NH 48 Finish: Mt. Adams
Hike Date: 10/6/2018
Trail: Airline (Most dog friendly route)
Sorry I have gone M.I.A. for a moment, things have been pretty nuts lately! Between wedding planning, getting a new job, and hiking my weekends away as much as I can, I have had 0 free time to blog and update you guys.
But this thing happened, and it's kind of a big deal.
On Saturday, October 6th 2018, I finished hiking all 48 of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. Absolutely crazy to think about, as I have been working on this goal for 3 years now. I actually did not think I would be able to finish by this year's end. To make it happen I had to hike 18 of the peaks this year alone. Including some crazy feats- a 20 mile single day Bond Zealand Traverse, and a double hiking weekend where I hiked Carter Dome on Saturday then Wildcat on Sunday. WORTH IT!
The Big Day
John and I headed north at 7am, towards Appalachia Trailhead. We had a full day ahead of us, waking up at 6am, then a 2 hour drive to the mountain. I woke up immediately excited. Probably the equivalent to Christmas morning for hikers. On our drive there I was oddly enough pretty nervous, but happy-good nervous. The kind that only happens when you're about to do something really brave or important. Like when you're falling in love and you get butterflies in your stomach, but apparently I'm some weirdo and I feel this way about mountains.
Waiting for us to arrive was Sam & Jeff, Mike & Melissa, and my Mom. So awesome that this group was here for my day. It definitely felt like more of a celebration to be surrounded by friends, family and my nearest and dearest.
It was a very chilly October morning. We packed up quickly and made our way towards the trail. Fall foliage is in full swing in the White Mountains, and we were encompassed under a sea of yellow and orange leaves. A forest walk way right into fall. We took Airline trail, which is the best rated for hiking with pups, good thing, because we had a total of 4 doggins joining us for the big day.
Eventually we popped out above treeline. This is where the magic happens. I hadn't hiked a Presidential in a year I had been itching for this unique rocky feel that can be found in the Presidential Range. Hikes here are challenging, but oh so rewarding with views. Weather also moves fast here and can be tricky. Some clouds were moving in on us, but we could see the summit just ahead of us! It felt like just a hop, skip and a jump away.
We kept on climbing, and the excitement was building. Just before the top we stopped for a moment to prepare. Sam had brought 2 balloons for me- 1 shaped like a 4, and the other an 8. We blew them up and tied them to my backpack so they could accompany me for my 48th summit. At the top, we celebrated. We had champagne, and chambord. Apple cider donuts. Pictures galore and just so much laughing and taking the moment in. We even got to witness some unique weather called "Cap Clouds", a rare weather phenomenon.
Although we wanted to sit and enjoy this forever, we knew we had to head back down the mountain. & It already being 3:30 pm, we could be pushing daylight. Hiking out the weather was still changing, wind speeds picked up, and clouds periodically moved through. Really cool to be up here in this ominous Fall atmosphere. As we reached treeline, the entire trail was slick. It seems rain, or fog condensation had visited while we were on the summit. Our steep trail up was now a slippery, obstacle course down.
We took our time, but I'm pretty sure we all took at least one fall. I myself face planted the earth twice. So graceful. Tree roots are especially slippery, but there were plenty of slick & even loose rocks as well. My mom took one pretty good fall. & Then I'm pretty sure another one (poor Mom). I checked on her, nothing major, but she sprained her ankle pretty good. She is a tough cookie and insisted on walking out. We tried to help her in any way we could. Offering trekking poles, first aid kits. We hiked slowly, and eventually the night fell over us. Pulling out all gadgets- headlamps, flashlights, we lit the way and continued what felt like a never ending trail out.
As time went on, I tried to come up with more ways we could help my Mom. She was in a lot of pain, so just trying to think of anything to make the situation better. I gave her backpack to John, who carried it on his front side, his own pack still behind him. I also convinced her to take 2 Aleve- lifesavers I carry in my first aid kit in case my knee starts to act up. Mike & Melissa used their extra flashlights to just illuminate the trail in front of my mom. The last thing we wanted was another fall. I feel so bad for Mom that this happened. But I was still really grateful she could be here on this day, as she introduced me to the 4000 Footers Club, and hiked my first 4k peak with me.
I felt bad that it was getting late, and I told everyone I could hike out with her from here if they wanted to go. Every single person stayed. We started this hike together, and we would finish together. I could not ask for a better group of friends! It was late, we were all starving, and exhausted. Various body parts were hurting. & Everyone still, in good spirits. We passed time by talking about the delicious post hike celebratory meal we would eat after this. & Playing this terrible game Mike came up with, where you invent a horror movie plot... based on hikers. DID I MENTION IT WAS PITCH BLACK OUT??
By the time we got to our cars it was almost 9:30 pm. But hey who cares! We did it. & My mom can count it since she made it out on her own 2 feet. You don't really plan for these things to happen, you just go with it and hope for the best. Luckily, everyone was prepared- headlamps, first aid kits, plenty of food and water. Perhaps a lesson, that these mountains are no joke, and have the ability to F up your day if you're not careful. Although things didn't go 100% as planned, it was still an incredible day.
