Doing the best we can on Waumbek

Submitted by Nancy

Mountain: Mt. Waumbek (4,006)
Date: August 22, 2009
Time: 5 hours
Weather: Spitting rain, cloudy, humid
Miles: 7.2
Elevation Gain: 2,664
Steps: 18,706
Trails: Starr King Trail
Dejah: 33rd of the 48
Pinta: 11th of the 48

Picture Gallery

Friday night, Pat and I make the decision to cancel our Challenge Team hike. It is an excruciating process. It feels like we have to dig really deep for this one. We are struggling to make the decision of whether to cancel our Challenge Hike scheduled for tomorrow. We've been working with a team of seven people, getting them in shape physically and mentally to climb their first 4,000-footer together. Everyone is ready and very excited. Tomorrow is supposed to be the day. But the weather forecast on, NOAA weather and the High Summits forecast calls for 80% showers with a possibility of an inch of rain and thunderstorms. That means we will have to go with our plan B hike - Tom, Field and Willey so that we are not above tree line in a thunder and lightning storm. It also means a really wet hike, very slick footing and no views for sure. We are not comfortable taking the Challenge Team up a 4,000-footer under those circumstances. So we cancel and reschedule the Challenge Hike for September 6th.

I go to bed exhausted and toss and turn all night wondering if we made the right decision.

Saturday morning, Pat and I head up to the White Mountains to pick up our special surprise cookies that we ordered for the summit celebration that is now no longer going to take place today. Hopefully we can freeze them. Our conversation on the drive up consists of replaying the agony of last night making a decision that neither one of us wanted to make. As we drive, I am praying that the skies open up and pour all day long. Bring on the thunder and lightning. Normally it is the opposite, I am praying for sun, but today, if it rains and storms, then I will feel better knowing we made the RIGHT decision. It is spitting drops of rain all the way up to Twin Mountain, cloudy and grey. But not pouring.

We arrive at The Mountain Bean and pick up the cookies. They are beautiful sugar cookies, decorated as 4,000-foot mountains. We continue driving north to hike Waumbek, since we are all the way up here. Dejah needs it for her 48 and it is a shorter hike, below tree line, so we know that even if it pours, we will be fine.

We arrive at the Waumbek trailhead and head up the mountain, replaying our decision and processing it on the way up the mountain. I keep asking Pat rhetorically "WHERE IS THE RAIN??" Every step I take that is not in the rain, the more anxious I get. Darn - we should have gone. We could have hiked today. I say to myself. It sprinkles here and there; we put on our raincoats hiking up the mountain, then get really hot and take them off. The rain is teasing us.

I feel tormented. As we sweat bullets and suck wind, I ask myself, why does this decision feel so hard? What comes in reply is my child-like hope for the Challenge Team to have a perfect day on top of Eisenhower. Over the past four months I have gotten to know members of the Team and I have come to really like and care for each of them. I want them to see the Presidential mountains in all their beautiful glory. I want them to reach the top of Eisenhower giddy with excitement and proud of themselves. I want them to be thrilled by the incredible 360-degree views of the Presidentials as they stand on the summit of Eisenhower. I want this 4,000-footer hike to be one they will remember for the rest of their lives. One where the views will touch them in deep places. One where their own inner beauty comes shining through. I want it all -- for them.

We are almost at the summit of Waumbek when we meet four hikers coming down. In talking with them we find out that at least one of has climbed the 67 4,000-footers in New England in every month of the year. Holy moly! We have a nice conversation and one of them mentions that the day turned out better than predicted. I smile and wish them happy trails as we part. Yup…the weather is definitely better than predicted. And I am pissed about it. Now that my critic seems to be winning the battle for my heart, I continue on down the "I'm no good" path thinking that I can barely call myself a hiker next to these people who have climbed over 700 mountains.

We reach the summit, take pictures, eat our lunches and then head down. I am quiet. It's not raining, there is no thunder or lightning, and I now know we could have gone on our Challenge Hike to Eisenhower and I am feeling guilty about it. We made the WRONG decision. My head is busy berating me and I am feeling lost in yuck of my own making.

We get back in the car and there is a message on Pat's cell phone. It is a member of the Challenge Team saying the weather in Keene is beautiful and wondering how the weather is in the Whites. My head falls back on the seat, I close my eyes and utter an angry BLAH. I feel terrible.

Then something happens. I pause for a moment and in that empty space my heart's rage for me kicks in. FINALLY!

Wait a minute here! We made the best decision we could with the information we had. That is all there is to it. We did the best we could. There is no need for blame or guilt. Why am I doing this to myself? If I had it to do over again, would I make the same decision? Yes! Was it the wrong decision given the weather turned out to be better than expected? NO! We made the best decision we could with the information we had. PERIOD. We have nothing to feel bad about. It is what it is. This is life. You do the best you can and then you let it go and whatever happens, happens and you learn, adjust and go on. There is no looking back. No shouldda, couldda, woulddas. No second-guessing. When I am doing the best I can, how can I ever be wrong?

I love that question. I love that it moves me away from the simple right and wrong and into a deeper place where I can learn from each decision I make, with no guilt or blame. Each decision, perfect. I actually believe this. And that is where I want to live all the time. If we can look at our fellow human beings and give them the benefit of the doubt -- know that they are doing the best they can -- it changes things, doesn't it? It forces us to hold our hearts open to everyone, because we are all in the same boat...doing the best we can with the information we have.

It took the drive up to Jefferson, NH, the hike up and down Waumbek and the drive all the way back to Keene to get my head on straight around this. Finally, I am back home in my heart, knowing that all I can ever do is the best I can. By the time I arrive home I am at peace with our decision, and with myself.

Then it occurs to me. Instead of being angry that it didn't rain on Waumbek, why not be grateful!