I had spent the week trying to figure out how I was going to perform a random act of kindness while hiking in the middle of the woods on a Saturday in January. We hiked a 4,000 footer in NH planning to camp out near the summit, but the weather reports called for -50-60F+ wind-chill overnight so we decided to opt out of camping on the summit in favor of camping out back near civilization at the Tufts Loj after our hike (only -5F wind-chill at the Loj). Either way we were excited about the hike but how was I going to be randomly kind today when we might not even see anyone all day long?
As we started the hike we ran into a group of three middle-aged guys who were also hiking up to the summit. I thought that was awesome so I high fived them all after we were done chatting. “That’s it!” I thought. I would high five everyone I saw throughout the day because if you’re out hiking in sub-zero temperatures then you’re probably an awesome person who would appreciate a high five. So I spent the entire day high-fiving people as my random act of kindness. My favorite was a group of three older ladies we met at one of the AMC cabins located partway through the hike. We stopped by the cabin to eat some lunch and refill our water. The cabin wasn’t heated but it was indeed protected from the elements so it was marginally warmer than being outside. I talked with them for a few minutes thinking, “Man, these ladies are badass.” They’re well over twice my age and they’re out here hiking in subzero temperatures when all the weather reports said, “Warning! 5 minutes to frostbite on exposed skin, don’t go outside if you can help it.” So I high fived them all and told them how awesome I thought they were which made them crack up laughing. I hope I’m that tough when I’m pushing retirement.
Other people I high fived included the AMC hut caretaker, a group of boyscouts/girlscouts from Cambridge, MA, and an older guy who was actually camping out where we had intended to camp. When we asked him wtf he was thinking he responded, “Well, I’ll be in the trees well below the summit so it will probably only be like -30F with the windchill included.” Yikes dude, I hope we don’t hear about your frozen body being recovered tomorrow in the newspaper. I also high fived a group of my friends who had started out a few hours before us and were already on their way down from the summit as we were hiking up.
Every person I high fived had a smile on their face. We were all out there sharing similar experiences and I think the high fives helped to solidify that fact. I wasn’t left hanging even once, everyone seemed really receptive and appreciative, especially on the tougher sections of trail where despite the subzero temperatures you were still heating up due to the fact you’re hauling a backpack up a mountain. Typically on the trail when you pass someone you’ll say hello and maybe chat for a few minutes if you’re both taking a break, but I’m not sure I’ve ever high fived anyone. I know I’d be pretty stoked if someone randomly high fived me on the trail, or anywhere else for that matter. I hope that this small act of kindness helped to improve their days, even if only for a few minutes.