Two Sunday nights past, I returned from a friend's wedding to the realization that the long Columbus Day weekend was to begin in 5 days. Beginning last year, this particular long weekend has taken its place as the weekend for heading north. Even a few hours drive brings the dazed academic into a realm of rock and tree aflame with fall. The mountains are always there, but the extra day of freedom piques the draw to hike past any refusal. So staring down the barrel of a full 5 chambered Olin week, I resolved to depart on the coming Friday, whatever the "cost" in front- or back-loading of other commitments. The planning was a bit scrambled, but a few well placed calls to wise wilderness contacts and a successful food collection detail, we succeeded in our Friday escape. And to the mountains we fled...
Our wandering was aimed at the North Face of the Presidential range of the White Mountains in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. Our group was large, but we intended to be intrepid and camp in the backcountry (while still obeying all pertinent guidelines, of course). Our itinerary shifted as we determined the pace that fit our group, and I must commend my dear companions for their flexibility and acceptance.
Our final path consisted of a night of camping near (but not too near) the Appalachia trailhead in Randolph, NH. Upon the morning of Saturday, we climbed Mt. Madison so its gusty summit, and came down into its notch to the Madison Springs Hut, run by the Appalachian Mountain Club but closed since the 2nd week of September. The weather began to turn, and with speckling drops starting to find our shoulders and hats, we descended to the Valley Way tent site to stake a claim to a tent platform. With 3 tents worth of people in 2 tents, we weathered a rainy night. CARL!'s shoes got wet. Contorted in some mockery of a sleeping position, Giulia asked me around 1 am, "How long until we can get up?" But when morning came, a crisp fall wind swept away the clouds. Leaving our packs, we summited Mt. Adams in more sun and air than a person could ask for. With some companions behind preparing our speedy departure from camp, we descended, picked up our packs, and darted back down the Appalachia. After preparing our last camp meal just near the trail head (and watching the other day hikers trot out of the woods for Route 2), we piled into our vans and made it back to Olin with our extra day of weekend to spend in preparation for the week.
Now that it is the pivot point of the semester, I will let the following sequence of photographs speak for the rest of our adventure. And I will in parting declare that I adore my suitemates, hallmates, and hangers-on who braved this trip (and those who couldn't make it).
"You know what I love about tree surfing? Well, with a tree that's alive, its got branches that stick out and you just grab 'em and go right up. But when the branches are gone and its laying across a stream is when its the best. You can walk out on it, test the amount of flex with your feet, figure out the dynamics of it, find the balance point, bounce up and down and then you take a step forward. You do this a few times and you're set. Sure, each tree has its own bark patterns and everything, but once you're halfway across the stream you know you've got it. And once you've gone over once, that tree is [expletive deleted] and you can go find another one." - CARL! '09, on Tree Surfing. Photo Credit: Tess Edmonds '11