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/

 

 


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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