On Day 2 of our weekend in New Hampshire, we decided to hike a quick “little” mountain, Mount Waumbek at 4006 feet. Paula had already hiked it previously and said it was fairly easy and doable on tired legs. We took our time packing up at the motel and eating breakfast, and was at the trail head at 8:15AM. Again, it was a gloomy day but the humidity was gone which made the climb much easier. The trail looked to be an old carriage trail and soon we passed an old well. You could see the remnants of old pipes underneath our footing; Paula mentioned there being an old hotel or building on the top of Starr King. About twenty minutes in, Paula made the decision to wander back to the car. It was lightly drizzling, her legs were tired and she just didn’t feel like climbing this mountain again. I didn’t blame her. Off I went, knowing she’d start back out on the trail around noon if I hadn’t returned by then. No big deal I thought… until I did the math. This hike was a total of 7.2 miles and we started after 8AM. That meant I had to hike at least 2 miles an hour, on a wet trail with boots that have zero tread.Once I realized how fast I’d have to hike to make it back by noon, I mentally told myself to just keep moving. Typically I’d stop for 15-30 seconds to catch my breath every once in a while, but on this morning, I just slowed and focused on my breath. The scenery was beautiful despite there being no views; the fog made it seem like I was in the rain forest. The climb was pretty steady but nothing difficult / too slow me down. I eventually passed a fellow heading down and didn’t expect to see anyone else, until I did at the summit of Starr King.I met what I assumed to be a husband and wife with their dog, William or Bill for short. He was very enthusiastic and eager to press on – I zoomed past them as they checked out the remains of an old fire place. I wanted to keep moving because I didn’t want to keep Paula waiting, and traveled the mile in between summits within no time. The mile was wet for sure, as it was a pretty flat / even section of the trail, but nothing I didn’t slosh through without hesitation. Summit of Waumbek at 10:28AM. I quickly took a photograph of my pack near the cairn and grabbed my bag of crispy wasabi peas for a snack; I had 1.5 hours to descend and 3.6 miles of slippery ground to cover.
After a handful of peas, I was off! I ran into multiple young men on the trail in between Waumbek and Starr King who seemed to be trail running, and then a couple more people once passing Starr King. I knew I was moving pretty fast because the young men never caught up to me. When I can trust my boots, downs have become a favorite of mine. On this day I was cautious but anxious to make it out on time. Then, it became a HIGHWAY on the trail! No joke, one group had more than 20 people in it! And they were all hiking together! There had to have been at least 25 other people on the trail scattered in between; I was thankful I was heading out of the woods at that hour and not headed toward the summit.
I don’t remember much, other than the small mental notes one makes of the ground on the way up. And the good news: I met Paula on the trail less than a quarter mile from the now-filled parking lot. Officially back at 12:11PM. Not too shabby. Now 25/48 for NH. Oh! And Paula sewed on my 46er patch! This was my first peak sporting the new hardware – only took me four years to get it on there 🙂