There is a beloved Soviet short film called “Hedgehog in the fog” (yozhik v tumane) that depicts an adorable, little rodent who pokes around in a murky wood to find his friend “bear.” With no more than 10 minutes of action, this 1975 cartoon has been embraced by international audiences and endures as a classic to this day (clip here with English subs). Having viewed this short (like, a dozen times), whenever I find myself in conditions where the surrounding air is as thick as a cloud, my mind goes straight to the Hedgehog.
Hiking has become a hobby of mine (more here); however, I haven’t done very much of it outside of the Boston area. So, when a trip popped up to hike in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, I jumped at the opportunity to go with a group. We signed up for the excursion a few weeks in advance, arranged carpools, and set an 8:00am start time for our trek up Mt. Roberts.
While the White Mountains is known for its series of 4,000 footers, Mt. Roberts is a smaller summit (2,582 ft), which makes it a good beginner-friendly option. The mountain is just over two hours north of Boston (without traffic), which meant that we piled into the car at 5:30am in the dark of the early morning and with a waning crescent moon hanging low in the sky. As we headed north, the sky became cloudier, and rain drops dashed across the windshield. It can be dangerous to hike in the rain (slippery, muddy conditions, hypothermia, and the threat of flash flooding), however, we prepared ourselves for the light shower (rain jackets, waterproof boots, insulated layers, etc.) and monitored the weather before committing to this trip.
When we arrived in the “hikers only” parking lot, we could hardly see our surroundings due to the heavy fog that had settled around us. For those of you who don’t know, fog forms when dust and water vapor become trapped under a cool body of air. The more humid the air, the thicker the fog will become. The temperature hovered around 50 degrees and the moisture in the air was palpable.
Hiking up the mountain was a good cardiovascular workout. Even with the wet, chilly air, we were sweating under our rain gear and some of the guys felt fine to hike in only short sleeves and shorts. When we reached the summit and turned our faces outward to behold the spectacular New Hampshire views, our eyes could not see past an impenetrable white-gray wall of fog. There was fog in every which way, like the eerie backdrop of a horror flick. Fog that made it impossible to orient oneself and fog that obscured the lateness of the day.
The rain beat down a little harder on our descent. However, the leafy canopy above us proved to be a (semi-) adequate shield from the elements. Carefully trekking down the mountain, trying not to slip on the wet rocks, I couldn’t help but turn over the Mt. Roberts experience in my head. In the thick of the fog, Mt. Roberts (in the famed White Mountains) looked and felt similar to Boston’s Blue Hills and the Middlesex Fells Reservations. The path felt no more strenuous, and the experience was comparable to a Boston-area hike. In fact, the only tangible difference (in my mind) was that instead of taking public transportation to reach our hiking destination, we had to wake up before the roaster’s crow and travel more than four hours round trip for the experience.
Returning to our cars, we passed a group of tourists trying to find a nearby waterfall. Unfortunately, we could not help them with directions, as we had passed no such site (to our knowledge). In fact, we hardly took note of the body of water just beside us until someone in our group pointed out a “floating duck” that signaled its presence. Even if these people did find their waterfall, I doubted that they would have been truly able to see it under these conditions.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Mt. Roberts — it was a good moderate hike, there were fun conversations, and I did not injure myself (hoorah!). However, I also know that a hike in chilly, wet, and low-visibility conditions, located hours away from home would just not be worth it for me a second time around. Likewise, I am sure that if it had been 50 degrees and sunny, I may have raved about how “glorious” everything was.
The moral of the story is — the weather is important. If the hedgehog had been out on a cloudless day, he probably wouldn’t have had too much trouble finding his friend bear — just saying.
Wishing you blue skies and happy days.