Never in My Life

Submitted by Nancy

Hiking the 4,000 footers in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont has been such an intense experience with so many extremes, superlatives, learnings and peak experiences.

Never in my life have I:

Been so focused on a goal - We hiked our first 4,000-footers, Whiteface and Passaconaway, on May 6, 2006 and finished the 48 4,000-footers in New Hampshire on July 22, 2007 - less than 15 months! Another 15 months after that we finished the 67 4,000 footers in New England! It took me a while to decide to go for the bushwhacks to get our 100 Highest, but once I committed it took us 3 months to finish our 12 remaining bushwhacks.

Laughed so hard - I can't even list all the mountains where I almost peed my pants laughing uncontrollably. There are way too many! But let me just tell you that after our very first hike, driving home in the car, we pulled over at a rest stop and I had to stand outside, holding onto a litter basket with my legs crossed, straining to get control and to stop laughing. I made it to the bathroom...barely.

Slid so fast - On Carter Dome I went screaming down the snow-covered mountain on my frictionless wind pants at literally breakneck speed, totally out of control, digging my elbows and snowshoes into the snow to slow my suicidal slide down the Carter Moriah Trail.

Felt such bliss - Eating lunch on a large flat rock in the sun, watching the wind make patterns on the high grasses around us on the summit of Moosilauke, then dipping our sizzling, over-done feet into the freezing-cold brook at the end of the hike.

Experienced such camaraderie - On Isolation we celebrated two hikers who were summiting their 48th peak and met many other peak baggers. We were bonded together by our common goal.

Sweat so much - Summer, winter; it doesn't matter. I had sweatsicles in my hair and on my eyelids on Waumbek in February! On every mountain I leave drops of sweat.

Been so tired - I barely made it up Tecumseh after a full week of double exercise each day.

Smelled so badly - After our 20-mile hike up Zealand and over the Bonds, I leaned over to take my shoes off and my nose inadvertently went just barely inside my shirt - Oh my GOD!

Felt so fully alive - On each summit, when I see the blues of the distant mountains fading into the horizon, I breathe deep and know I am incredibly lucky to be on the top and amazed that, once again, my body got me there. Standing on the summit is a miracle, each time.

Been so bruised - I fell off a ledge on our Jefferson attempt and barely caught myself a lower ledge instead of falling all the way down. I was very lucky and incredibly sore.

Seen such beauty - I was mesmerized and enchanted seeing the Franconia Ridge for the first time when we climbed Lincoln and Lafayette. It blew me away. Seeing Madison in January and the views from Carrigain in December were postcard pictures of a winter wonderland that most people never get the chance to see.

Been so cold - On our first winter hike, I was still wearing my light-hiking boots and my feet nearly froze on Mansfield. It was the first time we had to turn around. During the winter, changing out of sweaty clothes in the wind and below-zero temps can make for a very frigid experience!

Worked so hard - We attempted Waumbek in February just after a huge snowstorm. We broke trail for three miles, through 30 inches of new snow, building up good hiking karma and a big appetite. We were exhausted.

Walked so far - Boy, that 19-mile walk into and out of Owl's Head goes on FOREVER!

Been so happy - Don joined Pat and I hiking Camel's Hump. It was awesome having my two favorite people with me at the same time.

Felt so low - nearing the summit of Adams, the monster mountain that had thwarted our previous hiking attempts, I broke down kneeling on a snowfield and cried.

Been so supported - My husband, Don, recognizes hiking is a healing journey for me and has encouraged and supported me every step of the way.

Felt so special - All the other hikers on Jefferson made me feel so incredibly wonderful as they clapped and cheered us on our 48th NH peak.

Gotten up so early - I hate early mornings! I get up a 4 a.m. to leave with Pat at 5 a.m. so we get to the trailhead around 8:30. Now I set the alarm for 4:30 a.m.

Been in such pain - My toes were incredibly sore from slamming into the toe box of my boots after hiking Coe, and South and North Brother. My dogs were barking and I was truly DUN!

Enjoyed food so much - On top of Washington we had a steaming hot bowl of Italian Wedding soup that was to die for. We stopped in the Mountain Bean in Twin Mountain on the way to many of our Presidential hikes and picked up a Lost Pilgrim (fresh roast turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing in a whole wheat wrap) to enjoy on the trail - there is NOTHING better. The meatloaf and mashed potatoes we had at the Four Season's Diner after climbing Saddleback and Horn in Maine hit the bliss spot. After climbing our 66th and 67th peaks, the Bigelow's, we had an Apple Pie we had brought with us from Kristen's Bakery. We heated it up in the microwave in our room - absolutely the best apple pie I have ever had.

Been so out of my comfort zone - On our first attempt of Adams and Madison we got above tree line and were greeted by howling 45-55 mph wind gusts and freezing temps. After 45 minutes above tree line, we turned around. Hiking Katahdin's Knife Edge in swirling clouds took us 2 hours and 10 minutes to go 1.1 mile and required every ounce of courage I had!

Felt such trust - After falling on Jefferson, Pat helped me down the mountain, on Mansfield Pat warmed my feet, on Whiteface when I couldn't find a foothold, Pat gave me a hand - she is always there.

Climbed so high - Washington at 6,288 feet was the highest mountain, but our highest elevation gain was Adams at 4,450 feet.

Met such great people - On our first hike a guy on Whiteface summit told us, "There are no jerks above 4,000 feet." He was right.

