Yesterday I went off to work with my friend Seven who has a handy business like me. We work together a lot, help each other out with jobs and are sometimes lucky enough to land jobs together. She’s the best. She’s got this friend she’s mentioned over the past few years since I met her. Her name is Mildred and she is 96. Seven has helped her out with various house projects and they have become friends.
Seven asked me to come help her out at Mildred’s house because the time has come for Mildred to move into assisted living and sell her condo where she has lived for almost 50 years. Sadly, Mildred has to clear out 50 years worth of accumulation. Seven has been helping her by coordinating with clean-out services, thrift stores, and helping Mildred sort through her stuff and find homes for whatever they can.
Mildred and I made our acquaintance and I looked around her foyer to discover lots of pictures of people on mountains. Mountains that I recognized and I asked her where the pictures were taken and she said in the White Mountains and we started chatting. Seven tells her that I like to hike too and Mildred lights up and tells me that she was just a few peaks away from being an official member of New Hampshire’s 4,000 footer club (A special club to recognize people who have climbed every 4,000 foot high mountain in NH).
Then she tells me that she hiked the Long Trail from end to end in 1943 on her honeymoon with her husband!! I couldn’t believe it! I was like, “No way! Mildred, I am hiking it this summer!” Well, wouldn’t you know she was all wide eyed and smiley and says “Come see my End-To-End patch and certificate from the Green Mountain Club!” So I followed her to her office where she had both her and her husbands certificates and End-To-End Patches framed on the wall with a picture of Mount Mansfield in the background. Next to that was a picture of her and her husband on top of Mount Mansfield (the highest peak on the Long Trail). They are wearing matching buffalo plaid hiking shirts and what looks like leather-soled penny loafers on their feet. Incredible! Needless to say, Mildred and I had a LOT to talk about but there was lots of work to be done and even though I just wanted to sit down and ask Mildred about a thousand questions and sip tea all day hearing stories, there was much to do so I had to hold back at least until lunch.
Seven and I went to the basement to sort through some stuff and clean up down there and wouldn’t you know, there is her old backpacking cook-set. It was so fun to look thru and I could just feel the history in that detachable pot handle. I pulled out the two mugs from the set. Not sure if I’ll bring these mugs on my Long Trail hike but they will definitely come with me on some adventures. We also found some old wooden snowshoes that are as tall as me. They had rope wrapped around the rims and were just massive. Seven and I couldn’t let those go so we took them. Seven said I should take them in case I get a cabin so I can hang them on my wall. I told her she should hang them in her garage since who knows if I’ll ever have a cabin. Mildred came downstairs at some point to check out how the basement was going and saw the snowshoes in one of our various piles. She said “Oh please don’t throw those away!” Seven told her we were saving them and that Seven was going to hang them on her wall. Mildred smiled and was relieved and started telling us how she had climbed over so many of the White Mountains in the winter with those snow shoes. We also found an old ice axe. Seven took that to hang with the snowshoes.
While Seven and I worked, Mildred was working on a five course lunch for us! I was nervous about lunch because I don’t eat meat but it turns out that the whole lunch was vegan including the ice cream so that was great! She made all kinds of delicious food and she was just so sweet. Lunch gave me a some time to get to talk to Mildred about her hikes.
I asked Mildred what she ate on the Long Trail. She said she carried steaks, potatoes, and oranges. I was like, “Mildred! How much did you pack weigh?!” She said that her pack weighed 65 lbs and that her husbands pack weighed 85 lbs. She said it was really hard. In 1943, hikers cooked over an open fire and carried steaks. I had a lot more questions but we had a lot more work to do and I was unfortunately on a schedule with a class to teach that afternoon. Mildred kept apologizing for being so slow. Seven told her that her speed is actually perfect and that the rest of the world is way too fast. I agreed and we both appreciated the reminder to slow down. Mildred hugged me when we left and told me, “We hikers have to stick together” She remarked on how hiking mountains has done her well. Did I mention she is 96? Yeah. And she was practically jogging up and down the stairs to the basement.
Mildred has a lot going on right now with the move but as soon as she gets settled I hope she’ll let me visit her and bring my updated map and guidebook and that she will tell me some Long Trail stories as well as her Mount Washington stories (which she says she has a bunch of, including some descents in the dark!)
Mildred, if you are reading, I am delighted to have met you and I hope to see you again soon! Thank you!