In my conversations with you, you’re telling me how life throws you curveballs. Who would have thought you’d be navigating pre-retirement as a cancer survivor with one lung? But, you tell me, “that’s life.” What’s been on your mind is what you can do with it. Can you, for example, still hike like you used to? Can you still summit a 4,000-foot mountain?
And so, that’s what we talked about earlier this fall as you planned your trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where 48 of the 4,000 footers reside, many in the Presidential range.
If you’re familiar with the White Mountains, you know the most famous dead president—Mount Washington. When you summit that mountain, you feel as if you can see as far as Washington’s home in Mount Vernon, Virginia.
Mount Washington literally is home to the worst weather on earth, holding the record for strongest wind gust of 221 mph. There’s a museum in North Conway with an exhibit resembling the little wood shack at the summit. You close the doors, and it simulates what it feels like inside when it’s blowing 221 mph outside. Your Survival Guy is here to report, it’s a bit shaky.
Now, for those of you in the mountain west, you may think, eh, 6,288 ft. elevation, that’s no big deal, my ski resort is 8,000 feet. But here in New England, we’re like sea creatures crawling from the shores to the head of the trail.
This is where my valued clients, we’ll call them Jack and Jill, found themselves this fall at the base of a 4,000 footer Mount Moosilauke (Correction) in New Hampshire. Weeks before their trip, Jack and I spoke about some of my favorite places to eat, and our talk made me feel like I was part of the expedition.
About a month later, we spoke about their trip. As Jack describes it, it’s pretty amazing what you can accomplish just putting one foot in front of the other. Before you know it, you’re at the top of a 4,000 footer. The problem is, once you climb one 4,000 footer, you want to start checking off names and bagging more of them. And they did. They climbed five over six days. Jack told me they tackled both Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln. There was zero visibility at the top of Lafayette. I can relate.
Years ago, my dad and I hiked Lafayette on a picture-perfect fall morning only to get socked in by a snowstorm near the summit. Like smart hikers, we turned around and headed back to the car. Kidding! We decided to “go for it,” lost the trail on the way down, and luckily didn’t walk off the side of the mountain. It was a quiet car ride back to Woodstock, NH. Hiking isn’t always like the brochure at the visitor’s center. But some days it is.
One of the more memorable summits for my clients was the big one: Mount Washington. It was touch and go near the summit, and it basically came down to reaching one cairn, then the other, and the other, and all of a sudden, they were surrounded by planes, trains, and automobiles. Not exactly. There weren’t any planes. But because you can take a train or car up Mount Washington and go to the gift shop and snack bar, it can feel a little defeating when you climb on foot to the top and find everyone else there has taken the easy way up. But if you hiked in from ground level, the reward is better than anything you can buy at a gift shop.
There’s a picture in our cabin in New Hampshire of the day my kids hiked Mt. Washington. Every time I pass it, it brings me back to that experience. I can almost feel the tiredness and the satisfaction of accomplishment. And yet, when you hike a mountain, it’s such an individual thing, like a round of golf. A lot of it comes down to you and the conversations you have with yourself. You’re by yourself a lot. And that’s OK.
Action Line: One step after the other isn’t rocket science. But after a while, you look back upon all those steps, and you’re atop a 4,000-footer—or a pile of savings—with spectacular views, wondering how you even did it. The reality is, yes, you just did it. And I’d love to hear how.
P.S. Five 4,000 footers, 18,000 feet elevation, 47 miles hiked over six days looks like this:
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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