After six months away from mountains, trees, and nature, I decided I needed to have some time in the woods alone. This was an interesting revelation…because I have never actually spent time in the woods alone. Maybe I was feeling overstimulated by being back home after a year of travel. Maybe I was missing all the time I spent by myself during my three months in Buenos Aires. Whatever the reason, I packed up my backpack, grabbed a Zipcar, and headed a few hours north to the White Mountains for the weekend.
I spent Saturday taking my time driving up and setting up camp. I put up the hammock and just stared at the trees above. I threw my yoga mat down on the dirt and practiced while my dinner cooked on our stove. I sat in my camp chair, sipped a bourbon, and did absolutely nothing, like an old man. Once the evening dusk came so did the spiders, but I managed to keep my tent free of any friends and slept well for sleeping on the ground.
I woke up just as the sun rose, cooked myself some noodle soup (which we learned is the way to go before hikes during all our treks around the world), and headed out to start the trail around 8:00am. I chose the Franconia Ridge Loop, knowing that it would be a good challenge but not too much of one. After
climbing suffering Mount Taranaki in New Zealand, I thought I may have lost my taste for hiking and was glad to find that was not the case. The 9+ mile trails took me 7 hours and I enjoyed some nice long breaks, too.
It took me a few hours to reach the first summit: Little Haystack. The clouds were thick but refreshing after a long, hot, muggy climb to the top. I took a first summit photo, but the view isn’t much…
The Ridge Loop trail connects three summits: Little Haystack, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Lafayette. Yes, as in Lafayette from Hamilton. I had his songs in my head all day. I took a quick rest on Little Haystack, but was eager to get to the part I was looking forward to the most: the ridge!
For the most part, the ridge was cloudy, but there were times when patches of blue sky peeked out. It’s impressive how fast the weather changes on the mountaintops. The view below lasted no more than a few seconds, then we were back in clouds.
After an hour or so of hiking along the ridge, we finally reached the Mt. Lafayette summit at 5,260 feet. I took a nice long rest stretched out on the rocks. The view was non-existent, so this is the only photo I have from the top. After a stick of beef jerky but before a dark chocolate peanut butter cup. Half the reason I hike is for the snacks, guys.
As I headed down the mountain, I got some great views of Franconia Notch and the ridge I just hiked.
In the photo above, you can see Shining Rock over to the right, where I took my first break as I started out. From there, I climbed the entirety of the ridge. It felt super satisfying to be able to look out over what I’d spent the day doing!
I had been chatting with a couple that was heading down the trail too and we paused to take some photos for each other with the ridge behind us.
A few hours after I’d started down, I came to a waterfall and a shallow river. Ripped my shoes and socks off and soaked my screaming feet and ankles in the freezing water for a good 10 glorious minutes. I got back to my car around 3:00 and laid in the soft grass near the hikers’ info hut for awhile before driving back to the campground.
My second night was very quiet – I was one of three groups in the whole campground and none of them were anywhere near me. As I was cleaning up my pot from dinner, some constant thunder and lightning started, but never came too close for comfort. I went to bed and immediately some soft rain started and I feel right asleep.
I woke up early in order to get back to Boston and start the work week, but I savored the last few moments of solitude on the drive and listened to my favorite screamo and classic rock as loud as I wanted.
Because when you’re alone, you can do stuff like that.