Sunday, July 24, 2016

Mount Monadnock

While I am waiting to head back to the Long Trail this week, I decided to make a quick trip up Monadnock. Funny how I find this peak in my backyard and yet I only seem to hike it when things are not quite right. It's been a tough adjustment since I left the Long Trail last week and I needed this beautiful day on the summit... It will get me back on trail. So, I took the Dublin Trail up for some fun this time around. It's only about 2.1miles from car to summit but it's got a ton of different terrain. I've always said that if a person can't get up North to hike, just try Monadnock... It's got it all on one mountain. 

Dublin Trail, starts out really mellow crossing the access road and into the hard wood forest. I have my small "Seek the Peak" pack today as my larger one is packed and ready to leave for the LT. It feels great to have such a light load on my back. Two one liter bottles of water should be good even though it's humid out today. I should also say that I am hiking solo... In that I have had to leave Isis at home. There are no dogs allowed on Monadnock. She's home resting up. I'll still have to walk her after this too. There is also no water down low so, make sure you have enough from beginning to end. 

I hit a series of scrambles before breaking tree line, which is characteristic of the upper trails on Monadnock. It's fun to hike these and I can feel the breeze starting to kick up. It was great to run into the 3 gentleman that I shared camp with my last night on the Monadnock Sunapee Greenway. Nice to rest for a bit and catch up. They were finishing the trail today and just needed to get back to the car. Once you break tree line, the trail to the summit is very quick over slabs and large boulders. The summit itself is very busy and also windy. The wind feels great after such a humid climb but I did eventually take out my extra layer while I was sitting. A very nice gentleman took my summit picture too... Seems like forever ago that I had one of those taken. After this, I began my descent of the trail and stopped on the lower ledges for some water, food, and a chance to sit in quiet and enjoy the day. I love seeing people at the summit and most are in great spirits. I also love my quiet time to sit and think.

It's just a beautiful day up top. The breeze makes the temp's bearable and I'm enjoying sitting in the sun watching the crows play on the thermals up in the breeze. Things feel right again, even with this small success. I'll be heading back to the LT to pick up a little after I left off. I'll be heading over Mt Mansfield by the end of the week to set myself up now for a 2017 finish. I spent a lot of time this hike getting my head in the game where I was completely out of the game last week. I wanted to give up when it was really hot and humid and I was working hard. But I didn't. I got over the wall of quit and made it... 3165ft never felt so good after the rocky path to get here. The descent of the trail went very quick and I felt confident on the downs. I had the pleasure of watching a four year old girl begin her hiking career on this trail today. She was owning that trail too! I don't care how big or how small the mountain, you always walk out feeling like you are walking off the space shuttle on the return from a space mission. It is always an accomplishment to hike a mountain.

Such a confidence booster right in my backyard and Dublin Trail is by far my favorite for a variety of obstacles. Ready and focused for Mt. Mansfield and another 23.3 mile section of the Long Trail. Once step at a time, I will arrive at the border and it will be a very sweet End to End victory when it does happen. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hiking on the Long Trail In Vermont July 2016

My original plan was to hike for two weeks on the Long Trail to finish it to the border of Canada. There were a number of factors that shortened my trip. Myself and Isis went for 23 miles this time over 11 peaks in 3 days... One zero day and a day to hike out. This is my trail journal. 

Day One: 7/16/16 Lincoln Gap to Glen Ellen Lodge 8.8 miles/112 miles to go

Second thoughts this morning... I guess that is partly because I knew what to expect. But I didn't back down. I made the trek with my mother and Isis to Lincoln Gap VT. I strapped on my beast as in Wild by sitting on the bumper of my mothers car and lifting it on with the shoulder straps. We did pictures and a quick good bye and I was on my way. 

Up to Batell Shelter, the trail was as I had remembered when I was peak bagging the NE67. The ledges increased as you got closer to the shelter before the real push to the summit. There were also intermittent flat areas with green and lush vegetation to admire. There is also plenty of trickling water for a dog to drink. Isis really appreciated this as it is humid today. I could probably dip from larger pools if I needed to as well. But I am still feeding off of the tap water I brought in 2 one liter bottles. It seemed to take forever and yet no time at all to get to the shelter for a snack. Then it was time for the final push to the summit. 

