I was feeling guilty as I left my family at 6:00am last Friday to pick up my hiking partner, Jaime, and spend another glorious day in the mountains. Balancing family responsibilities with passion projects is like a game of Jenga. Every choice affects the stability of the whole. Too many blocks stacked on one side depletes the other, and throws the whole system off.
While packing for the hike, I became aware of a list of family needs I'd be leaving behind. Henry (12) had no plans until the afternoon and would be "entertaining himself" while Tim attempted to work in his studio behind our house (I'm sure you know how that goes). Finn (15) would need rides to and from work and then a ride up to his cousin's camp in Belgrade Lakes later that day. We also had a chimney that needed to be taken down for an attic renovation, and a dog that needed to be walked several times. I feared my day trip would cause our Jenga tower to topple over - not the best feeling.
I also realized that the last thing the world needed was another maxed-out mom, chasing her to-do list while running on Dunkin. Cue my inner conflict.
After sharing my concerns with Tim, he encouraged me to go on the hike anyway, because he knew I needed the time to re-fuel (he also believes that sign in our room that says, "happy wife, happy life"). So I did. I also made sure I was home in time for him to play poker with his friends because I believe in reciprocity...and happy husbands.
In the end, I'm glad I went because I was in a much better head and heart space after the hike. And the Jenga tower never fell, mostly because Tim had my back while I was away taking care of myself. And I'll have his when he needs time to do the same.
Through practice, I've learned that I am a much better parent, partner and person after a day of hiking. I also believe in modeling for our kids the pursuit of things that light us up, even when life gets busy. Especially when life gets busy. That said, I do try to schedule my hikes for days when Tim and our boys are occupied by other things. It just leaves less impact on the family...and I can hike (mostly) guilt-free.
I'm not going to share details on this 4,050-foot hike, or any big hike for that matter, because I do often get lost on mountains and wouldn't want to risk misguiding any of you. Still, I hope that in sharing photos and basic info, it may inspire some hiking plans and encourage you to do your own research on these spectacular climbs we have here in Maine and New Hampshire.
Located near Kingfield in western Maine, Mount Abraham includes the second largest alpine zone after Katahdin. An alpine zone is a region that occurs above tree-line and below snow-line. This zone is highly exposed, so you would not want to do this hike in bad weather. Since there are no trees here, the trail is marked by rock cairns. They are pretty easy to spot, but do require some additional concentration to stay on trail while climbing the rock scramble leading to the summit. We did have views on our way up, but clouds starting rolling in as we neared the top.
At the summit, we were engulfed in fog and rain. No 360 degree views for us, but we had checked the weather that morning and knew there was potential for light rain, so we weren't surprised.
All Trails lists this hike up the Fire Warden's Trail as 9.2 miles out-and-back. We added another mile or so at the start by missing the trailhead and following a logging road for a half mile before realizing we were off track. As we've established, I do tend to get lost. If you plan to do this hike, the trailhead is close to the parking area and there IS a sign marking it. Do not take the logging road assuming it will lead to the trailhead like some of the other hikes.
You will, however, be driving on a dirt logging road on your way to the parking area, so I'd recommend a vehicle that can manage large potholes. My Toyota Highlander did just fine. Once on the rough dirt road, you will drive over two bridges before taking a right towards the final parking area and trailhead. Originally, we had parked just before the first bridge, thinking we were near the trailhead. Until another pair of hiking women pulled over and informed us that we could continue driving some more. I love how women are always looking out for each other. These are the same two women we led off course as they followed us down our logging road detour at the start of our hike. Still, we all had a good laugh about it and it's always encouraging to see other women out there on the mountain (we saw many that day).
The last bit of advice I'll give you is to pack warm clothes for the summit. By the time we reached the rock scramble, Jaime and I were wearing hats, gloves, sweatshirts and shells. The wind was no joke and the temps dropped drastically. I'd prepared for this, packing a hot coffee, instead of iced, for our 2pm coffee walk down the mountain (we always do this and it does help to keep us awake for the long drive home).
If you want to try this hike (do it!!), here is the All Trails link.
If you're struggling to find time to hike amidst a busy family and/or work life, I feel you!! I can only say from experience, that it's worth any effort or hoops you need to jump through to make it happen. And the world can, and will, survive just fine without you. In fact, it will be better off, because the energy we put out into the world matters. And hiking will infuse you with some real good energy.
In the words of Brene Brown, "We can't give people what we don't have". We're no good to our kids or our partners when the well is dry. So go fill it up with whatever activity makes your soul sing. If that's hiking, try Mount Abraham...or any of the other 4,000 footers we're lucky to have right here in Maine. I'll see you out there.