Part 3: Hiking Tactics-Mt. Moriah & Imp Campsite- HTW 2018

 

Mount Moriah

“Carter-Moriah trail follows a logging road up a steep bank, then winds moderately upward through second-growth woods past several brushy logged areas. The trail climbs steeply, enters the White Mountain National Forest, and continues up through hardwoods. At 2.0 mi., a ledge down affords good views, and the trail soon passes to the right of the insignificant summit of Mt. Surprise and its small flume.  From here, the trail descends slightly, and then ascends gradually at first, but soon becomes steeper as it climbs over a series of ledges that have excellent views west and north; the ledges are slippery when wet. The trail stays near the ridge top but winds from side to side through the woods, crossing one wet, muddy stretch with deteriorating bog bridges. The trail traverses several ups and downs over ledgy humps. At 4.5, after a steep climb, a spur path leads right 50 yd. to the ledgy summit of Mt. Moriah, which affords excellent views.” White Mountain Guide, AMC’s Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Trails in the White Mountain National Forest¹  (emphasis mine) 

It’s kind of obvious if you are going to climb a mountain and summit its peak, you need to go up. Yet, there are varying degrees of “upness” that should be noted. There’s a gentle pitch, moderate incline, or a steep climb. Often times, the logical side of my brain tries to persuade me that a gentle pitch is a much better, safer, way go up in altitude, but the adventurous side of my brain, disagrees arguing “Where’s the fun and challenge in that?” So a fight breaks out between the two sides of my brain whether or not to stay in my comfort zone or be pushed out of it. To bring an end to the disagreement and restore peace, I often use a tactic called avoidance. Avoidance in hiking looks a lot like choosing not to read the trail descriptions before I hike the trail. This way, the unknown serves as equal ground and those highlighted words (noted above in trail description) do not even get a chance to spark a battle in my mind.

Our day started early at 6:30AM. We were gifted with perfect sunny weather-warm but not hot, breezy but not windy. The AMC hiker shuttle dropped us off right at the trailhead. This was another gift because we thought we would have to walk roadside a couple of miles before we reached to the actual trail.

True to the above trail description, the start of the hike (and most of the day) was strenuous with steep climbing, rock scrambling, and ledge walking. There were several times when I felt my confidence falter and thought I should have trained more, the rocks were too steep, my pack was too heavy, and I didn’t think I could do it. Those thoughts and moments were fleeting as I felt a renewed strength from God and I used another tactic-positive encouragement- while I cheered myself on with phrases like “slow and steady,”” one step in front of the other,” “you can do it.”

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Along with the challenge of this trail comes great reward. The Carter-Moriah trail is absolutely beautiful and offers a good diversity of natural things to admire in the form of boulder sculptures, moss covered trees, scratchy treeline ledges, mushy bogs with bridges, and cute little, colorful mushrooms dotting the sides of the trail.

We hiked most of the morning, stopping here and there to catch our breath, continued up and over the “insignificant” summit of  Mt. Surprise (Δ 2194 ft), and then onto Mt. Moriah (Δ 4049 ft) for lunch. It was our first 4,000-footer “bagged” on this trip. At the summit, we were blessed with excellent views and new people to talk with.

We chatted with other hikers, met an AT-thru hiker named Silver, and was introduced to a captain of the White Mountain Search and Rescue Team. We asked her to share her best tips and she told us a few things she wished every hiker knew in terms of safety. Here are two of them:

1.) Have a map! Do not rely on technology- like cell phone or fancy GPS devices. She had seen many people getting lost even with the GPS devices because they did not know how to use them correctly. Again, always have a physical map!! (CHECK √ )

2.) Make sure you always have enough supplies that you could spend one night outside if you had to. This includes water, food, matches, warm layers, and a sleep sheet. I had everything she mentioned and more… 😉 (CHECK √) 

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To be on a mountain top humbles me. To witness the breathtaking, dramatic landscape from such a height makes me feel small, childlike, full of wonder. From the summit of Mt. Moriah, we could see the Mount Washington and the Presidential Range-where we hiked last year- and The Carter Range- where we were heading next. From our vantage point, those next mountains seemed so far away. Yet we would be close to North Carter by 5:00 PM. When we were near North Carter, we would start looking for a place to camp.

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This is a view from the summit of Mt. Moriah looking across to where we were heading. It seems so far away. Depth perception in the mountains is an interesting thing.

 

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Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range, where we hiked last year. Thanks Paul and Anne at Rock-Village.com for a great picture.