This next section after the shelter is the really ledgy part. Thankfully, no rain has fallen... Yet. It was tough to navigate with a full pack but I was thankful for the training I had done prior to prepare for this. Once we reached the summit, it was in the clouds but the caretaker had oranges so, that made it all better. Isis also received a biscuit from him too. We stopped at the Lincoln Peak Observation deck for lunch. 

As we made our way to Ellen, The trail got muddier but I was also remembering a lot. It seemed to be an easier walk up here on the ridge. Past the summit, I was officially in uncharted territory. It was a little more rocky, a lot more muddy and there were a few PUDS (pointless ups and downs). Once we reached the junction for the Jerusalem Trail, we opted to leave the small crowd of Thru's and head for the Glen Ellen Lodge. After the gravel wore out and the rocks and mud and roots and water reappeared, I kind thought I was wrong to do this... Maybe I should have gone to Starks Nest. But I was not in the mood for a crowd yet. I had hoped for a quiet first night. Once I crossed the brook at the bottom of the trail, it was really nice. 

We had the place to ourselves for a few hours. I had a nice peaceful dinner on the grounds and then we started to get ready for bed and I heard an awful ruckus coming down the trail. I thought for sure it was a group... Nope. Just one Thru Hiker having a very bad day. I continued to do my chores for the night while listening to her complain about everything under the sun... I tried to spin the positive but soon found myself getting sucked into her negativity. We went to bed for the night but sleeping was very difficult as it always is on the first day. Adrenaline and all. 

Mood: Remaining positive in spite of company
Pain: Low but throbbing already
Isis: OK but will probably react negatively to her food. I expect to get nipped a lot. 
Outlook: Very hopeful for Canada
Weather: Rain for Day 3...

Day Two: Glen Ellen Lodge to Birch Glen Camp. 6.3 miles 
15.1 miles/105.7 miles to go

I woke up this morning to rain. Not a bad rain but enough to make everything nice a slick and enhance that Vermont mud we all love so much. We walked first to the Starks Nest (Shelter/Warming hut) on Mad River Glen. I had second breakfast there and Isis got treats. I met up with a small bubble of NOBOS. They were younger and not really my crowd. They seemed to look at me as if I was out of place. I had left Ravenous the angry Thru Hiker to her quiet morning. She is really gunning to get off trail soon for a break. The trail itself was great up to this point. Not to rocky, rooty, or ledgy. Then.... We started descending from Mad River Glen. The jumps down from rocks became bigger. Then the ledges. And then... The ladders. Three ladders and wet rocks (to the guides one ladder). I spent a lot of time guiding Isis down or just carrying her and one arming the rungs. We were both spent. The good thing is that I got us through it safely. The bad thing is that I am now thinking like Ravenous and wondering what will be bad next. I was short of positive emotions. And the terrain continued to be uneven and challenging, I made the call to shorten my day from Cowles Cove to Birch Glen Camp. 

Once we got through Appalachian Gap, we hiked for what seemed like forever over several puds through the forest and when the trail was finally leveling off close to the shelter, Ravenous caught up to us. I guess I was moving slower than usual. This concerned me. She was originally going to just snack there and move on but then agreed to stay once she realized that there was a 1.5 side trail to get her off the trail. She was still negative. The whole trip over sucked according to her. I again tried to spin it positive but to no avail. We decided to build a fire and have dinner I chose my favorite chicken and cheesey rice to both lighten the pack and pick me up. We were joined by Song Bird, a rather peculiar girl who claimed to be a wilderness instructor yet didn't appear to use her teachings as the fire died out and her bear bag became stuck. She had set up her tent in one of the bunks but that all soon came down when she decided to move on instead of dealing with the stuck bear bag in the morning. Her plan now was to get over Camel's hump by 2pm tomorrow before the storm hit. While all the commotion was happening, I was in my bunk and a new hiker... Sandstone had come to camp. He was trying to help but to no avail, she (songbird) was off. 

Isis' stress level was going down and all in all, this was a good day. It was a challenge but it was a good day in my mind. I am still hopeful that I can complete the journey with all the obstacles I will face, we will see what happens first with the storms tomorrow. 

