A Pedacito Of Hiking The White Mountains In New Hampshire
While studying at the University of New Hampshire, I hiked the White Mountains numerous times. I was really into my studies; the only time you’d see me at the bar was with my bookbag, after library hours. When I had a chance to partake in free-time activities, I chose wisely; and parties never cleared my head like a trip to the mountains did.
I joined the hiking club just in time for “Franky Fright Night”, a night hike on Halloween to a super creepy cabin in the middle of the woods. My friend and I were on the waitlist and somehow, two spots became available. Of course, this was the universe telling us to go.
We were nervous, though, packing all of our warm gear and rented headlamps into the car. A night hike? On Halloween? A creepy cabin? In the middle of the woods? It sounded like a nightmare waiting to happen. I planned on not sleeping.
We packed three cars full of people. We huddled together, shoulder to shoulder, listening to some throwback 90s tunes for an hour and a half until we arrived. We got out at a random path in the middle of miles of towering pines. The cabin was secret, so I’m sure the hike was, too.
I wish I could describe the scenery to you, but as I mentioned—it was a night hike, so it’s all a bit blurry. Everything was dark. Our headlamps barely shone through the snow flurries. Pine trees towered around and above us ominously, but we mainly kept our heads down—scoping the trail and keeping our feet steady on the ice.
Everyone was silent. It was all quite eerie, walking in the remote woods after midnight. I felt vulnerable, a group of students, without anything to protect themselves, just wandering around. We probably looked like a trail of snacks to some fairy-tale, folk-like creature.
After a couple of hours, our trip leader cut it short due to the unexpected snow flurries, ice, and dropping temperature. We arrived at a red, run-down cabin. The leader led the line of us, about ten people, to the attic, where we found piles of mattresses.
Apparently, the university donated these thin, plastic mattresses to the cabin, but God only knows how long ago. I’d guess 100 years. They were moth-eaten and raggedy. When it was finally my turn to pick a mattress, the best ones had been taken. I tried not to look too hard in the dim light of the attic and grabbed the one on top.
Back down the stairs, I threw my mat down next to the others, forming a circular pattern in the middle of a large, spacious, empty, wooden room. I climbed in my sleeping bag atop the deteriorating mat. I zipped it up so tight and pictured it as a force field protecting me from whatever bugs lay beneath.
Candles were lit. Everyone laid in a circle, chatting quietly. The trip leaders pulled out a couple of plastic bags and splayed the best kind of junk foods across the floor, in the middle of the circle. We had Oreos, Doritos, a healthy version of Cheetos, PopTarts, M&Ms, Rollos.
The snacking and scary storytelling began, but it was more fun than scary. Something about sleeping bags and candy can really make you feel safe. I slept maybe an hour, and we headed back to campus the next morning. Everyone was safe and sound.
There are other, less-frightening ways to experience the White Mountains. Every fall, my dad would fly from Minnesota to visit me at school, and we’d go for a hike. Our favorite trail was the Lonesome Lake Loop.
It didn’t take long to get there, maybe an hour up from the trailhead. The last time we went, the cold air surprised me again. His girlfriend came along but stayed in the car because it was too cold for her.
We fast-walked to the loop at an incredible speed; it was a light, easy, and beautiful trail. A thick layer of foliage covered the path so much that the trail was soft to walk on. Ah, and the smells! Of fresh pine, open-air, and dead leaves.
A wooden bridge-like trail surrounds Lonesome Lake. It takes twenty, maybe thirty minutes to walk the loop. My dad and I sat down in a restaurant-like cabin, had a couple of granola bars, and made our way around the loop and back down in about thirty minutes.
The last time I visited the White Mountains, I was celebrating graduation with my college best friend. It’d be our last adventure before I shipped off to the ‘real world’ to start a career.
She grew up in New Hampshire, so she was incredibly familiar with the White Mountains. She took me to her favorite spots. We swam in some freezing cold water, gazed upon the greenery, and climbed some boulders in order to get some of the best views.
Hiking in a beautiful place, surrounded by pristine nature, can be truly healing—whether you need to get away, you’re bored and looking for adventure, you’re in need of some bonding time, or you’re grieving parting ways with a friend.
Or you’ve been suffering from quarantine symptoms. I wish everyone (including myself) had a mountain range like this in their backyard, especially during times like these. The mountains brought me to a different state of mind—so much different than any party, complex research paper, or Netflix series. There’s something clean, fresh, and grounding about them, something that we all need.
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