Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mount Hale to Not Waste a View

It's Mount Hale... Not very exciting but then again, it's going to be grey and overcast today. Mount Hale has no view and no above tree line... PERFECT. Oh, and there's a 2.5 mile road walk for those that go by way of the Hale Brook Trail instead of the Fire Wardens Trail. Since my solo bushwhacking skills are not very reliable, I'm walking the road. So, it's 2.5 miles to the actual trail head this morning. There's a light covering of snow and ice but I am in my bare boots and doing just fine. Lil' Nugget and I walk in and enjoy it. It goes by very quickly and we are at the trail head in an hour. 

After a short break, we begin our ascent of the Hale Brook Trail and having been here before, I am looking for landmarks and variations in the trail. It's one of those trails that has a gradual start and then climbs for a while. It's pretty solid right now with ice under a thin layer of snow still. Spikes are put on and I'm doing just fine. It's warm today for being overcast so, my hat and gloves are off and on. The water crossings are solid and that's a welcome trail feature. Lil' Nugget and myself continue to climb and break for treats, water, and food. I'm not in a huge hurry today and it seems as though we are the only ones out today. Sunday is not a very popular day for hiking sometimes. There are sections of the trail that are a little steep and icy with evidence of butt sledding so, it's difficult to get up these sections. I know how to get down them though. Lil' Nugget slows to a stop and we are eventually greeted by (we would later find out) Gypsy Hiker and Zoey (pooch). Words were spoken from Lil' Nugget and we were on our way again. Shortly after this meeting, the trail thins out to the size of a balance beam and there's a bit of a drop off that would surely be a painful slide. My footing is awkward and my my body is at a bad angle. I lean on a tree and grab a pole since there was no taking my pack off. This was fun and slightly awkward, but it helped out with my balance greatly. We crossed the final crossing with no water issues and finally had the trail widen out. 

Once past this section, I took a break to catch my breath and then pressed to the summit. I had estimated that it would be about a 2 hour climb from the base. As Lil' Nugget and I walked on, the rescue helicopter was buzzing overhead. No one was injured but they were probably training. Gotta love SAR! This final push to the summit takes me a little while as I'm stopping and starting. Through the switchbacks, we finally push up and see the "tunnel" to the opening for the summit. We're almost there.

Everyone is up at the summit still and we have a nice chat. Lil' Nugget gets to be around Zoey and even though she's a little moody, the interaction in my eyes was positive. I was grateful to these two ladies for sticking around and not reacting to Lil' Nuggets big show. Once they head back down, we take the time to walk around the summit. I think I spot the entrance to the Fire Wardens trail. I'll take it some day when I'm feeling a little more confident in my Whack skills. Lil' Nugget gets fed and the pictures get taken then she decides it's time to go. It was 2 hours to the summit and as we head down, I know that I'll have some challenges. I was right... The thin section was a slow challenge with my poles to give balance and then the icy sections that have been warn smooth were of course butt sledded. I didn't really want to do this as I ended up ripping my pants yet again... I'm forever sewing these things. BUT, it only took us an hour to get back to the trail head which left the 2.5 mile road walk back. To my surprise, there were people on their way in. Then again, it's only noon time too. We make it back to the car in another hour which is not bad at all on tired feet. Changed out of my hiking clothes and headed down the road to coffee and then to home for more junk food and football for the Super Bowl (Minus the Pat's). A great day on some easy trails on this very mild winter season.

There's something to be said for being off of a List. I'm hitting all those summits that I have not hit in a long time. Funny but they seem so much easier now. It's nice to just hike... No worries. No cares. Just some time out in the woods with my best trail partner and it's great to be meeting so many different hikers. This winter has no doubt been mild and that really contributed to my being able to finish my last list and continue on. My hat's off to those that accomplished things last winter season... That was a tough one I will not soon forget. Continuing on now and hiking myself back to the LT come this July for the next big finish. I'm looking forward to a few more hikes in snow with hopefully some good snowy walks while the flakes fall and then for the greener times ahead. It turns out that today, 5 years ago, I canceled my last doctors appointment after a long road to try and  get a medical cure for my thyroid and took my health into my own hands. I was done seeking out a cure and ready to manage myself... This is how I discovered that proper nutrition, with a little help from being gluten, refined white sugar, and caffeine along with exercise really does reverse many of my symptoms. 5 years ago, when I started, I had not started hiking seriously yet but as I look back, it's amazing how much it has helped me feel better. I would not trade it for anything and this is why I will always make time for a hike. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Mount Tecumseh Just Because...

