In September, as I was getting my head around imminent surgery and radiation, I decided to schedule a mountain retreat so I’d have something on the calendar to look forward to. I reserved a little cabin near Franconia Notch in the White Mountains, where I’d be close to a number of trailheads. If I felt horrible, I’d just hunker down and do some writing and drawing; if I felt well enough, I’d take on a hike–scale would be dependent on my strength and any side effects from cancer treatment.
As it turned out, my weekend trip landed two-thirds of the way through radiation. I was a little worn down and had some discomfort in my chest, arm, and back, but I’d started running again post-surgery and found that getting my blood flowing made every part of me feel better. I was eager to be in the mountains and out of my daily work routine.
Knowing the trails would be wet, I rerouted to I.M.E. on my drive up and found a pair of light La Sportiva gore-tex hiking boots that would protect my feet from wet and cold. I was in and out of the store in under 10 minutes. Given all the holiday COVID warnings, I was surprised to see the streets of North Conway packed with Black Friday shoppers and tons of out of state plates.
I headed from North Conway to Lincoln via the Kancamagus Highway, and pulled into Greeley Pond trailhead in the late afternoon for a short scouting hike to assess the state of the trails (wet, so I glad for the new boots!). It felt great to be in the elements. I got back to the car at dusk and headed for my cabin.
After I’d settled in, I laid out my supplies for the next day: hi vis outerwear, layers, extra socks, food, water, extra gloves, a puffy down jacket, headlamp, crampons, and a pair of sneakers in case the new boots chaffed. I looked through my list of possible hikes and decided to take on the most ambitious, Mt. Lafayette.
Given that I was hiking alone, and my body was in the midst of other trials, I was determined to be conservative about the day. I would assess the conditions and my own strength and turn around if anything felt dodgy.
As I pulled into Lafayette Place to park, I noted a handful of other cars, with a few people gearing up for the trail. I popped my pack on my back and headed out. About a mile up, light snow began to fall, dusting the trail as I climbed a bit further. At one point, the trail was a frozen stream of solid ice, so I pulled on my Hillsound crampons. Above the tree line, the rocky peak was coated with a crust of ice and a layer of fresh snow. Everything about the mountain was stunning, and the trail was drawing me up. I felt great, and grateful.
As I climbed, the visibility diminished, but I kept my eyes on the cairns and determined that I would summit as long as the snow didn’t pick up. As I started questioning the wisdom of continuing on, I came across three young guys chatting on their way down.
“Am I close,” I asked?
“You’re practically there, and you’re killin’ it!” they replied.
I started grinning and couldn’t stop. After a few more winding turns and a few more cairns, I reached the summit of Mt. Lafayette at 5249 feet. I looked up to see a couple standing near the trail signs at the top, looking confused. They glanced up nervously.
“Does that trail lead to Greenleaf?” they asked.
“Yes,” I responded, “Greenleaf is a mile down.”
I could see cairns and boot tracks in a few different directions, and with the low visibility, getting lost would be easy. I planted myself right near the cairn marking my trail. I didn’t want to risk getting turned around. I pulled on my puffy down jacket, had a few bites of a leftover thanksgiving turkey sandwich, swallowed a few sips of water, and started the trek down.
The full hike was around 8 miles. It was a magical day. I felt completely transformed at a cellular level—with a clear mind, full heart, and very, very sore legs.
The tale in photos:
What an exhilarating day! Thanks for helping us live it vicariously.
thanks for reading, Judy!
Thank you, Lucinda, I appreciate your share and I could feel the world you were in. Such good medicine. Keep it up Woman. Respects and Love, Jeff Galuza
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Thanks, Jeff, I glad to hear I brought the experience to life for you. What a season this has been!
You’re incredible! Looks so amazing. All I do is stay inside and drink wine. Maybe I need a mountain retreat- altho it still wouldn’t find me hiking alone on a snowy afternoon….
I’m glad it was a good trip and you’re doing well. You’re in my thoughts often. Look forward to talking soon- and- I’m always available for a chat!
