On Saturday, my buddy and I drove up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
We did a short hike in the afternoon ("Imp Trail"), got ourselves situated in the motel, and downed a few beers later that night.
Sunday morning, I arose at my usual time (4:46am or so). Later on, after scraping the ice off my windshield and whatnot, we headed for the base of Mount Madison. I think it was 29 degrees at 8am when we got going. And I thought Massachusetts had an early winter!
Three hours and forty minutes later we hit the windy peak.
But, fortunately for us, it was an unusually clear day at that altitude. I don't know how many visits I've made up there since I was a kid, but I don't think I've ever actually seen the peak of Mount Washington - which was staring us in the face:
Here's a still shot:
That's the *auto road* winding up it. It doesn't look so treacherous from this angle but I've heard countless stories from people who drove it and were scared half-to-death. I think some motorcyclist died there recently.
Now I'm not a *hiker* by any stretch. I've been up Mount Monadnock as a kid and a couple other 3,000 foot peaks. So at 5,367 feet Mount Madison is now the highest peak I've walked up.
As a novice in this department I had no idea:
- How fast the temperature changes - between the rising sun, the elevation, physical exertion, etc. I must have peeled/added layers 15 times.
- That I wasn't supposed to wear a cotton shirt. My back was saturated in sweat. Though it was kind of warm on Sunday, the day prior I believe the afternoon peak temps were below 30 on the Presidential range.
- About those walking sticks. All of these nerd hikers from Cambridge had ski pole-like sticks to aid their climb/descent.
- That I'd need a hat and gloves in mid-September! We had to run out and buy them at the last minute.
- And I had no idea that *going down* would be so hard on my knees (no jokes, please). It was surprisingly more painful than climbing.
Overall I was very satisfied with this trip - only I wish I had time to stay overnight and soak my bones in the hot tub. Instead, immediately after we hit bottom we jumped in the car and had to endure 5 hours of Sunday night traffic on the way back to Boston.
Physically, this trip was at the upper bound of my capabilities. I can barely carry anything on my achy back for any short period of time. But to hike Mt. Madison, I had to carry a pack full of clothes, food, and bottled water for 7 grueling hours. Heck I ate my food by order of weight! Not to mention my knees are pretty frail - one ACL having been blown out and replaced with a graft from a 6'7 black cadaver, and the other knee seemingly 80% gone now as well. In fact I was pretty nervous about the latter popping completely on this hike. My wife has a friend that broke her leg on one of these hikes and had to be carried all the way down the mountain. Despite the nice weather, on this particular day there weren't many hikers at all. Suffer an injury....and you'll be doing a little Bear Grylls through the freezing night!
But thankfully I completed the trip intact. Though I am sore as all hell at the moment - surprisingly my legs more so than my back. Remember I have to rest up for my GutterBuddy Florida golf trip this weekend....