McRatSeptember 10, 2007 at 6:30 pmPost count: 15
When I told my daughter about last years Flags event, she seemed really interested and I was delighted to have her onboard. Gary was returning with the near record-setting flagpole rig, and bringing along his wife MaryEllen for her first 4K – on their anniversary no less.
Wenzel had emailed that she would be returning to our crew and bringing her boyfriend, and we had a ‘Rev. Bill’ signed up as well. Always fun meeting new people, particularly ones that like lugging stuff.
Friday night at the KOA was a chance to meet up with friends old and new, and by midnight it seemed everyone responsibly was resting for the next day’s adventure – a half hour later I finished watching the log channel and went to bed.
The next morning we were up and off. By force of habit, I wound up taking 302 to 16 up to Wildcat – which takes up more time. I had just begun to worry about being late when I got a call from Wenzel. They were having problems with the car overheating and had pulled into the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.
On the plus side, we would all be able to start at the same time, albeit slightly late.
We arrived at the trailhead, loaded up with PVC and aluminum poles, and began the fairly gentle ascent up the 19-Mile Brook trail. The temps were a little on the warm and humid side, but we marched along enjoying the occasional gust of breeze – most welcome during the final steeper stretch to the Wildcat Ridge Trail junction.
After a quick snack and assessment of the time, Wenzel and Chris took the lead and headed up to the summit to ensure we would be able to start on time.
While the 19-mile seemed very different in the summer than the winter, the short 0.8 miles to the Wildcat summit was exactly as I remember it – a slow and steep creep through the pines. Even without the snow, the change in grade always makes me feel like I’m hiking through molasses.
It was past Noon when Squeaky and I reach the final switchback before the summit. I stopped to de-fog my glasses when Squeaky hears Wenzel. We are close. It gave us just the encouragement to finish the last stretch to the summit.
I stop and proudly snap a photo of Squeaky’s 8th NH4K, and look over to the viewing area where Wenzel, Chris, and Rev. Bill were waiting – the flag blowing gently in the breeze.
It turns out ‘Rev. Bill’ had arrived on time with a small flag, until ours made it up. By 12:30 Gary (Scoutmaster) and MaryEllen arrived with the rest of the flagpole hardware and we were ready to go for the 40’ mark.
Or so we thought.
During last year, we flew our flag from the same rig between 32-35 feet. As we went for the record the aluminum poles failed and bent over at 39’. While we removed the obviously bent poles, I suspect that several of the ones we took had been damaged by the strain.
Gary began assembling his rig, we loaded the flag to about 20-25’ and hoisted the flag. If the man who had filmed the Iwo Jima raising was available and had a camera – it is safe to say that we wouldn’t be in Time magazine.
As soon as the pole was up, it began to sway in the wind. We attached and tied off our guy lines in what must have appeared to be a Maypole dance as the aluminum poles began to fail at around 25’, forcing us to remove a 3 foot section.
It was around this time a new wave of swaying occurred and a tripod leg failed. In a testament to a true American, Gary did not let go of the flagpole. All the more impressive since he had just taken a decent hit below the belt and had to handle some of it solo as laughter had begun to consume the group.
Eventually we manage to stabilize the rig, and the flag flew until after 2:00 – above the trees and well below the record.
We can honestly say that Old Glory never touched the ground, though it did get very intimate with the treetops for a while.
From the lookout vista, the day slowly continued to clear. We could see flags on Carter Dome and South Carter through the binoculars.
The walk down to 19-mile was steep and slow going, but we were soon greeted by the fashionably late Hikerfast – and a right on time half-flask of cask strength Laphroiag.
Before long we were buzzing our way down the trail, catching up with Wenzel and Chris at the trail junctions, and even sharing a mile or so with Ed Hawkins who had just done the Carters and confirmed flag coverage.
We dropped off Wenzel and Chris back at their car before I followed Hikerfast back to the KOA on the quicker route though Gorham.
It was great seeing everyone back at the KOA for a fun night. The rain held out until Sunday morning. I waited through three waves of showers, each a little harder than the last before getting out to pack up… only to see that almost everyone must have been smart enough to pack up and head out when the showers first hit.
But not me… Nothing gets me back to sleep like the lullabye of raindrops on a tent fly, in a dry bag, after a good hike and evening with friends. Looking forward to next year!
Congrats to MaryEllen (a trooper on what is not the ideal first 4K) and Gary (tagged #32 – 2/3rd of the way there, buddy) on 28 years of wedded bliss. I can only hope that she enjoyed the hike and you’ll get to enjoy many more anniverseries. If not… at least you’re comfortable sleeping in a tent.
Congrats to my Squeaky for her 8th NH4K peak, if I tried to express how grateful I am to watch her on the trail – this report would be even LONGER.
Thanks, Rev. Bill for covering the summit and for your pleasant company. Also to Wenzel and Chris – I hope everything sorts itself out car-wise. Keep in touch.
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