Sunday, October 12, 2014

Garfield, Galehead, and the Twins.... Unfiltered.

          Maybe you should stay off the mountains... This has been echoing loudly in my head. And even before it had become loud, I had been thinking it. Maybe I should give up and walk away. After all, it happens a lot and maybe it was time that I should give it a go. Find another new identity as this one seems to be wearing out. People were scarce these days so, maybe I needed to find new people... Two weeks ago, I started a new job and settled into something that feels right. Crazy but right. I could feel my life coming back to me. And some time this week, I told the voice that told me to quit to SHUT UP... A plan to do one last backpack was born rather impulsively and the place was none other than an area that gave me the most trouble. Garfield and all the way over to the Twins.
           Isis who now sleeps on my bed (and hogs it!) and I got up late. We'd start by 9am which actually sat well with me. Keeping in mind that I still tote around my medical issues, I am finding that early mornings are no longer in the cards for me. It's too hard to get going on less than 8 hours. The trail head for Garfield is PACKED and that was mostly because two RV's were parked (rather poorly) at the trail head. I had to park across from it on the road and hoped that my car would be good for the over night. There were plenty of dogs milling about and I just made up my mind that Isis would be OK. It no longer mattered to me that she didn't get along with other dogs, or just some dogs, or any dogs really. She's my best girl and she will hike with me whether we are solo or not and whether there are other dogs with us or not. She's earned it. We head up the trail and start out relatively strong. I'm fighting off the memories and my own wishes to just pop out at the summit. It's still beautiful on this easy section of trail with lots of yellows still on the trees. Isis and I begin to hit a stride and come to the water crossings. All are low and that included the dirty double cross where you kind of zig zag through a stream. Isis is not looking to be picked up. She just cruises through them and drinks too. This makes it easier on my water supply, especially on an over night.
            While we are heading over the water crossings, the people start over coming us. We let them pass as we have started a section of elevation gain and start to slow down. THIS is where it always happens. This is where I start to doubt. Because this is where it first all started to go wrong and for some reason, my mind goes back there to that night where I climbed in tears in the dark. And I continue to push through everything, including my health which is always slow on the incline. It's hard to breath sometimes. Like I forget how. We run into a nice family who are taking their parents up for their first 4K. They are older hikers but they just take their time. Slow and steady wins the race. There is no need to power up the trail. I slow myself down and stop to give Isis some food. Another dog (Lilly) is coming up and I ask for her to be leashed because I have food down. The group of two young boys has no problem with this and I explains s they pass. They completely understood. I'd run into them later to find out that the boys are counting them and one was in the teens with peaks and the other single digits. I amazed them with my numbers.

      Isis and I come to my favorite rock and I finally get my picture taken on it with my tripod and timer. So many pictures of others I remember taking and no one took mine. Another wave of memories to push through and how another hike to Garfield was cold in August and so covertly a separation that even I didn't see it for what it was. And I kicked myself for far to long for it all. Took too much responsibility for something I never understood nor received and explanation for. Shortly after that a dog was coming up the trail at Isis and I asked the owners to control him. Never got his name and got a face full of attitude from the owner who didn't think I had a right to protect my dog. Fair warning if you are not going to control your dog, I will tell you too. My dog is ALWAYS in  my control and  therefore cannot be blamed for anything. I do my best to make sure that nothing happens but it you are not in eye sight of your dog well, I'll still act to protect Isis. And to that owner, I make no apology for my lack of filter. Not today, not ever. The next stop would be the summit. I was going to make it up there solo.

       The view from the top is AMAZING and Isis actually posed for me (she never does that for anyone that is me... Everyone else, sure!). I say the view is amazing because I am standing there solo. There is laughter where there has been stiffness and distance. A couple of old time hikers are up there and the conversation is wonderful. I'm smiling because I know that this is how is should be. This is how I want it to be. Garfield is no longer a sore spot in my journey. It's now a triumph. The next hurdle would be the Garfield Ridge trail over to Galehead hut and eventually Galehead peak. Now, the last time I was on this trail, it was dark and icy... Today would be a perfect way to get reacquainted. Well, minus the company that cared more about the thrill than our safety as we got delayed the very first time I was hiking these peaks causing the one and only enactment of my safety plan. Now, the GRT is full of what we call PUDS (Pointless Ups and Downs). And this is how it goes until you get to the edge of what I call the Waterfall. Which for all intents and purposes is a waterfall. It just depends on how it's flowing. Today, it's low and slow. The last time with the guy I should not have hiked with, it was ice. So, two gentlemen had come up behind me and followed my lead because I was taking my time and they appreciated it. They had never been down it before so, I felt good for helping them. We continued over the PUDS and leap frogging one another. Most of the time I was in the lead which was fine. Isis likes to be out in front. We take breaks to catch my breath an she seems to be at a good pace and not pulling the leash. We make it the the junction of the Gale River Trail and this is another critical place. I can go down now or I can really commit. We head to the hut after another interchange with the two gentlemen I have been sharing the trail with. They again let me pass and commit to the .6 to the hut.
           It's around 3pm when we get there and there are people milling about. Isis gets way more love than I have ever seen this little dog get and it makes me smile. People are drawn to her which is another sore spot where so many have pushed her away. We have some food and water before making our way to find a place to stay for the night (dogs are not allowed at the hut). We head to Galehead because it's smaller and requires less energy. It's only .5 to the summit. And easy two summits for today. But not so easy on the mind. We find a place to tuck in just before the elevation gain of the trail. I set up the tent and hang my pack. We then head to the summit so that I have the Twins only for tomorrow. Isis and I stop at the outlook and I feel good for not having my heavy pack on. WE then head to the summit and claim it. I allow myself to smile. It's a BIG day for me and for Isis.

