Sunday, August 28, 2016

Stratton Mountain VT

I've never been more happy to hike than I was today. After being out for 2 weeks with tendonitis, I was relieved that I could put my pack on and get myself up a mountain. Two weeks ago, I could not move my left arm and my right wrist was not doing well either. One trip to the walk in clinic and I was on a two week vacation with 2 weeks of prescription Naproxen. Thankfully not any longer and no extensive damage as I thought I might have torn my rotator cuff. So, today I had originally planned to head up north to Tecumseh. Well, then I had other ideas... Stratton Mountain. I'm so glad I did this as I feel my ass would have been dragging up Tecumseh for the, I don't know how many times. I really needed the change of scene and I needed to feel at home. 

After an hour and a half of back roads from my home in Southern New Hampshire, I landed in familiar territory (So close to home I could still listen to my radio station all the way there). The last time I was here, it was after 2 days of soaking rain and my gear was a mess. When I reached the trail head sign, I had declared that I would take the first camp site I found... It was about 100 feet up from the trail head and it was one of the best nights from back in 2015. My gear did not dry out but I'll get back to that later. This time around, there are 3 SOBO's still asleep at 8:30am in my old campsite. I smiled and tried to keep quiet. There is a slight incline heading up from the parking area which is also big and holds a lot of cars. The trail from there evens out and begins wandering in the woods a little. There are bog bridges over that famous Vermud we all love to hate. The forest around me today is nothing like I remember. It's bright and lush and green over the dreary August day from 2015. My shoulder feels good and I have switched to my day  pack, which is feeling lighter than my backpacking pack today. Isis and I enjoy the trail's quiet to ourselves. 

We were passed by two women and their dogs. How refreshing it was to be thanked for the warning about Isis being on leash and how nice it was that they kept their pups moving past and complimented Isis. I absolutely loved this over the usual "White Mountain Lecture", which is more like a scolding. Things are different over here as we wished them well. Isis and I are in no hurry today and this is how it should be every day. We get so wrapped up in getting to the summits and "beating time" that we forget it's the stuff in the middle that matters. The trail is very kind. It's such a gradual ascent that I don't even notice the climb. There are a few sections that might qualify as steep but then it levels out quick and gives you a nice mellow section to walk. You hardly notice it. We run into another SOBO about 20 minutes from the top who is hoping to get to Goddard Shelter tonight. I fill him in on the trail and he's appreciative of this info. What a great crowd hiking today. But then, it's not very crowded at all. Isis is doing well as people are leaving her alone for the most part. Unless you are family, you have to let her approach you first otherwise she will snap. Many hikers don't realize this until it's too late. I believe that she too benefitted from time off the trails as she is not acting up at all and is not seeking out treats like a mad puppy. Mind you that all the while I am thinking to myself that this trail seemed so much harder the first time I did it but today, it is flying under my feet. We pass the only real water source. I'd still filter as it is passing over a metal (somewhat rusted) piece to act as a spout. I know we are close now. The trail from here is very enjoyable. 

There is a lot of history at that summit. The caretakers (Jean and Hugh) have been there forever. They live in the cabin during hiking season and are full of great information and stories. I thoroughly enjoyed  my visit and I thanked Jean for getting me going again in 2015. It was her pep talk that got me to continue on and eventually make it to Lincoln Gap. We need more people like her in this world. Isis and I hung out at the summit for quite a while. I tried to get up the tower above the trees but only made it to the first platform before my knees said, You know what... No. So, no real view for me but that's not what this trip was about. The crowd from the gondola was filling in and a few Thru's were milling about. Such an interesting mix of people and I caught some interesting looks between the two groups. What a riot to people watch when tourists, day hikers, and Thrus, meet. We sat back down ad talk with Jean for a while before deciding to head back down. What a joy to hike today. 

The hike out went slow at first since Isis really does not like non-loop hikes. Once we got going though, it was smooth sailing. We ran into a few LTer's and a lot of NOBO ATer's on the way up. Mixed in with a family of day hikers. So, the trail was picking up a bit. Everyone was still in great spirits and full of compliments on Isis' behavior. We happened upon a group of naked thru hikers as well shortly after the family. Great kids but I did warn them that there were even younger kids up ahead. In Vermont, you can actually hike naked any time of year so, this is a common occurrence on the trail. They appreciated the warning and began to devise putting some clothes on. Isis and I landed back at our old campsite which was now vacant and waiting for the next group of hikers to amble in for the night (it was still early). I could picture it set up just as I had back in 2015... I pictured how happy I was that my gear was drying and then remembered that more showers came in over night. What a great section of trail for us to re-enter hiking on. I was so thankful for today on so many levels. 

