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Photo Credits to Lucy Goldberg

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For the second year in a row I found myself off to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for an eight day Outdoor Odyssey pre-orientation trip. It's amazing how much smoother things go the second time you do something.

Day 0, a cast of characters: Phil, Lucy, Tomer, Erik, Mary-Kate, and Annie arrived at Cornell just hours after me. Phil of course wasn't wearing any shoes, a trend that would continue throughout his freshman year. Anna was super on top of her game as always and knew exactly what was up. I had flown from CA to PA the night before, and then drove to Ithaca just in time to meet everyone. We repackaged our food, organized our gear, and played Ninja in the Ramen Room with the Kayaking trip.

Phil is a confident, long-haired free spirit. Tomer is an Ithaca native who runs triathlons. Erik, the soft-spoken son of an infantryman, knew exactly what to say to get us all to crack-up. Mary-Kate grew up hiking the New Hampshire ridgeline. Annie is the younger sister of Chelsea, but the two differ in everything but their running style. Lucy is a social butterfly.

That evening we went to Pita Pit for dinner and I introduced Phil to the secret sauce. We all camped out on the arts quad as is tradition, and I slept at the foot of A.D. White as I always have. I was certainly the first one asleep having not really slept the past two nights.

Day 1, open road: At 5:45am, we rose and piled everything into the van bound for New Hampshire. I started to drive, and Anna and I switched every few hours for the nine hour journey. Everyone else slept until 9am, then gnawed on bagels and drank orange juice. We arrived at the parking spot on the side of Rt.16 in the afternoon with cramped legs and full bladders. After a quick pack-adjusting lesson we hit the trail. It's a flat 1.8 miles to the Osgood tent site, so we got there before dark and set-up tarps for the first time on a platform. Anna and I were impressed by the speed of the hiking and how quickly our trippers picked-up on bear bagging, etc. on the first night.

Day 2, the climb: Originally supposed to be the most difficult day of hiking, day two involved climbing 2500 vertical feet onto the Presidential Ridge. With six days of food and several liters of water each, our packs felt heavier than they were in the August heat. What made this hike worse is Mt. Madison has five or six false summits. After summiting, we stopped to eat and rehydrate at the Madison Spring Hut. Just 25 yards away I found a large male moose grazing behind some bushes. We just stared at one another for about five minutes before I called over everyone else by the hut to see him. That night, we ducked below tree line on the North side of the ridge to camp and set-up our first mega tarp. The sunset on Madison made it turn purple as the moon rose. It rained some, but only my sleeping spot the outside got damp.

Day 3, Adams: We packed-up camp rather lazily and headed back up into the alpine zone and past the Spring Hut. Day three involved a little more pacing because some members of the group were faster hikers then others. We still made great time and checked-off Jefferson before lunch. Jefferson tends to be one of the windiest of the peaks in my experience. That night we camped at the Perch at a large lean-to that was still under construction at the time. Phil set-up a hammock for Mary-Kate to sleep in.

Day 4, victory: The night before day 4, Anna and I proposed two options for the next day. Our trippers lived up to our expectations by choosing the longer one. Thus, we woke up at 3:30am to get a jump on the day and met our new friends from a small New England liberal arts college on the summit of Jefferson shortly after the sun peeked over Adams. They had a few victory beers, but we of course could not partake. We then hit Mt.Clay and summited Mt. Washington before noon. In stead of descending Tuckerman's ravine to camp, we continued on down the ridge.

In total, we summited seven peaks including Eisenhower and Pierce, and ended up at Nauman tent site after 12.8 miles of hiking with a gross elevation change of about 10,000 feet. The last downhill switchback mile was especially tough for Anna and I, though we had different troubles. It is my goal to do the entire ridge in a day at some point.

Day 5, nature's washing machine: It rained hard all day, through the night, and into the next day. We packed up camp in the rain and started the steep walk down past the Elephant Head to NH Rt. 302. My rain jacket was no loner waterproof, so by the time we made it the AMC center I was completely soaked. Hiking in wet, cold socks was the worst part. Being the guide, I had the least dry sleeping spot at Naumen the previous night and my sleeping bag became soaked. It was not cold out, but there would be no opportunity to completely dry it for the remainder of the trip.

Annie went for a run in the rain during lunch since she was training for the cross-country team. We all dried off for an hour and then headed into the woods south of Rt. 302 to find a campsite near Mt. Willard. Two trippers who shall remain nameless wandered too far into the woods looking for a clear campsite 200ft off the trail. They found their way back within an hour but not before we started to worry organized a search. By their return, the sun had set, and we set-up camp in the pounding cold rain. By the next morning, everything by a few people's emergency layers would be soaked through.

Day 6, the wait: Due to a mix-up regarding moving the van, I spent most of Day 6 riding an AMC shuttle to get back to the van, while the remainder of the crew ate what food we had left and attempted to dry sleeping bags in the Crawford Depot train station pavilion. Finally, the rain stopped and we drove back to Dolly Copp campground for the night before it got dark. The clouds finally cleared and we made a campfire.

Day 7, Lafayette To conclude our trip, we decided to do the famous day hike of Lafayette, Haystack, and Lincoln. We went up the falling waters trail and met more COE alumni in the Lincoln Hut. Anna, having worked on a trail crew one summer seemed to know everyone in the Whites. That evening we drove to southern New Hampshire to Anna's parents house to shorten the Day 8 drive.

Day 8, way back home: We drove to Camp-O-Rama. They had ice cream. President Skorton made a guest appearance, and nobody died.

Day 9, welcome to the hill: I organized our trip to wake up all 200 Odyssey participants via steamroll before hiking to campus. We were definitely the undisputed, most bad-ass 2011 Odyssey trip. All but one of our trippers applied to be guides!