Felt such intense relief - At night on Wildcat, we decided to take the Polecat ski trail down instead of the incredibly steep Wildcat Ridge hiking trail. We couldn't find the ski trail so we started hiking down under the gondola lift. Wow, bad idea. We turned around, hiked back up and after many trying minutes, finally found the ski trail. We hiked down the 2 3/4 mile trail, and walked on Route 16 back to the car. I have never been so relieved to see the car in my life.

Seen the stars so brightly - Coming down the ski slope at Wildcat at night in November, the big dipper was directly in front of us, the sky was filled with thousands of shimmering stars. We turned off our headlamps and gazed at the sky in awe.

Felt such peace - On our Jefferson attempt, after we made the decision to turn around half a mile from the summit, we sat back to back in the sun.

Farted with such abandon - On the Tripyramids Pat caught me farting while taking a movie of the slide. That produced lots of laughter!

Had such bad hair - sweaty, thin strands of hair glued around my face on every hike...

Felt so close to nature - We fed grey jays on our Jackson and Webster hike and saw a huge bull moose seven feet in front of us as we headed up Zealand.

Been so lost - On Ellen and Abraham, twice we found ourselves on snow-covered ski trails with absolutely no clue where the hiking trail continued. We looked and looked and looked, hiking up and down the ski trail until we finally found our way.

Had such fun in the rain - Climbing the Hancocks, we hiked in clouds, mist and rain all day and had a blast listening to our own echo, avoiding slugs and letting the rain wash away the sweat.

Felt so thankful - Our Cannon and Kinsman hike took much longer than expected, and we got lost around Lonesome Lake. It was almost pitch dark when Pat remembered she had a penlight in her backpack. It got us out of the woods, thank GOD. Hiking down Tom, Field and Willey, we got caught in a thunderstorm and pouring rain. I am so thankful we had dry clothes to change into when we get to the car at Crawford Notch Depot.

Felt the exhilaration of living in the moment - For the first time I recognized that I was truly in the moment and identified intensely with my passion for always wanting more as we hiked 15 miles bagging Sugarloaf, Spaulding and Abraham in Maine.

Healed so intensely - Much of my hiking has brought back painful moments from my past and helped me to heal. The dense woods, freezing cold, bruises, physical exertion and Dejah (my daughter's yellow lab) crying have all been triggers. It's as if I needed the hiking experiences to bring these memories to light.

Had such long days - Owl's Head, 18.9 miles, took 12 hours; Cannon and the Kinsmans, 16.5 miles, took 12 hours, Katahdin, 10.5 miles over Knife Edge, took 12 hours; and the Bonds and Zealand, 19.8 miles, took 15.5 hours!

Felt such contagious exuberance and such grief - Over the past two and a half years of hiking, I lost my beloved 12 and a half-year-old golden retriever, Rajah. Unfortunately, he was too old to hike with us. For many of our hikes, Dejah, a 3-year-old yellow lab, came with us, bounding with joy. When Dejah moved to Texas with my daughter, I missed her more than I believed possible. But she came home once again, finished the 48 4,000-footers in New Hampshire and got her patch. I love her.

Had such a blast - as Pat and I cheered for the wind -- 41, 44, 48 ...50!! and watched the wind gage reach 55 mph on Hamlin.

Learned so much - Climbing Adams we met a man who had been part of search and rescue operations who told us, "The hikes where you turn around are worth much more than the hikes where you get to the summit. You have to listen to your heart and your body, not to your head. Your heart and body are aligned, and there is a congruence between them that will keep you safe."

Been so strong - On Madison I was on a mission to get out of the wind and cold by getting to the hut fast when Pat said she was having a really hard time. My fear dissolved as I turned around to support her. Together we walked down the mountain.

Felt like such a kid - On Old Speck in Maine I collected mica like a child discovering treasure, and fed grey jays out of my hand, eyes wide with wonder.

Been so thrilled - Standing on the summit of Monroe, watching the clouds clear over Washington, knowing the views for the rest of the day would be spectacular.

Felt so silly - doing a sun dance on Pierce, and then cheering loudly for the sun as she slowly burned off all the clouds as we hiked to Eisenhower.

Been so touched by the beauty of nature ...climbing up Moosilauke in the winter I found myself in the middle of a steep ice slide scared to death. Yet even in that state of fear, I was so touched by the collection of icicles that had blown off the trees, tinkled down the trail and landed in the snowshoe imprints - it looked like crystal beads in a figure eight reservoir.

Experienced such wellbeing - On Saddleback and Horn I experienced the most incredible feeling of inner peace, wholeness and wellbeing for the first time in my life.

Hated something so much...bushwhacking. Where is the fun in forcing your body through thick spruce totally dependent on a map and compass to find the bug infested summit and hopefully a canister? I hated every minute of it and yet felt so incredibly alive.

Had such an awesome friend - Pat and I have done this together, through every difficult and exhilarating moment, and that has made all the difference. Each mountain we climbed together has brought us closer as friends. It has been an honor to witness her journey and to have her witness mine.

Been so grateful - If it were not for the 4,000-Footer Club and the lists they maintain and the patches they give out - I might never have started the journey. I am so grateful for their existence, and their efforts. They changed my life. Thanks to the trail workers who keep the trails beautiful, to my fellow hikers - an awesome group of people, and to all those who have posted helpful hiking information on the web (especially about the bushwhacks!). I am so very grateful.

Felt so blessed.