Baby U cups her hands and digs into a thin layer of gravel, rocks and dirt. The wind at the top of Elephant Rock in Crawford Notch comes up valley and tussles her already wild and unruly wall of hair. We’ve been exploring the AMC’s Highland Center area of the notch these past couple days, just her and I – dipping our feet into the muddy water, picking wild flowers in the fields near the center, crawling and climbing on any stable surface, and a few unstable ones.
We are exhausted, and filthy, and we both stink.
But our eyes are clear, and she looks up at me with a handful of dirt and twigs and roars like a tiny 25 pound dinosaur and dumps the entire concoction into my own outstretched hand.
This is our training. Well, my training. At some point during my 2017 year exploring Mount Washington, I plan on putting her on my back and getting her to the top. I might be solo, I might not. We might take the Cog Railroad down. But however the results, the method will be her and I, and the rocks and dirt under our feet and the wind in our hair. So, we hike, little by little, inch by inch.
First, little woods hikes like this – a round trip of about .7 miles up to this extraordinary lookout, shaped like the head of an elephant, about 600 feet above the notch that marks the entrance to Crawford.
And besides singing “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” about 1,000 times, Baby U is perfectly at home on my back, patting the back of my head saying “hat, hat” over and over at my bandana.
She is still fearless – steep cliffs, buzzing bees, mushrooms – none of those things appear to give her any pause at all, and we’ll have to work on that some. But for now, we have this little summit to ourselves with no worries.
She goes back for another load of rocks, stumbles and goes down in the dirt. I move to sweep her up, but instead she just wipes her hands on her sweater and moves on. She’s focused, happy, disheveled, in the mountains.
And dirty. But the dirt just makes us stronger.
Dan Szczesny is a author and journalist living in New Hampshire. He’s currently working on “The White Mountain,” a compendium of the cultural and social history of Mount Washington. For more information on the book and to learn how you can contribute, watch the video and read about the book here: The White Mountain Book