Mood: cautiously hopeful
Pain: OK but callouses have developed under my big toes and I feel like i am sitting on oranges in my butt cheeks. 
Isis: Stressed but recovering with rest. 
Outlook: still hopeful
Weather: Rain for tomorrow... Thunder and lightening and hale possible too. 

Day 3: Birch Glen to Mont Clair Glen Lodge 7.9 miles
23miles total/97.8 miles to go to Canada

I managed to get moving early after last nights commotion with now "Crazy Lisa" and her stuck bear bag. After morning chores, Isis and I hit the trail. Isis at this point is not eating her food that I give her so I am bagging the disgusting mess out and it's even heavier when it's rehydrated. I need to work on this. But she cannot survive on treats alone. The work we do is too hard. The additional 2.9 to Cowel's Cove was decent. There were a few thin spots that I carefully stepped around. Cowel's Cove itself was just a lean too and had a wind shield. I was really glad I altered my day yesterday to stay were I was. I also saw that the floor was rotten. From here, the next 1.5 miles was probably one of the most punishing inclines I have ever taken. We were heading to Burnt Rock Mountain. This was very rocky and very ledgy. Plus there were thin spots and I found myself assisting Isis and hoisting myself and my still full pack up. I was getting tired and very grumpy. It was hot too which made things sticky and sweaty. Now this section was described by Ravenous as something her friend almost died over. This section had been built up a lot but while I was challenged, I was not dying. It did seem to take a while to travel to the summit but once I was there, I felt proud. Sandstone came up behind me as I was sending and update and we chatted at the summit as well as took water. I was glad he was there because the rappel line was how you got down from the summit. Isis handled it well but seemed a little stressed. We took a break while Sandstone moved on. We would see him at the shelter tonight. 

The next 2.6 miles over the Paris Skidway, Mt Ira Allen, and Mt Ethan Allen, took a lot of effort. But I did make it in good time when I think about it. I left close to 7am and got there close to 4pm. Within this 2.6 is Ladder Ravine. A metal ladder down a steep rock embankment. A slick ledge would be the death of someone. My big question, how do I get Isis down? Well, I stuff her in my shirt. With her head sticking out of the neck hole. We struggled a little but once I settled her, we made it down. I retrieved my dropped pack and we move on. We are now really trying to beat the thunder storm. The rest of the 2.6 was a bunch of PUDS. and some very tricky scrambling that was accompanied with wind. I had to duck and wait at one point. Both the final peaks make you think you have passed them but then the PUDS laugh at you and try to confuse you more. Then when you do reach Mt. Ethan Allen, you are ecstatic because then it's a mile to the shelter. 

That mile had some decent flat sections to enjoy and some slick down. Again, after a few punishing tenths of a mile, you get to the shelter and you are elated. The day is done... Well, except for dinner and chores. Sandstone had made it a few hours before me but we both beat the storm. We chatted about life on and off the trail. Crazy Lisa was brought up again and Meg, the caretaker had joined us. The down pour finally happened after we were all safe inside. We ate and talked and played with the resident mouse (who eventually ate my chocolate bar). All of this really made the day a lot easier. 

I have concerns about my mileage and if I remain at this pace, and the terrains this tough, I may have to cut it short or just see what what I can get in two weeks. First, I want to see how I do over Camel's Hump tomorrow. Maybe I'll judge it by the 12 mile day I have planned after that? But for now, I am doing OK. 

Mood: Fluctuating.
Pain: Hot spot on my right arch
Isis: Stressed
Outlook: Concerned
Weather: Looking good for tomorrow. 

Morning of Day 4: Mont Clair Glen Lodge

Last night, after I had wrote my journal entry, I decided to leave trail. Looking at the mileage forward, the terrain, and knowing that those 12 and 14 mile days were not possible for the both of us, I decided to leave trail but not the journey. 

I will stay here another night and leave on a familiar side trail rather than go over the Hump and risk injury on yet another ladder. It rained pretty good yesterday and things are wet. There would be a lot of scrambles on both the ascent and descent. These things seem to be eluding me at the moment. Meg, the caretaker described another section that I'd have to put Isis back in my shirt. I can't do that to her. The first time, it was cute but after that, it's just plain mean. 

