Writers note: This is the first part of a multi-part series detailing a 3 day trip to Mt. Washington, Acadia National Park, and Portland, Maine.
With ambitions of scaling the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, I woke up at 3:45 AM and headed for Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Once darkness passed, I was greeted with a pleasant New Hampshire sunrise. Eventually, I took a back road for about 15 minutes in search of a gas station. The hunt was well worth it. I ended up in the picturesque town of Milton, NH. The service station was sitting alongside a quiet lake. A mist was visibly rising from the water. I spotted a lone fisherman, undoubtedly enjoying the quiet of morning just as I was.
I continued through to the White Mountains. It was one of those drives where you have to resist the urge to stop at every scenic vantage point. Most likely your destination will be just as beautiful, if not more beautiful, as these stops along the way. The small towns of New Hampshire appeared just as I’d imagined the Northeast. Old cottages, bed and breakfast inns, beautifully adorned brick facades beckoning you to stay. Out my windows I was surrounded by rolling hills with periodic views of the rugged White Mountains, the northern section of the more well-known Appalachian Mountains.
I arrived for what I thought would be a relatively easy 9 mile roundtrip hike to the summit and back down. Everything started as expected with a well-formed, albeit a bit rocky, path. Verdant low-lands, the sound of water rushing down through glistening streams. This easier portion of the climb allowed me to take in more cultural aspects of the park. I heard a number of foreign languages. German, French, Chinese. I haven’t yet decided if the propensity to see so many foreigners in national parks is an indicator of nature’s power as a great unifier or a sign that foreigners spend entirely more time outside than the notoriously sedentary American population.
The luscious low-lands transitioned into a steeper climb, made much more difficult by rocks covered in wet moss. Thankfully the path was equipped with wooden ladders to aid with some of the more impassable terrain. I kept moving and eventually eclipsed the tree-line, catching a glimpse of what was ahead. I stared up at a quarter mile of a highly inclined jumble of rocks with no clearly marked path. This daunting task conjured up a scene from the movie “300”, where Leonidas meets Ephors. An unrealistic and greatly exaggerated analogy that made complete sense at the time. For a refresher, take a look at the clip through the 1 minute mark.
After scaling infinite rocks and successfully conquering Ephors, I made it to the summit. At the summit, the weather was flipped upon its head. The temperature was in the low 40s with a rippling wind of around 30 miles per hour. The entire area was quite literally in the clouds and visibility was reduced to almost nothing. I hid behind a sturdy rock and devoured my gourmet lunch of PB&J, trail mix, and water. The stifling clouds combined with the strong winds created an eerie celestial atmosphere. Kind of like if you got to heaven and there was no God or any visible change in lifestyle. Just a hang-out spot draped in a white cloud.
After a few more hours of hiking, I made it down around 4 pm. The 7 hour hike had me exhausted so I decided to make some progress towards the ultimate prize, Acadia National Park in Maine. I drove for a few hours and settled on resting my head for the night in Augusta, ME. For dinner, I chose gluttony and devoured a whole pizza in my hotel room, passing out before 9 pm.
Photo Gallery: The Best of the Rest