For the past four hours I’ve been sweating, swearing and falling my way up Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. I see the summit and just as I’m about to make it over the crest I hear voices—lots of them.
I have to say one of the most frustrating yet weirdly rewarding feelings comes after you’ve just spent time and energy climbing up a muddy, snowy, and windy mountain just to stand at the top with a bunch of people who drove their cars there.
It’s really quite entertaining how you can tell the distinct difference between those who hiked to the top and those who drove. The cheery families and couples roaming in their washed clothing, happily taking selfies for the photo book and eating warm soup in the cafeteria. And then you have the hikers—the ones who are dirty, tired and smelly. Their hair is standing two feet in each direction thanks to wind and they forgot their mother bleepin wallets in the car so they can’t even buy warm soup.
I love soup. Sigh.
Mount Washington is known for the worst and most dangerous weather in America. It is here that the highest wind speed of 231mph was ever recorded by man. Severe storms blow in at a moment’s notice and even during the summer months, deaths occur from those exposed to the elements.
It stands at 6289 feet above sea level in the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. The dense forest is home to a range of wildlife from bears, bobcats, moose and fox. Unfortunately, we only got a glimpse of a fox and squirrels who Josh liked to harass and argue with along the path.
New Hampshire’s White Mountains are beyond stunning, and you better believe there will be another post on the entire area in the future. Mountains dominate the landscape as far as the eye can see. Pure mountain streams are a perfect refreshment for a sore hiking body and the crowds are low enough to enjoy the scenery without buses of tourists fighting for the same Facebook shot.
The hike took us up the Lions Head Trail to the summit. After the summit we jumped on the Crawford Trail (aka the Appalachian Trail) for a hike to the Lake of the Clouds and then down the Boot Spur Trail. It is not an overly difficult trek, but guarantees soreness the day after.
Lions head = HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. It is steeper and longer than the most popular route of The Tuckerman Ravine Trail, but it offers spectacular views. Upon the first bluff above the trees, we both experienced the heaviest wind of our lives. Being 5’2 and the size of a small child, I had questioned whether I would be whisked away in a gust (that would hopefully elevate me and place me gently on the summit).
The extension hike to the Lake of the Clouds via the AT = HIGHLY RECOMMENED. Lake of the clouds was beautiful, especially this time of year because ice on the lakes created beautiful contrasts along the landscapes. There is a hut located here for thru-hikers to spend the night, although it is quite pricey.
The Boot Spur Trail is not as highly recommended. Although this route keeps you above the trees on the saddle for a longer portion of the hike, once you finally reach tree cover, it’s long, narrow, and uneventful. We were begging for Tuckerman after a half hour of crawling down the thin trail that seemed to repeat itself over and over.
That’s also when the severe storm hit. Geeze Washington, way to really live up to your reputation. Thankfully we made it below the tree line before it came blowing in, but heavy rain + no rain coat (my bad) + slippery rocks + lightning + booms of thunder = quite the adventure…but not necessarily my favorite kind.
Why hello stick, yes I’d love to slip and jam you into my shin. Oh and hello ice patch, it’s my pleasure to eat sh*t thanks to you.
But you know what? Even that part of the hike was overwhelmingly rewarding and blissful. I was on a mountain, in nature, with the elements – and my boyfriend hadn’t left me behind yet. Life is good.
So why take an entire day to summit Washington when your car can do the same?
Because. That’s why.
A summit may be a pretty view in a car, but it is not an appreciated accomplishment. We drove one summit on the trip simply due to a time constraint, and I can tell you it sucked in comparison to a hiked ascent. It was gorgeous, but I felt nothing. I didn’t appreciate the view, the experience or the beauty of Earth. But how could I? I didn’t work to get there.
It’s basically the same as handing you a trophy and saying “congratulations”! Guaranteed you’ll think what the what and put it in your attic (do people still use those?) because it doesn’t mean anything to you. But if I gave you that same trophy because of something you worked hard for, it may sit on your desk and not in your forgotten memories.