Climb Every Mountain

I tried mountain climbing. Once. Never again. Several years ago, my sister-in-law Linda, and I drove to Bangor, Maine, to visit my daughter. We took a leisurely route stopping over along the way to spend the night with friends. We arrived in Maine a day later, exhausted from the long hours of sitting, but ready to have some fun.

One of the fun activities that my daughter had planned for us was a trip to Moosehead Lake. This destination was about 2 or so hours north of her place and was a beautiful drive. With a name like Moosehead, one is bound to see a real live moose along the way or so I thought. No moose were moving about that day much to my disappointment. But we did see some of the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery this country has to offer. We arrived at Moosehead Lake and took a ferry over to an island containing Mount Kineo. The plan was for us to take a hike up to the summit of this modest mountain, plant our flag (or something like that, or maybe it was to offer up a yodel), come back down and have a relaxing ride home. So we took off on our trek. Several things were not in our favor (by this I mean for Linda and me) – age, inexperience, lack of fitness, heat, hunger, thirst and perhaps the worst, my running nose. Let’s discuss these.

Our first mistake was embarking on our climb at 11am. Our lack of planning got us to this point about an hour before lunch time and several hours after breakfast. This meant that hunger was going to strike about 15 minutes into our strenuous exercise. Not good. Second mistake was not bringing along a bottle or two of water. Everyone knows that climbing causes thirst and climbing in the heat causes extreme thirst. I know now that it sounds ridiculous, but I could have sworn that my daughter said there was a little comfort station at the summit that would offer food, drink and a potty break. I guess I dreamed that, because it was not true. But that is what kept me climbing for as long as I did. That brings me to my third and fourth mistakes. Not enough tissues in my pocket and NO chapstick. My nose ran from the time we left the ferry until we returned hours later. I only had two tissues with me and that was about a box and a half too few. All of my heavy open-mouth breathing caused my lips to dry out so badly I could hardly swallow. I was a hot mess.

My daughter had made this trip up Mount Kineo many times. Alone. Just the thought of that made my skin crawl thinking about all of the dangers that could befall a lone climber. The path we took up was a path designed by and for a mountain goat. Certainly not a path for two genteel ladies well past their prime with no climbing abilities whatsoever. I don’t even like climbing steps with a banister to hold on to inside an air-conditioned building. There were rocks – no, boulders – in the path and twisted tree roots the size of my arm along the way to trip over. There were man-made steps dug into the dirt that would challenge Paul Bunyan’s stride. There were low hanging limbs that would smack you in the face if you didn’t watch where you were going.

We took many breaks to catch my breath. Linda never complained about the climb, but I could tell she was as miserable as I was. About 3/4 of the way to the summit, I had a Come-to-Jesus talk with myself. My body said, “Susie, if you don’t stop now, you may not be able to make it back down the mountain since your legs feel like spaghetti now.” I listened to this wise voice speaking to me. I knew I could not go any further, so I bit the bullet and told my daughter that I had to stop. I felt like the biggest failure in the world at that moment. I sat down on a rock and cried because I had let my daughter down.

She took it just fine, and after a short rest, we started back down the mountain. I was surprised at how easy the descent turned out to be. This was very fortunate because I was starving, thirsty, chapped, bone-tired and my nose was still running a marathon. We made our way up to the house on the golf course near the ferry stop. That must have been the comfort stop that I imagined was at the mountain summit.

We finally got back to the car about 4 hours after we first landed on the island and headed back toward Bangor. We came upon a cute little roadside BBQ restaurant and stopped in. I believe the meal we had was the best meal that I have ever eaten! And the ice tea was magnificent. After our meal, we continued on our journey back to sea level, and I vowed that I would enjoy the great outdoors on more level ground from now on.

Written by Sue Adams, WBWF Office Manager

Click here to donate to the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, a 501(C)(3) non-profit.