Mount Moriah marked the return of my original hiking crew. I had taken some time off from the original list of 48 and had been revisiting some old peaks. This was to begin working on my winter list as I was also determined to complete the 48 in winter. Not necessarily one winter season but winter none the less. I had done Moosilauke, Lafayette, Lincoln and Little Haystack (in a white out no less), the Hancock’s (with some of the crew from Whiteface), Liberty, Tom, Field and Willey, and my crown jewel: Washington. The last 4 winter peaks were under the encouragement of someone that had become very special to my world. He was a hiker through and through and one that I could see summiting many mountains with me. I had been waiting for him for all this time and he was, having his tonsils out at almost 41 years of age. He was a hiker out of commission. Of course on this particular hike day, he was actually working and all healed from surgery. I looked forward to a journey to a summit with him though all the same.
I had met up with everyone at LL Bean like usual and it felt good to pile all the gear into the Liberty. The dog was even happy to see me. I had packed the long overdue Christmas gifts for them as well and would give them to them, after the hike. There were enthusiastic greetings and then we were off down the road. It was 3 miles to the trail head as the peaks we were concentrating on were further away now. I had much to fill them in on with my life as things had shifted in the last month. I had stopped the relationship I had at the beginning of the year and waited through another bad match to find a true hiker. I enthusiastically told them about him and hoped that they would welcome him on a few of our hikes. I could also sense their reservations and their desire for me to slow down. I was happy though and wanted to share my happiness with my friends. The conversation shifted between life and trails throughout the ride and I also filled them in on my winter adventures.
The trailhead was a small parking area and I checked reception on my iPhone as well as any texts from the new hiker. He always put a smile on my face with his wishes of a good hike. I set the GPS to track the trail and we were off down the trail. There was a well-built bridge to get us over to the trail and the dog really didn’t like that very much. I found myself tripping over her and growing a little impatient. We walked by another amazing water way as they all seemed so beautiful in their own way. This one was rushing and I thought to myself how much he would love to see this. I smiled and kept walking. The usual routine was back along with the usual jokes and things. At a particularly wide section of trail, I received a text from him and took the opportunity to text him back. No big deal in my eyes and if my partners kept walking, I figured I would catch up (functioning much like the group on Whiteface). I sent it and sensed that they were growing a little impatient with me. I was stuck between him and the group. Of course, I would choose him.
There was not a whole lot of snow on the lower trails and it was a sure sign that spring had indeed made itself known. It was still chilly for the morning and yet even that was not unwelcome. I was trying to focus myself on any small things that might catch my eye but seemed to lose my focus often so, I continued to hike and joined in on the conversation as well as yet another game of “blaze!” Where we shout out Blaze when we see one. Incidentally, I was failing miserably since my mind was elsewhere. I wanted someone else to be here with me and I kept him in my mind so that he would be. A few small things did catch my eye like the buds on the trees and things like that. The trial then took a rocky turn and we began to climb on top of everything else. Welcome to the elevation gain part of the trail. We continued on as far as we could without any traction but soon the trail became too much and we needed to put on microspikes. I imagined that there would not be too many more days to wear these things. I was also traveling today with a much lighter pack thanks to him as he has showed me that I was carrying too much. As I lifted the lighter pack on my back, I remembered the day in the living room where he made me unpack my pack in front of him. I was embarrassed by the weight but I was so happy that he wanted to help me. It had meant a lot that he wanted to share his knowledge of hiking with me and to make a connection like we were. An odd dog had joined us and his owner seemed nowhere to be found. So, we kind of stalled to see if they would show up. Sure enough about 10 minutes behind the dog were his owners.
(A word about dogs…. Always keep them with you on the trails. You never know who or what could harm them.)
As we continued to walk, things lightened up a little and we all began laughing. We made it to a flatter section of the trail and welcomed the lack of elevation gain (or at least our calves and lungs did). We enjoyed looking at some rabbit tracks in the snow and laughed some more about different jokes that would come up on the trail. At one particular junction, the timing was right and I was made to laugh so hard while drinking that I just could not hold my water in. I spit it all over the trail and myself. Then of course, I let out the biggest burst of laughter I could. It felt good to laugh where some of my life had turned a little too serious.
We began walking on a series of rock outlooks and grabbed some great views of the surrounding peaks. I was amazed at the views as always and there was a joke about my dropping the F-bomb on Madison.
“It very well could happen again and again I thought. I was no longer being reserved. This is who I am. Take me or leave me.” I had been given a renewed sense of self with this new hiker (read: actual hiker) in my life.
I caught glimpses of my favorite Presidentials and remembered my last hike up Washington just after his surgery. How proud he was to tell everyone that I was doing this (or it might have been the morphine talking). Still, it made me smile even bigger knowing that I had such a fabulous day on the rock pile. The ledges were interlaced with woods and the trail seemed to take forever to reach the summit. But with each opening, I grew more and more in awe of what I was seeing. I should be used to this by now but, in all truth, the views just never seem to get old and each time I see them I still become emotional (sometimes more obvious than other times). As we kept walking over the trail in the upper elevations, winter had a tight grip on the trees and seemed to be holding on as if it depended on them. I enjoyed the openness of the trail mixed in with time in the trees as we made our way to the summit.
“It just keeps going…” Was the comment we all seemed to make. In truth, it really did and every time we thought we were there, it was another hill we had to crest to get to our reward.
With one final upward trail, we came to a small flat opening and we were presented with the most amazing view. My summit picture was taken with my beloved Presidentials in the background. I was so at home up on the summit and so at peace and wishing that I could share this with him. We settled down for lunch and I had brought something other than PB&J (Roast beef and cheese wrap and a granny smith apple) and it was really good. There was something about the higher elevations that made food taste that much better.
After one last look around, we began the trek back and reflected on how the Moriah summit seemed to get further away every time we thought that we were getting close to it. We retraced our steps and remembered some of the funnier moments that we had on our way up. Back at the car, I was getting punchy and wanted to be heading home to get into with my night time plans (dinner with some of his friends and dancing). We stopped at Dunkin’ Doughnuts for our traditional cup of coffee and bathroom break and made our way back to Concord. Once back in my own car, I was able to charge my phone and get back in touch with people. Apparently due to the late time and my phone being dead, people started to worry (namely, he started to worry which made me worry). So, I began informing those that needed to know that I was indeed down. And I needed to work out a way to keep my phone battery from dying.