To zero or not.... The main question of my week after my big finish of my Winter peaks last weekend on Mt. Adams. So, I chose Mount Tecumseh because when I need a hike in a pinch but don't have time for a big expedition, I can hike Tecumseh and feel satisfied. The weather today was over cast so, I was not really worried about a view being missed. Tecumseh also allows me to sleep in. I got up at a leisurely 6am and drove up to the Ski resort (Waterville Valley) and arrived just before 9am. I was not thinking I would get a spot in the Hiker's Lot 1 at this late hour (Stay to your left when driving in otherwise you are in the valet line). I lucked out and got a spot. No hoofing it to the trail today! It's actually warm. Maybe I'm over dressed in my layers but I figure that I can strip down or vent. My pack is stripped down too. Not nearly as much food but enough for safety. Water was in my Nalgene but I probably could have gotten away with a bladder. I had a reserve water in my pack too. A slim Smartwater bottle holds enough for a refill and is super light. I hit the trail around 9am with Lil' Nugget. 

The cars for the ski resort were lining up so, I consider myself lucky to get a spot where I did. As we begin, the trail is super packed. I had put the snow shoes in the car and there they stayed. I was originally concerned for drifting but with a lack of wind and snow, I figured I was safe. The first water crossing right at the trail start is open but very easy to step on rocks. Then we just cruise up the trail. It's an enjoyable hike that meanders through the base of the mountain. You can hear the hum of the snow guns and the bustle of the ski resort so, it's not exactly peaceful but it can be blocked out. It seemed to take us no time to navigate to the second water crossing which was frozen solid. A little push up a steep trail which is a little slick from being hard packed, I put my spikes on here. It's just easier. I thought to myself that maybe I could use the heel lifts on my snow shoes but it was a toss up.  My legs are strong so, I figure I'm good here. Hike over continued solid trail over a few seeps to the third water crossing. Open but bridged. Lil' Nugget pauses for a drink and so do I. After a bit of a climb, we arrived at the slope outlook. No one's skiing this one today. It looks majorly icy. The view however, is always impressive to me. We pause here for food and water again.

Now we begin to climb. The majority of the elevation gain is on this section of the Mount tecumseh trail to the summit. It's an easy climb due to all the rocks being covered by the hard pack snow. My spikes are doing the trick although those that need less calf strain might want to use the heel lifts of their snow shoes as well as traction on them to climb. We veer off and check out the ski lift and see skiers on the upper trails. People are having a great day. Lil' Nugget and myself remain the only hikers though. We get back on trail and continue to the summit. The trail makes a slight turn and then continues to climb to the ridge prior to the summit. Lil' Nugget gets a reward for making it this far and I can rest my legs briefly. It's not long now to the summit.

Once we reach the two way summit sign, we go left (We always go left as it's less steep). Navigate a few rocky sections which are easy in the snow and a few quick increases in elevation. Without the fanfare of last weekend, we reach the summit. There is a view thanks to whoever cut it out. I remember when there was no view and it was still a great summit. I of course still do summit pictures and then we eat. Once we start to get cold, we pack up to head back down. 

The hike down flies by in about an hour. Lil' Nugget and I were able to jog most of it which surprised me. I don't usually run the trails but this felt good. Of course the trails in reverse are just as good and we make it back to the car by 1pm. My standard Dunkin' Doughnuts visit is just down the road... Convenient!

Mount Tecumseh was my first hike off list so to speak... There are plenty of lists out there and I've hiked a few myself. I've hiked a few rounds as a matter of fact. I'm not completely sold on a GRID Bid. Still not thrilled to hike The Cat's, The Carter's, Isolation, or Owlie 12 total times... Although I do want to hike them again sometime. Just not sure that I'll do an official GRID... Although I have not completely counted it out either. For now, I am content to just set the goal to hike and be better than I was the previous weekend. I'm enjoying the new found freedom as well as the no pressure of just enjoying myself and my time with Lil' Nugget. The ultimate long range (Well, July of this year) goal is to finish the Long Trail from Lincoln Gap to Canada. So, these hikes between now and then will serve as preparation. However you choose to hike; have fun, hike safe, and I hope to see you all out there. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mount Adams... #48 in Winter.

It was time... Of the 48 Winter peaks, I had Mount Adams left. Today was the day. After watching 3 forecasts, and coming to the conclusion that I might as well grab the brass ring, I set out with a full pack of winter gear. Every traction device I owned and headed for Appalachia. Not really sure what would happen today but I knew one thing... I was not going to give up without a fight. At 7am, Isis and I suited up and headed out. Today's sub zero temps to start earned extra layers for me and Isis. It was going to be slow going today too to watch for sweating. I had one thing on my mind, that summit post on the top of Adams. 

