Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chasing Sunrise... Flume and Liberty.

                Today’s hike was going to be a Pemi Loop in one day. I had even prepared for it by leaving Isis at home (shocking!) because she’s too little for this one. I had even packed an outfit for the cooler night temps since I was planning on being back at the car after dark. I was in a word, determined to do this. Of course, the other thing I had to do was start early and I had decided that 230am would be a good time for that. Boy was Isis a little upset that I left her behind. I drove off and made it to Lincoln Woods in no time (even with all the police on 202 through Henniker. They were busy!).
                This was going to be a very different hike without my little white companion. Getting ready to head out, I had nothing to worry about as far as Isis getting out of the car before I was ready. It was a cool start that early hour and I put my wind/rain shell on. Crossing the bridge was surreal as I could hear the Pemi below but I could not see it unless I shined my headlamp on it. Heading down Lincoln Woods was also easier since the headlamp was a little like a blinder. You have a very narrow field of vision with it so there is less distraction (unless you count noises). I made the 1.4 miles to the Osseo trail in a half hour flat which peaked my interest further in the Pemi (I had been wavering). I agreed with myself to evaluate at the summits. I turned onto the Osseo trail and was immediately aware of the difference between night and day. Again, with the blinders on, I was able to move down the trail without distraction except, I was aware of every noise as I headed into the woods. I turned around several times to make sure I was not being followed.
                The Osseo trail is littered with what I call ‘birch trash’ or branches that have fallen across the trail. I made a note of it because I didn’t expect to be heading back this way. I began having a conversation with myself to provide some other noise and to maybe distract anyone that might be interested in the contents of my pack or me. I determined that hiking without Isis was a drag on this stretch and I also quickly realized that I was really freakin’ hot. In that I was sweating under my shell and there was a layer of water between me and it. So, off came the shell and the pack was rearranged. I was much more comfortable and I was hopeful that this would help as I was feeling sluggish. The inclines are tough for me and this is where I lose the most time. I hoped that this would not affect the day for me. I had to shut my phone off because for some reason, my iPhone was no longer recognizing my external battery charger and thus, I needed to save the battery if it was going to last all day. The phone hiccup, I would deal with later. The down side is that I had no idea of mileage and could not see my landmarks very well. I kept anticipating the ladders and was relieved that I hit the switchbacks sooner than I thought I would. This meant that the ladders were coming.
                I had calculated that I would hit the Flume summit close to sunrise (at 5:30am) and once I hit the ladders, I made my way to the outlook where you can view the Bonds and that side of the Pemi. Fist light was breaking in dark hues of blue and rose with one star hanging in the air. No moon but that was fine. What I saw was beautiful. It was about 4:30 at this point and I had been sucking wind all the way up the trail. My chest hurt and my legs were tired already. I promised myself that I would evaluate at Flume and at this point, I had visions of a sunrise while on the trail and not at the summit. After calming myself, I continued up the last of the ladders and continued up the flatter section of trail. The next anticipated land mark was the .1 push to the summit. I alternated between my head lamp and walking without it for this stretch and was still eager to get to the summit. I pushed hard and tried not to stop but had to catch my breath on several occasions.  I came to the Flume Slide entrance and knew I was close. I pushed and soon saw the opening to the rocks above tree line. I broke the trees and made my way over to the rocky summit. I turned around and saw a tiny ball of red/orange light just appearing over the distant peaks. I smiled and looked at my phone which I had turned on for pictures. I crested the summit just as the sun was rising and it was breathtaking. I stood and snapped pictures as it moved higher in the sky and spent a good half hour at the summit. The wind picked up and I decided to head over to Liberty for breakfast.

                Heading down from Flume, I had a reprieve form the inclines and was able to breathe a little easier.   I made good time again and navigated the rocky sections of trail even though my feet were getting clumsy. I came to the final push close to 6:30am and climbed the rocks and crested this summit which was windy and exposed. I found a nice sheltered spot to get my stove out and heat up the water for my breakfast which was a freeze dried Denver Omelet and some hazelnut coffee. I snapped pictures while I was waiting and noted the clouds were getting darker and moving in (swirling) around me. I questioned my day again and agreed to enjoy a break and then try for the ridge. Maybe I just get the ridge and maybe I continue? Either way, I was fine with is because I’d already done something that I wanted to try (hiking at night for a sunrise). I was only wishing that I could share it.
                The coffee smelt amazing and the taste was even better it seemed as I clutched the warm mug in the cool morning air.  The omelet was inhaled but also tasted well. I was enjoying my newly re-acquired sense of smell and smiling as I drank my coffee. After another half hour, I packed up and even though I saw some serious weather moving in, I decided that I would give the ridge a try. I headed down the summit and hooked onto the Franconia Ridge trail. Again, on the down sections and the flatter sections, I was able to move with relative ease and as the winds blew, I agreed with myself to evaluate at Little Haystack. The Pemi was hanging there in my thoughts and at the same time, I had probably scrapped it and just not recognized it yet.
                I made a few stops before I got to the rocks to climb prior to Little Haystack. Once I hit those, I was careful as they were big and slick from use. This is by far the most popular ridge and the rocks are well worn. I believe this also took a lot out of me as far as my energy level was concerned. I began walking towards Little Haystack on the bog bridges and felt my feet getting heavy. If I was going to turn back, now might be the time. I pushed on and stood on Little Haystack having trouble taking pictures with my phone due to the wind pushing my arms up and misaligning the panorama. I watched Lafayette become engulfed in dark clouds and again decided that I would try of it. I heard voices coming up the trail and decided to go.
                Walking the ridge is very easy for me and I remembered sections that I had seen in winter. I may have made it half way to Lincoln when the rain started and I believe the words out of my mouth were “Fuck this, I’m heading back”. And without a thought, as if the rain was a message, I turned back the way I came. I was not even affected by this in the least. School groups were coming up the trail and I told them about the weather. I watched as they took a break on Little Haystack for what I presumed was an evaluation of their next move. I ducked below tree line for my long trek back to the car. I had mixed emotions about this only because there was no better option for me to get back there. Passing the time with plans in my head, I arrived back at the junction for the Liberty Spur to a larger group of boys that were also heading to the ridge. I wished them well and told them to be careful. I made my way back up Liberty and stopped for a few pictures and a snack. The rain was beginning over on this section and I did not want to be above tree line for long.

