It looks like the annual Flags on the 48, a memorial for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, will take place today on Sept. 14. American flags will be carried by teams to the tops of all 48 4,000-footer peaks in New Hampshire and raised between noon and 2 p.m.
I thought I’d reprint an old article about my version of a memorial hike on Sept 11, 2012.
In the magical world of metaphor, mountains are a “living, breathing” example of metaphor. Once I felt that strongly on a hike up Mount Monadnock, a mountain that stands alone.
A couple days before Sept. 11, 2012, Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton used the word “mountains” as a metaphor in response to the terrible events of Sept. 11, 2001: “In times like these it can be easy to despair that some differences are irreconcilable, some mountains too steep to climb…But that’s not what I believe, and I don’t think it’s what you believe.”
My Monday (Sept. 11, 2012) was a good day. I wasn’t listening to the news. Instead the mountain metaphor picked me up and carried me to Mount Washington.
Before leaving home that morning, I grabbed an old pillow case with the word PEACE printed in magic marker, and LOVE scattered about in smaller letters. I figured I could find someone on the summit to take my picture with it next to the summit sign, even if I had to ask an acquaintance that was a summit employee.
I had made the sign the previous year for a hike up Blueberry Mountain in Evans Notch with my girlfriend, as an alternative to the “Flags on the 48” done on 9/11, when an American flag was flown on all the 4,000-footer summits the same day. I had nothing against that. It was just that as one human being, I preferred peace to a deep investment in war. That’s all. From either viewpoint, a mountain was the perfect metaphor.
I started up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail at about 9:30 a.m., a late start for me. Walking over the first footbridge on the Cutler River, I paused. The metaphor had part of me on fire. I didn’t want to just do another summer hike up the Tuck Trail to the top of Mount Washington. I decided to do some old scrambles along the way, and keep things exciting.
I left the trail just before the first bridge and scrambled up the right side of the Cutler River. I climbed a chimney right next to Crystal Cascades. Above that I had to crawl through a key hole in the rocks.
Above that, I jumped boulder to boulder across the river to the other bank and made my way back to the Tuck Trail further up. I continued up the Tuck Trail, and took a right on the Huntington Ravine fire road. In the ravine I scrambled up to the base of the Pinnacle. I did a moderate scramble to the left of the Pinnacle, reached the top of the Pinnacle and scrambled up to the Alpine Garden. Then, rock hopping up the vast east slope of the summit cone, I reached the summit at about 1 p.m. Halfway up the summit cone, I roused a fox from a temporary den, likely where it hung out before scavenging for scraps on a quiet evening summit
I reconnected with the Tuckerman Ravine Trail just before it ended at the top of the Mount Washington Auto Road. A half dozen people were just reaching the top of the Tuck Trail, and above them a group of motorists were looking out over the edge of the parking lot. These were the first folks I had seen since leaving the lower Tuck Trail for the last time at the junction with the Huntington Ravine Fire Road. I had arrived.
I climbed the walkway to the summit and soon saw that there was a waiting line to the summit sign for getting pictures. I got in line, and asked a friendly couple if they would take my picture with my peace flag. It was windy. An Appalachian Trail through-hiker completed the line, and I took his picture with his iPhone.
I went inside the Sherman Adams Building to finish my lunch, then headed down the Tuck Trail, planning to go down through the ravine. Maybe I had stayed on the crowded summit a little too long, as I felt a little let down.
Perhaps that morphed into my next thoughts. As I started down the trail, I thought of all those people in that small space on top of the rockpile, many of whom didn’t know each other. Within that space was an aura of “love” or empathy so thick, you could almost cut it with a knife.
Such was the invisible connection between all peoples. We just need to see it.