Here at Gunstock, no matter what season it is, our goal is to get more people playing outside and enjoying the great outdoors. Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Our Nordic manager, Kale Poland, decided to celebrate by holding a Summer Solstice guided hike, which served as the first installment of a string of sunset hikes to happen this summer. --and with so many trail options, it's a hike people can do weekly and never get bored.
Our group was a mixed bag of all ages, all eager to get a nice, mild workout in and enjoy the beautiful summit view at sunset as a reward. Perhaps the most eager of all was my dog, Bear, a wiener dog mix who values a good hike maybe even more than he values bacon or peanut butter. He stayed at the front of the pack for most of the hike, serving as a ranger of sorts to approve the safety of the trail for the group and intimidate any rodents who got too close.
Instead of taking one of the more traditional hiking trails to the top, Kale opted to mix it up a bit and lead us up on some ski trails. We scaled the Blundersmoke trail, then cut over from the Pistol lift to Shot Gun before following the Gunsmoke trail to the summit. Every time I turned around to see where the group was, I caught myself saying "Wow" to the point where it was almost redundant, because as we progressed up the mountain, the sun dipped lower in the sky, and all of the color in contrast with the greenery on the mountain became increasingly striking. Despite seeing these views constantly throughout the year, there was something about overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee in its prime, teeming with activity, and feeling the stillness of the woods as the longest day of the year slowly came to an end.
The breeze at the summit was inviting as we all took some time to slow our heartrates and admire our surroundings from the deck of the Panorama Pub. After all the chatter on the way up, I was mildly surprised at how everyone seemed to fall silent as they snapped photos of the sky and one another. And then Kale pointed out that when we're at the summit, the Panorama is normally spinning, causing a background noise that we're used to disregarding. But as the chairs hung in the air motionless, we all seemed to follow suit for a bit.
We headed down Upper Trigger as the purples and blues overtook the pinks and oranges, putting on our provided headlamps to assist with the descent. Fireflies began to reveal themselves as we crossed under the Tiger lift and traversed the mountain on the Derringer trail, before finally coming down Smith to the bottom via the Panorama liftline. I watched everyone make their way down, concentrating on their footing and the moment at hand; no distractions, no worries, just process and movement and smiles.
We started out as a group of strangers, and though we were breathing a little too hard to have any in-depth conversations during our hike together, I know I'll be happy to see these folks in passing and I certainly look forward to hiking with them at sunset again; because if their experience was anything like mine, they'll be hooked too.