Hiking a long distance trail is hard work but it's also suppose to be fun. While I am enjoying it, there are parts that I am not. Most of that centers around Isis. She is my greatest impulse buy ever and if she is hurting, I'm not doing my job. She's not eating right on trail and this is work for her and for me. She's getting better at being off leash but I still cannot trust her around small woodland creatures. This is not to say that it's the sole problem. She's just a little dog and sometimes little dogs try and do big things because their person does them too. I'm grateful for her company as she is sometimes the only company I have. I am not going to put her in a position to hurt her or that she does not want to be in. At leas not more than once. She is anxious because we are not hiking today. We keep walking around the grounds and up a few other trails. but we are not going anywhere and we always come back to the same shelter. I'm also a little anxious as people are filing in and staying here tonight. I'm not feeling very social and maybe I have a few regrets. I am glad that I'm doing this for Isis and we'll endure what ever happens tonight... 

Day 5: Morning at Mont Clair Glen

After a night without sleep due to noise in the cabin (snoring)... I was a mess. But we packed it all up and headed down the familiar Dean Trail to the Monroe Trail and out to the parking lot to wait for my parents to come get us. We were early so we sat in the grass and we just existed because I was so tired fro probably everything at this point but especially from not sleeping. Once we were on our way,  my mind began putting the breaks on things. I want to go back. I don't want to be home. I guess I gotta find something to do next week since I am still on vacation. I will hike again... After some rest. And some laundry... Possibly a shower too. Thru Hikers kinda stink when they leave trail. I miss trail life but I may like sleeping in my own bed tonight as Isis and I will have plenty of room. 

Thanks For Following Along. We'll see you soon on the trail!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Year's Worth of Planning for the Long Trail

It's amazing how quickly time flies. Last year when I got off the trail at Lincoln Gap, my mind automatically shifted to planning my final Thru Hike of the Long Trail where I would essentially pick up where I left off and walk to Canada, the northern terminus, with my dog Isis (Lil' Nugget on the trail). First and foremost, I wanted my gear to be lighter and I wanted my food to taste better. All throughout the year, I changed things around and I proudly managed to shave off 10lbs from my gear.  It's still heavy at 45lbs but that is also because I am a solo hiker, carrying all her gear, and her dogs gear and food too. I also researched foods that I could make in my dehydrator that might have a little more flavor than instant white rice and some meats and also had plenty of calories. This is what works for me, you might find that something different works for you. In my opinion, gear should be tailored to the hiker. I try and keep it really simple when I hit the trail while allowing myself a few luxury items, plus carrying my dogs's needs too, I settled on carrying this:

Pack: Mariposa 60 GossamerGear
Tent: Eureka Solitaire
Poles: Leki
Sleeping Bag: 50* from Field and Stream
Sleep Pad: Klymet Static V
Rain Poncho: EMS
Waterproof pack liner: Sea to summit 35L
Guide, map, journal, pen
Leash, collar, harness, 2 dog toys
Bowl, cup, cutlery
Stove: Primus Camp Classic
Cook Pots: Optimus
Fuel: Jet Boil 3 season
Dog bowls (collapsable)
Bear bag rope
First aid bag (bandages, blister care, Aleve)
Water system: 1L Poland Springs seltzer bottle, Platty 1L collapsed bottle, Sawyer mini filter
Solar Charger: Goal Zero solar panel
iPod, ear buds, 2 portable chargers for recharging
Pack cover: Sea to summit
Eye glass case
Tripod (small)
Camera: Cannon Powershot SX400IS
Multi tool
Extra batteries
Waterproof stuff sack for electronics
Ball cap
Rain hat
Long pants Champion
Warm layer Columbia 3 quarter zip with Omni Heat
Extra T-shirt Columbia wicking with Omni Freeze cooling
Extra socks 2 pairs
Camp shoes
Pack Towel
Stuff sack
*** Wearing compression shorts, tank top, and sports bra
*** Carrying a weeks worth of food (3 meals a day), snacks, Dog food, and Dog treats 
         Oatmeal/Coffee/Pop Tarts for Breakfast
         Tuna packed in oil for lunch
         Dehydrated dinner made with rice, quinoa, beans, and meat in various flavors
         Wine (Just because)
         Gummy Bears (because hey fit in my hip pocket)
         Venison Jerky Bars by Epic
         Various Energy Gel's and chews, baby food squeeze tubes (fruits and veggies blends).
         Nuun Electrolyte Tabs for water
         Dog Food: Honest Kitchen Chicken and Quinoa Dehydrated meal
                            Treats Provided by Merrick (My only Sponsor)