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Getting closer to North Carter

The trail to North Carter descends very steeply down the ledges of Mt. Moriah and then follows a ridge crest as it winds its way through the woods. Occasional ledge lookouts, with additional views, spur you on along the trail. Several more signs along the trail would be helpful so you could determine your location along the trail. At times, it was difficult to know how far we had come or how much further we had to go. We pressed on and made our way to Imp Campsite.

We were not planning to stay at Imp Campsite, but we wanted to check it out. I had never been to AMC Campsite before and I was pleasantly surprised. Imp has a beautiful shelter, tent platforms, composting toilet, and even a “living room” chair. Our thru-hiker friend, Silver, was there and staying the night.

 

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AMC’s Imp Campsite- and what I am calling “the living room chair”

After taking a good look around Imp, we got back on the trail. By this point, I was really starting to feel tired and was more and more ready to find a spot to rest and set up our site for the night. This was to be the first time either of us had camped trailside. Our good friends, Gazelle, Hero and Silver, had given us a few tips and we knew we needed to be below the tree line, 200 ft. from the trail, and should pitch our tent on a flat area (not on moss or leaves to avoid bugs and mites.) Onward we went, on the lookout for a perfect spot, up and over one more mountain, Imp Mountain (Δ 3720 ft), before we found the place. It was really to be a perfect spot, and we were excited about trying this new experience.

Using Imp Campsite as a model, we quickly designated a cooking spot, a bathroom spot, a bear bag area, and a sleeping area. We were about to realize the result of a not so perfect shakedown….

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

Part 2: Part 2: A Hero, a Gazelle and a Shake Down- HTW 2018

 

¹AMC Guide to Hiking the Trails in the White National Forest


Part 2: A Hero, a Gazelle and a Shake Down- HTW 2018

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In one minute…

-2.4 million searches are made on Google¹

-your blood makes a roundtrip tour of your body, cleaning and nourishing cells, and returns to your heart²

-251 babies are born worldwide³

That’s a lot of curiosity, care, and new beginnings happening all at once. So imagine what can happen in 158 minutes- the time it takes to drive up north to Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch, NH. Fortified by a commencing prayer, each minute of our drive & discussion helped cleanse my mind and nourish my heart with truth and grace. Curiosity weaved its way in and out of our conversation as we shared stories from our summer vacation and pointed out pretty landmarks and quaint New England farms as we drove past. I finally felt as if my mind and my heart were in a good place. I finally felt prepared for a new beginning, ready for a new adventure.

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We pulled into the parking lot of the Pinkham Notch Vistor’s Center right around dinner time. Pinkham Notch Vistor’s Center is a main hub of hiking and outdoor activities. Hikers can find a place to rest, get clean, nourish hungry bodies, and purchase gifts and gear. Many trails start and return to the visitor’s center making it a great place for new beginnings and celebrating adventurous ends.

I lugged my pack (and the jumbled mess of three shopping bags full of extra stuff) into our room, dropped it on my bed, and we headed over to the dining hall. Tonight’s dinner was a delicious spicy peanut tofu dish with rice, bok choy, salad, and freshly baked bread. I felt content, comfortable and a little bit tired. Jet lag was still haunting me and beckoning me to bed. A few things needed to get done before I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep for the night- one of the most important things, reorganizing my pack.

Pinkham Notch Vistor's Center

We made a quick stop at the shop before going back to our room. Several other people were there quietly looking through racks of items and contemplating the latest weather report. The peaceful library-like atmosphere was suddenly interrupted when rambunctious laughter broke through the comfortable hush.

A couple of Appalachian Trail (AT) Thru-Hikers were standing by the information desk, oblivious to the disruption their loud giggles and boisterous joy made. With a tiny bit of snooping and a little bit of overhearing, I learned they had just come down off the trail (the AT) after hiking and sleeping in the rain for three days. Their plans for the night included eating pizza and staying at an AT hostel/campground in a neighboring town. But they needed to get there first. They bounced off towards the candy section and I went to the front desk to purchase a map. No one was at the desk when I arrived, so I waited patiently, enjoying the fact that nothing was on weighing on my mind and I had no other place to go. Within a few minutes, the absent cashier returned with the two happy hikers.

She had been trying to find them a ride into Gorham (about 15 minutes away) and now was apologizing for not being able to find anyone to help. The two thru-hikers told her it was no problem, not to worry, they could and would just walk. It was getting dark and I was intrigued and interested to hear their story.  I looked over at Jennie, Jennie looked at me. We read each other’s mind, “Why not? Why not start our new adventure with some new friends?” And I blurted out, “We can take you.”

