The plan was to stop for brunch along the way, but our late departure called for lunch. I hinted at the opportunity to save more time by picking up sandwiches, but my husband’s quiet response told me he had his heart set on a sit-down meal. As we neared our destination, we spotted a diner offering “All day breakfast” inside a homey log cabin facade, so we pulled in beside a queue of locals.
A “cash only” diner, the service was friendly and quick. The food ample and satisfying. And, there were bathrooms, which might not have been available had we followed my meager suggestion of “just grabbing sandwiches.” Later, I would be grateful for the full meal, only wishing it had been less laden with sodium, and those bathrooms.
We pulled into the dirt road leading to the trailhead at about 1:30pm, and found ourselves face-to-face with our first messenger of the day. A large crow sat in the middle of the roadside looking staring at us through the windshield. I sucked in large gulp of air as it raised its black wings into the air. Flying towards us, and then away, before it disappeared into the woods where we would soon future. My husband turned to me, “Is that a good sign or a bad one?”
Crows have a way of preceding my arrival in magical landscapes, and the presence of this one did not seem to be a coincidence.
The parking lot, if you can call it that, was full with five cars, so we squeezed over on the side of the dirt road, nestling in behind a large pine. We gathered our two, not quite full, metal water bottles and stuffed them into the sides of our backpack, which also held a small first aid kit, two granola bars, two apples, and a can of animal deterrent spray. Just in case. As we pulled our hiking poles out of the back of the car, I spotted the bug spray I always keep in the trunk and threw it into the pack. Just in case.
It wasn’t long before the bug repellent made its way out of the pack as we stopped about 1/8 of a mile into the trail to shower our heads from the invading army that buzzed around our ears. “The comments said the trail was buggy and to bring DEET,” my husband offered belatedly. Our spray did not contain DEET, and proved to be less effective than my sunglasses, which did a fine job of keeping the invaders from diving in for a swim in my eyes as long as I kept them over the bridge of my nose.
I had let my husband worry about the minor details, you know: getting to the trailhead, figuring out how steep the climb was, and how many miles the Hammond Trail was…while I had let my head fill only with the legend of Chief Chocorua. Which meant neither one of us had really and truly prepared for the full journey of eight miles it would take to reach the summit of the mountain via Hammond, followed by, we soon discovered, another trail or two, doubling our anticipated hike. I was soon thinking about the four miles to the summit the sign had promised, and four back to the car on this hot, humid July afternoon. Our lodging for the night another half hour car ride away.
We are not regular hikers. Instead, we are those intermittent types. Dragging the teenagers up a modest mountain or two maybe once a year, and every other year or so getting a chance to climb without them. Eight miles. I tried to do the math in my head as I walked along the buggy trail that was eerily quite aside from the mosquitoes whining in my ears. How long would it take us? And, would we make it to the top?
To be continued…