Part 1: Unprepared (and a little thing called jet lag) HTW-2018

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Seven years in the Girls Scouts gave me two takeaways. Two things that have rung true in my heart and as clear in my mind since the first day I heard them:

1.) Make new friends and keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.

And 2.) ALWAYS BE PREPARED.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the sweet tune of friendship with many sliver and gold friends. And I strive to be prepared- as much as possible- for whatever situation I may find myself. My husband often shakes his head when I come out the door, ready for a day trip, with numerous bags filled sweatshirts, raincoats, towels, snacks and water, and a very large first aid kit. My answer to his playful mocking is always the same, “ALWAYS BE PREPARED.”

But “always be prepared” goes beyond physical plans and material items. It’s a combination of a prepared heart, mind and body that makes a person as prepared as they can be. And even then, no person is ever 100% prepared for anything. Because stuff happens. Needs come up. Priorities shift. Unexpected opportunities are offered. Energy levels fluctuate. Uncontrollable events occur and unforeseen situations happen. Little annoyances can turn into hefty distractions. That’s life!

You do your best, and let God take the rest.

This is where my hike begins. Unprepared in many ways.

After a wonderful two-week vacation in California, our family returned home late Tuesday night. I had exactly ONE and 1/2 days to prepare and pack for the hike.

Laid-back, Californian-thinking must have taken over my mind, because I wasn’t one tiny bit worried about the little amount time I had or how unprepared I was to do the laundry (at the laundromat since our washer had conked out the week before), go grocery shopping, run errands, and pack my pack.

And I forgot to account for a little phenomenon called jet lag. We ended up sleeping in Wednesday, taking up 1/2 day of prep time. Still.. I was excited for the trip, not worried about anything, and the kids and I took off to conquer the to-do list. I am sure a little adrenaline and a lot of caffeine helped compensate for the loss of energy I was starting to feel.

Oh, how quickly reality rips through vacation’s rosy veil. And the veil was completely gone by Wednesday night after something occurred that left my heart turned upside down and inside out. Ugly roots of things that I thought had been weeded out of my heart, started to sprout, twist around my joy, and took on an exhausting presence. A cloud of fear settled over me. Lies taunted me. My confidence was questioned. My spirit was in fight mode. I believe it was a spiritual attack and my heart felt less and less prepared to leave the next day. BUT… I knew from experience that the hike was exactly where I needed to be. The mountains give you and God an amazing arena to fight together and work through these types of heart issues.

That night, jet leg destroyed my sleep. I tossed and turned, dwelled and worried. The very little sleep I got was interrupted by bad dreams. No amount of caffeine or bursts of adrenaline was going to make up for severe loss of rest. By Thursday morning, my energy was drained and my pack was still empty.

If you have followed my hiking stories in the past, you know that I usually prepare months in advance, checking off items on a thorough list, and on the morning of the hike I’m thoroughly packed, and often I’ve already packed and unpacked several times. This was different.

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With caffeine-induced energy and a lot of prayer, I started going through the list and throwing things in gallon-sized bags for waterproofing. There would be just two of us this year and we were planning on staying at the Joe Dodge Lodge the first night, camping trailside the next, and spending our final night at Carter Notch Hut. The camping component required a few new items in my pack for cooking and sleeping outside.

Knowing I would have a night in the lodge to reorganize helped as I struggled to decide what to bring. In the end, with an hour to go, my pack was finally packed (as best as I could) and I threw a bunch of other stuff in three shopping bags, just in case I needed or wanted them. Then I put all of it in the truck to deal with later. It was a jumbled mess. I was a jumbled mess of emotions- excited, exhausted, worried, full of anticipation- and I felt extremely unprepared. The good ole’ Girl Scout motto offering me guilt this time instead of comfort.

My husband. My kids. I love them!! They saw my weariness and my increased anxiety. They cheered me on, reminded me how much I loved hiking and how fun this trip was going to be. In our kitchen, they circled me in love and in prayer. Their sweet little hands laid on my knees as they prayed protection over every part of my body. I took in the scene. It was the first beautiful view of my trip. I breathed in the sweet air of the Holy Spirit.

