September 21, 2010

LEVEL 3 FUN (or Chasing River Gods and Mountain Dragons)

We had our first (er...second?) big exam on Friday, and afterward, I immediately drove South to spend the afternoon with Dr. Spock. Six hours (and 12 patients) later, I was driving back to grab some friends to head to the White Mountains to attempt the Presidential Traverse. This is a hike across a group of the big peaks in the Northeast which are all, interestingly, named after Presidents.

Presidents we summited: Eisenhower, Washington, Monroe, Adams, Madison
Along the way, a few friends started talking about "Levels of Fun", which I thought was brilliant.

Allow me to drop their wisdom on you:

Level 1 fun = fun in the moment (e.g. you say to yourself, "wow. I am having so much fun!")

Level 2 fun = sorta fun in the moment, but mostly you know you'll be really glad to have done it (e.g. you say to yourself, "wow. this will be really fun to talk about later when we're all sitting on your porch drinking lemonade")

Level 3 fun = fun at someone's expense - including your own OR fun you know you can't talk about for a long time because the creation of the memory was a little brutal, but you're still glad you did it. (e.g. "wow. in five years, it'll be awesome to say, 'remember that time when...' but it kind of really sucks right now)

Now that you know that - the story of this weekend: The hike was one of the more intense backpacking trips I've been on, but also one of the most beautiful. The weather at the top of Mt Washington was near perfect - we saw valleys of green trees scattered with yellow birches and clouds that rolled under us like waves (Type 1 Fun).

The terrain included lots of intense ups and downs where we were greeted by beautiful views (Type 1 and 2 Fun, depending on how much my feet hurt). In addition to the hike across the ridge, we decided that in order to spend the night, we needed to hike off the ridge into a valley, then hike back up the next day. One would assume that the hike up the next day was the worst part, but that would be decidedly FALSE.

Here's why: our descent was not on an actual trail. this not actual trail was actually a river bed. this river bed was especially flooded this year because we've had a lot of rain this summer. this river bed mostly consisted of huge, large, slippery rocks. this river bed of slippery rocks was on an approximately 30 degree incline. we were all hiking with large backpacks. and did I mention it was pitch black dark? (we've clearly moved into Type 3 Fun now)

All this had me praying to any higher power I could think of that no one in our group would go crashing down the cliff onto their heads. This, of course, actually did happen to one of my friends - who stepped on the wrong rock and swan-dove into the rocks 15 feet below. But besides getting the wind knocked out of him and bruising his knee, he was miraculously okay. but we all felt a little bit more shaky afterward (not necessarily conducive to balancing you and your pack on the tips of slippery rocks at a 30 degree incline down). But somehow everyone stayed incredibly positive, we worked together, and continued to have faith that there would be an end to the steep decline and that at that end, we would be able to set up a camp. Hours (lifetimes?) later, we reached flat ground, made a quick dinner, snuggled five people into a four person tent and didn't worry about being cold or lost or falling for one more second. ahh.

The next morning we woke up early and hiked the remaining three peaks, completing our final descent just after 9 pm in shockingly good (though tired) spirits. We then proceeded to shuttle cars and people back and forth before finally getting everyone to a nearby pizza place where we gorged ourselves on pizza and beer (and so much water) before separating weepily and driving back home. We got in around 4 am - just enough time to sleep a few hours before starting Pulmonology the next day.

I started this week feeling incredibly exhausted in some (many) ways, but fully rejuvenated in others - and am looking forward to more adventures this autumn! I might try to stay more in the realm of Type 1 fun this time...

"...let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure"
-Albus Dumbledore

in JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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