Y'all, I DID IT! I made it through the 2021 New England Six-Pack, including the final three peaks in a span of six days — so I am very, very, VERY sore. But climbing Mt. Chocorua on a day with absolutely perfect weather was the best possible way to end this challenge.
First of all, let's clear this up — it's pronounced sha-KOOR-uh. Three syllables. The bartender at nearby Hobbs Brewing explained this to me after I showed up post-hike for a celebratory beer and the best chicken parm of my life. Anyway, there's that.
This is an extremely popular mountain, but it has multiple trailheads (including two from the same parking lot), so the entire Liberty Trail, which is nearly eight miles long round-trip, was very quiet. I didn't start to see other hikers in large numbers until trails merged closer to the summit. And the summit was PACKED. This was a bit of a surprise, but not an unwelcome one because the last mile of Chocorua, particularly the last half mile, involves a lot of scrambling to the point that you really need all four limbs to get over some of the bigger rock faces. Definitely more challenging scrambles than either of the two mountains I climbed earlier this week (Mansfield and Camel's Hump). The first three miles of the Liberty Trail, though, are very gradual and even pretty much flat in sections. The biggest challenge here, especially as a solo hiker, was not getting bored. I broke one of my own rules and put on AirPods and a podcast for a few particularly unremarkable stretches in there. But then as things open up closer to the summit — WOW. Incredible views. A complete 360-degree panorama. I sort of regret not spending more time at the summit, but it was sufficiently busy that it wasn't a particularly calming experience anyway, and I wanted to get back down so that I wouldn't be at risk of losing daylight either on the return trip or on the post-refuel-meal drive to my hotel an hour to the south. I did, however, have enough time to stop on the drive back from the trailhead and wade into Chocorua Lake (which felt amazing on my feet) and snap some photos of the peak in the distance.
The biggest unexpected obstacle (well, not entirely unexpected) was how wet the trail was. Large parts of it were effectively streams, because it had rained heavily yesterday and a lot of rainwater runoff is effectively routed right onto the trail. There were also a couple of parts that were so swamped that they were pretty much impassable unless you had waders; luckily, it was easy to take a quick diversion to the side of the trail. Anyone's feet definitely got very muddy, and some hikers were taking breaks to let the mud dry off so that it wouldn't impede traction on the steep rock faces closer to the summit. The drive to the trailhead, too, had some massive puddles on it that I knew wouldn't be a problem because I drive a Jeep, but potentially could have been a challenge for a smaller and less rugged car.
ANYWAY. The Six Pack quest is over… until I fly to LA in November to do my final SoCal Six Pack hike. I absolutely feel stronger and with far better endurance levels than a few months ago, and I no longer find steep scrambles anywhere near as intimidating. I'm so glad I found out about these challenges from a random post in a GroupMe for female hikers in LA, because it's been a huge part of 2021 for me and I'm very thankful to everyone who was involved in creating it and the wonderful, encouraging, inclusive community around it. Can't wait to see if I can do 3 of them in 2022!