Looking Back

As I mentioned on Friday, it’s a weekend full of goings-on, most of which is family related.  I have a break this afternoon before the next event this evening, so I’m taking the time to write this post while I can to update everyone on what’s happening in my hiking life.

Last night was the Annual Meeting and Awards Night for the AMC Four Thousand Footer Club and I was one of a large number of awardees receiving recognition for completing one list or another.  There are four lists which the Club recognizes both general completion and separately for winter completion:  The Northeast 111 Club, the New England Hundred Highest, the New England Four Thousand Footers, and the White Mountain Four Thousand Footers.  I should also note that the club recognizes canines for the White Mountain Four Thousand Footer list (winter and regular).

For me, I completed the White Mountain Four Thousand Footers which is the “easiest” of the lists.  It’s definitely a worthy accomplishment, so being the easiest doesn’t diminish from the work required to complete it.  I’ll be working on the New England Four Thousand Footers this summer as part of my conditioning program.  The NE4k list is the WM4k list, plus the 4,000 foot peaks in Vermont (5) and Maine (14), so I have 19 to go.  There aren’t any 4,000 foot peaks in Connecticut, Rhode Island, or Massachusetts.

I knew that the lists were popular.  In fact, when I completed my list on Mt. Carrigain in the fall, there were almost a dozen people on the summit at that time who had just completed their lists as well.  I was made aware of how popular the lists really are when I drove into the meeting location at Exeter High School in Exeter, NH and saw a packed parking lot.

The entire evening is a great celebration of the accomplishment of completing whichever list(s) you have completed, but the highlight of the night was the slideshow presentation.  It was exceptionally moving and well done.  I could relive the joy and pride of summiting many of the various mountains pictured in the show, followed by deep compassion of hearing the stories of others who, after significant lows in their life, pulled themselves to the top of mountains to succeed where they previously felt like a failure.

Completing these lists is so much more than checking a box next to a mountain and saying “Done”.  It means a lot to each of us, often in different ways, but we’re all part of a hiking family now and that means the most, in the long run.

For me, while going through the emotional ebbs and flows of the presentation, I realized that it had steeled my resolve to section hike the AT.  Not just to start section hiking it, but to actually complete it.  If I could find a way to thru-hike the AT, I think I would plan to do that, but I don’t see that possibility in the cards at this time.  Maybe later in life, but not now.

I also came to an understanding within myself that I need to slow down and enjoy the experiences on each hike.  Toward the end of my list, due to a variety of self-imposed reasons, I hurried through the tail-end of my list to get it completed.  I hiked to a schedule, rather than hiking to experience the hike and the natural surroundings.  It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy the hikes, but I definitely didn’t enjoy them as much as I could have.  I’m going to make sure that my scheduling on the AT leaves plenty of time for enjoyment of, and reflection about, the trail, its history, and the wonders around me at the time.

As things stand, next weekend looks like it will be open to allow me to go hiking.  The weather looks good for both Saturday and Sunday, but the weather in New England is notoriously fluid, so we’ll see what the forecast looks like come Thursday or Friday.  There’s been a ton of melting in the mountains over the past week and there will be a lot more snowmelt over the coming days.  Trail reports will do a lot to determine my plans, but I definitely need to get out and put some miles and elevation on my legs to prepare for a real push this summer.

Now, it’s getting close to time to prepare for the next, and last, event of the weekend.  I’m planning to start the scripting of the various sections of the AT, beginning with the southern terminus at Springer Mountain.

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