Small World: Wisdom at 6,288 feet

 

CHARLIE SIMPSON hiking Mt. Washington to raise money for Fair Tide, a nonprofit organization in Kittery that provides affordable housing and support services for homeless individuals and families.

CHARLIE SIMPSON hiking Mt. Washington to raise money for Fair Tide, a nonprofit organization in Kittery that provides affordable housing and support services for homeless individuals and families.

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

Popular belief has it that the wisest men are to be found on top of high and remote mountains. We have been fortunate to have such a man of wisdom in our midst: Bridgton summer resident Charlie Simpson has ascended Nepal’s Mt. Everest (base camp) and New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington (top) after hiking there from Kittery. I had the chance to ask him a few questions:

HP. Why’d you do it, Charlie?  What motivated you?

Charlie: It definitely wasn’t wisdom. I was just trying to come up with something interesting to do. I live near the ocean yet spend a lot of time hiking in the White Mountains, especially around Mt. Washington. I thought, How about a climb from sea level to the top of the region’s highest peak? The challenge was born: Surf to Summit. Then, I thought it would be useful if I could tie it into a local charity, to help someone out by raising some money. I considered the plight of homeless people and thought of Fair Tide, a nonprofit organization in Kittery that provides affordable housing and support services for homeless individuals and families. That seemed like a good fit.

HP. Tell us about Fair Tide.

Charlie: Fair Tide works toward ending homelessness by providing two-year transitional housing with case management services for the area’s homeless. This housing program is focused on keeping people safe while they work toward educational and financial goals, and financially stable enough to maintain permanent housing. For most past residents this experience has ended homelessness. Fair Tide raises money through a community thrift store, grants, donations and fundraising events.

HP. How did you raise money?

Charlie: The night before I left on the walk, I sent out an e-mail to about a hundred friends, relatives and acquaintances describing my plan to walk 110 miles. I asked them to pledge a penny or a quarter or a dollar a mile. They could also pledge $31, the amount Fair Tide spends per day to house a person. I sweetened the pot by saying they didn’t have to pay up unless I completed the walk.

HP. How much money have you raised?

Charlie: To date, we’ve had over $4,000 in pledges. As more people hear about the walk, additional money has been donated. I’m hoping to hit $5,000 eventually.

HP. How can we help?

Charlie: Donations are gladly accepted at any time. Checks can be mailed to Fair Tide, 15 State St., Kittery, Maine, 03904. Online donations can be made through Fair Tide’s website at http://www.fairtide.org/

HP. Tell us about the hike. Where did you sleep and eat?

Charlie: Other than a few blisters, the five-day hike was pretty easy. I averaged over 20 miles a day, did 36 miles on my best day. I tried to stay on back roads, but there were times when the only way north was to walk on busy Route 16. I stayed in inexpensive motels and ate at roadside restaurants. People I met en route were very helpful and generous. One motel owner gave me a room for free when he heard I was doing a charity walk.

HP. What deep thoughts went through your mind as you made that 106-mile hike to the mountain and then the four-mile hike upward?

Charlie: I have to admit that deep thoughts were few. I think that's what I enjoy most about walking and running. It’s similar to meditation — after a few miles on the road my mind clears out and I do very little thinking about anything. There were stretches of the walk where I’d go for an hour or more and suddenly realize I hadn’t thought about anything memorable the whole time. I know that may sound like I wasn't paying attention to traffic and things around me, but that wasn’t the case. It’s the old story of being in the moment where you're sensitive to your immediate surroundings but unaffected by the mental clutter that fills our minds as part of daily living. I’ve always found when I'm tense or anxious about things I get relief by going for a walk.

HP. We can see Mt. Washington from Bridgton. How about the reverse? How do we look?

Charlie: From the top of Washington on a clear day it’s easy to see Pleasant Mountain, but last week when I was up there I couldn’t see Highland Lake or Bridgton. I think they’re hidden behind the hills and ridges of Sweden and Lovell.

HP. Would you do a hike like this again?

Charlie: Sure. I’m always looking for an excuse to hit the road. We’re talking about doing a fundraiser again next year with a small group. It would take longer because for safety we’d follow a different route, one with as little traffic as possible.

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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