Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lincoln and Lafayette Franconia Notch NH
Peaks 1 and 2

Let me begin by saying that I am not a glamorous hiker. I ‘m grit and grime. Not to mention bug bites , bruises and mystery rashes. It amazes me to no end that I encounter women – and even some men- on New Hampshire trails who are able to retain an intense level of freshness. Its beyond human. Have they stepped out of an LL Bean photo shoot? Women who breeze past me and sweat in fragrances. Men who huff by in spiffy EMS gear and there’s hardly a trace of perspiration. I can even catch a whiff of cologne, hair gel or sunscreen.
Me, I sweat quite a bit, in amounts that can later be measured in beakers. Most likely, this would be unpleasant to encounter. I have seen pictures of me on mountain tops with enormous unflattering perspiration stains on my tank tops. I probably stink too. Imagine the place in your house where you keep the dirty laundry. Think of that, and then toss in some old dish rags that have been festering for a week or so. The dish rags would be sopping wet. OK, now add a layer of spoiled ham. Try to imagine what that smell would be like. It would be absolutely repulsive. I think that this is probably a close equivalent to how I must smell like at the end of a long day of trail hiking. Its no wonder I don't meet to many men on the trails.
Here is a day that I sweated huge buckets - right up Mount Lafayette. In my state to over prepare myself for this venture, I wore a long sleeved polyester sports top and black hiking pants. And it was 88 degrees on the summit of Lafayette. Lafayette, and Its sister Lincoln, have always made my adrenaline do jumping jacks. This mountain could kick my ass! It has claimed lives. My brother Steve had the unforgettable occur heading down Falling Waters in 1993. A man had a heart attack and died on the trail! He was asked to help carry the dead man down. Could he say no? Another woman died on the summit during a winter storm in 2003. This is a mountain that chews up hikers and spits them out across the horizon like watermelon seeds. I stand before it, with much fear and resignation before I begin. It is May and the Lafayette parking lot is near full capacity. I 'm ready today– ready for harsh winds and cold temperatures. About a half mile up the Bridle Trail I begin sweating profusely. Realizing the long sleeve shirt was not a good choice, I elect to lose it. I roll up my pants and hike in my sports bra. I am getting a few looks too. The day gets hotter. Did I mention its 88 degrees and I have a sunburn after an hour?I am not alone in my mortal mistake to come "prepared for the elements", and soon others begin disrobing. There goes a sweatshirt! A hat! Damn its hot! Finally we reach the Greenleaf Hut and a nice man says, “That’s one hot looking dog.” Indeed the dog is panting. I have a Frisbee packed in my back pack for her water and I’m almost out. “There’s snow on the summit!” He reports.
“No way!”
The lure of cold piles of snow was the exact inspiration I needed to plod on and capture this giant in the Franconia Notch. This was to be the first of many peaks and summits for me and Ruby , my black lab pup. Looking ahead, beyond Walker Ravine and up towards the summit, I knew I had begun an unusual journey. It would be the first of many trips up north. The mile trudge from the hut to the summit was nearly exhausting. "Where is this snow? You promised snow!"
Finally, upon closing in on the final feet to the summit I spotted thewhite stuff. Snow. Ruby stops to inspect . Its dirty - but cold. She eats some. She lies down and makes a bed in it. Then, she does not move from the position while I eat my power bar and walk around the summit. By now, I’ve tied my sweat soaked shirt to my back pack hoping it will dry out and I can wear it without too much embarrassment. On Lincoln , a girl snaps our picture, but I insist on putting on the shirt, and dealing with the heat rather than expose my fleshy gut to the camera.
The stunning beauty of the Franconia Ridge can not be easily compared. Even the dog seems to be soaking up the awesome views. I come across a “me” - look-alike, moving in the other direction. Look! Its me, or a flashback of me from 10 years ago. I am slender and attractive. The dog takes notice too. After the gushing amount of attention she receives from this group, and the me-look alike, the dog follows them back toward Lafayette, as I head over down from Lincoln. “Hello…! Doggy, what the hell are you doing?” This causes some confusion to her dog mind.

Here, I consider taking on Liberty, merely 2 miles south. But we're out of water. The trip down Falling Waters Trail was eventful as other hikers and dogs encountered obstacles preventing the dogs from moving forward. Other upward hikers – overstressed from the heat, questioned, “Am I almost there?” I try to be encouraging. But they are way off. " Oh my god, you are soo not almost there!"
Some folks have just stopped dead in their tracks and do not go further. They are lamenting their poor choices to wear jeans,flip flop sandals, sweatshirts. The sheer amount of inappropriately dressed people on the mountain outnumber the black fly bites on my neck. A gypsy couple argued in front of the cascades. Profanities were exchanged. Clearly the wife had the upper hand. I reach the end of the trail and check my watch: 6 hours. I have climbed 9 miles in 6 hours. That's not too shabby. It is still so goddam hot that I feel the need to jump in some cold water. I take the Campton exit heading down 93 and jump into the ice cold Pemigewassett River. The dog looks on, but does not take the cue .
As I am driving in the traffic clogged artery of Rt 93 South I am basking in the well-deserved praise I hand myself for buyng an E-Z pass. I snicker at the cars lined up at the toll booths to pay their fare. Those chumps! Look at them, scrounging for loose change! There's a guy who has to break a twenty! HA! HA!
Not me, I have pre-paid at a homely Department of Transportation trailer on exit 6. My summer tolls are "good to go" if I might recite a cheezy Taco Bell commercial. Sometimes I have to stop and give myself an inkling of credit: I might sweat like an overcooked pig, but I'm always thinking ahead.
I awoke Monday late - 11:00 am, Memorial Day, I am sore , sunburned, bitten and smell like an Iraquai Soldier. The pain is a stamp of inner approval. And I can't wait to go back for more.

Ruby soaks up snow