Saturday, August 29, 2009

What Doesn't Kill You....

We recently took an end-of-summer trip to The White Mountains of New Hampshire, a beautiful part of the world, and took a 7.5 mile hike up 4802 foot Mount Moosilauke. We were staying at the great lodge, owned by Dartmouth, and the students in the Outdoor club told us that the hike would take about 3 hours up and 2 down, without any stops. It was described as "challenging," though do-able for anyone reasonably fit, it just might take some longer than others.

Full disclosure: I embarked with my group, family and a friend, as well as Monty Booh, our Bernese Mountain dog at around 9 a.m., and slogged back into the lodge covered in mud and wet at 5 p.m., the last to make it.

The climb up went well. Yes, it was challenging, somewhat steep, a bit rocky, but to reach the true summit above tree-line was eerie and spectacular, an experience I haven't had since I climbed the Canadian Rockies as a teen.

Down was the bloody nightmare. It was pure rocks, all shapes, all sizes, some solid, some loose, and you had to bear down with concentrated focused attention, watching each step, so as not to fall (I did twice), not to twist and break an ankle (knock wood) or hurt your knees. Ah, those ever essential knees. I actually have no problem with my knees, but the long, steep, rock-laden descent puts pressure on even the strongest, most hale and hearty knees. On one stone, that rocked suddenly backward, my knee locked backward in tandem: pure, piercing pain! But in a minute, or 5 or 10 (hence the 8 hour hike), I pressed on.

At one point, exhausted, my dear husband of 22 years lifted me down from the steep ledge of a rock (my white knight in shining armour). He was about to put me gently down on the muddy ground, when his mouth opened in a surprised O, and a moment later, I found myself lying on top of him in deep mud, with a stream running over our shoulders and arms.

Murder was on my mind.

"What happened?!"

"I lost my footing."

"Is this a metaphor for our marriage?"

As we roused ourselves from the sludge and wet, the rain began, first a pleasant pitter-patter, then more insistent, finally a 30-minute, torrential downpour. Did we have raingear? Of course not. The forecast was for a beautiful, summer's day in the low 80s. Can't trust those weather guys. Or those Dartmouth outdoor types. Have you seen the Dartmouth kids? Well, let's just say that they are disgustingly fit and healthy and have a significant percent of Olympic-level and true Olympic athletes. For real.

Remember those rocks? Welcome to a slick, slippery obstacle course.

I soon had my second fall, sliding suddenly down a mossy rock finding myself flat on my back. Thankfully, I didn't hit my head on a rock, or throw my back out. I was pretty surprised though, and have a few black and blue marks to show for it. But my body, thankfully, is pretty sturdy. (Must be my Jewish Russian and Romanian peasant background! I rarely suffer serious injuries.)

My 12-year-old daughter pulled me up from the mud.

"Take my hand, Mommy," she ordered.

"I'm okay."

No. You're old."

All relative. I made it.

And it seems like a wonderful accomplishment. Now. My hot shower was one of the most delicious in my life, though it took 45-minutes and a good deal of scalding water and soap to scrub off the mud. And my dinner that night of scallops and clams was gorgeous. And my night's sleep, dreamless, velvety black, sudden as a swoon.


Gina said...

What a fun piece. Hiking is one of my favourite pastimes. Doing it in the rain is not. I remember coming down off of Mt. Edith Cavell in an icy July downpour (it snowed at Lake Louise that same day). It reminds me how lucky we are to have the convenience of hot showers and fine restaurants to restore strength. You have truly earned bragging rights for years to come.

Chez Ami said...

Thanks, Gina. Indeed. But one can't control the weather, alas.

I look forward to going again--but to less rocky terrain. Let me know of any great hikes around and aboot that you know of--here in Canada or in the Big Beutiful USA!