I have to admit, that for the past few months, I have been a very lucky man. I have had the opportunity to do the things I love, and get paid for it. I’ve spent more and more time on trails and in the backcountry, and less time in cities, on roads, and within range of cell phone service (or internet, hence the lack of blog posts).
I spent my summer, as I have the three summers prior, guiding hiking and backpacking trips at Camp Walt Whitman. This summer, I was the co-assistant director of the entire hiking/backpacking program. It was an amazing experience to be involved in the coordination, planning, and evaluation of an outdoor recreation program and its employees. The logistical challenges of trip scheduling, staff development, gear inventory, and transportation schedule are many, and it was hard to make sense of it all sometimes. However, I learned a lot about leadership, multi-tasking, decision making, and professionalism. I am grateful for the opportunity.
Some highlights from my summer include a long overdue return to “The Bonds” in the
Pemigewasset Wilderness and leading a five-day backpacking trip we call the “AT Challenge.” The AT Challenge is a trip in which we hike out of camp along the road, meet up with the AT on Wachipauka Pond Trail, and hike north, seeing how far we can get in five days. Our ending point ended up being the summit of Mt. Washington, 80 something miles away from where we started.
The AT Challenge pushed me mentally and physically to the max. I don’t think I would have made it to Mt. Washington without the campers who came on the trip. Their ambition and motivation kept me going and prevented me from becoming complacent. Ultimately, when it comes to hiking, I don’t think I have anything I need to prove to anyone or myself, so it’s easy for me on a backpacking trip to reach a certain point and just think “yeah, I’ll stop here, it’s okay.” But it was the campers that wanted to push the few extra miles each day to set themselves up for Washington the last day. The campers pushed themselves and me to work hard, and it paid off. Interestingly enough, the campers struggled physically the first four days, as their bodies weren’t used to such intense hiking. Ailments included severe blisters and painfully wet feet, chafing and general muscle pain. I tended to be fine. However, my most painful day was the fifth day, when my right quadricep writhed in pain with each step. As my dominant leg, I think it just had enough pounding, particularly on hard downhill steps for the four days prior. My co-leader Josh was also struggling with knee problems by this point. However, the campers seemed to have pushed past their physical pain, and were now supporting us, the leaders. They offered encouraging words, lifting our spirits to help us fight through the pain throughout the southern presidentials and Mt. Washington. I greatly appreciate their sentiments and maturity, as it really helped me out. Otherwise, the trip was filled with hilarity of failed stream crossings, bodily functions, and the eccentric thoughts of 15 year olds.
Camp ended with a gnarly day-hike up Huntington Ravine trail on Mt. Washington. Then just like that, seemingly quicker than I ever could have imagined, camp was over.
On to my next thing. The next thing was a recently acquired job as a naturalist and croo member at Zealand Falls Hut, along the AT just south of Crawford Notch. I have been living/working at the hut since August 21. I have wanted an Appalachian Mountain Club hut job for a while, and this job has proven to be excellent. I won’t bore you with the details of daily duties. I am incredibly lucky to be living in the backcountry, with a view of Zealand Notch, Mt. Carrigain and Carrigain Notch in my “front yard,” and the tranquil cascade that is Zealand Falls in my “side yard.” My life is simply reduced to my hut responsibilities, and once those are done, the only question I have to ask myself is “do I want to hike today, or nap by the waterfall?” Not to mention the amazing connections I’ve made with my fellow croo members, croo members of other huts, hut guests, and AT thru-hikers, all while being disconnected from the rest of the world. It’s a beautiful life. Despite being tired from all this hard work and the harshness of the White Mountains, I am certainly living a charmed lifestyle.