Sunday, November 27, 2016

Mount Pierce

As with anything at this time of year, have a few plans in mind... Winter has grabbed a hold of the trails past Franconia Notch and I don't think she'll be letting go any time soon. I parked at the Highland Center and figured I'd take the Crawford Path to tree line and see what happens. I've packed my microspikes but left the snowshoes at home. A quick stumble up the stairs from the parking lot at the Highland Center and we're off...

The Crawford Path is pretty rocky on a dry day. Today, it's a little slick but temps are below freezing this morning so, it' solid. My boots are gripping good so, the spikes are for now in my side pocket. I've got my long underwear on (top and bottom), regular hiking pants, wool mid layer, puffy, and Santa Hat to be festive. I feel warm so, the gloves stay off. My boots have 400g insulation and are super waterproof. I am solid for todays hike in these conditions. Continuing on the Crawford Path, it's snowing lightly and my footing is good. Typical pre-winter conditions but I would say that some skill will need to come into play now, if anyone is hiking... It's not just a hike anymore. I try and keep an even pace over the rocks to avoid too much sweat so that I can stay warm. Hiking at this time of year is not a race amy more. Isis and I check out Gibbs Falls and enjoy the scene around us... We are both smiling. This is our season.

All water crossings on this section are either bridged or step overs. It's a little mushy where the seeps have not frozen yet but nothing that waterproof boots cannot handle. From Gibbs Falls to the junction of the Mizpah Hut, there is minimal new snow and what is there is already packed down. Still no need for spikes and I'm impressed since I have not slipped since the parking lot. Today is a good day! I stopped at the junction for water and a snack for Isis. From this point to tree line will not take very long at all. I noted a definite drop in temperature here and we got moving quickly. There is an open seep to start back up again which is rather large... Isis was not impressed that she had to balance on a log to avoid wet paws. It's a quiet day on the trails so far but we are joined by one other who came up behind us. I STILL have no voice so I am really trying not to talk to anyone. I really enjoy this section from the junction to tree line but I do note a significant increase in snow under foot. As we continue, my footing is still good so, the spikes are taking a ride today.

The trees are coated in snow as we continue climbing and eventually the trail evens out. From here it's a few 100 feet to the junction for turning to Eisenhower. I noted here a need for snowshoes and also decided to head to Pierce only. No visibility and gusts up to 20mph... We're good to call this a warm up hike today. All miles count and in this case, it's all training for other goals. So, the other guy who we let pass us is not too keen on getting to the summit from here at the junction so, we offer to lead the way, much to his surprise that I am hiking alone with my dog... Climbing up, we sink to our knees in snow but I am laughing! Isis well, she gets a little more than she bargained for. I really wanted my snow shoes here as well as a little better visibility to see the trail (vow to strap them on my pack when I get home and let them stay there for the season now). Lots of drifts and chances to get caught in the scrub. The good thing is that our path will blow in as we reach the summit. The bad thing is that our path will blow in as we reach the summit, and we are joined by three other guys too. Not much to hang around for. I got a few snaps and we trudged back through the snow... This time, we were careful to try and stay true to the path. Didn't sink in nearly as bad as some of those thigh deep steps coming up. The wind is gusting and we are solid in getting back below tree line. A day well spent in some pretty challenging conditions.

Heading back down, I'm a frosted mess and still smiling! The same goes for Isis. The trail up high passes quickly as it is still solid and snow covered. It's cold enough to keep in good shape and there is not much accumulation expected. I tried to warn a group heading up about the summit but they would find out soon enough. Ran into another group of girls coming up in nothing but leggings, thin sweatshirts, and I believe sneakers... Not the time of year for this any more but pretty standard for the Whites, I'm afraid. I just tried to keep moving without too much room on the trail. We pulled over in-spite of the "Come on down" call which was right on top of us. Sometimes you just have to let everyone else pass. I had dropped my camera (not my phone) and when I realized it, I had to go back about 400 feet. Thankfully, the snow depth did not swallow it. Isis was not keen on going back up but we were quick. Made it back to the junction for some water but were disturbed by an overly friendly dog... I'm going to just ignore the call of "He/She's friendly" from now on when it comes to my dog... If my dog gets charged, I will get defensive. She HATES being charged. This is not the time of year to not have control of you dog either or to passively say that the dog is friendly... This is the time of year when you need tight control. End rant... OK... enough on the soap box. Hike on. 

