By Randy Pierce
“Tiny” Tecumseh seemingly defeated us when we had to cancel our final hike of the season for a variety of reasons. Yet the New England weather forecast made a quickly planned reschedule possible on a rare Friday vacation day on October 7 amidst peak foliage and a determined trio. Bob Hayes, Tracy Pierce, Mighty Quinn and I arrived for 9:00 a.m., a later than typical start given the known shorter trail and our considerable progress at hiking over the busy season. The weather was crisp with temperatures in the low 30-degree range for the start. Still, if you are not a little cold for the start, you are overdressed, so we began work and quickly warmed into the climb.
Quinn was quite eager as he hiked with particularly loved humans. The trail had a few rocky challenges to our footing but was generally wide and well-maintained. We had three early brook crossings which allowed Bob the chance to use the skills he had developed running with me and having many hiking conversations. The crossings were quick and easy, allowing us to keep a steady pace to the first side trail, and enabled us to walk onto the ski slopes for Waterville Valley and really appreciate the beauty of the day. Resplendent in autumn colors, the day’s clarity allowed for views far into the distance, fully demonstrating the grandeur of the White Mountains.
We achieved the summit junction loop and took the shorter trail to the top which held the most challenging work of the day. Quinn was up to the challenge with some verbal support from Bob. We climbed over a significant blowdown, marveled at some thick, early ice development, and then burst forth into a wooded summit which afforded a treasure of views all around us.
We spent a long and leisurely summit celebration with lunch, play for Quinn and an exploration of a Peak Finder program to help us fully learn and appreciate the names of all the peaks which surrounded us on this day. The air was completely still, which is tremendously rare in my limited hiking experience. The chill while resting at the summit did require hats and coats for full comfort and yet it was with much reluctance that we packed up and began to depart. A few visitors arrived just as we were departing and we expected they would likely pass us on the descent. Bob, however, wanted a turn at leading me through the rougher down points and it went so naturally we opted to strap Quinn’s harness on my back and let him enjoy the hike down without worry of work.
Our steady pace allowed time to appreciate the forests we traversed on the journey and yet sustain enough speed that none of the several hikers atop the summit managed to pass us on the journey. Feeling great at the bottom, we packed up while talking to a few Boy Scout leaders preparing for a jamboree that evening. Congratulations received, we headed to the Mad River Tavern for an early dinner and appreciative reflection of a day and season that was a complete success. Perhaps the greatest success was the progress we made in handling the trails such that our enjoyment has increased along with our pace and we look with only slightly cautious optimism on the likely full success of our goal to achieve all 48 of these!