Valley Way was a decent trail down low. Well packed and easy to travel in microspikes. I was feeling good and hopeful for the day. The wind was low and as we climbed, the temps were fluctuating just a little. Terrain was solid. Intermittent ups and downs to start before the trail starts climbing. This is where I slow down and also run into Ian and Marlee (His pooch). We all agree that today is a great day to be hiking. After a food break, Isis and I continued and eventually began hitting ice and less consolidated snow. I switch out my microspikes for my snowshoes. With the gain of the trail, the televators are welcome. My calves thanked me for this and this last 1.4 miles to the Madison Hut seemed to take me forever. Once we crested the bad weather sign, I wondered if the forecast had changed? It was classic grey skies and a little more wind than I had anticipated. At the junction for Gulfside, I decided that I would take this trail all the way to Thunderstorm Junction and go up the short side of Adams. This would give me two bail out points; Airline (to the car) and Lowes (to a road walk). Hoping like anything that I would not need them. Isis and I did not go to the hut. No reason too. I was on a mission for Mount Adams.

The walk up and over on Gulfside was as predicted, windy and drifted. I kept the snowshoes on even with some exposed rock. There was more drifts to contend with than exposed rock anyway. Isis and I navigated some pretty slanted trail and hoped that we could get to our next landmark... Thunderstorm junction. Trying to discern cairns in the glare and the landscape had it's own challenges. Luckily some of Ian's prints were still visible. I pulled up my buff and my balaclava to shield myself. We passed Airline (our exit point) and kept going... More drifts and more searching for cairns... After a turn in the trail we saw... Thunderstorm Junction. Beautiful area with the sun, snow, and clouds all playing together. The wind had died down and there was not another soul in sight. I turned and took a breath... Time to press on to the summit. It was .2 on the Israel Ridge Path and as we climbed we ran into a pack of hikers that had just crested the summit. Everyone in great spirits. Isis and I continued on. The wind would die out and come back at us as we navigated the rocks and ice. Then we hit the spot Ian had told me about... The wind died, I looked up and saw the summit post... I lost it. Sobbing and gasping... My face freezing. I gathered myself and took those last steps... Hit the summit with a giant cry of YEAH WOOOWHOOO! 48! I kissed the summit post and set up for some quick pictures in a crouch for the wind. After this, Isis was not interested in sticking around. 

I caught a look at Mount Washington before we headed back and it was beautiful and glorious with the sun playing gone the summit. Heading back down the way we came and not stopping. The winds were kicking up just a little. My water was a slush in my Nalgene... Drank it anyway ( I actually like it). We made our way back to the junction with Airline and ran into a few more hikers keeping good spirits with high fives and congrats for the accomplishment (hell yea, I'm talking about it). Once back at the junction, the wind kicks up tremendously. We continue down which in hindsight, I probably should have just gone back to Valley Way from Gulfside. It was hairy and somewhat nerve wracking for myself... Ice and not enough snow in places t grab with the shoes. But then I'd drop into a drift so I could not do crampons... We kept going and ran into other hikers coming up. Made way for them but tried to keep moving in the strong winds as best we could. Found pockets out of the wind to rest and then we hit tree line... Am I ready to go down? Yes and no... The day went by so fast but I'm cold and ready for coffee. As we hit the last bad weather warning, we also hit very unconsolidated and very much unbroken except for the deep postholes, Airline trail. It was like this through most of the steeps and I did what I could to smooth it out... I'm just one person in snowshoes. Or I butt sledded down which, can be very affective but hard on my ass. I only ran into one other soul below tree line. He and I laughed at my efforts. I may have pouted just a little when I told him I was only one girl in Snowshoes and Isis was not helping much either. The hike down took forever... Oddly like my hike up. And yet, the day went by quickly. Once we hit the lower trail, I decided to leave the shoes on... Didn't feel like carrying the weight. Coming out to the snowmobile trail I met up with a group from the morning... More congrats and Isis got some love. I changed at the car and we were off for coffee and home. 

People die up there... Any season, any day. The weather can turn on you without any notice. Avalanche, spruce traps... Sure, I'll finish on Mount Adams! I have the most respect for this peak. There is something so magical about summiting the second highest peak in the Whites. And summiting for my last Winter Peak was an honor 4 years in the making. I believe that we are called to certain mountains and I was this week when the weather played out in my favor... No blizzard for us time for #48. I struggled through the 48 peaks for 4 winter seasons... Chipping away at my own pace and hiking through some great days and some pretty questionable ones too (a snow storm on Franconia Ridge comes to mind). The temps are for the most part cold  but I did luck out and get a 40 degree day on Washington one year. This has been the most amazing journey in the cold of Winter and I relish every step I took. I have grown so much since I started this journey and have never felt stronger than I do today... No one can take this from me. It's mine to call on when ever I need it. No one died today... I hiked Mount Adams and No one died today. Sometimes the Mountains let you win. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Bonds on a Presidentially Bluebird Day and West Bond Makes #47

