Tag Archives: friends

Hiking Hedgehog

On Saturday I hiked Hedgehog Mountain with two of my Leo friends, M and WB.  Hedgehog Mountain, besides having a cute name, is a nice little loop hike with some very decent views – especially considering that at 2,532 ft., it is dwarfed by most of the surrounding White Mountains.

Why is it called Hedgehog?, I wondered. Check out the picture of the peak on the Seacoast Dayhikers overview.

Makes more sense now, doesn’t it?

M and I were late to the trailhead, so we didn’t get started until about 10:45 a.m. The trail is only 4.8 miles roundtrip, so we weren’t too worried, except that WB had to wait for us. Fortunately, it was a beautiful fall day, so he lounged on the tailgate of his truck and caught up on some of his flight school reading.

The first stretch of trail (0.1 miles) is almost completely flat. Good warm-up. Then we hit the trail juncture, which is marked by a signpost.

Trail juncture

M & WB at the trail juncture.

 According to the sign, Hedgehog mountain is located in WB’s armpit.

Because it is a loop trail, it didn’t really matter which way we went, as long as we didn’t take the X-country ski trail (marked by blue blazes). We took the left-side trail, which was marked with yellow blazes. It was a slightly longer route to the summit, but more gradual.

The next 1.8 miles took us longer than it should have because we kept losing the trail. There were quite a few downed trees, most of them in the middle of the path. A couple of times we followed a footpath into nothingness, before retracing our steps and finding the trail again.

Eventually, we came to the East Ledges – hands down the best views of the hike.

Approaching East Ledges

The view as we approached East Ledges.

It’s hard to believe it was already past peak out there.

The ledges provided not only a majestic view, but a royal throne from which to enjoy it.

The throne

WB on the throne.

It was the perfect place for a little rest, so we took off our packs and pulled out our snacks. It was then that the chipmunks came out in such full force that I thought we should consider renaming the place Chipmunk Mountain.

But probably the AMC wouldn’t go for it.

Nature lesson

WB schooling M.

Hiking with WB is like having your own personal guide to the White Mountains. He spent a lot of time out there in his college days and originally studied forestry. He can tell you the history of the trail, the scientific names of certain trees and a whole lot about lightweight gear.

It’s very cool.

We got on our way again and found the last bit to the top was more strenuous. But we lived through it.

We set up camp at the top (not really) and I proceeded to take approximately 52 minutes to figure out how to put the damn hiking stove together. T or Denis have always done it in the past and though I’ve tried to watch and remember, I’ve never done it. So I didn’t remember.

It wasn’t even really cold out, but I was determined to have hot soup or die in the attempt. After cursing the stove, T (for not letting me do it on my own) and WB (for having already boiled water 25 minutes ago), I finally got the thing together. I lit it, put the water on top and waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Then I realized that I never turned the gas up, which is why it was taking so long.

Good thing it wasn’t the dead of winter.

As we were eating, a few more friends came out to visit.

chipmunk

Our lunch guest.

Also, as we were eating, the following conversation took place:

WB: Anyone want an Almond Joy?

M: I will.

Me: I like Mounds better.

WB: I like Mounds too, but no one will share them with me.

M: I will! I just haven’t finished eating yet!

Me: What?

M: Oh. I just realized what he said. Never mind!

Me: (laughing hysterically)

Before we headed down the other side, we took the traditional summit shot:

summit marker

The three of us. Or our feet, anyway.

The way down was a bit shorter and a bit steeper, but we laughed and joked and philosophized merrily about all that is wrong with the world and how we wished we need never go back.

About half way down the trail, I passed under a “widow-maker” – a dead tree leaning precariously across the trail. This one had actually been cut and was perched on its stump.

“Widow-maker,” I called back to WB and M. “That’s a bad one. Someone should really shove that over.”

CRASH!

I looked behind me to see M scurrying away from the falling tree.

The fallen tree

WB and the (former) widow-maker.

WB had given it the requested shove, though he tried to blame it on M. Now there was a tree blocking the path.

Oh well. It certainly wasn’t the only one on that trail and at least now the tree wasn’t going to fall on someone’s head.

Consider it trail maintenance.

I think we should have gotten our parking passes validated for that.

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Wild Mind Monday – September

I am excited to be participating in Wild Mind Monday, hosted by the wonderful Maranda over at My Camo Colored Life.

This is a virtual writing group in which, once a month, we are given a prompt from Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind. Writers are asked to post their writing, link up over at Maranda’s and then give constructive criticism to others.

If you’d like to join in, head on over to My Camo Colored Life! If you’d like to leave a constructive comment on this post, please do so!

This week’s prompt: write for 10 minutes using the prompt “I remember”. Take a break, then write for another 10 minutes using the prompt “I don’t remember”.

I remember

I remember now why I hate writing prompts so much. Nothing gives me worse writer’s block than forced free association. I need a thought enema.

I remember the day I got my cat, Jackie. She wasn’t litter box trained, though I didn’t know that at the time. She had been separated from her mother, who was an indoor/outdoor cat, so she could be an indoor-only cat. Kept in a bedroom for much of her first three months, she had never learned the proper use of a litter box, but would instead pee or poop on any clothing that was lying on the floor.

Wonderful.

The first night I had her, she peed and pooped on my bed. I changed the bedding, right down to the mattress pad, and scrubbed at the mattress, all the while seething at my friends who had given me the poor, untrained little kitten. I made a trip to the laundry mat.

I came home to find she’d peed and pooped on the bed again. Next, she used the tails of a long curtain I used as a room divider. I called my friend to um, assess the situation.

She came up with the rather ingenious idea of using her now-husband’s t-shirts to litter box train. We put an old shirt in the litter box and bingo!

I gradually replaced the shirt with litter, eventually using only a few cloth strips mixed in and then just litter.

My cat has never since had a mishap. Luckily for both of us – and my friends – she is a brilliantly clever girl.

I don’t remember

I don’t remember what it’s like to have a father who doesn’t have Parkinson’s disease.

My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when I was two and a half years old, and I have no recollection of him prior to that. He has always done his best not to burden his family, particularly emotionally. He makes jokes and tries to diffuse any awkwardness or sadness that comes with the situation.

One day he stumbled to the back of Olympia Sports, where we were buying sneakers for me, lunged for the shoe bench and turned to look up at the clerk.

“What have you got in a running shoe?” he asked.

Still, as the disease has progressed, the Parkinson’s has taken his body from him and now, the drugs and medications that he has been on for over thirty years, are taking his mind.

This, for me, is the saddest part of all. My father always had a keen mind and a sharp wit. He could effortlessly have people rolling in the aisles. He is well-read. He taught me many life lessons.

But now, he is confused. Sometimes he can’t remember or understand simple instructions. His happy-go-lucky attitude is changing. And his pride is suffering.

I am the youngest, the spoiled, and am ill-equipped to deal with a situation that I can’t change. I wish I could change it.

But I can’t. I guess all I can do is diffuse the situation.

A Misguided Tour of Champney Falls Trail

Yesterday was a great day.

The sun was shining with the bright and hazy heat of late summer, the sky wore infinite shades of blue, and I performed a public service.

I introduced a friend to hiking.

This is D

This is D.

D is a newly baptised hiker and fellow Milspouse. Her sweetie is where my sweetie is.

We hiked Mount Chocorua. This is pronounced “Cho-koo’-ra”, unless you are my husband, in which case it is purposely mispronounced “Choke-a-roo-ah” in order to elicit an eye roll from me.

Because this was D’s first hike, I picked a mountain that I had climbed before in the hopes that it would maximize our chances of staying on the right trail and minor things like that.

While we’re on the subject, here’s a piece of hiking advice: When you see an arrow that points to the right, like this…

Turn right

…you should not immediately cross the stream directly in front of you and hike 30 feet into the woods.

At least I only went 30 feet before I realized something was wrong.

Anyway, Champney Falls Trail starts our fairly wide and flat, but trail maintenance should really consider putting the signs a little lower. And making them bigger. And maybe yellow. With blinking lights.

Hey, MilSpouses with deployed soldiers have a lot to talk about, okay? We can’t be distracted by trivial things like trail markers.

After a slight but steady climb of about a mile and a half, we came to this juncture:

Champney Falls sign

Now that’s what I call a sign.

We took a left and headed another 0.3 miles to the falls.

Champney Falls

The falls were beautiful – peaceful with the sound of rushing water and refreshingly cool.

Which was probably why I got distracted, crossed the stream again and headed off in the wrong direction. Again.

But I realized it right away! That’s got to count for something, right?

Right…?

After the falls, if you go the right way, there is a steep rock staircase and the climb gets tough for another mile or so. It levels out for a bit before the trail comes out of the woods.

Rock summit

Those little dots covering the second peak are people. In this picture, it looks lower than the nearer peak, but it’s really not. In fact, the last 0.2 miles are a bit hairy, and not particularly well-marked. The yellow blazes had kind of faded out by then.

It’s true!

Excuse me, but the point of the story is that we eventually, after a couple of freaky rock scrambles, made it to the top.

D and I at the summit

The mountain in the background with all the clouds hovering over it is Mount Washington.

I think.

D and I took a nice long break for lunch and had a very pleasant chat before making our way back down. D, who is a runner, was a super trooper. We made ridiculous time on this trail. The trail description advised that you allow six hours for the roundtrip hike. We made it in five and a half, including our lunch break.

She was also excellent company. We talked about shoes and ships and deployment. I had forgotten how nice it is to have someone to talk to that is going through the same things you are.

And the best part is, I didn’t even scare her away from hiking by almost getting us lost three times! She’s hooked now, too.

I’m looking forward to trying another hike soon. Only this time maybe I’ll bring a compass. And a GPS. And…

Oh hell, I’ll just bring Denis and we’ll follow him.

Walk With Me: Our Story, Part V

Welcome to Sunday Stories, hosted by The Annoyed Army Wife. If you haven’t seen her fabulous blog yet, please go check it out! While you’re there, link up and share a story of your own.

Read Our Story from the beginning.

Our first date was on a Friday afternoon. At the end of our lunch, T asked me to see him again. Ignoring his upcoming deployment to Iraq, I threw caution to the wind and said yes.

On Sunday night, T picked me up at my apartment and took me to see The Legend of Zorro. The next day we were both back to work, but met at lunch for a walk. On Tuesday we walked again. Wednesday, T left for a long drill weekend, but the following week we continued to meet during our lunch breaks. At the time, I was working a second job, or we probably would’ve spent some time together in the evenings as well.

My friend K, of course, got regular updates on our progress via email. Anxious to keep things moving, she asked if T and I would like to have dinner with her and Joe at their house that weekend. I told her I’d ask T. I also told her that a couple of things were bothering me.

One was that we’d been seeing each other for a couple of weeks and T hadn’t yet mentioned the upcoming deployment.

On the one hand, I could understand this. We had only just met and I’m sure he didn’t want to either scare me away or suggest that more was happening than really was. To bring it up would be to imply that we had a future together and that could be scary for both of us at this stage in the game.

On the other hand, it was clear that things were going very well and that we enjoyed being together. There was no one else in the picture…and the countdown clock was ticking louder all the time. I was starting to feel like there was a taboo topic between us and I didn’t like that. I wanted to clear the air.

I’ve never been known for my patience.

The other thing that was bothering me was that he hadn’t yet kissed me. I know that he was being gentlemanly and considerate, but the wait was making me nervous. I was impatient about that, too.

On our next lunchtime walk, I brought up the subject of dinner. T agreed that it sounded like fun, so on Saturday, he met me at my apartment and we drove over to our friends’ house together.

We stepped through the back door to find K and Joe bustling around the kitchen chopping vegetables and browning meat for tacos. Little K, blue-eyed and brown-haired, came running and threw herself on me with all the tiny strength of her six years, shouting, “Sarah!” I picked her up and hugged her spindly frame.

She peered shyly through my arms at T. He gave her one of his bright smiles and within minutes, Little K was shrieking with laughter as T tossed her into the air. Baby Blue came running in on two-year old legs to join the fun.

T seemed to have the kids under control entertained, so I went to help K get supper on the table, kicking Joe on the way by. He retaliated with a cold soda can on my neck.

Once we were seated at the table and had passed the taco toppings around, we began to talk and laugh. The kids, of course, finished eating long before we did. Having cleaned her plate, Little K got up from the table and walked around to stand next to T.

In a moment that seemed to fall completely silent, she looked up at him through her long, dark lashes and said clearly, “You’re going to Iraq.”

I froze, not knowing how to react. My eyes sought K’s across the table, then darted back to T and Little K.

“Yes, I am,” T said easily.

“Well,” said Little K, “my daddy’s going, too, so at least you’ll have a friend over there.”

My heart broke into thirty-seven pieces. Not only had Little K broached the subject for us, but here she was, comforting this United States Army lieutenant about his upcoming deployment.

Little K, I love your heart of gold.

After dinner, K and Joe put the kids to bed and the four of us played Cranium until the game faded into more talk. K and Joe sat together on one couch and T and I on the other. I leaned into him, worn out with emotion, and he put an arm around me. It was our first real physical contact and it felt very right.

We got back to my apartment late that night. I was exhausted, so T saw me inside and we stood in the kitchen talking for a few minutes. T leaned against the counter and reached out his hand. I took it and he pulled me to him.

I knew then what was coming, but before I even had a chance to get nervous, T was kissing me so softly and gently that I melted into him. Too soon we broke away and he drove home, but the air had been cleared.

One date, two issues solved – not a bad night’s work. But then, things tend to happen faster when there is a deployment looming on the horizon…

A Pleasant Hike

Yesterday I hiked Pleasant Mountain with our friend Denis and his daughter, A. I had originally planned on taking Owen along. The moderate 5.8-mile roundtrip would have been perfect for him, but, alas, Owen has been sidelined for the rest of the summer hiking season. He has a shoulder injury that has put him on the DL indefinitely. Doctors orders.

(The doctor has also ordered pain meds, massage, controlled activity, physical therapy and 5-10 minutes of icing per night. Let me tell you a little something about how much Owen enjoys having his shoulder iced: he doesn’t. But if his limp improves, the struggle will be worth it.)

The hike went off without a hitch. It was a beautiful day (I forgot my hat and my sunscreen, so I got a little crisped), the views were phenomenal for a 2006-foot peak and we had a lot of fun.

Care to join me for a pictorial tour?

Southwest Ridge trailhead

There are several trails leading up to the peak. We took Southwest Ridge Trail, which has a total elevation gain of 1,800 feet. Not a bad little workout.

A Pleasant view

The trail was not as wooded as we were anticipating, which meant that 1) the views were plentiful and 2) I got sunburned.

Denis gets a closer look

Here we have the North American Outdoorsman in his natural habitat. He seems pretty focused on something. Let’s take his picture and see what he does!

(It’s a lot funnier if you read that with an Australian accent.)

Summit sign

Oddly enough, after this summit sign, we made a steady decent for a good third of a mile or so. There is a smaller peak that we hit before heading down into the ravine and back up to the main peak.

Pleasant summit

The “shoe-around-the-summit-marker” shot is a tradition.

Den and A at the summit

Den and A are checking out the view westward into the White Mountains. Look at those misty shapes – just beautiful! There is something almost spiritual about being out there for me. It is very humbling. Very therapeutic.

You can’t see it in that picture, but the summit was literally a-buzz with dragonflies. Iridescent blue and green wings were darting everywhere. It was very cool.

The bonfire

Gondor calls for aid!

That was all I could think when Den and A scrambled up on this rock slab where someone had built a deadwood would-be bonfire. I hope no one tries to light it anytime soon. The area is so dry that the leaves on all the trees are wilted and sad-looking. The whole mountain would go up like kindling.

All in all, not a bad way to spend the day. I almost forgot, for a few minutes, how very, very ready I am for this deployment to be over.

Walk With Me: Our Story, Part I

About a week ago, I started typing up T’s and my story. When I got to three pages in Word and hadn’t even made it to our first date, I realized that it might end up being a little long for a single entry. What can I say? I like writing about us!

Annoyed Army Wife solved my problem for me: I could put it out in segments and use each segment to link up to her Sunday Stories. Perfect!

So, here we go!

Walk With Me: Our Story, Part I

The year I turned 29 was a good year. I had quit smoking and had taken up running. I felt great and I looked pretty good, too, if I do say so myself.

Soon after my birthday, I turned to my friend K and said, “I’m going to kiss a lot of boys this year.”