The lower Crawford Path is a little less solid now and I notice that Isis is trying to avoid getting her paws wet by hiking in snow on the sides. It's a little sloppy but we manage to get back to the car in good time. It's just barely noon... Not that we were timing ourselves. An enjoyable day out there in some pre-winter conditions. 

I'm now looking to get myself back in shape as November has served as a wake up call for myself. Essentially a month long case of laryngitis and feeling a lack of energy (building for a while) as well as some weight gain, and just being sicker than I ever have been, I am making some changes in my life. Less stress eating and drinking, less sitting around, less feeling sorry for me, and more action. Of course this means more walks and longer walks for Isis too. Time to get back into condition for winter and beyond as I love this season so much and love my adventuring all the more. It's hard sometimes to shake off "the blues" but I can't stay down forever and loose everything I've gained over the past 3 years. Time to get back to feeling good! 

I've also set my final leg of the Long Trail for mid to late June to give myself a target to shoot for over the Winter. Even with the holidays, I believe I can do this. Thanks everyone for the support and for following along. It truly means a lot to me. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Tecumseh for November 2016

Fair warning... I've been cooped up with Viral Laryngitis this week so, this hike was chalk full of thoughts since well... I still can't talk. :) But as usual, I will do my best to provide trail conditions and my usual life musing. Read what you want and take the rest with a grain of sea salt and some chocolate. 

I chose the mighty little Tecumseh for no other reason than the fact that I have not been on a 4K since like... August ( I know it was Moose)? And... being "sick" I wanted to start off small and get my self out of the house and away from the remnants of Murica saying "Hold my beer and watch this...". Tecumseh is one that I could turn back on without too much agony, if I needed too. Today was a beautiful day and I thought I was leaving my house late but we made it to the ski resort (Waterville Valley) by 8am... And we were off. I'll note here that the large parking lot 1 at the trail head had only 2 other cars plus mine... It was a quiet morning to start which is good since I can't talk. There was a group of 4 slow movers behind us as we climbed. The trail down low is well groomed. Someone has done a tone of work with blow downs and brushing. The first two water crossings are flowing but easy to hop. The slow group of 4 caught up to us and I let them pass. Isis does better bringing up the rear anyway... She likes to stop for everyone, even if she doesn't like a lot of people. But we leap frog in front of them later... It takes us no time to get to the 3rd water crossing and the 1.2 mile view point and the ski trail. The eroding trail still evident in this area and there is some mud and water. But not so bad that it's a mess (Like Vermud mess)... Yet. 

Of course, after the 1.2 mile view, there is the climb... Up the side of the ski trail. Slow and steady, we head up and break when we need to. No sign of ice or snow as we climb. I'm wearing my new Merrell Fluorescein Shell 8 boots... A little hot for today but totally water proof and the tread is good. So far also, no hot spots or blisters. Climbing up, there is more stone work... Tecumseh is like a stair master now... I kinda like it but now it's also really easy. That's my opinion, some might still find it tough. An older gentleman passed us and I thought I'd at least see him at the summit... No sign of the group of 4 yet either. Once we crest that climb, we are on to my favorite little ridge... I just love how the light and moss play around with each other. 

