Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mount Monadnock to Refocus

          There is a perfectly good mountain in my backyard. It's not even ten minutes from my house to the trailhead. And yet I still drive three hours EVERY weekend to go to the Whites. Except, sometimes, I just can't wrap my head around another hike in the Whites. I need a break and I feel awful for it. I had intended on hiking to Isolation this weekend. It would have left only one more peak for my 3rd round. I struggled with thoughts all the way up the first mile. I could not get my head on the trail and I had to turn around. I had to bail except I was thinking of bailing on the whole endeavor.  I was feeling lost as I often do this time of year. There is something about the change of seasons that sends me for a nose dive and no mater how I push, I'm not going to make anything happen. I went home after playing tourist in Franconia Notch State Park and felt... Tired. I wanted to try again on Sunday but winds told me differently. Yet, I still made a go at a peak. I needed to do something after trying to tread water all week. I needed to stretch my legs.

           Now, like I said, there is a perfectly good peak in my back yard. The Old Toll Road trailhead is not even ten minutes away from my house. Why I don't go up this one more often is beyond me. Except that it's a little over crowded in the warmer season. I actually went back and forth with myself. First I was going, then I was not, then I was going, then maybe not. I took Isis for a walk and the wind at ground level was wicked. I was dressed for winter. I have the gear to walk the dog. I think I can go up a mountain. I've gone up in worse conditions on bigger peaks. Why was I being so weak now? Stress has an interesting effect on me. I crumble in addition to some nasty physical symptoms and if I am not careful, I'll be back on the couch. So I have to push through. I have to get up that mountain. Even if it is little old Monadnock in my back yard.

        I convince Isis that I am "going to work" with a Greenie for distraction since dogs are not allowed in any State Park in New Hampshire and I make it to the Old Toll Road trail head. There are others up there today so, I know that I won't have the trail to myself. The first mile on the Toll Road is your basic road walk. Easy up hill... Only a little icy. I leave off the traction until I finally get to the actual trail. I'm heading up the White Arrow trail today which is my standard "Quick and Dirty" hike. I started at 1pm and the first mile went by in a half an hour. As I begin to climb, the snow is pretty uneven but I'm careful to avoid the deeper post holes. As I climb, I break to catch my breath since the ascending trail is always tougher on me. It's like I don't know how to breath without gasping. It does not take long before I make it to the ice flow and take the detour around it. Although I probably could have made it up the flow with my hillsounds on my boots. So far, I am pleased with the day and enjoying the quiet of the trail as well as just being outside.

           From here, I was getting ready to beak tree line for the first time. I stopped to talk to Jeff who was on his way down. We seemed to compare in experience in the White Mountains and agreed that Monadnock is over looked. I make my way to the first ledge and get hit with not only the first view but also the first winds... Bitter and strong. A good mix of bare rock and snow await as I continue to go up. Continuing on the White Arrow trail above tree line, I first change my head gear to my balaclava and pull my buff up over my nose. I am lucky that the rocks and some tree cover provide a little shelter. As I continue, I follow the foot prints ahead of me and wind my way through the rocks up the the second ledge. I'm still able to stand up and feeling pretty good about summiting. I do wonder about some of the steeper sections towards the top. Trying to remember a year ago when it was really icy and how I managed but today, the snow is easy underfoot and the hillsounds are grabbing nicely. The wind is just wicked though.

         It takes me no time to pass the second ledge and reach the really steep sections of the White Arrow trail. These sections are normally worn slick form travel but in the winter, the snow just fills in these sections and makes traversing them a little tricky. I look up (straight up) the trail and I am blasted by the wind. I begin to climb and carefully put one foot in front of the other. It's maybe a 50 foot section of trail to climb up but in the wind, it makes for interesting steps. There is a rock for shelter once I make it up. The trail twists around and flattens out briefly before going to exposed rock for the rest of the climb to the summit. Once on the summit, it's very windy and everyone is covered up with goggles and face protection. My glasses usually do the trick up here to protect my eyes and I too have my face covered. I talk to a kind gentleman and we point out different land marks as we move around the summit, bracing when the wind gusts. He took my summit picture and laughed as my arms raised from the wind. We wished each other well and parted. I was getting cold which was a sure sign that it was time to go down. After missing the trail briefly and turning back, I am heading down White Arrow again.