Thanks again for your contribution to the AltMFA. It was an amazing weekend made that much better by your presence- noted by many. I also heard you’ll work with Martha this semester- she’s getting the full NHIA treatment- which she knows and appreciates! (She would have been another one of my recruits had life gone differently). She’s fun and quirky and a really good person.
Be well this bittersweet holiday Much love and big hugs- xp
Patricia Miranda Director, MAPSpace & The Crit Lab http://www.patriciamiranda.com http://www.thecritlab.com http://www.mirandaartsprojectspace.com
Thanks, Patricia, I’m missing you and our magical faculty posse terribly. Truly a surreal season. So looking forward to working with Martha, and wow, the AltMFA dialogue was just dynamite. You are so good at building community!
I could feel the cold and your concerns about visibility. AND your sense of joy at Killin’ It. Congratulations!
Thanks, glad the experience came across! And yes, “killin’ it” feels pretty good right now!
Looked amazing and although I knew you were OK because you wrote this I was happy to see you came upon other people during these winter conditions. 🙂 You were amazing.
Thanks, Andrea. For just that reason, I didn’t tell many people about it till I was done. Didn’t want anyone to worry :-).
After Planting her SueRumbaLoo Bombadier Renegade in a snowbank,
CeeCee tunneled her way into McRock’s Jukebox Saloon,
burrowing into the entry where she was K-k-kicking snow from her Arcticks
when the first Timber shiver’rin’ roll of Thunder buckled her knees, rattling the windows, shattering glass, and spilling drinks
before knocking out the lights.
‘ ….okay, guys, whooo sat on the Whoopee Cushion….? Guys? Are ya there?
When the second Krakatoan Sonic Thunder-bomb BA-BOoomed fell,
rocking the joint from the rafters to the storeroom, she shouted
‘Mothhha Nature’s, Flock-kers, she’s goin’ for broke!!! Where Are….ya all..chicken-littles?’
When the lights came back
‘ Mothh-ha Nature! Goin’ for broke!!!’ She shouted out to the huddled-in group of us
Hangin’ at McRock’s Jukebox Saloon.
Before The double Thunderbomb
I was alone in a booth with a Bud,
thinking, hoping, I might be inspired
To write ( Dylan’s LayLadyLay playing)
One of those springtime stories (/ waddever colors….
Maybe a poem, full of woodsy leafy imagery
One replete with all those Sylvan…pretentiousnesses.
( /but his hands are clean…..)…… ( /why wait anyyy longggrrr….. )
‘ Mama Nature’s dancin’ kids! Jus’ doin’ her dance.’
Cheerleading now with smiles all around
Dancing her little shuffle dance, pirouetting into a bebop kind of boogie step.
( /lay accrrosss my big brass.. ..)
Spring had come, moved in
indeed, been whipping us pink with fever and green contagions of lust,
for weeks! and then Pow
wow suddenly gone gonzobadbadbad
We’d been buried by two blizzards
Buried under six feet of heavy snow
( / you can have your cake……)
In three days
a double -whammy of tsunamis
( /an’ eatit too)
Before the double Sonic BoobBoom, the most bad-ass rip slam building cruncher of Alltime, I, (Bud and I) had been envisioning a warm spring afternoon
Maybe a palsy-walsy walk with an oh so sweet
I had been imagining myself watching Bleaker’s Creek conflue-zing With the Tewmutch,
braiding their way together, trickling into Love’s Pond.
Oh, hey, envisioning us…yeah,there was the not so clear footpaths
Hopping over dead logs and undergrowth
Feeling our way in
Together ( Journey’s up….Steve Perry/ don’t stop beeeeleeeevin’)
Pointing at Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Columbine, dogwoods
Maybe a magnolia and some buttercups and wild anemone
ha….( /….just a small town girl….)
On and on,
Ending with maybe a dip in the icy so cold pond.
( /took the midnight train….)
‘ Check this out, Forrest Grump’ she said, sliding in next to me,
Then while asking if this was my first time on the planet, she handed me her cell.
‘ Mama Nature’s growing red bikini panties on Dogwood trees,…’
She had framed a dozen pics of red bikini panties
Stitched together and spiraling up the trunk of a ….tree.
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