Sunday, March 22, 2015

Our NH 48 4K Journey: Chapter 1

Jason & Scott's NH 48 4K Journey: Chapter 1 "The Beginning"

My (Jason's) first 4K hike was with my Uncle (Mt. Adams) at age 10. Sitting in the Crag Camp Cabin looking across King Ravine up to Mt. Adams I fell in love. Soon I encouraged my father who led the Center Barnstead Christian Church youth group to lead (along with my uncle) hikes to the mountains. We had a 2 day hike up Garfield and a day hike up Washington. My mother and I continued to hike the Presidentials for many years afterward. Staying at the beloved Crag Camp several times.

Fast forward 15 years to 2007... it was a terrible year to start. I had lost an employee at my cleaning business suddenly to a heart attack. He was a friend and such a great person. At the same time many other things unraveled around me and I fell into depression and suffered anxiety attacks. I spent months depressed, quite, mopey. Not even my family could help me out of the despair I fell into. Now hiking had been forgotten these past couple years. Busy with work and not making time for leisure, it was not something "I had time for". But it was time now to get back to my first love...the mountains!

Scott on Carrigain Notch Trail
It was during this time I asked a friend (Scott) whom I met a year earlier at the office building we both worked in, if he would like to go hiking with me. He had never hiked a day in his life, let alone spent anytime in the "great outdoors"! But to my surprise he said, "sure why not." And so off we went on May 27, 2007. Did we start on an easy hike, no. I thought it was, but I was still ignorant to mileage and elevation, the different conditions in the mountains, etc. I mean, I was no stranger to how rapidly the weather can change. And how the forecast isn't always going to be accurate. My mother and I encountered this many times, and many times we turned back down when we felt it was best. I knew to always be prepared and to pack accordingly.

However, having only hiked the Presidentials and having only hiked them in the prime hiking season (summer/fall) I was unaware of the many quirks that you will find in the mighty White Mountains! It was here, on our first hike together I made my first of many mistakes! I brought Scott (who had never hiked before) and me (who hadn't hike in a couple years) up Mt. Carrigain! And if that wasn't bad enough I chose not the main, direct trail up...but the long way up along Carrigain Notch trail and Desolation trail! Not to mention the "North" side of the mountain in May..."gasp!" If you don't understand what I'm talking about than I hope that you will read on and learn from my mistake :)

Our hike began with drizzle. Scott insisted we hike anyway as the forecast predicted clearing. We had ponchos and wind breakers so heck, why not. We set off at 10:00am. The rain soon subsided as predicted and we were quickly turning onto Carrigain Notch trail. Here an owl high above in a tree yelled at us for crossing into his territory. It was a great experience especially for Scott's first time hike! This was my first run-in with a wild owl hooting at us too. As we continued it became evident that we would be climbing over and around many blown down trees on this trail. Every 200 feet it seemed! We also made several stream crossings, one of which was confusing as the trail was difficult to follow in this section. These two things will come into play later on.

Jason on Snow Covered Desolation Trail
We made the long 6.6 mile hike to Desolation trail, the most notable views along the way is the eroded stone face of Whitewall Mt. Here at Desolation trail you are in the middle of the woods, miles from the nearest road and surrounded by mountains. It truly does feel like desolation! This trail is 1.9 miles of 2,500 feet elevation gain!! We got maybe half-a-mile up and discovered the trail was beginning to become covered with snow. Soon we were waist high trying to climb this steep, relentless trail! Little did I know, that late May there would still be snow on the North facing side of the mountain. Makes sense though doesn't it!? We pushed on to about 3,000 feet I believe, and we were at the point of exhaustion and freezing body's. Not smart to push yourself to this point! We decided to head down and take the same long trail back that we came in on.

Once back onto the Carrigain Notch trail we began to warm back up. However our lower halves wet from the snow remained cold, tired and sore. Now we hit the blown down trees. One after the other, each time it became harder to crawl over them. Nearly just as difficult to try and go around them. 4 miles of hiking and dozens of trees in our way! And then it began to rain, and then change over to snow. Really!? And soon the sun began to fall behind the mountains. Oh man! Fortunately one thing I was smart about, was to always be prepared. I had head lamps. We drug our exhausted body's onward now making it to the river crossings.

At this point the rivers were higher and we just could not make out the trail on the other side as it was now dark. We trudged through the river in our boots, not caring about the cold and just wanting to end this nightmare. We could not find the trail on the other side of the river and I was beginning to really think we were going to die out here in the wilderness. We did find the trail again and arrived back at the parking lot at 10:00pm, 12 hours of hiking! My right knee was so sore and swollen it was stiff and I was not able to bend it. Both of us could literally barely walk.

Thus began our hiking journey together. We didn't make the summit, but we survived! Despite the outcome, and our severely sore legs the following day...I did convince Scott on another hike in a couple weeks. I assured him it would be worth it, that it really can be enjoyable and amazing. "Just wait until you see the view from high atop a mountain!" For whatever reason he believed me. And I set my sights for a mountain I knew the most, the one that I first fell in love with... be continued!

1 comment:

  1. thanks for sharing! This is a great account of a really challenging hike. I laughed out loud reading that you took your friend who never hiked on a snow covered Desolation trail up Carrigain. That is border line insane.
    I love it. Still laughing.