The Bond's for Winter... Solo. An interesting undertaking to say the least. I woke up a little after midnight and was on the road by 1am. First car in Lincoln Woods a little after 3am. Lil' Nugget does not know what to think at this point. I get us both ready and we hit the trail... The long flat Lincoln Woods, Wilderness Boundary, and Bond Cliff trail. I think it helped that all I had was my headlamp for light. This narrows the focus and helps me not focus on where I need to be or what the trail is like coming up. I'm focused on the here and now plus, I have plenty of day light for 23 miles... The woods are not without their noises and on more than a few occasions, I make louder noises just in case. the Lincoln Woods Trail to the Wilderness Boundary is flat and easy to travel with just microspikes. Everything is well packed at this point. The water crossing is somewhat solid and able to be passed over an ice bridge but move quick as it creeks under feet. Continuing we head out to meet up with the Bond Cliff trail at about 6am. After a break, Lil' Nugget and I start climbing. The trails are in the best shape they have ever been in. Rocks and roots are covered just enough. Again, microspikes only. The snowshoes are still at home. I hiked up to Daylight. 

All water crossings leading up to the steps are open and flowing. Cross with care on icy rocks as the ice bridges are unstable to support weight. As we continue, I am content to hike and not race to sunrise on the cliff as I wanted. We break tree line at the steps and as I turn around, perspective smacks me in the face. Suddenly everything is small compared to where I am standing and I smile. The wind has picked up and as we make our way to Bond Cliff, I am pretty sure that this is the best I've seen The Bonds yet. There is ice on the rocks and the snow is crusty... Not deep. Easy to travel. We break at the cliff but do not stay too long.

We start to take the ridge to Mount Bond and the wind dies out in places. The sun is very warm and I can't help but keep scanning the horizons. Peaks everywhere and blue blue skies. It's a perfect day. The trail has been blown around a bit but it's easy to follow. We begin ascending Mount Bond and it's easy with all the rocks filled in. The snow is a little soft from the sun and I'm sure it will be softer when we return. It takes no time to summit Mount Bond. From here, you can see everything and it's not even the center of the Whites. But Mount Bond is truly my happy place. Today, I can see the surrounding peaks and then some. The most important peak is about a mile away. West Bond. My number 47.

Working our way from Bond to West Bond I remain conscious of every down trail as those will soon be energy sucking up trails for our return. There are pockets of cold in the shade and the trail is kind of mushy in the sun too. A real mix bag of conditions up here and still a perfect day. We begin to ascend West Bond and I'm fighting the emotions... Odd because it's #47 but I get it. This has been a long time coming. I can only imagine the basket case that will be #48. Lil' Nugget and I crest the summit of West Bond. It's small and well filled in with the snow. The snow is consolidated so, I settle and set up for pictures. The sun is so bright that I'm not even sure what I am shooting. I let Lil' Nugget tell me when it's time to go due to wind and cold. I could stay there until the sun goes down but that won't help us. We begin the painstaking descent back to the flats of the Wilderness Boundary and Lincoln Woods trail. But not before I take in every bit of my surroundings. This area is pure magic.

It's one of those days where it's hard to leave the area above tree line. Even though I know that I'm on borrowed energy, I want to stay up there forever. We scoot back down the steps and begin the long walk back. Thankfully, the descent seems to pass by but I do note that the snow is softer and balling in my microspikes. Water is a bit more open too since it's been warm today. What a strange winter... Best to get all the BIG peaks we can while the weather is good. Lil' Nugget and I waste no time to get back to the junction of the boundary and the Bond Cliff trail. Then we begin the long painful walk back to the car on the flat straight railroad beds... My feet and legs are so tired and the 23 miles is not over yet. The long flat trails just seem to drag on and I can't look up or it psyches me out. The sun is going down and I still have not run into a single soul today. How lucky was I to have the Bonds to myself?? Top visit for sure. I toss myself into auto pilot and just go. Lil' Nugget also wants to get back to the car as she is not stopping at all either. I do see two hikers in front of us but they are far ahead. Either they were on Flume or Owl's Head today. I count down the land marks as we walk.... Bridge to no where, Black Pond, Osseo trail, outlook, Easel, Bridge and we are back at the parking lot. Ready to get home. I talk briefly with the Owl's Head hikers who are impressed with my solo effort. I share my love of the Owl and wish them a safe ride home. I change and head for coffee... My usual reward at the end of a hike. 23 miles and a head full of memories and perspective. Life is good is all I can say. No matter what happens. I have a place that I can come to that makes it all seem better. I swear that today, I took a walk with my Grandfather when I was up there and I was glad for the company and the comfort.

So now there is just one Winter peak remaining.... Mt. Adams. For Kate.