We drove into Gorham, looking for some sort of restaurant who would still be serving food at this crazy hour for dinner. Saalt still welcomed us, even though they closed at 9 o'clock. They promised food, but let us know it would be a limited menu. We settled on the Cambodian Noodles, & stiff drinks. Settling isn't really the word, because the food was so good. It was more like "we were blessed with celebratory Noodles."
We practically inhaled our food, then licked our plates clean. SO delicious.
After all of this, and perhaps one of the longest days in history, we still had a 2 hour drive home. I called dibs on napping first, as John took first shift driving. I awoke not too long later, to see John in a half asleep zombie state. We breaked for coffee, and traded. He could nap, and I'd take over driving. By the time we got home, we practically collapsed into bed. Rest. After a well deserved, celebration of a day.
The After Effect
I feel the need to disclose that not all of these hikes were easy peasy. To be completely honest, some were even less than enjoyable. I feel like the happy smiling summit photo makes this look like a wicked awesome experience 100% of the time... but it's not always that smooth. Some of these peaks took me 3 tries to summit. Stories of missing dogs, knee injuries. There were days I wanted to turn around, at least 6 times. & There were times where I was so completely exhausted, and hungry, I sat down and cried on the trail. SO dramatic when I'm hungry... (true on and off trail haha). But I want to exaggerate that NONE of this was easy. But it was all entirely amazing and worth it. I worked for this shit, and I worked hard.
It's a little sappy, and a little nostalgic, thinking back to the baby hiker I started out as. & The person you develop into 48 odd mountains later. Here's a little bit of where I came from at the beginning of my journey:
Once upon a time, I was a little baby Laura. Maybe 22 years old.
It was summer of 2014, and I was diagnosed with a condition called Hypoglycemia. Essentially its an issue with low blood sugar. I was experiencing dizziness, "foggy brain", loss of vision, fatigue, anxiety, and even in extreme cases- fainting. It felt debilitating. Like I thought I was young, and invincible and why would this happen to me?
I would be sitting at my desk at work, and all of a sudden it would hit- a wave of heat sweeps over me. I take a sip of water to try and shake it off, but it's too late. Dizziness. My vision goes black.
I am sitting here and can't see.
I felt like I was passing out but fighting to stay awake and stay in it. I wanted to lay down. I actually contemplated laying down on the floor, of my work cubicle. Eventually my vision comes back. But this moment was terrifying and humiliating, and I can't forget what just happened. Low Blood Sugar PTSD.
My job at the time was CRAZY stressful. I worked in a call center, where essentially if I left to pee, it was tracking my time away from my desk. I could take a break, when they told me I could break. Very restricting. I established FMLA, Family Medical Leave of Absence, at work as a "just in case means". I needed protection that I could take a sick day, show up 2 hours late, or just leave at the drop of a dime. I was so scared of this happening to me again. It did. And not just at work. I remember one morning I woke up, grabbed my phone and headed towards the kitchen. Immediately upon standing I was dizzy, and staggering, almost falling down. I dropped my phone somewhere along the way. I made it to the bathroom, where I laid, completely helpless. Not quite passed out. Like halfway fainted. The cool of the floor was helping. I was alone, & I had no means to call for help. I did the only thing I could, and waited for it to pass.
These moments were terrifying to say the least. Now you may be thinking, how is this relevant to your 48? Well, for me actually, in so many ways.
If I can barely walk from my bedroom to the other room upon waking up, HOW THE FUCKSY DAISY AM I GOING TO HIKE A DIFFICULT 4000 FOOT MOUNTAIN? What if this happened to me on trail?
I hiked anyways. My mom and I started small, exploring the areas around my family's cabin in Chatham, NH. We hiked Kearsarge North on what felt like the hottest, most humid day in America. We hiked around Basin Pond until we lost the the trail. & We attempted to hike South Baldface until I got stuck on a ledge, and was shrieking for my Mom's help. (HILARIOUS looking back that I crush much more technical trails now). But starting out, this was a big, scary hike for me. We sat down, right there on the side of the mountain. We laughed for a solid 5 minutes. The mountain air always gives us the giggles. We decided to call it- this was our summit for the day. Who cares if it wasn't the official top, it wasn't about that. We opened our summit beers, and pulled our lunch. Enjoying our fake summit on the side of South Baldface.
I kept on hiking, not only was I completely in love with it, but it made me feel significantly healthier and better. I learned how to manage my hypoglycemia. There is no "magic medication" you can take for it to fix. It's best managed with good diet and exercise. I never enjoyed working out. In fact, I am going to tell you guys a secret that is HILARIOUS to me now. I graduated from an alternative high school, partially because I despised gym class. It actually terrified me. I couldn't do a push up if a million dollars depended on it, and gym class teachers... well they love push ups. I found that if I went to a local night school, I did not need a single gym class to graduate.
So that is what I did.
