Oh, there is so much wisdom to be found on the trails.
I just completed a 19.6-mile bike ride on the Franconia Notch recreational trail, in northern NH. As I write, I’m sitting at my campsite along the Pemigewasset River (actually, it is more like a stream at this early point of its path) listening to the babbling water on its way south to join the ever expanding flow.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Cindy and I have snowmobiled this “biking” trail. And, we were fortunate enough to do so in 2003 just before the Old Man of the Mountain fell. Today, there is an Old Man viewing area with apparatuses that allow you to get a sense of what the Old Man looked like when he will still mounted high above Profile Lake. More on that later.
I’d have to say that the experience is so much different when you are meandering through the woods on a bicycle, as you seem to have more of an opportunity to stop and glance at the many wonders of nature in this fantastic state park. When on a snowmobile all I want to do is go super fast 🙂 So naturally, I miss a lot of the scenery.
Lafayette Campground, where I’m staying, is right in the middle of the 9+ mile recreational trail (which runs north / south). The gentleman at registration said the northern portion of the trail is steeper while the southern part is more of a gradual slope. My response: No matter. What goes up must come down.
I decided to take on the more difficult section first to get that behind me while I was still fresh. The scenery on this end of the trail was mostly mountains as well as passing a nice spot along Profile Lake. All extremely beautiful!
Note: You can click on any of these photos to expand and get a better view.
The next 2 photos are of the Old Man viewing area. Notice the 6 apparatuses, in the first picture. Each has a figure at the top that, once you align yourself with where the Old Man once was on display, you can get a sense of what it looked like. Each apparatus is designed to provide viewing for people of specific ranges of heights.
The following photo provides a sense of what the Old Man looked like from my vantage point on the viewing apparatus. Click on the picture to get a better look.
After making it back to the campground (just over 10-miles completed) I then had to decide if I’d continue riding, by taking on the southern portion of the trail, or go back to camp and relax. I decided to press on.
This portion of the trail provides numerous scenic spots along the “growing” Pemigewasset River. Growing, because an increasing number of streams feed the river serving to expand its flow.
The scenes include a number of natural wonders made by flowing water over thousands upon thousands of years.
This is a highly recommended biking excursion that I’ll definitely do again! And, because I did this trip on a Thursday, there were few carbon units (I mean people) to be seen along the trail.
That said, there are 2 drawbacks, which directly result from my being spoiled from our experiences staying on Students Island in the middle of Mooselookmeguntic Lake.
First, the campsite (and much of the biking trail) is alongside route 93. While the highway can’t be seen from the campsite or most of the biking trail, you can definitely hear it. Not a big deal, as you can divert your attention to the babbling waters of the Pemigewasset.
Second, the campsites are fairly close to one-another. On Mooselookmeguntic, the sites are at least 50 to 100 yards apart. You couldn’t hear someone if they hollered. Where I presently sit, I can hear the young family talking “next door.” Just a little too close for comfort, for me 🙂
Lest you think I’m unwilling to share nature, here is a photo of my new friend who I offered some of my peanuts.
Now, to the point of this post…
The wisdom gathered on this ride was actually found at the northern-most point of the biking trail, when I arrived at an information kiosk at the trailhead for numerous hiking paths to the surrounding mountains.
One of the posters on the kiosk, in bright yellow, read:
HIKER RESPONSIBILITY CODE
You are responsible for yourself. So, be prepared:
- With knowledge and gear. Become self-reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.
- To leave your plans. Tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you’ll return and your emergency plans.
- To stay together. When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.
- To turn back. Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. The mountains will be there another day.
- For emergencies, even if you are headed out for just an hour. An injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life-threatening. Don’t assume you’ll be rescued. Know how to rescue yourself.
- To share the hiker code with others.
Now, if you give the Hiker Responsibility Code more than a cursory glance you’ll see SO MANY parallels with life (outside the woods). I could go through each of the above points and draw these parallels, but I’ll spare you.
Instead, I’ll highlight just a few points that are so important in life:
- We must EACH become self-reliant by the time we reach adulthood. I have very close family members who had to do so in their early teens. This included figuring out how to live on their own (earning their own room and board) because they were abandoned by their parents. For those of us whom this didn’t happen; we should feel super-blessed.
- We CANNOT assume that we will EVER be rescued. Not by our parents, other family members, our church or government. To be fair, any one of these “may” be able to provide a lifeline (and again we are “blessed” if that is the case) but we must never assume this is available.
- Be prepared! This is the easy part. All we need to do is sit down and write out our life plan and then execute. This includes thinking through each path we are considering taking, in advance, and making sure we have all the necessary resources (funding, equipment, back-up plans, etc.) to FULLY SUSTAIN OURSELVES for the journey WE have “chosen.”
In closing…Before anyone freaks out and feels alone, you are not. Just assume that you are and prepare accordingly.
Bottom-line: You are responsible for yourself.