- Elevation: North Peak: 4,380 Feet, South Peak: 4,278 Feet
- Location: Lincoln, NH
- Dates Hiked: October 23, 2017
- Companions: Stud
- Trails: Hancock Notch, Cedar Brook, Hancock Loop
Stud and I debate whether or not we can motivate ourselves to get up and out early enough to see the sunrise on top of the Hancocks. We have just hiked the Osceolas the day before and we are staying in a tiny cabin just 20 minutes from the trailhead. We decide to get up early but not THAT early and we are at the trailhead by 6:45am. The parking area is tucked inside the crook of the tightest hairpin turn on the Kancamagus Highway. Its dark and spooky and we have to cross the highway but its easy cause no one is coming. We don our headlamps and we are off! My headlamp is SIGNIFICANTLY dimmer than Studs. I really got to change those batteries…
Not long after we make our way into the woods, the trail lightens up enough to put away our headlamps…and since mine isn’t really working that great anyway., I happily tuck it away in my pack. The trail is lovely and fairly flat and wide. We walk along the North Fork of the Hancock River. There are some great camp sites and I take notes in my head about revisiting this area. We quietly pass some sleepy tents followed by their trash and food tied in a low hanging bush up the trail that basically yelled “come n get it bears and other ground dwellers!”
We pass by these bright red berries and I wonder about them. Stud says “gut berries” referencing the youth novel Hatchet where this kid gets in a plane crash and has to survive in the wild and eats these “gut berries” that make him sick but hes so hungry that he continues to eat them until he figures out how to sustain himself.
We check the map at the upcoming intersections and make our way deeper in towards the edges of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. We take a big break when we arrive at the Hancock Loop Trail where the real ascent begins. We eat and pee and hydrate and then start making our way up. Its an intense .7 of a mile with over a thousand feet of elevation gain and we are feelin it! Since we got such an early start, we take our time and take long breaks soakin up the balsams and the spruce.We push up and up until boom! We see this sign!We make our way over to the outlook for North Peak and the clouds sit below in the valleys and its all just almost too much to bear. We exclaim and curse and jump around trying to not fall off the mountain. I take lots of pictures of a stick that I found along the way up and then lay it to rest near north peak as a gift.
We then head towards South Peak which looks impossibly far away. I am always amazed how far away a mountain will look across a valley and can’t imagine that I could ever just walk there in an hour or so but we do.
We dip into a scraggly mountain spruce forest and the morning light flickers between the trees like a film strip. Its not even 11 and we’ve already had our lunch break and I feel so peaceful and present in this mountain.
Almost too soon we pop out on South Peak. I am not ready to descend but that is whats next. We sit and look out and talk about Mount Carrigain which looms off to the east. We talk about maybe saving that one for last on our NH48 list. We try to distinguish the many peaks and then start our descent.
The descent is steep and brutal and we grunt and take breaks to rest our knees. By the time we are back down it is only 2pm and we take a long leisurely rest on some benches at the scenic parking area where we are parked. It overlooks the Osceolas where we were the day before and there are some informational stories and pictures about the history of peak baggers and hikers who use to be called Mountain Trampers who came up from the city just like us to find adventure and wonder in the White Mountains. Many of these mountain trampers were women. I would like to read their journals.
We head back to the cabin for a rest and then back into Lincoln to explore the gear shops. We check out some hiking boots. I ask to try on a pair of mens boots and the clerk ignores my request and tells me that she will go get the women’s equivalent boots. I say I am not interested in that boot and she tells me not to worry because the color is very “neutral”. I cringe a little at her assumption and then I ask again, politely, for the mens size. She asks about my foot width. I ignore her question and I ask her again for the boot I want to try on until I am exhausted by the exchange and we decide to leave. In these moments I wish I had an index card to hand out that just lays it all out for people who just don’t get it. Also, dear world, when you see a pair of butch dykes, tomboys, masculine appearing women, whatever, please don’t call us ladies. Just don’t. Here are some alternatives: ya’ll, folks, or just “hello” will do. This slight effort will go so much farther and deeper than you can ever know.