Last year Irene destroyed all my hiking plans by taking down trees and destroying trails with her massive flooding in New England. So this year, having not done any serious hiking for what felt like an eternity, I was a little nervous and felt out of my normal hiking shape. Therefore, when Matt and I were up in North Conway, New Hampshire we did some easier hikes—nothing like Mt. Washington or Lafayette. Instead we decided we’d try to do two 4,000-footers in one day. It turns out covering 4,000 feet is considerably easier than 6,000-feet. It was nice to feel like the hike wasn’t that hard.
While you get an easier hike with a shorter mountain, you also get less time above the tree line. Mt. Pierce, though taller than Jackson is still pretty much surrounded by trees and part of me, though invigorated felt a little disappointed at the top. It’s always nice to have reached the top, but it didn’t feel that spectacular. The trail from Pierce to Jackson was a mild decent, and it wasn’t much harder than our typical strolls through Old Wethersfield. (Okay, it was a little harder, but mostly because I don’t like how downhill feels on my knees.)
Mt. Jackson was a nice surprise. The sun was out and there were better views even though the peak was lower. The top was a giant rock, not a bunch of trees. You could see all the way over to Mt. Washington and the observatory. And when I got to the top of the Jackson, I had a feeling I’ve felt at nearly every mountain, but one I seem to forget each trip. It always comes as a nice surprise.
It’s a combination of feeling so small and so large at the same time—proud and grateful which combine to create a blissful feeling. I feel phenomenal, like I just challenged my body and reached a goal. As if I’ve conquered the mountain in some way. And then looking around and seeing that all the way to the horizon in every direction there is nothing by beautiful land, I feel so small. It’s not small in a bad way. It all seems okay, like the world is a spectacular place and while I may be a very tiny piece of the world, I have the ability to make a big difference. I know from regular hiking that the distance between peaks looks huge, but I’m always surprised at how fast I get from one to the other.
The thru hiker we ran into who started hiking on March 27thin Tennessee may have felt differently at the moment.
(Photos: The top of Mt. Pierce and then the top of Mt. Jackson.)