It's really not long from here to the summit. another short climb which can get pretty steep in winter, at the junction, I always go left... And you're basically there. Isis and I arrived about the same time as a group of 3 guys that must have come up form the Tripoli Rd side because they never passed us and Isis surely would have stopped dead to wait for them if she heard them. We all settled and Isis was a perfect lady at the summit. She settled nicely and didn't bother anyone. I broke out the cheese (and a Prednisone for me) and she didn't try to eat my hand either ( I will fight anyone for cheese and so will she). I was so impressed with my little 4 year old hiking partner. The day is beautiful, low wind and temps are not cold at all. But I really want winter... Guess I'll chase that next weekend. So, the group of guys is chatting it up and me without a voice... I keep talking anyway and try to fill them on on surrounding peaks and history of the summit clearing... I'm not sure if they truly understood my whispers... Or if they were just humoring me. They left and I had the summit to myself for a little while. Isis and I tried to do photos but as usual, she's playing uncooperative. I just didn't want to head down just yet. The day was so nice and I wanted to stay as long as I could.. I'm also a pretty good judge of when to bail too. 

Today, I'm also using my new ULA Catalyst. I am so impressed with this pack already and it's not even fully packed for a long distance hike (yet). Plenty of room for my winter gear and I haven't even filled that up yet either (It's in the 50's today). Super light and comfortable on my back. I could not be more happy with the investment. I'll be working with it until I leave for the Long Trail in 2017. The group of 4 suddenly appeared as I was packing up and I was glad I stuck around. The older gentleman in the group was celebrating his 48th! Again, I explain my voice but keep talking... Will I even learn or recover?? We all had a nice chat and I took some pictures for them so they can remember this day. I think Tecumseh is an ideal 48th since it's small and easy to hike for a lot of people. I truly enjoy this mountain. But it's time to get going... As we head down, the crowd is arriving. 

Going down is always easy and with all the rock stairs, it's even easier. We must have pulled over for easily 75 people heading up (one large group of students mostly boosted the numbers)... A lot of dogs (some Isis liked and some she did not). I was glad that I left when I did as I tried to imagine that little summit as standing room only. I try and explain myself to the hoards as I am coming down, in hopes that I can just keep going but I end up stopping to talk... I'm going to have to NOT talk tomorrow... At all. The trail is dry for the most part and we make a quick down to the view point. Where there is... More people. More talking and well, it's really nice. People with similar interests coming together and talking like old friends even though we may never see each other again. Lots of questions today about hiking the ski trail down... Yuck, tall grass to hide ankle breakers and pot holes without snow... Just say no. The lower trails are also easy to hike out on and the crowd thins as we get back to the trail head. Easy peasey day for a hike to get me out of the house. I'm sure Isis appreciated the elevation gain from our more flat hikes on the AT... She loves to jump on anything she can and loves to jump up rocks to get to the summit. It really gives her a chance to stretch out. The parking area is FULL when we get back. That group of students didn't come in a bus but I swear everyone had their own car (How's that carbon footprint now?)... I am struck by the crowd volume and again, happy I left the summit when I did. A day well spent even if it spent what little voice I had.... Worth it!

Which way to go??? I've put aside the AT until warmer weather and longer days... But the Whites are still crowded. Remember, I am use to hiking where the crowd is not... On the AT, I've seen at most 5 people when I hike (off season for Thru's). I was so taken by the crowd today and it makes me wonder if it will thin out for Winter? Lots of people are gearing up for the season... Myself included. The crowd has shifted in the Whites too and it felt strange to be back there today. No doubt, I have seen a difference between the 4K trails and the more Long Distance trails I have been hiking... Remember I told you to take everything here with a grain of sea salt and chocolate... Everyone here seems so... Pretty... Lots of perfumes danced by my nose ( I can smell, I just can't talk) and when did make-up become hiking gear? I was concerned for leaving my chap stick at home and lucky I brushed my teeth that early in the morning... No shower or deodorant (what's the point, I'm sweating on this hike anyway) and I ran a comb through my hair (sometimes it's just my fingers)... I don't know, I kinda missed the hiker stench of a group of us that had not showered for a week... Sigh, guess I'll hike my own hike. It's just changed in the 6 years since I started hiking, which was born of illness recover, today I am also struck by the fact that I really know how to get sick... I don't just get Laryngitis, I get Viral Laryngitis. So special... Over a week without a voice and counting and thank goodness I am not in radio anymore or I'd be out of a job. BUT the good thing is that I've been in some degree of pain in my joints since like July... I only recently was able to make a full fist and I owe that to the Prednisone. I was pain free hiking today which made me really happy. Maybe that is what has thrown me off my game this year... Long ass virus that exploded to intolerable recently. I'm on the mend... Still have that Hashimoto's Disease (as always) but at least I think that one is still at bay too... I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other... I just don't know where next. But I do know that I want to chase winter next weekend. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Elm St. Norwich Vermont to Happy Hill Shelter to Hanover NH. VT/NH-AT