         Those two initially steep sections going up are probably steeper going down and with the wind, it makes for an extra challenge. I step carefully and I'm lucky that the snow is hard packed. I use the boot marks as steps and make it down easily. This section gives me just enough of a challenge to help me remember why I like this sport so much. I make great time down the two ledges and pause before tree line to take a deep breath. I feel better about this climb than when I started and ducking back into the trees, I make quick time to the ice flow again. I bypass the ice flow again and continue down the trail. I can feel the warmth (even though it's not that warm today). It was easily -30 with the wind chill and the wind made it a challenge on the summit. I was not completely knocked over but I was tossed around a little bit. Stopping at the base of the trail before the road walk, I take off my spikes and continue to the car. Happy that I made a climb this weekend and hopeful that I can make a return to the White's next weekend.

         I missed my trail partner today. The unfortunate thing about New Hampshire State Parks is that dogs are not allowed so, Isis stayed home. I had to sneak the pack into the car and take her for a walk before I left and hopefully she'll forgive me. As I had said, Mount Monadnock is right in my back yard and not even a 10 minute drive to the trail head. It's quick mileage makes for a very quick day for me. Considering I started at 1pm and was back to the car by 4pm, I feel pretty good about my time. Although truth be told, if it took me all day, I'd be just as happy. I get caught up in peak counts and times and the rush rush rush of "gotta get it in and get it done" that I forget the basic principle... The Mountains Will Always Be There. I don't need to finish my GRID in any time frame as long as I finish it. I came close to walking away this weekend and it really opened my eyes to how I view things and how I get wrapped up in races. Time to slow down... Life will happen and if ever there is a time when I don't feel like hiking the Whites, instead of dragging myself all the way up there to try, I need to remember that there is a perfectly good peak near by to give me a challenge, a work out, or just a chance to breath. 

        August 8th to August 23rd, I'll be hiking the Long Trail by starting at the AT in North Adams Massachusetts and hiking through Vermont for 150 miles, stopping at Lincoln Gap. This will be my biggest challenge to date and one that I am both equally eager and anxious about. Isis and I will be traveling together and hopeful for a a good trip. In the coming months, I will be planning stops and gathering gear. I've entered a contest to have my trip sponsored by the Pet Outfitter KURGO. Right now, Isis and I are well on our way to being considered for the Top 10. You can help us out by clicking on the link below and voting for us on our page. The Top 10 will be chosen APRIL 17th and then the TOP 4 winners will be chosen from there. Help us out here: TELL KURGO TO SPONSOR RACHEL AND ISIS!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tom, Field, and Willey Close Winter 2014/15

Winter 2014/15 has come to a close and at my own doing, I have left two peaks of the original 6 hanging... Driving up this morning with all intentions of making a long trip to West Bond, I began wapping my head around the trip... I did the mileage in my head, it's a lot for West Bond and there's a storm coming. The storm had little to do with my decision though. I kept driving and feeling weighted down by this and so many other trips. Then, somewhere around Lincoln on 93 I said No. I said no to pushing myself any more. I said no to hiking for a number. I said no to finishing in less than desierable weather. I just said no and the amazing thing was that a weight lifted. As if instantanious, I felt ten times lighter going through Franconia Notch and I was going to hike today to just hike. No pressure... What ever I got, I got. I hiked to have a peaceful day with Isis because there have been so few in my life as of late. I hiked to try and continue getting myself back on track again because let's face it, since 2012 I've been all out of sorts and living on a shoestring. It was time to take charge again and get myself back to good health all around (physical and mental). I decided to hike my little triplets: Tom, Field, and Willey... Sure, they fit nicely into my Grid for this month and this was my 8th visit to the peaks. That didn't matter to me today. 

We arrived at the Highland Center and parked. I got my boots on and used the lodge facilities. Quickly, we hit the trail and  put my snowshoes on at the start of the trail rather than at the car. Avalon Trail is very well packed and we are traveling fast today. The winds are light and while it's still early (7:45am), I'm warming up. I wore my base layer, mid-layer (omni heat), and my wind/rain shell. Plus I had my winter pants, base layer bottoms, hat, and gloves. I was doing well today and traveling light. Isis had her coat on but probably could go without it now too. We made it to my favorite water crossing and it's still frozen solid. Nothing of note on the trails as they are well maintained. I did see that the water crossing is starting to open but nothing obstructing traffic yet. As far as I know Isis and I are the only one's out here today. We break for some food (new record for eating cheese and salami in the morning at 8:30am!) and a gear adjustment. A couple comes up behind and passes us and as we get under way again, Isis is eager to catch them. I slow her down. Hiking to the first junction takes until a little after 9am. We break again here and Isis gets more food. It's 1 mile to the Mount Tom Spur where I will drop my pack for the ascent. As we walk this section, I notice the increased American Martin activity... Lot's of tracks and scat. This makes me smile. There is now about a half an inch of fresh snow from recent snows but not todays. I'm glad for the snow shoes. As there is a lot of elevation gain on this section, I'm also happy for my heal lifts. A new dog comes running up behind us and taunts Isis a little. His owner is no where in sight so I scare him off. I'm hoping that his owner regains control soon. The last thing I need is to have Isis distracted and not moving on a steep section. My calves can't take that. We later find out that his name is Duke and gladly let him and his owner pass us. No barks between them...