            We run into another hiker who is a very gentile soul and spend some time chatting on the outlook. He approved of my weekend plan and wished me lots of luck and I really appreciated the support from this stranger. He never said anything negative about my choice of camp and in fact, said it looked good. Isis and I head back there for dinner (cheese, olives, salami, and wine). He passes by with s happy "good night" for us both. Shortly after that we settle in for a long cold night. I'm wearing way more cloths than I usually wear to bed: Base 2 EMS base layer, fleece socks, my puffy coat, my balaclava and hat, and my gloves. Isis has her coat on and the advantage of being small and able to fit in my sleeping bag. It's cold but I am acclimating to the temp. The sun sets and the coyotes begin to howl in the distance. I loved listening to them as I fell asleep for a while. I woke up a few hours later with a chill and a need to pee so I put my purple mid layer and duck out briefly then, on with a hood and then the puffy again. I fall back to sleep to Isis' heavy breathing and dare I say snoring. Love that little girl... She's such a lady. Repeat this process a few times with various animal noises outside the tent and it makes for a lot less than 8 hours for me. At 6am I start to get dressed and then start packing up. Nothing had gotten into my pack so what ever it was, they were just passing through. My pack however was soaked. I had put my pack cover on and somehow water had pooled in it and soaked the bottom. Thank goodness, it was just food. I moved my cloths to the top. We headed down to the hut for breakfast and quickly realized that there were no views today. It was cold but the coffee and the eggs I made were warm. I'll admit that I needed more for breakfast though as my energy was low. And so, day two begins with a hope of not turning back.
            Isis and I head up the Twin Way to South Twin. This is .8 and probably the toughest .8 with all it's rocks and uneven footings. I've done it with ice on it and still don't like it. I am determined to take my time and this time not leave anything hanging (North Twin). People pass us and we are OK with it. A brother and sister team seem very intent of getting to the summit and we just let them go. I am layered up as it's really cold with no sun and in the clouds. My mind is thinking all the thoughts that kept me up last night. Past present and future colliding and I just keep climbing. I'm done with not being happy and holding myself too accountable for choices I never made. Isis and I take plenty of breaks to catch my breath and as usual when I am hyper focused, I see the little things.

       As we continue climbing, we run into a couple who spent the night between North and South Twin. We laugh about how cold it was and these two seem to really click with me. So many meetings on the trail are fleeting because the chances of running into them again are not great. They are very impressed with Isis and wish that they could have a dog just like her. It's now the final push to the summit and I have to take ten steps and rest. I'm getting frustrated with my slowness and lack of breath but I know that this is it. This is me. I am again met but he brother and sister team on their way down and I marvel at how put together they look. I'm a hot mess in winter gear and they look like they could be in a magazine. This bothers me. The older brother is disappointed by the lack of view. I mention that people are motivated by other things and the views are not what I am interested in today. He couldn't get it. He's a view hiker. I guess I am different. I'm OK with this.

             Isis and I crest the summit into a world of rime ice and we are so happy. It reminds me that winter is not far away and the goals I have set. The summit is locked in and viewless and I can only smile. The wind is whipping but I get a few pics and we begin our final leg to North Twin. So close with miles to go still. The rime fades as we make our way over. It's only a mile after all and I should be fine. But it's a tough one without a lot of energy. Isis senses it too and tries to rush. I pull her back a bit and she hates this. We reach the Col and it's flat so I take advantage of this and make some time. We run into hikers here and there and despite the weather, all are happy to be out. All are happy for my journey. For the first time, I feel like I can do something again. I just have to get to North Twin and that is harder than it seems. There are ups and downs and I know that I have to go back and do it again to get back to the car. I again take a lot of breaks and get upset about this. I'm really tired and drag myself up the legdgy parts. We finally arrive at North Twin to 4 other hikers who are going in different directions. Some to South and some down as one peak is enough. I was just happy to break and have some food and water. Water that is crystal cold and not hot and plastic tasting.

