After getting my feet wet with a few local nature walks and easy hikes, my next plan was to head north to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to try my hand at what I call "legit hikes," or ones that involve a reasonable amount of elevation gain. I've had a special attachment to the White Mountains ever since they played an integral role in my coming of age, having attended 3 years of piano camp up there during my high school summers and it being my first time away from home without my family. Without my harp, I normally head toward the waterfall trails and occasionally tackle ascending a 4000-footer, but the harp adds some complications. It's not the weight, necessarily. After all, my Flatsicle Baby Blue only weighs 6lb. It's more the awkward shape and size, and a carrying case that doesn't allow for a low enough center of gravity. Feeling unbalanced on top of a mountain is not a fun sensation. Add in a budding fear of heights and vertigo that my mother too started having around age 30, and I knew I'd have my work cut out for me when I embarked on these treks with my harps. But the passion is stronger than my fears.
As our weekend in NH approached, I settled on traversing North and Middle Sugarloaf in the Jefferson area. The two mountains are about half the height of their well-known counterparts in the Presidential Range and closer to the trailhead so I don't have to spend several miles hiking to the ridge, and rather can begin ascending right away. With All Trails clocking a 3.1 mile distance and a little over 1300 feet elevation gain, I was ready to reach new heights - literally and figuratively - with Baby Blue.
My husband/photographer Anthony and I left home and drove straight up to Jefferson. After 30 minutes of sun screening, bug spraying, boot tying, and harp tuning, we hit the trail. Whether hiking with or without my harp, I seek trails with unique features, and right from the start, Sugarloaf did not disappoint. Our first steps onto the trail, we followed alongside the picturesque Zealand River, a conundrum of sorts, with a mixture of power and stillness as cascades rushed water into pools of calm between rocks. I told Anthony, we shouldn't stop anywhere for photos on the way up. Being an out-and-back trail, we might as well scope out the whole thing before spending time on photos. That plan went out the window within the first 1/2-mile, when we came to a group of boulders with the mid-morning sunlight shining down on them through the leaves. It was the most magnificent light I have seen in a long time, and I knew it wouldn't last. We set up our equipment for photos.
This was also the first moment of attracting attention, as hikers passed by on the trail and stopped to make the frequent comment, "Wow, a harp on the trail! You don't see that every day!" I love having the harp as a conversation-starter. As a proud introvert, I'm only comfortable being center of attention in two scenarios: 1, with close friends and family, and 2, when I'm doing something music-related. Fortunately, hikers in general are really kind. I think it's because nature brings out the best in us. Shame on the person who is experiencing the world in its purest, most spectacular form and ruins it with disrespect of his fellow man! That being said, when I came up with the idea for Hiking Harpist, I didn't know how passersby would respond. Some people go hiking for the silence. Would the harp be peaceful enough to suffice? I got my answer