                Dipping back down and heading to Flume, I began running into others and a few dogs too. Ivan gave me a huge Pit Bull smile as I greeted him with scratches while his owners caught up. We had a nice chat and they were on their way. There were a few other families on the way to Flume and all were in great spirits. The rain was harder on Flume so, I did not stay long. The ledge is too small and I was not going to get caught on wet rocks. It was all downhill from here.  Making my way back to Lincoln Woods, I remembered that the birch branches were littering the trail and I began moving them as I went down. I moved a tree trunk with a crash and scared a lady in front of me. She thought I had fallen. Once back at Lincoln Woods, I traded my boots for sneakers but my feet did not really thank me. The only difference was that my feet were a little lighter. The walk out was quick but long. Back at the parking area, I saw that the rangers station was actually open. The first time I had ever seen it open and I stopped to give Pippy the 2 year old golden retriever some love as well as talk with the rangers. I think they were impressed that I started at 230am. Back at the car, I changed and headed for a large coffee which tasted completely different from my coffee on Liberty. I was on my way home to another relaxing day off.

                I was fully prepared to complete the Pemi except that hiking to book time is not Pemi time and I estimated over on Little Haystack that I would need an additional 20 hours to hike after going for close to 7 hours already. Long trips are not in the cards for me and for that I am actually grateful. I admire and enjoy my friend’s stories from their long trips. And love seeing the reports. I now know that they are not in the cards for me from this experience. Perhaps if I break it up into a backpack except even that has limitations for me. I am proud of my meeting the sunrise on Flume this morning. It was more than I could have asked for as if it was a gift from my grandparents and every pet I had lost above. It brought tears to my eyes from both the summits today. For me, this is a journey into myself. It’s no longer an adventure and it’s far from an event. This is my life and as I walk these trails, I learn how to work with my limitations as well as gently challenge myself. I am a slow and deliberate hiker and for that I am grateful because I am out there and experiencing this gift that is the White Mountains.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Jefferson Attempt...

                First full and hard week back into the grind below 4000 feet and I was thinking that we’d knock of Jefferson via the Caps Ridge. Like I had said, Isis has done the North side of Camel’s hump and those ledges with no problem, the Blueberry Ledges trail was barely barked at, and countless other scrambles were well… Scrambled by my 4 legged power pup. So, I figured, why not… At the very least (as always), we turn back. The thing of it is, we have all these summits and there is no “need” anymore. The journey I am on is a marathon now and not a sprint so, if we turn back then so be it. I am just grateful that I am still getting out and on the trail.
                So, in the morning, we load into the car and make the drive. Jefferson Notch Rd is in great shape all the way to the trail head and there are not too many people there yet. A few recognize us and we stop to chat, swearing that we’ll see them “up there”. Isis is just raring to go and is also soaking up the attention that she gets. This of course, makes me feel good and I view it as a win win. It’s a meager 2.4 to the summit from this point and I estimated that we’d have breakfast at the summit. We just needed to get over the caps and that was the question. Could she handle them? Could we handle them together considering the leash between us. I brought he extender leash just to give her a little more room on them over her usual 6 feet.

                Caps Ridge Trail is in great shape. A little muddy around the bog bridges but nothing that can’t be walked over. The grasses taste good to Isis too. Rocks and roots are easily maneuvered. We are having a great day so far and I am looking forward to breaking out of tree line. The trees are getting a little shorter and the skyline is beginning to make an appearance very shortly after starting the trail. That is the advantage to starting around 3000 feet and only needing to go about 2000 more feet to the summit. You get places a little quicker.

