” I hike. I’m hiking!” – Manchester Ink Link


OPINION



” I do not lie. I just remember big. “-John Steinbeck.


50 years ago this month, I first set foot in the White Mountains. To be more specific, 50 years ago my wet and cold feet and my jeans got completely soaked in several streams in the White Mountains.

I am a native Connecticut flatlander, although I have lived in Manchester for 44 years. I moved here in September 1978, two weeks before Bucky Dent broke the hearts of Red Sox fans.

The idea for the trip to New Hampshire was born during spring finals week in 1972 with college brains already in overdrive. I had just passed my Anthropology 101 final. Show me the skull: Ramapithecus, Australopithecus, Abby Normal’s yet-to-be brain. I knew them all.

You could actually take liberal arts classes in 1972. Here’s a slice of Economics 101: My freshman year at the University of Connecticut cost me $1,950, including dorm and fatty fish stick dinners. My student loan payments were $39 per month when I graduated. It now costs $1,950 to go to a Patriots game with a $39 beer.

Mike and Armand lived across from me. They weren’t just an unusual pair for housemates. They were an unusual pair for two people on the planet. Mike been a planet. He had two goals in life for his 6-foot-3, 275-pound body: to become a history teacher and to be the arm wrestling world champion.

I made the mistake of insulting Mike once, but only once. I said something like, “I bet you didn’t know the Peloponnesian War was fought against a woman named Penelope.

He picked me up by the waist, hoisted me above my head, and walked me down the hall.

“Honest to God, Mike!” I pleaded. “That was a joke, a bad joke! You are the greatest history teacher in the world. PLEASE DON’T!”

The cold shower hit me with all the subtlety of the iceberg that hit the Titanic. Looking back, it was a harbinger of what was to come in the White Mountains.

Mike had imagined an ingenious contraption in his room. It was a small bench with a seat, just the right height for what he called “wrist wrestling”, and had a series of pulleys and weights to practice on while he read the book. story in his left hand.

Few have dared to test it. Two who made it in the dorm were offensive tackles for the UConn football team. They didn’t last longer than it took for Mike to say “Boompf!” its versatile expiration.

Mike’s roommate, Armand, was a skinny, myopic art student with flowing black locks and coke bottle glasses. His real passion was the electric guitar. He practiced without a power outlet night after night, and back in the days before social media, people actually appreciated the true company of the other. Armand’s unplugged riffs and the “Boompfs!” by Mike were music to study.

Armand played lead guitar in the Blake Street Gut Band, a New Haven rock institution for years.

We headed north for New Hampshire late on a Friday in Mike’s car with the finals in the rearview mirror.

Mike had played high school hockey for the Berlin Mountaineers (NH). As a defender, I doubted a pipsqueak right winger had ever reached the goalie.

I found a payphone, a device used by your ancestors, and called my parents to tell them I wouldn’t be home for a few days. No answer. No answering machine.

“Have you reached them? Armand asked the car.

“No, and I had three live spiders and 112 dead moths trying to use the phone at the same time,” I replied.

I realize now that we were at Indian Head. A state marker now sits at the site, supposedly the spot where Betty and Barney Hill were abducted by aliens in 1961.

I only had to worry about Mike.

The three of us were on a bridge in Berlin overlooking rainbow-colored water. The smell was a combination of dead skunks and the pile of foul laundry my roommate Don always kept in a corner of our bedroom.

“The smell is from the stationery,” Mike said with perverted pride. “It’s the smell of my hometown.”

“And I thought Port Chester, New York was bad,” I said. I immediately regretted the lightness and backpedaled, fearing for my safety.

It was now dark and Mike was driving way too fast on a winding road that made your stomach hurt. Unlike Flatland, there was no marker that read “Junction of I-95 and Merritt Parkway 1 Mile”. It was my first time on the Kancamagus highway. It was like the dark side of the moon.

Mike parked the car in a clearing with a wooden sign that said “No Camping”.

“We will stay here for the night,” he said.

We would be well prepared with a two person tent and cheap sleeping bags.

We drew straws.

I lost.

My head could stay inside the tent but the rest of me would have to sleep somewhere else.

“Angelo, close the tent as close to your neck as possible,” Mike said. “Black flies and skeeters can be murder.”

I had no idea what black flies were. Couldn’t be worse than a bear biting my ankle. I lay awake listening to the sounds of bears or Armand being muffled by Mike rolling over him.

Solitary Lake. Image/Wikipedia

We “oohed and aahed” at Old Man of the Mountains Hot Tub and Basin the next morning before Armand spotted a sign that said “Lonesome Lake 1.6 Miles” behind the basin.

It’s 1.6 miles as the crow flies. Armand and I were naive pigeons in Mike’s hands.

Why didn’t Mike warn us, I don’t know. He was wearing his Air Force reserve boots. We wore sneakers. The shoes weren’t the only thing working against us.

“Spring melt,” muttered Mike as my foot slipped off a rock into cold water for the first of many times on the trail.

Those familiar with the Lonesome Lake Trail will know that there is a 200 meter long and 30 foot wide slab of rock about half a mile from the hike, perfect in the summer for sunbathing with water gently descending down the center. In May, the flow is wider and faster and the water gives off a cold mist. We were uphill for about 45 minutes when I made the mistake of saying, “We need to be near the lake now.

Lonesome Lake was still an hour and a half ahead of how we were traveling.

I forgot all about my frozen feet and kneecaps when a hole in the trees revealed Lonesome Lake and the bluest water I had ever seen. They had a rowboat back then that you could take out on the lake, and the presidentials in profile in the background were as majestic to me as the Miracle Mets of 1969. Merrily-mercifully…

I have done the hike three times since arriving in New Hampshire. As a concession to age, I spent the night at the cabin last time.

Lonesome Lake is all the hike I’ve ever needed.

No competition.

“Boom! »