We reach the Mount Tom Spur in a little over an hour since the steeps seem to always kick my butt. I drop my pack and try to have some fun with the Grey Jays  but they are not having it because of Isis. We make our way up to Mount Tom (.5 miles) in great time. We arrive to really good views since the snow pack is so high. Making our way to the true summit is a little different and seems to take a different turn. you can't even find the cairn it's so deep up here. I check out the new view and then head back the way we came. Take another summit picture with Presidents behind us and we are off back to my pack. We begin our trip to Field a little after 11am. The Willey Range trail is a little less broken but manageable with the hard pack underneath the new snow. It's a little uneven but not enough for me to feel uncomfortable. Isis and I set into a rhythm and pass the time quickly. It's now snowing and I can hear the wind pick up. I'm happy with my decision. My trip to West Bond would have been miserable and ended in another missed summit. I'm continually impressed with the snowpack since the blazes are either at my waist or lower (usually eye level). Quickly we find our way to the Avalon trail junction and it's 100 yards to Field. Summit number two of the day is a success and again, you cannot find the cairn anymore. There is another hiker up there too who seems to be taking our picture as we approach the summit. He leaves for Willey and I set the camera in a tree to take our next summit photo. The views from here are diminishing. 

I decide that we'll take on Willey today. It's time to get this loop again and we head onward. Again, the trail is a little uneven but nothing that makes me want to turn back. The snowpack is again so deep that the steep downs are no issue and we continue to make great time. Passing all the familiar landmarks and feeling confident for the first time in a few months. I take my time on the steep ups and count the dips in the trail to figure out where we are at. One more dip and an up and we'll be at the summit. It helps that the trail is in great shape today. Once we pop out onto the summit (end of the trail), we are startled by another hiker (Derek?) who I chat with and he takes our final summit picture. He's had a great day too and will be heading back soon as he is getting cold. I thank him for the photo and he's on his way. Isis and I stick around for a cloudy view and to just breath in a few deep breaths. I did it. Now to get back to the car.

Making quick time in our back track to Field, the wind is really picking up and I'm again happy with my choices. We take the Avalon Trail back to the junction and it's not as Icy as I had heard. The snowpack is good and my shoes are grabbing nicely to keep me upright in the steep sections. Isis is in control as well and we are able to make good time again. We run into a couple that is coming up there trail and seem to be having fun. My day is winding down and I'm itching to get out of my shoes. I slip once and slide for a little while but I really want to stay upright to keep working my legs. I make quick time of the mile and a half to the junction and I'll thankful for skipping some of the ups and downs had I descended and gone by way of Mount Tom. Isis and I break again at the junction and I catch my breath and stretch my arms out. Taking note that there is not a lot of tension in my shoulders. This is the home stretch back to 302 and the highland center. There is no other traffic on the trail today. The weather has probably kept everyone away but, I'm happy to be out here. It's been a very good day for me. As we come back out to Crawford Station, I'm ready to get back to the car. It's been a full day. Even if it was not that day I've intended it to be. 

No is such a powerful word. It can limit you or it can set you free. I've never felt better in my life and for me to achieve this feeling today, I call that a success. I've been trying to shed the outmoded thinking of the last four years.. Give or take a few month and find myself again. While I do want to challenge myself and I do want to be better than I was yesterday. I know that I do have to remain realistic and progress slowly. I know that I need to keep pushing but not to the extent that it feels like a chore. I don't need anything when I hike. I just need to hike. Winter peaks and a blue patch and scroll lost their meaning finally and those last two peaks will be there next winter. I'll be stronger then and the victory will be so much sweeter. I'm done with hiking that doesn't lead to enjoyment and hiking to just get the peaks in. The funny thing was when I actually went to look at my spreadsheet last night, I actually already had these for March and I didn't care. It was a wonderful feeling to not have to justify to myself why I did the same set a second time in March. I did it because I wanted to and I enjoyed my time with almost guilty pleasure. The mountains will always be there and I intend to hike them for a long time. This is where my life that has not made any sense for a long time, makes sense to me. I can breath up here where my weekday self can't seem to breath or keep her head from spinning. My weekend's are where my professional life takes the back seat that it should more often and life finally slows down. I'm so susceptible to sickness when under stress and I have not been feeling myself for a long time. It's time to take back my health again and the mountains will remain a big part of that process. I'm excited for the many trips Isis and I have coming up and more important as I begin to section hike the Long Trail in Vermont this coming summer with the first half of a SoBo trip. 

