Memories in the Mountains

Everyone who loves Nature has that first special place where they connected with the beauty and peace of the outdoors. My first foray into backpacking, and therefore to true beginning of this journey, happened in the White Mountains close to two decades ago. When my Dad was growing up, he and his family would journey to and through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. They did it so often that the trails were worn into memory, like lines in their palms. My family did not spend quite as much time among these mountains but every couple of years made it a point to gather here.

So you can imagine how much of a treat it was to have my Dad (Two Beers) join me for a section of the Whites. Even better, he managed to get us bunks in the Huts. This is true luxury for a through hiker: a bed & pillow, all you can eat dinner and breakfast, and four walls and a roof! The Huts are a great way to try out backpacking because they are spaced relatively evenly across the park and allow you to dip a toe into the experience. They're staffed by a crew (or Croo) of 20-somethings who do their best to make you feel right at home with skits and a family-style meal. Traveling from Hut to Hut was a great way for me to have some shorter days and a lighter pack, exactly what I needed after my minor ankle sprain.

But make no mistake, the Whites are tough! My Dad was a trooper as we faced steep climbs, rocky terrain, and two straight days of high winds that threatened to blow us off the mountain. Gusts got so high that they actually closed the train that takes you up and down Mount Washington, and as they did we went back into the storm to continue the trail. It would have been easy to get down, to want to call it quits, and yet we both were in great spirits the whole time.

I think one of the reasons we had such a great time was the legacy of our family along the Whites. My Dad would stop occasionally, having an out of body experience, saying, "This is where Uncle Timmy made soup!" Or "Here's where your Mom's pack fell." While he was reliving old memories, I was astonished by how much I felt I had changed along the AT. My Dad started with me, and hiking with him again brought back memories of struggling to hang a bear bag or fearing the day I'd hike 15 miles. We both experienced the past merging with the present, and we were able to share that with each other. I've loved many moments along this hike, but I will cherish the Whites.