Hike #27: Galehead Hut to Zealand Hut
Elevation: 4,024 (Mount Galehead); 4,902 (South Twin Mountain); 4,260 (Zealand Mountain)
Date: September 5-7, 2015
Location: Grafton County, NH
Distance: 15.7 miles
Time: 13:02 (49:48/mile)
Day 1: 5.6 miles in 4:04; Day 2: 7.2 miles in 7:24; Day 3: 2.9 miles in 1:34)
As a dad, I want the best for my girls, see them as wonderful, and worry about them. As a divorced dad, I worry about maximizing my time with them, and about giving them enough guidance and support for them to have the skills and tools to achieve the lives they want and deserve.
Prior to our Labor Day Weekend hut-to-hut hike in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, I knew they weren’t excited. They were surprised when I acknowledged it and said I didn’t care. But I explained that the biggest goal is to put them in a challenging, stressful situation and to make them work at managing through it. They can decide the whole trip is miserable, cry, and trudge slowly along. But it will only make it more miserable with more hours hiking then it has to be. The alternative is differentiating between the parts that suck and the parts that can be joyous. They understood the point but questioned why they couldn’t just have one awful day instead of three. Now that they’re getting older, I can be more candid with them. The good news, I replied, is that it’s only three days long. I’ve had a couple of different things going on that has made the last month blow, with the potential of another ten months of stress. It didn’t excite them to become a grown-up, but was honest.
|Hiking's version of the pre-game experience.|
The next morning led me to need to reiterate my points to my oldest daughter, who was miserable at the thought of the hike. We spoke earnestly, and I didn’t chastise her for her tears. But the message was still clear: feel how you feel, but if the event is still going to occur, you have a choice on the storyline. It’s fair to acknowledge the tough parts but important to practice letting go of that negativity when better moments present themselves.
|Admiring the view from Galehead's summit, on the north side of the Pemigewasset Wilderness|
|Group hugs at sunset outside of the Galehead Hut!|
The real challenge was the second day of the hike: over seven miles across their first two four-thousand-foot summits and a couple thousand feet of elevation gain; all during a hot, sunny day. But both girls showed me something they don’t often demonstrate: true strength. This was a rugged hike regardless of age, with a serious climb in the first mile.
Over the day, my oldest routinely
pushed the pace. She was strong, she effortlessly navigated rockier sections,
and seemed downright fast for the first few hours before slowing down to being merely
quick later on. But she chatted amicably, occasionally slowed or waited for the
rest of the group, and happily paired off with whomever would join her at the
front of the line. At the end of the hike, seven hours in, she was passing
other groups of experienced hikers. My younger daughter was slower, but tried
to keep up as best as she could, and maintained a good attitude even though she
was so worn out that she couldn’t even walk straight by the end of the
hike. It’s one of the best displays of
perseverance and toughness I’ve ever seen from them. Afterwards, they found
some rewards at the Zealand Hut.
|South Twin's 4,902-foot summit offered amazing views!|
|The girls bagged their first summit!|
|Waterfall at the end of the hike? Score! We're having fun now!|
After dinner, wearing glowstick necklaces, we all climbed into the side-by-side third story bunk beds that Sara and I were in, with half-walls sealing these two beds off from the rest of the room. The girls laughed and lost themselves in the simple joy of mad libs, and later enjoyed the three story bunk beds as they nestled into beds again, glow sticks casting faint light as they quickly fell asleep.
The final day was easy. Three miles used to seem far too long to them but now it represented a short walk. Packs didn’t seem as heavy. And with most of this leg being flat trails, they found it easy, with a chance to chat and see some of the mountains they’d hiked.
|The girls are walking out over much easier (but still picturesque) terrain.|
See you on the trail,
Jay Bell, AKA Rock Hopper