Hiking in the White Mountains!

Glen Ridge Trail

Hello everyone! You may be staring at me angrily wondering where in tarnation your Inspiration Through Music blog is or where the hellfire your Cooking Adventure blog is. Well, I have yet to write either one on account of the crazy work schedule I had this week and more importantly, the trip to the White Mountains that I just took with my good friend, Celena. We signed up for a Lowa Boot clinic going on on Tuesday and Wednesday the 21st and 22nd respectively. This required my work week to get shifted a little and as a result, I wasn’t able to have your Inspiration Through Music up for you on Monday. No worries, all will be rectified this coming Memorial Day weekend. But until then, let me give you some details about the trip!

We started on the road at about 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning driving from the Midcoast. I’d printed out a set of directions that would take us through Portland and then over to Rt. 16 in NH. The GPS unit who we humorously gave a personality half way through the trip, gave us a different route through Augusta which I didn’t want to take because I didn’t want to contend with Lewiston’s cluster crazy traffic. We ended up taking that way home and I’m so glad that I wasn’t driving because my head might have exploded. So thanks, Celena, for getting us through that insane spot. 🙂

The weather shifted from torrential rain to sprinkling, to grey skies, and back to sprinkling during our entire trip over there. We passed through some pretty tiny Maine towns that I had never known existed but found to be very quaint and pretty… even more quaint than where I’m from in Union! Probably the most memorable town was Crystal Lake in Harrison, Maine. We went through it on our way back, stuck behind an eternally sputtering school bus. It was beautiful though… the lake, I mean.

The directions went along pretty well until we somehow missed one of the turns and found ourselves entering New Hampshire early. This was about the time we broke out the GPS, who righted us just in the knick of time although it took “her” a good ten minutes to reorient after being switched off at the beginning of our trip. Soon we were cruising along Rt. 16, passing through the busy shops of North Conway, passing by beautiful Jackson where my family has a house, and finally taking the long winding road up the mountains toward the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and the Joe Dodge Lodge. We pulled in searching for Lowa banners which were supposed to be outside, snapping in the wind so that people could find there way in. No such flags were in sight.

After driving up and down the parking lot like deranged elderly people, we finally parked and found our way inside. We were greeted by Brian and Burkett, the two reps from Lowa, were given our key and told to make ourselves at home and meet back there later. We found our room named Wood Sorrel and pushed into a cozy double bunk-bed room. Until now, I was mistakenly under the impression that a Wood Sorrel was some kind of chipmunk-esque creature. Wrong. Totally wrong. It’s a flower. Oxalis montana. Yes, I feel stupid. Moving on. On our beds, awaiting us were two boxes of Lowa trail shoes and some chocolate. Lowa definitely knows the way to my heart. Shoes and chocolate. Hell yeah. The shoes were a Godsend after the shoes that I’d brought began to kill my instep during the drive because of where the tongue hit. I was happy to throw on these S-Curve Mesh shoes and hit the mountain!

Now, according to the email that our store manager printed off for us, we were going to go on a hike that evening until around six o’clock. So we collected our hiking gear and went down to the room only to discover that somehow the plans had been changed and instead we would be doing a couple of slide show clinics. I’m not going to complain though. After being in that car for so long, I’m not sure I could have hiked anywhere that night! So when a brief intermission happened, we went and changed back into some regular clothes and rejoined the group to learn all about Lowa’s history and some tech specs about the various styles of boots.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lowa, it is a boot company that has been in business since 1923 which was started in Jetzendorf, Germany. This means they’ve been around for 90 years! The boots are made in Europe, made with some of the best quality leathers out there as well as using Gore-Tex waterproof liners and Vibram soles with excellent traction and durability. It was very exciting to get to be a part of this clinic and for my friend and I to be the only representatives from Maine for this. After the slideshows, we socialized for a little while until dinner was served at six o’clock sharp in the dining hall.

To put it mildly, dinner was… interesting. Though I’m not entirely sure what it is that I consumed half the time, I didn’t get sick from it so for that, I’m extremely grateful. It was some kind of curry vegetable soup along with a salad (which was totally normal), curried pork on a stick, some type of vegetarian, raisin-speckled goulash thing, and a sweet potato. And to top everything off, they served us an enormous slice of rich chocolate cake. While I’m all for chocolate, that evening I’d already eaten the equivalent of a five course meal and couldn’t finish the cake. Guys, dinner for me is usually a few slices of pizza, or a hot dog…. when its not some extravagant Cooking Adventure of course. I’m lucky if I see green vegetables ever. My stomach was full as soon as I finished the salad.

After dinner, we were finally able to make contact with the world outside via internet as there was absolutely no cell phone reception where we were. I had a glimmer of a signal on the walk between the lodge and the visitor center which allowed me to send one text but after that, nothing. We gathered in the dining hall again for a slideshow from Lisa Densmore, who recounted her hiking trip to the Simian Mountains in Ethiopia through a series of photos and objects which she passed around the room. Being a writer, I’m always so interested in learning about other cultures and having the opportunity to listen to Lisa tell us of her experiences was definitely a treat. If you want to see some of her work, you can find her website here.

