A Trip down Memory Peaks

Should I look forward or backward? When you reach your senior years – senior in life, not in school – you may have a tendency to look back to your glory days. I prefer to look ahead and I have a lot to look forward to.

However, every once in a while, I am stopped in my tracks and can’t avoid contemplating the past.

In my husband’s desk, I found a huge pile of index cards held together by a rubber band. Each card contained information on the mountains that we climbed for various hiking challenges in the northeast. The first was in 1971, over 45 years ago. Yes, we started hiking in our twenties.

Before there were spreadsheets, there were index cards.

The information Lenny kept included:
The name of the mountain and its altitude, the date that he and I climbed it, and the route we took. We didn’t always climb together.

Much of the time, one of us went with a hiking club.

We completed the New Hampshire 4000 challenge in 1978 in many long weekends. You have to summit 48 named mountains over 4000 feet in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The Four Thousand Footer club was formed in 1957 to spread out hikers and encourage them to explore the area beyond the Presidential Range. We also finished the New England 4000 footers, adding the Vermont and Maine peaks.

Black Dome in 1977

Lenny also kept records for the Catskill 3500 challenge, both regular and winter. The Catskill Mountains in Central New York State are steep and rocky like most peaks in the northeast. To get a patch you have to climb the 35 named peaks over 3,500 feet.

I know, I know. Many people in the Southern Appalachians live higher than 3,500 feet and aren’t impressed – but trust me, these mountains are challenging.

To keep you hiking year round, the Catskill 3500 club had two hiking challenges: climb the 35 mountains any time but climb four specific ones in the winter as well. About a third of the peaks are trailless. They give out a separate patch for climbing all the mountains in winter – defined as calendar winter. We got both patches and Lenny wrote out a separate card for each challenge.

Though we got our first personal computer in 1982, an Apple 2E, Lenny kept adding to his index card pile. We walked the Appalachian Trail in sections over many years but I couldn’t find the index cards for that feat. I think that by then, he had a computer file for the various A.T. sections. We finished the trail in 1998.

The next obvious challenge was the Adirondacks in northern New York  46 mountains over 4,000 feet. They were the most difficult with poor signage, many unmarked trails and no view at the top. We persevered, doing about twenty peaks. Lenny added to his card pile.

Then we left the area, moved to Asheville, and joined Carolina Mountain Club, which has several hiking challenges of its own.

The last card was dated 07/03/1995 for Bondcliffs in New Hampshire.

Why write out a card for a New Hampshire 4000 Footer when we had completed that challenge years ago? Could the mountain have been added as a result of newer surveys? The current New Hampshire 4000footer club website discusses changes to the list but not Bondcliffs. That will remain a mystery.

If you’ve stayed with me on this trip down memory lane (or memory peak), you can see that my central question hasn’t been answered.

Am I ready to ditch the index cards? I have all the certificates from my northeastern climbs.

But most important, I’m looking toward the future.

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