Could You Sound More Alive Please

By Katie Hake and Elizabeth McNally | 10/21/15 10:22am

In our second installment of CYLHP, one of our dear editors helps us over miles of mountains without sleeping. At one point, Katie’s voice is apparently not cheery enough for him, as he kindly asks for her to try to sound more alive than she does. Thanks, Chris, and double thanks for the title inspiration.

Every once in awhile, someone shouts:
“How ya feelin’?”
Required answer: SO HAPPY.
Let’s back up. Spencer’s hair has a green racing stripe down the middle, Chris has some scattered blue on the right side of his head, the bottom of Katie’s braid is purple and Elizabeth’s ponytail has a bright pink streak.

According to everyone we’d talked to about it beforehand (which was a lot of people because hello, nervousness), the hike would basically be all mental. Thus, in addition to our gear, food and 5 hour energy preparations we’ve accumulated in Robo basement, the fun hair chalk is obviously a necessity for Fifty success.

The four of us smile for a photo in front of the DOC sign outside Robo (~*basic Dartmouth kids*~), laughing at how confused the tour group next to us must be and how facetimey we are as people we know pass by and wish us luck.

Then we’re off! It’s happening! This is The Fifty. We smile, we laugh. Everything is going fine. We got this.

Halfway across the Green, Chris realizes he forgot his rain jacket in Robo basement. He runs back to get it. Elizabeth and Katie use this opportunity to take a piggyback photo with Baker in the background.

Back in action! We walk past the gym. Spencer realizes he’s forgotten his hiking poles and calls Fifty director Wanda to send them ahead to the Skiway support station.

Basically, the Fifty starts off strong. Our bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, naive group is still unaware that every second counts.

The first 10-20 miles are chill: chatting, collecting leaves, hittin’ summits, takin’ pics and blastin’ music.

Elizabeth’s shoe gets sucked into a swamp, but we get it back. We find some beautiful fields. We take pictures on top of Moose Mountain and grab some selfies with the sunset. Our friend Sarah’s written inspirational quotes cheer us up before we even need cheering up.

As night falls, things get more interesting.

Our conversation, once easy-flowing and cheery at the first and second support stations, devolves into single words. Spencer and Chris go back and forth guessing animals they think of, and our hourly game of “Rose, Bud, Thorn” becomes increasingly grim. The game is simple — “rose” is something going well, “thorn” is something that could be improved and “bud” is something we’re looking forward to. As the miles roll on, it becomes harder and harder not to name “my bed” as our “bud” every time.

“Blaze!” Chris shouts. “BLAZE,” we all repeat like zombies. The white rectangles, or “blazes,” on the trees in front of us mark the Appalachian Trail, a comforting sign that we’re going in the right direction.

Our “roses” are surprisingly abundant and diverse: the music blasting from Chris’ phone, the support stations, the stars, the colors of our socks, the *mega*-stuffed oreos, the number of miles we’ve travelled, our remarkably high spirits, Spencer’s blinking red and blue lights strung along his backpack and Chris’ dance-and-hike moves. The “thorns,” on the other hand, are all basically the same: our joints, the rain on top of Mount Cube, the false peaks of Cube, the downhill on Cube, the missing “penta-privy” (the most evil outhouse in the White Mountains) on Cube. Mostly Cube. The “buds” are almost always the stations, the people at the stations and the treats we’ve sent ahead to ourselves at the stations. YAY STATIONS.

Broken up into ten-mile increments, it’s totally doable. Every ten miles, though, your knees are a little weaker, your hands a little tighter as they grip your hiking poles and your conversations are a little less coherent once the bright flair and warm soup of a support station have disappeared around the bend.

Somewhere around mile 40, the four of us take an exhausted-but-exhilarated selfie on the trail. About 5 miles later, Spencer and Katie limp their way down Mount Mist, die a little bit in the parking lot at the bottom of the trail, and we all trudge up the road towards the last support station before the Lodge.

Thankfully, Trip Director Mac rolls up before they can actually collapse, and Chris and Elizabeth continue onwards while the magic white bus carries Katie and Spencer away to the Lodge. (note from Katie: We didn’t say “bye!” or “good luck!” or anything. It was just like, hey, bus, let me get on you, bye world.)

Chris and Elizabeth trudge on. Knees breaking, legs chafing, chugging along.

Elizabeth: We made it to Great Bear, the last support station, at 3:59 pm. The cut off was at 4:00. And this is why I believe some things are meant to happen. Even with our increasingly frequent stops and decreased speed, even with the random dog that followed us down the mountain, even with the forgotten rain jacket and hiking pole detours and accidentally sending Katie off with our maps, it turned out every step we took and every choice we made got us there just in time.

I had this weird feeling sitting in the informational meeting for hikers the Tuesday before we took off. How weird are we all that ~50 or so people are volunteering their sleep and time to help us haze ourselves? What would this look like to non-Dartmouth people?

But after doing it, and maybe I blocked all the bad parts out, but I’m pretty sure it was mostly type-1 fun (minus that walk to class on Monday.) And gosh, am I happy I go to Dartmouth and have found a group of people who are crazy just like me.

(Revelation from the hike: My father likes to say he’ll know he’s succeeded as a parent as long as my sister and I stay away from “the pole” — meaning stripper poles. Sorry dad, but after this trip, I fell in love with not only one pole, but two poles. Luckily for him, I mean hiking poles.)

Katie: If you guess what our team acronym means, you get 50 points. (Get it?) (I am still delirious.)

As soon as we made it to the Lodge, Spencer and I collapsed onto the mattresses that had been laid out for hikers at the end of their journeys and passed out for about 5 hours. This gave us enough energy to tackle Chris and Elizabeth when they arrived at the Lodge, frozen and weary, 33 and a half hours after we’d started hiking.

Fifty, it’s been real.

On a scale of Aquaman to Iron Man… how ya doin’?


Katie Hake and Elizabeth McNally