The Trails That Led Me Here: Part I
Over the summer, I spent almost every day off from work in the White Mountain National Forest. I was waiting for a hiking partner to want to go with me for about a month before I decided to solo hike. The fact that I had hiked in the past, grew up in Maine and wasn’t a complete idiot were the things I told myself prior to going. It was a spur of the moment decision. I decided 12 hours before driving two hours into the mountains that I was going to drive two hours into the mountains. I figured that before my mind is fully immersed into the PCT, I need to document the trails that led me to this point.
The Welch Dickey Loop, Thornton, NH
Picture this. A girl, wearing Teva sandals, carrying a leather satchel, wearing a skort from Kohls, and an LL Bean fishing shirt. Is that a funny image? It should be because I cannot imagine what people thought of me that day. I was by myself and I must have looked out of my element. I only packed a single Poland Springs water bottle and a newly purchased selfie stick. This trail was the most populated trail I have been on. I could always see or hear people which did not prepare me for the hikes to come, but nevertheless, I enjoyed myself enough to continue hiking. I remember when I got to the first fake summit, I audibly gasped. It had been years since I had seen mountain views like this. When I lived in Florida, I missed being alone in nature. I missed feeling alone and small and the wilderness giving out priority checks.
Mount Willard, Crawford Notch
I was hooked. I felt all the feelings I knew I would feel. Feel, feel, feel. I constantly remind myself of that girl in Mean Girls with all the emotions. I just feel everything so much. Because I knew I was hooked, I went to Cabela’s and purchased a Kelty day pack. I did no research or shopping around. I just bought a pack because I knew a leather satchel wasn’t going to cut it. I bought Merrill boots and Columbia shorts. I purchased all the emergency things that I should have had to begin with like a compass, knife, flashlight, mirror, etc. I drove about an hour and a half to be surrounded by families and teenaged couples. What was frustrating was the lack of trail etiquette. People were loud, wouldn’t let me ‘pass’ them, and I assume most of them had never heard of Leave No Trace. The PDA was truly exceptional on this hike, with make out checkpoints for many couples. (Just a little humor to ease my annoyance). I hadn’t researched this trail enough because I thought it would take me more time and energy than it did. I spent most the day driving, visiting local shops, and eating my way home to Maine.
Mount Washington, Sargent’s Purchase, NH
Because of how quick my hike on Willard was, I decided to go big or go home. This led me to hiking Mount Washington, alone and unexperienced. Had I heard of the 48 4,000 footers yet? No. Did I understand the severity of the weather and wind? Absolutely not. This stubborn New England girl had confidence, a key and a fault of a hiker. I hiked near a group of women who asked if I was a ranger, a stark difference from my Welch Dickey getup. Three miles into the hike, I reached the Lakes In The Clouds hut and felt so safe. Three miles of decent rock-scrambling incline can really take a toll on your endurance. After the hut, I had about a mile left to the summit. I was so incredibly slow. Not only was I physically not prepared, but I also hadn’t heard of trail runners. My big and clunky boots made it hard to balance on the rocks. When I finally did reach the summit, it was about three in the afternoon and if I was taught anything by my outdoorsy parents, it is to get off the mountain before dark. I wanted a picture with the summit sign, but between the Auto Road and Cog Railway, the line for photos was 40 or more people. As I began to descend, a couple other hikers and I all took pictures of each other to commemorate an almost cloudless summit.
Mount Eisenhower, Mount Pierce, and Mount Jackson, Crawford Notch
As I drove to Crawford Notch, I wondered why the heck I was hiking. It was rainy, windy, and dark at a time the sun should have been out. I had learned my lesson about having a wind jacket on Washington, so I figured my Columbia shorts and EMS brand rain jacket would suffice as gear in these conditions. The trail head was off the beaten path, which did not settle my solo hiking soul. There were two women getting dropped of by a man in a pick-up truck and I decided to get a head start on them. The farther I got on this trail, the more I got spooked. I think it’s important for solo hikers to admit to this. As much as we love being alone on the trail, sometimes a snapped twig will put you on the edge. I was nervous about the weather and that didn’t help me chill out, though in the distance I could hear those women laughing. I waited for them to catch up to me, slowly turned around, and asked, “What do you think about the weather?” In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have been so dang creepy. But despite my awkward introduction, those two women invited me on a loop route I wasn’t intending on taking. 12 miles and 65 mph wind later, we finished the hike and I gained friends that I couldn’t imagine my hiking life without.
Stay tuned for Part II 😉
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Nice article. We did quite a bit of hiking in the Whites as well & that definitely sparked our love of hiking.
We are starting the PCT in April – maybe we’ll see you out there!