             Having worked through my past and stayed in the present, I made it to my final peak. Now I just needed to double back as my plan was to head down South Twin to Galehead hut and go to that trail head. I'd walk the road to the Garfield trail head and my waiting car. But I had to get back there first. The pack is really heavy now even though it's weight is depleted from use. We run into repeat hikers who are going to various destinations and trail heads for cars. The weather is intermittent sun and clods but it is cold. I am still bundled up and the only things that are coming off and on are my gloves and my hood. I am still happy to be in the winter wonderland and feeling better than I have been. My footing is getting sloppy and I know that my energy is low. I don't stop to eat and I keep pushing. Isis is kind of my watch dog as when she needs a break, I have to stop. But still I push. My mind is wandering to the car and I know it's time to get back to my life below 4K. It took a lot less time to get back to South Twin but still the ascent was slow and painful. The rocks are just kicking my ass and as usual. I reflect to times when I was embarrassed by my short coming. This however, would prove to be a good things as on South Twin the second pass, the clouds opened and I got a view! I talked with a  very nice couple and again, I was very aware of what a night out in the woods can do for my looks. I must have look like a hot mess but there was not much I could do about it. A shower awaited me at home and possibly a soak in the hot tub. It's been many miles to travel.
          Isis and I begin the slow .8 back to the hut. It's painful and as we go down, the layers come off. My hair is now two days of hiking and probably less than controlled. With each passing group, I run my hands through it to try and tame it. I will always be that socially awkward person who never quite has a grip on her hair. I'll never make it into a magazine and I need to be OK with this. I manage to not slip on the rocks going down but time passes so slowly and I am even more tired. Thankful to be a little flatter, we stop at the junction for the Twins and the hut. I strip my base layer top off in favor of my t-shirt (columbia omni freeze). And we pack up again. It's time to push it and head down. Isis has issues with things that are not loops and after a struggle, she settles into a rhythm. We make the .6 to the junction of the ridge trail in good time. It's now 4 miles to the base and gale head trail head. It's hard on my feet and I slip and roll my ankle a few times. Isis begins to pull as she is excited to be heading out. The people coming up to stay at the hut all look so fresh and a lot of kids try and rush at Isis. I caution them as she is very tired and can get grouchy. Some are again, put off by my directions and others really understand. You cannot please everyone. I am noticing that in my over tired state, I have lost my filter and I am prone to really telling people what is on my mind. I again make no apology for things. It is what it is. Most of the things I speak up about are for my safety or for Isis'. I'm done bitting my tongue when it comes to my feelings. When someone stops on a narrow bridge to adjust a pack or fix something on a pack, I am going to speak up to be let by. Telling me that you know the rules of etiquette and you break them often does not help. It just tells me that you don't care. And if you in turn ask for compassion and tell me that you are having a tough time on the trail, I am still going to tell you to turn back for your SAFETY and the safety of my friends on the rescue squads that would eventually come out to save your ass when you get in over your head. So, don't get upset when I ask to be let by because you broke my momentum by stopping on a bridge to fix your pack (by taking it off and taking up the whole bridge). These situations just serve as a reminder of all the situations I have been in where I am prevented from speaking my mind. Where closure is left undone. Where I am left just to draw my own conclusions. The final straw out to the trail head. And I rectify it with just being me. It's all I can be. We hit the trail head after a few last water crossings which were low and the home stretch begins. Time for the road walk back to the car.

       Stay off the mountains??? Maybe every once and a while I'll pay attention better to things below 4k. Certainly, once this job really settles in, I'll have some on call times where I will need to stay in the area so, I will have to stay off the mountains. But my journey will continue. I feel so proud of myself for all that I faced this weekend. The cold night was very rough and the trails were both kind and unkind to my feet and my emotions. All the while, Isis and I keep on going and the people that we meet, however briefly, make an impression on us. I think I will continue to keep the filter off as it felt good to be able to speak up. So long ago, I set out to meet people on the trails to form lasting bonds. What I have found is a lasting bond with the mountains themselves. I became emotional when talking to a hiker about how beautiful I found the rime ice. I'm OK with my emotions and expressing them. I'm not OK with being prevented from expressing them and this has been my road block. Unfortunately, sometimes you just need to move on to the next peak and accept that you may never get that chance. There is always a hope that I'll find that special guy to share the trails and my cold nights in the tent with (for as much as I love Isis, I'd like to give my love to another human!) but until then, I will strengthen my relationship with my self and my little furry girl. She has prove to be strong, brave, and while a sleeping bag hog, someone that I love sharing the trails with.

      In a coincidental way, as I stopped for coffee, the very song that got me down to ground level the night my safety plan was enacted played as I got my coffee on the way home... Southern Cross played over and over in my mind that night. I smiled at the reminder as if it was telling me that the past is the past and to keep in incorporated in my present. My journey to 576 continues... 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fall Foliage on Glen Boulder

              Always have several game plans when heading into a hike... You never know what could happen. At least that is how I seem to hike these days. It's been on my mind to finish off round 3 of the White Mountain 48, which would also add to my Grid, and so on and so forth... These stats are always on my mind even though I just hike and what ever happens happens. But the stats seem to drive... Until I put the brakes on. What causes a back pedal? Gut feeling and physical exertion, time, and of course, weather... Call it what you will, I still have no problem calling off a summit no matter where I am in the hike. Today, I wanted to go to Isolation via Glen Boulder. I knew there were tough spots on the trail and I did question, my 4 legged partner. We went anyway to a less than stellar beginning that left me uncomfortable. We parked at Glen Ellis Falls and prepared to head up Glen Boulder trail destination at this point unknown. It was only 8am and I was already uncomfortable and hot. Not feeling well? Maybe? My disease has a habit of rearing up at the change of seasons and I had not been kind to my system as of late... I press on.