                So, Isis and I hear this cracking of wood and discover a little woodpecker making an awful racket for such a little guy. We break for a snack, bug spray, and sun block (I am making a conscious effort to remember this always now) because everything is necessary and then get started again with no problem. Isis is doing much better in the cooler temps and her dermatitis is looking better too since using a cone and changing up her diet a little (as well as getting her into a routine so that she’s not stressed). So, we come to the first outlook where the rocks have the glacial pools in them and meet up with fellow hiker Ken and his hiking partner who is going to get the summit finally after a failed attempt. We all talk and I tell them my plan. Photo opts are taken and they get under way again eager to hit the Caps. Isis and I linger for some solo photo shots but she is of course, uncooperative (and I love it).
                So, we too get moving and hit the rocks on the way to the first Cap. Isis and I begin working together and I am lifting her over some sections. There is not a whole lot of room to move so, this is very difficult unless I reach and put her much higher than I need to be (to give room for me to stand). I don’t have the stretch in me to get her where she needs to be so, we keep trying and I try to verbally guide her to other sections. She is getting spooked by the spaces in the rocks (as if she would fall into oblivion). I am a little determined but cautious. We come to the first Cap and we catch up to Ken and his hiking partner who are just cresting it. The path to maneuver is a little long and a little straight up so, I lean my belly against the rock and try and lift her to a ledge… No such luck, she slides back down and I feel her freeze against me. Ken is looking down as I look up and simply say, “You know what, nope, it’s not happening today. I think we will turn back and hit it some other day.” Ken smiled in agreement which in turn makes me smile as someone who understands the choices in hiking, that being, be stupid and press on or admit when it’s too much and turn back. The latter is always a better choice.   I wished them both well and congratulated her for reaching the summit (early). It was simply a stunning moment on the caps and I was happy to turn back.
                Taking it slow over the tricky spots we encountered, Isis was in my arms a lot more and I was doing some scooting over the more steep sections (which seemed steeper on the way down). I could only imagine what a trip back down the entire Caps Ridge might have been like. Again, I was happy to make this choice. Kneeling down to navigate a few rocks, we are over taken by a family of three. I asked rather politely to be given the time to continue to maneuver the rocks that I was on and without even looking up, the father scowled and continued up the trail which sent Isis into a panic. I scooped her up and continued to move down as the mother and daughter waited. I thanked them and continued moving in case anyone else was coming up. I understand that these sections are tricky and people with the ascent have the right of way however, if someone is trying to get down and is in mid “scoot”, wouldn’t it make sense to let them have the right of way? Especially if there is a dog involved? What happened to common sense and politeness?
                Isis and I continued to the next section and were again met by a couple who were coming up. They can see that I am trying to get her down and instead of waiting, also continue even though I again asked them to wait. The only difference the woman of the couple decided to make comments about my “little dog” and how I should not have her here. I would have been fine had I not heard her. Instead I let out a very loud and disapproving “Are you kidding me? This LITTLE dog is over half way through her second round.” She kept sputtering up the trail but I really didn’t care. We got off the rocks and took a break to collect ourselves. I probably needed it more than Isis at this point however; she was stressed by the descent of the rocks. I was reflecting on a lot of different situations over the past year to a year and a half of my life and was just floored by the crass rudeness of some people.
                We came back to the section where I had initially caught up with Ken and people were taking their pictures and there was a family with a baby in a carrier as well as a little boy (who I think was 2). I love this so much and since Isis and I had planned on stopping here for a while, she grabs some love from the little boy (who is playing shy) and his father. They ask about the difficulty and I tell them of Isis’ experience level and that she has finally met her match as far as ledges and scrambles are concerned. They are not going to the summit and just enjoying the day as far as they can go. I love that about them and wished them well.

                Isis and I sat on the rocks and I got her something to eat and some water. We had a brief moment where she was sitting in my lap and looking up at me as I rocked her back and forth. She licked my chin as if to say that she was OK as I was crying. I also got my bandana out and something to clean off her back and butt of bugs. She’s not thrilled about this but it’s something that must be done to help her. She seems to settle a little after some quick disagreeable yelps and butt shakes and then quickly realizing that I was actually helping her feel better. I take a few shots and even though I am still musing over the experiences on the trail, I am having a great day just looking at everything around me and feeling peaceful. A younger couple (very clean and very well put together with pristine gear and a well groomed pooch) approach the rocks musing that there is a little friend for their Irish Setter and I warn them that she’s not really a friend right now. So, they believed that they could get around us by going in front of the big rock with the glacial pools cut into it. When I correct them and tell them that it’s not the trail, the guy just kind of misunderstood my correction as a person affront to him and just started unleashing on me as he continued to move up the trail. I had also offered instead to keep moving considering this was a pretty popular photo spot. I could hear him pretty loud and clear and just finally had had it and just let out a louder “F*#! Off”. I had officially had it with the lack of filter and lost mine too. Yes, I too did not handle that as well as I could have.
                Isis and I make it back into the trees and as we get closer to the parking area, more and more are on their way up. Most have very little gear and some have no packs what so ever. It’s just not the same crowd as the winter crowd and I am left wondering what the rest of the season will be like. Isis and I make it back to the car and it’s packed to over flowing with more people coming in. One convertible sees the “space” at the head of the trail and briefly contemplates parking there… “The lots full”, I say. If looks could kill, as he turns around. I continue to tend to Isis and get ready to change. I am taking my time in the parking area as each car pulls in and looks at me as if they are waiting for me to leave. I must have been quite the site in my sun dress and hiking boots at one point. Finally, I am moving out and there is barely room to get the car out with the way people have parked. The last guy to see me put my sandals on had waited patiently and was able to move up to my spot (next to a Porsche from Mass of all cars).  I am very happy to be heading home and the plan is maybe the Jewel Trail next weekend (weather dependent).
                My week day life is full of negativity and situations that will make anyone question reality. My team does its best to keep things positive as we try and support one another in the face of a never ending barrage of negativity and violence and still, there is one thing that makes me get through the week. A trip to the mountains that I plan throughout the unbelievable weekdays. I work with kids who manage their behaviors in some very negative and sometimes violent ways because that is all they know. A physical hold to prevent aggression on themselves and others (to keep everyone safe) is easier than changing their own behaviors and it makes me sad to know that this is their life no matter what I try and teach them. Something in me has also shifted and the fairy tale died about a year ago for me in place now is a stronger reality where I am more important than anything else (well, except Isis). I have to look out for me now and develop a life on my own so, I hike to change the view that I have during the week. The world is changing and it makes me sad to know that people would rather keep their head down and just keep walking rather than having to look up and deal with what is in front of them. Conversations have been lost to texts and messages as well as likes and comments on social media. We’re slowly losing the ability to communicate effectively. I am just as guilty of this even while making an effort to change (familiar is comfortable, change is not). Hikers help one another out and support each other and for that I am grateful to the community at large. If only more people would look up and have an actual conversation rather than jumping to conclusions, making judgments, and just walking away. Today was a good day to open my eyes to things and I will be more careful of the day and trail I hike from now on. You can’t keep me down for long and I will get to 576.       


Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Dirty Side of Cabot

                Earlier in the week, my situation changed and my trip up Cabot was pushed to the weekend instead of midweek. I have to say I was experiencing a mix of emotions over this. I’m the type that once I get an idea in my head, I like to see it through. Change sometimes throws me for a big loop. So, Saturday morning, Isis and I headed up to Berlin to the Fish Hatchery for Cabot. I had intended to just do an up and back to start with and we were also running late because I was lazy this morning. So, we got underway at 8:45am for the York Pond Trail Head. There were two other cars there on our arrival. After a pit stop for me, we got under way.
                After the initial .2 on York Pond trail, we hook onto Bunnell Notch trail and immediately we are overwhelmed and I think Isis was in heaven at the same time by all the tall grass. She’s been sampling the grasses of the White Mountains each time we hike and I thought I saw her smile. The sun was warming and it was feeling kind of tropical in the tall grasses. I hoped this was not a sign of things to come. We got into the trees and I felt the temp drop slightly. We cruised down the trail and walked for a while by the brook. Isis began taking advantage of the water crossings and drinking her fill. We were not stopping too much so, time was good. The trail was in rough shape with the mud from recent rains and both Isis and I were wearing it before we even got to the Mt. Cabot trail.

                   We were over taken by 4 ladies from Maine on the Bunnell Notch Trail and we happily lagged behind. All of us agreed that it was best to just take our time and enjoy the day. It was getting hotter as we got closer to the real vertical gain. At the junction of the Killkenny Ridge trail, Isis l took a big break for food and water and to catch my breath. The four ladies from Maine caught up and also took a break. They asked about the trail to the summit and I explained that it was just a little further up. We talked briefly about the dispute that closed one trail and how the trail to the summit is so well traveled that there is no need to worry. We again lagged behind them and enjoyed our hike through the mud. We took another break at the junction to head to the summit. I wanted Isis to remain well rested and then figured we would spend a good amount of time at the cabin and the outlook.
                As we began our climb, the heat became even more apparent. I was slowing down and being careful over the rocks and roots. Thankfully this trail is not over grown. Isis is doing much better than those previous hikes that were really humid and even though we were taking a few more breaks, we were still making great time. We made it to the outlook and again met up with the four ladies from Maine. Isis got lots of love and we shared a few laughs on the rocks. The view was clear and of course, pictures were snapped. Isis had a good break and was able to get right up and get moving again. We made the final push to the summit and were met by a few others on the trail too. Jan and Mike who we had met on Liberty were also hiking today and it was great to see them again. There were a few other couples on the trail too.

                The push to the cabin seemed to take forever which was a much different experience than in winter. The several groups of hikers began leap frogging as we took breaks at our own paces. We did come to the cabin and had said we would stop back on our way for food and a rest. This was after a quick water rest while chatting with Jan and Mike. We began making our way to the real summit (stick behind a tree). The trail was decent and we made a stop at the site of the old footings. Again the little views were clear and I snapped a few more pictures. AS we pushed to the actual summit, the group from Maine seemed confused and I offered to lead the way. It was about .4 to the stick and some of that was a little more up. We all got there in no time for a small celebration of someone’s first 4K peak and pictures were snapped as well as love given to Isis.

                As we made our way back to the cabin, we were following the four from Maine and instead of heading back to the Cabin, we continued down the Killkenney Ridge trail on our way to the Bulge and the Horn. Once I realized what was happening, we had already gone down in elevation considerably so, I continued hoping that things would work out. I had a chance to look at the map and while we were adding mileage, it was still very doable. The trails were just unfamiliar. At least I was aware and now able to give Isis a break and not have to worry. The trail itself over to the Horn was in good shape. It’s a little rocky for tired feet but we are making due. As we get to the junction for the spur to the Horn, I opt to not take another summit. We leave behind our trail mates and wish them well. The Killkenny ridge trail continues to gain and loose elevation as we make our way over the rocks and roots. There is significantly less water on this trail but we seem to keep moving without a water break. I was eager to get to the Unknown Pond trail and put it on autopilot for a while. The scenery was blending together as I paid more attention to my footings.
                At the junction I was hoping for, we still had 3.3 miles to go. I wondered if we’d be searching for someone to open the fish hatchery gate. My feet were tired and my ankles began to roll (painfully). Unknown pond trail was significantly over grown and you have a hard time finding the rocks to step on which causes the ankles to roll when you miss them. This continued for quite some time and as I was on unfamiliar trail, I had no idea when relief would set in. I was becoming frustrated and I could see that Isis’ demeanor was changing. We slowed down and just tried to enjoy the surroundings while stepping carefully among the rocks hidden in the grass and the mud created from the water running on the trail.

                As we came to Unknown Pond, I began to breathe easy. My legs were filthy as I had gone into the mud several times and I thought briefly about taking my boots off and walking in the pond. The problem was I did not know if the boots would go back on due to heat and my ankles. So, we opted to keep moving. The trail continued to alternate between a dry trail, mud beyond reason, and grass so high you thought you were in the jungle. Eventually, after several water crossings and some more down trail, we came to the parking area for Unknown Pond. I forgot how close it was to the trail head for York Pond and happily sow the car from the road. For once the road walk would not be that bad.

