We too are trying to compensate for the total inactivity of the winter desperately. After having spent the winter holed up inside, surrounded by more than a hundred inches of snow, we are determined to spend our summer outdoor as much as possible – storing up cud to be coughed up and savoured during the white out months later. That is why, when we planned to go hiking – a seven mile long steep climb of 4000 feet and down, that is what was in my mind – memory making.
We were going to Mt. Osceola, one of the peaks in the beautiful White Mountains in New Hampshire. We would start from the Tripoli Trail, go all the way up and then come down through the Greeley Pond trail. We were taking two cars, so we’d park one car at each side of our trail.
It had rained the day before but the weather had cleared out in the evening. And the plan was on. Morning when we started from our home, it was pleasant outside – not too hot, yet warm enough. We packed our backpacks and off we went. And balked. Well, almost.
The steep mountain stood unyielding before us, daring us to take a step forward. The narrow hike had loose rocks and wet soil. To make things worse small streams of water ran across the rocks from last night’s rain. While we were weighing our options by taking a stock of our supply of water and sunscreens and bug spray – a man passed us by with his dog. “If you are carrying duct tape, you should be good. Come on now, plunge. Don’t hesitate.” he called out to us before moving on. Duct Tape! Not only we weren’t carrying any, we didn’t know why we’d need some. Talk about being amateurs!
Since it’d be too shameful to show our faces later if we didn’t do the hike after coming all the way, we decided to go for it. We silently said our prayer and started to climb. We used four of our limbs and climbed. About an hour later we took our first break and took out our phones to take some pictures of our tired and sweaty selves. We couldn’t believe what we saw. It’d been only ten minutes! Not an hour!
At this point I lost it. I shouted at my husband for convincing me to come to this hike. I was a keyboard wielding, slouched in my seat software engineer with a weak lower back. How was it ever a good idea to torture myself like this on a perfectly fine weekend when I could sit on my couch and watch TV? But my breath rasped like wind in a pine grove and barely a sound came out.
I wanted to go back but our car was at the other end of the hike and the people we carpooled with to this end of the trail were already far ahead of us. If we didn’t follow, they’d be stuck on the other side and we on this side.
So we climbed some more. And then some more. We walked, slipped and almost fell down the open valley and died, but we didn’t stop anymore. Because we had to do it. We weren’t going to make ourselves look like the cowards. Slowly the Adrenaline was kicking in, the lungs and the heart were becoming accustomed to the assault. Walking on the rocks, moving deftly from one rock to another without falling or tripping or loosing balance became a game. And we started to make good pace.
About an hour later (a real hour this time), we found our way blocked by some tree branches. We removed the branches for the fellow hikers, like the helpful people we were, and went our way. The trail was smoother and we were doing much better now.
“See, how well we are doing now?” my husband said.
“It’s all about giving your body time to get accustomed. And see we are doing so well, that the other couple who were right behind us is no where to be seen now.” I said with some satisfaction.
“Wait. You are right. Where are they? And why didn’t we see anyone else?” he asked.
“Oh, dont you worry. They must be taking a break. Let’s go!”
“What if the branches we removed were actual road blockers? Let’s go back the way we came.”
“What? Are you mad? I am not going back again.” I found my temper rising again.
But he made me look around. We were in the middle of a forest, just like in movies, and there were no marking, no paths what so ever marked by human feet! GPS didn’t work here either! So we relied on the tiny compass we had and found that sure enough, we were headed North-West when actually we should have gone North-East.
We trudged our way backward to the same point where we’d taken the wrong turn and with the help of the compass corrected our course! Half a mile climb later the couple we’d lost came into view again! Imagine our delight then! Not only were we on the right course again, we’d also learnt to navigate the ancient way – by using a compass!
We began our seemingly endless climb at this point stopping only to sip our water. Two more hours later I was feeling light headed and dizzy. All I knew was I have to go on. We met quite a few people coming down (clever people – coming down the same way they went up), and I asked everyone – “How far is the peak? How much more? How long?” The answers were absurd. Ranging from 40 minutes to 20 minutes to just round the corner. I stopped asking.
I had bruised my body badly and my throat burned. I was almost convinced that I was never going to make it, that I was having a heart attack right here right now, that I’d have to call 911 and the rescue team would come flying in a helicopter just like what they show in the movies.
But then just when I was about to give up the narrow rocky way gave into a plain, almost circular, open area. We’d reached the peak. The sprawling view that stretched ahead made up for all the effort! The green Pine forest stretched on the hill slope as far as eyes could see. The sky was overcast, and it gave the forest a dark tinge – like the deep green velvet.
We also met the guy with the dog here, who had said that duct tape was the one thing we needed on the hike. By the time we’d reached, he was already planning his descent. Unable to contain my curiosity I asked him why he’d said so! He said, very seriously – “If you break some bones while going down, you can use duct tape to keep it together temporarily. You gotta keep going, don’t you? No 911 help is going to come here, you know!”
Thus began our descent! On the other side of the mountain.
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