           Glen Boulder trail is a nice one with some flat sections of dirt to start and a general up and down feeling before it starts climbing on rocks. Fall is in full swing despite the temps and I make decent time to the junction of the Dirittisma trail that leads to Pinkham Notch Visitors center. I estimate that we would be at Glen Boulder for 9:30am (I was off by a half hour ahead). Isis and I move up the rocks and gain elevation. I'm still feeling uncomfortable and still pressing forward. The pack suddenly feels like it's not fitting right and my boots have lost their grip. Perhaps it's time for a gear switch? There is not a lot of water to start with on the trail so, Isis and I have a few water breaks from my ill fitting pack. She's finicky about the bottled water and I know there are water crossings higher up. The fall foliage is making itself known and there is not another soul on the trail yet.

                  I knew that two particularly tough sections were coming up and I was anxious to see how Isis would do. Of course, I was fully prepared to turn back as well. I'm not interested in making her do anything she can't do. This hike of course was a risk since you go up to 5000 feet and go down to 4000ft to reach Isolation... Not to mention if you are out and backing it, you have to do it in reverse! Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Le't see... We reached the scrambles and Isis got all the leash she could. She listened well and I was the one having trouble. I needed hand holds and it was awkward. I did find them and I did get up the scramble. Isis and I made it to the Carin and we rested. When I turned to sit down, I was greeted with the White Mountains... On fire with fall foliage. It was drop dead beautiful out today and the breeze was calming. Isis and I took in the view for a while. I felt content here. I wanted to keep that feeling. I love to linger on the side of mountains and take stock of my life. I began to think that a hike to Glen Boulder and a nice sit would be perfect. 

             We were soon joined by a couple on their way up to Isolation as well. It would be their first trip and I spoke about the trip itself to them so they would be aware. They were game for it though. I lingered some more to give space. Isis and I made our ascent to Glen Boulder where I would eat and give Isis another rest and make my decision. The trip up to the big rock was full of other rocks to maneuver over and this was difficult for me today. I was feeling like such a new hiker and this should not be the case given the miles I have covered. We joined the other couple at the boulder and we all just took in the views... Every direction was the fire of Autumn. The breeze was cooling and I took the opportunity to eat and give Isis something to eat and water as well which she took both with no issue. It was no doubt bordering on too hot for her today and we are on the cusp of October??? I longed for frosted summits and a light dusting of snow. I had become a winter soul after all these years. I never do good in heat and neither does my dog. So we lingered a little longer while others pressed on in the vertical ascent. I was loosing interest in rounds, grids, and Isolation... I had myself a fall foliage hike today to Glen Boulder and I was completely OK with it. Isis and I kidded around and took a lot of shots. I got my picture where it looks like I am trying to push Glen Boulder off it's perch. I love silly stuff like this and at this moment it made me smile.

           More people were coming to the summit and the next group of 3 had also never done this route to Isolation. It is not a bad thing to me to be new. Just be informed that this is a tough route and if you are doing the loop out Rocky Branch, have a car at that trail head. I question if they did. Once they got moving, we did as well in the opposite direction, we were heading down. As we made or start, a shirtless older gentleman was coming up. He seemed shocked that we were heading down. I explained that I'd already done Isolation twice and my dog had done it as well. He could not comprehend the route at all and finally I explained that I simply didn't need it. It wasn't crucial to get it and I was OK with it. All he could say was what a shame.... Obviously we have two different views. Mine was beautiful to me. We continued down the rocks and we were greeted by another group of 2 gentlemen who were a little more sociable. We all agreed that this was beautiful and bid each other happy hiking. I then ran into several other singlet hikers on the trail before the tricky down and they did not speak at all. They didn't even blink at us. What happen to the super friendly groups of hikers form 3 years ago? Where did the friendly trails go where I would run into people I knew? I wanted to hike with people again after this experience. I was tired of being a singlet my self.

         Isis was carried over that tricky section on the way down because I didn't feel like a visit to the hospital for a broken anything would be a good start to my "new life". We managed to avoid injury as I scooted on my ass for these sections. Once down, we began our slow descent knowing that down below was a slew of leaf peepers and amateurs. I should have mentioned earlier that close to this section, there is a nest of wasps to get around. Being allergic, this was on my mind as we made our descent. I really didn't want to step wrong and just as I was over thinking things, I rolled my ankle and sent myself to the ground. Isis shot back to check on me and I thanked her with tears. She licked my face and I got up again. Dusted myself off and determined to get down... I had no choice really. Those friendly gentlemen caught up to us and we chatted and they patted Isis. They heard me say her name and the elder of the two said... "Isis..." I held my breath for what I knew was next. "The Queen." He smiled and patted her. I was never more happy and explained her demeanor to be that of a stubborn queen and how we clash a lot. She is my best girl. We made our way back down to base with minimal issues except for my constant feeling of being off. As I predicted, the lot was full of leaf peepers and many stared as I walked to my car. I should have hugged them so they could get a good whiff of me being a sweaty hiker just getting off the trail! I changed at the car and didn't care who was looking. When you pee in the woods each weekend, you loose some modesty here and there and I wanted out of my sweaty hiking cloths. We headed for home bypassing Conway as I knew it would be busy. The major trail heads were over flowing as we passed by.


