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Bring the Family

A hike that was rock-solid fun

(Carlene Hempel)
September 10, 2011

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WHO: Globe reporter Geoff Edgers; his wife, Carlene; their children, Lila, 9, and Calvin, 15 months; and dog Spot.

WHAT: Hiking up Mount Chocorua

WHERE: The White Mountains, New Hampshire

We could have gone to Story Land or headed to the lake again. But Carlene and I decided that it was time for our first, real family hike. We figured Lila, now 9, was old enough to handle it. We picked Mount Chocorua because the 3,500-foot peak is tall enough to be a significant achievement but it ain’t Kilimanjaro.

Cal, the baby, would be hauled up on my back.

I envy those folks who seem capable of slinging their babies up with a slice of American cheese and a bobby pin. These folks usually are shirtless and consume buckets of bulgur wheat. For me, those carriers always present a challenge. But then we stumbled upon one that got us through a very hot hike earlier this spring in Petra, Jordan.

Mount Chocurua is located off the Kancamagus Highway near Conway, N.H. The entire hike is supposed to take seven to eight hours and requires you, in spots, to pull yourself up rock face.

Lila has always surprised us with her stamina, whether it’s catching frogs in Maine or riding her purple bike alongside as I punch out a morning run. (Though there are times I bribe her with the promise of a strawberry Coolatta.) For this hike, we told her we could have lunch at the top and that she could tell friends she conquered the mountain.

We set out early in the morning from the Champney Falls parking lot. The first stretch proved quite easy, uphills slight and broken up by stops at the cool stream rolling to one side. Spot, our Brittany Spaniel, particularly liked this stretch, as he explored the water and jogged ahead as if checking that the path was safe.

Carlene kept watch on Cal. We wanted to make sure we didn’t smush him or leave him squinting in the sun.

As dirt turned to rock turned to steep rock, we ran into trouble. It wasn’t the climbing. A hard wind began to create a considerable chill.

Lila pushed ahead. At a certain point, we were high enough that the trees couldn’t block our stunning views of the Mount Washington Valley.

“Is he cold?’’

“Is he OK?’’

Carlene began to ask these questions as we reached the tree line. I could have done my normal, reflexive “he’s fine,’’ but I wasn’t so sure. It was cold and, with Cal, I didn’t want to wave off concerns and then find out that we had turned our baby into a frozen waffle.

We rested, snacked, and finally came to a spot for lunch. That’s when we realized that our goal would not be realized. Cal’s shirt was soaked with sweat from being pressed against my back. The wind was howling. We hadn’t brought warmer clothes to protect the baby or ourselves.

We broke the news to Lila, who was mildly disappointed. But by the time we got back to the car, we had been hiking for close to five hours. She should be proud, I told her. We had done our first family hike, and it had been rigorous, inspiring, and worthy of reward. We certainly didn’t have to feel guilty about lying on the beach later that day.

Geoff Edgers can be reached at gedgers@globe.com

If You Go

WHO: Globe reporter Geoff Edgers; his wife, Carlene; their children, Lila, 9, and Calvin, 15 months; and dog Spot.

WHAT: Hiking up Mount Chocorua

WHERE: The White Mountains, New Hampshire