It's been a week here in the real world... I'm heading back to the trail to finish off Vermont on the AT. I've unfortunately come down with a big case of laryngitis but, that doesn't stop me from hiking. I lived in Norwich VT for a short time in the mid nineties but I had never known the AT was there (My life was focused on other things). So, I drove to the top of Elm St and I'm not kidding, it's a BIG hill. The road is a dead end and when I reach that, there is a policeman up there... I started to ask him where I could park but had to back track and explain my lack of voice due to the look on his face. My sense of humor wanted to say it was from too many protests BUT, my mind new better. He told me to park by the sign off road and to enjoy the hike. Nice guy, he even waited while I turned around and then drove off. Due to steepness, I parked off the road and nose in. It felt better that way. 

 Isis and I were off to Happy Hill Shelter again. It's probably 3.3miles from where we parked so, it was going to be a quick day. Heading away from the car, I notice all the leaves... Ankle deep in places and that hides most tripping objects. The leaves are slick too so, I'm slipping all over the trail. No views through the tunnel as we climb up a minor hill after a small water crossing. The temps are really nice today so, no winter gear is needed. I just wish that there was something to help with the leaves. Going down hill, I am almost glissading.

The trail is nice and wide in places and crosses a few old roads. There's a farm I can see through the trees and when we get to a junction, there is a sign offering water for hikers. I'm assuming this is a year round offer or at least a 3 season offer. I'm good on water so we keep walking. Not another soul on trail and it's super quiet now that we are away from any roads. I settle into a rhythm and enjoy the trail as my thoughts just pass through. That's how I like to hike... To escape and relieve stress. As we get closer to Happy Hill Shelter, I find some deer hair on the trail and then we run into two people out walking their dogs. I kindly explain my lack of voice and keep walking. I wished them a happy hike as I passed and hoped they heard me. Isis and I landed at Happy Hill well before lunch and had a snack of cheese and salami. Cheese for Isis and she was ready to go back to the car.

Half of our day is now complete as we head back to the car at the trail head, I am thinking of my trek to New Hampshire. My original plan was to drop my pack at the car and walk it to the border with Isis. The problem is the hill... Not really interested in hiking back up that thing to get to my car. So, I keep turning it over in my head. Isis and I are startled by two deer running away from us just up the trail... I got an eye full of White tail as they continued away from us but could not catch a sight again. They must have just kept going. Temps are now fluctuating so, I put my hat on but I'm still good without a coat. Since Isis has no rocks to climb on, we have some fun on logs as we head back.

Coming back over the last rise before the car, a mountain biker was coming towards us. Sun in my eyes, I almost didn't see him until it was too late. Mountain bikers need bells... Not for bears but so we know they are coming. At the car soon after that, I decided to for go some of the road walk. I drove down the hill to Main St., I found a place to park and hoofed it the rest of the way to the border.  From here, be careful of traffic as you are not only dealing with down town Norwich (it can be busy), you are also dealing with crossing the on and off ramps for the highway, and the underpass for I91. Thankfully there are signal lights to help a little. At the first post on the bridge, is the VT/NH sign... Isis and I get pictures in spite of being blinded by the sun. What a beautiful day to essentially finish off the State of Vermont on the trail.