            There is no doubt in my mind that I was way off today and that did factor into my decision to cut out the summit. I straddle a line between wanting to hike and the stats constantly but sensibility will always prevail. I do not do good with change, waiting, or heat, and today I had two out of the three. The changes are happening and a new life begins tomorrow while I will miss my team of coworkers, I know that the decision to leave was the best to keep myself from falling off that cliff. I had been exhausted for months working 6 days a week and not being able to care for myself the way I needed to was taking a toll on me as well and I was impatient to get back to the life I use to know... This life I had over 2 years ago that I missed. All at the same time, I was anxious about starting this change and wanting to stay in the comfortable position of knowing... If I stay here, I may never get a summit again and I might just walk away. So, it's time to refocus and tend to life and get things in order. The mountains will always be there and of course, Winter is coming... There is a goal there I need complete with 6 peaks. The grid will be a life time and that life time needs some attention right now. I need to be just a little better. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Clouds Parted on Cannon for September

           Today was almost so many things... It was almost Isolation, a zero day, a couch day, and so on.  With a lot of changes in progress, my mind tends to want to be lazy these days and yet I knew a hike would do me good. I needed my fix for the week. Today turned into a Cannon day after I got myself out of bed at 430am. Isis and I hit the road around 5am. Our destination was the parking lot of the Cannon Tramway. It was suppose to be a gloomy and rainy kind of day and I was less interested in a 12 mile hike to Isolation so, it was what it was. Sleepy drive up 93 and a reminder to myself that I may have to deal with the Highland Games and the Race on the way home. Traffic might be interesting. I tucked those thoughts away and concentrated on the weather. After putting my boots on and getting things situated on and in my pack, Isis and I were off. We walked from the parking lot to the start of the Kinsman Ridge Trail. Little reminded me of the last time I was here because it was winter on my last trip up this side.

            Almost immediately on the trail, I noted some erosion of the dirt on the trail making it a little tricky in spots. The weather was cool but not cool enough for a layer. I was fine in my short sleeve shirt (Omni Freeze from Columbia) and my convertible trail pants (with legs on). We would be heading into the cloud that seemed to have parked itself over Cannon today. No big deal. This mountain is not one of my favorites and the cloud will keep the tram traffic down. Isis and I kept climbing and the elevation gain is almost immediate. As I remembered, there were some switchbacks, rocky sections, and some flatter sections before leaving the trees for the ridge.

      The trail looks like it's haunted as we head into the cloud and add to that the fact that we have yet to run into a soul, it gets a little spooky sometimes. This is nice today though and I am able to enjoy the quiet while concentrating on my footing. I noted that there were a lot more rocks since my last visit and that was mostly because of the snow on my last visit. There is a tricky section of slabs today because they are wet and I hugged a few trees. Isis and I coordinated our ascent of these sections and the communication was beautiful. I did stop to check my phone and see where the weather was. If it was too close, we would have turned around. I also sent out a few texts to let my progress be known. The distance from the bottom tot he top is the same as Monadnock on the toll road and white arrow trail but I believe the elevation gain is significantly greater. The weather looks good and we press on. All the sections that were easy in winter are now a challenge for my feet because the rocks are no longer filled in. This is another memory and a longing for the closer hikes to come.

        Isis and I continue and we begin to break through the trees making very good time. The surroundings begin to look familiar when we reach the sign for the Rim Trail which connects the tram and other ski buildings to the summit. Isis and I stop for a selfie at the sign and then I snap pictures at my favorite bench... I noticed that there is a dedication that is usually buried in snow when I see it: Dedicated to the spirit of the mountain and to those souls who mirror it's beauty. I really liked that. We were making good time so we stopped at an outlook (except there was no view). The wind was picking up and the cloud was swirling around us. We kept going and pushed to the summit tower. Going up the steeper sections of rocks was also tricky due to my feet being unfamiliar with anything except s snow covered trail. There are a few tricky sections to navigate and with a leashed dog, it can be a challenge. The good thing is that we did it!

       Reaching the sign for the observation tower, another hiker greeted us coming from the other direction on the ridge trail. He was trailing for the grand canyon and this was his 12th 4K peak. I did mention that it was my 3rd visit and Isis' second. I was in to mood to brag a bit. So we all went to the summit and I was pleased that the clouds parted! We were joined by another hiker on the tower and she snapped our summit photo. She had plans to take the tram down after hiking up from the Pemi. I didn't quite understand it but wished her well. Isis and I went down after that because the wind was blowing and I was hungry. We found a quiet bench for some dog snacks and I had olives, cheese, and salami. Tapas on Cannon which Isis was really interested in. I had found the perfect combination for Fall and would be bringing this fair again in my pack. The salt content was perfect for me. As we were sitting there, a few approached from the tram which I was surprised was running given the forecast of storms. Maybe it was better than I thought? Shortly after their arrival, Isis and I headed back down into the cloud.