Isis and I are trying to win a sponsorship for our Long Trail hike through Kurgo. Please help us out but clicking HERE and then voting for us at the bottom of the page. Thank you so much and HAPPY TRAILS!        

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Winter to the Wire with an Attempt of The Bonds

         Winter is quickly coming to a close and because of that, I've put my blinders on. It's time to get this done. Three years in the making, I am really hoping that weather remains on my side for the last chances I have. I'm a therapist by trade which makes me extremely analytical and to my detriment, I think way too much. I can probably analyze myself out of some pretty big things if I am  not careful. But also, I loose confidence in myself very quickly. So, today, I planned The Bonds to grab West Bond and get the other two (Bond Cliff and Bond) for March. I literally set myself up as I was entering in from Lincoln Woods. I am not a fan of this stretch of trail. It's well traveled but it can also be too well traveled. And it's flat... And straight. And long. I had planned an early start and pretty much got underway when I wanted to. Isis and I arrived at Lincoln Woods and practically jumped up and got ready and before I could blink we were on the trail. 

       The long flat walk had begun and I already had my snowshoes on since I really didn't want to add weight. Someone had made a snowman which had seen better days. As we walked, my thoughts drifted from work, to home, to my Long Trail trip, and then back to the present. I had spent a lot of time on this long flat trail convincing myself that I can hike out in the dark. That's why I have a headlamp (two actually) in my pack. I was making good time on the long flat hike in and before I knew it we hit the bridge at Franconia Falls. Onto the Wilderness trail and the Bond Cliff trail we went after some food. The track shrank to a sled  track where ski's had traveled. Still packed out and crusted so, I remained positive. It's quiet with not another soul on the trail this morning. This also concerns me.

         On our way to the turn onto the Bond Cliff trail, Isis takes a detour and we find a stealth campsite. What are the chances that this is my insurance policy and they are a bunch of early risers already on their way above tree line? We power on and then break at the sign post for the turn. I look at the trail and simultaneously my heart drops as my eyes fall out of my head. It's untouched... I'm the only one out here and it's untouched. Can I go back and wake up camp so that they can help me??? This may not be a good thing but I press on. I'm determined to try. I want this done. After we eat, I step onto the untouched trail and I'm relieved that it's just a breakable crust that is about a half an inch deep. We can do this. 

          The water crossings have all be solid and I was pleased with the reroute for the one that had spilled onto the trail last spring and summer. It was open enough to allow Isis to get a good drink but not flowing over or fast. We continued traveling over varying terrain which was welcome from the flatness that was Lincoln Woods. I noticed that the confusing blowdown that once covered the trail is gone and that further tells me that I can hike out in the dark. That blowdown always confused me in the light so, I was concerned about it. Now I was free and clear. Let's go get those peaks. I had made up my mind to just cross Bond Cliff and Bond without big stops. I wanted to get to West Bond. The one that mattered most to me today. I was stopping a little and since the temps were actually warm, I was not too upset. I wanted to take my time. I wanted to enjoy this hike since I really love this area in any season. I was resting in my element as we continued up the trail. We came to the bend by the stream where the elevation gain begins to kick in and then I noticed that the snow pack is more unconsolidated and it's getting deeper. I push and I dig and I want so bad to keep going. I thought I was getting snowballs under my shoes because the grip was not there. I dig a little deeper and get up some pretty steep sections. The drifts become intermittent and I'm again hopeful. Isis is doing well with the depth too which helps me press on. I want this. I really want this.

     Isis and I make it to just over 3000 feet and I'm running low on energy. I know the exact area we are in as the trail opens up ahead of me and then it dips way down before the final push. I can see the entrance to being above tree line in my head but I'm tired and there is no one else coming towards us or up behind us. I stop on a relatively flat section and look at the thin trail ahead of me and what I've broken out behind me. I notice that my pole is stuck in the middle of the trail too.

"Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. SHIT!" I'm crying and Isis is sitting at my feet looking up concerned and not knowing how to comfort. "Fuck. I need to make a decision. I don't want to. I want this. I see it getting worse before I meet up with anyone. I see it being a very long day. Shit. Isis what do I do? What do I do?" And almost as if she understood, She looked ahead and then paused to look back at me. Then she made her way back towards my pole. "OK." And we began our descend of the Bond Cliff trail.

