I remember trying to hike Mount Willey once, but turning back. Rain, maybe? Or misery. It was just a few years ago, too. Must have been a bad day. The trail going up this mountain comes with the same swirling, sour nausea one might feel while dangling from a rope in gym class. But it's much more fun, honestly.
The 1.1 mile hike looks easy on a map, but it's a mile-point-one straight up. I muscled it, though. My legs felt like they would explode at the knees and thighs, but in a good way. The tiniest twang in my leg made me wish I had brought some electrolytes or sea salt to gurgle down, but all I had was a gallon of water and some coconut butter. Heavy, but worth it.
Most of the soreness was just from pure work. It was like climbing a staircase around a tall, spire-crested castle on some lonely cliffside. Except here was no cliff, but a tangled mess of spruce trees, birch, and ferns. Sun-soaked boulders and slabs of rock, dripping with moss. I slipped on one wet spot, covering my legs in well-deserved mud. I'd wear it proudly for the rest of the day.
I came right up on two older folks, who let me pass. “You're young and agile,” the woman said. There was a little bit of accusation in her voice, but it was playful.
“For now,” I caveated, then blew them behind me. Hup, hup, as I stairmastered this mountain.
Ladders. Lots of ladders. Carved logs placed precipitously along ledges. And big steps over cut-up boulders. Don't look down. Massive deja vu swirled around me. I'm pretty sure I hiked this mountain when I was a kid once. My dad would have taken me up this trail, I thought, even though the summit is easily accessible from the other side, less steep and easier on softer spirits.
But my spirit is something else. Hurrah, hurrah. And before I knew it I was at the summit of Willey, where three's a crowd. There was one tiny lookout toward the Presidential Range, and I strolled to it, but startled a group of people. I decided to salute the summit cairn quickly and move along. Some fantastic views of the Pemigawasett Wilderness around the backside of Willey, though. And there is Field, and there is Tom, the rest of my day's adventure still ahead of me.