Adams, Madison, and A Humbling Experience

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Fisher Cat

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Jul 27, 2007
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I don't know how long this story will be because, like most people, I don't like admitting my own mistakes. I opted for the title above over the thought of "Self-Confessions of an Idiotic Big Mouth".

Michele ( Klutzy Kat ) and I have returned for yet another week of tramping about our beloved Whites. As she closes in on her 48, I continue to be amazed at her resillence, determination, and pure will. We had already done some trail work, altered our non-work day hiking plans due to weather, and on this day aimed for Adams and Madison via Air Line. As I gleefully awaited the NOAA forecast on my radio, I was almost unconciously bounding up and down to hear the results of last night's anticipated high pressure arrival. With the opening announcers words of " A textbook day is upon us...", we were off to the Appalachia lot.

Finding room to park was akin to landing on an already stacked up aircraft carrier, but we did. Then we loaded up, adjusted whatever needed it, and off we went. We were both primed with food and fluids. We did have a later start than we planned, but we had already scrapped the idea of ascending any of the routes through King Ravine. I must admit that with my new Canon, I have also become obsessed with macro floral shots for some reason. Regardless, there were lots of beautiful sights, beautiful views, and lots of, well....people.

I think we all begin our hikes with a certain level of expectation of the people we will meet. Despite our many different tastes, we share much in common in the hiking world. We are all driven to be out there and we thrive as individuals in an environment that gives so much back to us. When you personally think of the various hikers you have met over the years, it comes down to a common denominator that we all want to be there. Oh sure, we may classify certain ones, or even groups, according to their presumed abilities and knowledge, but we must exercise caution as to do such can be quite dangerous.

We were playing a game of one-sided leapfrog, always yielding to hikers passing us, watching them move upward and away, and, quite contrary to their assurances that we would soon pass them, we never did. We were in the quiets of the forested realm and very happy. Despite our slow, yet enjoyable, ascent to Adams, we were quite amazed to top out 15 minutes ahead of book time. We had planned on lunch at the summit, but the only thing more populous than hikers were the bugs, and we retreated to the Hut. By now it was 230pm and we decided to eat lunch and then decide if we felt like doing Madison. Feeling refreshed, we headed up Madison at 3pm. We knew our descent would get us out of the woods late, but who cares, this is vacation. Up and up we went, like salmon fighting upstream, two day hikers ascending amidst an onslaught of descending Hut overnighters who had all the time in the world to come down.

I will admit that I can be a critical person. I spent my youth here amidst these hills, I've been hiking these mountains every year of my life since I was 5. I'm proud of my volunteer service on these trails, and of the friends and family who still call and consider me a "local" despite now living out of state. And perhaps that is why I still retain and hold onto the time honored viewpoints and conceived notions of "flatlanders", "out of townwers", and "out of staters", and the like. But when we got to the top of Madison, there was a large group, with one man in particular who I thought was one of the most talkative, boisterous hikers I had ever heard in my life. Good lord, I thought, this man is completely obnoxious.

Out time at the top was to be short, we still had a long way outbound to go. Knowing we would be slow, we did not want to hold up this large group, but they just wouldn't stop talking and leave. With building and evident frustration, I skirted through them. Once out of earshot, I expressed to my wife sentiments along the lines of "stop yapping and start hiking", etc., etc. There was a woman in front of us, short, with glasses and a pink jacket. She turned and asked if I was referring to the large group now behind us. Thinking she shared the same feelings as me, I replied "yes", and was about to let fly something else dumb out of my big mouth when she said, "oh yes, one of them is completely blind." She explained which one and indeed, it was the man I had considered to be " completely obnoxious". She explained that, due to a disease in his 20's, he had lost his vision, but had the goal of hiking all of the 48 and the large group was his support team, there to help guide him every step of the way.

I was both flabbergasted and ashamed, repectively pf his courage and my thoughtless arrogance. I thanked her for the explanation and told her that the only thing almost as incredible than him and his feat, was the incredible individuals like her helping him. She said she was truly thankful for those kind words, and we departed. I had come to realize that first impressions are not always the right ones.

I did not feel myself worthy enough to return, shake his hand, and apologize to him for the brashness known only to me. I do not know if anyone he knows will even read this to him, or be aware I have written this. But, whoever you are, you are a better man than me. Wherever you go, may your steps be safe and successful, and your journey complete, and may you always be blessed with the support of your incredible companions, family, and friends.

Indeed, what would we be without hikers of varying abilties, without the fastest or the slowest, the young and powerful, or the old and experienced? Without those who hike barefoot, or in other eccentric manners? What would we have without those who hike in the face of impossible odds or supposed restricitions, even trying circumstances known only on a personal level? All we would have without then would be a lot of empty mountains.

Yet with such a vast crowd, all with different personalities, challenges, and abilities, we have more than just mountains. We have a way of life, and in the end, for some of us- myself certainly included-, a new way to look at it.

Pics are here:
I am sooo impressed by what Randy is doing with the help of his lifeline Quinn.

Most people here know I often refer to my Mom, who is blind, and who once was a Mountaineer, and the profound impact her guide dogs have made on her life, my life, my families life...(if they read my posts...however, I don't presume!)

I told Randy about my Mom when he was looking for relief maps of the Whites so he could "feel" the mountains, to which I pointed him to Steve Smith, because I couldn't help further.

And I told my Mom about Randy so she could feel renewed in spirit. That helped alot. :)

I always enjoy your writing, Fisher Cat, for its lack of ego and its simplicity -- it always draws me back to what really matters.

I love this post and especially your confession of its change of title..very humbling...and spot on.:p
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Very heartfelt, beautiful post! Thank you for sharing this!

As always, Scott, a beautiful report and great pictures. I made a similar mistake with Randy and Quinn. I was invited to an event last winter, but turned down the invitation because it was held in a dog-free zone. Later I saw pictures of the event and noted, somewhat disgruntled, that there had indeed been a dog at the event. Then someone explained to me that it was Randy and that Quinn was along to be his eyes. It was another lesson in the vein of "Do not judge lest thou be judged thyself." God bless them both, and thanks for the reminder.


PS: Sorry we didn't hook up this trip, congrats on knocking off a few more 4ks on Michelle's list, and thanks again for all your trail-work!
Idiotic Big Mouth

Unfortunately I suffer from that same affliction. Thanks for your honest and heartfelt post.:cool: It takes a big man to admit something like that publicly and I can learn a lesson from it. I think that's one of the best trip reports I have ever read.
I'm gonna shut up now and go be nice to people.
Very interesting indeed...nothing wrong with learning a blood-no hurt feelings since the party didn't even know had an intense experience in the mountains and noone got hurt, albeit an introspective experience. Good on you for sharing and making us all think.

You had a nice growing experience. Thanks for sharing :)
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...I was both flabbergasted and ashamed, repectively pf his courage and my thoughtless arrogance.

Great report. Great experience. Glad you didn't open mouth and insert foot at the summit, but if you hadn't said anything behind the woman, you never would have known. Interesting how things worked out.
Picking on a blind dude huh, that should cost you a few at the pearly gates. My thoughts on this subject are pretty basic, we all screw up and will all screw up again. Your penence, go out and be nice to at least two people and move on.