Everything was going to be okay. It was going to be better than okay. It was going to be great because I was heading to the mountains. Three whole days on the trail with one of my best friends, challenging myself, seeing new things, exploring new peaks. And I knew most of all that God was going to bring something new out of this. In my weakness, He’s made strong. I took renewed strength and comfort in this fact. I was going to return from this hike stronger, more confident, and reenergized than how I was leaving. Nothing- no matter how much more I could have prepared, no matter what attacks against my heart and mind, or the crazy shiftiness of jet lag- could ever take that from me.

 

 

 


To the Tallest Peak and a Step Back in Time

“A mountain has no need for people, but people do need mountains. We go to them for their beauty, for the exhilaration of standing closer to mysterious skies, for the feeling of triumph that comes from having labored to reach a summit.” – Earl Hamner, Jr. (The Waltons)

It is a rare occurrence to find myself without children and without plans. About a month ago, it happened. I had a few hours in between appointments and I had time to kill. A million possibilities crossed my mind but many were not feasible or rooted in reality. (You can’t get to a warm, tropical island and back in a time span of 2 hours. Just saying…)
I was already overcaffeinated, so a coffee shop wasn’t the best choice. The weather was cold and I was not prepared to be outside, so no walk or a hike. I really did not want to spend a lot of money (or be tempted to spend a lot of money), so I needed to stay away from the mall. BUT I was in the mood for some sort of discovery. Then I remembered seeing an ad pop up in my Facebook feed. Something about one of the largest indoor antique stores in Lawrence, MA. It was only 10 minutes from my location.
Mind made up, I turned the car down the road and I pulled into a small parking lot nestled next to a large brick building. It was overshadowed by towering red-brick mills with tall, rounded, brick stacks touching the bright blue sky. I opened the old door of the mill and stepped into a wooden stairwell. It smelled damp and old.  This was a good idea!
There’s something special about entering a place of historical significance. Some people call it nostalgia, but to me it feels more like connectedness. Old places and the items they hold, are windows into time gone by.  They are doors that connect people from past to present. The shadows left behind by people who lived real lives with all the same, real and raw, emotions, struggles and celebrations that we live with now.
The Canal Street Antique Mall is huge. There are floors and floors of furniture and vintage goods tucked in every nook by various owners and dealers. I strolled through the rows of furniture, looked at the spines of aging books, touched woolen clothing and held glitzy, lacy hats over my head. I was looking for something smaller than any of these items. High up on a shelf, bundled in rectangular, plastic boxes, I found them. Hundreds of postcards waiting to be combed through and read.
The front of a postcard is beautiful, but the real treasure is the message on the back. I could spend hours reading each one and that is what I did. I made myself comfortable on the old wooden mill floor and surrounded myself with stacks of sorted cards. I read as many messages as I could. The messages included things about reminding the reader to pick up the sender at train stations, others were asking for visits, many declared their regrets for missing events due to their vacations, and many, MANY addressed the temperamental New England weather-the snow, heat, rain, and cold. (Not much has changed. New Englanders are still always talking about the weather.)
I became attached to two of the postcards (pictured below.) One of the cards shows the White Mountains and an another of an Appalachian Mountain Club hut. Maybe they stood out to me because I had been dreaming about an adventure, the mountains, and hiking. If you followed my hiking trip of 2016,you read about last year’s adventure at the huts. I have been looking forward to a return trip since then.
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The hut pictured is the AMC Madison Hut. The Madison Hut was built in 1888. An addition was built in 1907.  I believe the postcard to be dated between these two years. 

 

When I had killed enough time, I decided to purchase these two postcards and be on my way. About two weeks later, in most perfect timing, Fearless Leader, sent out the call for hikers with a proposed plan for a Summer Hike. The route would take us through the White Mountains (peakbagging Mount Washington- the tallest peak in the Northeast) and would involve spending the nights at two huts. The Madison Hut would be one of the huts we would stay at! The very same hut as pictured on the postcard.
Of course, I answered the call with a YES! I will be preparing for my grand summer adventure and looking forward to many smaller and equally exciting ones along the way.  I invite you to come along with me through my blog and follow my trip preparations. (More details of our trip below.) Mountains here I come. You are a place of adventure, beauty, discovery, and a door between past and present. Until then….
Summary of HIKE 2017 by our Fearless Leader:
Adventure waiting to happen!
Motivation to get in shape!
1 new lodge
2 new huts
5 new summits to bag
Consecutive days of fresh mountain air.
No doubt, some laughs!
Many muscles worked.
Amazing views of God’s glory.
Interesting new trail and hut friends
Incredible new memories 🙂