Sorting through food and deciding what I would take was probably the hardest thing for me. I managed to dehydrate my favorite meals throughout the year in the hopes that I'd have something good to eat. Of course, realizing that anything will taste good after the fourth day on the trail, I called it good. Usually, I pared some kind of meat (Chicken, pork, steak, burger) with either a Zatarains or Ludberg rice mix that was also gluten free. Being gluten free is my main motivation for making my own food as I know EXACTLY what I am eating and there is no risk of becoming ill. My family will meet me at the half way point and resupply me for the last week of my journey with more food and cloths (fresh clean cloths!). This is always a fun time when I remember how heavy my pack was at the beginning my trip... I get reacclimated and push to the end.

So, how do I decide how far to go in a day? A lot of this planning has to do with my dog of course, she can only handle so much before she really hates me or gives up all together. I try and take her into consideration above all else. I also considered the four 4000 foot peaks I would be climbing. For me, that's a lot. I tried to devise a plan that I would arrive at the base of a peak and climb up and over it the next day. Or in the case of Mansfield, I'd arrive and climb it the following day and then I'd stay at a shelter close to the top and hike down to resupply in the morning. Realizing here that the weather will play a factor, I can always combine shorter miles and push on if a zero (day off for too much rain) is needed. There are going to be a lot of rocks and tricky spots to contend with this time around so, safety is a priority. Again, as with gear, mileage should also be tailored to the hiker. This is what works for me. I can pull big miles but not constantly. My body needs time to rest and recover so, a varied trip is necessary. Essentially, in a perfect world, my two weeks on trail will look like this: 

7/16: Lincoln Gap to Glen Ellen Lodge 8.8miles (Crossing Abraham and Ellen Peaks)
7/17: Glen Ellen Lodge to Cowles Cove Shelter 9.2 miles (Ap Gap/Waitsfield)
7/18: Cowles Cove Shelter to Mont Clair Glen Lodge 4.9 miles (At Camels Hump)
7/19: Mont Clair Glen Lodge to Bamforth Shelter 5.6miles (Climbing Camels Hump)
7/20: Bamforth Shelter to Buchanan Shelter 12.3miles (Crossing 2/89 Winooski Foot Bridge)
7/21: Buchanan Shelter to Taylor Lodge 7.9 miles (Mansfield base)
7/22: Taylor Lodge to Taft Lodge 6.9 miles (Climb Mansfield)
7/23:*** Taft Lodge to BARNS CAMP HISTORIC SITE/Picnic Area to Sterling Pond 5.5miles (Smugs resupply in the Late AM off VT108)
7/24: Sterling Pond to Round Top Shelter 14.3miles (Crossing 15/Johnson)
7/25: Round Top Shelter to Spruce Ledge Camp 12.4 miles (No Major Landmarks available)
7/26: Spruce Ledge Camp to Tillotson Camp 8.4 miles (Eden/118)
7/27: Tilllotson Camp to Hazen Notch Camp 6.1 miles (Hazen Notch/Montgomery/Lowell)
7/28: Hazen Notch Camp to Shooting Star Shelter 12.8miles (Over Jay Peak)
7/29: Shooting Star Shelter to Journeys End Camp 4.9miles (CANADA!!! North Troy VT)
7/30: .8miles out to Journeys End Trail Head off Journeys End Road North troy VT for Extraction in AM.

