I just arrived back home after what was an incredible time away in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Part of me reflects this morning as I write this column about just how simple life really is when you learn to just let go and be in the moment.

Part of my journey to the mountains was to truly immerse myself with nature. I’m no treehugger, but I do enjoy my time in the great outdoors. This was scheduled to be one of my first solo hiking trips, and indeed it was anything but. Being a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club since 2001, I have never truly used my membership as I do so today. There are a number of chapters and activities that take place for an outdoor enthusiast, that you end up networking with people from all walks of life.

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During my time away, I met so many people. I thought I would be all alone, with a fear of not being able to talk to anyone the entire time I was away. That fear, however, disappeared within the first hour of me checking into the AMC Highland Center Lodge in Crawford Notch as I began mingling with fellow hikers the moment I checked into my bunkhouse.

Bunking next to me were two young men from Germany who had just come from Acadia National Park in Maine. As I mingled with them, we hit it off almost instantly as we made our way to dinner in the dining hall. A few glasses of wine in, and we were planning on hiking up Mount Washington the next day.

While we didn’t get to hike Mount Washington necessarily together due to just how swift those German men are, we did certainly try to stay along the same route, but on that route I met Thai, as you may have read in my last column. Thai, another young man traveling in from overseas, was hiking up Mount Washington as well, and by pure coincidence we ended up hiking it together over great conversation.

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My new found friend from the trail, Thai! We endured and conquered Mount Washington together unexpectedly. A friendship that will now last for many years to come.

As the days and nights went on, I mingled some more. I even ended up meeting a gentleman by the name of Tom (trail name) who was a computer programer but was thru hiking the Appalachian Trail and just stopped off here from Georgia on his way to hiking up to Maine. I learned a lot from Tom, including as to why anyone would want to take so much time off from work to hike a trail, which his answer sent shockwaves through my body. He stared at me and said “We all need to find ourselves and stop being chained to society norms, and the best way to do that, is to get away for a little while.”

This man inspired me. As someone who has been yearning to step away from the pressures of society myself, he taught me some valuable lessons during our time together.

Over the weekend, I continued to hike, and continued to mingle with more people. Saturday night, after hiking four mountain peaks through the Crawford Notch area, I mingled with a hiking group that was also up from Connecticut and we shared stories about our hiking adventures, including how many moose we were able to spot along some of those journeys.

In case you’re wondering, the answer was minimal.

My time at the AMC Highland Center Lodge did me a lot of good. With it’s bunkbed atmosphere, a dining hall, a library, warm hospitality, and numerous hiking trails right from the property, I truly felt like I was a kid again and away at summer camp. I will be looking back on this vacation for many years to come, and cannot thank the AMC enough for this experience, but more so, I cannot thank the amount of people I came into contact with over my first solo hiking adventure. It really goes to show you that humanity isn’t all bad, and inside all of us are warm hearts that just want to share ourselves with others.

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