Climbing Mount Washington - Our Journey, July 2007
In July of 2007 John Doktorski and I, [Brad Winship] along with my two boys Kyle (9) and Miles (12), hiked to the top of Mount Washington.
Before we took the hike I visited various web sites to get some information about the hike and how to prepare. This web page is added to the search engines to help future travelers, and this is what I learned:
- The hike takes about 6 to 7 hours, so start early in the morning.
- It is about an 8-mile hike. Be sure you can easily walk 15 to 20 miles in your neighborhood before venturing on this hike. My sons and I take long walks together, so we were prepared. Since the elevation gain is 4266 feet, it is like climbing up and down the stairwell of the Empire State Building - - four times!
- Start at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center off Rt 16 and take the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. After we passed Hermit Lake and made it up the Ravine, I thought we were at the top. Look to your right because you still have another hour of vigorous climbing over a boulder field. Jumping from boulder to boulder is a blast.
- I hate backpacks, and having a bad back contributes to my hatred. From reading various sites, I was under the impression that I would need a backpack filled with drinks, food and clothing. When I take the hike again I will forget the backpack and stuff in my pocket a PB&J Sandwich, a Gatorade, and a light wind breaker that folds down to nothing. When you get to the top you can buy additional sustenance at the cafeteria.
- There is a nice lodge at the bottom of the hill where you can buy trail maps and get advice concerning which trail you should take. Inside there is a list of all the people who died climbing the mountain. Don’t let it bother you.
- We clocked it, and it took as long to get down the mountain as it did to get up the mountain. I still can’t figure out how this can possibly be.
- We all agree that they should install a zip line from the top of the mountain to the bottom. This way if you get tired you could get off the mountain really quick.
The Story of Our Hike
Before you read this I would like to warn you that this was a hiking party of Christians. Yes, we are those strange people that talk about God all the time. For us, it is not about the hike or nature, but about God. We do love God’s creation for what it is, but the purpose of all things is God himself. Only God makes life meaningful and worthwhile.
As I hiked I couldn’t help thinking about the Christian’s journey. In the seventeenth century John Bunyan wrote the famous work Pilgrim’s Progress. He allegorized the Christian life as a journey toward the Celestial City. You should read it sometime. Apart from the Bible, it is the most widely read book. This summer, in our family reading time, we read a modern English version of the book. The hike reminded me of Pilgrim climbing Mount Difficulty and of the many other references in Scripture to the Christian walk.
John is an experienced hiker; I would consider him a professional mountain climber--a virtual billy goat. He had recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and half the fun of the trip was listening to John’s stories. My sons kept saying, “Tell us another story Mr. John;” and they expressed my sentiments.
John wanted to take us out west to climb Big Horn in Wyoming, but I suggested something closer. I love the outdoors, but I have no experience mountain climbing. Over the years I have discovered that when learning a new skill, a mentor is invaluable. All of the new activities I have come to love--motorcycling, bicycling, hiking, golf, racquetball--have been because I had a mentor. I suppose this is why God plan to reach the world by using Christians to make new disciples.
If you want to find God, get yourself some good Christian friends who love Bible study. Of course, you can come to know God by simply reading the Bible and the Bible is the only authority, not people’s interpretations; nevertheless, you learn faster with a guide.
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
- The first lesson I remembered on our journey up Mount Washington is that you need to count the cost
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 14:27-30)
Along the journey up the mountain you meet some very interesting people, each with a story. Some you will meet near the bottom think they are going for a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park. They have the wrong shoes, inadequate clothing, and they are weighted down with strollers and picnic baskets. If, in their enthusiasm, they get ahead of you, you will soon meet them again coming down the hill. Know what it takes to follow Christ, and throw off all of the worldly junk that holds you down.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
- The longer you walk, the heavier the backpack becomes--it must be a mysterious law of physics. As I mentioned above, next time; No backpack! Miles gave out first. We passed his backpack between us. It is tough carrying your own load plus someone else’s, but it gives you a warm feeling inside. On the way down I took a misstep and pulled my back. John carried my backpack the rest of the way. This is love in action. I need to carry the burdens of others more.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
- When you get to the top you will see cars and people milling around in ease. Here I am soaked in sweat and dirt. I can hardly put one foot in front of the other. I forgot that people can drive up or take a train. Something seemed unfair about the whole thing. Either they were cheats or I was stupid for not taking the easy way. Seriously, I am glad everyone can enjoy the top of Mount Washington, but those who drove up did not see the beauty I saw and did not get the exercise I received. When I came to the top and saw some people had taken another way, a passage from the Gospel of John came to mind.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. “But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. (John 10:1-2)
Late in the day, as we were going down the hill, surprisingly, people were going up. Not only would the sun soon be setting, but a storm was coming. A thousand feet before we reached our car the cracks of thunder and lightening surrounded us. These late travelers told me that they hoped to make the top. I doubt they ever did. Don’t be late or it may be too late. The time to be saved is short.
"We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4)
And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. “Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ (Luke 13:23-25
- We must live everyday in submission to the providence of God, for we never know what might happen to us tomorrow.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)
Many people say that in view of the shortness of life we should “live for the moment.” That sounds too hedonistic for me. I prefer to live for the moment seeking God.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)
Being in our late 40s, John and I discussed the ever present possibility of dropping dead from a heart attack. You think about these things when you are huffing and puffing, and you are feeling pains you never felt before. Happily the kids are bouncing ahead of us with the strength of youth. By God’s mercy the old guys made it up and down Mount Washington in one piece.
Three weeks after hiking Mount Washington John called me to say, “Remember what I said to you when we got to the bottom of Mount Washington?” I replied, “We said a lot John; which jibe are you referring to?” John continued, “When we got to the bottom, I said that by the grace of God if we can climb Mount Washington, it looks like neither one of us is going to have any heart problems for a while. I am in the hospital and the doctors think I have had a stroke.”
John lost the full use of his left side and was diagnosed with a brain tumor--Glioblastoma multiforme, which is a very aggressive level four cancer. John said he took a misstep or two on our hike, but he attributed it to being out of practice.
Within four months John went into a coma; and after seven weeks, he passed away. Our hike up Mount Washington was John’s last hike on earth. But don’t be sad! Remember this was a hiking party of Christians. John’s mission on earth was done and he went to be with the Lord whom he loved. He is a pilgrim that has finished the hike and has arrived at the Celestial City
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course (Hike), I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8)