Gripping a root on the edge of a mountain was not something I imagined doing when I read the trail description in Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide. I pull myself up the steep grade as rocks tumble down below me. Upper body strength is something I lack. I sit on the ledge I just ascended and pull out my map. It’s practically useless as I have no idea where I am. I decide to continue going up.
I find a route that’s not nearly as steep, but thick. I force my way through an obstacle of pine trees, roots, and never ending undergrowth. I am repeatedly stung by branches whipping back at me. I take a break from staring at my feet and look toward the sky. I must be getting close. Grace isn’t a word to describe my ascent. I am constantly stepping over down trees, getting jerked back by branches catching on my pack, and ducking under thick branches at the perfect height to walk straight into. I trudge.
I grab a root and pull myself up, my feet sliding backwards on the wet soil. I am almost there. I take a deep breath and lunge up, reaching for a close branch. I finally see a flat surface. It looks like somewhere a hiker is meant to be. Thankfully I am the only one here and have time to look over my map. All of that effort led me to the tiny, viewless summit of East Osceola. I didn’t know it for sure at the time, though. A couple comes into sight and asks me if this is the top. I respond confidently that it is.
Bushwhacking up 4,156 foot East Osceola is not how I imagined my first solo hike to go. I take a breath and begin up the trail toward Osceola’s main peak. It is smooth sailing until the chimney section. This is what I had been warned about. While the Osceolas are a tame duo, the chimney can get to some hikers. I grasp a section of rock and pull myself up. I appreciate the stable hand and footholds. The trail post chimney is wonderfully easy to follow and soon enough I find myself on a large rock slab. While Mount Osceola is known to have superb views, I only see white. The summit is surrounded by a thick fog. I’ve made it to summit number two.
As I descend, I try and figure out where I went wrong on my way up East Osceola. It turns out I continued on one of the Greeley Pond ski trails. And this is how I began my NH 4000 Footers. Three rounds later, I’ve grown a lot as a hiker. Do I still get lost? Occasionally. Does it ever become easy? Hell no.
So why am I sharing this story now? I’ve been open about my adventures, both successes and failures. If you’re starting your own journey, know that it’s not always straightforward. There will be times that you make horrible decisions or may be unprepared. You will feel weak. You may have to turn back for a variety of reasons. You may not feel like you belong out there.
I continued to solo hike, originally with the intent of proving everyone wrong about a story I had never told. I poured over maps, joined hiking forums, and read every trip report about the trails I intended to hike next. I vowed that I would share all my adventures, both successful and not. These attempts or mishaps not only shape me as a hiker, but also serve as an important lesson for others.
Take time to reflect on your journey, especially when it doesn’t go right. I challenge you to share your own hiking mishap. After all, if it were easy everyone would be doing it.
Be brave. Share a hiking failure in the comments below.
Last modified: September 2, 2017