      The descend is of course easy since we've already broken it out. Getting close to the bottom, we run into a group of five guys (my stealth campers) and I tell them of my experience. They thanked me for breaking out what I did which a really appreciated and took it as a compliment to my strength and my determination. One of them agreed that I did the right thing and told me the mountains will always be there. They joked that I could turn around and help them by leading the way but I respectfully declined with a laugh. Isis go her dose of love from each of them as we passed and wished them well in their journey to Bond Cliff. We continued our descend rather quickly and popped back out at the straight away rather quickly. It was 1pm when we arrived. And then began the long flat walk back. As my mind raced and began to make plans for a finish. I needed time and while I had a commitment for Sunday, I was sure that I could rearrange things and buy myself another day. I really didn't want to do a double header next weekend and because of the weather, it remains to be seen if I will indeed finish. However, I'll take a postpone finish due to weather over weakness any day. I kept my head down so as to make the time pass quicker on this section of the journey.

       Once we reached the bridge at Franconia Falls, society began to invade my peace. A woman on skis with no less than 10 unleashed dog was coming at me. Now, I'll leave Isis down for one or two dogs, a pack, I'm really not interested in the outcome. I demanded that she call her dogs and quickly realized that she's in way over her head. There is no way she can have control over this pack. I make my way through and hope that she's not turning around. My pace is slow and I really just wanted to feed Isis again. Sadly, there were to many dogs on the trail to do so. As we got closer to the final bridge back to the parking area, I feel something that I don't want to... A hot spot on the ball of my right foot. I'm going to need some moleskin for tomorrow and thankfully, I have some. Everyone I run into is all smiles and enjoying the day as I am just trying to make my way back to the car. Some are dressed more appropriately than others but I'm just interested in one things. Getting home to prep for tomorrow. Isis and I get back to the car around 3pm and I smile at her as she sits in her seat patiently waiting for her Greenie and smiling back at me. I really don't know at this point what I would do without her. She keeps me sane in an insane world. I love her for that. I change without caring for the tourists milling about. It's time for coffee and to head back for a rest. I've got to see this through and take every opportunity I can. I know of at least one group going out tomorrow from the Zealand side and that is my plan. I'm hoping that a well traveled trail from today and tomorrow will help me out. I'm just going for West Bond and even skipping Zealand (I have no need for it).

      I don't give up very easy these days and every day seems to be a constant fight (through emotion, thought, or illness). For someone that can have a hard time getting herself out of bed some days, to be able to do what I do is a blessing and I am forever grateful to the mountains and to my motivator... Isis. We are looking to embark on an End to End of the Long Trail through Vermont. At this point, it now looks like June to accommodate my work schedule. I am blessed that my supervisors are willing to work with me to make this happen and willing to work the extra hours to get the time off I need. This trip is very special to me as a therapist  and a person who has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. It's my aim to help others realize that physical activity and being outdoors can be beneficial to treatment. I share my story with every one here because I believe in myself (even when I don't) and this Thru Hike will further help me spread the word. Hiking with your best friend is an added bonus and like I said, she keeps me sane in this insane world.

       I am currently entered into a contest to have this trip sponsored by a pet outfitter called Kurgo. The first phase asks you to like my story and tell Kurgo to sponsor me. This phase ends around April 15th, 2015. Please go to this link and give me a thumbs up: PLEASE TELL KURGO TO SPONSOR MY LONG TRAIL THRU HIKE!

Ten finalists will be chosen for interviews and features on the Kurgo Facebook page and then you will be asked to vote again. Four winners will be chosen from the ten finalists. Please help me be one of them. Sponsorship will help me gather the necessary gear and really open the door for this opportunity.

Thank you so much for following along! 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Stronger on Mount Jefferson

       I'm not known for making the best decisions... I'm kind of impulsive and live by the seat of my pants. Life is messy and I really don't mind it, most of the time and I usually end up on top. New England weather this week was playing with my already frayed emotions and I think I scrapped this trip 5 times before I actually said, "F it, I'm going up!" And I'm going up trying to shake a cold. So, off to the Cog Railway Base Station Isis and I went. We must have left around 4:30am (ish) to arrive and get on the trail by 7:30am. First car in the lot I recognized was Chris' Rhode Island Jeep, even under all that road salt! It's going to be a good day full of good people. More importantly, it was going to be a Presi day! 

