by Carrie McMillen
So by now you’ve read some of the details of our momentous weekend on various posts and blogs. I wanted to offer a hike leader’s perspective. Here it is: this trip was TOUGH.
Each of us carried 20-30 pounds on our back (Randy is rumored to have over 45 pounds) up a very steep trail, some of the time moving very slowly and a lot of times, not moving at all. We stopped for various things – water, food, one bloody knee, dozens of hikers wanting to pass, doggie boot switches, stream crossings, ladders and scrambles. We stopped numerous times to debate the best way to tackle the next sets of rocks. Carrying weight while standing or moving slowly over a long period of time can take a physical and mental toll on anyone. I hiked the Ammonoosuc Trail two years ago in dense fog. I thought it was kind of challenging from a mere physical perspective, but I didn’t remember it being THAT HARD.
After this weekend, I will never look at a trail the same way again.
With each step I took, I thought about the clues on the ground that Randy and Quinn were grappling with. Where are the rocks? Are they even or pointed or irregular? What is sticking out at shoulder height that they could run into? What audio (waterfalls, talking) is affecting Randy’s experience? Are hikers getting impatient to pass? I kept looking at the amazing and varied terrain that Randy hiked over and I kept asking myself incredulously, “Are Randy’s ankles made of rubber?” (Answer: yes)
I will never look at the simplicity of an AMC guide book trail description the same way again. A basic paragraph explaining a rocky, steep trail with several stream crossings barely begins to hint at what we might encounter. Throughout the trip, my mental acuity was on high alert as I observed dozens of conditions that affected Randy’s hike. And those conditions weren’t just about the rocks – add in streams, weather, eight other people, an Adventure Dawg, water and food issues and you’ve got one recipe for a big challenge.
Perspective can change throughout a hike and I felt myself not only trying to put myself in Randy’s shoes, but also trying to do the same with the other eight team members. Each of us experienced something different out there. I was amazed to witness emotions such as nervousness, elation, pride, happiness, frustration, pain, patience, hilarity and exhaustion. You can see it was a bit of a roller coaster.
But through all of the ups and downs, an enormous sense of pride and camaraderie grew exponentially in a matter of just two days. I think all of us evolved and gained perspective in ways that have touched our lives tremendously.
Shortly into the hike, we reached a section of descending steps which were uneven. As a leader sweeping in the back, I asked the hikers behind me to patiently wait while Randy worked through the problem. As the line began to pile up behind us with 10 or so hikers, a woman in the back impatiently called out “Hey, can we get going here?” I explained that we were leading a blind man up Mt. Washington and she immediately turned red and apologized over and over.
Things change when you see things from a new perspective. My advice? Be open to it and be patient.
That’s what we did.
PS I’m so proud of everyone!