Thursday, May 3, 2018

Hiking Mt. Moosilauke & A (Much Needed) Re-Set

Last Friday, the school that I work at was out for April Break. The call to get outside and get moving again has been ringing in my ears for a while now, and my friend Kelsie, who's also a para, felt the same way. So, we planned to meet up Friday morning and drive to Mt. Moosilauke in Benton, NH, for the first hike of 2018.

While I'd always gone hiking as a little kid, as I got older, work and school and skating always seemed to get in a way, and I found myself going a few ears without anything that qualified as a 'real' hike. Then last summer, I climbed Mt. Major with my mom, and was immediately hooked.

I couldn't believe how much fun hiking was. I had always known I enjoyed it, but the rush of peace, possibility, and achievement I felt with every single step blew my mind. After Mt. Major, I went on to do Mt. Tecumseh and Mt. Canon last summer, as well as multiple quick trips to smaller, local mountains. I decided that I would work my way through the 4000 Footers; NH's 48 mountains that reach an elevation of 4000+ feet.

My incredible friend Kelsie looking like she stepped out of a hiking magazine.
It felt so good to get back out to the mountains. Benton is pretty far north in NH, so Moosilauke still had snow cover the entire way up. We had no problem with ice (we both came prepared with spikes for our boots), but we did sink in a lot. We'd be walking along, laughing and not paying too much attention, and all of a sudden one foot would sink all the way through the snow, tripping us and leaving bruises up and down our legs. Some of the falls were hilarious--I sunk all the way up to my waist once!

Once you're a little more than half way up, you can really see the change in the tree line. Everything gets smaller, shrubbier, and mossier. Along the trail, there are a few really great spots to stop and appreciate the view. The cloudy weather made all the far off mountains look blue, and paired with the snow and the evergreen trees, it looked like a painting. The peak was really cool, because it's a bald top mountain. For the last portion of the trail, you're just hiking across rocks, with a 360 degree view. By the time we got the top, the cloudy skies we'd started out with had gotten even worse, so it was pretty foggy. The winds were crazy, some of them felt like they could knock me over, but they did keep the fog moving, so every couple of minutes the clouds would part and we could see the view.

The wind driving some of the fog away at the peak.
We stayed at the top for a little while to take some pictures, but it was easily 20 degrees cooler than just a little ways down the mountain, so we started our way back down pretty quickly. About a quarter of the way back down, we stopped for lunch, and then kept moving. The way down was so much quicker than the way up! Overall, I think the snow actually helped us gain time. The estimated time for the hike was a little over 6 hours, and we got back to our car after 5 hours and 50 minutes. But, the gate to the parking lot was closed, so we had a half-hour walk on the road in both directions to actually get to the trail-head. Subtract that from our time, and the fact that we stopped for lots of pictures and to eat lunch, and we made really good time!

On the hike, we talked about everything from work to dating to TV shows we watched as kids to our futures. A big idea we both commented on, though, was the wash of peace that came over both of us. When you're hiking, you have no where else to be. Nothing to run to next. It's just you, and a close friend, and the mountain. As you hike, life becomes more real. You're simultaneously impressed with the beauty around you, and the importance of appreciating every second we have in this world, while also realizing that so much of the crap we fill our daily lives with really doesn't matter. I had this epiphany on the way up that I wasn't put here to conform to what society's expectations of me are, or to spend my time worrying about making enough money, or doing the 'right' work, or getting to a certain place by a certain age. I'm allowed to explore. I'm allowed to do what works for me, and what makes me happy. I don't have to judge myself by anyone else's measure.

For me personally, hiking is about so much more than exercise, or even crossing peaks off of a list. It's a reality check, a brain re-set. The evening after, I feel so accomplished and invincible, and so much more ready to tackle life in a way that makes me happy.

Mount Moosilauke, Benton, NH.
Elevation: 4, 802 foot.
Trail: Gorge Brook Trail.
Gained Elevation: 2, 506 feet.
Date Completed: April 27, 2018.

If you find yourself with time to hike in NH, I'd totally recommend Moosilauke! It's a great winter hike, and I'm sure the bald top views are even prettier in the summer!

Happy Thursday! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian 

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