My annual hiking trip with 11 other women has been the subject of a winning Toastmasters speech and many stories I’ve shared with friends and family over the past 18 years. And here it comes again, only with different characters and new experiences. Each year in October, we gather at a B&B in some part of the country or Canada for a jam-packed 5 days of laughing, sharing, encouraging, hiking, eating, drinking, and discovering, and not necessarily in that order. The one activity we shun is camping. You may also be surprised to learn that we do not engage in gossip or discussion of religion or politics, amazing as that may seem.
We began with a nonstop flight to Boston, a 2-hour and 45-minute shuttle ride to Lebanon, NH, and then about a 20-minute drive to Pearse’s Inn, a rambling rustic lodge. Bunk beds, single beds, and double beds were stuffed into multiple rooms on multiple levels, and random steps appeared out of nowhere, so just navigating the place was an adventure in itself.
Each morning, after a hearty breakfast, cooked to the specific tastes of each of 12 of us, we piled into 2 cars and set off for a trail head in the area. Our hikes took us over leaf-covered trails with rocks and roots to negotiate, made even more challenging because 6 of us are blind. The challenge is not just for the blind hikers, but also for the sighted guides whoo skillfully kept us from turning ankles over wobbly rocks or tripping over protruding roots. Aside from keeping us safe, they describe scenery, shapes of leaves, bark on trees, mosses on rocks, and of course, the autumn colors. Other features this year included roaring water falls, a dramatic escarpment, a grassy ski hill, an ancient cemetery, and rushing creeks under wooden bridges. One of my favorite sights was a man with a great sense of humor, who, on seeing a group of 12 chatty women walking toward him said, “Oh boy, there goes my nice peaceful walk in the woods.”
We walk in pairs with each blind woman walking with a sighted partner, holding onto an arm, a loop on a back pack, or one end of a hiking stick while the other holds onto the other end. We switch partners after lunch, so we have a chance to get to know someone else a little better or catch up on what she’s been doing since last year.
This year’s Hen Hike featured a couple of events that we normally don’t do. One rainy afternoon, we toured a Shaker Museum, which was fascinating. That evening, we had a delicious chilli supper at the home of Joan, one of our guides, and her partner Bob, who did the cooking. what a treat. Earlier that day, we stopped at a country store, unique to the New England area for some shopping for unique gifts. The day before, we had finished our hiking early, so we all agreed to see how we could spend some money at the LL Bean store and the EMs, always popular with hikers and skiers. Even with all this shopping and touring, we managed to walk between 5 and 8 miles a day. Well, we only walked 8 miles one day, but doesn’t that sound impressive?
It was especially impressive to me, since I’ve been struggling with back pain and wondered if I was going to make it. But this year, my doctor treated me to a round of Prednisone, which worked like magic. In addition, I took every opportunity I could to stretch, to sit down, to rest in the car while the others walked an extra hour, and used my ice pack every nighgt. You do what you have to do when you want to do something badly enough. Next year, they’re all coming to Ohio! We don’t have mountains, but we have some great hiking, and I can’t wait to show it off.