       After getting everything settled and on my back, I carried my shoes to the start of the Jewel Trail just after the train tracks by the Rail Station. Isis knows that it's cold out and we shake it off knowing that as we move, we'll warm up. I was layered up to start but that soon became a case of layering down. The black balaclava came off making my hike a little more comfortable. The Jewel trail is in great shape and with my snowshoes on, I'm moving pretty quick. I don't want to move too quick though least I soak myself in sweat that will only make me cold above tree line. It's a delicate process to walk in winter. I take note that it's very quiet. I don't hear any wind (forecast was for 20/30 with gust to 50 mph) and temps as low as -40 with windchill. Yes, I was still taking a risk. But the sun was warm and as we climbed, I enjoyed the peace. 

        I seemed to be counting the steps to tree line and that was broken up by the first familiar hiker of the morning. Larry who I have run into a number of times was coming up behind. Always great to see him and joke around about how much we seem to run into one another. He had similar plans to mine with a few other peaks added on. I spoke about wanting Adams and he offered to pick me up at Appalachia if I chose. I told him I'd decide and let him know. We separated knowing that we'd run into one another again for the decision. Isis and I began ducking in and out of tree line and I began to get excited. There was still no wind and the sun felt deceptively good (it's still cold). We took a break at a sunny spot for some food.. Well, Isis got some food. I sucked down some gatorade. Hydration is key today and I don't seem to be hungry. Any time now, we'd be breaking tree line and I wondered what the trail would be like. 

          The views nearly knock me on my butt they are so vast today... I stand in awe of the world around me taking all in and smiling. In this environment, everything else melts away and you are only left with what is around you. The snow on the upper Jewel Trail is still good. It's very crusty and in places, you are just following very light tracks from the person in front of you (Larry?). I found myself laughing at Isis who was chasing the sparkles in the snow fields, looking for Cairns to follow, and trying to decipher the tracks in front of me. It takes such concentration some times. Isis was hilarious as the sun danced on the snow but it makes it tricky for me being leashed together. Lots of breaks to keep the trail in front of us. The snow sounds hollow too as I walk over it. I'm aware that one wrong move can send me into a spruce trap or worse. And we press on but as we do, Isis is distracted by a group coming up behind us. She loves to wait for people to catch up but I want her to keep moving. There are some tricky turns on the Jewel in this area because of the snow pack so, I really don't want to stop until the junction. Once there, I give her more snacks for the good job she's doing (it's not easy for a little dog today). As we are eating and drinking, the group behind us catch up. It's Mike L, Michelene, Jeb B, and Bill C. So nice to be in this company today with such seasoned hikers on the Northern Presi's. Great to finally meet some of these names I've only seen on line. Everyone is heading to Jefferson and before Isis can get too comfortable curling up, we are off down the Gulfside Trail. 

          It's just a beautiful day on so many levels and Gulfside is kind today since it's well packed with snow (less rocks). The winds are picking up but Isis and I are making good time. There is still a long trail ahead of us but I'm not worried. I never really worry up here it seems. As we re coming down  the trail, on our way to the Sphinx Col, I see another soul approaching. I knew I had plenty of people up here and I immediately recognized this guy... Chris D was coming our way with a  big smile. The same smile we all wore today because it's a Presi Day! We are all kids in the candy store today and he's so happy to see Isis. Sorry he was not accompanied by his girlfriend Tip Toe. It would have been great to meet her and I'm sure Isis would have loved it too. He gave us word that around the Sphinx Col, the wind picks up and with that, he's off since we both need to keep moving to stay warm. He was not kidding, the buff came up and over the nose even before the Col. It was windy but not unbearable and the trail, while bare in spots, and icy in others, was easy to travel. I paced myself with Isis and we just took our time. Using rocks for cover and wind breaks. The views of the Northern Presi's were equally breathtaking and I again stood in awe of the power around me. Sometimes you just have to stop and catch your breath. Not from the wind but from the views!

        Final approach to the summit proves difficult with Isis and the wind. She's not a fan of winds that howl and seems to stop on the way up the summit cone. We running Larry on the approach and I let him know that it's just Jefferson today. I coax Isis up and also try and maintain my balance as it's rocky and I'm in snowshoes. This can be an awkward walk to take but I was not interested in interchanging my foot wear today. As we get to the large cairn and the junction where the true summit is, the wind just dies and I breath out... Finally. The usual rock hop approach to the summit is not needed due to snow pack. We trade the calm winds though for gusts on top. I try to set up my tripod but I can't get it right. Thankfully Jeb's group is coming up and we get our summit shot. It's a small summit so we head back to the calm and have something to eat while others take in the view. I actually eat something this time and feel a lot better. Great to talk briefly with everyone up there but we are heading back to avoid getting too cold. It's a long walk back to the junction of the Jewel trail. a long windy walk as the wind is in our face. This is not so fun but it does not dampen my spirit. It energizes me.

