This is about an experience I had when I was only 15 years old. I was going to school on the East coast at B.M.A. in Vermont at the time and was heavily involved in alpine ski racing. During the fall dryland training period of 2 to 3 months we had a week off to visit one of the following destinations; N.Y. City, Boston, Montreal or hiking in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Being from the west I was interested in going to the mountains and backpacking for a week.
There were a group of about 8 of us student athletes and one of our coaches who was the leader of this outing. We were all in excellent condition and ready to have some fun and get away from the formal rigors of dryland training. Most of us had some sort of backpack that would suffice for what we needed. The plan was to check in to the headquarters at Pinkham Notch and file a trip itinerary. Our coach had set up a series of day hikes including summits of several peaks and utilizing the lean-tos to overnight in. They were not fancy although after a day of hiking we were mostly interested in food and sleep, and in that order too.
The White Mountains are also called the Presidential Range since all their peaks are named after presidents. The most famous peak or infamous is named after our first president, Washington. Mt. Washington's summit is 6288 ft. and has the highest recorded wind in North America topping out at 231 m.p.h.. This was back in April of 1934 and still stands as the all time record. Mountain climbers and companies who make mountaineering equipment regularly do field testing on Mt. Washington. Alright enough history, on with the story.
It was mid October in New England and the first thoughts I imagine some of you are thinking is of the Autumn foliage. The Maple and Birch hardwood leaves flaming in reds, oranges and golden yellow hues. Well, not exactly. You see this particular year the leaves had already dropped and the only striking colors were that of the Birch bark and its contrasting black and white against a gray sky. The landscape was stark, yet there was a quiet beauty in the stillness and absence of color.
We had our sleeping bags, cooking gear, food and some basic essentials for what we anticipated to be an enjoyable week off. We took turns doing the cooking and so on and so forth. We all got along well with a few exceptions here and there. Mostly teenagers being teenagers. What more do you expect. There was the typical whining early on by a few with blisters, some were hungry and some of us felt like we were still doing dryland training and wondered when we'd get a break. We climbed and hiked over many a rough and rocky mile summiting several famous peaks in the Presidential range. The first being Mt. Madison and the next was Mt. Adams after that we headed for Mt. Jefferson. To cover these 3 peaks took us 4 days and we began our descent back to Pinkham Notch on the following morning. This is where the story gets interesting.
I remember leaving the lean-to after a few of my friends and with a few behind me as well. The weather was gray, somewhat cool in the mid 40's and drizzle on and off. Our coach was pulling up the rear and since we were going down a trail we'd come up there wasn't much concern about any of us getting off the beaten path. Or so we thought, and let me be the first to tell you that the trail was anything but, a beaten path. The terrain was rocky, muddy, tree roots criss- crossing the trail and a carpet of fallen leaves littered the landscape. Far from the Western landscapes of a Fir/Pine forest floor with a well trodden "dip" of a trail. So, nothing was defined, especially for young teenagers. As I continued down the trail I realized I no longer saw any of my friends. This didn't set well, so I slowed down and waited a few minutes and still nobody came. Ummm, I thought. I began to backtrack and as I did I crossed a creek in a dip that I had crossd minutes earlier and now was unable to even see a trail. Not good. It was a little before noon and I sat right there and waited for about an hour and even yelling to try and get someones attention. To no avail and so I looked through my canvas backpack to find my matches and firecrackers and light them off. I thought that would get someones attention. Well as time wore on the rain had begun again, my matches were wet and useless. My concern turned to worry as I got that terrible empty feeling in the pit of my stomach, you know what I'm speaking of. A brief moment of dis belief followed by self talk telling myself to stay calm and remember what my dad told me. Stay put and if that isn't going to work then follow a creek, stream or river downhill. Eventually the stream will lead to a road and in turn safety. I had some serious decisions to make and was quickly running out of daylight.
Don't go far, part two is just around the bend.
Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt