Sometimes even the most timid among us go out and have adventures.
Think Bilbo Baggins, for example. Just a simple chubby guy, hanging around the hobbit hole eating seed cakes, minding his own business. Then, bam! Before you know it, he’s out fighting a dragon and finding a magic ring.
It can happen to anyone.
It happened to me this past weekend.
I went on an adventure!
It all started a few weeks ago when Paul announced his intention to drive partway up Mt. Washington’s Auto Road, and to hike into a beautiful area called the “Alpine Garden”. To his surprise, (and maybe a little bit to mine), I asked if I could go, too. I know how much Paul loves to hike, and how much he loves being up above treeline in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Back in the day, we used to hike up there together.
But now I am, like Bilbo Baggins, both chubby and timid. My arthritic knees rebel when I try to take them up mountains, and my vivid imagination sees me plummeting to my death off nearby cliffs when I venture up above the trees. So it has been a few years since I last hiked with my honey. When I heard Paul talking about “walking” and “Alpine Garden”, I was eager to join him for a day in the fresh air.
Yesterday morning we woke up in our hotel room in New Hampshire, I laced on my comfy Dansko sneakers and we bundled up for the wind and mist. My heart began to flutter just a tiny bit as we approached the Auto Road. I wasn’t exactly scared, but I knew that we would be driving seven miles up a winding, narrow mountain road. I kept my eyes on the sky as we wound up, trying not to think about the cars passing us or the mists that sometimes obscured the view. By the time we got to the seven mile mark, this is what the road looked like:
We parked in the little turn out, and walked onto the trail. I was excited, but also a little bit nervous; we were up REALLY high, and clouds filled with icy drizzle kept sweeping over the mountaintops, embracing us with their cold breath. The trail that we had chosen turned out to be far steeper than we thought, and the first half hour of our hike consisted of me whining, “You said it was flat. You said we wouldn’t be hiking, but we’re hiking and I’m in sneakers….” If you have ever tried to climb straight down a path made of various sizes of granite boulders you will understand that a pair of Dansko sneakers were no match for the terrain. Combine that with the fact that I was wearing my bifocals, and you can probably grasp why I was pretty shaky. I griped and moaned and moved inch by inch with both hands in a death grip on the rocks to either side.
At last we reached the “flat” part of our hike, and began to carefully move from one giant stone cairn to another, watching in awe as clouds rose up from the valleys and flew across the mountainsides and summits. It was beautiful beyond description. This scared little hobbit started to enjoy herself in the air above the clouds!
For a while the path was fairly level, and the sun even came out. We were marveling at the beautiful little plants that grew around the gray stones, and at the muted colors of the rough grasses, blowing and waving in the wind. In spite of my shaky legs and my wind chapped cheeks, I was really having fun. Every now and then the clouds would part and we would look out at the ski slopes across the valley; the mountain looked small, dwarfed as it was by the vastness of the summit on which we stood.
As we continued our walk, though, the path meandered closer than I wanted to the edges of the ravines that make the Mt. Washington valley so impressive.
I got just close enough to take this picture, but my heart palpitations wouldn’t let me move to where I could see the bottom. Every minute or so, my brain went into a little spasm of imagination, and I’d picture Paul getting too close and dropping off the edge. My toes were hurting from trying to grip the earth beneath them.
Finally, we made it back to the road, exhausted, wet and ready for some physical relief (and by that I mean a bathroom, a dinner and a good drink, in that order). We realized pretty quickly that the road down the mountain was going to be quite a bit hairier than the ride up. See, the downward side of the road is the one that is next to the ravine. The upward drivers get to hug the mountain. There were two moments where I was almost 100% positive that I was using my last breath to scream. At one point, a guy in a HUGE suv was inching his way past us, and we were so close the edge that if I had opened my door I would have traveled the seven miles down in about ten seconds. When we finally got past him, it took me two minutes to dig my fingernails out of the dashboard.
At last, at last, we made our way back to the entrance, and found a bathroom and a meal. Now that I knew I would live to see another day, I was happy to talk to Paul about how much I had enjoyed the day.
“After all,” I chirped cheerfully, “This is the first time in my life that I have ever been able to look down on a rainbow!”