What an amazingly confusing week this has been for me... Not feeling 100% and well, the state of the world had me craving the trails all week and come hell or high water, I was not going to sit out on a chance to hike. Saturday, I could not get myself out of bed which frustrated me... But Sunday (today), thankfully was a go. Soul cleansing and calming, my heart and soul stilled and some decisions were made. Content to not sit back and watch the environment sold off to the highest bidder, I'm going to fight with everything I can. Advocacy is the best weapon against negative results and that goes for causes outside of the environment as well. Please consider speaking out against the current state of the world to help preserve and protect our natural resources. We can fight for common causes together and be stronger for it. Isis and I want to continue to enjoy the AT in other states away from New England as well as to see some of the trails out west in our bucket list future. The next four years will hopefully be a wake up call that we need to fight for what we believe in or loose our natural resources. I'd encourage everyone who cares for the environment to become a voice for it through local and national advocacy groups. Step up and get involved.

We'll be heading back to New Hampshire soon too. It feels a little strange to say that, even though I have not been on those trail in almost a year. Hoping for a better experience from when I left and hoping the crowds have dissipated a bit with the cooler weather. I enjoy the solitude of the trails in Winter and that's what I'm looking forward to, some good winter hiking as well as chipping away at the remaining AT miles from Hanover NH to Mount Moosilauke.

Lots of big plans for 2017 too... My new ULA Catalyst pack arrives tomorrow to help me remain focused on original goals on the AT and LT. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Podunk Rd to Happy Hill Shelter, Norwich Vermont Appalachian Trail

Last week was an off week for me... Sluggishness this morning also had me thinking BUT, I was able to hit the road. Lucky me, Podunk Rd is not that far from my house. Up before the sun, I land at the AT crossing around 8am. It's a very small, only room for my car, pull off at the corner of Podunk and Tigertown. The AT blaze is very easy to spot and I am off into the forest. It's chilly and a little drizzley out there today but there is no snow in the area.

There are a lot of leaves down, now that it's almost November. I think this made it slicker than snow in some places on some of the down hills. I fell twice but, no injury resulted. Isis was having a good time sniffing out chipmunks and mice as we walked. The trail goes over a few hills in this section but nothing to get winded on. There are also a few stream crossings and with recent rains they are flowing but still small enough to hop over. Clouds are low and foggy which gives the forest an extra creepy feel. This close to Halloween, I was expecting the headless horseman to come galloping by. I stopped at a tree I thought I could crawl into for a selfie but I could only fit my butt in it... Smaller than I thought. As I kept walking, the trail just felt like home under my feet.

There was not another soul out there today which for me was nice. Once I left the car noise from the highway behind, I had nothing but the sounds of the forest to keep me company. Isis and I made our way to the shelter and in no time at all, we stood at the junction. Taking the .2 Blue Blaze trail to the shelter was a breeze. The shelter itself was nice... Small, and at one point, it seemed that the water had run dry. Part stone and part log cabin style with many open windows and an arched door. It would be a chilly night there tonight if anyone was staying. There's also a decent size fire pit so, I am sure that would make up for the openness. I kind of did a double take when we had arrived as I underestimated my ability once again. At the shelter, I snapped a few pictures and checked the map as I had a snack and Isis had some cheese. If I went to Elm St in Norwich, that would leave only a mile or two left for the hike into Hanover New Hampshire. Wanting to actually leave some miles for that hike, I decided to call it short and hike back out. Isis showed no signs of protest once we got back up to the trail. It was getting kind of gloomy out there and a longer hike back in chilly wet weather was not appealing to her. 

Hiking back out, I was satisfied with the outcome and really enjoyed the solitude of the trail today. I have found that hiking the AT has taken me away from the crowds in the Whites and brought me back to why I began hiking in the first place... To clear my head and help me not only remain calm, but also process weekly events, and plan future hikes and trips. Spending time with Isis is also a plus and not having to worry about what's coming down trail at her is a bigger plus. She is less stressed these days as well. So, as it stands, my next hike will bring me into Hanover New Hampshire after I backtrack a little from Norwich to the junction of Happy Hill. That means I would just need to cover miles from Wintturi to Stoney Brook to fully complete Vermont. So.... 2 more hikes with the last one being an over night once the weather is better in Spring or Summer. Looking forward to walking into Hanover for my next hike though. 

