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" (HIB) 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 the ones in this series are NOT posted at or near the date I actually hiked them.
OCTOBER 4, 2021
This trip I completed with my brother Dan. Dan is the real hiker in the family. Many years ago after they graduated from high school, Dan and his twin brother (also my brother but we aren't twins) Matt decided to hike the Appalachian Trail north-to-south. Some of my own most ambitious hikes came from tagging along after them on various practice runs. I am a few years older than they are, however, and that window for a months-long adventure had closed for me. Anyway, they got pretty far over some of the hardest parts, but eventually they took a break and joined me working in the retail hub of Freeport, ME. Good times. Dan has kept on picking away at the AT, though. More recently than this hike, he actually joined my son on the AT for ten days going south-to-north through the Great Smoky Mountains.
This particular day was wet and cold when we started. This is not an unusual state of being for New Hampshire in October and we planned accordingly. Our goal was to climb up Mount Osceola and over the ridge to East Osceola and then back, crossing Osceola again upon our return. We got a slightly later than usual start because we misjudged the time to get there. However, once we got underway things went smoothly for a while. On the way up there weren't any stunning views, nor were there any at the top. Fog will do that to you. Still, the foliage was wonderful and the company was fine.
Actually, it was more than fine. Thanks to the plague most of our interactions for the year had been over zoom, which is not ideal. Being outdoors meant being able to interact like normal humans. A lot of the time was spent catching up. We talked about our families, kids, parents, siblings, and so forth so the time flew by. Another great perk of hiking with Dan is that he knows a huge amount about the outdoors. Dan is a wildlife biologist for NOAA and I appreciated the "enhanced video" aspect of having an expert with me. Since he also walks quite a bit faster, I also appreciated the fact that mushrooms and birds distract him.
Most serious hikers--my wife and brother included--seem to think of hiking as an isolated activity. It is just the lone walker in the natural world. I am in that minority who thinks of it as social. You can identify the social types pretty easily out on the trail because--whether we are solo or not--we begin talking to strangers the moment they come into view and then continue talking until well after we pass them. We take seriously the idea of a "hiking community" but...we also make a bunch of noise with our mouths. Thankfully both Dan and Al tolerate this behavior in me. Maybe that is why it is so great to have them.
The first socked-in peak over, we proceeded to cross to East Osceola. This ridge is a bit of a challenge. It is hiked less often than the rest because there isn't actually much of a view off of East and there is the issue of a fairly substantial scramble called the Chimney which one must first go down and go up on the return trip. Theoretically there is an easier way around it...but I didn't notice.
We continued to East and then headed back. It was still wet and cold but the mushrooms were off the handle and we were enjoying the challenge. The Chimney was actually a bit easier--straight up--on the way back. I mentioned this same phenomenon on the Garfield Ridge. Climbing is just easier than descending when it comes to cliffs.
When we emerged onto Osceola for the second time the clouds finally parted and we got one of those classic White Mountain views. I would say it was worth the trip but the trip had been pretty cool up to that point. Still, it was nice to see. On the way home I wiped out on some wet ledge rock, tangled myself in a tree, and broke my hiking pole. At this point I was still not entirely rehabilitated from my back surgery so I opted for the spectacular spill instead of twisting something to maintain my balance. Dan sorted me out. That is another good reason to hike with somebody. I felt the fall for a while though.
In the end the trip was 8.5 miles and about 3,200 feet of elevation. It was quite a day.
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.