I recently hiked two 4,000-foot peaks in the White Mountains. This may not seem like a big deal to many – unless you’re afraid of heights like I am.

Regardless, I decided to join in on a trip to the White Mountains, thinking, “How difficult could this be”?  I learned there’s a big difference between walking or running seven miles and hiking seven miles! 

Call it blind faith or dumb luck, but we made it there and back – and learned a few things along the way.

Lesson 5: Celebrate Your Wins

When we reached the top of the first peak, a fellow hiker opened his backpack and cracked open a bottle of Moet champagne.  Although he had been through these mountains many times before, he realized that for many of us, this was our first time.  We raised a glass and celebrated our first victory as we moved cautiously downhill to the second peak.

Lesson 6: If you’re Not Prepared, Improvise

Ignorance is bliss, and traveling with experienced hikers is the way to go.  In retrospect, I probably could have been more prepared for the “simple seven-mile hike in the White Mountains”, but we improvised along the way.  My fleece jacket became a towel after a while (we were thoroughly drenched from start to finish).  I borrowed two walking sticks from another hiker (he had brought an extra pair). The phrase “tree hugger” took on a new meaning as I grabbed every branch in sight and slid down a 45-foot incline.

Lesson 7: When in Doubt, Keep Going

Throughout the day, turning back never occurred to me; in retrospect, we only stopped twice. Some of my fellow hikers sometimes questioned daylight availability and argued about which paths to take. I was a bit nervous when the compasses came out, but we appeared to stay on course. There was a critical point where we might have retreated and called it a day – the point of no return, but we didn’t.

Lesson 8: Never Underestimate How Long Things Take

The guidebooks estimated that our trip should be completed (under normal conditions) in six hours, and it took us nine hours.  When we started, we didn’t understand all the variables that would affect our progress: fog, rain, slippery terrain, eroded trails, and slower hikers. When we returned, our friends were about to contact the state police to report us missing. Would we do it again? Sure. And this time, we’re so much wiser!

Which of these lessons sound familiar to you? We’d like to hear what you think!