Last sortie into the White Mountains at the magical Lost River Gorge and Caves easy access reserve. Roots make impossible overground journeys to provide trees with grounding and nutrients, water cascades down tunnels to erupt in beautiful waterfalls, boulders conceal caves, crevasses.
Fastest Winds in the World Mt. Washington
It's all About Decisions
Following two intensive hikes, – Greeley Ponds and the Boulder Loop Trail, I decided this was the day to take it easy and “do” Mt. Washington. After deliberating all the options, I dismissed the ideas of self-driving, walking or taking the cog train. That left me with the Mount Washington Guided Tour.
As to self-driving I gauged, correctly, that taking my car up that road would be above my driving capabilities. I did not want to drive super slow on the downhill and create huge lines behind me. Driver, know thyself…
According to the information I had, climbing on foot would take three days. It sounded appealing, especially the shelters where they supposedly serve you soup and other foods and where you can meet cool people. Still, I wasn’t ready to dedicate three days for that purpose right then. Rain check.
As to the cogwheel train, one woman I met warned me she did it years ago and it was extremely scary. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gotten scared, but it was still very pricy (~70 dollars). Driving my car up the summit would cost 29$, so taking the Mount Washington Guided Tour for an extra 7$ sounded like the right compromise.
During the trip, I fine-tuned my decision-making skills to take into account what I was ready for at the moment, what was within my capacity and what would require company or more preparation.
The trick is to take in all the parameters, not the least of which are our physical and emotional states at the time, to accept what we can do, and push just slightly beyond those edges. Overtime, that moderate extension can bring us to the next point where, perhaps, even climbing Mt. Washington would be within the realm of possibility.
It is always an issue while travelling to decide what must be included in this very journey, just in case you won’t return to the same place ever again. Would you deeply regret it if you missed this chance, or can you let it go? It is actually nice to leave some loose ends as possible focal points for future explorations. I still have rain checks for the Kungsledden in northern Sweden and for parts of South America I haven’t seen.
An Odd Ball
Mount Washington Guided Tour cost 30- something dollars, and the “group” was a bunch of well-fixed New York retirees who emerged from fancy hotels in the area. I was the odd ball.
I arrived at the parking just a few minutes before the tour was scheduled to leave. The tour guide prompted me to quickly get the tickets, but I also needed to get some essentials from the car and go to the bathroom. When I finally boarded, the group, having to wait the three extra minutes, gave me the “looks”, but soon plunged into discussions about the real estate in New England, the luxurious vacations they had in the past, their previous acquaintance with Mt. Washington, and the senior programs offered in their hotels.
Despite the stunning views from the windows, I found the air in the van hard to breathe. I dug into my lonely seat in the back, not feeling up to ask the driver to stop even at spots I felt “begged ” for my photo.
The Fastest Winds in the World
This is the iconic cog-train, a real cute relic from days past, but still operational:
And some Mount Washington views, also iconic…
It was frustrating for me, though, to see group after group of foot climbers reaching the peak, people who, unlike me, were deserving of their photos by the altitude mark. Suprisingly, they seemed fresh. It was hard to believe they have just come from a strenuous 3-day steep hike. Well, indeed, they haven’t. With a little investigation, I found out they started the climb a mere 3 hours before, at some entry point (Pinkham Notch?), and enjoyed a most beautiful perfect day for mounting that treacherous peak. Alas…
Oh, well, I vowed to be better informed next time, and perhaps even dedicate three days of my life to say I climbed Mt. Washington. In the reality of the moment, though, I just went to the cafeteria, got me two Hershey chocolates and a cup of clam chowder, then meandered between the rocks, talked to a few climbers, took their pictures and had my own picture taken.
I checked once in a while that the van was still there, then drove back down with “my group”. The vistas were incredible, as well as the sense of a “top of the world”. The measurements in feet do not translate to that much in meters, but numbers are deceiving.
This guy had just finished the climb…
I could have slept in that hut….
This pic was taken from the Mount Washington Guided Tours van on the way down.
Farewell, Mt. Washington, maybe we will meet again…
Love and blessings….
The day was still young, though, when we got back, and I had some major adventures yet to come...