                Once back at the car, I chatted with Jan and Mike again who were ending their day as well. It was 3:30pm when we got back to the car and I was pleased with our time. I was asked where I would be next week and explained my selections as well as my process. It all comes down to Isis. If it’s humid, we may be grounded or we will be in the trees. If not, then the skies the limit. I was sure that we’d see one another again at this point, no matter where we went. It’s nice to run into familiar faces on the trails who share a passion for hiking. Isis was placed in the car with water and her greenie and I got changed. We drove past the gate at 4pm and it was still open when we left. I thought about the 4 from Maine who were way behind us on the trail in the end and hoped they were OK.

                Today was the dirty side of Cabot in that I came out filthy as well as Isis and I was sure we were both bound for a bath when we got home. All in all though, this was a great day on the trail as I took a risk and continued on with a mistakenly took trail system. I viewed it as a message that no matter what gets thrown at me, I am able to work through it and figure out how to have the best possible outcome. Driving home, the acoustic music seemed to match perfectly to the sun hanging low and the mountains having such a presence. It was the perfect summer day as I drove home singing along and at peace with my chosen path at sea level. It’s going to be a long fight but I believe that in the end, I will be successful and able to stand on my own two feet stronger than I already am.   

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Whiteface and Passaconaway for a Break and a Breath of Calm

                I could choose to do so many things being single and not having kids. I could spend my time in the bars trying to find him (and finding everyone else in the process). I could choose to funnel my extra money into any of a number of material things to fill my soul with something empty. Instead, even when I’m uncertain that I can continue to go north, I find a way and my mind can rest. My energy and resources are funneled into the Grid because up north is a place I can feel peace. In a world that seems unreal in the way we treat one another and confusing in the directions I am going in, when I hit the trails, all worry and all need for control slips away. Today, after almost succumbing to some serious darkness, I hit the road for Whiteface and Passaconaway. I chose these peaks because the weather called for it (winds). I wanted some protection from the elements.
                I had been nervous about Isis since the last two hikes did not go well for her. As we got underway from the parking lot on Ferncroft Rd, She appeared to be strong. We made our way through the houses and to the trail and with a chill in the air we began making our way up Blueberry Ledges trail. I have never seen this trail (or this loop) in anything but winter conditions so, this would be a new trail today. I was not sure what to expect. The grades are easy to begin with and Both Isis and I are doing well managing the leaves, roots, and rocks. We come to the Blueberry Ledges Cut Off and decide to take it and rejoin the regular Blueberry Ledges at about 1.4miles. This trail would be a redline for myself as well. The grade is again easy and the gain is gradual. There is a mix of old and new blow downs to deal with and most are easily walked around. Being ever mindful of Isis, I am confident except that I don’t want to jinx her. She’s going strong today and I don’t see any need to pack her out early. We keep going up the Cut Off trail and soon meet back up with the Blueberry Ledges trail by a large slab opening. I was remembering the brilliant sunrise from the first trip up (full of pastel colors against the snow).

                A little trouble finding the trail across the opening but that was only because the tree with the blaze has blown over and the tilt makes it hard to see. I credit Isis posing for a picture in front of it for helping me see. I knew now that the ledges were next up and I worried about two things. The wind and how Isis would do. First though as we continued on the Blueberry Ledges trail, I experienced rock stairs I had never seen before and a few sections that made me question if I was on the right track. When you remove snow, the trail is completely different. Today, it seemed longer to get to the ledges. We began leap frogging with a few hikers who recognized Isis and it was always nice to see people when we are out. Being solo, Isis and I get to say hello and still hike our own hike. As we were approaching the ledges, we ran into two hikers and Nanook (a huge husky). I warned them about Isis not really being use to other dogs and it was so nice to not hear any of the usual snide come back. It was great to be appreciated for the heads up and even greater to experience two calm dogs and no back talk from my little feisty girl. Maybe she is getting use to others finally? Time will tell.

                Isis and I began hitting the ledges and I remembered the section of trail that was iced over the first time I was on it and how it almost turned me back. We began climbing over rock and working together to get up these ledges, which sounds funny when you know that I am teamed up with a dog. They would only increase in difficulty too so, this was key. Isis needed minimal help over the ledges and seemed to wait when I needed her to so that I could hoist myself up or figure out a way a human could get up and over, where a dog can just jump. And also at this point, I am full of pride because Isis has not attempted to lie down and rest once. We come to that one ledge that looks as though you have to go up a sheer face and the two of us power around it and with a little thinking of hand and foot placement, I manage to hoist myself up and over and I am rewarded with a great view of the surrounding area. A quick break after this particular ledge and I let Isis lie down for a short time. I took in the view and sighed a smile.

                Rounding out the ledges, we come to the final one that everyone seems to mistake for the summit. The trails are really not crowded to day (thankfully) so, there is no one around to redirect. After another slightly noisy run in with a dog we had seen on the way up, we make our way to the actual summit. To my surprise, it seems to take forever and I am wondering if we just over looked the tiny cairn. Again this is the effect of not having snow to fill in the trail. It seems like we are going longer until suddenly, things look familiar and we arrive at Mt. Whiteface. A quick picture and a good break for Miss Isis, we eat and enjoy a nice breeze up this high. It feels like a fall day and even though the bugs are driving Isis crazy, I am thankful for them keeping her active. We head down the Rollins Trail along the ridge and I know that I am in for a new experience without snow. I seem to feel a little lost and a little found when I run into something familiar. The trail seems thin in places and Isis has trouble with this. I think she’s afraid of falling off the mountain. We navigate over the trail and it seems to take forever. Isis has some water to drink along the way and some grass to munch on (to my surprise). There is one tricky blow down that again seems like the trail just disappears. With care though, a person can navigate over it and rejoin the trail over to Dicey Mills.

