By Kas Fleury
Nature and the outdoors have been a part of my life since I was a little kid. I credit my parents for my love of exploring and my need for adventure. When my brother and I were little, my mom always made sure we got outside to play. We didn’t grow up playing video games, instead we had the woods and the trails that were right out our front door. Hours upon hours my brother and I would spend climbing trees, walking the stonewalls, and wandering through the woods looking for wildlife and creating our own magical worlds with our stuffed animals. It was such a great childhood and I am so thankful to my parents for giving us that wonderful start.
Fast forward ahead many years and now I find that I am the one getting my parents out for adventures. How things have changed. Instead of them leading the way, encouraging us on, that we could conquer that mountain, now it’s me setting up hikes and cheering them on. I love every moment I get to spend with my parents on the trails and I love being able to share my passion of hiking with them.
One thing I have always wanted to do was to hike Mount Cardigan in New Hampshire with my mom. Cardigan is not a huge mountain but even at its elevation of 3156 feet it offers a great workout and amazing views from its rocky bald summit. My mom has never stood on such a rocky summit before and I just couldn’t wait to see her reaction when she got the first view as we climbed above tree line. Cardigan is the mountain my brother and I hiked with school trips and the go-to mountain for a quick adventure above the trees if we didn’t have a lot of time. My dad has hiked this mountain with me. My husband has hiked this mountain with me. I just hadn’t been able to get my mom to hike it with me… until September 22, 2020.
The weather was perfect, although a bit windy. A true fall day in New England. We arrived at the trailhead late morning and I was surprised at how few vehicles were there. This is such a popular hike that the lot tends to fill quickly most days, even more this year with COVID. My dog, Maggie knew where we were. She has hiked this mountain more times than I can count. It was one of the first mountains she climbed as a puppy and now as a senior pup it is a perfect recovery hike. So off we went… Maggie leading the way. My mom and I chatted and laughed our way up the trail. We took our time so that she could choose the route up the rockier sections that would be the easiest for her. When we broke above tree line for the first time, we stopped to take in the view. It was gorgeous. But then that is when my mom realized the trail turned to granite and rock. No dirt. She has never hiked on something like this before and she was nervous. She didn’t want to fall and she didn’t want to take a wrong step. Maggie would go up ahead of us and sit and wait patiently as we caught up. My job was to be the cheerleader. I found myself taking on the role of coach as I told my mom to take a deep breath and to not let her mind tell her she couldn’t do it. I told her she was stronger than she thought she was. I showed her the routes I took up certain rockier spots and then let her choose the best route for her. As someone who hikes mountains all the time, I take Cardigan for granted. It may seem easy to me but to someone who doesn’t normally hike mountains, it can be intimidating. It was all about one step in front of the other.
We had no reason to rush and actually taking our time gave me a chance to really see the mountain in a way I have never seen it. I’m so used to basically running up the trail to the summit and I really have a new love for this little mountain now. The wind picked up but it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. But those gusts were enough to almost knock you over from time to time. We continued our trek up the open rock face and, suddenly, we were there. My mom was standing at the summit of Mount Cardigan! It was so awesome to be up there with her. I think the best part was when she just stood there and took in the amazing 360 degree view. She also told me that now she gets it, she understands why I do what I do. I’m pretty sure she still thinks I’m crazy but I loved being able to share part of my world with her. We took a snack break and I snapped a million photos, and then we began our trek back down to the car. It was definitely an adventure I’ll never forget and a day I will cherish forever.