This is more than a day late, yada yada, I know. I’ve just been trying to increase the level of suspense. Really.
So let me tell you a little story about two girls who didn’t know each other very well and decided to hike the tallest mountain in the NE and then almost died (not really, but that sounds like a good story, amiright!?).My friend Ally and I drove 4 hours from the great city of Monteal, QC all the way to New Hampshire just to hike a mountain. But not just any mountain, we hiked Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast USA. Funny, now that I think about it, it took just as long to hike from the bottom to the top as it took to drive from Montreal to NH. Let’s just say we had some issues we didn’t anticipate.
It all started at the grocery store…or rather, Mac’s Market. We were browsing the isles the day before the hike – Ottawa native Ally was oggling the 13 types of cheez-its American grocers stock (I refrained from sparking a conversation about Easy Cheese) and I was deciding on the flavor of beef jerky to buy, when an idea came to me. “You know what we should get?” I said to Ally, “No camping experience is complete without Franzia.” I couldn’t have been more
wrong right. What I didn’t consider at the time was the fact that we were hiking Mount Washington the next morning (did I mention it’s over 6000 feet high? Yeah, I didn’t think I so).
So we pulled into Dolly Copp campground just before dark and started setting up camp. Ally set up the tent and I built a fire. There were dry sticks a-plenty around us, but we could have really used some real firewood! Just a note – most campground will sell you firewood, but you have to get there before their office closes most of the time. So we were SOL in that department. Luckily, Ally pulled some she-woman moves and pulled up some serious stumps so we were set. After cooking our Yves veggie burgers on the grill at the site, we played some guitar and made s’mores (both staples of the camping experience). We chatted until the fire died down and then rekindled it and ate some more marshmallows. The second time the fire died, we decided to call it a night and headed to the tent.
The next morning I’m up around 8 with that “don’t eat anything funny” feeling in my stomach and the “don’t move too quickly” feeling in my head. Ally is still asleep. After changing into some clean clothes, I rebuild the fire and then fumble around in the car for a bit to find something to cook our egg whites in. I know Ally said she brought a pan, but this pot will have to do. I pop a couple Advil and put everything edible that I can find into the pot with the egg whites.
After breakfast, Ally headed back in the tent for a nap. I cleaned up our campsite a bit then headed to the bath house to wash up. On my way back, I found a dumpster and chucked out the rest of the Franzia. There’d be no more drinking from that box that’s for sure.
When I got back, I woke Ally up and made a proposal: “Look, I know we came here to hike Mount Washington, and I really do want to do it; however we may need to accept our current hungover state and just drive to the top instead.” Ally looked at me indignantly, “No way, we came here to hike, we are going to hike! I know I’ll be disappointed if we don’t.” And with that it was settled, we were going to hike Mount Washington hungover.
At first, the hike was not that bad. The rocky dirt path climbed slowly but steadily upwards, and we chatted a bit and played brain games. But soon the path became a stream of boulders, and we were out of breath, so we stopped on a bridge over the stream we’d been following to have a bit of the teriyaki beef jerky I’d picked out. It was surprisingly delicious. Feeling rejuvenated, we picked ourselves back up and continued up the mountain. We met plenty of people hiking back down the mountain. When we asked how much longer to the top, each person seemed less optimistic than the last – could it be possible that we were climbing to infinity and the path was just an endless staircase to nowhere?
Halfway up we came across a ravine with a little cabin and deck with tables. There were toilet houses close by, which was a nice relief. We also came across a real-life hand pumped well hidden off in the woods. It took a good 15-20 pumps, but once I got to taste the water, it was some of the freshest, most pure-tasting liquid I’ve ever experienced in my life. We refilled our water bottles and continued on our way.
In no time, we were past the tree line and were just climbing rocks – using our hands almost as much as our feet because of how vertical the climb had become. About 3/4 of the way up, we came across this miniature mount that from far off looked like the mount where Boromir dies in LOTR, although by the time we reached the top it looked more like mount where Frodo gets stabbed by one of the Ring Wraiths. (Let’s just say this hike involved plenty of LOTR references).
As we reached the top of this mini-mount, we had begun to ascend into the cloud that surrounded the top of the mountain. It felt like rain, but was really just mist/fog. The path flattened out for a few minutes, and then the real climb began.
Ally and I stood for a second, staring up at the completely vertical climb over sharp, moss-covered rocks, trying to identify the best route. Finally, we just said “screw it” and started climbing, doing our best not to look behind us at the long drop over sharp rocks and into the mist that had by now completely engulfed us. “It feels like we’re on a movie set,” I said.
I found it to be more and more difficult to continue to climb, but I forced my legs and arms forward, using all four limbs equally to haul myself up the side of this mountain. Finally, we relocated the path, and it became more sloping. A few minutes later, we passed two hikers on their way down. “How much farther to the top?” I croaked. “Oh, have you guys come all the way from the bottom!? It’s not much farther at all. Maybe two minutes! Good luck.” Two minutes. Best news all day. I could do two minutes.
Finally, we reach the ridge of the mountain – there is literally a ridge, as if you’re in a bowl or a volcano. We went across the top, only to find…a road. Then, stairs.
“We have to go to the real summit!” Ally exclaimed, and proceeded to climb the stairs and practically jog to the mound of rocks with a sign on top proclaiming, “Mount Washington Summit.” We got there only to be asked by a rather overweight New Hampshire tourist if we could take her picture next to the sign. And I have to say, New Hampshirites, you guys have the weirdest accents. Afterwards, the NH lady returned the favor, then we went to check out the old hotel, The Summit House, which was opened in 1852.
We left the hotel and spotted a snack bar, which was convenient considering I had a craving for a Snickers Bar (as you do after a long hike, right?). We were feeling pretty dead by then, so we just trudged without talking through the mist (did I mention it was about 45 degrees at the summit?) to the snack bar.
We inquired about the shuttle down – $45 per person! Can you believe that!? After snacking and staring into space for a bit, we checked out the gift shop and the small museum then headed to the parking lot to see if we could catch a ride down. Luckily, a nice middle-aged Quebecois couple agreed to give us a ride to the bottom, and we got to ride down with the heat on, listening to an informative CD in French and napping off/on. I think that was the most relaxing car ride I have ever experienced in my life.