                Once at the junction, we break again and I remind myself to take the left trail to Passaconaway. As we get underway, Isis is starting to waiver and I am finding ways to help her keep going. She stops at all water crossings and water ways to drink and rest. I can see her helping herself and then she picks up and is off down the trail with me.  The left trail to Passaconaway is traditionally the easiest way to get to the tiny cairn. This trail however is not without its rocks to navigate. There just are not as many as the right side and there is not a lot of exposure either so we are relatively cool. We begin running into the hikers that were moving ahead of us from Blueberry Ledges and everyone was still in great spirits. Heading to the top, Isis charms a younger couple and an older couple on the outlook. WE finally arrive at the summit for a well-deserved break by the very tiny cairn. A break that is interrupted by BUGS! Lots of bugs. We each gets some food and a drink but we do not last long.

                Making our way back down the trail we trip and stumble over the rocks and roots again as we meet up with the older couple again. We walk behind them for a while and then pass them on the flatter areas. I decide that another break is in order at the junction and we are met by a father and son team coming from Whiteface. We have a nice chat but I am mindful not to keep them as it is getting late. We head down the Dicey Mills Trail at what seems like a non-stop pace. Isis is still going strong and I could not be happier. Eventually, the trail begins to flatten out after the descend and we do slow our pace just a little bit. The trail is in good shape though so we make great time back to the houses at the bottom of the trail. We walk through the quiet residential area and I can only imagine what living here would be like. Completely peaceful and serene, surrounded by mountains and endless access to hiking trails. Heaven.
                We arrive back at the car and Isis gets water and is settled in her seat next to me. I change and try to keep it modest as there are kids afoot. We head back home and encounter some of the worst holiday traffic I have seen in a long time. While it is tense, there is still no other place I would rather be. In a world that seems so intent on not connecting as we hide behind computers, smart phones, and countless other avoidances, it is nice to connect with people on a face to face level on the trail and to see the emotions on their faces and experience what they are feeling. I will take this over the alternative at sea level any day. This contributes to why I funnel all my extra resources and why I will always figure out a way to get to the mountains. I am not going to settle for just anything or anyone. The mountains are where I make sense of the insanity that seems to find me at sea level and when I am hiking, there is no need to try and control things and the little things that would derail me seem to not matter anymore. The future looks better each time I get back to the car because once again, I didn’t let the darkness win. I got up off the couch and experienced life as I want too.

Down to the wire with round 3… Jefferson, Cabot, Cannon, Isolation, North Twin, Wildcat, Wildcat D are all that is left.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The O's Are Not A Loop... It's Too Hot Out There! (Osceola's for July)

                I’m not one to sit around and wait for anything and I was not about to sit around and wait for things to happen today (which they have not yet happened and I am home again). So, last night I hatched a plan to run away and climb the Osceola’s. I figured it would be cooler being treed in mostly, no alpine zone, and short distance. I figured it would be good to keep Isis moving as well. Bonus, there was no need to perseverate over things at sea level by staying at home.
                Getting up at 4:30a, I get things in the car and grab the water bottles I had freezing overnight, only to discover that one Nalgene burst. I still had one water and one Gatorade so, I was not too disappointed. Isis was still trying to sleep and finally relented and went down to the car. We arrived at the Mt. Osceola trail head on Tripoli Rd to discover that we were first to arrive. As we were getting underway, we witnessed the emptying of the iron ranger by the forestry service too. I didn’t think that actually happened for some reason. But it really does.
                We started up the Mt. Osceola trail at around 7:30a and as I had remembered it, I thought it would be pretty simple. It’s a gradual incline in elevation and I was hoping that the trees would provide cover from the heat. What I got was a whole lot of rocks that I had forgot about and within 20 minutes, it felt like I had an ocean between my skin and my cloths. I can only imagine poor Isis with her double coat. So, I make it a point to be mindful of her breaks (which is hard because if given her way, she’s take an all-day nap on the trail).  At every little water crossing (all are step overs), we stopped for deep drinks and paw soaks. I knew that they would get to be few and far between as we climbed.

                We hit some flat dirt sections and the air was just thick and hanging. So much so that you could see it and it reminded me of my time in North Carolina. Perhaps I should have turned back at this point but we pressed on. After some significant boulders and rocks, Isis took an extended break that I thought we would turn around on. She was eating and drinking fine though and got up on her own. We continued to the granite slabs and she seemed to enjoy the smooth trail as well as the water running on them. We began leap frogging with what I believe was a father daughter team that was struggling in the heat. They seemed to both help keep Isis moving and stop her dead in her tracks. At the next break (at a really cold water pool towards the top), I put some distance between us so that I could work more with my little girl. She is such a people person and will stop anyone when I want her to keep moving. I scoop water onto her fur and it’s cold. She’ s not too fond of it but I need her to cool down. I also exchange her harness for her collar. I contemplated just doing Mt. Osceola but waited until I got to the summit for a final decision.
                Heading towards the summit, the trail flattens out but we move slow in the heat. We come to the ledge and see the two we had been leap frogging sitting there. We take a seat behind them and I give Isis a break. There is a breeze so, I am feeling a little better about her and myself continuing on. I pull out a nectarine I had packed and settle in. The other party of hikers conversed asking about the other peaks and seemed oblivious to the trail they were on. They seemed to believe that a loop could be done of both peaks (after being told of East Osceola). After about 5 times explaining to them (and being joined by another hiker), I gave up and decided to move on to east peak. If Isis could not do it, we would turn back.
                Heading down the Mt. Osceola trail, we enjoyed intermittent cooler temps and sections of really hot conditions. I was feeling very uncomfortable and seemed to be having difficulty regulating myself (due to my condition, this is a constant struggle that I push through). We come to the chimney and the by-pass. Seeing as I have Isis, I always take the By-pass. It’s just easier for her (but not for all dogs). This section is daunting to many but the key is to not over think things. Choose and go and be careful with your hands and feet placement. I end up crab walking forward most of the time. It’s not that graceful but I get down it. My number one priority is Isis and making sure she gets down safely and is not afraid. We catch up with a few hikers from earlier in the day. Some are heading to East peak and some are heading back down. All of us look tired and extremely hot.