       The wind picked up a little and we took our time on the descend. Dealing with the even more slippery slabs and the new rocks, plus my continued adjustment to bifocals (yes, still adjusting!), I just took it slow. We encountered a few other souls coming up as we were heading down. Luna and she owner, who we met on the Tri's this past winter were coming up. Isis was still not thrilled with her but then again, she is not thrilled with any unfamiliar dog. We also encountered tow other dogs who were traveling without owners (or so it seemed). Actually, they were just far ahead of them and I picked up Isis before she was rushed by them and things got ugly. They went back on the trail and soon the owners got caught up. I asked them to control the dogs and I passed to the usual questions: Is the puppy tired? Nope, not a puppy and a bit of a champ. She just gets overwhelmed by uncontrolled dogs. Have a good hike. Oddly enough, the woman agreed. I don't think she realized the comment was about her.

          A little further down the trail, and we navigated the tricky rocks where i fell in winter. We were greeted by two other souls with southern accents. They had no gear which meant they did not have the 10 essentials. They were determined to get tot he summit because the ranger said it was a piece of cake. I recommended a good dose of Turn Around Now. If you don't have the gear and feel you are in over your head (which they admitted too), Turn back. And to the ranger that didn't question the 10 essentials... Are you serious? They didn't listen though so, I hope they got up and down with no issue. Isis and I make great time on this hike. We started at 7:30am and summited by 10:10am. After a lengthy summit stay, we got underway at 10:40am and we were back at the car by 12:30pm. I would call this a success and a very nice hike (with a few falls along the way down). Cannon can be counted for September and for my 3rd round. Now is the time to pay attention to rounds since I now have 4 remaining (Cat's, Isolation, and North Twin)... Maybe before winter comes around I will complete this? We'll see... There just may be a return to MAINE in my future too. Life is abut to get interesting with a lot of changes coming up and I am looking forward to it... Finally.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cabot Flags on 48 September 2014

      Last year, I had decided to move up my annual cabin stay in Pittsburgh, NH to September and I was lucky enough to get the cabin on my birthday. Seeing as Pittsburgh is only an hour and a half away from Cabot which in 3 hours from my home in S New Hampshire, it seemed like the logical choice to climb on such a stay. It would be my 4th visit to the peak and it would be climbed for September. Lucky for me the weather was also looking like a "Cabot weekend" because it was to be raining and cool. Everything was in line for the climb and as a bonus, it was also Flags on the 48 (a flag is flown on all 48 peaks in memory of 9/11). I had other hikes planned except that I felt so at home at the cabin that I decided to stay local and relax. So, Saturday morning, I got myself ready and we hit the road for the fish hatchery in Berlin NH. Snapped a picture of the sunrise on the road in Milan NH. I had hoped that today would be a good day, in spite of my not really feeling it this morning.
     I kept talking to myself up the trail too, about not feeling it and wondering if I should just turn back. I had been feeling that way a lot lately about hiking. Something has been weighing on me for a long time now. Still, I pressed on throughout the thick of the over grown York Pond trail which now is a allergy sufferers worst nightmare with all the rag weed around. I think Isis didn't even like it any more as things were dying and not as lush and green. Bunnell Notch Trail was not that much better and eventually, we hit the Killkenney Ridge trail into the woods. Once into the woods, the temps dropped a few degrees and the jacket came back on after having stuffed it in my pack by the car. Isis and I continued walking and talking about things. It's been a fantastic stay at the cabin (even just the two of us) and one of my better solo birthdays. The trails today are quiet for it being flags on the 48 and then again, we are just really early. My decision for that was two fold, the weather and the location. I am maximizing my time at the cabin and wanting to get back there. So, as we hike, my mind is floating to different areas of my life. Not dwelling too long but just enough for me to notice that my heart is heavy. Killkenny Ridge is a mix of water and mud and dry trail. Isis dances around the mud, drinks the water, and tries to run up the dry trail. Me, I'm just the one that tags behind her.

       As we continued on the trail, things began to look less familiar to me. I questioned whether we were on the right track even though I know we didn't make any turns. The landscape just seemed to feel and look different to me. I kept hiking and looking for familiar landmarks and found the much later than I thought. Time seemed skewed as we hit the water crossings, certain bridges, and sections to the ridge trail. Then I waited to see signs for the Mt. Cabot trail and specifically the sign that said it was no longer maintained. At that sign, we would truly be going up. Isis and I kept walking in the quiet and the cool morning. I was beginning to wonder if I should have packed soup to eat instead of the cold offerings that I had. Fall was definitely here and I was happy for that. We eventually gained some elevation and flattened out and things looked a lot more familiar to me. Then, the sign appeared and I took off my pack and we had a nice break before the real elevation gain hit. I gave Isis some snacks and myself some of the spicy salami chunks I packed along with some nuts (before 10am). No one had made an appearance on the trails yet and I was both happy and confused by this. Surely I would run into someone today. I had a feeling. I just didn't know who.

     Still aware of the time, I knew that we could take another extra long break at the outlook before the cabin. Isis and I began climbing and I was begin careful of the rocks and loose earth so that I didn't trip or fall. We made a lot of stops along the way so that I could rest. I was feeling tired at this point which is a feeling that I really don't like. Weakness never looked good on me and I feel this way a lot when I am hiking. Isis and I make it to the outlook in about a half an hour and we settle down in the cold. I pulled on my coat which had found it's way off and on throughout the trip and was now being put on again. Plus, my hat which had not seen the light of day since winters end. Could snow be far behind? Isis and I had fun taking pictures and she let me know when she had enough by growling just a little.

