Starry Starry Peaked
“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” ~ Muhammad Ali
Growing up in the White Mountains, you either ski, hike, or do both. Well I don’t do both. I shocker of of shockers just hike. There is nothing like the satisfaction of reaching the top of the mountain. No matter how high, that sense of accomplishment is invigorating. it is instant gratification. And if it is a hard mountain like the 40,ooo footers well you feel like a super hero.
When I was still living in New Hampshire, my friend and I would hike Peaked once a week. Getting up in the early mornings and strutting our stuff as the sun would rise, finishing it in just over an hour, as breakfast at Stairway beckoned to us giving as major incentive to haul our bootys. For awhile, it was my favorite mountain to hike. Giving a gorgeous view of the Mount Washington Valley.
It has been a few years since I have hiked it, and a long while since I did it in the winter with feet of snow on the trail. Due to many factors this hike was an adventure. Albeit a fun one. A cold fun one!
Peaked has two trail heads that are maybe a quarter mile from each other if that. It can be hiked as a just over four mile loop as well is a connector to surrounding mountains such as, Black Cap, Middle Mountain and Cranmore. We decided to just do a quick up and down taking Middle Mountain Trail from Thompson Road.
We didn’t hit the trail head until four. PM. With light dimming quickly it was going to be a race. Armed with micro-spikes, poles and head-lamps, not to mention multiple layers, my brother and I were ready to experience Peaked’s winter climate in all its frozen glory.
We actually made decent time, despite the trail being narrow from the snow and an icy crust coating the top. We were fine with our boots and micro spikes, and despite the frigid air even shed layers as we made the trek. The tip with winter hiking, is to keep moving. Even if it is at a snails pace, which this out of practice hiker was doing at points. I will never curse the hills in Central Park again! Seriously though the only way to stay in hiking shape is to hike mountains. And lots of them! There is nothing like a little elevation gain to get the blood pumping!
We arrived near the top just as the sun was setting. We made a slight detour through feet of snow to some ledges that gave off the most perfect view of my home town. Decked out with lights, and the colors of the sun setting behind Mount Chocorua, I felt like I was looking at the live version of Starry Starry Night. There was something so incredibly tranquil about the scene that lay out before us below.
I could have stayed there for hours if not for the biting cold beginning to attack us. We rushed to the very top to snap some pictures and don our head lamps. I had to take my traditional dancer’s pose. One I always do by a certain tree, though I admit it wasn’t the best as at that point the cold was really beginning to set in.
Going down has always been faster as well as a heck of a lot of fun…especially in snow. Despite the darkness, this was no different. While we did have to curtail the speed, we jumped and slid through the snow, arriving back at the trail head in no time.
I have done a fair amount of night hiking during the summer, but never during the winter. This first time will definitely not be the last. In many ways I felt like a little kid again. The sense of wonder and beauty. The absolute solitude of being the only crazy people up there. Watching as the sun kissed the sky good night and the stars came out like beacons to a village below. It was utter perfection.
As we shook our micro-spikes out and drove to Starbucks to grab some Holiday cheer to warm us up I couldn’t help but notice the temp on the dashboard. Six Degrees.
Yup we were definitely insane. But it was completely worth it.
Have you ever done night time hiking? Or hiked in the Winter?