Saying goodbye to loved ones, celebrating my new chapter of life, packing away my belongings, and handing over the keys to my everything... The reality that I am soon to be embarking on a very long and difficult journey has begun setting in.
In all my preparations, one has stood out in importance; Hiking. I have been trying to walk and hike as often as possible, to prepare myself for my longest trek to date. I admit that it isn't always convenient. I have managed to push myself to walk to work early mornings, and I take up almost any opportunity to walk trails with friends.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to do one final hike before the big one. My friend and I took on a strenuous hike up Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains. A steep and challenging hike as is, our trip was made much more challenging by sub-zero temps, deep snow and slick ice.
The climb begins at a moderate but consistent incline. It is cold on the first day, but we barely notice it with our high level of activity. In fact, I was sweating and hot, and stripped down to base layers for the initial stretch. We were making good time, until the grade became significantly steeper and very slick. I was forced to strap on the snowshoes in order to grip the ice. The increasing difficulty of the terrain began paying off with breathtaking views almost immediately however. Seeing the tall mountains we were heading towards pushed us on.
With my legs screaming, and my lungs still adjusting to the thinned air, we reach the summit of Mount Lafayette! At 5,249 feet in elevation, We feel as if we are at the absolute top of the world! The views are breathtaking, overlooking the vast green and white blanket that is the White Mountains in Winter.
|Shawn and I on the summit of Mount Lafayette|
|Views from Lafayette|
Aside from the high winds and cold, and the burning sensation in my legs, I am in absolute bliss to be hiking along this ridge! The sense of accomplishment, the views, the unique terrain... this is why I love to hike.
We were also pretty exhausted at this point. Cold, hungry, and tired, we hiked this difficult stretch that felt it went on forever. Eventually we did emerge to the sign that pointed to our trail, Liberty Springs. We were so glad to see it! We scrambled down the steep path, and immediately set up camp.
|Sunset from our camp|
The next morning we had our hot oatmeal and packed up camp. We proceeded towards Mount Liberty. About halfway there, we stop to warm ourselves with some hot tea. We then slack packed to the summit of Mount Liberty. Emerging once again from the trees, we are graced with yet another stunning peak with rewarding views beyond imagination.
|the view toward Flume Mountain|
|Washington in the distance|
In the end and looking back, this hike was more than enough preparation for the Appalachian Trail. It was physically demanding, and certainly colder than anything I would actually expect to see on my thruhike. If I could handle this, I can handle the A.T.... Then again, it is going to be a unique challenge in that I will have to wake up, and do it again. And then again. And so on...
I feel I am ready. It will be difficult, and I think the biggest challenge will be missing people. The destination is the journey, though, and I intend on enjoying my long hike. Hopefully, I will make it as far as this ridge, so I can climb to it once more. Just going to keep following the white blazes north....