Sometimes, life is not about what you do day in and day out… Sometimes life is what you strive to do and what you want to accomplish. Those long term goals that you want to see a little closer than a spot on the horizon. So, this summer, I set out to not wait around for anyone and to do the things that I wanted to do… To do those things on my own terms and have a little fun. Somewhere along the way, I connected with something that really spoke to me. It was the mountains. To look at this most recent climb, I need to step back first.
Start of the trail on Monadnock's Toll Road Trail Head.
Even before I got sick in 2010, I had… Issues. I know, who doesn’t have issues really? These days we are all carrying some kind of baggage. And the first story I have to tell you is kind of how I got… Back in 2007, I had set out to climb Mount Monadnock with someone who was once near and dear to me. Thinking that it would be a piece of cake, we set out with some water and that was about it. We hiked and we talked and walked and we started to climb… I felt like I was hanging onto the side of the mountain at one point and I lost my grip. I slipped down some slick granite and I froze right there on the side of the mountain. You’d think that anyone would be supportive and try and talk me up… Nope. He talked me into a blind panic instead. I sent him on and cursed myself as I waited… and waited… On the side of that mountain until he came back and we could go back down together. I was defeated…. I believe he felt just fine. We lasted until 2009. But what he did, lasted well…. Until recently.
You see recently, I finally figured out how to live. I figured out how to live with a disease and still be extremely active. I figured out how to live and get my needs met above all while still considering others. I figured out how to live and not have to wait for anyone to tell me it was OK to do something. I figured out how to live in the light instead of someone else’s shadow. It’s been one hell of a ride and I’m still going. Still learning. All the while, I am living. At 3165ft up, I finally completed the last long standing obstacle. I’ll get back to today soon…
It all really started earlier this summer when I started hiking around state parks… Pretty much flat surfaces and long trails. I started hiking because it was something that I have always wanted to do. And each time I would bring it up to someone in my life; they would enthusiastically say that they would join me or that they would plan trips with me. Only when we went to plan those trips, they were suddenly unavailable and I was... Defeated. After all, each time, I was really looking forward to sharing the experience with someone and then to have it denied was heart breaking. That was until this summer when I just didn’t care anymore. I would have to be content for now and not the least bit scared to do it solo. It’s not bad way to spend a day and I have been able to work through some pretty intense thoughts I’ve had going on those days. OK, I may or may not have been on the verge of an emotional crisis at the beginning of the summer of 2011 and I needed an outlet. I found hiking. Then one day, I climbed something called Little Monadnock… Complete with views of the very mountain that I had not completed since I was a little girl. It was mocking me essentially from a far. I vowed to get back there and do it and all the while I continued to have these conversations with myself, I worked out a plan and on Little Monadnock, I decided that life was too short to wait for all these things I had been promised and if anything I needed to get moving and do things on my own. Then I also realized how bored I had become on flat surfaces. The small peaks lasted all of well, Pack Monadnock in Miller State Park.
I had jumped to Mount Cardigan at 3,119 ft. It was a nice walk that coincided with an inspirational talk by two ladies in their 50’s that had hiked all the 4000footers in New England. I was hooked sitting up there on the cardigan summit with the past and present colliding. The following weekend, I jumped again and did two peaks in one day and in the White Mountains. Mount Crawford 3129ft and Stairs Mountain 3463ft. My first trip into the Whites and I was in love… With mountain hiking. I had been promised a hike up Mount Chocorua at 3490ft. The unfortunate and yet typical thing was the promise was backed out of… I however did it anyway… Solo like the rest. This one was more hand over hand climbing at the summit. I was not sure at first if I was capable. It turns out… I am. I sat on the summit eating my PB&J (A regular ritual) with the grin of a small child up to no good on the playground… My new Playground was officially the White Mountains. And it was on that mountain with that broken promise that I decided to begin my quest officially for the 4000footers in New Hampshire. I was able to mark off Mount Moosilauke that following Saturday… 4802ft. And still one mountain had to be completed before I got too far in.
I had been seeing a therapist at the beginning of the summer of 2011. She was the ribbon tying up my hiking conversations and encouraging me to go further. In discussing hiking in relationship to my life, she made it clear that I needed to complete Monadnock. For success and to finally put a lot of emotions to rest, it was suggested that I choose a trail system that was not the one I failed on the last time. After discussing my 48 4thousand footer plan, she brought it up again…
“You need to climb and complete Monadnock.” She would say in her thick accent.
“I know, I know. I have a shot after I do Moosilauke. I can probably hit Monadnock on Labor Day since I have the day off.” I told her and a plan was born.
Today was the day… Monadnock was in my sights. In spite of thunderstorms in the area and in spite of all those pit falls and illnesses I had before me, I set out. I took a different and more challenging trail than the one that stalled me last time. And I was alone so, it’s not like I had anyone to answer to but me. The summit would be mine. Even as I was climbing, it was not that easy. The trail was wet and slick and I had taken the cliff trail along ridges and cliffs on the side of the mountain. The fog was thick and as I got to the top, I began to wonder. Then I happened upon some fellow hikers. We shared stories and I got my picture taken at the first minor summit (bald rock). They were proud that I was doing this today. And we all set out on the trail. I lingered so that I could just be at my own pace. The four of them made it to the summit well before me. I had to go through some pretty steep hand over hand climbing and hoisted myself to the summit. The wind was howling and the view was not visible. But I was at the summit. I happened to run into one of my earlier fellow hikers. We swapped a few more stories about the mountain and then he told me… “We’ve all saved you an amazing seat at the summit in honor of your climb”. It was a seat right at the very tip of the summit. The highpoint. A few complete strangers cared enough to cheer me on to complete this leg on my journey. Grinning ear to ear, I settled in to eat my sandwich and laugh with a few good people. Everest conquered. Now bring on the rest of the 4000footers and above. Life has come back to me. My eyes are brighter, my smile is wider. And it’s not because of anyone but me. It doesn’t matter if I am sick when I am on the summit. It doesn’t even matter is a promise got broken. I’m as close as I am going to get to the clouds and sometimes those clouds come down to touch me.