West Rattlesnake Mountain, Holderness, New Hampshire.
I’m a little nervous. It’s been ages since I took my wife hiking. And last time I may have told her it was just a few miles when it was really closer to seven. If a husband’s going to lie about anything, I figure, the least bad thing is the distance of a hike. And the elevation gain. But at least I brought sandwiches!
We’ve been driving around on side roads just south of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. It’s autumn so the foliage is in full force, but late autumn, and just after a storm, so it looks a little worse for wear. The trees look like they’re on a walk of shame—they’ve seen better days, but they’re still beautiful.
The GPS leads my to our final turn and we pull into the gravel driveway that leads to a gravel parking lot. It’s really just more of a gravel-covered graded clearing in the forest. So New Hampshire. There’s only one other car in the lot—which makes sense because we’re late for peak foliage. We’re visiting during during the part of the year approaching what locals call stick season. That’s how locals name seasons in New Hampshire. There’s leaf season, stick season, mud season, and summer.
We get out and put Bailey on her on her tether. It seems unnecessary considering there’s only one, maybe two other hikers on the trail, but we generally follow the rules when it comes to social customs.
We get to the trailhead and remove Bailey’s leash. No sense in hemming the old girl in if she wants to run. Did I mention she’s a 13-year-old Pomeranian and looks like an orange cottontail with anxiety?
We start walking. It’s a little chilly, but our bodies warm up quickly since the first of this out-and-back one [three] mile hike is straight uphill.
After a short way we encounter the owners of the car. They’re a nice couple from Ohio. Every year they fly into Boston and drive up to Acadia National Park, then down to New Hampshire, and then back to Boston for their own fall foliage trip. They’re nice, in a friends-of-your-parents kind of way. We pass them and then continue onward.
I think I’ve put enough distance between us, so I whip out my drone and buzz him—his name’s Darryl—up and down the trail. I want to capture some footage of us walking in the woods. After nearly ramming him into more than a few trees, I hear the other couple approaching. Darryl puts out a decent amount of noise, so I land and stow him.
Lauren and I turn around and start to turn back. We’ve come far enough and we’re hungry. We talk to the couple for a few minutes and mention we’re turning back. They convince us to continue onward because there’s a view ahead.
“How much farther?” we ask, like we were kids in the backseat on a road trip.
“A couple hundred yards. Can’t be more than 5 minutes ahead”
I can do a few hundred yards. Especially if a couple in their 60s is pushing on. Without breaking a sweat.
We combine our parties and the four of us hike on. Exactly 5 minutes later we come to a clearing. The view is beautiful. I scramble atop a few large boulders to get a better view. I look around for Lauren and Bailey, but they’ve wandered ahead. Maybe Bailey had to pee.
I see Squam Lake in full autumnal glory. The yellows and oranges are so vivid, accented by dots of green where the occasional evergreen stands. The other man informs us this is where On Golden Pond was filmed. Cool. I ask him if he minds if I launch my drone. He doesn’t mind.
Quite the opposite, actually. He scrambles up the boulders and checks out my screen. He asks a bunch of questions in the way that guys do when they see another guy playing with something cool. We chat. Lauren and Bailey return.
“Um, there’s another view just over there.” She points to another clearing.
“Is it better than this one?” I ask. I figure this is as good as it gets.
She’s already running ahead with Bailey in an effort to tire her out. As a dog owner, there’s nothing better than seeing your pup totally pooped and curled up in a tiny ball. We thought the hike would do it, but her batteries still seem pretty full.
I run to catch up.
Holy schnikes. This view is much better. I’d later find out after reading about this that this is the view, the one everybody hikes it for. Nobody stops at the first clearing.
I see all of Squam Lake, including several little islands decked out in their fall foliage best. I launch the drone again, being sure to take both photo and video. This might be the best view I’ve ever seen, and the four of us—five if you count Darryl—have it all to ourselves.
After a half hour of taking it in, and me running back and forth from my tripod to Lauren and Bailey—gotta get those family photos for the ‘gram—we take the other couple’s picture and they disappear.
On the hike back, we don’t see the other couple. Their car isn’t there when we get back to the lot. There’s no way they got back that fast.
Were they ghosts?
Were they angels sent for the specific purpose of pushing us up the mountain? Maybe. Without them we wouldn’t have see the view. And, while the journey was nice, the destination made it all worth it.
I ponder the philosophical meanings of that statement until my hunger whips me back to reality. I grab a KIND bar and head back. We’ve got ribs and whiskey waiting for us back at our lodgings.