On a pristine morning in late September, myself and two friends loaded our over-sized packs and plunged into the White Mountain wilderness of New Hampshire. In search of nature and solitude, we studied our map and began the trek on the trail that would be our home for the days ahead. Armed with camping gear, military-style MRE (meal ready-to-eat) rations, and the ever-important water filter, we were prepared for battle. The thought of breaking out of our daily routine, even if only for a few days, was motivation enough to live and breathe among the trees, wildlife, and fresh mountain air. Replacing digital technology and the instant gratification that we're accustomed to with pure, raw nature was invigorating.
Our first day of hiking was not without challenges. While climbing a steep stretch of rocky terrain along a cascade, my foot slipped on a wet rock surface. As the weight of my body and my heavy pack shifted backwards, my friend grabbed the strap of my pack to pull me to the edge of the trail, to safety. For a few seconds thereafter, my hear pounded intensely, as I realized that I narrowly escaped a 30-foot tumble down a slick rock face, a fall that would have likely resulted in a serious injury. Humbled by this close call, I was aware of every step for the rest of the way. One misstep can bring about tragic results. This is not only true in hiking— but also in life.
After ascending steep, rocky terrain for a few hours, we managed to find a perfect spot to pitch our tent. Either this area was cleared by previous trailblazers or it was a stroke of luck, but this spot could not have been more picture perfect. Our tent fit flawlessly on this plot of earth, nestled in by small pine trees.We wolfed down our MRE and watched as the sun faded west, golden hues reflected on the rocky peaks that lay before us. We were nearly above tree line. No sign of human life in any direction. THIS is why we came. I felt a sense of peace and tranquility at this moment, as I pushed the thought of a rogue bear terrorizing our tent in the middle of the night, out of my mind.
We awoke to a spectacular sunrise, as the morning light gleamed intensely off the mountains. This is something that happens every single day, but witnessing it at this vantage point with no other people in sight was truly a spiritual experience. Moments like these invoke an extreme feeling of appreciation, an appreciation that you want to grasp and hold on to for as long as possible so you don't ever take them for granted again. After a quick breakfast, we were back on the trail once again. We had another gorgeous sun-filled day on our hands. Since we tented close to the tree line, we reached our first peak in a short time. Gazing out atop the summit left us feeling accomplished and awestruck.We had to keep our amazement at bay, though— we had three more peaks to summit before the sun went down!
Slowly but surely we made our way along the ridgeline to the remaining peaks. The mountain trails that one imagines in their head are far different than the hearty terrain that the White Mountain wilderness features. Leaping from rock to rock for miles on end takes a toll on the legs, especially your knees. Midway through our day of trekking, my beat-up hiking boots showed signs of extreme wear. The sole began to rip away from the shoes. Nothing a roll a duct tape can't fix, right? Sure enough, as we began to descend for the first time on this trip, the sole fell off completely, making the rest of the descent an adventure, to say the least.
As our second day of hiking drew to a close, our battered bodies begged for rest and nourishment. We unstrapped our packs and began to construct our tent, eager to bury ourselves in our sleeping bags. No doubt it had been two long, physically-demanding days, but it left us feeling revitalized. Immersing yourself in nature is something that can't be replaced or replicated. If you're willing to take on the challenge and step away from your day-to-day life, you will be rewarded with a gratitude and a connection with planet Earth worth far more than anything money can buy.
Break Your Boundaries.