We move slowly on wet rocks covered with moss.
The trail zig-zags roughly up the north side of West Royce Mountain and we struggle against the blowing mist, closing over us like a cold blanket.
A stiff wind tears through the trees over our heads and freezing water rains down off the leaves onto us. We are sweating and freezing, chilled and overheated. West Royce is supposed to be a beautiful mountain, with far-reaching views. Today, we see nothing. The mountain is angry.
Janelle is in the lead and I watch her silently work her way around slick boulders. She picks a root instead of flat ground, and before I can reach out, she’s down in the moss with a thump.
“Argh!” she grumbles. “Stupid roots!” She brushes the dirt and mud off the knees of her pants, jams her poles into the dirt and lifts herself up.
“Blood? Breaks?” I ask.
“No,” she says. “Some days are just not good for hiking.”
But she does not ask to turn around. She shakes the frigid water out of her hair, takes a deep breath, and moves on.
Indeed, today is not a good day for hiking. But where a day like this used to illicit frustration or worse, tears, today Janelle screws down that negative emotion and calibrates it into determination. We are here, the summit awaits; weather be damned.
West Royce Mountain (9/22/12)
Height: 3,210 feet
Location: North Chatham, near Gorham. I-93 north to Exit 35 to Route 3 to Route 116 to Route 2 through Gorham to Route 113 into Evans Notch to Wild Rover Road.
Our trailhead: Burnt Mill Brook Trail to Basin Rim Trail.
Distance: 5.4 miles round trip. (Alert: The site of the old fire tower is about 30 yards south of the signed intersection. A dim beat path can be found on the west side of the trail.)