View Full Version : wilderness heals

06-21-2004, 07:00 AM
I have just returned from an amazing hiking event that you may remember reading about here on this forum. Wilderness Heals is an annual fundraiser (going on its 10th year) for The Elizabeth Stone House in Jamaica Plain, a community service for women and their children addressing specifically domestic violence and its ramifications. The program enlists women from all walks of life to raise money through people who sponsor them on a three day hike in the Whites. As a first time participant, I would like to share some of my impressions with the hiking community about this event.

First of all, Wilderness Heals is about empowerment...both for the women it represents and for the women who participate. This weekend, I witnessed both novice and experienced hikers challenged by the famous White Mountain fickle weather, steep and slippery trails and unfamiliar environment. Every single member was tested in strength and stamina both physically and emotionally. But by the end, every single member had discovered the inner reserve to finish the trek.

Secondly, as longtime hiker and visitor to the Whites, I can attest to the integrity and professionalism practiced by Wilderness Heals in its efforts to bring a large group of people of varying experience to the mountain enviroment. Safety procedures were taught, encouraged and practiced constantly. Leave No Trace and low impact principles were introduced and practiced. Equipment and its usage reviewed frequently. And above all, every person was made to feel that their individual participation and presence was imperative for the program to succeed...no woman left behind, shall we say.

Lastly, the people who volunteered many hours this past spring as coordinators and team leaders are the ones that deserve the most recognition. I am proud to know them all but especially one who frequently posts here on VFTT. Blue... IMO, you have the makings of a great mountaineer...Thank you for your sound leadership and thank you for your friendship. Yours was perhaps the toughest weekend of all, but you handled it with nobility and sound justice.

I hope that any who read this post will take the time to find out more about the Wilderness Heals program. And I would encourage any woman out there who may have had a passing thought about taking up hiking to consider the program as a dual success story...supporting a community service for those less fortunate and supporting ourselves in personal empowerment.

Peace and Go Wild, Susan

06-21-2004, 08:58 AM
Geez, I'm not supposed to have tears streaming down my face when I read VFTT! :)

Thank you for your support this weekend! It would have been a lot tougher weekend without all the support I received. A little recap:

We had two groups split up - one team hiking Galehead Hut to Zealand Hut and another hiking Madison Hut to Lakes of the Clouds. Our teams had hikers who range from veteran hikers to women who've never worn a backpack and never seen trails like the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail. We do training hikes in the spring to prepare all of our hikers for the event.

I was on the Madison/Lakes side and was relieved to see everyone hike up to Madison Hut safely on Friday. Most of us got up at 3:30AM or 4AM to get to a bus in Newton and head north to the Whites, so we were pretty tired.

On Saturday we got the weather from the Observatory - 30% chance of rain and thunderstorms. At first, this didn't sound so bad, but the current conditions were rainy and cold. We noticed lots of Presi traverse hikers coming into Madison Hut soaked. After consulting with an AMC volunteer and the croo, we decided to go down Valley Way and get over to the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to hike up to Lakes. It was tough - 22 women who wanted to have a beautiful hike along the Gulfside would now have to go down and then up a pretty challenging trail. We made it down and then back up - the waterfalls on the Ammo were especially beautiful, even when the weather wouldn't cooperate. We were treated to some nice views of the Mt. Washington Valley. We noticed that the conditions at Lakes were pretty windy, yet clear enough for a nice sunset. Throughout the day, we heard about the crazy weather along the ridge - horizontal rain, sleet, and lightening on Mt. Washington.

On Sunday our hope was to have a clear day and hike down Crawford to Crawford Notch. The notorious weather report came in - partly cloudy with winds on Washington expected to be 75-100 mph. Snow had fallen on Washington. Winds at Lakes were 35, with 50 mph gusts, temp was 29. Once again we were faced with the question - do you risk taking a group across an exposed ridge in high winds or go back down the Ammo, below treeline? We thought about taking the Edmands Path down, but knew that we would still have some teams above treeline for 2-3 hours with that option.

We still had a fabulous day - we snapped photos of the Ammo waterfalls and had more great views. It was tough to come down and see the clear skies and warm temps - knowing what was above. After all was said and done, this weekend wouldn't be about summits or ridgewalks, but about 5 small teams of women struggling and succeeding in the mountains together.

Thanks :)

Tramper Al
06-21-2004, 09:31 AM
LizaK, you rock!

It sounds like yet another great adventure and a true test of leadership and teamwork.

Please give us more details and a picture or two when you can.

06-21-2004, 09:51 AM
It sounds like you all had a beautiful journey no matter where the trails led. Itís always pleasant to see the benefits of volunteer work.

Bob Kittredge
06-21-2004, 09:54 AM
Tough weekend, indeed.

I waited for the worst of the rain to go by and started up Caps Ridge about 10AM on Saturday hoping to run into Blue's group. I took the Cornice Trail over to Gulfside, intending to tag Clay, but the fog was making hard to find the cairns. When I got to the Gulfside I just turned around and headed for Jefferson. After a bit of lunch on Jeff, I reallized that I had to whip out my compass to make sure I was leaving the summit in the right direction. Didn't get any views at all until I was halfway down Caps Ridge.

On Sunday, the nippy temps and high wind forecast made me abandon my plan to ascend Nelson Crag Trail. We went up Tucks instead, and by the time we hit the top of the headwall the winds had calmed down to manageable levels, but then we were in the lee of the mountain. I imagine Crawford Path would have been pretty gnarly that morning. (My one brush with hypothermia came on Crawford Path one June a few years ago.) I think you used excellent judgement in opting for safer routes.

Cheers, Bob K

06-22-2004, 09:27 AM
Susan, Liza, and the rest of you-
I had an incredible weekend with you two and all of the other fabulous Madison to Lakes women. This was my first year doing Wilderness Heals, and I was extremely impressed with the professionalism I saw--in terms of safety, organization, preparedness, and more. I will never forget that sunset I saw Saturday night after the fog and clouds moved out...and although I was sad that we were not able to do the ridge, I am grateful for the sound decision making that kept us safe. Check out the reports of thwarted Presi Traverses over the weekend in Trail Conditions!

Hiking the Ammo in pouring rain and high winds was an experience I will never forget. I was reminded that fear can only control you if you let it--if you embrace the challenge, take it easy, and let nature's beauty hold you, there is nothing to fear and EVERYTHING to enjoy.

See you on the trails--

06-22-2004, 07:35 PM
Congrats on the hike, and kudos on the tough decision-making. Although my coworker Sue is still sore in the calves (and will probably never be convinced to hike the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail again), she sounds like she had a great time, from the point of view of both the hiking aspect and the community/bonding of the trip.

As for your luck with wind and weather, well ...