Gentle darlings:

Tomorrow morning, I am stepping away from the keyboard for my annual All-Girl Hike Into the Heart of Darkness And Stuff. I should be back — God willin’ and the crick don’t rise — Wednesday. In the meanwhile, my friends Helen and Melissa and I are going to walk the Appalachian Trail up and over Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

Or so we like to think.

I trust you’ll have  a fruitful few days, and spend the time gathering stories to share later.

As a taste, I wrote what follows for my day job. Don’t feel obligated, but here goes:

    It all started eight years ago, when Helen and Melissa went hiking in New Hampshire and Vermont.
    I like to think of those as the years my friends left without me. I joined them two years later, and these annual hikes rapidly became my single most anticipated trip each year.
    What is it about women going out into the wilderness together? Why would anyone want to suffer the deprivation of a challenging hike when life can be so demanding already? We drag with us the unique challenges of being ourselves. One of us has only one working knee. One has only one working lung. Every year one worries she hasn’t worked out enough to keep up.
    Actually, we all worry about that, but somehow we manage. We stuff our backpacks with snacks and socks, and we take off. We get outdoors and we shed all the other baggage – the bodies that betray us, our bankrupt company, our dying industry, and the last argument we had with our spouses/children/parents.
    Our spouses are resigned to our absence. One year, Massachusetts state police found my car parked in a field that I thought was the trail head, and they called my husband – who worried not that I was hurt but that the three of us had gone off on a crime spree and ditched my car for faster wheels.
    I have scads of photos of us looking like something the cat had coughed up – sweaty, bruised, exhausted, strangely happy. And lit from within.
    Helen plans our attack every year. I maintain she could run a small country, provided her fellows didn’t mind cuss words. Melissa packs three of everything, in case we forget stuff. I am not sure of my role, but I think it’s being the oldest and, thus, the most inspiring.
    No matter. Although it’s wickedly hard to climb a hill, laugh hard and not pee your pants, we manage each year to go out, suit up and get simple. We rank on each other as only sisters can. Other hikers avoid us, and I don’t blame them.
    One year, we climbed hand-over-hand up a rocky trail to an isolated lodge that felt like forever. The trail was clearly marked “very difficult,” to which we replied in the famous last words of dead hikers everywhere: “How bad could it be?” We made it to the lodge, collapsed onto our respective bunks and had the best naps ever.
    I have 100 stories like that, tales that go: We cheated death, and then we had the best nap ever. Living out of your backpack forces you to pack light, and then you crest a hill to see more hills that look like God’s rumpled blanket. The chatter stops, the heart slows, and then someone asks, “Who farted?”
    I dread the day when I can no longer climb those trails. My friends will have to carry me. I promise to pack lighter snacks.

Published by datingjesus

Just another one of God's children.

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  1. Be sure to say hey to the SC gov if he’s on the Appalachian Trail again this year. Oh, wait . . .

  2. Hey! There’s your next book, “A Gal’s walk in the woods!” With apologies to Bill Bryson.
    Who’s gonna be Katz?
    I am slowly reaching the age when I can’t get out and hike anymore without pain in my knee. I’m planning to have it repaired in the winter to have one last gasp of clean, pine scented air out on the trail next year. I open my backpacking closet, with all my gear packed in labeled plastic boxes, all lined up neatly on the shelves. I open the tents once in a while, make sure the bags are fluffed and fire up the stoves, just in case. I envy you, so have a great time!

    1. Daughter #2 was quite a babbler when she was younger (she’s learned to control it as an adult) so much so that we’ve named some streams in the woods after her, like here we are, at “Jane, the babbling brook”.
      “Take nothing but pictures, leave only foot prints, kill nothing but time.”
      And bring something for chaffing…

  3. Have a fantastic time! I live for this kind of stuff. Definitely let us know if you see Yeti, Big Foot, or the Blessed Virgin.

      1. Take a damn strap. We don’t want the camera carrying Yeti-images to go tumbling down some crevasse.

        1. Is that you gals’ feet?

          Great essay. Have fun. In the event of a Yeti sighting, hold the camera steady – and keep a firm grip on the camera strap.

        2. I use my phone, so there’s no strap. I’m down to breaking off the handle of my toothbrush to cut back on weight.

  4. Have a wonderful time. What a cool way to escape the heat. I saw a webcam snapshot of the observatory and there was a skiff of snow up there July1.

    1. Yep. That’s what we’re SO looking forward to, my friends and I: Hiking in the snow. It’ll be great fun, regardless. Onward! Because we’re too ignit to retreat!

  5. You’re a better man than I am, DJ!

    Took the cog railway up, on our honeymoon in 1968. About 18 years later we drove up the toll road with our kiddies.

    That toll road is scary, especially when the tourist vans come rushing down the other side!

    1. I’m not the better man. I hated-hated-hated! the cog rail. It’s creaky and I kept thinking how much it would stink to have to hurtle to my death backward, should the thing do what it looked like it was going to do, slide backward.

      1. “I hated-hated-hated! the cog rail. ”

        Oh wow! Last month I was sort of disappointed that I’d missed the last trip for the day. I may not have to go back now. And you may have saved me several dollars as WELL as time.

        1. Awwww. . . .

          We took the cog railway up Mt. Washington on our honeymoon in
          September 1968. And it’s still running–probably with the same engines!

          On the other hand, is the ariel tramway still running? I know they had an accident some years ago.

          1. That’s interesting…I don’t know that there is a tramway these days. I certainly didn’t see one.

  6. Go DJ, go. Do it while you still can. Nothing but admiration from this quarter.

  7. Which of you didn’t paint your toe nails?
    Walk carefully.
    We’ll miss you but think of you often.
    Sending a cyber hug! {{{{{DJ}}}}}}}

    1. That would be Helen. She said she’d paint her toenails this trip, but she didn’t, and neither did Melissa. Evidently, I’m the only All-Girl Hiker who cares about decorum and stuff.

      That’s a lie, actually, but I did have painted toenails.

    1. Oh, this is awesome! We were really lucky all through the walk. It rained a little bit, but only after we got back to the shelter. You needed a jacket, but it was clear.

  8. My wish for you is that these all-girl weekends never end. When the day arrives when one of you can’t take the big hike, GO SOMEWHERE and keep up the all-girl hikes. Even if the climb means taking the stairs instead of the elevator, go. Even if you sneak trail mix into the movies together, go. Go off somewhere and walk the beach or hike in the park and find things to laugh at even if you’re sporting canes. I love my all-girls get aways that occur every few years because my 2 closest friends since we were 5 are scattered across separate states. I can be myself like no other time and as long as I can remember who I am, I will keep trying to arrange another weekend with them.

  9. Here’s a little joke for ya, Jac:

    A group of 40-year-old women-friends discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because the waiters were buff and good looking.

    Ten years later the group decided to gather, and discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because the restaurant’s food and wine selection were very good.

    Ten years later, with the women in the group now 60, the friends discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because they could eat there in peace and quiet and the restaurant had a beautiful view, yes, of the ocean.

    And in 10 more years the women were anxious to see each other, and they discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because it’s wheel-chair accessible.

    And at 80, the women once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because they had never been there before.

  10. As I review the joke, I realize that virtually none of my almost-70-year-old contemporaries needs the help of a wheel-chair — there’s the use of a cane or walking-stick here and there, but that’s about it. The memory-thing, though? Hmmm — we’ll see……..

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