The Moosilauke Misadventure (that time my mother nearly disowned me on the trail)

Redemption seems to be the theme of my hiking stories these days, as I returned to Mount Moosilauke after (quite literally) dragging my mother up this mountain in 2019.

Have you ever taken a friend or relative on a hike that quickly turns from a nice walk in the woods, to a full-on hostage situation where you take on the role of torturer, with the waterboarding equivalent being granite rocks – I guess we would call it graniteboarding?

That’s how it felt in 2019 when I first hiked Moosilauke with my mom. She was miserable – huffing and puffing her way up, threatening to put me in timeout, while trying not to trip over yet another damn rock. When we got to the summit, even the beautiful view wouldn’t diminish her anger – put a fork in her, Mom was D-O-N-E. So, we quickly scurried down the mountain – she tripped over more f*cking rocks, threatening that she brought me into this world and she could just as easily take me out of it.

But would I learn from my mistake? Nope! The next day I would continue my mother-daughter hazing trip by dragging her up Mount Pierce – yet another 4000 footer. Yup – worst daughter EVER. But that’s another story for another time, back to Moosilauke:

Mother-mountain torture aside, I had remembered that Moosilauke was actually quite a beautiful and fairly moderate hike for 4000 footer standards (just not Mom standards), so I was anxious to return without an angry mother in tow. As with my mom, I once again took the popular Gorge Brook, Carriage Road and Snapper trail loop – this time solo – so I could take it all in, and not run the risk of tormenting another poor soul.

Fun fact: the trails are maintained by the Dartmouth Outing Club. So, as you can imagine, that Ivy League touch makes for well-maintained trails that are bougie AF by White Mountain standards. And while the Ravine Lodge is currently closed to us plebs, I was grateful for the peasant porta-potty left in the parking area for grubby little hikers like me.

Gorge Brook trail made for a lovely ascent, as I had remembered. But on the way up, I discovered that I wasn’t the only White Mountain family torturer, as I bumped into a dad long abandoned by his teenage son, who – like my mom – huffed and puffed, in between muttering expletives. As I passed him, he asked me to find his adolescent son and give him a good kick in the shins for dragging him onto this f***ing mountain. Shortly thereafter, I would run into the boy and had a choice to make: to shin kick, or not to shin kick?

Normally, I would relish the opportunity to go full Tonya Harding on some punk kid who had abandoned his dad – but mostly just to get out some adolescent angst from my past. I would imagine he was Sean – the first boy to break my heart at the tender age of 14 – I would kick his shins repeatedly while screaming, “How could you abandon me, Sean!? I thought you loved me, SEAN!?!” The teenage boy would fall to the ground, clutching his shins and sobbing, “Why me!?!? Why anyone!?!?”, his chances at Olympic gold dashed, while wondering who the hell this Sean person was.

Fortunately (for him and also, me), the mountains have a way of curbing even my most violent of impulses. So I spared the boy, but did let him know that his father had contracted me to take him out. My attempt at dark humor was lost on him – as most things are for boys of that age – and next time I saw him, he was glued to his father’s side – avoiding any and all eye contact with me… oops?

Once I reached the summit, I lingered for almost an hour to not only enjoy the view, but to also partake in a favorite pastime of mine – people-watching. As I sat munching on my mountaintop version of a cheese board (string cheese, dried apricots and baby carrots), I saw all kinds of shiny, happy (and not so happy) hikers:

From the Gal Pal hikers, who will – through these mountains – forge deep bonds and lifelong friendships with one another.

To the Solo Smeagol – a strange, antisocial creature who spent more time on his phone trying to research if the South Peak was a part of the precious list (no, it isn’t), than enjoying the actual journey itself.

To Peak-Finder Pete, another lone (but friendly) creature who wandered around the summit listing off all the mountains that can be seen from the summit – while rattling off an impressive amount of White Mountains facts, to no one in particular.

To husbands dragging cranky wives up the mountain. And girlfriends dragging aggro boyfriends down the mountain.

To the cheerful family celebrating their child’s completion of their first 4000 footer, with cupcakes and fun signs.

To the exasperated mom and dad, desperately trying to extinguish their toddler’s trail temper tantrum.

To the wide-eyed baby taking it all in – these early glimpses into this beautiful thing called life.

To me, Jenn – sassy hiker and White Mountain assassin for-hire (and kind of a shit daughter).

On the way back down, I bumped into the Shinkicker family one last time. As I passed the dad, he turned giving me a thumbs up and nod of gratitude – his wary son still refusing to look me in the eye.

I smiled, thinking of my mom and missed her deeply in that moment – the thing is, she lives in NYC and I haven’t seen her since Christmas 2019, because – well, COVID-19. Next month she will be coming to visit me in NH, her first time back in two years – and two years since our Moosilauke misadventure.

When I got home I emailed my mom to tell her I had hiked Moosilauke again, asking if she remembered when we hiked it together. She replied that she did, and that she couldn’t wait to see me and go hiking together. Because even though it was hard, the experience of being kept apart from her daughter for two years has been so much harder.

So, in a month’s time she’ll be here for our happy reunion and a bit of hiking. But don’t worry, Mom – no more 4000 footers!


  1. Jaan Luikmil
    July 5, 2021

    I love your site you have a lot of cool stories and I can relate to how the mountains can help heal you in many ways I had a very bad divorce last year and I took to the mountains to help mend my broken heart and I was told by my lawyer that I could relax for the rest of my life and enjoy hiking all I want and so I did I hike thirty of the 4000ftrs and I had another heart wrenching experience again last summer I was down to eight or nine 4000 ftrs left and I found out that someone drained my account so I had to give up on my quest to finish all the 48 in two summers and I had to go find work and now I only have weekends to accomplish my quest and also I have to get some other people to get my money back now because of my lawyer has done something with my money and he won’t say what happened to it but I have done a couple off my list the lsat coif weekends and it has helped I met a few more new friends and then I hope to finish this summer maybe I will run into you sometime on the peaks
    You have a good thing going here
    Have fun
    Jaan Luikmil

  2. sheila
    July 28, 2022

    I love your blog. It is really funny. Keep up the good work.I am going to hike my first 4000 footer this weekend.


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