Bagging our 67th with Mica and Pumpkins

Submitted by Nancy

Mountains: The Bigelow's -- Avery Peak (4,088), West Peak (4,145), South Horn (3,805)
Date: October 25, 2008
Time: 9 hours and 20 minutes
Weather: Cloudy, temps in the low 30s, wind 15 mph, 8 inches of snow near the summits
Miles: 12.3
Steps: 34,905
Elevation Gain: 3,583
Trails: Fire Warden's Trail, Bigelow Ridge Trail, Horns Pond Trail

Picture Gallery

It seems like a coincidence. Pat and I will bag our last two 4,000-footers on Pumpkin Festival, the event I created in 1991 out of love for myself and for my community, and ran, from my heart, for many years. The Pumpkin Festival is one of the hardest, most meaningful, fulfilling and beautiful things I have ever done in my life. Creating Pumpkin Festival was not unlike climbing a mountain.

Pat and I are about to bag our last two mountains, accomplishing the goal we set for ourselves two and a half years ago. Climbing the 67 4,000 footers in New England has also been one of the hardest, most joyous, rewarding and healing experiences of my life.

Once I realize we will bag our last two peaks on Pumpkin Festival, I know we need to mark the moment with pumpkins. I love the language of pumpkins at the Pumpkin Festival - the faces, marriage proposals, special dates, hometowns, political candidate endorsements, all carved in pumpkins. Each pumpkin speaking the heart of the carver. Pat and I carve four pumpkins for the festival - "67 4,000 footers !" and my husband Don brings them down to the event, signing them into the Guinness Log-In book. We are a part of the effort. We also carve a "6" in a tiny pumpkin and a "7" in another tiny pumpkin, glue mica pieces we have collected from all of our hikes onto the skins of the cute orange gourds and pack them into Pat's backpack. We pin a sign on the back of each of our packs that says, "#67 today!" and off we go.

I have come so far! Signs on our backpacks announcing we are summiting our last peak? On our first hike up Whiteface we met a very nice group of people who asked us how many 4,000-footers we had climbed so far and Pat announced proudly that Whiteface was our first. I was mortified and embarrassed that we were revealing to REAL hikers that we were know-nothing newbies! A year or so later, climbing Isolation, I realized that having people share their joy of bagging their 48th 4,000 footer brought joy to them and also to us. By the time we hiked Jefferson, our NH 48th, I was telling everyone. By the 67th, we are putting signs on our packs. I've learned through hiking how much joy there is in sharing the journey.

I have come so far! When Pat and I first started hiking, she suggested we write trip reports and post them on Views From The Top and our own website. I thought she was crazy. But she created our beautiful website and started writing the trip reports, holding the experience for me until I was ready to join in. I finally started contributing. My first trip reports were making fun of myself and my inexperience. It didn't take long before my trip reports took on a more personal tone as I realized that something much deeper was happening in the mountains. As I was hiking I was healing and I knew it. I had to write about it. I found more healing in the writing and even more in the sharing. Sharing the adventure with our growing list of trip report readers and getting their feedback has become part of the reward. We have had such awesome responses to our hike reports and each response, from each person has touched us.

The Firewarden's Trail heads up, then levels off, heads back up, levels off, then heads up steeply. I keep waiting for the REALLY steep part and it never arrives and before we know it we are on the col between Avery Peak and West Peak.

I have come so far! For the first almost two years of hiking I carried more anxiety than gear. I worried that the mountain would be too steep and I would not be able to make it. Every hike I worried. I was afraid of the cold, the wind, the ice, and the thunder and rain. I was petrified of the steep ledges where there we few hand or footholds and the drop looked like it went down forever. I knew I knew nothing about hiking and my own inexperience kept me vulnerable and humble. Gradually my fears started to subside, my anxiety lessened as my time on the mountains increased. Until, finally, on Saddleback just this fall I experienced a feeling of wholeneness and wellbeing that I have never experienced before. The cold wind and clouds were whipping around me on an exposed ridge that went on for miles and I was loving every minute of it! On that hike, something changed in me. The fear and anxiety were replaced by excitement and eagerness. I know now I can do this.

There are two young men on the Col between the two Bigelow peaks when we arrive and they spy the signs on our backpacks.

"Alright!" one of the men says, clapping. "67 - way to go!"
"That's great!" says his friend.

Pat and I are beaming as we share with these two nice fellows. It is just so nice to have someone to celebrate with us. They take our picture on Avery Peak before Pat and I head down to begin our final ascent of our 67th mountain. It takes no time at all and before we know it, we reach the West Peak summit sign, together, smiling. YEAH!!! We DID IT! We get out our pumpkins, light our tea lights, then set the camera timer and take a few pictures so we will always remember the momentous moment. We are all smiles, despite the wind and our cold feet.

I have come so far! - Since May 6, 2006, Pat and I have reached the summits of 133 mountains on 83 hikes walking over 750 miles with more than 225,000 feet of elevation gain. Me. Nancy Sporborg. An non-athletic 54-year-old woman. It was only three and a half years ago that I met Pat and started walking a 4-mile route between our work places, once a week. And it was only a few years before that that I weighed 80 pounds more than I do now, and did not exercise. I am amazed at myself.

I have come so far! How did I do it? How did I climb these mountains? How did I even climb the first mountain? For that matter, how did I create the Pumpkin Festival?

I don't really know. Looking back on my life, each choice I made seems to make so much sense and fit perfectly like puzzle pieces coming together. Yet going forward, I am never sure if I am doing the right next thing. But here is what I do know. None of the things that have happened in my life came from me thinking through anything, weighing any alternatives, listing pros and cons, or making thoughtful, thorough decisions. It all came through my heart. Feeling one moment at a time. And I took advantage of the moment when it arrived, the idea when it came, the opportunity when it knocked. I met Pat, we started walking, then walking hills, then hiking and running and spinning. It all seems like it has just come to us and we have been open. I guess that is it. We have been open. I feel like I am standing on the edge of possibility, heart to the sky, face to the sun, arms outstretched inviting the world in, a lit jack-o'-lantern by my feet and my pockets filled with mica, wondering what adventure will come next. And amazingly, they keep coming. This is what I call riding the grace wave -- where the next moment arrives effortlessly, everything feels meant-to-be, everyone is full of themselves, where kindness and intention matter, and love and beauty are everywhere, and we give and receive each other's blessings effortlessly, with joy.

Leaving the pumpkins shimmering with mica on top of the Bigelow's feels like coming full circle -- joyous, passionate, celebratory, high-five, whooooo-hooooo, I-can't-believe-we-did-it, arms stretched to the heavens, YES!

So what's next? That's the question everyone is asking.
As far as hiking -- there is ALWAYS another mountain to climb.
As far as my next life adventure -- I don't know but I am ready!

67 out of 67 NE 4,000-Footers