Most Memorable Christmas

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to take a few minutes and wish everyone a happy holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and every other way you celebrate the season. Hope you have a great time with family and loved ones. As we take a breather from the mad rush of the whole year, my mind wanders back to memories of Christmases past and all the fun we have had this time of the year. I thought I would share some of those memories with you.

One memory which stands out in particular is of Christmas day, 2006. Since we are Hindu by religion and don’t have much family in US, we don’t have a lot to do on Christmas day. So often the answer to the question, ‘what are we going to do on Christmas day?’ is ‘Let us go hiking’. So, me, my then partner (now wife) and a friend, Madhu, decided to go hiking in White Mountains, New Hampshire. Given the lazy bums we were, we did not leave Boston till well past 10 am. We got to Lincoln after noon at which point Madhu announced that he was hungry and we made a quick pit stop at McDonalds. It was 1 pm by the time we got to the trail head. For those of you keeping track, it was the East Pond trail off the Kancamagus Highway. It is an easy 10-mile hike to East Pond, a small pond nestled in the mountains. This was the very first hike I had done in White Mountains in 2003 and loved it and that is why we were back to revisit the hike this Christmas day. However, this was the very first time we were in white mountains in winter. We did not have much by way of gear and my friend, Madhu, was wearing his formal leather shoes. 3 clueless hikers, hitting the trail at 1 pm without any gear, what can possibly go wrong, right? So, we started.

The trail was beautiful, weather slightly chilly. A mile in, we got to a stream and joyfully hopped across it. The trail rose gradually and about 4 miles in, we reached the ridge. At the ridge, there was a light dusting of snow on the ground and the surrounding forest was serene. We saw some animal footprints in the snow and wondered what animal it was. At this point, Madhu started complaining that he was feeling some pain in the right knee. But, we thought, the pond is right here, let us get to it quickly and then start back. So, onward we marched. We got to the pond by 4 pm. The pond is spectacularly beautiful, framed by the ridge on the left, Mt Osceola in the front and the forest on the right. We spent some time at the pond, took in the sights and then headed back. As we got back up the ridge, Madhu complained that the pain in his knee was increasing. It was about 5 pm by now and it had started getting dark. Madhu picked up a stick and we hurried down the path. Few minutes later, Madhu’s knee was jamming up, and his second knee was also now in pain. Soon enough, Madhu was not able to bend either of his knees, had sticks in both his hands and was waddling like a duck. On top of it, it had suddenly gotten very dark. We were shocked, ‘it is so dark so early’. We were obviously not prepared to hike in the dark. Thankfully, earlier in the day at our pit stop in Lincoln, I had bought a flashlight on a whim not knowing that we would need it the same day. So, there we were, 3 hikers with one flashlight, waddling down the trail wondering when we will get to the road. But first, off course, the stream. We got to the stream and found that the water in the stream had doubled by now. Some of the rocks we had hopped over earlier were now underwater. I was pretty sure that Madhu was going to take a dunking in the water but some-how he managed to balance himself and got over the stream. It was only a short distance now. When we finally got to the trailhead and heaved a sigh of relief, we were greeted by a most spectacular night sky. I have never ever seen as many stars in the night sky as that evening. The whole sky was bejeweled and glittering like a bride at her wedding. After taking in the sky, we hurried to the CVS in Lincoln and then straight onwards to Boston. You bet, the Aloo Paratha at Punjab restaurant in Arlington tasted heavenly that night.

Have a holly jolly Christmas and happy new year. I would love to hear what memories the season brings for you. Write back when you get a chance.

Thanks,

Kapil

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