“…I got all excited thinking it could happen this Saturday.” My coworker Wendy leaned back in her chair, still smiling from the laughter that had just filled the break room over the confusion caused by thinking one trail name and saying another.
“The weather’s supposed to be good.” I chimed in.
“You wanna do it this weekend?” Debbie, the originator of this grand plan, asked from the other side of the table where she stood eating her salad.
We tossed the idea around a bit more and made a decision.
In just three days, we would hike Mount Washington.
After lunch, I cleaned a treatment room, wiping down tubes of tooth-colored resin filling material with disinfectant. As I worked, an onslaught of slight nervousness tried to wriggle its way into my stomach.
“Lord, if You don’t want us doing this hike, or if there is any danger in it, please close the door.” I prayed silently. “But if You do want it to happen, please let everything fall into place and give us all peace about it.”
I began making mental lists and calculating what needed to be done. We had two days instead of two weeks to prepare, and we hadn’t even chosen our trail. I had my hiking shoes, but I still had not worn them outside. I didn’t have a pack or non-cotton clothing to wear (I had only heard the phrase “Cotton kills” for the first time a week prior. Apparently, when you’re hiking in a climate as famously unpredictable as Mt. Washington, if you wear clothing that does not dry quickly and you sweat through, then hit chilling air, it can be bad. For a person who naturally despises synthetic clothing, this meant buying a complete outfit for the day. I had hoped to avoid spending much more on this excursion than the cost of my hiking shoes and backpack, but this was Mt. Washington. I was going to respect it.).
Before we parted ways at the end of the day, my two cronies and I finalized a few more plans. I was elected to choose the trail – “Diana is really good at researching and thinking things through!” they said. Debbie and I clocked out and looked at a few backpacks on Amazon, trying to understand how much a 18 or 20 or 30 liter size could hold. Nothing listed looked just right, so we each decided to run to Walmart that evening and, depending on what we found there, order a backup from Amazon.
After karate, I went to Marshall’s and began my search for clothing. My time was limited. I prayed that God would lead me to exactly what I needed. I began flipping through the racks of athletic wear. North Face hiking pants, size 4, for $30 caught my eye. Too bad I wasn’t a size four. It would be so cool if there were a pair of these in my size, I thought. They even zip off into shorts! One other pair, size 6, hung a few spaces away. Hmmm. I don’t always fit into sixes, but it’s worth a try. A message came through from Debbie – she’d found a backpack at Walmart. $30, blue and red. I replied to her, then sent Mom a text letting her know I’d stopped at the store and would be later getting home than usual.
I grabbed the pants, a few non-cotton, quick-drying t-shirts, and a couple pairs of leggings, and went off to the dressing room. The North Face pants were my first attempt. I slipped them on and a delighted smile spread over my face. They fit. The only pair of wind pants suitable for hiking in the store in my size fit me! And they were North Face. I searched for a couple other pairs of leggings, but nothing in my price range looked promising.
I finished at Marshall’s and headed for Walmart. In the sporting goods department, I spotted the blue and red backpack and checked it out. At least the colors were cute, and it had a waist strap and a water bag. Check and check. It didn’t appear to be terribly well made, but it would do in a pinch. I searched for a good ten minutes for the reflective emergency blankets and finally found them. In the course of my search, I spotted a freeze dried ice cream sandwich hanging on the wall in a bag. I lightly squeezed the package in disbelief, imagining the powdery crunch of what should be a creamy, cold treat. Why? Just…why? If you can’t pack a cooler, skip the ice cream, I thought. Scrambled eggs in a bag and 2,000 calorie emergency bars guaranteed to be good for 5 years augmented the tempting array of camping food. I tore myself away from the mouthwatering selection and rounded out my contribution to our emergency kit with Band-aids and eye drops. Leggings to wear under my awesome hiking pants were the last wardrobe requirement. They even had some that coordinated with my new hiking shoes (outfit color coordination does not happen frequently or effortlessly for this girl). With the store closing in 15 minutes, I grabbed a couple of different pairs to try and headed to the checkout.
The next day, Friday, between laundry and digging out the root ball of a 15 foot tall forsythia bush that we replaced with a “Summer Snowflake” Virburnum whose previous spot was too shady, I watched YouTube videos of the Tuckerman Ravine, Ammonoosuc, and Jewell trails. I studied the videos the best I could without getting too motion sick, ignoring the ones that said “Hiking Mt. Washington (and getting lost)” and “My Hell on Mt. Washington.” The former pictured a girl on the trail dressed in a scanty sports bra. I ungraciously concluded that if you dress that way to hike Mt. Washington, you deserve to get lost. I ruled out Tuckerman Ravine as a bit too vertical of an ascent for the first time up. I sent my hiking cohorts a message suggesting we go big or go home and ascend via Ammonoosuc and descend via the more gradual Jewell trail.
As the end of the day approached, I hurried to wrap things up and prep for the early morning start. At 7:30 Debbie called and said that she’d found out that the Ammonoosuc trailhead started only 52 minutes from her house, which meant we could meet at 5 in the morning instead of 4. Hallelujah!
“How do you feel about how your pack is coming together?” She asked.
“Um, pretty good.” I laughed. “It’s empty, but it’s good.” After I spoke, I realized I hadn’t told her that I had packing lists made and my bed covered with items waiting to find their place inside my backpack. We hung up, and I continued on with my whirlwind preparations.
Bedtime didn’t arrive until 10:20, and before turning my light off I read Psalm 121. All night long I felt aware that I was sleeping. The alarm went off at 3:45, and I dragged myself out of bed and got ready, making double sure to put my contacts in (I have this funny habit of forgetting to wear them at times when I’m getting ready in dark pre-dawn hours).
I arrived at Debbie’s house just after 5. We sat and I managed to partake in a verbal exchange before 8 am (when I am tired or not yet fully awake, conversation is not my strong suit). She offered coffee, which I declined. It was my goal to use the woods as little as possible all day. Wendy arrived after a little while and we packed up the car and were on our way.
Nervous excitement built as we neared our starting point and caught glimpses of the summit high above our heads, dusted white with a bit of snow. If all went as we hoped, in a few hours, we would be standing on that summit.