Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Walkin’ and hangin’

I’m just home from nearly a week in New Hampshire and Vermont—as Robert Frost asserted, “the two best states in the Union.” (Maine may have a gripe, but Frost was essentially correct.)

Last Friday, I staggered up North Hancock (4,420 ft.) and South Hancock (4,319 ft.), two of my remaining 17 New Hampshire 4000-footers. There are 48 in all, and I topped my first one in 1966, so summiting them all hasn’t exactly been a major focus of my life. But increasing age has turned it into a minor compulsion, and I hope to crawl up at least four more—maybe as many as eight—this year.

The walk up the Hancocks is a loop, and it’s a lot like many walks in the Whites: woodsy, rocky, and steep.

It was a hot and terribly humid day, neither of the two summits is above tree-line, and the views from outcrops were poor because of haze. But the famous Arrow Slide off North Hancock was visible both heading up

and coming down,

and near the summit of South Hancock, I did catch sight of Carrigain Pond, far down in the bowl between my ridge and Mount Carrigain. It’s a tiny speck on maps, and trail-less. I bushwhacked to it perhaps 15 years ago, hanging onto the belts of three profoundly experienced and well-known White Mountain personages as we slithered through thickets and made an unscheduled trip over the densely wooded summit of The Captain, a small and infrequently visited peak. It was one of my best days in the mountains.

One of the paths leading into the climb is the Cedar Brook Trail, notorious in our family for its multiple brook crossings, one of which was the location of H’s shoe-toss shoe-loss a few years back. This summer has been so dry that I easily rock-hopped across all of them and couldn’t even recognize the one that claimed the boot. On the way out, though, the worm turned, the heavens opened, and an impressive thunder storm brought down enough rain to turn the trails themselves into brooks. The last hour of my walk out was essentially a wade.

I was up north to help support H during a two-day obstetric emergency training session at the Fletcher Allen Medical Center at the University of Vermont in Burlington. The job was to take care of sweet B during the day. What a bummer.

Burlington is a famously cool little city. It’s right on Lake Champlain, and you can see the Adirondacks in New York across the lake. It’s a youthful city, with the University of Vermont and a few other colleges in the area, and it’s progressive and smart. Bike paths, the terrific Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center, and all sorts of other attractive features, including lots of good pubs and clubs, restaurants, and cafés. A terrific town that’s often rated by one publication or another as one of the best places to live in the U.S. (It’s certainly near the top of my list.) We took an almost-four-mile run one morning from our hotel, near the hospital, to the lake and back. Mighty fine

At a week shy of two, the B has become amazingly verbal, deploying four-word sentences and commenting endlessly on the world around her and her own situation—and her own desires (“Me do!”). One morning she was a delighted—and, I must say, delightful—customer of Henry’s Diner, a famous local spot that is clearly not unused to the needs of the very young. B especially enjoyed opening her little jam pack and counting sugar packets (she skips from five to eight these days, so the total was a little inflated). She also loved the special little cup-with-straw her juice came in. At one point, we cracked each other up playing stickily with a tiny Leggo humanoid (she calls it “Person”) and the jelly she was supposed to be eating on her muffin. Is there anything better than the delighted laughter of a small child? (Easy answer: No.)


Philip Werner said...

Compulsion is the word, alright. I have 3 more to go and it's driving me crazy: Isolation, Passconaway, and Cannon. Shouldn't be long now. Brutal summer, no?

Mark Alvarez said...

Brutal summer, yes. Isolation and Passaconaway are two of my remaining summits, also. Maybe we'll bump into each other. I'll be the staggering fat man.
(I'm enjoying your videos.)