It is the last one. Hike, that is. The day before, I had hiked 10 miles over eight hours on Mt. Carrigain; Juliet had hiked 12 miles over nine hours, Elwell to Mt. Oregon. We were pooped. But how could we not squeeze in one more on our last day in New Hampshire?
The alarm goes off at 5:30. The sun rising, creeping over the mountains across the lake, crystal clear.
Coincidentally, it also is my friend Sue’s last day in New Hampshire, and she has agreed to one more. At 7:00, we meet at the trailhead, none of us feeling especially energetic. Juliet, uncharacteristically, begins whinging about her sore feet, her banged up legs, how tired she is, how boring the terrain, and how she wishes she were at the beach. She implores that we skip the loop and summit just one of the two short mountains. But I am resolute. After all, it’s just going to be three and a half hours—a hike we have done many times before.
Following a mile or so of typical White Mountain hiking (lots of rocks and roots and some medium steep climbing), we are faced with a choice on Mt. Morgan: ladders or cliffs. This is news to me. I didn’t know there was a trail with ladders! Juliet perks up. She immediately chooses the ladders. I remonstrate weakly, but Sue, like Juliet, much bolder than I, is all in. The ladders, though, are just the beginning. Once I manage to climb these, there are huge boulders to contend with. I put aside my poles so that I can use my hands to hoist myself up and over. Surprisingly, I am having fun!
Then it was on to Mt. Percival, Juliet having given up on her demand to skip the second summit with its lovely view of Squam Lake.
Descending, we continue to follow the yellow blazes and come to another choice: cliffs or caves. Again I am puzzled, having been previously unaware of any caves. Now emboldened, I agree to the caves. Why not? We laugh hysterically, having to contort our bodies into pretzels to navigate the tiny spaces.
All of this strategizing takes a lot of time and the hike clocks in at five hours rather than the anticipated three and a half. But what an unexpected delight!