       We began our final push to the cabin and with plenty of stops and starts, we made it about 15 minutes after the outlook. We stopped at the cabin briefly to find no one there and so, I told Isis we would stop back for some warmth and something to eat. This time there would be no accidental loop of Unknown Pond. We continued our way to the summit... The real summit that is. I noted that at the first false summit there was a cairn now and that was sure to trip up some people. We kept walking and as we approached the real summit (after the second false summit clearing), we saw three other souls. Finally, some other people on the mountain. They were older and as it turns out, finishing their 48 on Cabot today. They were from Connecticut and of course completely taken by Isis. That was until they actually asked her name and joined by another couple, began telling me yet again that I needed to change her name and that it was no good and how could I? STOP!!!! Just stop I said to them, almost in tears because it just reminds me of how much people love to hate this dog. "Please know how offended I am by this. My dog had her name FIRST. I had my birthday on SEPTEMBER 11th, FIRST. My father served proudly in the military all his life. So just STOP IT NOW. I'm going back to the cabin." And with that, I turned and kept walking sputtering still. I'm so tired of this that I might as well not talk to anyone and there will go my chance at meeting new people. I was even more heart broken, again.
       Isis and I were stopped shortly before the false summit before the cabin by a somewhat familiar face. As it turns out, Guy J was who it was and I really enjoyed talking to him and his companion. She as astounded by our talk of the hiking sub culture and how we were choosing our peaks to hike. Both of us agreed that weather and the simple fact of what we want to hike was how we designed our months. After the summit, I was feeling a little better after talking with him. Thank goodness for the true hiking community. Isis and I came back to the cabin which we were also told that there would be more people for Flags up there. and sure enough, there were and lots of familiar faces too. Two people from the summit attempted to apologize to me and while I accepted it, I really didn't want to stick around. But I was greeted by Shari and her dog Eddy, and Lisa and Rick F who had broken out the Caters with me this last winter. So very nice to see these faces out of the computer to interact in person. Isis and I began making our way down shortly after some photo opportunities.

     The way back down was always quicker for us. There were a few more falls on sloppy tired feet but the trails, while they are over grown and wet in a lot of places, are still in great shape. No real need to worry about much more than what squirrel will catch Isis' eye on this trail. I was happy to get out for the day, even if it did take me away from my beloved Cabin on the Connecticut River. I was happy to be on the fringe of the Flags on the 48 ceremonies and also honored the day in my own way as I moved up the trail. Once back at the car, we headed north for the hour and a half drive which seemed right and strange all at the same time. I have big things on the horizon after this vacation is over tomorrow and still I am wishing that my time in Pittsburgh would not come to an end...

       I went into the woods to find people… In the beginning it was a way for me to meet people and not sit at home or go shopping all the time. It was both a way to over come being shy and getting in shape. Now, years later, I have found people and lost people and found my true self. When faced with walking away or walking up another mountain, I pushed aside all my fears and kept going and I still keep going. In the time I thought I found the love of my life and loosing him, I faced my deepest depression and my highest anxiety. I am still rebuilding my life but I am stronger for it and the pursuit of the number 576, while daunting at times, has not extinguished the fire in my heart. For in that pursuit, I found within me my darkest corners and faced them and come back stronger than I ever was. From first peak to last, I walked the path with my own power and no one will keep me from those beloved peaks... Now at 28% and still going....

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Field, Willey, Tom, and Avalon for a Rainy Day

             I had originally planned to hike the Twin's today for the challenge of and out and back. Weather had me choose a loop of Willey, Tom, and Field instead. The week had been very frustrating for me at work and personally and I really wanted to get a full day in on the trails even though I would need to do OT and I was working on Monday, I got myself to the Crawford Depot by 7am and hit the trails by 7:15pm. The good thing is that this is an easy loop for me and because of that, I decided to go by way of Avalon first and then hit Field. I would then head over to Willey and double back to Tom. This promised to be a good day in spite of the weather. 

          Heading up the Avalon Trail, Isis and I get our feet under us. This trail is traditionally rocky and in wet weather, this could prove slippery. The rain was already spitting and I had put my pack cover on but I decided to leave off the rain shell and bucket hat. It was just too humid today. Work had been done recently on the Avalon trail to improve drainage and the new water bars were nice. All three water crossings were also not a problem and as usual, I stopped to take pictures at my favorite one. 

           We moved quickly up the trail and made it to the junction by 8:30am. I decide at this point to head up by Avalon and get most of the elevation gain out of the way first. This section of trail is also in great shape and has had recent work done on it as well. New stairs and water bars are in place before the rocks and are greatly appreciated on this upward section. Isis and I continue up the trail and I keep reminding myself that after this it's just walking a ridge and dealing with a few PUD's. We take a few standing breaks so that I can catch my breath and we continue on.  We reach the junction for the Avalon Spur at 8:45am and because of this, I decide to finally go up the 100 yards to Mt. Avalon (52 With a View List). I was impressed by the small summit and sat on the rocks with Isis for a little while over looking the AMC Highland Center. 