                Another break and a chance to drink some of my cold water from the melting Nalgene for Isis and myself. Love having that cold water instead of the water bladder that gets warmed by my back. Isis and I continue to east peak over some flatter dirt sections and the rocky up sections (as well as a few downs). We arrive at east peak where a hiker who has waited 7 years to be there is standing. We have a nice chat around the summit cairn and Isis takes another long break but is preoccupied by the bugs. She seems to be very perky and I am hopeful for a successful trip. There is no real view on East except for a vista just off the summit. Isis and I don’t bother with it in favor of the rest (which I now need).

                Once we get moving, I know it’s all downhill for the most part. Between east and the main peak, Isis struggles a little and is carried. We are met by a few other dogs and I hold them off because I really don’t need Isis to be stressed out. We run into some of the other hikers we had initially seen as well. I opted for the By-pass again but did contemplate the chimney. Conditions and wanting to minimize stress had me choose the by-pass. Isis took this slow and easy with me and we managed to arrive at the summit of Mt. Osceola but did not stay because of the other dogs. I also wanted to get her in the small pool on the down side of the trail. We basically bee lined for it.

                Once there, Isis is not happy with me as I get her soaked and I also soak my bandanna and tie it around my neck. The rest of the way down is intermittent carrying sessions, soaking in water ways, and breaking. Once back at the car, I could have wrung out my cloths and gotten at least a cup of sweat (ewww, gross!). All in all, my running away today proved that I can persevere in the heat and keep moving for the sake of my dog (when I want to stop myself). It also proved that hiking in high humidity is stupid. While I would like to continue this pace to finish the grid, conditions should prevail and when it’s so humid you can see the air hanging around you (and you are sweating your girly bits off), I should head to the water to work with Isis on swimming and getting used to being wet. No more triple H hiking for me. Until it cools down, Isis and I are grounded… And planning.

                Happy to have been out today instead of sitting at home waiting… Which I am still waiting. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Best Lesson on Adams

                There are things that spin out of control and all you can do it try and hold on. I’ve been doing that for a while now and in the process, getting in a lot of hiking. It’s become a part of me and something that I use to center myself and gain some sense of peace in my life. So, in a moment when I cannot even find my center and everything is spinning, I decide to head above tree line. I decide to go for Mt. Adams. On top of an unstable work situation that I just have to sit and wait for the outcome, I got bifocals this week, which has caused me to think thoughts of growing old and entering another phase of my life essentially alone. So, let’s just escape my issues and test these glasses out. On Adam’s. The second tallest of the White Mountain 48. On top of everything else, Isis has also been suffering the effects of my changes and for that I am hoping to correct a few things in the future. We arrive at Appalachia at 7:30am and I am already disappointed to be parking on the side of the highway. Everything is locked up and Isis and I hit the trail by 8am. Of course, my original aim was Adams and Madison and as usual, adjustments were made.

                Leaving behind the civilized world, Isis and I are moving pretty good. We hook onto Airline and decide to take Adams first. Why not go for the big one? Isis is drinking out of every stream she comes across and these crossings are never too high. Airline starts out pretty good and it’s cool in the morning shelter of the forest. It does have some immediate elevation gain so, Isis and I start working right off the back. I worry about her constantly as my work situation seems to have gotten the better of me and due to almost exhaustion, I have been giving her shorter walks during the week and we have been hitting the trails pretty hard. So, I was determined to just take it slow. If everyone passed us, so be it. We continued our way through the woods and I am happy that there are not many obstacles on the trail to deal with. It’s really in great shape.

                We soon hit the incredible section of rocks and elevation gain and are passed by a lot of hikers. Heading up with my new glasses, I am doing well and impressed with myself. We navigate the rocks and take it slow. Knowing that we have many rocks to deal with once we get above tree line, I give Isis a lot of breaks and she begins lying down. This is no good. This is too soon. We catch up to three gentlemen and take a significant break to see if that helps her. Everyone is taken by her and we have a good conversation of dogs and hiking. They take off before us and I watch them navigate the rocks ahead. This is not even the tough part yet. We take a few switchbacks and begin to start popping out of the trees. Just before my favorite bad weather sign, we stop and chat with a woman doing trail maintenance. I thanked her for her work and Isis got some love (she gets a lot of love from everyone). We are about 5 minutes way from being completely exposed above tree line. Isis has been sustaining herself on trickles of water that are running off the trails and the weather is getting hotter.

