By Randy Pierce
“Climb the mountain to see the world, not so the world can see you” David McCullough
There are many reasons why I and many others choose to climb mountains. Spectacular panoramas are a common reason and Mt. Carrigain provided this magnificently on our next to last hike of the original 2020 Vision Quest.
Once nicknamed the “Great Watch Tower of the Wilderness,” it is positioned perfectly to reveal the unfurled horizon’s general splendor as well as the vast majority of the peaks in our quest. All too frequently on these mountains, foreground mountains hide further peaks. But here, the angles play to the favor of Carrigain’s location and all but 4 of the 48 are exposed. The views along Signal Ridge and atop the platform of the summit are as majestic as any to be found in the White Mountains of NH and yet those are such a small bit of the worthiness of the experience I find in the journey.
It is all too easy to focus upon accolades over achievement as Mr. McCullough gave us in the same speech as his quote above. The mountain vistas are one of the many rewards and the summit an accolade of sorts as well. The reasons we have for arriving at a trail-head in the early morning hours, the motivation behind the many miles of wilderness-walking and the perseverance through myriad moments of doubt or hesitation at challenging moments along the path are for more significant parts of the experience for me. The views we may glimpse inside ourselves are likely more poignant to our lives. Hopefully there is little surprise in observing also that the inspiration of our companions on the literal and figurative path of the peaks may inspire beyond even the wonders of nature which for me are the garnish on the plate of offerings the experience delivers.
Our Carrigain crew as always begins with the Mighty Quinn. It also included Frisco, a pup on his final week in NH before heading to Quinn’s Guide School to perhaps become the future freedom for a blind person. Two older friends also joined us, a bit removed from their hiking days but returning as part of their support from our annual auction. This couple brought their two very young daughters and a young dog on a newly reconstructed knee! All three of them on their longest journey of this magnitude ever.
Newer (kite wielding!) friends who have made many miles possible in life and on trails joined us once again to lend experience and laughter. Another fine couple carved out a day as they have done annually since our hiking began despite the busy lives surrounding them. A winter hiking partner and her no-longer-too-young-to-hike pup also came, as well as four of us who have made nearly every hike of this season together. The final piece was our leader, a very close friend, flown in from Seattle to join us for the only time in our many hikes as distance keeps the physical presence far less frequent than the many methods of support for our efforts and experiences on and off these mountains.
A diverse and different crew we were, all gathering and seeking something likely a little bit different from the opportunity. Still more hikers would be met along the way, some finishing their 48 for the first time, some who run them regularly. There were some for whom the call is rare and some who immerse as often as possible. Some pass in mostly silence, some encourage, some offer greetings and tales of their story in these storied mountains but all are likely seeking to have the experience change them.
Whether they want to relax from the hectic world, to forget a trouble or two left beyond the trailhead or perhaps to invite a change in their attitudes for a future they are only starting to plan in their minds. The mountains and wilderness have enough remoteness to escape, enough expansive view to humble our perspectives, enough stability to ground us, and enough altitude to unleash the belief in limitless possibility beyond. The trials of the trail help us immerse fully and when we emerge atop the ridges and peaks a change is often the reward indeed.
So it was for me on Carrigain and on all of these summer 47 now behind me. Each time I’ve changed a little, grown a little, learned much of myself, my companions, and even of these wilderness wonders. I climb these mountains for myself, I share the story as part of a cause for which I believe there is much value in the sharing. I return to the reflections for me and hopefully refine them just enough for all of you that you may seek your own peaks, escapes, growth and inspirations on the journey of enhancing our lives ever forward on the paths we choose. Carrigain may have been the Watch Tower of the Wilderness to some and so too are we the Watch Tower Wardens in the Wilderness of our own lives.