Katy, Toby, and I spent this past weekend at my Aunt and Uncle’s (AL and UP) condo in Bartlett, NH taking a long break from Friday to Monday. Columbus Day weekend is typically considered the peak of fall foliage season in northern NH and this year it did not disappoint. We drove up early on Friday morning surrounded by nice weather and beautiful fall colors before spending a low-key day with AL and UP. Toby got accustomed to his new surroundings which he may or may not remember from a year ago when we visited on the same weekend when he was just 4 months old. My sister Mo and her boyfriend David also arrived later on Friday evening to spend the weekend as well.
Naturally, whenever we spend time at the condo we always like to take advantage of the opportunity to get some hiking in. Since Mo and David were looking to bag some 4000 footers, and we were working on the 52 With A View list, we thought it would make sense to find a hike where those two lists intersect. We found our answer with a hike departing from Crawford Depot in Crawford Notch. The first 2 miles of the hike bring you to the top of Mount Avalon which was our destination and a 52 With A View peak. From there, Mo and David could continue on to Mounts Tom, Field, and Willey to bag those three 4000 footers and we could turn around and head back down. The plan was set for Sunday morning where we would reunite the hiking team of Owen and Katy + Mo. (And David. And Toby. And UP.)
We got up at a reasonable hour on Sunday morning, planning to be out the door of the condo at 8:30 AM. We ended up probably a few minutes behind schedule and leaving just before 9AM. Katy, Toby, UP, and I headed out in our car, while Mo and David took theirs. To make their hike more interesting, we also arranged to meet at the Willey House site and spot a car for Mo and David to turn their hike into a traverse. By the time we did the whole car drop, drive to Crawford Depot, organize our gear, and use the restrooms, it was about 9:30 AM and we were on the trail. It was quite chilly at the start, with temperatures in the 40’s and the warm layers, hats, and gloves on. I made fun of Katy for having to borrow UP’s hat and gloves again after we both had to do the same thing 4 years ago when we originally bagged Tom, Field, and Willey on this same weekend. Despite the mishap, we were all warm and ready to go.
The hike up Avalon is not difficult but does have a fairly steep section for the last half mile. We worked our hiking team up the mountain as Toby once again narrated what he saw. Our hike started off with some cloudiness, but as we approached the top, the clouds began to burn off. The view from Avalon is quite nice with angles looking down into Crawford Notch as well as overlooking the Crawford Depot where we started. After giving Toby some time out of the pack, snapping a number of photos, and grabbing some water and a snack, we headed back down. It was here that we wished Mo and David good luck as they had a grander destination. Katy, Toby, UP, and I headed back down to the car.
After separating from Mo and David, Toby began to protest his current situation. I can’t say for certain what he was complaining about, but it was his first prolonged stretch of unhappiness that we have experienced while hiking with him. We stopped and gave him some water and a snack, and did a quick smell test for the diaper, but once we started to continue on again, he continued to cry. I think he might have gotten cold hands when his gloves fell off for a few minutes. In any case, nothing was helping, and we were a mile and half away from the car. I didn’t have much choice but to just hike with a crying baby on my back. I have to say that this is probably the first time that I really felt judged for doing what we do. I know many people have varying, and perhaps very strong opinions about hiking with a baby, but I didn’t really feel those opinions until that moment. I had to pass many people on the way down the mountain while Toby was very unhappy, and the looks and comments I got came in all shapes in sizes, some positive, some not so.
Not long after Toby started doing this, I at one point took a look back at Katy and she just waved her hands forward “Don’t wait for me.” she said. So I headed down, as swiftly and safely as I could. I started talking to Toby, asking him where the sky was, where the trees were, and where the rocks were. This in combination with the jostling of the quick pace began to calm him down. His cries got slower and he clearly was getting tired. He finally fell asleep on my back and the last 10 minutes of the hike I heard Toby snoring in my ear. I got to the bottom around 12 PM and took a seat at a picnic table. Toby woke up and was as happy as ever, and we sat there looking at the passers by and the cars until Katy arrived about a half hour later. We got Toby situated in the car at that point and then UP arrived shortly after that so we could head back to the condo and have some lunch.
I hope someday Toby looks back at the adventures that we brought him on and appreciates the way we helped him learn about the world when he was young. More likely he will probably just say, “Mom and Dad, you were crazy.” I’m ok with that too.