“Why am I doing this to myself?” This is the question that keeps on nagging me as I roll out of bed at 5:45am on a Saturday morning. It is still nearly an hour before sunrise and the Friday night party beats are still rattling through my semi-conscious body.
I reach something resembling a vertical stance despite the magnetic pull of my bed. It would be so nice to melt back into my dreams under the warm covers. But the sight of a packed rucksack reminds me that the Mt. Washington summit is awaiting visitors today.
By 6am a group of nearly 50 Outdoors Club Members has assembled by the SFP roundabout. They’ve all asked themselves the same question upon waking and decided that the mountain was too hard to resist. It is still too dark to see all the faces; the conversation is a little slow. The mellow murmur is interrupted by Chris Kawaja (OD) arriving on his bike at warp 7. “Kawaja, get a watch!” someone yells from the crowd. “Dude, that was the fastest I’ve ever gotten dressed in my life,” he replies into the darkness.
We finish dividing up into our carpools and the first of the day’s car-related challenges rears its head. I find out that one of the drivers pulled out without telling anyone; three people are left without a ride.
Through luck and coincidence, we find three extra spots. The cars begin to take off. We’ll see each other at the trail head in New Hampshire at 9am.
As I am about to drive away, the last latecomer runs into the parking lot. All the cars are full. Well, almost. The only spot on offer is the back seat of an Audi TT, “suitable for small pets and groceries” according to Jean Kim (ND) the owner. If you’ve never tried sitting there, don’t. None too happy, Raghdaa Hasan (OC) acrobatically squeezes herself into the tiny space, and the last two cars roll out of the parking lot.
Energized by Red Bull, I reach I-93 in record time and settle in with cruise control. My passengers are fast asleep. Fair? I think not. The sun begins its ascent as we leave Boston behind us. As advertised, the foliage comes in every shade from red to gold once you cross the New Hampshire border.
A little past 9am our car arrives at the trail head parking lot at the foot of Mt. Washington. The cog railway train is noisily billowing black smoke and white steam as it climbs the steep mountainside. There is not a cloud in the sky.
Oddly, only two more cars out of our convoy of ten have arrived so far.
Time passes and the group is getting restless. The trail is calling them.
They cannot escape the subconscious desire to start hiking; they want to be challenged and win upon reaching the peak. Typical HBS mentality, n’est-ce pas?
We test our walkie-talkies and decide that the first group should start heading up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. A mysterious third party squawks on the radio calling my name. It turns out the drivers of the other cars decided to park at a different parking lot half a mile away. Well,
so much for map reading skills among HBS Outdoors Club members. Maybe we should hold a clinic.
The crowd arrives at the trailhead along with the second car-related challenge of the day. One of the cars that left the SFP paring lot is missing. “Just like herding cats,” I think to myself. I send everyone up and wait for another 30 minutes. After checking both parking lots, I decide to chase the group.
While the vanguard has passed the treeline, the stragglers enjoy the stunning panoramic views and the waterfalls of the Ammonoosuc Stream. Eventually, everyone makes it to the Lake of the Clouds Hut. The hut is all boarded up for the winter already, but the views are priceless. The valleys below are strewn in gold and thanks to great visibility, we can see as far as the Green Mountains in Vermont.
After a short break and another hour’s walk, everyone reaches the summit. “It was tough”, I hear. But the group feels accomplished and happy. We devour lunch and take a few pictures. Now everyone is itching to head back down. It’s that HBS thing again…
Heading down the Jewell Trail is more of a leisurely stroll now. Still above the tree line, I can see our group stretch out for hundreds of yards. We hit a few snow patches here and there, take in some more breathtaking views of ravines, and three hours later find our cars again.
We refuel with water and cookies left over from lunch and head out in search of dinner. Our destination is a lobster restaurant on the New Hampshire coast. My passengers fall asleep again and the sun sets quickly.
The Atlantic coast greets us with a full moon reflected in the nearly still ocean surface. Nature is definitely not sparing us its beauty today.
Eventually, we settle in for a brilliant seafood dinner and relive the hike.
In the end, we miss our scheduled 10pm return to Boston by a few hours, but, yeah, it was a pretty good day.