          The high winds have carved many designs in the snow pack and as we slowly make our way back to the junction, I layer up and tuck my frozen hair away in my black balaclava, happy to have it out of my face. Knowing that once we are truly heading down it will go quick, I take in the views. Isis and I climb back the the junction and I briefly think I missed it as I kept my head down in the wind. But, I forgot that we climb a good distance over the Jewel trail before we turn on it. As we head down, the Jewel is choppy with boot prints and melt. It's softer than in the morning and I am careful because spruce traps are evident on the sides. I glissade a little but I manage to stay upright for most of the upper Jewel Trail. It seems so different from the climb up this morning. We are the only ones coming down and carefully, I step back into the shelter of the trees and the trail firms up again. Surrounded by snow covered branches, Isis and I walk quickly down the trail. There is little hampering our descent so, it goes by very quickly and we find ourselves hitting the lower bridges ease. Even quicker than that, we are back at Base Station in no time and I release my feet from the snow shoes. Walking back to the car in the hiker lot, we see exactly what the call of a Presi Day does.... The lot is over flowing!

        Today, I like to think that I made a good decision to get myself moving again. It's been a less than stellar February as I dealt with snow, cold, and because of that, only two counted peaks. In a world that moves too fast and doesn't really fit my ideal situation, I struggled to keep my head about me and let a lot get the better of me. I'd like to say some changes are in the future, but I am unsure at this point and the one thing that keeps me going, is the mountains. Without them, I may not leave my house so, that is why I push myself to reach these insane goals. Today, the weather was finally on my side and I think prayers were answered because even though I was fighting a cold, I was fighting more with myself and the trails brought a sense of calm to me. I could think straight and really appreciate the place that I am in. Every winter hike makes me stronger and as a solo female four season hiker, this is a powerful feeling. You walk taller and even as the world spins madly on, you do not let it bring you down. You rise above the clouds to walk in some pretty amazing places (some people only dream to go here). Two winter peaks to go and then it's time to focus on my Long Trail Thru hike!

      You can help me get my Thru Hike sponsored! Follow this link to read my story: Rachel and Isis Hike the Long Trail 2015! Give me a vote at the bottom of the page. 

Thank you! 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tecumseh For the WIN!

     Tecumseh may be tiny. It may be the smallest of the 4K peaks but it is still worthy of Presidential respect. It is still just a fierce and mighty peak in my mind. I have to say that these past two weeks above and below 4K have not been kind to me. Things move too fast and I get anxious as well as maybe a little depressed. I have not made a summit for a while either and that really kind of frustrates me. So, I set myself up for a win... Tecumseh is a quick hike and since I am expecting yet another front to move some snow through, I figured this would be good for today. I could make it home before the snow flies since it's not the hike in the snow I dislike but the drive home in the snow that gets me worried. So, Isis and I get on the road around 5am. Early for this peak but I also wanted to beat the crowds at Waterville Valley ski resort where the trail head is. We were underway on the Mt. Tecumseh trail after viewing the beautiful sunrise at 7am. It's cold... in the negatives cold. 

      The first water crossing is a little open but not really flowing. We rock step it just fine. After this, I put my snowshoes on even though the trail is packed out nicely down here. We begin our climb to the summit and wind our way over a decent trail. I'm reminded of the rocks that lay under the snow with each step. I don't really miss them. I'm anticipating the steep trail by the ski slope to see how smooth it is from sledding. As Isis and I walk, I can hear myself think because it is still early. It's quiet and we are so  far the only souls out here. Today feels like a good day to reach a summit and as we walk, my thoughts drift in and out from past to present to future. I'm smiling and happy here. 

           Isis and I reach the last water crossing which is bridged and push to the first outlook to the ski slopes. Another beautiful view of the Tripyramids and I am reminded that I need to get back there too. Time enough for everything now... I'm no longer trying to rush this journey but rather enjoy each step. After a quick food break, we begin our climb to the summit ridge. This is a straight shot that follows the ski slopes on the Mt. Tecumseh trail and as I thought, it's pretty smooth. With the traction on my Tubbs VRT 24's, I am all set though. It's better than any crampon/microspike I own. Isis has fun dipping into he soft snow on the sides of the trail looking for mice and other small rodents. To my surprise, the grade of the trail is not that bad. No televators needed (yet) and I'm not breaking too much. I am however, taking it slow. No need to kill myself here by running up the trail. Slow deliberate steps are good. I can hear the sounds of the ski resort just through the trees. Things are cranking up for the days skiing.

