It was over 20 years that my sister, Michelle and her boyfriend Wayne, invited me to join them to hike up Mount Chocorua in New Hampshire. I'm always up for any kind of outdoor adventure, so naturally, I said "yes." I did have one concern though. What would it be like to climb an actual mountain? In Connecticut there are several areas of elevation that are referred to as mountains. In reality, almost all of them are less than 1,000 feet in elevation and are really just hills. Vermont and New Hampshire have real mountains. At 3,500 feet, Mount Chocorua is one of the smallest of The White Mountain Chain, although it did have a reputation of being a fairly steep climb. I decided it would be best to take a few practice hikes in Connecticut wearing a backpack so I would be better prepared for the trip.
So the three of us headed up to New Hampshire. Actually, there was a fourth hiker. Wayne's dog, Brutus, also came along. Brutus was a big Rottweiler that had been trained as a guard dog. We found out at rest stops that he had a habit of chasing tractor trailer trucks and didn't seem to understand that there is a limit as to how far you can run when you are tied to a tree with a leash.
After we arrived, I noticed something shortly after we started our ascent up Mount Chocorua. There was no view on the way up. We walked through hardwoods followed by evergreens. All we could see was trees on the way up. I had envisioned a view off into the distance throughout our hike. I recall that we met several other hikers on the way up. One of them pointed out that there were "kinglets" in the pine trees. I had never heard of a kinglet before and was surprised to see how tiny they were.
Somewhere along the way we saw a hawk. I don't remember what kind it was but it didn't matter. Back then, I referred to hawks as small hawks or large hawks. If it seemed that it was to big to be a hawk, I just figured it was some kind of eagle. If a hawk was near a farm area, then it was surely a Chicken Hawk. That was the extent of my identification skills at that time. I really wasn't familiar with many species beyond birds that are commonly seen in the back yard.
As we passed the half way point of the hike, I was getting pretty winded. I used to smoke cigarettes back then and I was feeling it. My back and legs were getting tired, too. My sister seemed to be having an easier time than I was. I thought for certain that I was in better shape than she was.
I was relieved when we finally reached the base of the summit. There was a hiker's cabin that we were to camp in overnight. I recalled that it was anchored to the side of the hill with gigantic chains and wondered why? I started to take some of my gear out of the backpack. I removed my sleeping bag, water and food. As I reached in a little further, I felt something hard towards the bottom wrapped up in a towel. "You have got to be kidding!" I thought to myself. There in the bottom of my backpack were three 10 lb. weights wrapped up in towels! I had put them there when I was doing my practice hikes and never taken them out. No wonder my climb was so tough!
It was late in the afternoon, so we decided to climb the summit in the morning. The cabin that was provided for hikers had a bunch of wooden bunks. Some sort of mice ran back and forth across the beams during the night. At about three o'clock in the morning, we were awakened by Brutus who barking and growling furiously as he repeatedly charged into the wooden door. What was out there that had him so riled up? A bear? Bigfoot? No, it was nothing more than a lost hiker looking for a place to sleep.
I woke up at the crack of dawn, anxious to see what the view would be like from top of Mount Chocorua. There was a winding trail that allowed for a gradual walk to the top. I met two local hikers who had spent the last week up in the mountains. They assured me that the trail was not the way to go. They told me there was a much quicker way and suggested that I follow their lead. They started to climb right up the rocky face of the summit. It looked pretty easy so I followed right behind them. I must have been half way up before getting my first view. Looking off into the distance, I realized how high up we really were. I could see other mountains and clouds below. The two hikers, or should I say climbers, were already at the top chuckling to themselves as tehy watched me struggle. I now realized that I was no longer just hiking.I was actually rock climbing. The thought of clibing back down was too scary so my only option was climbing up. Adrenaline was rushing through my veins. At one point, I had to make a small leap to grab a hold of a metal spike which had been pounded into the rock. It was an experience I will never forget. The two hikers were long gone by the time I finished my climb. When I finally reached the top, it all seemed worth it. I could see mountains in every direction. I now realized why that cabin was chained to the hill. The winds must have been blowing 50 miles an hour.
Back then I had never even heard of the term "birding", which is why I would like to make a return visit some day. This time, I would bring along my binoculars and leave the weights behind!
The photo was provided for free courtesy of: Free New Hampshire Pics.com