They were happy! We were happy! Everyone was happy! All the happiness felt like an energy boost of contagious joy! Off we went to Gorham, the two thru-hikers, Jennie and I and their gear. Introductions were made, their trail names are Hero and Gazelle. Gazelle has been on the trail since February and she’s planning to finish the 2,181 mile hike by August 29th. I can’t remember how long Hero has been on the trail but he will finish shortly after Gazelle. They are both NO-BO Hikers- that’s AT Hiker terminology for North Bound, starting in Georgia and finishing at Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

Our two very joyful, very grateful thru-hikers had a wealth of hiking knowledge they were very willing to share with us. We fired away with all the questions we could think of. They gave us information about camping on the trail. They told us they go off-trail and stay in a hotel once a week. How nice a shower and clean sheets feel after a week on the trail!

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Me, Gazelle, Jennie, Hero at Mr. Pizza

We talked about what to pack and learned a new hiking term- a shakedown. A “pack shakedown” is a final sorting and getting rid of unneeded items. Gazelle told us that if any of her friends want to go hiking with her, she shakedowns their packs. Many of things she listed off as unneeded, I had one (or two) already packed in mine. I had some major work to do when we got back to the lodge. One note, Hero and Gazelle were not completely unreasonable. They both agreed you should have something in your pack that might not be necessary, but makes you happy- for Hero it was Starbursts and Fritos for Gazelle. Both food items…. hmmm… I had food items, toiletries, a lot of extra clothing, AND several items that just made me happy…

Before went our separate ways, Jennie and I to shakedown our packs and Hero and Gazelle to devour their pizza, Hero left me with his mom’s email address to use as a hiking-hotline for questions (more about later.) Gazelle left me with one last piece of advice- not everyone’s advice is good for everybody. You have to find and do what’s best for you!

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My pack and the jumbled mess of stuff. Picture taken during the shakedown.

Jennie and I drove back to the lodge in high spirits. We were motivated and inspired to lighten our packs and remove all unnecessary items. It took some time, packing, repacking, sorting, and discarding. While I didn’t remove any toiletries items (I really couldn’t think of doing without them then), I did take out a lot of my snacks (I always have way more than I think I need) and I cut down the amount of clothing I was taking. I went with Gazelle’s advice to wear a pair of clothes and have another pair dry in your pack. I like clean clothes but I do not like to have to the carry extra weight so I thought for three days, just three days, I would have to be okay with stinky, sweaty, dirty, unclean clothes- #firstworldproblems

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With our packs ready for the morning, we headed back to our room for what we hoped would be a good night’s sleep. Jennie and I set our alarms for 6:30 AM to ensure we would have enough time to eat breakfast and catch the hiker shuttle to the Carter- Moriah Trailhead by 7:30AM. What a day it had been! We said goodnight, turned off our lights, and I finally gave in to jet lag as it drifted me off to my last night of CLEAN sleep.

If you are just joining the journey, you can go back and find part 1 of the trip here: Part 1: Unprepared (and a little thing called jet lag)

¹ https://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1037361/statistics-about-babies-born-in-the-us

²https://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/circulatory/heart-pump-blood.htm

³ http://www.internetlivestats.com/google-search-statistics/

 

 


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.

 

 

 


Hike the Whites- PICK UP YOUR FEET (Chapter 1)

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It has taken me a weekend of herding preschoolers at Vacation Bible School, a cross country plane trip, the view of land and sea from 30,000 ft., and one inspirational book to finally process my hiking trip. The mountains do something to me, for me. Like a mutualistic relationship, they offer an escape and challenge me to turn my fears into courage and confidence. In return they receive respect and reverent awe of their Creator. My Creator, my God. His fingerprints are on every part of these mountains, from the delicate, white petals of the Mountain Sandwort to the sharp, jagged granite boulder fields. Every breath I inhaled and exhaled had me thinking of Him, thanking Him. My prayers were continuous from the moment we arrived, departed, and returned to Pinkham Notch.  Sometimes, those prayers were said with a little more desperation and need than others.

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We arrived at Joe Dodge Lodge at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center on Monday night. The ride was filled with laughter, stories of our summer trips, and catching up on the details of what has been happening in our lives. A few of us hadn’t seen each other in weeks and one in months. There was a lot to talk about during the three hour trip and not one lull in the conversation. And the weather was good, which made me very happy.

