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November 21, 2013

A memorable birthday hike on Mt. Chocorua

I celebrated my 73rd birthday in a most unconventional manner — on top of a steep mountain in New Hampshire eating a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich on rye.

No crowd. No cake. No tacky gifts. Just my daughter Sonya, herself a birthday girl, and her husband Pat, who tagged along.

This very same trio hiked Mount Kearsage a year ago. No sooner did we reach the top and then return to the bottom that they mentioned another hike. As first-time mountaineers, they were bitten by the hiking bug.

We chose Mount Chocorua for its noted beauty and majestic view from the summit. It took us 3.6 miles over rugged terrain to get there, but was well worth the exertion. The weather was perfect and not a bug in sight.

Had it not been for a late start (just after noontime), we wouldn’t have trudged the last 15 minutes in virtual darkness. The light from a cell phone prevented me from spending another night in the wilderness.

(If you recall in a previous column, I survived some pretty horrid conditions on Mount Katahdin a couple years ago in my quest to ascend each of the tallest mountains in New England. My hiking partner Paul Tennant and I never made it to the bottom that day, hugging the trail and surviving the elements. Fortunately, the temperature was comfortable and no harm was done, except maybe a tongue-lashing from the rangers and some ill words from the wife. She didn’t have a clue until she read the headline, “Survival on Mount Katahdin.”)

The day hiking Chocorua with my daughter and her husband started out on two bum feet. With the federal shutdown, there wasn’t a ranger in sight, or a restroom. All facilities along the Kancamagus Highway were closed. They didn’t just lock the doors, but nailed 2-by-4s across the entrances.

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