While others stayed up, I found myself too pooped to be able to do anything else. I would have loved to have been able to get some writing done. Unfortunately, my body was pulling me toward the bed and I was out like a light within minutes of hitting the pillow. I woke up a few times here and there during the night, just from being in different surroundings. I eventually got up at five thirty, unable to get back to sleep. After a shower and getting dressed, I weighed my options. Breakfast wouldn’t be served until seven-thirty and my brain was hungering for coffee at that very instant. I decided to drive down to the nearest Dunkin Donuts and then drive back for breakfast. My morning excursion down the mountain was pleasant in its silence. I got to observe the fog cloaking the mountainside, watch the swollen rivers rushing with the excess water from all of the rain, and breathe a little easier. I was anticipating the hike we’d do later with a fusion of excitement and worry. I have what some would call an irrational fear of ticks. They creep me out.

Tree Line

We’d passed maybe thirty Dunkin Donuts on our way from Maine to New Hampshire and for the love of all that is holy, I couldn’t find where the last one was. I gave up when I happened upon a gas station. Inside, I found an even greater surprise… a cappuccino machine! Hallelujah! I quickly snagged a cup of English Toffee cappuccino, and a French Vanilla one for my friend, put them into a cardboard carrier that, unbeknownst to me, had relish spilled all over it and went to pay. At the counter, I somehow without saying a word became involved in a conversation about how the teller slept that night which, I have to say, was just a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t waste time pulling out and driving back up to the mountain to the lodge. Along the way, I nearly hit a turkey which was HUGE. I’ve seen and almost hit turkeys before. This thing was monstrous. And it waited on the side of the road for me to come around the corner and then ran out.

When I got back to the lodge, it was seven thirty and breakfast was being served. I said that chocolate and shoes were the way to my heart but there is also bacon. Pancakes, bacon, potatoes, and a peach muffin (which I ended up saving for later). Breakfast couldn’t have been anymore amazing along with that wonderful cappuccino. After we ate, we gathered our belongings and packed them in the car. Then we set about trying on a pair of Lowa boots. Lowa has a demo center at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center where if you provide them with a driver’s license or credit card number, they will allow you to try one of three kinds of Lowa boots which you actually get to test out on the trails. Both Celena and I pulled on pairs of the Lowa Renegade Mid GTX, a boot that we carry at our store and one that has been a best seller there for years. We then gathered with the rest of the group to take a photo and then drove down to the Glen Ridge Trailhead to begin our journey.

White Mountains

Now, being brutally honest, it’s been several years since I’ve been hiking. And this was a huge wake up call that I should be getting into better shape. It was a pretty intense hike. Though only 1.6 miles to the summit, it was mostly all vertical. And while I found myself keeping up with the group for most of the way, I ended up trailing behind a bit. I didn’t mind though. I enjoyed being alone on the hike in order to take some great photos and have some alone time to consider book things and take everything in. The views once we got above treeline were spectacular. The clouds were all below in a hazy sort of layer that drifted over the mountains and seemed to separate the world below from the world above. The sun also came out which was wonderful having seen rain almost all week. That being said, the hike tired both me and my friend out pretty quickly. Instead of progressing with the rest of the group on their intended seven mile hike, we decided to turn back, not only out of exhaustion but because we still had a four hour drive to get back to Maine. So, we descended the mountain at our own pace, once again taking in the scenery and enjoying the wildlife along our way. We stood in the middle of a stream with our boots and took pictures to test how waterproof they were and were satisfied when we emerged with dry feet.

The boots performed exceptionally well. I didn’t have any hot spots, blisters, or discomfort of any kind from them on the hike up and down. Mind you, we hiked for four and a half hours. As soon as it is possible for me to do so, I’m buying a pair of those boots. They were amazing!

After we showered back at the lodge and returned the boots to them, we said our goodbyes and set back out on the road for Maine. This time however, the pain from hiking caught up with us quite soon. I noticed as I was driving that my muscles on my right side from my neck all the way down my right arm to my hand began throbbing intensely and began to tingle as if going numb. My left leg did similar things. There was a point where I had to pull over and switch places with my friend because I just couldn’t sit still like that for much longer. It didn’t help that the headache returned in full during this because of how my shoulder had locked up. Once we found our way through the tangles of Lewiston and eventually off of 295 into Augusta, I resumed driving and dropped my friend off in the midcoast. I sat in my seat, wondering whether or not I’d actually be able to drive myself home or if I should just wimp out and drive to my parent’s house. I knew though that if I did go to my folks’ place, I’d never get home because I’d be too tired to keep driving.

The moment I reached my apartment, dropped my bags inside, and pet the cat, I collapsed on my living room floor in the fetal position, my muscles shaking from the pain and exhaustion. There are few moments in my life where I’ve endured full body pain like that. That was definitely one of the worst pains I’ve had. After eating an apple, making a cup of Tension Tamer tea, and taking some Tylenol, I rolled into bed and totally zonked out for the rest of the night until about four the next morning. It’s been a couple days since the hike and my body is still aching but I’m grateful for the chance that we had to go on this trip and had a lot of fun on the hike. I’d love to return to the White Mountains in the fall, not to hike necessarily, but just to enjoy the fall foliage and take in the scenery once again. It truly is a very beautiful place.

Now that I’m back and my schedule is normal, I’ll have an Inspiration Through Music and a Cooking Adventure for you all this weekend probably Sunday/Monday. Thank you all for your patience.

~KSilva

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