Nervous Nellie Mondate

Usually my guy asks me to recommend a trail for our Monday hikes. But this weekend he had one in mind. Actually, he wanted to conquer it on Saturday, but I put the kabosh on that plan because of predicted thunderstorms that didn’t develop here. We kayaked instead.

And then I was able to postpone it on Sunday because I thought we should do something more palatable for my left knee as I was recovering from a quirk in it due to training (LOL–two runs but plenty of cross-training activities) before participating in the annual Four on the Fourth Road Race. So yesterday, we drove to Bartlett, New Hampshire, and began our journey on the Langdon Trail with the intention of summiting Mount Langdon. But after meeting one couple on their descent and listening to them talk about the views from Mount Parker, we changed our minds mid-hike and climbed to the summit of the latter. It was a fun hike that at first seemed a wee bit boring (did I write that?) as it followed an old logging trail, but eventually the natural communities began to change and we really enjoyed the climb.

Because we often hike in companionable silence, that climb was filled with voices from so many friends who are currently dealing with a variety of difficulties–physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I chatted with them along the way and lifted them on high at the summit–including those who suffer silently. May they all find a moment of peace in their lives.

But, it had to happen eventually and so today dawned. There were no storms on the horizon and after yesterday’s eight-mile climb, my knee felt fine. Darn. I’d run out of excuses. And so this morning I drove us to New Hampshire. At the stoplight in Conway Village, we could see the mountain’s craggy outline contrasted against the blue sky. I wanted to take a photo of a church spire in the foreground and mountain in the back, which seemed apropos for how I was feeling, but a large SUV blocked the total view at the stoplight. We continued on, turning onto the Kancamagus Highway for our trail of choice, for we chose the easy trail. Yeah, right!

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Our journey began with some easy hiking through a hemlock grove. I was liking it. We continued upward and at 1.5 miles reached a decision-making spot–turn left onto a loop by the waterfalls or continue straight. I’d read that the waterfall trail could be dangerous and that rescues were sometimes necessary, but agreed to go–stating, of course, that we had the option of backtracking.

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The waterfalls, however, took my breath away–and my fear . . . for the moment.

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I extended that moment by taking numerous photos in different settings of the same thing.

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Up and up we climbed beside them,

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and with every step the landscape changed. Watching water flow is like watching the flames in a campfire–each moment a glorious rendition of the same and yet a new statement.

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And at the same spot, a surprise–wood sorrel with its delicate candy-stripe petals.

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At last we climbed the staircase to heaven–or at least back to the main trail.

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The higher we climbed, the rockier the trail became and so my focus was on the ground under my feet. But . . . a downed tree laden with lichen drew my attention for its beauty. As I looked, I realized something was flying about. In my current damselfly/dragonfly mode, I thought I’d spotted a spread-winged damsel until I took a closer look and realized it was a male ichneumon wasp.

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And in another spot below the downed tree, a female ichneumon, her lower abdomen twisted into a disc. My guy actually came back to watch with me as we saw her body throb–using her antennae, she must have honed in on a horntail wasp grub within the wood. Her intention was to drill and secrete a fluid into the grub and then deposit her eggs, which will eventually hatch and consume the grub. How cool is that?

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The trail became much rockier the further up we climbed. And I continued to look for things I haven’t seen recently, including Northern bush honeysuckle, its flowers still in their yellowish-green hue. Check out its long pistils. She’s a pistil!

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A couple of hours later, we reached my moment of fate–when the treeline gave way to open rocks. At first it wasn’t so bad and I thought I could manage it.

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Because the wind was more of an issue in the openness, we decided to find lunch rock before progressing further. The views were breathtaking as we looked toward Kearsarge and even our own Pleasant Mountain.

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Mount Washington was also part of the backdrop.

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And right under our butts–I was liken the lichens on lunch rock. I could have spent the rest of the day in their presence. And probably should have.

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But that was not to be. With other travelers on this mountain, we continued the journey from the false summit to the main summit. I tried to be positive as my knees buckled. I knew I wasn’t alone in that feeling as others also commented. But, I tried to stay focused and along the way, I realized I was looking at a fold as I channeled my inner geologist, Denise Bluhm.

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Hand over hand, we scrambled up.

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The views were incredible.

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Finding the trail wasn’t always easy and we all let the next know where the yellow blaze might be. Finally, after lots of scrambling, I realized I’d reached my ending point. A mental block flashed in my brain and I could go no further. My guy, however, despite his own fear of heights, wanted to give it a try. While he crawled the last 75 feet to the actual summit, I tucked into the mountain and became a trail guide, telling others where they should go and how to place their feet–like I knew.

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It wasn’t long before he descended–using the crab style that became our means of downward locomotion. We made it back to the treeline by the seat of our pants.

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From there, we were thankful to continue our downward descent. And then, less than a mile from the parking lot, we made a delightful discovery–a luna moth.

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She seemed to embody our hike–clinging on as best she could. Her wings were a bit ragged and one ribbony tail missing. I too, was a bit ragged from the experience, and later discovered dried blood on my leg from an encounter with a branch. But, I lived. Sadly, she won’t live much longer–her main job to mate and then die.

Despite that, we were thrilled for the sighting. Seeing a luna moth is such a special treat and that fact that we saw it on the Champney Trail of Mount Chocorua even better.

I’ve spent about forty years avoiding that mountain and for good reason. But today, my guy pulled me out of my comfort zone–to a point. My nervous Nellie syndrome was well earned from my mom–Nellie. She, too, however, stepped out of her comfort zone many times and I have her to thank over and over again.