                After exploring Avalon, we made our way quickly down the spur and began making our push to Field. Our first hiker of the day would pass us here and I was thankful that the trails were so empty for a holiday weekend. The trail to Field lead us over new bog bridges and some pretty decent terrain. Once we got into the final push, I felt like it was going on forever and thought I missed a turn or something. I saw the section of trail that someone in winter bushwhacked straight up and briefly thought of taking it except  had no clue where it came out. So, we played it safe and continued winding through the trails to the summit. I was feeling the humidity and as though I was swimming in my hiking clothes. I wanted to take a decent break at Field and hoped that the rain would hold off. The trail is a mix of rocks, roots, and loose rocks so, I am careful not to slip too much. After what seemed like forever, Isis and I arrived at Mt. Field for my 6th visit and her 3rd. The Grey Jay's made a brief appearance and one made a pass at my handful of mini dog biscuits to no avail because Isis wanted to eat him. We settled in for an apple and some much needed water for my furry companion. Hikers filtered in and out and we had a great conversation concerning the grid and how I was approaching it. Essentially, I am hiking now to hike and not staying to a set pattern of rounds. Hiking to the weather and what I want to in a given month makes it less like I am gridding and more like I am hiking.

                  We begin making our way to Willey and the rain is getting a little heavier. For a brief moment, I stop and almost turn back for fear that I'd be hiking in the pouring rain. Something told me to keep going to Willey. Something told me that it would not be that bad and that I would make it and back to Tom. So we kept walking over the Willey Range Trail and made our way down the loose rocky section and the brief scramble down the rocks. Then over a few more PUD's and made a few rest stops along the way. The rain actually felt nice up this high as it was still humid so, still no shell to speak of. We approached the messy section where a blow down had been obscuring the trail only to find that it had been cleared. I think I may have cheered just a little bit. Isis and I continue making our way over to the summit and make it in no time at all arriving at Willey for 11:45am. The day is moving to good time. 

        As we took a break for food and water, disappointed hikers were milling around the summit as if they were going to get a great view. Most had never been to this summit before so, I just remained quiet. Isis and I were just enjoying todays hike for the day being so relaxing. I was enjoying some beef jerky and gatorade while Isis ate her trail mix. We were joined by two ladies who stopped at the summit not knowing it was the summit. They were immediately taken by Isis and enquired about her breed and vital information. They asked her name and something made me hesitate. I said it any way and I was again told that this was not a good name. My face dropped and I kindly told the hiker how offended I had become by hearing this all too often and how disappointed I was that people automatically assume the negative when in fact, she had the name first (before the media made it negative) and that I who also had a now famous birthday could understand as I had my birthday first too. She apologized and unfortunately, I didn't really want to stick around any more. We chatted as we began packing up about favorite peaks and this hiker seemed to want to debate everything. I knew now to just get moving. I was growing tired of people who talk to talk and don't talk to listen. Isis and I began our trek back to Tom which would take us back over field. Heading back over the PUD's and back up the slide like trail, we made it back to Field by 1pm.

           After leaving Field for the second time, I began to laugh... I figured that Isis had earned the trail name of terrorist and I half wondered if I was put on some watch list because everyone was so up in arms about my dogs name. It made the time pass while we made our way to the Tom Spur entrance. Once there, we made our push up the now .6 spur. New signs were up and there was also new work on this trail as well. stairs had been built into the upper trial and this made the vertical gain a little more bearable on my tired feet. All the new trail work was much appreciated. Tom is also a viewless summit and it's extra viewless today with the clouds. We had arrived there at 1:50pm. The rain is lightly falling and Isis and I tag the summit and have something to eat. I finally decided to eat my high protein peanut butter sandwich (Peanut, almond, flax seed, and pumpkin seed butter) while Isis has some sweet potato sticks. We are joined by another couple who do not stay long. The bugs are also relentless as they have been on each summit.

     Before long, it is time for Isis and I to begin our trek back to the car. She had been plain with a stick and I found her falling asleep on top of it so, I hated to disturb her. The rain was getting heavier again except I was still hot and so, still no shell. Just the pack cover. Isis and I make our way back to the car. The going was slow due to the rocks and the rain making them slick. I was slipping because Isis was excited and pulling me downy he trail. She gets that way when she knows we are heading back to the car at the end. The same as when we begin to approach a summit. It's a balancing act with us. We pass a few hikers on our way out. One curious couple where the guy had no pack and his poor girlfriend was following behind with the pack on her back. I felt sad for her and wondered what their relationship was like. Then I also remembered how I was enjoying being single. Something about that couple just didn't seem right to me. Heading back down the trail and over the water crossings, we made it back to the car by 4pm. All in all, not a bad amount of time on the trails today and a great day in spite of the weather. 

      Once back in the car, I change and we head for home. I have to head back to work tomorrow after having just today off and I am a little tired of working six days a week. Better days I know are coming and I am hoping that the changes on the horizon arrive soon. With next weekend a non-hiking weekend due to family obligations, it now appears as though my next hike would be kicking off September as a birthday hike for myself and home base would be my favorite get away in Pittsburgh, NH...