She looked at me in surprise. This was understandable, as I was considered the prude of our bunch. My worst enemy couldn’t call me promiscuous.

“Oh, I don’t want to sleep with them,” I told her. “I just want to kiss them. I want to have some fun.”

To this point in my life, an almost debilitating shyness had prevented me from doing much dating…or much of anything, actually. But through running, my confidence blossomed.

So, I started dating. I dated Chris. I dated Jason. I dated Brett. I dated Dan. Some of these guys were nice. Some weren’t. Most wanted more than I was willing to give.

The dating pool stagnated. I became discouraged, then downright disgusted. Eventually I gave up altogether. I would rather be alone forever, I decided, than dip into those algae-infested waters again. I’d had my fun, but I was done.

Meanwhile, I’d turned 30 and the leaves started to turn on another fall. K and her husband Joe talked about climbing Mount Washington before the hiking season ended. One day Joe, a member of the army National Guard, mentioned that his platoon leader lived close by and also liked to hike. I did an internal eye roll.

“Is he good-looking? K asked.

“I don’t know,” Joe said.

“Oh come on. Don’t give me that,” she told her husband. “I know if a girl is attractive or not. You must know.”

“I don’t know,” Joe said again. “He’s kind of goofy-looking, I guess, like me.”

We laughed.

“Do you have a picture?” K asked excitedly. “You need to bring us a picture first. Then we’ll decide if he can come.”

I laughed again, but Joe agreed that he’d try to get a picture next drill weekend.

This is what he came home with (minus the other guys cropped out).

T's picture (pre-meeting)

“How old is he?” I gasped, looking at the face he pointed out to me. “Eighteen?”

“No, he’s my age, I think,” Joe said. Joe is a few years older than me.

“No. There’s no way. He looks twelve. Are you sure?”

Joe told me he was.

Whatever, I thought. He might come with us, but it didn’t matter to me one way or the other. The face in the picture wasn’t my type and I wasn’t looking anyway. I just wanted to climb Mount Washington.

Birthday Party x 3

At different times and through different venues, I met three different friends. These three friends, WB, M and Keith, met each other at T’s and my reception last September. It was there that I pointed out that their birthdays are, respectively, July 28th, 29th and 30th.

This year, they all turn 35. The old biddy of the bunch, I turned 35 a month ago. Please pass me my walker.

In honor of this cosmic event, this alignment of Leos, this natal hat trick, I suggested a get-together. Keith generously agreed to host the shindig at his family’s cabin-on-the-lake.

Allow me to introduce the cast of characters:

Leo #1, our lakeside philosopher and expert fisherman, WB.

WB

Leo #1

Leo #2, one of my besties since the day we met on the tire swing in 5th grade, M.

Loon

Leo #2?

Actually, that’s not M, but she did take the picture. I was told that the caveat to putting M in my blog was that I use only flattering photos. The problem with this is, M was our primary photographer, so she is in very few pictures. And the ones she is in…well, let’s blame it on poor lighting.

The truth is that M is very beautiful. Let’s borrow this photo from the reception, shall we?

M at our Reception

She is also very wacky. Here is one of my favorite pictures from the reception:

Suspenders 

Most of us were trying to get my dad, who has Parkinson’s disease, back into his wheelchair. I have no idea what M is doing. I do know that there are several instances during our long history together when she has made me laugh so hard that I peed my pants. Fortunately, this was not one of those times.

Also, her husband is very good looking:

C and Me 

Here is their son, Little L:

M's boy 

And finally, Leo #3, our host, Keith.

Keith and Owen

Leo #3

Oh yeah, and of course, Owen. Owen thoroughly enjoyed himself at The Cabin.

Cap'n Owen 

In fact, a great time was had by all.

 We fished.

On the Boat 

We frolicked.

Little L splashing 

We ate Leo cake.

Leos 3, 2 & 1 (and a Taurus)

Leos 3, 2 & 1 (and a Taurus)

I wanted to make the lion cake with a small growth on the side and call it “Leo cake with Cancer” so that I could have a share in it (I’m a Cancer). But I decided that was too gross.

 So, we just had a regular Leo cake.

 Leo cake

Happy birthday, to my pride of Leos! Hope 35 is the best year yet.