A few weeks ago, I had planned to “Grid out” July – to finish climbing all 48 peaks in New Hampshire over 4,000 feet in that month.
So far, the only two other months I have finished in my attempt to hike all 48, every month, were June and August; I was looking forward to having three full months in a row checked off.
The last hike on my list included a 20-mile out-back hitting five peaks (Zealand, Guyot, West Bond, Bond, and Bondcliff); three of these humps I would have to hike twice (out; then back), one of which was not even an “official” Appalachian Mountain Club 4,000 footer. Mount Guyot’s sin? Choosing to stand less than 200 feet from its official neighbor. Cheeky peak.
July had been an unusually stormy month up in God’s country, limiting my opportunities.
Also, working a summer school left me little time to execute a longer hike, so as July waned, I had my eye on either the 30th (lightning and rain predicted) or the 31st (high winds). Since much of the trek is above treeline, I opted for getting blown over as opposed to electrocuted.
The way up to Zealand from Zealand Road is one of my favorite stretches of trail in the Whites. Elevation gain is so subtle you barely feel that you’re climbing, and water abounds: rivers, streams, marshes, ponds.
With such a gentle invitation, you’re not offended when slammed by the profile up to and beyond Zealand Falls Hut.
Once up high, the ridge walk is delicious: shady and cool, bog-bridgy comfort with tons of views.
Soon, you meet the short side trail to Zealand.
Someone had been there before me, so I didn’t linger.
Next, it was up and over Guyot and on to the Bonds.
The winds felt windier than predicted, but luckily the views were viewier up there. Hikers struggled to stay upright, often crouching or sitting down during stronger blasts. My hat was blown off my head and an inner debate ensued: stay off the fragile alpine plants or Leave No Trace? LNT won out, and I found myself wading through blueberries as I nibbled my way over to where my hat was stuck.
I took a break on the way back at an overlook where, years before, my youngest son and I had celebrated his 11th birthday with a similar hike and overnight.
All in all, it was a brilliant day. I couldn’t wait to get home to add the dates to my Grid doc.
Let it be said that this is a busy doc, particularly center-page, with the mountains in rows across and the months in columns above. It’s a, well, Grid – and making sure one has the correct peak, written in the correct month, in the correct format (2-digit day, comma, apostrophe, 2-digit month) is important. In June, I had made a mistake and written some peaks in the July column, but I didn’t have white-out at the time, and corrected the mistake later.
Weeks went by, I hiked Zealand and the Bonds on the last July day of 2021, and was ready to see those three fat months all checked off.
As I was adding the days’ peaks, I noticed with horror that I had written down the Twins twice on the same day and year. WHAT-???
Quickly checking my workout calendar, I confirmed what I already knew: I hadn’t hiked the Twins in July, this year or ANY year. They had been part of that mistake last month, but I had neglected to white them out. Distraught, I quickly crossed them out in pen, not caring how it messied up the document.
July was over.
I’d have to wait a whole another year to Grid it out – possibly two, since I’ve been planning a Camino de Santiago hike that Covid keeps interrupting, and I was hoping to be in Spain next summer.
Adding insult to injury, for a few extra miles, I could have added the Twins to my hike that day. They could have been satisfyingly my 399th and 400th peaks.
I suppose I could have remained there in my disappointment and frustration, keen on my inability to fix an unfixable situation.
But lately, and with great surprise to myself, I’ve been trying to invite God into those vexations, big and small, that litter the road of our days.
How else can I see this, God?
Instead of obsessing over two lost peaks or two lost years, I felt a nudge back toward the simple reason why I started The Grid in the first place: I like to hike.
And having more peaks to hike – 178 to be precise – isn’t that a good thing? And doesn’t that also take the pressure off forcing myself to finish the hikes I still have left in the winter months?
I could be more selective. Safer.
I could even do peaks I’ve already checked off, like Moosilauke in the rain with actual company.
Or Mt. Cardigan – it’s not even on the list!
Like blueberries on the way to retrieving my hat, I’m learning how to find beauty in the hard.
I think it pleases Him when we can trust that His perspective is best; there have certainly been some big trusts He’s asked of me, when I couldn’t see what He could see.
This past weekend, we finally put my son’s ashes in the ground. They’ve been moving around with us, tucked away in an urn, for the past five years.
It was time to give him a permanent place, pretty and calm, surrounded by flowers and trees and grass.
But here’s the thing.
His short happy life did not end in that hole in the earth.
As we stood quietly saying good-bye, I was reminded of something the great preacher and evangelist D.L. Moody wrote in his autobiography, and it is as true for Moody as it is for my son:
Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal—a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.
Would that our perspective be ever that simple.
It’s only a matter of trust.