It doesn't matter that last year I completed a longer section of the LT (151 to this years 121)... I'm always nervous for a trip. Spending an extended amount of time on the trail is alway exciting and anxiety provoking at the same time. But the truth is that once I settle into a rhythm, I'm great. As the noise from civilization fades to the background and I am left with my own thoughts, I usually feel a lot stronger as I walk on. It's going to be hard and I will be tested both physically and mentally. Going without the comforts of home for two weeks can really play with a persons emotions and can be your downfall if you let it. I'll never forget the one piece of advice that I received from a Thru Hiker named 4B Last year... "You get your legs on the fourth day." He was right... The first day was all adrenaline, the second day sucked because I had barely slept or ate, The third day I felt drained and slept like a baby, and the Fourth day I was strong and I pounded out the miles. The pack weight will continue to go down as I walk until I reach resupply but then it all starts again. I hike for the challenge, for the chance to clear my head, for the chance to reset myself to the natural clock. I hike to escape for a while and for the chance to feel better sometimes as I still have aches and pains I deal with daily. It's going to be an amazing journey this year and I am excited to complete it as well and dream about what's to come.     

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Gentian Pond Camp Site on a Stormy Night

Let me start out by saying that the AT through New Hampshire and Maine is tough. Some say it's the toughest section of the whole trail... Thru hikers often say that they grossly underestimate the Whites and Maine. So, yeah.. I'm heading to the border of Maine this weekend by way of the AT. Let me also say that I started hiking the AT with Isis because I wanted us to have fun and enjoy the adventure... This was an adventure all right. We started on 7/1/16 at the Centennial Trail head just off North Road and hiked down to the trail on the logging road. For 2.9 miles up to the junction with Mt. Hayes, you get a nice meandering trail before it begins to climb. I began meeting up with Thru Hikers heading south within a short distance. At the first real up section, one was coming down and stumbling. I stopped him to chat and he said he was dehydrated. I gave him some of my water to at least get him to the road. It's very dry as we have had little rain. Continuing on, the rocks start building and soon, I am finding myself on some pretty steep scrambles. It's dry right now but I do think of my return on Monday and the steepness with Isis in tow. This might be tough but I keep going. Frequent breaks and trying to conserve water as I do not know when I will get anymore. There's 3 or 4 scrambles on this section (I lost track) and all are very difficult. My pack is at 35lbs and my one saving grace was that it would be lighter on the return. It seemed to take forever to reach the junction with Mt. Hayes. I stopped to take a big deep breath before continuing on. 

Turning onto the Mahoosuc trail for the next 5.3 miles is another mix bag of scrambling some pretty steep climbs, mud, ponds, and then some decent flatter sections with my favorite bog bridges to cruise on. The clouds have been building and the temps are fluctuating on this section but we press on again. When I reached the Trident Col tent site, I briefly thought of calling it there for the day but I would have had to use my tent in the rain storm and I was hoping for the shelter so I would not have to use it. I ran into a few other Thru hikers that were taking it pretty slow as well. Everyone was agreeing that this was difficult. Everyone also agreeing that taking your time was best. This seems to be where everyones pace slows to about a mile an hour. You can't help it when you are carrying everything you need on your back and trying to get up some pretty steep trail. It feels frustrating to move so slow but you just have to push on and break when your body needs it. Isis and I negotiate Page Pond, Wocket Ledge, and finally reach Dream Lake. I now have 2miles to shelter for the night and it's 4pm.

Isis doesn't even care about the mud anymore. She is just powering through this section. I met a branch that really left it's mark on my leg... More swearing and a few more up sections but not as bad as the open scrambles. Well, except they are wet... The 2 miles to shelter is wet and muddy but you get bog bridges which help out tremendously. One more push up a side trail and you land yourself at Gentian Pond Campsite. We arrived at a little after 5pm... Not bad at 2mph BUT this section was kind. You can't expect that on other sections. There are 2 Thru Hikers already at the shelter but no one else... Yet. I asked them both if they would mind me using the shelter with Isis. As long as she doesn't snore is what I am told. So, I am good to go and not using my tent for the night. Still intent on making it to the border, we all set about our chores in a kind of silent dance around one another. It's the dance of being tired and trail worn. We are joined by another Canadian Southbounder who has a great spirit. He took a swim in the pond and was lapped by the resident beaver! He joined the silent dance until we all settled in for dinner after the rain had started. It was so very nice to sit in the shelter as the storm built and chat with the 5 Thru Hikers that were staying there. Two section hikers opted to tent in the rain. We chatted about the Whites as I am the only one who is a resident of New Hampshire and everyone agreed that they grossly underestimated them and Maine. As dinner winded down and people got ready for bed, we chatted about cravings and trails we loved and hated. It felt so good to be in this conversation. It was positive and uplifting even as we talked of altering our plans (the section hikers, myself included). Sleep was on and off due to thunder and lightning and some snoring. The rain and the cool temps were fantastic once the storm died out. I will say here that I was testing my Klymet Static V sleeping pad, new 50* sleeping bag from Field and Stream, and testing the limit of my toe socks (2 days is good!). Everything was a complete success and about the only thing I learned on my shake down was that it's my water weight... Not sure what I can do about that as I carry for Isis too. We woke up sun shining and clouds swirling and beautiful colors. A rose breasted grosbeak was also playing around in the trees. Today was a push for sure...