The beauty of hiking your own hike is you can work at your own pace... It's your trail to divide up how you want. I'll freely admit to taking longer to hike these last few miles and also being OK with it, I'm out to enjoy this trail and I'm in no rush to complete it. New England is beautiful in any season... We'll see where I land in Winter this year. For now though, I will be exploring Pittsburgh NH next weekend... Low trails with hopefully a moose out there somewhere. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cloudland Rd to Thistle Hill Shelter/Joe Ranger Rd. Appalachian Trail Pomfret VT.

My pack was packed for a night on the AT. I even managed to get my zero degree bag in it without tipping the scale. I was hoping to cover miles from Stoney Brook Rd to Wintturi Shelter... Closing a gap and staying the night at The Look Out. BUT, my access point on Stoney Brook Rd was not to be found. It went all the way down from a paved road to a snowmobile/ATV track... Not interested in trying to find a crossing in unfamiliar territory, I went to plan B on another access road. Not going to happen... Same story. This was not my morning. So, I headed to Pomfret VT and Cloudland Rd. I'd hike a few miles towards Hanover NH instead and maybe stay at Thistle Hill Shelter. 

After battling road construction and Leaf Peepers, I made it to Cloudland Rd crossing and after talking to the people at Cloudland Market, I found a pull off to park in. It's small. Barely room for 2 cars... As I am getting ready, another car shows up and the lot is full... We are going in opposite directions (Thankfully, they were leaf peepers). I am heading North as far as Joe Ranger Rd. The trail goes through a field here that you are asked to walk the Perimeter. We stop and talk with a SoBo Flip Flopper and as we reach the woods, I hear some thing BIG coming. I still Isis in hopes that what ever it is, comes out to the field... No such luck, what ever it was, it followed the corridor along the rock wall. Into the woods we go and it's a cool morning. The green tunnel is now a mix of yellows and reds. It's a pretty straight forward trail... Not much variation in elevation and easy to follow. Isis and I make it to Thistle Hill in no time at all. It's not even Noon. The shelter itself is down a .1 side trail. 

Thistle Hill is a great shelter. Really clean and has a fire pit. The highlight is the Privy... Talk about a view. It's completely open with mesh screens and thankfully the lower half is wood panel. You can see the critters approaching, this would probably be welcome at night. Isis and I sat for a bit and made a plan. Unfortunately, it was too early to stop and sit around... Least I catch hypothermia from being sedentary, even after a change of cloths. Plus, I wanted to keep moving. The next shelter is a little too far away to hike to and hike back tomorrow. So, I settled for another mile and a half to Joe Ranger Rd. This would give me another access point, for another time. This section as some steeper downs which give me a work out on the way back. The forest is beautiful here and I've only run into one other Thru Hiker. 

On the hike back to the car, Isis took to zooming past me and waiting for me to catch up. She was in her glory with the cooler weather and she was showing off. I dropped my pack at the car and we continued to head south back to Dupris Hill. This was a vista we turned at during a previous hike. It's only .5 miles from the crossing to the top so, I closed that gap as well. I've hiked most of the LT in Vermont so, this is making me want to hike all of the AT as well and that means going back to fill in gaps. All in all, this trip was not what I truly wanted it to be... Some time on the AT and some shelter time. BUT it was significantly better than if I had just gone home.. I salvaged what I could and still managed some miles and some smiles. 

This little girl... She's my best trail partner (Ever) and as I have said so many times before, She is my heart. She gets treated as if she was human and is completely bonded to me and me only. She is the bright spot in a very dark time in my life and I'm pretty sure I'd be in a totally different mindset without her here or I would have stopped hiking a long time ago, were it not for her. So, when someone makes threats against her and I, I tighten up the ranks. BUT, this does not mean I will stop living my life. Let me make one thing clear... I raise my dog as I see fit and no one is going to threaten me to do it differently. She has the best life any dog could ask for and has seen a lot more than many dogs her age. It doesn't matter if she's on leash or off, reactive to strangers and strange dogs... Or not. We both deserve to be on trail and that's not going to change... We still put one foot and one paw in front of the other and have a fantastic time. 

