No Walk in the Park

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By: Thomas Fletcher, CFP®

My brother from North Carolina telephoned me out of the blue. “I think you and your family should join my friend and me on the Mount Lafayette Trail in the White Mountains. We’ll be there in two weeks.” After checking the rest of my family’s schedule, at least they had an excuse. Not so much me.

I typically only see my brother once a year and since last year was a no-no for flying, it had been just about two years since we had last caught up in person. This hiking trip sounded like a pretty great plan: catching up with kin, enjoying the outdoors, exercise, great views, etc. However, I was a little uneasy when I started reading about the Mount Lafayette Trail and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop. The trail descriptions online pretty much told the same story, this was a hike for experienced hikers only.

My experience in hiking and backpacking is fairly vast. I spent the summers of my youth on the Appalachian Trail, the Smoky Mountains, and countless other Western North Carolina trails. The trouble is I haven’t done anything like this in many many years. (I’m too embarrassed here to state an actual number, but will do so privately upon request.) I recognized that to prepare for this hike the first thing I needed to do ASAP was try to get into some semblance of hiking shape. So if you were in the area and remembered a guy walking with a purpose on the Boston Esplanade in wool socks and heavy hiking boots in the 90º+ July heat, that was me. And believe me, it was easy to notice that nobody else was doing this. I don’t know if I made any progress on my fitness or not, but it sure wore me out.

On the morning of our hike, I took a peek out of my Bethlehem, NH hotel window, and I couldn’t help but notice that not only was it raining cats and dogs, but I think there were some medium-sized farm animals falling from the sky as well. We didn’t have much of a choice but to wait things out. It’s tough enough for some 60-somethings to do a 9-hour hike up and down a steep rocky trail, but add torrential rain to the equation and it could quickly become a disaster.

Some cups of coffee indoors and a few hours later, the monsoon finally subsided and we headed to plan B, the Bridal Veil Falls Trail. It’s about a 5 mile, 1000’ elevation hike that parallels the Coppermine Brook outside the town of Franconia, and leads to an impressive set of falls. Overall a lot less ambitious than our original plan, but highly enjoyable nonetheless. At least I was able to use my new socks, pack, water bottles, hiking poles, and pants that I bought the week before from REI.

I headed home to Boston, but my brother and his friend hiked the rest of the week in the White Mountains. When they joined us Friday night before heading to the airport, both of them could barely walk, and basically neither could go down a staircase. The reason of course was the day prior they finally hiked Lafayette Mountain Trail. And instead of taking them the projected 9 hours, it took 12. I’m told the views are worth the pain, so one of these days I’m going to go back and put my new equipment to good use.