When I put my pack down on the floor of the pine wood “Yellow Birch” room at Joe Dodge Lodge, I was feeling a mixture of anticipation, excitement, and anxiousness. Anticipation for time away, time with God, and a time I knew would change me in some way.  (Exactly in what way or ways, I was not sure.) Excitement because I couldn’t wait to hit the trail, explore the paths, summit new mountains, and to experience new things. And anxiousness because I had heard and read some scary things about the mountains we were about to climb. Including some sobering facts about intense weather and fatality statistics.  What made me the most nervous was the possibility of fast changing and wild weather on Mount Washington and the surrounding mountains. I was worried about hiking over wet, slippery rocks while pushing forwards in high wind speeds.

My mind kept going back to a conversation I had before I left. On Sunday, before we left, I had to pick up a few things at Dick’s Sporting Goods. A very helpful, bearded associate (one who I found in the hunting section and kept talking with for at least 45 minutes+ when I found out he was a survival guide who led hikes through the Whites) enlightened me about a place called “Thunderstorm Junction,” what to do when lightning strikes, and the importance of having a leader who knew what she was doing in the wilderness. The wilderness trails where we might be hiking. “Make sure she has an ax,” he said. “It’s steep,” he said. “Have fun!” he said.  His words combined with what was already in my head had my mind going and imagination running in full gear.

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The Library of Joe Dodge Lodge

 

 

We left our packs in the room to explore the Lodge and headed over to the dining room for dinner. One of the many things I love about staying at a AMC hut or lodge is the food. Breakfast and dinner come with your stay and there is plenty of food and enough choices for everyone. They accommodate special diets and there isn’t a reason to leave the dining room hungry or not satisfied. As we filled our plates and ate our fill, the skies darkened and started rumbling. The rumbling increased and then the skies opened and poured buckets and buckets of water over the lodge and mountains. I tried my best not to let the rain and thoughts of hiking over those wet, slippery rocks take away from my excitement and add to my anxiousness. I put on a brave face but underneath the face my fears of the unknown and my confidence in my abilities was starting to fester and falter.

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Later that night, after I had unpacked and repacked my pack one last time, I sat up in my top bunk listening to the thunderstorms and the rain pouring off the roof. My hiking journal was in my lap and I stared at the empty page. What could I write as my first entry of this trip? What would set the tone for an adventure to read of years later?

I had bought a card and postcard at the lodge’s store and planned to mail them the post office on top of Mount Washington. On those cards, I had already wrote some details of the trip- the name of the room, the food I ate, the overall itinerary of the trip, how I was feeling. General descriptions, surface details but nothing to deep to the heart of the matter. I planned to add the card to my journal when I received it back at home.

When none of my own words came to mind, I choose to write scripture. I copied down passages that spoke to me. Passages I thought I would think about, focus on, and need their comfort throughout the trip. Peace came to me as I wrote the following words.

26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
    calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
    and because he is strong in power,
    not one is missing.- Isaiah 40:26 (ESV)

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint. –Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)

I read and reread what I wrote and just before I closed my journal and shut off the light, I added a benediction of four words to the bottom of the page. I wrote them in capital letters and marked them with an exclamation mark. This benediction foreshadowed what was to come on the next days’s hike up Mount Washington.

The words were:

PICK UP YOUR FEET! 

 

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White Mountain Hiking Adventure- 2017

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I’ve packed and unpacked, repacked and repacked again. I think I have everything I want and maybe some things I do not need but I most certainly feel prepared. It feels a little different going into this year’s hike. Last year, was my first time hiking longer than a day trip.  It was an amazing time with four other brave and beautiful friends who scrambled over boulders, hiked miles of trails, bagged 4,000+ ft. peaks, and enjoyed each other’s company and God’s creation.

This year, there are four of us and we are tackling the highest peak in the east- Mount Washington. According to the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) White Mountain Guide, Mount Washington has “a well-earned reputation as the most dangerous small mountain in the world, more than 140 persons have died on its slopes, many of them from exhaustion and exposure to the mountain’s severe and rapidly changeable weather. Storms increase in violence with great rapidity toward the summit.” Sounds fun, right? For some of us, yes. I am excited about this challenge and if I am nervous about anything, it is not physical health or the endurance needed to climb the mountain but the chance of thunderstorms and quickly changing weather (obviously out of our control.) If you think about it,  please pray we have good weather and the storms stay away.

This hike will also take us to 1 AMC lodge, 2 AMC huts (different than last year) and 4 other summits to bag. I have new expectations for this hike and am looking forward to the adventure that awaits. I’ll be taking pictures, journaling and will update my blog when I get back. Until then, the mountains are calling and I must go….

 


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.

zealand falls hut

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.

hut life

 

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