The plan is to press on to Carlo Col Shelter just over the Maine border. We set out under wet conditions that seemed to continue. Then the first section of scrambling up wet slabs.... Tedious at best. Dangerous at worst. I made a deal with myself and with Isis that if it got to be too much, we'd head back to the shelter. The trail in this section is over grown in places which makes me a little chilled and wet but on the other hand washed some of the dirt off me. There are also some great flat stretches. You just have to climb to get to them. I grab some water from a good flowing stream. We head up another one and I almost take a tumble. I'm starting to feel uneasy now. It begins to rain a little too. This is a 3.2 miles stretch of the AT that got really slick really fast. Steep slabs with water running down them are not safe for myself and Isis. I stood at the top of one and debated. I tried to push a little more but got a look at Mt. Successes steepness and about cried. I also gagged and almost vomited but that's only because of the effort I put forth (dry mouth). Took some water and felt better. I looked at my map and saw how close together the contour lines were and that was it... No more. This was mostly because I would be doing this trail in reverse if I was to keep going and I no longer thought that was a great plan. We doubled back and arrived back at the Gentian Pond Shelter to head down the Austin Brook Trail, which would set me up for a road walk back to my car. I'll take it.

I didn't take any pictures until I reached the road... I had my mind set on bailing and I wanted to make time I guess. But at the junction for the Peabody Brook Trail, I ran into familiar faces of Barb and Mike. Nice to chat, even if I was a space case who looked like death and my dog was a grouch. She's a one owner dog and lives to protect me. Not a fan of most anything else, I'm afraid but I love her all the same. I really just put it into autopilot to get out. I think I was just concentrated on the road walk I had ahead of me. This journey was quick coming an end but sometimes not quick enough. Isis and I walked the road for a while. A woman from the White Mountain Lodge stopped me and asked if I was a Thru Hiker lost... Nope, just a section hiker bailing on her plan... After not really understanding her intent, I just kept walking as I really didn't want to stop and chat in the first place. I had to pee in all honesty when she interrupted me. As I got closer to the car, Mike and Barb offered a ride but within the next 5 minutes, I was at my car so, no big deal. I am not sure how long the road walk was as there is no mileage on my map. Once at the car though, I load Isis in and start digging out my gear for the ride home (food, charger, zip lock wallet, and treats for Isis). I was grabbing my bag out of the trunk when up walks one of the Thru Hikers from the shelter last night. He seems tired and a little disheartened. I offer him a ride since I have to go that way to head home... At first he didn't want it but I insisted. We had a great chat on our way into town. I told him all I know of the Whites and he told me that he'd completely underestimated the trail and New Hampshire and Maine in general. He was feeling pretty discouraged. I gave him some good sections to look out for which seemed to give him hope. Added in some advise about the Presidential Range as well as other sections. We parted at Pizza Hut in town where he said he felt bad that I bailed on my plans... I thanked him but also said something that I firmly believe... I don't have to hike every inch of the AT and bailing on my plan just means that something better will happen. I have no regrets as this has prepped me for the trip that matters. My LT finish coming up in 2 weeks. He smiled and totally got it. He said that was a great way to be. I wished him well and told him to get his butt to Georgia. He said he was going to do that, which was a total change of tune from when we pulled away from the trail head. That's what it's all about folks... Helping one another feel good. Plans are always changeable on the trail. You have to be flexible and sometimes choose safety over adventure.

This little girl is my heart and soul... I never want to see her hurt. We have some down time prior to the LT to rest and prepare. I'll be getting m house in order and finalizing my pack. The next time you hear from me might well be once I return from Canada! What happens after Canada remains to be seen...