“You always make me so nervous when you hike like that.”
I had some pretty strict rules when I started hiking solo. I could only hike well-worn, well-known paths, and always south of the Whites. The rationale there was I’d be less likely to get lost, and, on the off-chance that I did get lost, I wouldn’t be in that much trouble.
It was an objective understanding of my inexperience. I’d been hiking since I was a child – since I was a baby in a backpack carrier, technically – but I can name a whopping total of two trails that I ever traversed as a child, and never to summit. Granted, I did those two trails many, many, many times, to the point that the sound of the water over the rocks on the Falling Waters trail is distinct from others, and the sound carries me home like a reverse Siren.
I’d only done a handful of hikes when I lived in Boston as an adult, and only a handful more after moving to Nashua. And the last thing I needed was to be yet another poor sap who gets lost in the White Mountains and perishes.
But eventually those rules started eroding. With more experience under my belt, I started going for the more obscure trails, the less-populated trails – but still south of the White Mountains, in case I got lost. And then it was trails along the southern perimeter of the Whites – again, if I got lost, I could venture south, and be in relative safety. And then it was trails within the Whites – but only the popular ones, the easy ones, the ones that you make you feel like a runner at the beginning of the race who was put in the wrong pace group and now you’re spending the first few miles weaving around the crowds.
It was only a matter of time before I’d want to start scaling the 4,000-footers – New Hampshire’s notorious set of 48 mountains, ranging (no pun intended) from the relatively moderate to the potentially deadly.
There was a part of me that smirked at the decision. Hiking, camping, the wonderful outdoors, those were all things from my childhood that I kept sacred. And my parents had scaled all 48 mountains, joining the 4,000-footer club as a result.
I had spent so much of my life making sure I never repeated the same mistakes they made, and here I was about to follow in their footsteps – almost literally. Continue reading