      Isis and I actually run into the boot prints we have been following. A young redheaded and bearded hiker is on his way down and had excited Isis. She loves her people. We are informed that it's drifted a bit up top so, I am happy I have my shoes on. It's still very cold so, the interchange is quick but not before we are passed by a guy skinning up to the turn for the ski slopes. We are on our way following him up and keeping a safe distance. I seem to be looking for the last push to the ridge and notice that with each rise, I am given a false sense of reality. I can't seem to recall the landmarks for the final push. So, we keep walking and I'm softly singing to the trees. It's such an enjoyable mellow day out there. Isis is having fun and the trail is manageable. I'm going to make it! The sky is blue right now too which means we will have a view once we arrive at the summit.

      Finally reaching the final push and I put my televators up on my shoes. This just takes the pressure off my legs as I climb the vertical trail. Again, careful deliberate steps and we crest to the ridge. I'm so happy for this and put my televators back down to relax my legs. Isis is ready to move as I am ready to catch my breath. The next landmark I am looking for is the summit directions sign. I always go left. First though, as we cross the ridge, I encounter the drifting. It's deep in some places and in others, it's wind swept making the trail firm. Isis powers through the powder and we reach the sign... Like I said, I always go left. Usually a rocky section, it's all filled in right now. The trail is thin in places with barely room for a snowshoe step. I hold on to trees and we climb just a little. The wind is picking up and the temps are dropping because of this. The trail alternates between packed and unpacked powder. Hopefully more snowshoes will pack it down today. A few more feet and we reach the summit to blue skies and views for miles. 

        Even though it's getting cold, Isis and I enjoy the quiet of the summit to ourselves and have something to eat. We take our photo op and then try as I might, she will not look at me for hers. She never looks at me when I have the camera out. Ever. I think it's her game with me and secretly she is laughing. Today on the summit, I sampled some of the best Gluten Free home made beef jerky (Chinese 5 spice teriyaki) that I made myself. Having recently purchased a food dehydrator, this was the first attempt... WIN! It tastes so good but I know that we need to get moving... It's cold up here today and I can feel the chill setting in to my smiling face. We begin our descent and quickly start running into others that are coming up. Very nice people on the trails today and great to meet everyone. Some were out with the same idea I had of getting a hike in and beating the storm and others were on their first hike... Ever. Welcome to the sport. It's a wonderful place to be and a fabulous journey. Isis and I again stop to watch the skier's coming downtime slopes by the outlook. We made very quick time heading down which is always the case. With the trail in such good shape, it's easy to just cruise down. And I managed to stay on my feet as I relied on my shoe tails to help me remain anchored. On the lower trails, we pass along information of the drifting to hikers coming up. Some are very receptive and others are not so interested. It's always funny the reactions I get but really, the information might do someone some good. I can hear the music from the ski resort and I know my day is coming to an end. It's a little off putting but then again, I had a full day of next to no sounds that were not natural so I am still really happy. Back at the trail head, we speak with another hiker about our adventures. He's impressed with them and also that we are coordinated in purple. I'm sure that we will run into him again as the seasons progress. Today took a total of 4 hours for 5 miles (2.5 hours up and 1.5 hours down) which for me is not bad at all. Always good to keep my feet under me and I was so thankful for the trip today. It felt good to summit!

      I'm still hopeful for a Winter finish this year. A few weeks left of this season and 3 peaks to go. I am hoping that a more favorable weather pattern emerges from the constant snow we have been having soon. I plan hikes as I move through my week which pretty much has me glued to checking the weather for temp, snow, and wind speed right now. This gives me something to look forward to as I am working in a crazy fast paced and often times confusing environment. I hold mixed emotions about my days but I always look forward to my nightly planning sessions. And there is something else I am planning for... It's official that I will attempt the Long Trail this summer (I'm hopeful for the time off). Three weeks on the trails with Isis and I am very excited for this. A new challenge is just what I have been craving as I continue to move through my Grid. I think the break will also give me new perspective on the Grid as well. In an effort to help me plan, I have also entered a contest to have my trip sponsored. Due me a favor, and click on the link below. Read my story and then give me a thumbs up to tell them to sponsor me. There will be another round of voting if I make it to the finals so... Stay tuned. Life is about to get exciting. Thanks!

First phase of voting to get into the top 10 ends April 15 so keep giving me the thumbs up. Thank you for your help!