When I began climbing, it was a way for me to meet people and a way for me to make a connection and conquer my shyness as well as keep myself mentally and physically healthy. Having moved around a lot and considering the amount of time I had spent with my head buried in the books for a career and how life just seemed to pass me by, getting myself out there was a BIG DEAL. Also, having been sick for quite some time, it was also amazing that I was able to almost beat my disease. However during the next 19 peaks for the NE67, I hiked them solo or with my dog Isis and this has made the 67 a completely different experience for me. The deepest connection has been the one that I made with myself. I finally met me on the trails. For quite some time, I had been relying on others to carry me both physically and emotionally and while solo on the trails, I had no one to rely on except myself. Needless to say, I got pretty well acquainted with who I am again and while I may not always like the way that I felt in this new skin or the way that I react in relation to my surroundings , I do love the person that I have become through hiking. I am strong because of my weaknesses. I am aware of my limitations and my limitless possibilities. I am open to the world around me and like a sponge; I want to see it all and soak it all into my heart as well as share it with those I try and hold close to me.
This has been my life for the better part of two years and will continue to be my life until I just can’t any more. Hiking into the woods on the weekends and vacations for what? A patch? A certificate? Only a fool would think that is solely why I do this. They are nice to attain and the work to get there is incredible so to be recognized, is a wonderful feeling. The early mornings, late nights, physical and mental exhaustion, and that feeling of; Can I do this? Can I keep going? Marathon 24 hour trips to stand on a summit for a little while with no view, doesn’t really sound appealing either and yet has more to do with it than the patches and the certificates. It’s about the power. The power within me to push my limits beyond where I was comfortable. The power to override my automatic negative thoughts that say I can’t when in fact, I can. The power to listen and know myself and what I am capable of over what anyone else is telling me. The power to be still and know that I am on the right path and just be in the moment in the woods. The power to be vulnerable and accept that there are limitations to myself and what I do. It’s about the power in 19 new peaks that at times seemed larger than I could manage and the feelings that seemed to arise with each step.
Vermont was five relatively easy peaks and it’s fair to say that I had company on one of those peaks making 18 of the 19 peaks solo hikes. Vermont was well groomed and mostly easy grades in terms of elevation gain. However, Camel’s Hump gave me and the pup a run for our money that quickly turned into a fantastic playground of ledges and beautiful under casts for rewards. Vermont saw me sleeping in my car at the trail heads, with a little (OK a lot) of encouragement as I stepped out of my comfort zone for the first time and exclaimed, “I’m in the trunk of my car!”, and becoming acquainted with my new companion pup who was becoming a great member of the team. Vermont was about combining what I do below 4000 ft and my joy above and helping a little girl reach her fist summit when she was wondering if she could do this and if she could keep going. Vermont was altogether easy and carefree. I enjoyed the contrast between the terrain of Vermont and the terrain of New Hampshire. I enjoyed the light hearted way I approached each trail and felt a great sense of accomplishment for getting them done within a short amount of time. The encouragement was a blessing as the trips were getting longer and a little more difficult to anticipate when they would get done. Vermont was pleasant compared to what lay ahead of me.
Maine was quite the mix of emotions and a different battle altogether. With one peak gained when the snow was still on the ground in April, I had a taste of what I thought lay ahead. Old Speck was a great way to gain my independence back and free myself from negativity that was suffocating me (I had better things on the horizon line). Isis and I enjoyed the bonding over breaking trail in snow up to my thighs and over her head because I forgot the snowshoes in the car. We succeeded after struggling and claimed victory by blasting the heat all the way home. I had 13 (my lucky number) more that would be attained from July to September on various trips. If I was not with Isis, I was grabbing these remaining peaks on my own. No longer it seemed operating with a safety net although there was always one in place and on the bigger peaks, I made sure that people knew the plan and what to do in case of an emergency. I set out for the remaining 13 peaks battling depression and anxiety that at some point was making me feel as though I was back at square one prior to my diagnosis back in 2010. Maine was truly trying to kick my ass except, I believe it was trying to kick my ass back into reality. As I walked the trails and over some pretty serious terrain; the ledges on Katahdin, Sugarloaf, Saddleback and the Horn, the steep elevation gains, water crossings that could sweep the pup away, a trailless hike I never dreamed of doing alone, and countless rocks and roots to trip over, I began counting them off one by one until there was only one left…. North Brother; another 24 hour marathon to Baxter…
You will have to wait until I complete the hike of North Brother to bring this chapter to an end. Maine and Vermont stand side by side in contrast to one another in. Vermont was a walk in the park compared to what I faced in Maine. When things got dark in Maine, I was elevated by knowing that people still supported me and still wanted me to succeed. Maine tried so hard to kick my ass and while I fought it, the message that I received was that I was tougher than my disease and my mind put together. Remember, it’s about the power… What you do with that power well, that’s your choice.
See you at the top of North Brother….