I’d been hiking New England 4,000-footers in all seasons for four years before I ever started a “peak-bagging” list. The notion of “collecting mountains” never resonated with my raison d’etre for hiking. For me, hitting the trail is about having fun, getting exercise, and experiencing gratitude for the views and the woods. I prefer hiking on weekdays, I like breaking my own trail, and I don’t wear a watch or track my miles and pace.
During COVID, I was encouraged by a friend to reach out to a coworker who potentially liked hiking even more than I do. I sent her a playful email, and a couple of weeks later we had our first date up Glen Boulder to Mt. Isolation. She was working on “The Grid,” and it was contagious. Less than a year after we got together, I completed my NH 48, and promptly began summiting the NH 48 in each month. As we both got closer to completion, we had to compromise on which hikes we “needed” and negotiate various day-hikes. Admittedly, I started judging others on the trail who weren’t as “serious” or fast as me.
Grid Life is for lovers
Over a month ago, after bagging the Wildcats in fresh snow from the 19-Mile Brook Trail, we were thwarted by ski patrol from descending via the ski trails. It was a nice day of snowshoeing and my first time on the Wildcats since tripping over a water bar and breaking my tibia last summer. Ski Patrol offered us a free ride down the mountain on the chairlift, but my partner knew it wouldn’t count for our grids. We took our chances heading down the exposed steeps to Glen Ellis and hitching a ride back to 19-Mile.
Ashley supported me while I was on crutches last summer.
I know I’m not alone in feeling like the grid is addictive, and like all addictions, it is a way to cope with an unmet need and offers a distraction from pain and feelings of inadequacy. With almost a decade of sobriety from alcohol, I know a dry drunk when I see one. The grid was turning my safe place into a space where my fun and my safety was conditional upon getting my fix and the dopamine hit I received from penciling in my peaks for the month.
Last week I deleted my grid spreadsheet from my computer. I set new goals for myself in the mountains: to have fun, switch it up, take good care of myself, and share this passion with my partner. Moving forward, I am going to hold myself accountable for the energy I bring on trail. I am privileged to be an avid hiker, and I am supporting my partner in her grid finish. As for me, self-awareness is my greatest flex and I’m hoping this doesn’t mean I won’t get candy from Hiker Ed.