Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

My challenging and eye-opening journey to Mount Washington

UMass Outing Club’s hike up the mountain proved to be a true adventure
Courtesy of John Manard on Flickr


A quiet excitement pervaded the air outside the University of Massachusetts Amherst gear locker. At 4 p.m. I departed for the weekend cabin trip to Bethlehem, N.H., with the UMass Outing Club (UMOC). Even for the exceptional trip about to take place, we had a delayed departure. By 4:30 p.m., a gang of three and I were on the road.

The sounds of a collaborative Spotify playlist filled the car, one of many bonding activities, including a stop at a Five Guys/Moe’s in Lebanon, N.H. At 8:30 p.m., we arrived.

To my surprise, a three-block trek through the cloudy night forest awaited us before we got to the cabin. On top of it all, we had groceries to carry. They were the heaviest groceries I have ever transported. As I trudged up the snow-laced ground, we had to take at least five breaks.

Yes, you heard that right.

To my delight, I finally got to the cabin. After three hours of various games with those who had already arrived, the last bunch slugged their way into the house. The newcomers were met with moderate vitality, curiosity and a sleepy undertone.

With everybody there, the trips for the next day were announced, but all I heard was a sea of “blah blah blah.” Earlier that night, in between cards and conversations, rumors were spoken of “the trip.”

“Mount Washington,” the club president uttered. An understandable silent intrigue and unique attention followed from the huddled cabin goers. He continued, “We will wake up at 5:30 tomorrow morning.” The room stayed quiet, but an unmistakable air of tension permeated the cabin-goers.

Those words made my decision clear. A long drive and learning the many rules of several card games left me with little energy. It was also almost midnight, and I had never even been on a real hike. The sense of adventure and confidence that charged my spirit now was being overruled by the fight not to pass out on the mountain.

As I lay on the couch after the trip announcements, seven emboldened adventurers whispered about the Mount Washington hike. The president’s calmness made it seem like it was normal to partake in such an undertaking. I had not realized until then that the craziness was truly a lifestyle. As an inquisitive young man who wanted a challenge, I decided I would go to get a taste of it.


I have heard that freedom could be won in a duel with nature. At 5:30 a.m., I have never felt more confident in that sentiment. I was upbeat and unusually energetic for a four-hour, snore-filled sleep on a pillow made of clothes and a sleeping bag. An hour’s drive followed coffee and Nutella-laden oatmeal. In the car, my AirPods played “The Nutcracker” and a Charli XCX song I was pleasantly introduced to on Friday’s Spotify playlist.

We arrived. 15 minutes in, my strength began to wane. Seeds of regret entered my previously emboldened mind. Here, though, I found the magic of hiking. There was no time for regret. A mountain’s only way is forward.

The mountain forced me to shift my attitude. What came after was a sense of reinvigoration. I learned one’s energy follows your outlook. Alas, we did not reach the top but made it to a beautiful view just in time for lunch.

Fog cleared to reveal a glimmer of blue, stretching from a jungle of white, grays and greens. For me, the parting of the clouds inspired a spirituality that could only come from nature.

At the very least, the rest of the climbers got a mental reward. A newfound sense of carefree selflessness amalgamated into snow angels and endless laughter.

Predictably, the climb down was significantly less arduous. Our crew sled down on our behinds much of the way down.

And down we made it. By mid-afternoon, we were in North Conway with a different group of hikers at Frontside Coffee Roasters. The promise of great hot chocolate, conversations with acquaintances who were becoming friends, and strangers becoming acquaintances awaited me. Unfortunately, I was exhausted. After a visit to a thrift store that felt all too long, I could barely stay awake.

The drive back gave me an hour-long nap that was much needed. We arrived in downtown Bethlehem amid a Christmas festival. The festivities were raging in the town of 2,500 people. I made a Christmas ornament on a table with six-year-olds, roasted marshmallows to varying degrees of success on a bonfire and screamed the town’s name for a group photo.

Back at the cabin, dinner was immaculate. As a gluten-free adult, you could not imagine the astonishment that overtook my face with the announcement of gluten-free pasta. Dessert, to my amazement was also gluten-free. I was the only cabin-goer with the dietary restriction. In a twist of fate, my sensitivity won the day. I even got to take the whole batch of gluten-free cookies home.

I went to bed at 9 p.m. I know, lame, but judge me after you climb Mount Washington on five hours of sleep.


Getting to bed at 9 p.m. allowed me to wake up at 6 a.m. the next morning. It was debilitatingly earlier than the rest of the cabin. For the next two hours I soaked up the peace with a book. Later, the arrival of gluten-free pancakes gave me the peak of shock. I helped with dishes after breakfast and had a great conversation about medicine. It served the context well. I truly believe that time in nature, human connections and a good attitude do wonders to the human body.

A mellow ride home and a stop for a latte ended my trip. Arriving back at UMass, I was happy I got to have such an experience. I know many other people who went to the cabin surely did not go for the same reasons, experience the same things, or have the same takeaways. In my mind, that is one of the reasons I loved my trip.

Isaac Brickman can be reached at [email protected].

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