Hut Life-Hiking Trip-Chapter 4

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Through the trees, I could hear voices and see glimpses of the camouflaged hut. I couldn’t wait to get to the top of the rocks but it was not to lay my eyes on the hut, to take in the spectacular views or to enjoy a moment of recognition of the day’s accomplishments. My main objective was to get out of my damp clothes and put on EVERY SINGLE layer I had packed. I was cold, chilled to the bone, and I dreamed of holding a mug of steaming, hot coffee in my hands.

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When we reached the clearing near the hut, one of the first things I noticed was the line of muddy, wet boots and sweaty, stinky socks, all different colors and sizes gathered together to dry out in the cool air. Other gear was scattered on the ground, draped over the hut’s porch railings, and hanging from tree branches in hopes that some drying would take place. There seemed to be no separation of whose stuff belonged to whom, no boundaries between strangers. This was communal ground and our muddied, wet gear was the physical evidence of a shared experience. My first taste of hiker camaraderie.

A friendly member of the hut croo (yes, that is spelled correctly) welcomed us at the front desk next to a basket of complimentary ear plugs and hut merchandise. He assigned us to the South Bunk Room. The sleeping accommodations at the Zealand Falls hut are bunk beds stacked three high. Each bunk bed is a cubicle built into the cabin and includes several built-in shelves, lots of hooks to store and hang things on and a small personal reading lamp.

Many of the bottom bunks had already been claimed but we managed to find a cluster of bunks close to each other. Loving Leader, Hot Mama and I took the tippity-top bunks and dragged our gear up the tall ladder.

Now, let’s pause a minute… I was about to be introduced to the very thing that has caused me the most anxiety about this whole trip. It seems a bit silly now but we all have our hang ups and issues. One of mine is germs and cleanliness.

At our first trip planning meeting, Loving Leader explained the AMC huts and sleeping arrangements to us. We had asked her about what gear to bring for sleeping and she shared some suggestions. She also explained how the hut provides each hiker with three wool blankets and a pillow. This may not seem like a big deal BUT having just heard about the huts being minimally equipped, the outdoor facilities, all supplies and trash having to be packed in and out by the croo (on their backs,) and the fact of no running hot water got me thinking. How exactly and how frequently were those wool blankets and pillow cases washed? And how many heads had rested on the pillows? And how many bodies had been wrapped in the blankets? The possible answers to my questions made my skin crawl and itch. I knew, no matter how tired I was, I would not be able to get a good night’s sleep with those blankets and pillow around me. Before I left for the trip I made the decision that I needed my own, reliable sleep system. A system that I could depend on- a sleeping bag that compresses to the size of a football. My sleeping woes and anxiety were defused and I crossed the worry off my list.

(Dear EMS employee, Thank you for your encouragement and the validation of my feelings  when I explained to you why I needed a sleeping bag. You listened with grace as I over-explained my issues and phobias. I also thank you for not making me feel like a fool, a wimp or a weirdo, even though you may have been thinking that. I know that you were hoping to make a sale and I am sorry. I went to Dick’s to purchase my sleeping bag because it was on sale.I hope you understand.  XO Melon Ball) 

 

Oh, glorious joy filled me the rest of the evening. Warm, DRY clothes, good company, new friends, beautiful views, delicious food, and a warm, attentive croo. All of this made my first hut experience wonderful.

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Lights out came sooner than I thought. I wrote in my journal by headlamp, made one more bathroom run in the dark, put in my set of complimentary ear plugs, and then snuggled down in my mummy bag. As I fell asleep to the distant snores of the stranger two bunks below me, I thought again how great it was to be alive and how strange it was that I felt safer than I ever had in a room full of people I did not know. Somehow they did not feel like strangers any more. I did not know all the details of their lives. I didn’t even know all of their names. It didn’t matter though. We had become a “community for a night. ” A community brought together by sharing a hike, a rainstorm, a meal, good conversation and now much needed rest.

