On top of the world, together By...

A MEMORABLE PLACE

September 03, 2000

A MEMORABLE PLACE

On top of the world, together

By Laine Malcotti

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

My husband, Ray Knowles, and I have been taking yearly adventure vacations since we met in 1993 on a snowboard trip to Maine. To commemorate our seventh year together, we returned to New England to hike and canoe. Our first destination would be New Hampshire and the summit of Mount Washington.

Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast, topping out at 6,288 feet. Some of the most severe weather has been recorded at the summit, including winds clocked at 231 miles per hour.

The mountain is noted for its drastic weather changes. It can go from a sunny afternoon to a blizzard in a matter of minutes. Markers along the trails remind hikers of those who have died when caught unprepared.

There are several routes to the top, including a cog railway and a driving route. Hikers can ascend 4,500 feet in a little over three miles.

We started at the base of Pinkham Notch on a beautiful June day. The trail was extremely rocky, and we had to look at the ground for most of the hike. After having seemingly climbed straight up for hours without a view, we were finally greeted with the most incredible sight: a mammoth ravine full of snow with the most gorgeous blue skies at its hem.

Then the trail seemed to climb vertically. We had to stop after every step to judge where the next one may lie.

At last we were above the tree line, and we thought we could see all of New England. We arrived at the Angel Garden Trail marker. This was the last big push to the top.

Climbing over enormous boulders was peaceful. We could hear only the wind and the movement of the rocks under our feet. We turned and looked back often, knowing our climb would soon be over. As we neared the peak, we could see the bumpers of cars, a strange sight even though we had only been on the trail three hours.

As our eyes adjusted to civilization, our ears seemed to be deceiving us. I asked my husband if he heard cheering. As we approached the parking lot, we heard a person calling announcements through a microphone.

And then we could see sponsor flags as people ran through a finish chute with a timer displaying one hour and 15 minutes. Then it dawned on me: These people had run an eight-mile race up the mountain road.

At the summit, with a blanket of clouds above, we looked down on the White Mountains and realized our accomplishment. I asked a race finisher to take our picture. Even though she had run up the mountain, she was impressed that we had hiked up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. So were we.

Laine Malcotti lives in Eldersburg.

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