Forty Peaks Quilt Beginnings

This year I celebrated a big milestone birthday, and I thought it was high time I made a quilt for myself to document it. I’ve discovered how powerful positive feedback loops with quilting and adventurous living can be, through our Summer Adventure Quilt back in 2017 and my 2020 Miles quilt that kept me running despite the pandemic. My 40th birthday felt like a perfect occasion for my next foray into quilting my life. I pulled out my Quilt Your Life project organizers and dove into planning.

During the weeks leading up to my birthday, I reflected a lot on age and what it means to get older, the power a measly number somehow has on my psyche, and how to break free from that feeling of impending mortality. I fully know that 40 isn’t “old” and that there is much grace and wisdom found through aging, but the whole “over the hill” thing got to me. In embracing the wonderful things that come with age, I decided to play on the “over the hill” bologna and instead, focus on climbing mountains. For my first year as 40, I hope to climb to 40 mountain peaks, celebrating my 40 year old body, mind, and soul from the highest points. Of course I’ll be making a quilt block to document each peak reached. I’m calling it my 40 Peaks Quilt, and I’ll be documenting it on IG under #40PeaksQuilt and hopefully blogging about it here.

This past weekend, my 40th birthday and associated quilt project kicked off with a bang–I have 3 peaks under my belt already!! The first hike was a birthday hike, celebrated with my kids and a few hiking friends and their kids. We headed up a favorite local-ish mountain on a gloriously warm and sunny spring day, and it was perfect.

The day began in an unexpected way: I woke up to an overflowing drain line in the basement, so instead of birthday breakfast in bed, I spent the morning helping Gare carry everything outside into the sun to dry. It was so apropo!! A friend came over to help, we got the drainlines all snaked, and Gare graciously offered to stay home and do the mopping, cleaning, and drying while I headed out on my planned birthday hike.

It was an absolutely stunning Maine spring day, and our hike up Blue Hill Mountain was delightful. I discovered that my sweet Finn, who during my last adventure-tracking quilt was my enthusiastic block holder, is very much like his mama and prefers to be behind the camera rather than in front. The photos of me shared here were taken by Finn.

So was this one, but this was his first official photography gig, so it’s all good. Hah!

Here’s the one photo he let me take of him as block holder, but I do think he will much prefer to be the one taking the photos during this project. Time to train the next generation of memory capturers!

The fresh air and sunshine was amazing, some dear friends joined the kids and me–including one of my fellow Mountain Mamas from our #SummerAdventureQuilt days, who I hadn’t seen in over 13 months. Then the day was capped off with our first gathering of any size–a bonfire outside, with everyone masked and distanced, but oh so happy to see each other. Many of the adults were fully vaccinated, we all wore masks and stayed outside, but just being together for the first time in over a year was the most amazing birthday gift. And we made plans for a regular weekly hike day all summer, so our Mountain Mamas Lugging Babies & Towing Trekking Toddlers will be reunited, now that our babies are five+ and we’re the ones being towed by our speedster youngsters as they race up the mountains.

Block one for my 40 Peaks Quilt, done! I am planning to stitch some embroidered details on each block to track the people who accompany me on each hike, but I’ll share more of those details in the next post.

The next day, we dropped our three kids off at my fully vaccinated in-laws’ house and Garrett and I headed to Acadia National Park for a date hike, our very first time away from our kids in over 13 months. It was another gorgeous sunny day, and it was amazing. I love our kids dearly, but we all were very much ready for a day apart!

Gare and I hiked the Acadia Mountain & St Sauveur Mountain Loop, hitting two more peaks and getting in a serious workout! Those trails were STEEP!! Halfway up the second mountain, I commented, “When I thought of this project, I wasn’t thinking about this part! I was thinking about the epic views at the top!” But lo, you have to take the whole journey, not just the peaks, right? If that’s not a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is!

One of the gorgeous views along the way. The day was GORGEOUS!

The hike ended up at 4.6 miles total, with an elevation change of 1,176 feet according to Strava. Because we hit two peaks, I am going to use two mountain blocks for this hike, and I haven’t yet fully decided how I will be marking the mileage. The block I brought with me, and which is in the photos for Acadia Mt and St Sauveur Mt has the color arrangement for a 3.5 mile hike. I made a 4.5 mile hike mountain for the second peak, and might just plan to do something similar for future multi-peak hikes: I’ll bring a block to designate part of the hike, and plan to make a new block after the hike to document the full mileage.

The first three peaks for my 40 Peaks Quilt documented in fabric. Hike mileage is color coded in 1/2 mile increments, and the embroidered arrows are adults on the hike, and french knots are kids. I am using Aurifil 12wt thread in natural white-2021.

This is one part of this project I am still uncertain about: I love documenting memories through photos on each hike, but realize that without knowing the final mileage until the end, I won’t always guess correctly if I bring a guess block with me. Initially, I was thinking that maybe I would bring the previous hike’s block on each hike, since then we’d have a block for photos with us, but then the blocks would be documented on a different mountain than the one they represent. I might opt to relax the mile documentation aspect a bit and take a guess on hike mileage so that I can bring blocks with me on hikes, making notes so that the end quilt still accurately represents the mileage. I feel like for this project, the data tracking doesn’t rank as high as the memory making and adventuring, so this feels like a potential solution. I’m not fully decided yet, so if you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments!

Either way, my positive feedback loop is in place and underway. I’m getting out in nature, climbing to new mountain peaks (I’d never been up St. Sauveur Mountain before), and enjoying the best views in Maine. I can’t wait to see where this project brings me, how my health and well-being improves through doing it, and to what gorgeous heights I climb over the next year. Bring it on, 40!

7 thoughts on “Forty Peaks Quilt Beginnings”

  1. I turn 40 in about three weeks – what a lovely quilt to honor that wonderful life event.

    Jennifer

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  2. Golly….what an ambitious milestone. Both the quilt and hiking the mountain peaks, yikes !! Happy Birthday 🎂 and many kudos to you. I had never heard of Acadia National Park in Maine before, but this is the second time in a two-day span. The first was at a Zoom photo conference held this past weekend.

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  3. This celebration is wonderful, to share with family and friends is the icing!!! Love your peaks, the arrows and knots, and the memory rather than total accuracy would win in the end for me. Enjoy the whole year, and remember that 40 is only a number, I am 80 and you will still be tramping when you reach that milestone.How will you manage when the snow and cold weather arrives? Ski uphill maybe.Congratulations on your goals and achievements so far.

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  4. What a great way to celebrate your milestone birthday! We don’t have any mountains where we live …you certainly have gorgeous views from your mountains!

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  5. I’m sorry that the drain line in your basement chose such a poorly timed day to have an issue, but it sounds like it was resolved (I sure hope so). And I am so glad that you and Garett had a day together sans kids. I look forward to seeing your peaks quilt grow this year. 🙂

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  6. What a delightful post on reaching your 40th birthday with a year long plan to document it! I love visiting Maine and Arcadia NP and the areas north of there. Now that I’m vaccinated, I hope to get back there at the end of summer this year. I’m looking forward to your adventures with lots of pictures and watching your unique quilt progress.

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