As I drifted off to sleep, I thought how wonderfully simple all of it was and how complicated our world has become. If only we would share more, listen more, cheer each other on more, and love people more(even in all their stinkiness), what a better world this would be.

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This video will give you a little “taste” of the huts:


WONDER-FULL WEDNESDAY- WONDERMENT- PART 1

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It has been days since I have returned from my hiking trip and I am still trying to process my time in the mountains. In the four days we were there, so much happened physically, emotionally and spiritually. It was a step back in time, a place away from the busyness of the world, a time filled with extreme gratitude and wonderment.

Wonderment is the best way I can describe the trip. The feeling or emotion sparked by curiosity, awe and surprising things. I hiked in wonderment as the strength of my mind and soul overtook the physical strength of my body, pushing it to new limits, building new confidence and holding tight to Jesus. I felt wonderment gazing at valleys and mountains and thinking about God and His Creation. I listened in wonderment to new hiker friends share their stories of mountainous accomplishments. Challenging, peaceful, life-changing, and fun are other words but really none of them best describes the time as wonderment.

The only thing I hated about this trip was my last step from the sanctuary of the shadowed woods into the bright, blinding sunlight of the trail head’s parking lot. A place where two worlds collide. As my eyes adjusted to the bright sunlight, I wished I could turn around and run back into the woods. I wanted to keep exploring, keep pushing my body, keep discovering new things and seeing what was around the next bend or over the next boulder. I think this might have been the exact moment of when my new hiking addiction started.

Before I get too carried away, I guess I should start at the beginning, at the trailhead. If you have been reading along, you know this was my very first hike longer than a day’s trip. Four days and three nights backpacking with a 20-25 lb pack through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There were five women on this trip. Five women who are now bonded together by sweat, tears and great respect for each other and this shared experience. I will lovingly refer to them as Loving Leader, Hot Mama, Sweaty-Sweet Diva, and Courageous Jade.

Those are not their official trail names (more about that later.) I was the only one blessed to received an official trail name on this hike, complete with a ceremony and pledge. “Melon Ball” was given to me because of my bright melon-colored rain gear and my sweet, joyful, refreshing personality (or at least that’s what my friends told me.)

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Loving Leader was very smart to start our trip off on the right foot. We arrived at Crawford Notch’s AMC Highland Center Lodge in the early evening. A good meal and good night’s sleep was in order before we hit the trail in the morning. The lodge’s accommodations were warm and comfortable and the atmosphere was joyful and peaceful. Hikers coming and going, some fresh from new adventures and some anticipating great ones to come. These were luxury accommodations compared to the hut’s lodging complete with warm running water, towels, comfortable beds and bedding. The food was plenty, delicious and filling!

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At sunset, the five of us walked around the lodge admiring the mountains and pretty wildflowers. In the serene setting, I found myself evaluating my current state. I was running on empty, high on adrenaline. A few hours earlier, I had left my house filled with visiting relatives. It had been about a month since our home was inhabited by only our family of five. It had been good to see everyone and I was glad everyone was able to come. But it had been tiring and emotional. I hate saying goodbyes and as much as I try not to think about it while my family is here, I always think of our time together as a countdown before I have to say goodbye again.

Besides all the company, various loved ones and life circumstances were weighing heavily on my heart and mind. I stood there facing the setting sun and started to breath. Deep breaths of fresh mountain air were met with exhales, releases of stress and control over unknown circumstances. The air and the views started to cleanse and prepare my heart for something bigger. I could feel God replace the heaviness with the lightness of joy, peace and new discovery. I felt myself leaning in to hear His voice on the wind and watch the majesty of trees and a mountains bow down at His feet. Standing there, I felt very small and it felt so good. So good to know the Almighty God, mighty and powerful enough to create the great mountains on His command, is the same Almighty God who is loving and kind enough to be gentle with the current state of my tired heart and soul.

In the depths of my heart, I felt his calling to take His hand. The Great Shepherd ready to lead me besides quiet waters and refresh my soul. (Psalm 23) The Creator calling me to “come and see” for He was about to guide me on a heart’s journey to see and experience greater things. When I lay my tired head down and closed my eyes on the first night, I knew this adventure would be much more than I could have ever imagined and I was right.

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Crawford Notch