Every summer when I was young, my family ventured into the wilds of western Maine to go camping, passing the time biking, canoeing, swimming, moose scouting, exploring waterfalls, white-water rafting, and, of course, hiking. Ahh, hiking…there was nothing quite as satisfying as reaching the top of a tall peak after a strenuous hike, enjoying a sandwich and a Diet Coke, with my dad reciting their old slogan “Just for the taste of it!” Each and every hike, I inevitably reached a point of exhaustion, and my daddy would hoist me up on his shoulders and carry me. Every hike.
Then one day it came time for the Big One. I’m not just talking “big-to-a-9-year-old-girl.” I’m talking, Maine’s highest peak, the northern point of the Appalachian Trail, considered to be one of the toughest climbs in New England and possibly the most difficult on the Appalachian Trail. And we weren’t just going to climb it, we were going to climb one peak, cross Knife’s Edge to get to another peak, and climb down. It was the Big One.
I’m not sure if I was just a little more grown up, or if it was my pink T-shirt that read “Don’t Give Up!” in fabric-painted letters…but I wanted to do this one on my own. We had a long hike up to one of the 5 peaks of the mountain, then began our trek across the Knife’s Edge. We finally made it across the jagged stone path when my dad asked me if he could carry me. I didn’t need him to…I could do it by myself (which, coincidentally, had been my motto from the time I was 2). I was big enough and strong enough to make it, and I had the endurance I would need to make it on my own.
I’ve learned now that what made that hike so special was not how strong or brave I was, nor how much I could brag about my accomplishments. Rather, it was the precious time spent with my family and memories that I’ll never be able to go back and change.
That was the last hike I remember with my dad. I’m so glad I wasn’t too stubborn to let him carry me that day.