“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”Lao Tzu
I don’t remember the first step I took onto my first 4,000 footer. I know I was eleven and that it was Mount Waumbek, but that’s only from pictures. I don’t remember what I was thinking, or if I even knew what a 4,000 footer was. I definitely didn’t know I would be finishing all 48 of them five years later. To be honest, I probably was just following the family, not knowing what I was hiking or where I was going. But, that first step began my journey of a thousand miles. That first step led to a major passion in my life. That first step was so very important.
“Every mountaintop is within reach if you just keep on climbing”Barry Finlay
I’m not quite sure when I realized I was going to hike ALL THE 4,000 footers. By mountain 4 or 5, I knew what they were, but it seemed like such a big, far away goal. 48 mountains, that was a lot. My dad was finishing at age 40-something, I had no friends that hiked, and even my sister backed away from mountain climbing. It seemed like an accomplishment for an adult. I heard about the difficult Bonds, the isolated Owl’s Head, the towering presidentials. But as I kept putting one foot in front of the other, mountains began adding up. Following in my dad’s footsteps (well, maybe more like bootprints), I quickly set my sights on the 4k goal, even though the finish line seemed like a lifetime away. Eventually the goal began to seem possible when I had a meaty amount of peaks under my belt; 15, 16, 17. By 20, I had my number memorized and mentally added to it each peak I bagged. By 30, I was daydreaming about my final peak, imagining what it would feel like. My 40th was just this year. 45th, 46th, 47th… And I soon found myself on the top of West Bond, my 48th 4,000 footer.
I can only try to explain what a shock it was to have finished. This goal that I have poured my literal blood, sweat, and tears into, had finally been reached. I have been climbing and climbing and climbing, and finally I have reached the peak.
I remember back to a time at Camp Runels when I was backpacking in the whites with some non-4k-footer girls. I don’t quite remember which peaks we were hiking, but I do remember passing by a trail that led to a new 4k peak, only one mile away. I begged and begged the counselors to let us bag that peak and then continue along, but the majority grossly opposed me. I couldn’t believe nobody else would agree to quickly bag it; it was just an added total of only 2 miles to our hike! The difference: I was in a goal mindset and the other girls were not. Another interesting example, After retreating off West Bond, I passed over the peak of Mt. Bond. There, two backpackers were heating up breakfast. They told us they were on a trip of an unknown length or agenda. They were planning to summit North Twin today. My dad asked if they were planning to hike South Twin while they were over there. They shrugged, said they didn’t particularly love that peak and that they probably wouldn’t bother. As we were coming down off Mt. Bond, my dad said to me that he couldn’t imagine hiking one twin without hiking the other because of his new goal (hiking the 4ks in each season).
Now, the question that I face is: Now that I’m free from my goal, do I still feel the need to bag extra peaks if I have the opportunity to? My answer is yes. There’s nothing like the rush of finally clawing to the top of a peak, standing above the world. Even if there’s no view, I’m a goal-oriented person and need to feel the accomplishment of each peak. However, I would love the freedom to spend more time lounging on a few mountaintops instead of having to quickly pass over many peaks. As long as it’s a nice day, peaks are my happy places. Since I backpacked over the Bonds instead of knocking them off in a day hike, I was able to have time to lie on the rocks, sun-drenched, soaking up the views. Maybe I will be like those backpackers, cooking breakfast on summits, wandering to new destinations as my heart desires. But then again, I need a goal. I need to strive for peaks. I need to bag every single mountain I can. So I have conflicting urges.
I know I want a new goal. I am playing with the idea of the New England 67 (48 of which I have already completed). I would also love to hike all 48 in each of the four seasons. I have a huge map hanging on the wall in my room, which I fill in with red the trails I have taken. A little part of me wants to be a red liner and fill up that map. But, there is also the Northeast 111, the 100 highest, the intimidating “grid”, the 46 4,000 footers of the Adirondacks, or even the 3,000 footers (which would be a bushwhacking adventure). I’m only 16, so I have a lifetime of hiking ahead of me. Maybe my location of college will open up new hiking ventures. I’m leaning towards the 67 or the 4 seasons, but I’d love to hear opinions or experiences with any of these goals in the comments.