                There is no breeze when we hit the bad weather sign, we are over taken with bugs which is a sign of things to come I am sure. Hikers are coming down but most are from the hut and not the summits. Within a short amount of time, we break the tree line and take a break. I pour some water for Isis and thankfully, she drinks it. She also eats… A lot. We make our way across the ridge on Airline and enjoy the views. As usual, I am wide eyed and taking a ton of pictures. I know it’s just adding to my time but there is just so much for my eyes to drink in. We pass the junctions for Chemise Des Dames and Kings Ravine and soon find ourselves taking a break by the junction of Airline and Gulfside. We could have hooked over and gone to the hut and on to Madison but instead, I kept us on course for Adams.

                Isis has a tough time on the boulders heading up to the summit. I do end up carrying her over the more rocky sections quite a bit and to make matters worse, she is getting tired. ON the more sandy sections of trail, she is still willing to walk so, I take advantage of those. We begin our ascent at .5 from the summit on Airline and it was probably the toughest .5 I have had to date. Isis is refusing to navigate the rocks and I am working extra hard. People are passing us left and right and stopping to give her encouragement. She’s a small dog and has worked so hard. A bad day was bound to happen for us. I roll with it and I am told that there is a deer close to the summit. I have to see this!

                Low and behold, as we begin our serious climb, there is a deer going from grass patch to grass patch. I always consider deer to be lucky for me and I need all the muck I can get. Isis has a burst of energy and we push to the summit but not before some moments of doubt and  with the summit is sight, I was thinking of turning back. Once up at the summit, I ask one of the other people up there to get a picture of us. I place Isis on the sign and look into her eye and a promptly lost it. I gather myself to have a smiling picture looking at the camera but I quickly go back to looking directly at her and saying over and over again how proud I am of her and how tough today was and how tough it has been lately and how sorry I am. The tears are just streaming down my face and all the while, my kind stranger is getting it on film. I am so grateful. We try and settle in the swarm of bugs and I gather myself just as we are joined by three ladies from Vermont that I have met before and are readers to the blog. We talk but it’s very chaotic with the bugs swarming round. I mention how the summit creeps me out a lot and then Isis and I decide to try and head down. She has not had a very good rest but has had a decent amount of food.  Everyone scatters from the summit because of the bugs.
                As we head down, Isis is slowing and then she is stopping. I’m picking her up and basket carrying her over some pretty tricky rocks. This is where I am suddenly aware again that I got Bifocals this week. The footing is tricky on the way down and I am trying not to fall. My feet are tired and soon, my arms are as well. I put Isis down when I can and she gets food and water, which she is still taking in without issue. I am less worried when she does this. The only thing I am aware of is how are we going to get down? This is going to be a long walk. We hook onto Gulfside and skip a boulder field. I need some flat trail to walk and we quickly arrive back at the junction of Gulfside and Airline almost by the hut. We are about to hit the ridge and While Isis is walking sporadically, I am giving my arms a break.  Half way back over the ridge, I make the decision I had been dreading. I took my pack off and began rearranging things. Isis was placed in and secured and hoisted back on my back. I just could not carry her any more.

                We cross paths with a hut volunteer and he moves out of the way for my precious cargo (as he put it). I thanked him for all he does and keep moving. I wanted to get below tree line to see if Isis would be rested enough to walk. She’s not too heavy thankfully and is sitting still. I was aware that I did not want her to overheat in the pack either and made plans to get her in some water as soon as I could. Each person that we came in contact with was proud of her and of me. There’s no shame in this. Shame would be not doing anything to help her and that’s not me. I’ll give you the shirt off my back if you need it and I’ll help any animal I can. We hit the decline of elevation that is nothing but rocks to navigate and my eyes are again reminding me that I have a new sight challenge. I am super slow and it is painful on my legs and feet. Isis remains secure even as I slip and fall. I am talking to her as we descend and reassuring her that there is no shame in this. Maybe I am talking to myself? The descend takes forever and as we hit the woods at the base of the rocks, I finally let Isis out of the pack. She is raring to go and we keep moving down the trail. My legs are in pain and my feet are throbbing. It doesn’t matter because I want her to keep moving. I am painfully aware that I have had little more than energy cubes, granola bars, and GU for the day. I am now down to the last of our water in a Nalgene as the bladder was emptied on the descend. I keep going on auto pilot. We hit the water and Isis drinks it in and I let her swaying as I wait. I’m contemplating a break from hiking at this point in our trip down. Isis and I need to work on our relationship again and I need to strengthen her as well.

                It took forever to reach the snowmobile/ATV tracks and when we hit them, I am overcome by the sweetest smell of flowers. I am surprised by this since my sense of smell has been intermittent at best as of late and even still, this is an improvement over last year when I had no sense of smell at all. We are almost back to the car and almost on our way home. As we pop out to the parking lot at 5:30pm, I am suddenly happy. It’s over. We did it. We hiked Adams solo and we have that to be proud of. The trails are in great shape and this tough route to the top should not be taken lightly. I am humbled from the experience of hiking this peak and yet I am empowered. Adams and the northern Presidentials intimidate me and to be picking at them is a big deal. There is a lot of work to do though and that work begins at sea level.

                I have been lower than my lowest low recently and just when it seems I get a plan together to rise up, something comes along to knock me lower and send my depression skyrocketing to a new high. Maybe I knew that a mountain ass kicking was what I needed for perspective? I know that my mountain hiking is a testament to my life and how I am able to live. Give me a challenge and I’ll overcome it. It won’t be pretty sometimes and I will come close to falling completely down but I will do it. Adams was a blessing today and while I wait for the unknown to work itself out, I can be proud of myself. Today, the grid did not exist. Today, was a test and I passed.