I am in the process of catching people up with some early hikes and other encounters with nature that I thought people might find interesting as part of a "How It Began" series. Mostly this will describe specific hikes and perhaps some lessons learned along the way...if there are any. They are meant to be short and, perhaps helpful in some way to other hikers or fellow-travelers. I will post the dates of when I hiked a specific mountain since these are NOT posted at or near the date hiked.
August 21, 2021
Moosilauke--pronounced many different ways by people who think they nailed the pronunciation--is a fabulous mountain. If you are planning to do all the 4,000 footers in New Hampshire. This one (4,802 feet) is a good candidate for your first one. It isn't the easiest but it is on the easy end and the views--while not the best you will find on your journey through the NH 48--are spectacular.
Parking is strange, though. It is along a dirt road and, frankly, you can add a mile to your hike in the blink of an eye during the peak hiking season. Don't sleep in on this one! Get an early start.
I spent much of the hike following behind my wife. It wasn't that long after Mount Roberts so I was still recovering and still--more pressingly--getting back in shape. She would wait for me, which was nice, but I took my time and was probably a bit of a burden. Our itinerary included the main peak and then a smaller one (South Peak) before heading down. The way up was relatively gentle for a big mountain...just long. There weren't any extended scrambles to worry about, just elevation and some pretty forest landscape.
There was a broad ridge the last mile or so before the peak. Our energy picked up as the views did and we made it to the top. That said, I was gross and sweaty by the time we got there and it was crowded! It wasn't "Monadnock-mid-summer" crowded but...there was a lot going on, including a couple older hikers wandering around giving occasionally-welcome advice and perhaps snacks to promote their social media presence.
This is where I remembered that I used to bring fruit with me when I hiked. I saw a couple of people eating apples and was so very envious. I really wish I had remembered then, but I have forgotten fruit on every hike since. It was a great place for a picnic and the energy bars and water just weren't cutting it. It is worth noting that when you are out for an entire day pushing yourself, your food and water choices are super-important!
After South Peak, we started down. Here is where I need to talk to you a bit about despair. Pretty much every time I go hiking there is a moment where I completely fall apart. I question why I am there, of course. However, I often get more generally depressed. The hike feels like a mistake and so--in the moment--do pretty much all of my life choices. Hiking does not make me feel competent. I feel awkward and uncomfortable instead.
For about a mile or so of the hike down I was feeling completely miserable. This wasn't Moosilauke's fault. It was just the logical result of a long, hard walk that pushed me pretty much to the end of my rope. This stuff happens. It is worth knowing that it happens to many folks who do this. I have learned to call it my "despair practice" and let it go once it passes. On my way down from this mountain, though, it felt like every little thing I had stored up during the plague came out in one rush. Since this time, I have had that feeling more than once. The highs are high and the lows are low no matter who your are and what challenges you. Hiking reminds me of that.
Anyway, the total hike was about 8 miles. It was my first of the 48 4,000 footers. At the time I didn't think it could be topped but, honestly, it was topped over and over again enough so that it doesn't actually come close to hitting my top 10. Still, what a great way to get going. We went home, posted some pics, and--and with the pain mostly forgotten--planned for another one.
I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.