Memorial Day is one the most anticipated holidays of the year. In Maine, Memorial Day weekend marks a pivotal turning point in the calendar. It is the unofficial start to summer! Seasonal business open to prepare for the tourist season. The natives start to finally feel confident that they can turn the page from cold, crappy weather and focus on the warmer weather and beaches, barbecues and outdoor adventures to come. It is an exciting time!
Traditionally this is a camping weekend for me. It is often spent at a state campground somewhere and exploring the area where we are staying. Last year while friends were out barbecuing and camping, hiking, paddling and so forth I was laid up in bed recovering from surgery. This year, Ben, Alison, Trina and I had our sights on the White Mountains. Alison had to work so she couldn’t play with us on the mountains, but Ben, Trina and I were going to target Mt. Madison on Saturday and Mt. Adams on Sunday. Our base camp: Dolly Copp campground at the base of Mt. Madison off Rt. 16.
The biggest challenge for this year’s Memorial Day Weekend: the weather. I am not stranger to poor weather and outdoor adventures. Hiking during all seasons exposes you to some interesting weather events. Extreme cold, hot and muggy, thunderstorms, snow storms, bugs, windy… you name it we’ve hiked and camped through it. This year the forecast was calling for rain. And then rain. And then after that some more rain. In addition, it was not going to be particularly warm. Rain, I can deal with. Cold, the same. But when combined it can quickly not become fun. With the long holiday weekend we were planning on camping Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
We got to camp early and set up before the rains came. We then met up with Alison and her colleagues for dinner at the volunteer camp, hung out for a bit and then headed back into the rain for a good night’s sleep. We awoke the following morning greeted by the still constant tapping of rain drops on the tent. Alison headed to work and Ben and I suited up for the trail. Forgetting gloves at home, we were thankfully close enough to Pinkham Notch where we could run over there and hit up their supply store at the AMC Visitor Center. We then high-tailed it back to hit the trail.
After our hike we returned to camp in the still constant rain. We were soaked through to the bone and it was pretty cold, in the mid 40s. After a long day of hiking and dealing with the crappy weather all I wanted to do was to take a nap! I quickly got out of my wet clothes trying to hang up what I could to hopefully dry out some. I then put on my dry warm clothes and climbed into my tent and my sleeping bag to warm up. After an hour or so Alison came back from work and got us up an at ’em because it was dinner time! Realizing that starting a fire was futile and not wanting to deal with the cold depressing rain, we left camp and headed into Gorham for some hot food and delicious beer. Even better, the final game of the Bruins vs. Rangers series was on the TV so I got to see the last period of play and the Bs win the series! It was a perfect pick-me-up after a long wet, cold day!
On our way back to camp Trina called to say that she was just getting into the Pinkham area (much to our surprise!) and that it was actually snowing back up near Pinkham… SNOW! We got back to our campsite and sure enough there was a layer of wet slush like snow that had accumulated on the outside of my tent. This really made me wonder what we were going to deal with on the trail the next day and if we would wake up to any real accumulation or not.
The following morning I woke up and was very happy to hear that the rain had stopped! Could this be the day the weather breaks? I was hoping so. What I definitely knew though, was that it was cold and still very damp! I crawled out of my tent to see that, thankfully, there was no snow accumulation. I gave a brief check on the clothes hanging up under the pop-up to find that they were not even close to dry. Alison had to head back to work so Ben, Trina and I got dressed, had a quick snack and then headed out to our hike with a brief stop over at the laundry mat in Gorham so Ben and I could dry our clothes!
After we finished our hike, we drove back to the campsite and were blessed with a brief sighting of the sun! I throw the word “glorious” around a lot, but this time… after days in the rain, snow and ice and cold weather chilling us to the bone, the warmth of that sunshine coming down felt truly glorious! It was amazing! We headed back to camp and even though it was Sunday and we had one more night, Alison had invited us to go up and stay at the volunteer camp in the bunk house which I thought was about the greatest thing ever. Normally I would say tough it out and deal with it, but by this time after 49+ hours in the non-stop rain and cold, I was ready to sleep under a dry roof, especially because we knew the sun was not going to last.
The following morning, I woke up dry, warm and walked outdoors to find that the only clouds in the sky were covering the summits of the mountains we were on the days before. Memorial Day had finally arrived. And with it, finally that summer-like weather that we were hoping for.
Here’s to the adventure that Summer will bring!