“What a brave little girl,” the man says, “climbing such big mountains!”
We are near the Imp Face ledge. The trail is wet. There’s a storm coming. We’re both eager to prepare for an overnight backpack the next day, and we want to use this free day to quickly tick off one of the short hikes left on our list.
We’re hiking on a holiday weekend during leaf peeper season so the roads and trails are saturated with tourists. These two caught up with us, but are sucking wind pretty badly and appear to have only one plastic water bottle between them.
“Sooooo brave!” he says again in a heavy German accent. His companion nods vigorously in agreement.
I don’t know if he’s being condescending, or perhaps there is something lost in the translation. Maybe he’s complimenting her, but it comes out sounding wrong, sounding like surprise instead of praise. But I really don’t know. We have had no experience yet with doubters, though from friends who hike big mountains with kids, I know they are out there.
Janelle looks up at me. I want to tell the guy that he has no idea how brave she is, how this is mountain number 31 for her, how we’ve hiked in ice and rain, and how Janelle has dedicated all her free time to this pursuit out of passion and determination. I want to tell him that it’s not about being brave anyway, it’s about being prepared and smart. I want to say that literally anything is possible.
Instead, I take the lazy path. “She sure is!” I say.
Later, I feel like I’ve betrayed Janelle, like she had looked to me for something more, for a greater defence of her accomplishments.
“Listen, about that guy,” I begin, “I should have said more. I’m sorry.”
She’s puzzled. “Why?” she shrugs. “He had a crazy accent, I couldn’t understand a word he said.”
Imp Face (10/6/12)
Height: 3,165 feet
Location: South of Gorham, near Pinkham Notch. I-93 north to Exit 35 to Route 3 to Route 116 to Route 2 through Gorham to Route 16 for 5.4 miles.
Our trailhead: Imp Trail, north.
Distance: 4.4 miles round trip. (Trail Info: We took the Imp Tail up and back to Imp Face, but the trail can also be used as a loop that ends back at Route 16 a short distance from where you begin.)