The chilly morning air was still and unwelcome, making the line of campers I led shiver under their layers of clothing. A cloudy gray horizon obscured the sun, suggesting nothing much notable about the day to come. With my hair pulled back in a tight ponytail and my clothes being clean and crisp, I felt prepared for the journey ahead. I carried a rucksack on my back, filled with rain gear and food rations. Despite the dreary weather, our company skittered across the road and over to the sign which marked the trailhead. Little did I know that this day would be one of my most unforgettable.

As we started up the Mt. Webster route, the exertion from hiking soon made our early morning chills dissipate. Everyone shed layers of fleece and hoodies until we all were in our tee-shirts. Still in the opening mile or so of moist earthen trail, Emma (my friend who was attending the camp with me) and I played Ghost (a fun word game) until our first break. While eating some of our rations, Steve, the male counselor (Patricia was the female one) taught us some of the lyrics to “Ice, Ice, Baby.” The hours wore on and we continued on our way, while the mountain began taking it’s toll on us. Nobody had the breath to play word games anymore, or even to complain about how much their feet hurt.

Meanwhile, we ascended ever higher. Spruce and fir trees were the main vegetation around us, and sometimes we were forced to scramble up or around rocks. The many twists and turns of the trail kept fooling us into thinking the end was just around the bend, but the incline never let up. Though our patience with this mountain was wearing thin, the whole pack was joking about how tired they felt and whether the next promising rise in the trail was the top. I kept mopping my sweaty forehead on my shirtsleeve, desiring nothing more than to douse my whole face in water. My legs were burning, but I just kept persuading myself to keep going. Finally, we reached a flat area where a sign directed us to Webster’s summit, only 1/10 of a mile away. This made us all crow with delight, and, of course, sprint as fast as possible up the trail to the awaiting top.

Mt. Webster proved to have a phenomenal view of the surrounding peaks, including Mt. Washington. Now that we were able to refuel, I was in a position to think over the hike, and realize that even though it had been extremely arduous, in the end it was very rewarding. While we snacked on trail mix, I snapped pictures with my disposable camera. Eventually, we began our way down, across the ridge, to Mt. Jackson. Tufted white cattails poked up from a marsh that we tromped through, singing a call-and-response hiking song. We felt motivated and energized now that most of the hike was over. By the time our party made it across Mt. Jackson and down to Mizpah Hut, all of us were tired and ready for a long break.

Inside the hut, we sat at one of the pine tables and ate M&Ms, chatting and bantering. There were other hikers milling around, most of them drinking the lemonade and coffee that most of the alpine shelters serve, and talking quietly. I felt very excited to be at Mizpah Hut on account of my mom having worked there. Patricia began a game of Minute Mysteries, in which she would give a scenario and we, as the listener, would solve the mystery. All of us joined in eagerly. Even though I felt replenished from the provisions and rest, I couldn’t help but yawn from fatigue. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, because most of our group was also looking worn out.

About half and hour later, we roused ourselves from the wooden benches and settled day packs on our sore backs, leaving Mizpah and descending down the Crawford Path. Before we finished our trek, however, a break was made at a waterfall. A crystal clear pool lay before us with a bottom completely comprised of smooth stones. I watched as the rest of the company was skipping rocks across the shallow surface of the water, or at least attempting to. Because I had never seriously made an effort to learn the knack of skipping a rock, Patricia and Steve showed me patiently, and I even managed to get five skips. Laurel, who was one of the other two girls (besides Emma and I) had spotted a pair of abandoned Barbie glasses and, giggling, presented them to Steve with glee. Naturally, he obligingly slipped them on and posed for the rest of us.

Steve and Patricia are two of the people at that camp who I remember in most detail. With her good sense of humor and friendly presence, Patricia always kept up our good spirits. Steve was constantly teasing and joking with us, and he was also able to connect with every single one of us. He and I became friends, and we even organized a run with our entire group.

But, back to the waterfall and our hike. After a time, we all picked up our scattered belongings and tramped away, still mocking Steve for his girlish pair of shades. When we saw the end of the trail, Emma and I ran out into the afternoon sunshine, jumping with jubilation. The rest of the afternoon was spent tossing frisbees on the grassy lawn of the Highland Center (the building in which we were bunking) and relaxing.

My camp, which took place in New Hampshire, was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I had attended one the year before, so I already knew that this was something I would enjoy, but I never knew how much it would affect me. My adventure in the White Mountains was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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