with Ethan's entire fraternity up Cannon Mountain. Then in the summer of 2006, Charlie appeared back in my life and we got married and started hiking together. In September of 2006, we hiked over the Wildcats and into Carter Notch, spent the night in the hut and then climbed up to Carter Dome the next morning where we met Tom and Atticus. At that point, I didn't know much about peak bagging but Tom told us about his adventures with Atticus climbing the 48 New Hampshire peaks and I really was intrigued. When we got to a trail junction, we had a choice. Either head back to the car or take another trail so that we could summit South Carter--a mountain with no view and no reason to be climbed other than to check it off a list. Either we were peak baggers or we weren't. We took the trail for South Carter and so began the checkmarks.
So here I am, closing in on the end of the list. I have six more in New Hampshire, 7 more in Maine and 3 more in Vermont.
Tomorrow, we will check Tecumseh and I will strategize on how to get the rest based on the weather and my work schedule. I would like to finish the New Hampshire ones before Molly goes back to college on August 16 so she can share the last New Hampshire peak with me since she was there for the first one.
And that peace, strength and healing that I suspected I would find in the mountains--it was there.