This weekend was confusing and I like to believe that everything happens for a reason... Perhaps the shelter was going to be crowded at The Look Out and I would not have had the best experience with Isis. Regardless, I've got one weekend left before I need to take some time to get ready for my annual trip to my cabin in Pittsburgh NH... Maybe we'll try again for The Look Out. The research resumes tonight. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Stage Rd to Wintturi Shelter AT SOBO in Woodstock Vermont

What was I suppose to do since my chores were done and the cold I had earlier in the week succumbed to my drowning it in fluids and electrolytes? Knocking off more miles on the AT in Vermont, of course. I headed back to Stage Rd in Woodstock Vermont to start a SoBo trek to Wintturi shelter. A modest 5.4 mile hike (one way) with a few surprises along the way. The morning starts chilly after crossing the road from a small parking area and climbing up a steep incline. I'm traveling through some decent hardwoods at first and the sun is starting to burn through the fog. Feeling good today so, I am hopeful for a successful trip. 

Isis and I then crossed through a pine forest and out into some open fields. I looked across and saw a decent undercast in the valley below. I smiled and thought about all the undercasts on the high peaks I have seen and here I am looking at something really beautiful without all the elevation gain. I am so lucky sometimes. Once we cross back into the woods, we begin heading down to route 12. It's a decent descent with a steep trail... This will be tough heading back. So far, not another soul on the trail. We cross the highway and come to a bridge with a gate. 

At the gate, I was preoccupied with something across the field. Isis alerted me to something coming from the right... It's a cow. OK, I can handle this. I gather up Isis who is not happy with the huge cows on her trail and in the process, the cow must have summoned his friends. Suddenly, they are all at the gate and I backed off just a little. The cows continued to literally press up to the gate. I put my foot up to keep it closed and I waited... I waited for them to move on. I waited for two of them to attempt at making a baby cow... That cannot be unseen, BELIEVE ME. Then they moved to the left side of the pasture and I quietly moved through. I made no eye contact and I just kept moving. There were more in the pasture up the hill and so, I moved quickly... In the wrong direction. Once I realized I was off trail, I moved back through and was followed pretty close by one. Watch your step as this really is a very active pasture. Thankfully, no shoes were ruined and one white dog remained white! 

Once we passed the cows, we climbed the hill behind he farm and had beautiful views of foliage and farm land. It was all very New England and very much made me smile. This is what leaf peepers don't get to see sometimes. Crossing back into the woods for a bit, Isis and I cross a few open areas and the view of Mt. Ascutney. The trail from here is pretty easy after the climb and begins to descent towards a wooded road. It becomes a little rocky and soon begins to go up and down a little (PUDS!). Time is on our side today as we continue to our lunch time destination... Wintturi Shelter.

I sat down at the shelter (down a .2 mile side trail blue blazed) and had lunch as I had intended. We, as a duo of hikers have completed 256.7 AT miles and now have just 24 miles left to Vermont. That's something to be proud of in my book and this was the successful trip I had been waiting for. The return trip would hopefully go fast and maybe be cow free.

On the way back we actually began running into others out walking. A group of women were close to the shelter as we began to head back. They were on their way to The Lookout which is about 3 miles past Wintturi. AS we moved over the fields, there were two section hikers enjoying some cheese for lunch and then thankfully the cows had gone home for the day. Climbing back up the steep section from Route 12 saw our final group on walkers and dogs... Not a bad day on the trail. Nice to have some company but equally nice to be alone out there. Not a drop of rain has fallen today either and the temps were a perfect fall day.

So, with 24 miles left, the push is on to complete my first state on the AT. I'd love to squeeze in an overnight to knock off some high miles and then maybe slack pack until the snow flies. Speaking of snow, new Hillsound Trail Crampons have arrived, new boots have been ordered... Time to start thinking of Winter. No real goal unless I want to help Isis get her remaining winter peaks. But, I've also grown to love NOT having a strict goal and not having to reach a summit. Going road to shelter has become a favorite hike for me and I'm looking forward to this journey continuing.