My husband, Dave, has a pair of Limmer boots. They are handmade boots that are made in New Hampshire. He has had the boots for at least 15 years. Even though they have always been just a little too tight he continues to wear them because he likes the tightness when hiking, loves the boots and the company that makes them.
Our 11-year-old daughter has outgrown her hiking boots, women's size 9.5. She now needs an 11.5 women's boot. This is not a common shoe size, so Dave has been having trouble finding new boots for her. It occurred to him that maybe his Limmers would fit her. He pulled them out of the closet and showed them to Aurora. He started to talk with affection about the boots. "They are handmade in New Hampshire," he said. "I had them resoled a few years ago. The soles only have a couple of hundred miles on them. The boots themselves have more than 1,500 miles on them," he informed Aurora. "Wow, that's a lot of miles to hike," Aurora said.
My heart aches as Dave talks about his boots and past hikes they have done together. You see, I have a secret. I want to become a hiker. I dream of hiking for days up mountains, through valleys, beside rivers—in the wilderness with everything I need on my back. I want to collect mountains like some people collect coins, cars, or ceramic figurines. I will pick one, learn about it, hike it, and then add it to my list. There is a hike called the Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that I like to think about hiking. Hikers can climb all of the mountains in the Presidential Range in one continuous 23-mile-long hike. It is usually hiked north to south, climbing the 10 peaks in the order listed below. This plan gets the greatest elevation gains over with early in the hike. Some hikers do the traverse in one day, starting before dawn and often hiking until after dark.
In one hike I could collect ten mountains and really get started. At 53 years old, I'm feeling time is of the essence. I talked about hiking the Presidential Traverse for my 50th birthday. Three and a half years have passed since then. At this moment, I find myself surrounded by 20-somethings: my son, his friends, my nieces and nephews. I am watching them become their adult selves—creating their lives. They are all making such interesting plans. I find it inspiring. It feels like everything, anything, is possible for them. Life is up for grabs. As I cheer them on, I want to believe it's not too late for me, for anyone. That we can all make plans, grab for dreams, become who we want to become.
When my sister was a senior in high school, she wanted me to take her camping and hiking as a graduation present. We packed the car with minimal gear—a tent, 2 sleeping bags, maybe a flashlight, and a cooler for food. We drove to the northwest corner of Connecticut. Somehow we knew there was a mountain and camping in that area. With the help of kind people and helpful rangers, we managed to find and hike Bear Mountain. We also found a place to camp. I think (hope) we made and enjoyed a campfire. Throughout the two-day trip, we found interesting places to explore, including Kent Falls, a 150-to-200 ft waterfall at Kent Falls State Park and did fun things: visited antique stores, swam in a stream, and ate delicious treats. It was a wonderful trip. But then I went back to college and didn't camp or hike again for a long time.
During my first phone conversation with my husband, Dave, we talked about hiking. It was the second common ground we found, right after sailing. I mentioned that I had a list of the highest peaks in each of the 50 states. Dave started guessing the peak name for each state and I told him the elevation. He knew a lot of the mountains and had hiked many of them. We talked about the idea of hiking each one—the lowest, at 345 feet, Britton Hill, in Lakewood, Florida; and the highest at 20,320 feet, Mount McKinley, in Alaska. It felt possible, even probable that we would do it—hike the 50 highest points in 50 states. But then we had our daughter and our son and it's 12 years later.
While Christmas shopping at Anchor and Compass, a store for guys in Deep River,Connecticut, I found an inspiring book: Let Them Be Eaten By Bears: A Fearless Guide to Taking our Kids into the Great Outdoors. The author, Peter Brown Hoffmeister, gives clear, practical advice about helping kids enjoy and own the great outdoors. Chapter 2 of the book is entitled, Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone. The chapter opens with an explanation about how our brains work: "According to a widely quoted National Science Foundation study, the average human has 12,000-60,000 thoughts per day.…but scientist estimate that 95 to 99 percent of our thoughts are the exact same thoughts we had the day before." Hoffmeister goes on to say that scientist believe that we can follow these same thoughts for days and days, weeks and weeks, and sometimes years and years. I found this profound, and a call to action.
I am going to stop spinning the same thoughts day to day, week to week, and year to year. I have decided to be the hiker of my dreams. Every day I put on my own beloved Limmers and hike. Not long hikes, not hikes up grand mountains, but every day I put miles on my boots and am my hiker self. I have faith the mountains will come and when they do, I will climb.