LT Camp 2015

So, today was a very big test for me. I had two weeks of rest due to tendinitis and was really hopeful that I could make a return. I had chosen Tecumseh originally but switched plans rather abruptly to Stratton Mountain. I just felt that I'd be dragging up Tecumseh and not really enjoying the hike as I use to so, spending time on trails I call home was exactly what I needed. Away from the crowds and with the crowd I fit in with. I wanted this hike to go well for a lot of different reasons. Health was a top priority after not being able to move my arm well for a few weeks. But also, I want to head back to Camels Hump and pick up those miles I left behind. Considering what we did on Mansfield to get up and over and the fact that we've already done the NOBO approach to the summit, I think we should be OK if we just take it slow. It's the only way I will feel right about completing the LT next year. Labor day was when I wanted this to happen and that means up and over, taking a few days to do it... There is one hell of a road walk into the park to begin with and I need to be in good shape. So, thankfully today went very well and instead of thinking of quitting, I kept on going. Being positive and being surrounded by positive people made all the difference. Now, CAMEL'S HUMP... I'm looking right at you. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Mount Moosilauke

So, I lasted all of 2 weeks off the trails from when I left VT. This weekend, I got tired of waiting for that all day soaking rain (that we need) and hiked Moosilauke via Glencliff. A new trail for me and another small section of the AT. It's a 7.8 mile day today, round trip. It's HUMID and as my history would tell, I do not do well in humidity. But the other thing I am known for is my stubbornness. I'm no quitter. I may stumble but I am not known for quitting.

Glenciff trail starts off easy enough. I walked down from the parking area and entered the woods which quickly transitioned to a field of milkweed. It looked as though some people had chosen to camp here as some areas were tramped down. The trail continues into the woods and over a small well flowing stream. I can feel the humidity in the air and start to take it slow. Even the tree cover is not helping today. Isis and I continue and start to climb but there are very few large rocks to deal with so, the trail is a good trail so far and easy. Isis on the other hand is playing the game where she walks for 5 steps and stops dead. It takes forever for her to get going again and I'm pushing against my comfort zone of time management. I like to keep moving but I swallow my impatience and tell myself that I have a headlamp. I'm not giving up today. Even with a twit dog. We are passed by a trail runner who asks if we have seen another woman also running... He slept in and is in the dog house trying to catch up to her. We run into her later up the trail. I begin to encounter rocks and roots shortly after this passing.

Isis continues her game and we stop and start.. A lot. A Thru Hiker heading North begins to do a leap frog with us. He (like most Thru Hikers) is very nice... You can tell he is humbled by the trail. He told me that he's already feeling the Whites slow him down. As the rocks get bigger and the elevation gain gets a little steeper, I slow my pace yet again. On top of this, it's also slick from yesterdays rain. I'm trying to not think of if it rains today but I will turn tail and head down if it does (again, not quitting but that would be for safety). More Thru Hikers are filing down and heading south. Those are the lucky ones as they are almost done with New Hampshire. Moose is either the first or the last 4K in New Hampshire depending on your direction. Heading up into the clouds, I am not feeling any relief. I'm just feeling sticky and hot. Rumor has it, there is a great breeze at the summit... I cannot wait! Slowly, I make my way to the junction of the Carriage Road... We did not go to south peak today for time and for humidity sake. The Thru Hiker I've been sharing the trail was having his lunch at the junction. We stopped to chat and catch our breathe. Filled him in on the Whites a little  and then we made our push to the summit. It's only .9 from the junction so, this should be fine.

As we walk, there are some really nice sections of trail here and I always like this "road" but I have never gone up it... Only down. No rocks and very little mud are present. The ridge usually has some good views in spots too but not today. Isis and I make good time but in the middle, there is a smell that stopped me dead in my tracks and had Isis' nose working over time... It smelled of death... Something rotten. I coaxed Isis along with my bandana covering my nose and mouth. I'm afraid that it might be the moose that once lived up here near the summit. I did not see the moose today either. Breaking out of the scrub, we push to the summit. In the clouds we are met by 4 other day hikers and later joined by the Thru Hiker I had shared most of the journey with. A quick chat about the trail and a warning to the Thru hiker about what's to come on the Beaver Brook Trail and we are ready to head back. The breeze was nice up on the summit. I didn't feel chilled at all. I felt refreshed.

I did not take very many pictures on this trip because I knew it was going to be a crap day. On our descent going back the way we came, I switched Isis to her 16foot retractable lead to help her on the downs and not feel so restricted. She loved it and I appreciated not being yanked down the trail. A win for both of us for sure. We made quick work of the down trail as usual and had fun talking to Stick who was on his way up Moose and just hitting New Hampshire on his NOBO attempt of the AT. So much fun talking with him about his envy of section hikers who get to break this state up to be more manageable. An interesting perspective that I never considered. Once back at the car, I changed, cranked my AC to full bore and we hit the road for home. But first a stop for coffee... As always.

