Friday, November 12, 2010

Waumbek Can Wait. November 11, 2010

Once in a while, someone writes me and asks, "How do you get your kids to hike?" My answer? I don't. They hike because they want to. If they don't want to, then we don't go. Or, as was the case today, if they start out wanting to, and then they change their minds halfway up the mountain, we turn back. I don't believe in taking a kid up a mountain unless that kid really and truly wants to get up that mountain.

A few days ago, MadRiver invited the three of us on a 4K hike, and he asked us to choose something I thought Sage could handle. I chose Waumbek, one of the easier 4Ks. Sage was enthusiastic about hiking with MadRiver, and Alex didn't mind repeating the peak.

The morning arrived, and the girls were happy and rarin' to go. We started on the trail an hour ahead of MadRiver and his friend Mynetta, since I figured they would catch up to us in short order.

The trail was moderate and covered in a brown crunchy carpet of dead leaves and frozen mud.

The girls found the large cistern-well-thingy interesting...

...after examining it for a few minutes, we continued on our way.

And then, somewhere around the mile and a half mark, Sage's behavior began to rapidly deteriorate. As her countenance grew more and more sour by the second, my mind raced through all the possibilities. Hypothermia? Hardly, it was fairly warm out. Dehydration? Nope, she'd been chugging water constantly. Hungry? She'd been eating her way up the trail. Too much distance? Normally, no -- she did all of Jefferson, Jackson, and Tom happily and with zero complaint. Waumbek should be well within her capabilities.

I asked her several times what was wrong. She kept telling me she was fine, but she obviously wasn't. I asked if she wanted to turn back, but she said no. So we continued for a while...until she began huffing and sniffling and acting as though she basically hated life.

I quietly called Alex back a bit while Sage stomped dejectedly ahead. I told Alex that I was going to turn us around, and that Sage would probably be angry with me for doing so, but that something was obviously wrong and that it would be a mistake to continue.

We caught up to Sage and I told her to sit. She did so, and I explained that I thought it best if we turned back. Her reaction was, at first, furious. She cried frustrated tears and asked me why. She said that she wanted to keep going, that she didn't want to sit there. After allowing her to vent a while, I told her that I didn't think her body was up to it today. That I wanted her to think quietly for a minute and, after a few minutes of rest, if she really and truly wanted to continue, then we would. However, if she wanted to go back to the car, that was fine. Alex chimed in and told her it didn't matter if we got to the top, we could come back next week, next month, or next year. I told her that everyone turns around sometimes, it's no big deal. I also told her she was a strong kid who's already done so much, and that even the strongest of people sometimes just need to go home and rest. Sage contemplated all this for a minute, then said, in a very small voice, "I think I want to turn back."

I swooped her up and told her I was so proud of her, that she just became a Real Hiker. Real Hikers know when to turn back. Alex gave her a high-five, and the three of us turned and began to head down.

On the way, we crossed paths with MadRiver and Mynetta. Sage was embarrassed about turning back -- until MadRiver told her a story about how, last week, he turned back on the Tripyramids because he just didn't feel like continuing onward. That made Sage feel a lot better (thanks, MadRiver!).

The rest of our descent was cheerful. Sage found her smile again, and the girls made a humongous racket while they chased each other down the trail.

When we got back to the cistern-well-thingy, we had some un-summit chocolate.

I think this was a good day -- it's times like these when the real lessons are learned. Sage learned that there's no shame in turning around, even if everyone around you feels good to go. She learned that the summit is optional, and that a good time can be had even if we never reach the top. Alex once again proved herself to be a supportive and loving big sister. I learned how completely obvious it is when Sage really doesn't want to hike, even if she's loudly proclaiming that she wants to keep going. Had we continued today, she would've sniffled and stomped her way to Starr King (maybe) and I would have ended up carrying her out. Where's the fun in that?

If the hike ain't happy then the hike ain't happenin'.

Thanksgiving travel looms...'til December, folks.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Alex and Sage Both Continue to Hike the Whites...

Hikes with Alex are reported on Trish and Alex Hike the 4000 Foot Whites.

Hikes with Sage are reported on Sage on the Trails of New Hampshire.

Hikes with both Alex and Sage, as well as highpointing trips, are posted here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Highpoint: Vermont. Mt. Mansfield (4395 ft). September 24, 2010

Vermont: Mt. Mansfield, our 34th (and last) highpoint of the year!

Sage requested we ride on the gondola. Even though Alex and I don't particularly care for that method of ascent, we bowed to Sage's wishes.

Sage had a great time...

...while Alex and I clung to the sides and tried to calm our nerves. There is nothing wrong with the Mt. Mansfield gondola -- Alex and I just have a terrible fear of riding in gondolas and trams.

My worst fears were thankfully not realized (the gondola did not snap off the cable and send us plummeting to our deaths), and we reached the top unscathed.

From here, we took the Cliff Trail.

We topped out on the Long Trail and walked to the summit.

At the top!

We did not lounge on the summit for long; we had more important things than highpointing on our minds...

