Zebra Tales
Henry '20

Experience-Based Learning

I took three final steps, pushed aside a rock, and let out a sigh of relief. I stood at 5,367 feet, having just come over the crest that marked the top of Mt. Madison. It had been quite a day of hiking, with over nine miles logged, winds approaching 60 miles per hour, and more rain than I thought possible. This was the end, the final chapter of New Hampshire’s grueling and brutal Presidential Range. The four-day trip had been truly remarkable and while the hiking was challenging, I discovered much about myself, the campers I was sharing this experience with, and the breathtaking natural world that we live in.
When I was selected to lead this trip, I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. I was the youngest counselor at Camp Mowglis this past summer. While I had quickly acclimated to the responsibilities and demands necessary to oversee 100-plus boys ranging from 7 to 14, It still seemed incredible that I would now be tasked with bringing seven young men over the East Coast’s tallest and most formidable mountain range. The trust and belief that the camp was placing in me was immense, and I knew that I could not let them down. I also knew however, that this was going to be one of the best weeks of my life.

Our belief that this would be a technical and testing trip of hiking was vindicated immediately, with our expedition beginning with a seemingly vertical two-mile climb. After eating lunch overlooking Crawford Notch, we continued along the famous and historic ridge, summiting Mt. Webster and Mt. Jackson. Upon reaching the Mizpah Springs hut, we ate scrumptious food and enjoyed wonderful hospitality from the hut staff.

Day two brought vicious winds that whipped at our exposed faces and temperatures barely cresting 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Fog enshrouded the hut, and visibility seemed to be almost nonexistent. No amount of bad weather could impede us however, and we pressed on with our journey. After summiting Mt. Pierce, we trekked up the brutal western side of Mt. Eisenhower’s immense 4,760-foot frame. As the rain fell incessantly, we hurried up another 612 feet to the summit of Mt. Monroe. Shortly afterward, the Lakes of the Clouds hut appeared amongst the fog and we rushed inside, shedding our sodden clothing and gear. We sank our utensils into tender pulled pork and enjoyed delicious homemade focaccia bread for dinner before settling into our beds for another night amongst the clouds.

We awoke to the anticipation of the East Coast’s tallest point. A short but steep 1.5-mile hike up the Crawford Path would dispatch us to the top of Mt. Washington, a peak known for recording the highest wind speed in the United States to date: a whopping 231 miles per hour. Although wind speeds did not quite reach that almost implausible number, they seemed to be blowing awfully hard as we pushed up the side of the mountain. Forty-five minutes later, we arrived at this enviable 6,288-foot peak, triumphant and successful in our pursuit. After taking a brief break at the summit, we ticked off Mt. Clay, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Adams on the way to our third resting place, the picturesque and rustic Madison Springs hut.

As sunshine finally peeked through the clouds to mark the conclusion of our trip, we scrambled up the side of Mt. Madison and took in the surrounding beauty, which reminded of dreams and fantasy. The trip had been unforgettable, and taught both myself and the boys lessons in perseverance, positivity, and the incredible joy that stems from experiences lived in the moment. As the nine of us collapsed into the awaiting van, our minds began to drift towards sleep and our muscles cried out in pain. I smiled as we drove away from our pickup location, enjoying every moment. This was the way that life was meant to be lived.