Zebra Tales
Grace '21

Four Days, Forty Miles

I recently found myself crouching at the foot of a foreboding trail, lacing up my hiking boots and trying to avoid looking at the steep incline of rock stooping above my head. My mom and I had decided to challenge ourselves by partially circumnavigating a trail around the Pemigewasset Wilderness, a stretch of the land in the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire with little human development. Over the course of four days, if all went as planned, we were to stand on the top of sixteen summits while putting forty miles under our belts. If one thing was for sure, it was going to be a wild adventure—hopefully one that included clear skies, new faces, and the quiet beauty of the woods.
Our first day on the trail began quite late, as that morning I had finished my last class of driver’s education for the summer. My mom and I quickly scrambled up two peaks before realizing that we didn’t have much time to travel quite a few miles; if you had happened to be walking the same stretch of trail as us that day, you would have witnessed two flustered hikers walking at a very uncomfortable pace trying desperately to make it to their destination before dinner. Luckily, our endpoint was a hut nestled deep in the mountains that was part of a chain of shelters run by the Appalachian Mountain Club. We enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared by the hut “croo” and immediately went to bed to prepare ourselves for the long hike ahead.

Going into our second day, we were nervous about trekking thirteen miles in possible downpours; however, we were happily surprised when we summited a series of five very remote peaks to be greeted by blue skies. We were exposed along a ridge and could see an infinite number of mountains jutting up from completely undeveloped land. It was refreshing to be surrounded by remote wilderness and only a few random hikers. Our next day was very similar, although we crossed paths with many more people. We were walking along a stretch of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,000-mile route that leads from Georgia to Maine. Hundreds of people make the astonishing crossing every year, and we happened to be in the Whites at the same time most of the “through” hikers were completing the New Hampshire section of the trail. It was incredible to hear snippets of their stories and how far they had come (although it put the length of our hike to shame). Our day was culminated by yet another rare blue-bird view and a delicious dinner shared with new friends made along the trail.

Our final day was a completely different scenario. After climbing two summits that morning, we had to cross along a section of trail known as Franconia Ridge that was accessible right off the highway; unfortunately, that meant thousands of tourists swarmed the trail every weekend. My mom and I were luckily able to cross the ridge before the summit became crowded; we had a spectacular hike with the morning light pervading through the wisps of clouds above us, showering the mountains in golden rays. We were alone for our final two ascents of the trip later in the afternoon, which was special considering that hours earlier we were running from the crowds. We celebrated on top of Mt. Flume, our sixteenth peak of the weekend, and proceeded to quickly stumble down the mountain to meet my dad on time at the base of the trail.

After completing forty miles, my mom and I could call our trip a success. We had a blast and became friends with various people from the trail (one of whom goes to our rival school, St. Mark’s). We even managed to complete our trip without a single drop of rain falling upon our backs, a remarkable achievement considering the weather of the past few weeks. Although the views from the summits were spectacular, it’s difficult to express how much value the charismatic personalities we encountered added to the hiking experience. I’m excited to return to the trails in the future to meet a new collection of adventurous, outgoing people who I can share the views with.