(The ice cream was delicious).

Not a bad year. 34 states -- pretty good for a 5 year old and a 7 year old.

Next highpointing stops -- Maine and New summer. After that, we may be finished, or we may continue. That'll be up to the girls.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Highpoint: New Hampshire. Mt Washington (6288 ft). Also, Mt. Monroe. Sept 9-11, 2010

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, Crawford Path, Mt. Monroe Loop.
About 11 miles roundtrip.

Sage has been asking to climb Mt. Washington for months. She isn't yet ready to ascend New Hampshire's highest mountain in one day, and I'm not sure she could happily do it in two, so I booked a couple of nights at Lakes of the Clouds. I figured we'd hike up to the hut on Day One, ascend Washington on Day Two, and head back to the car on Day Three.

Day One (September 9th) arrived, and we set out on the trail. Mt. Washington's Higher Summit Forecast called for a cold, wet and windy day, so we donned full winter clothing and prepared ourselves for a watery slog to the hut.

The first mile went quickly, albeit all three of us felt as though we were swimming as opposed to walking...

During the second mile, we passed the sad reminder that one does not have to be above treeline to die of hypothermia...

Two hours after leaving the car, we arrived at Gem Pool, that lovely oasis that rests at the bottom of the final (steep!) mile.

We didn't stop long to rest -- it was the kind of day where one needed to keep moving in order to stay warm. We had winter mindsets -- layers, going slowly but steadily, lots of snacks while walking, lots of water. Our clothing did its job, the three of us felt warm and dry all the way up.

Wet slabs!!!

Wet alpine zone!

Wet everything!

Since the Ammonoosuc is sheltered, we didn't feel the wind until that last tenth of exposed mile just before the hut. But that last tenth -- yikes! I felt for anyone trying to hike above treeline. It was NOT a day for a newbie to be out there, unless that newbie was guided. Classic case of the mountains ignoring the calendar summer.

Though our hike up was enjoyable in spite of the weather (there was lots of singing involved), we were happy to reach the hut.

We walked into the hut and saw that quite a few people had ventured out unprepared. The hut croo seemed to have their hands full taking care of hypothermic hikers. One of the ladies eyed us as we entered and asked me if we needed any dry clothing. I assured her we were fine, then the girls and I stripped off our wet outer layers, changed our socks, and settled in for the evening.

The next morning we awoke to more of the same. Well, almost the same -- at least there wasn't any steady, cold, pouring rain. After checking the forecast and double-checking the hours of the summit buildings, we donned another multitude of dry layers, put on our rain and winter shells, and ventured forth.

The "Beware" sign...

This picture sums up our views for the day...

Up toward the summit buildings, which are there in the fog somewhere...

...and, we made it! Sage was so happy and proud of herself.

Everything was enveloped in cloud.

We entered the snack area and the girls devoured a couple of whoopie pies while I checked our layers. We were all dry except for our gloves. Sage's hands run hot, so I wasn't concerned about her. Alex, however, has a problem with her fingers going numb very quickly. I decided to give her one of my dry glove layers and buy extra hand warmers at the gift shop, just in case. On the way back down, her hands did get cold, but by wiggling her fingers she was able to stay relatively comfortable.

We saw only two groups of people on the way back to the hut -- a man with two boys who were probably about 12 and 9 years old (they looked well-prepared and all three were going strong) and a couple, also well-prepared and looking well. This was not a day for beginners, and I wasn't surprised that we had the trail mostly to ourselves on the way back.

Here we are near one of the's in the photo somewhere...

The wind was gusting now, but it was at our backs and we felt strong enough to tackle Monroe. We talked about it as we neared the hut, but I decided it would be better to wait and tag it the next day before heading down to the car. It was supposed to be sunny and warmer in the morning, and it would be nice if Sage could get some real views during this trip. So back into the hut we went.

The next morning (September the 11th), we awoke to a different world...

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Sun, warmer temperatures, no rain or fog (!), and just plain pleasantness. After a yummy breakfast, the girls and I happily headed toward Monroe.

After a brief climb up the summit cone, we arrived at the peak. The girls posed for a picture (Washington's in the background).


Kids and views!

The day was so bright and Mt. Franklin was just...over...there...and Alex and I could use it for the Trailwrights list...we easily convinced Sage to go the extra few tenths of a mile.

EDIT (8/26/2012) - We did NOT summit Franklin on this trip.  We actually summited the smaller peak of Mt. Monroe...oops.  We came back and got Franklin on 8/22/2012 -- click here for the trip report).

On Mt. Franklin, with Mt. Monroe in the background.  Oops! See the above EDIT.



We stopped back at the hut before descending the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. Alex and Sage wrote their names in the dirt, just outside the entrance.

Hard to believe this is the same trail we ascended two days ago. The sun makes a lot of difference.

Mt. Washington from the upper part of the trail.

We got back down to the car in a few short hours.

Nicely done, Sage -- she's now done six "official" 4Ks.  'Twas a nice three days of peakbagging.