As we hauled ourselves up the granite cone of New Hampshire’s 3,478-foot Mount Chocorua, a middle-aged woman picking her way down the granite ledges groaned as she stretched out her legs to ease herself down an especially large slab.
My son paused to let her pass.
“I bet this hike is a piece of cake for you, isn’t it?” she asked him.
“Yup,” he said, as he pulled himself up the rock.
I wasn’t sure that I had heard correctly. “Did my son just tell you this hike was a piece of cake?” I asked the woman as she passed me.
“Well, I asked him,” she said, “and he agreed.”
Was this the same kid who had to be enticed up mountains with M & Ms, Pringles, and chocolate chip cookies?
In planning the climb up Chocorua,the most southerly of the “big mountains” in the White Mountains, I’d wondered if the hike would be one of those mental drag events for all concerned (“Come on, just enough another half-mile to the summit, eat some cookies, you can do it!”) I knew that physically, The Seal was more than capable of completing a 7.5 mile hike. But today’s hike would be the longest he’d ever attempted.
On this hike, everyone enjoyed the junk food—but as a treat and not a psychological necessity. On the slope of Mount Chocorua, I learned that that our personal slopes have intersected. My son’s has been steadily rising by micro-degrees. Mine (and that of my husband) is slowly declining. We’re not plunging towards zero, but our lines aren’t moving upward.
The kid is beating the pants off of us.
He’s been hiking for years – sometimes with more enthusiasm than others, but the enthusiasm usually petered out after a few miles. So up until this perfect Columbus Day Sunday, I’d always selected hikes of four, five or six miles tops. Adding in a small pack of kids, if possible, helped to push the hiking drive.
I knew this day was coming. This summer, The Seal surpassed me in height. This fall, he beat me in a 5K. Next year, he’ll beat my husband.
The worst part of hiking, aside from the climb up, is the day after. I love hiking, but it kills me. I wake up stiff and creaky, wishing that a hot tub would magically appear in my backyard.
On the day after the Chocorua hike, the Seal bounced out of bed at 6 a.m. without a whimper. I asked him how he was feeling.
“Fine,” he said as he headed down the hall for a Minecraft session on the computer.
I crept to the kitchen to make coffee, feeling decrepit but thrilled about the intersecting slopes (besides, mine isn’t going downhill all that much). During years of Lyme Disease, it was frightening to watch my child head downhill with no explanation or diagnosis. Also, I’m happy to see The Seal, who never was interested in kicking soccer balls or shooting baskets, build confidence by climbing mountains.
Next year, Mount Katahdin. And after that, a hot tub?
We hiked a loop, up the Liberty Trail and down the Brook Trail (about 7.5 miles RT). The Liberty Trail, a one-time carriage road, has fairly easy footing (by White Mountains standards) until you arrive at the ledges, while the Brook Trail has rougher footing and more rocks. This U.S. Forest Service document provides basic trail descriptions and driving directions to each trailhead.
I’ve also hiked the Piper Trail, directly off Route 16, and probably the most popular route to the summit. This is a busy mountain on fall weekends, so don’t expect solitude.
A good map is a must when hiking on Chocorua, due to the variety of trails and their many intersections.