December came and I was still hiking my way through the 48. It had not even begun to snow in any serious manner so, I was just able to keep climbing my way through the list. Knowing that December was going to be busy for me (holidays and one pesky licensure test) and also knowing that it could really snow any day now, I wanted to get as many peaks out of the way as I could. I had begun to see another guy who claimed to be a hiker and seemed to fit into my life. Although, he was not too thrilled for winter hiking and seemed to only stick to the hills over the mountains, I thought to myself that maybe it might just work. Or we may find other interests in common and this could remain my sort of thing… Hobby. I knew that in my heart of hearts, I was not going to stop until my goals were reached and no one or no situation was really going to stop me. So, for lack of anything preventing me, I moved forward. If this new potential partner wanted to join me, he would of course need to prove that he could (I was not going to have Garfield happen again) and he would also need to know there would be times when I just needed to go off on my own. Today was one of those hikes and it was a small mountain, Tecumseh.
Arriving at the Waterville Valley ski area, I drove around a few times to find a place to park. I was clear on the other side of the resort area and away from the trailhead. Of course, I didn’t even know where the trailhead was as it was not really visible to me when I drove by it… Twice. A nice gentleman who worked at the resort helped me out and directed me. The skiers were arriving as some of the trails were open. For a lack of natural snow, there was always man-made snow being pumped onto the mountain. I got myself together and set off. It was only a 2.5 mile hike up. Not to mention, it was 3 feet shorter than Waumbeck and we all know how that one went last week. So, the beginning of the trail was pretty easy. The grade would rise and fall and there was one water crossing to start with. The sun was rising which also served to take some of the chill out of the air. Let’s be real here, it is December and in spite of the lack of snow, it’s still cold and season appropriate. So, as I walk, I begin to think of things that I want to accomplish and it becomes clear to me that this will be one of those hikes. The ones where I try to puzzle out what I really want on a professional and personal level. The basic gist of it is that all I really want is to be happy. And I feel my most happy when connected in the woods, on a trail, and reaching a peak of some kind. I am truly amazed at how comfortable I feel and as if nothing else matters in the entire world. I am at peace once again where before, I was chaotic and unfocused. This of course has nothing to do with any potential partner or career. It just has to do with me, centering myself and accepting myself in the present.
The present was trying to get up the side of this mountain… I came rocketing back to my present which was a hard steep climb. Not even so much rocky and uneven as it was just steep. I came to the second water crossing and was happy to feel the grade lessen and then I looked across and saw… Another up.
“Well, I guess that’s what these things do… They go up. Right Chief?” I smiled.
Chief, of course being my grandfather who had passed so many years ago. AS I walked, I would talk with him. On many occasions, I have had some great talks with him. Today was one of those days as well. I was trying to puzzle out what to make of this new man in my life and trying to make out what this career I had carved out for myself would mean. How long would I be able to push myself to the limits of my professional stamina considering the demands of this job, I estimated that it would not be long. I had my licensure exam coming up and while that would take a weekend away from hiking, I knew that this would be a crucial piece to the professional puzzle. And who was this new guy? We were just getting to know one another. I’m not inclined to give my heart to anyone right off the bat unless he knocks my socks off and I was not quite feeling it just yet. I would need to give him some time. Maybe see if we could hike a peak together (which is always a good test in my mind).
On the trail, there were some great ice formations as well as a section that opened up to a great view from the ski slope. I was able to get a look at the infamous Tripyramids. I would get to them soon enough and I smiled as I turned to head back up the trail. It was still early enough that I could talk freely and openly to the air without anyone (save for a few squirrels) hearing me. As the trail began it’s never ending climb upwards, I began to think about this goal of completing them before my 40th birthday. As if that day had some magical power of expiration. I planned to keep going long after that. Nothing was going to stop me at this point and I was determined that I would not always be alone. I began to think again of this guy I had become connected to. There was something curious about him. Something that held my attention. And there was something not quite right. I would have to wait this one out. The trail then presented me with a series of step formations. Sometimes they were logs, sometimes they were rocks. They all went up (at the moment) and they all didn’t really help my knees feel any more comfortable. I really at this point was wishing for two trekking poles over the one that I was using. And I pressed onward… And upward. As I climbed up over these stairs and things, I heard this almost insane whirring sound… It was a constant thing and it made me wished I hiked with headphones and music. I don’t because I like to hear what’s going on around me. Except for today, today I wanted to block out the sound of the snow machines that were busy making snow for the skiers and snowboarders. The monotonous drone of the machines was stuck in my head as I climbed.
I stopped and took breaks along the upward trail. I would pick out a goal point and then get to it so that I could break again. Not sure why I was having such a hard time with this one but I pressed on figuring that sometimes stress really brings on the symptoms and how I can rest when I am done. Completely done. Nothing was going to deter me from reaching my goal and today would make number 27 for me. This was a good hike to reconnect with myself after a series of sloppy hikes and of course Garfield. In my own way, I was able to fully process what had happened. And what had happened was that I jumped in before I took a look at the fact around him. I was gullible and took him at his word. And I was foolish to not listen to my inner self. The one that was screaming to not go up that mountain. And how this affects my future hiking partner will make it a very selective process. I just couldn’t go through that again. If this wasn’t fair then so be it. I let out a deep exhale and seemed to hurl myself over the last crest of the mountain.
I was on the flat ridge that leads to the summit and it was only 9:20 in the morning. Even with the big climb up and the snow machines, this climb was not that bad. I found peace of mind and seemed to find a direction on this particular hike. More importantly, I found that I didn’t want to give up on this goal (as I had been thinking of abandoning it). I took the left trail to the summit and it seemed to lead over and exposed part of the ridge. Again, I was rewarded with great views and fun rocks to climb on. I was suddenly transported back to being a kid again and I found that ridiculous grin had reappeared on my face. At 9:30, I made the summit and suddenly wished I had packed breakfast. I hung out that the summit for about a half an hour and had my PB&J. It felt really good to just sit and eat that sandwich like I use to at each summit I would make. It’s about the rituals that we preform day in and day out that give us comfort and today it was very much about my seeking and finding comfort above 4,000 feet.
The walk back down was uneventful. I had gained a new sense of peace in my heart for all the thoughts had been put to rest. I was ready to face whatever was coming my way and with the Christmas season, my career, and the people I held close to me, anything was possible.