I have always enjoyed hiking through the woods. It always is pure adventure for me. Seeing things just around the bend is something of a theme for my sixty-something years on earth. I suppose my first major hikes occurred as a Boy Scout while active in Troop 1, Pelham, New York. I must be forever thankful to Mr. Mannie Padin Sr. for outfitting me in Bass boots and the lesson he gave me about always wearing dry socks and quality boots. To this day I always carry an extra pair of dry socks.
Before I was 15, via the Boy Scouts, I must have hiked many hundreds of miles around Camp Siwanoy, then located in Wingdale, New York and very near the Appalachian Trail. As we hiked, always in groups, we talked the things young boys talk about – movies, snakes, girls, and what we will have to eat later – not always in that order. Too often back then it was Spam! I even ventured to Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico to do a 50-mile hike within the 140,177 acres neighboring Cimarron, New Mexico within the Sange de Cristo Mountains of the Rocky Mountains.
However it was the hiking I did with my two daughters in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that inspired me to conjure up this column. My daughters walked hundreds of miles with me as we hiked to and stayed overnight at all the Appalachian Mountain Huts in the White Mountains (Mt. Washington region). Usually it was just the three of us. My youngest daughter Blair hiked to the top of Mt. Washington via Tuckerman’s Ravine when she was 5 and continued to summit it every year for the next 10 years, as did her sister Schuyler. Those hikes were gold. We talked about anything and everything. We sang songs, we did trivia and so forth. Distracting cell phones and devices had not been invented yet. It was us, the wilderness and the above the tree line hiking that we loved with all those amazing sacred views. At the huts the girls met other children from all over and shared their hiking tales along with all the other banter kids at those ages enjoy. Us parents would watch and glow.
Blair and I actually were at Lakes of the Clouds Hut at 5032 ft. just near the summit of Mt Washington the night Hurricane Bertha (July 18,1996) whipped through with her then 80-90 mph winds. The sound of the wind howling was something else as all the pots hanging in the huge kitchen area shook and were making noises, it felt like the roof might blow off. About 70 hikers were in their single bunks not getting much sleep as the heavy hurricane rains pounded the high ground around us. The next day Blair and I led about 30 folks (mothers with young kids) down the steep twisting flooded Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail through some blinding rain with intense wind along with perhaps 40-degree weather. However by the time we arrived at Jewel Pond near the bottom it was sunny and 88 degrees and we all went for a celebratory swim.
We once did a winter hut-hike in the White Mountains and that night was the coldest I have ever been because they turned the heat off at night at the Zealand Falls Hut to save energy. Blair brought her summer sleeping bag by mistake so I gave her my North Face below zero special lightweight sleeping bag and tried to use her sleeping bag designed for 80-degree nights. I survived.
I was lucky to do some amazing high altitude hikes around 8-9000 ft. in the French Alps with my daughters the one summer I also climbed Mt. Blanc the highest mountain in the Alps. My girls are soon to be 33 and 31 and live far away. Our hiking adventures are over. Now at sixty-something I hike with my wife Cindi who walks faster than me (yet we are the same age!). We talk, we laugh, and we explore new things together. Medical experts all say walking/hiking/trekking is good for you and I agree, but everything in moderation! The days of 50 miles hikes are over for me but 2-3 hour treks in the woods, especially in the fall, is still an adventure I love to do. Make sure you wear proper socks and the right footwear.