Last Sunday I rang in 27 years with a 5am wake up call and that nervous, whooshing, happy feeling you get in your stomach when you’re bound for an adventure.
I’ve come full circle back to New Hampshire and have been working on a farm around the corner from my Gramma’s house for the past month. When I lived here last August, I spent hours pouring over maps of the White Mountains, and even more hours hiking them, but somehow didn’t quite end up doing the big one.
At an elevation of 6288 ft, Mt. Washington gets to brag about two things. It’s the highest in New England (“second highest east of the Mississippi” — but who’s counting?) and has some of the most unpredictable weather (“fastest wind speed ever recorded” — 231 mph if you are into counting). I honestly didn’t know how wowed I’d be by it. Not to be a total alpine snob, but hiking in Alaska can kind of ruin you for, well, anything that’s not Alaska. I was glad to be wrong.
I met my new farm friends at the end of the driveway and we bopped our way down the dirt roads, our morning sleepiness burning off slowly with the sun. After whittling down to one car, we pointed north, grabbed a quick breakfast, and were on the trail in an hour.
Even though we’ve all grown up in the area (and I can barely claim this having just spent summers visiting here), none of us have climbed Mt. Washington before. We dodged the crowds and headed up Huntington Ravine. We had it all to ourselves — scree fields, thin waterfalls snaking down rocks, yellow wildflowers tucked into cracks. A couple miles into Huntington, we found our favorite (and hardest) part of the day — a slanted rock slab where we twisted our arms and feet to find footholds. Giddy at the top, we rewarded ourselves with a snack break in the sun. We laid around and watched a few rock climbers pass, towing their gear towards some granite. “Great day to be out,” one said. It was.
An hour later we were way above the trees in an alpine meadow. Tall piles of rocks marked the trail and petered off into the distant fog. Another hour and we were in the clouds on top of Ball Crag.
We reached the summit not long after and had that odd experience where you go from wilderness to civilization in a matter of seconds — tourists, motorcycles, cars, a cafeteria, a train, even a U.S. post office. We skipped the lunch line, put on fleeces, and hunkered down under a rock to eat lunch. (I have to say farm cucumbers make for some surprisingly good trail eatin’.)
We chose Tuckerman’s Ravine for our way back. It was honestly a pretty tough climb down for me (nothing will make you feel more like you’ve just turned 27 than having a pack of 16 year-olds sprint by you ever 10 minutes), and we all were pretty happy to see the car at the end, but nothing could shake that good feeling of satisfaction at a day well done.
We switched from boots to sandals, pointed the car home, and had only one key question left to answer. “Hey, what’s for dinner?”