We tried to get in as much hiking as possible when T was home on leave, but two weeks go by fast, especially when you are trying to cram a full year into them. We did manage a couple of small nearby hikes and we got up into the Whites once.
We both wanted to do a moderate hike – maybe eight miles, roundtrip – but we also wanted to take Owen. The White Knight is a trooper, but to that point, the longest hike he’d stuffed under his furry belt was about three miles.
We settled on Kearsarge North, a 6.2-mile roundtripper, with a decent grade. T normally won’t deign to acknowledge the existence of any mountain under 4,000 feet, and Kearsarge falls short by about 800 feet, but in the end, he agreed.
It turned out to be quite a nice hike, despite the Ravenous Black Flies of Misery.
About a mile or so into it, we took a short break so that Owen could drink some water and T could break into his Kettle Chips. How he managed to carry chips in his pack without transforming them into a bagful of crumbs is beyond me. They must teach you that in the military.
We were lounging there on our comfy log when two sisters passed us. We said hello and exchanged general pleasantries. Owen looked interestedly after them as they continued up the trail. They were just about out of earshot – but not quite – when Owen let go the loudest belch I have ever heard from man or beast.
I was horrified.
He licked his lips unconcernedly and went to find a shady spot.
Not three minutes later, a lone hiker came ambling up the mountain. We again greeted him and again, commented on the nice weather. And, again, as he was fading from sight, Owen ripped the mother of all burps.
T and I doubled up with laughter.
Once we composed ourselves and repacked the chips, we made our way up to the summit.
We tried to enjoy the view there, but the black flies swarmed over us in clouds. Owen’s fur was black with them. I was frantically pulling on my rain gear when the sisters we’d met earlier made their way down the stairs of the fire tower.
“There’s no one up there now,” one of them told us.
The stairs were steep. I’m talking, almost ladder-like.
“He might make it up,” I told T. “But one of us will probably have to carry him down.”
In the millisecond it took us to consider this, I got forty-three bug bites. We headed up.
It was a little hot in the enclosed tower, but peacefully free of pests. We ate our lunch in blissful quiet.
When it was time to head down, we devised a plan. T would go in front of Owen and I would follow with the packs. If Owie needed help, T could grab him.
We opened the door and turned the corner to the stairs.
Owen barreled past us, practically knocking T over and scampered down the stairs as if he’d done it 50 times already that day.
I had seven heart attacks.
The view was beautiful, but the bugs were back on us in a flash. We hoisted our packs, turned tail and headed for lower ground.
Owen and I both slept the whole way home.
P.S. I can’t wait for fall when the air is crisp, the hiking is insect-free and the deployment is 3/4 over.