Thursday, August 20, 2009

High Heat in the High Hills

Last Tuesday, as the temperature soared to a brain bubbling 90-something degrees and the humidity made it feel as though you were living in somebody's old, but recently used gym sock, Julie and I hiked another mountain.

Is there a better way to beat the heat than by strapping on a heavy backpack full of water and granola and hauling your sorry, sweaty self up rocky trails? Frankly, yes. A cool, refreshing beverage (preferably with a little pink umbrella and several tinkling ice cubes) served poolside sounds about right. But Julie is stark-raving insane and I'm her friend, so off into the hazy gray yonder we went.

We climbed Mount Pierce, a 4,000 footer in the Presidential Range and named, obviously, after former president Jimmy Carter. What struck me first about this hike was the fact that the parking lot was full. This is a rare occurrence.

When Julie and I go hiking, there are typically very few cars in the trail-head parking lots. Most of the cars that are there are the vehicles of people from Massachusetts who have mistakenly wandered into The White Mountains to "Do a little hiking and get back to nature." We often see them stumbling past us on the trails, their high heeled shoes broken and flapping off their ankles and their make-up running down their cheeks, headed for their cars and grumbling about the fact that there are so few places to get a Dunkin Donuts Mocoolattachino on the trails.

Most people have more sense than to willingly hike mountains in the first place. I figured that surely, as Tuesday was so hot that furry woodland creatures were exploding in fiery balls of fur, we would at least have the luxury of sweating ourselves into strips of human jerky in relative privacy. It turns out that the trail we were hiking is like some sort of superhighway for freaks who actually find joy in hiking when it's so hot you can hear yourself sweating.

Our trip up the mountain was punctuated by a brief stop at Mitzpah Hut, an Appalachian Mountain Club outpost where, for the small price of about a hundred dollars a night, you get a bunk in a room filled with several sweaty, snoring strangers who share your passion for being sweaty in the woods.

We took what might generously be referred to as 'the scenic route' when we left Mitzpah Hut, heading off down the wrong trail toward another, and far distant mountain. It was the steep decline of the path that made us think we may have made a slight navigational error.

"My, my, Julie," I observed. "This is the easiest summit ascent we have ever made. This gently rolling, mossy path headed downward certainly makes the hiking a breeze."
"Hiking is never easy," Julie answered, "We must be doing something wrong."

And what do you know? We were.

After locating the proper path (easily identified because it was steep and treacherous and towering high into the hazy sky above us), we began to test the limits of human perspiration. We reached the summit and were greeted by hungry swarms of black flies, thirsting for human blood. We had sweated so much that I imagine our blood had thickened to the consistency of milkshakes, giving the black flies a delightful treat and causing them to tell all their friends to give us a try. Which they did. As a brief side note, if you look closely at the picture of me (I am the hairier, ugly one) you will see a strange, blurry form in the sky above my head. That is actually a single black fly about 3 miles away. It had feasted lustily on my blood just a few moments before and had swollen to the size of a 1965 Buick.

On this particular hike, Julie and I decided to try something different. Given the proof of her powers over the animals on previous hikes, we decided that we didn't need to bother packing lunches today. Instead, Julie packed trail-mix and we used it to lure gray jays into our hungry clutches.

After our refreshing lunch of gray jay, we began our descent, pausing briefly at the summit marker so Julie could touch it and have her picture taken at it. She operates under the odd misapprehension that if she doesn't actually touch the summit marker, the hike does not count and she will have to do it over again.

As we approached the bottom of the hill, after passing many pungently aromatic hikers headed for Mitzpah Hut to revel in their mind-altering stinkiness with other similarly olafactorally enhanced hilers, we spotted a small mountain stream with a delightful carved out spot just right for taking a cool, refreshing dip.

Mountain streams have the amazing property of always being frigid. A brief plunge in the water was enough to cramp our toes and cleanse us of all desire to ever swim again. I would have posted a picture, but our fingers were too cold to push the button on the camera.

We slogged back to the car and headed back home, stopping only for the mandatory ice cream cone in Lincoln which melted into sticky puddles almost before we could gulp them down.


We're planning our next hike for sometime in the early fall. I'm packing BBQ sauce for that one.

1 comment:

Katie said...

I love your recounts of your adventures. Highly entertaining!