My first 4000 footer on Tecumseh, I did experience a dizzy spell. I remember being again SO embarrassed to tell my hiking companions that I needed a break. I half sat/half collapsed in the middle of the trail. Inhaling a protein bar. I played it cool, like I wasn't going to faint. This worked, and I was able to fight the feeling and keep on hiking.
There was always this reminder in the back of my mind... is it going to happen to me today? Am I going to be okay and make it off this mountain?
Prior, I wasn't in all that of a happy place in my life. I wasn't taking care of myself. I definitely didn't LOVE any aspect of my life. I was settling. In my current relationship, in my job, and with my poor state of health. Hiking helped me fall in love with life. On top of a mountain- felt like on top of the world. I left my relationship. & I started a new relationship with myself. One that was all about health, and self love, and all the mountains I could possibly climb. (But also another relationship with this super hot mountain man, WHO I'M MARRYING NEXT YEAR). I made hypoglycemia my bitch. I was learning to master my health, body and needs. Eating better, and eating every 2.5 hours. Healthier food choices. & Exercising, often. The symptoms faded, until eventually it's like, what medical condition?
You will be happy to know, that I now crush push ups. (By crush it I mean like I could do 10... probably).
Exercise Induced Asthma
Not like I should be telling you all this dirt on me. Since I'm crushing it now in 2018, I could just pretend I've always been this cool, but I think it's important to share my full story. I have exercise induced asthma, and I'm still somehow a hiker. It's amazing to think about it. I used to have an inhaler, (that never helped anyways). I would be doing something physical and my lungs will burn. It's like I am breathing in, but then there is a limit. Like my oxygen is cut off, and that's the max I can take in. You never feel like you completed your breathe or got enough air- so you keep trying. Lungs keep burning. Basically- exercise is the enemy and I wasn't doing it.
I was always the slowest hiker of the group. Not because my legs weren't strong, but because the whole time, it felt like I was barely breathing.
NOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND MY HATRED FOR GYM CLASS.
Like you try to do this fun thing like play a sport, or hike a mountain, and it's hard. Physically, mentally. I have always been self conscious of my conditions. I felt as if I was holding back people in my group. They were always waiting for me to catch up. People have asked or commented on why I was stopped on the trail (I will hike, and then literally every so often just stop for a moment) oh hey, just trying to breathe here.
I am happy to say that I no longer even own an inhaler. I find that I don't need it. The more I hiked, the better I got at it. I actually found that running can stretch my lungs. My lungs will burn, and I will wheeze, and I have to do it anyways... but the after affect is that when I do it again, I can somewhere breathe just a little bit more. By making things harder, and challenging myself, things got a little bit easier.
I used to hike Mt. Major, every year it was a family tradition for mother's day. It definitely took me 3 hours, maybe even 3.5 hours to get to the summit. (Now, please note, I'm not a time person. I don't care how long it takes but this is to give you a perspective). I have gone back to Mt. Major, for a solo sunset hike, I summitted in 50 minutes.
Then I called my mom to tell her LOL
If there was a gym class for adults, I would now sign up for it... and like it. I have started lifting weights, practicing yoga, tried spin/tabata/bootcamp classes. I don't think of working out as a torture session for my asthmatic lungs anymore. Hiking has made me want to be healthy, and strong. And I feel healthy and strong. & Happy. I'm really, really happy with the person I have grown to be. I think it's really important to figure yourself out. Get to know yourself. What makes you feel good. What makes you happy. Balancing- me time with the rest of the shit I have to do in life. How many snacks to eat in a day to not get hangry or cry. (Being emotional is also one of the side affects of hypoglycemia.) Think happy thoughts, bask in the self love, then repeat forever and ever for the rest of your life. I'm actually positive this is the secret to happiness in life.
So if some "Gym Class Dropout", can hike 48 mountains, pretty sure you can too. It's amazing the person you will grow into as you step out of that comfort zone, and challenge yourself. I don't want this to be like a "poor me" this is my story, type thing. But I hope that by sharing this, I can inspire others to also challenge themselves. That even if you're scared, or slow, or it hurts, YOU can do this too if you commit. You are capable of so much more than you think. It's not about the finish line, it's not about the list, it's not about the summit. It's about all the trails it took to get there.
3 years later, I'm still learning. I will never stop perfecting what I carry in my backpack. The mountains will always keep me humble. I never want to stop learning or perfecting the system Or mastering the health recipe on how to have a feel good- kick ass day (what to eat for breakfast, rituals, morning coffee, apple cider vinegar shots, etc). This challenge is not for the faint of heart. But who you come out as on the other side will change everything. I still have hypoglycemia, and asthma, but my medical conditions don't define me anymore. You might HAVE a medical condition. But you are NOT your condition. & It's easy in moments that they are present, to forget that.
Every so often when I'm hiking my lungs will burn, or my head will rush reminding me its time for a snack. It's much milder these days. But I like to think of it as a gentle reminder, of just how far I have come.
Laura the Explorer
NH 4000 Club Member