I am posting this blog post from the summit of Mount Washington, between bites of my lunch, as I lead yet another group of hikers across the entire Presidential range in a single day.
I have done this trip so many times that it has become very nostalgic for me. Now, and for the days leading up to this hike, I have been flooded with memories of the many different experiences this hike has provided me. I remember the time we encountered a moose in the middle of Crawford Path after dark as we descended into Crawford Notch, and I remember, too, a time we almost turned back when we encountered 65 mph winds on top of Madison that almost blew us over and we were concerned about what lay ahead on Washington; it turned out fine as the winds subsided with the warming of the day. I remember when I was too poor to pay for a hotel for the night before the hike and I camped with my young daughters in a tent just off the trail head; they being so excited and wound up that we barely got any sleep at all that night before. I remember mornings with great undercast (where clouds were below our feet as we popped from summit to summit), and I remember sunrises so peaceful and quiet that all of us had our breath taken away from us at once.
There was a year, as a fundraiser for my church, that I carried a bag full of small rocks, each with a name written on it with indelible ink to memorialize a loved one, to the summit of Washington, and scattered them among the talus so that those names could reside forever in the clouds. Those rocks are still here, no doubt, hidden in the cracks and crevices between the boulders I walked on not fifteen minutes ago. I remember that as well, and the tears that came to my eyes as I scattered a smooth white rock with my Grandmother’s name written on it, along with the fifty or so others I had brought to the summit.
I think of all the people that have come into my life since I first started doing these traverses, and I think of those I have lost. It is a very strange thing to mark time by this annual pilgrimage among the high peaks of the White. I think of the struggles and anxiety that so many of the hikers I have led here have felt as they worked through the training hikes, and I think of the smiles and laughter shared on the trail as each of these hikers has moved along the ridge with authority and confidence, finally realizing that that they could indeed do this.
To most of these hikers, what they will remember most about this day are the unending views which have been with us since we poked above the trees at 5:30 in the morning and will continue until the sun sets on us at 9. Every turn, every climb, every twist in the trail gives a new perspective, whether it is a view over the countless mountain ranges as they look towards the horizon in any direction, or the views down the precipitous drops into the Great Gulf that we have walked beside on our hike here and which cannot help but remind one of how high they have climbed.
To me, however, what I remember most about these hikes, are the people that I have been able to bring up here and help experience this. Their faces, their joy, the overflowing satisfaction and sense of accomplishment they feel when they reach Crawford Notch after sunset and they take off their boots. This year’s group is an outstanding set of hikers and I have had a great time working with them and guiding them to this day, to this moment in time.
We are half way through this hike and I am sure the afternoon will prove just as enjoyable as the morning has been. Thank you all for letting me share this with you, I will remember it well.