Sometimes I set out to find adventure, and sometimes adventure just finds me. That’s what happened this past weekend when I headed to New Hampshire to go hiking with some friends. I had been hiking before—or at least I thought I had—so I didn’t think anything eventful enough would happen to warrant a blog post. That changed even before we arrived.
Sunday morning started with an early wake-up call and we were on the road speeding toward the White Mountains before 7:00 a.m. Speeding turned out to be the operative word. We were pulled over by a New Hampshire state trooper, who calmly asked my friend behind the wheel, “Do you know how fast you were going?” at which point I nearly laughed out loud because I thought cops only said those sort of things in movies.
You see, I had never been in a car while it was being pulled over before. This is less a testament to my strong driving skills (in fact I can count on two hands the number of people who claim they nearly lost their lives with me behind the wheel), than an ode to my seven years as a New Yorker who’s preferred mode of transportation was, and continues to be, her own two feet. So seeing the lights flashing behind us set the tone for the rest of the day: we did not have luck on our side.
We got back on the road and met Corey Fitzgerald at the base of Little Haystack Mountain. Corey runs Northeast Mountaineering, and you may remember him from my rock climbing adventure earlier this summer. At that time, my friend Eleanor and I had so much fun we swore we had to return to New Hampshire soon, and Corey was the obvious choice to accompany us.
I didn’t think much about this hike until a few days beforehand when Corey gave us a list of what we should wear, bring and pack. Then I realized I was ill prepared for this day hike. I couldn’t find my hiking boots, which I swear I had owned at some point in my life, the only backpack I had barely fit my camera and the only thing I had to wear on the lower part of my body was yoga pants. It turns out I am more “Troop Beverly Hills” than Outward Bound. I remedied the gear situation with a little help from Facebook, Hannah Moore and Lulu Lemon.
The weather forecast took a last-minute turn and at the summit of the mountains it was predicted to be between 35 and 50 degrees with rain, thunderstorms, and wind gusts of 40 miles per hour. Corey had sent us an email detailing our journey and said that we would have 11 hours of daylight to complete our hike. This elicited the following email response from me: “WE ARE GOING ON AN 11 HOUR HIKE???”
This was the first clue that my idea of a “hike” and Corey’s idea of a hike may be two very different things. My second clue came when we started up the mountain, and it was very steep and rocky. That was when I realized that “hiking” to me is more like a scenic stroll…on a slight incline. Don’t get me wrong, my friends and I kept up with Corey (for the most part) although the pace he was setting was likely that of a snail compared to his normal clip (his hands were in his pockets and he was whistling while we were huffing and puffing). We stopped about ever hour to have a snack. We had some amazing views on the way up, and then a storm rolled in. As the rain came down, we continued to climb up, but our determination wavered.
“This has already been a great day,” may have come out of one of our mouths after just two hours on the trail.
But Corey verbally whipped us back into hiking shape with “We have to summit something.” Did we…really? But summit we did. We “tagged the top” (even if I’m not outfitted like a hiker at least I can use their lexicon) of Little Haystack after more than three hours. The panoramic views of the White Mountains were amazing, and watching the rain fall on different parts of the terrain was really cool.
Corey had planned for us to travel an hour and a half along a ridge and summit a few more peaks before heading back down, but with rain moving in, we decided to go back the way we came.
And that’s when the rain really started coming down. And then there was thunder. And lightning. We hiked down in the rain for more than two hours. During which time one of my hiking buddies became terrified that we would be struck by lightning, Corey kept whistling, and I realized that my raincoat was “water resistant,” not “waterproof.” Every layer of clothing I was wearing was sopping wet. Needless to say we were much less talkative on the way down; although I nearly broke into chants of “Beverly Hills, what a thrill…” with the hopes of injecting some comic relief into our sullen march down the mountain.
I was freezing by the time we got back to our car, and drew stairs when I ordered hot tea at a bar in Woodstock while wearing a puffy down jacket…in August. Lesson learned: I am a city mouse, and I may just have to accept that. Or at the very least invest in the appropriate gear before my next outdoor adventure…which is actually coming up next month! I will be foraging, yes foraging. I will be living off the land for a weekend…gathering nuts and berries, hopefully catching a fish or two…all because one of my readers suggested I try it, thank you June in Chicago!
So this hiking trip was probably a blessing in disguise. I now know I am woefully unprepared (both mentally and materialistically) for a night in the wilderness; I have a month to get ready. And hopefully my quads will be working by then, because the day after this hike I could barely walk.
Thanks to Corey Fitzgerald of Northeast Mountaineering, for another amazing adventure. Thanks also to Eleanor Crow and Nicole Richards for letting me include them in this post. And a big thank you to Shelley Long for providing the perfect analogy for my outdoorsiness, or lack thereof.