I am my on worse competition and enemy... Always. Today was so much about not giving into myself... EVERYTHING hurts in me right now. It's something I have not felt for a while. I did not want to get out of bed this morning. Again, not something I have felt for a long time. I stood in my kitchen and almost didn't get my butt down to the car this morning too. Then I remember that I'm no quitter... I can still push through everything hurting and be OK. If I bowed out for every little joint ache, I'd never leave my house. So, sitting here with everything still hurting post hike and maybe hurting just a bit more... I proudly popped some Vitamin I and will later pour a glass of wine, and will again see what the week holds and the weekend brings. My direction now is out of New Hampshire as I head south on the AT. I just need to look at the logistics between day hikes and over nights. I also want to make a date with Camel's Hump in Vermont for redemption... I again just need to work out the logistics of time and if I want to hike up and over or just head up the southbound trail to the summit and back... A coin flip for me really. Either way, I am not going to let anything stop me... I'm no quitter.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mount Mansfield

(Sunset from Butler Lodge on the 3rd Night)

7/26/16 Day One: Winooski Foot Bridge to Buchanan Shelter
7.1miles/16.2 miles to Smuggler's Notch/90.7 Miles to Canada

It's been a rough vacation... Well, the first half anyway. After bailing out at Camel's Hump and going home, everything came crashing down around me. But, I didn't stay buried. I went up Mt. Monadnock and rose above. I repacked my pack, loosing 15lbs of dead weight in the process and got myself back to the trail. Our start point this time was the Winooski Bridge. Our end point will be Smuggler's Notch, up and over Mt. Mansfield (VT High Point) in 5 days. All the fun in-between is up to me and Isis. 

Winooski Foot Bridge

This bridge cost 1 million in donations to build. There was no VT tax money used at all. I found this to be a pretty interesting fact. It was a great way to start out this leg of the journey for myself and Isis. The trail on the other side was flat and well groomed. It came out close to I89 and at the parking area, there is a library where you can take a book or leave a book... I opted to not as I didn't want the extra weight. It's still a very cool idea. 

(LT Library)

The trail so far has been good. After a short road walk, through a tunnel and up a steep hill, I am back in the woods and happy. It's humid today so the sweat is already pouring out of me and water stops are a must. There are not any water crossings so far and no seeps or puddles to draw from. With only 2L, I am hoping to make it to the shelter where there is bound to be a water source. We begin to climb and start to expel a little effort by Stimson Mountain. Not going over the summit but the trail skirts around it through a series of switch backs. On a humid day, it's enough to make you stop at the flat section of trail to catch your breath and drink some more water that you are trying to save. The good news is that from here, it's a wooded ridge walk. There are a few little bump ups but for the most part you are walking flat trail. I really enjoyed this after the effort that was put in to get here and was amazed that we arrived at Buchanan Lodge by 1:30pm (Starting at 9am). We are on a decent 1.5mph pace. 

Buchanan Lodge .3 miles off trail

This shelter is .3 miles off trail and that means that I'll have traveled an extra .6 miles. It's small but significant if you keep doing this, it adds up. Plus, it's another nasty down trail that takes a lot of energy to get back up in the morning. I also realize that I could have moved on to Puffer Shelter but I wanted to rest with Isis and myself. I have a strong desire to really enjoy these 5 days back on the trail. We are joined by a recent college grad who goes by Neon Waldo. Mostly because he wears bright neon and well, everyone knows where he is. He seems nice enough but I will be glad if he moves ahead and we have some more time on the trail alone. Tomorrow is on to Taylor Lodge and up and over Bolton Mountain. 

Mood: Tired but happy
Pain: Right shin is tender
Isis: Doing well 
Outlook: Going to take it slow and steady and hike my own hike
Weather: Looks good for tomorrow but HUMID.

Isis snubs the camera on Harrington's View

7/27/16 Day Two: Buchanan Shelter to Taylor Lodge
7.9 miles/8.3 miles to Smuggler's Notch/82.8 miles to Canada

This was a tough day. We left the shelter at 8am and started walking. First it was the .3 back up to the trail. It seemed steeper than last night. Then it was the mile to Harrington's View. This was a tough little up hill mile as it was already humid. There was of course, lots of mud to deal with but it was well rewarded once we got there for a sorely needed view. I sat in the sun for a bit and just smiled at the day. 

 Harrington's View
Happy Hiker Face

I figured on a day like today, we'll be burning through water again. It is a long 2.7 mile stretch over Bolton Mountain, with plenty more mud (so much that I had to walk through it and not around it). There were plenty of PUDS to make you think you already summited but Puffer Shelter would never seem to be around the next bend in the trail. At this point though, no one cares any more about being dirty and for me, the cool water on my feet actually felt really nice. It's the same old story with the PUDS. You think you're there but... Nope. Just keep going. It's a nice day to walk in the woods. 


 The View From Puffer Shelter

Puffer Shelter

Isis and I stop for lunch at Puffer and a much needed rest in the heat. It is now 3.4 miles to my shelter for the night. But of course, there are a few more PUDS to get up and over Mt. Mayo first. Then, the real fun of the day began. There were lots of rocks and roots to deal with going down a little ways. There were a few slips and falls too. The trail sometimes follows the thin contour of the land which makes it hard to step with a full pack. We get down another set of ledges and I am staring at... ANOTHER LADDER. Thankfully, it was not as steep as the one in Ladder Ravine but, Isis still took ride in my shirt and this time, I kept my pack on too. 

 Another Ladder

I apologized to her...

None of the hikers from yesterday are around anymore. I've had the trail to myself essentially and it has been nice. I am just taking my time on this trip. No big miles really needed and the close to 8 miles today will be enough for us. After the ladder, knowing that the end of the day is in sight, made it a little easier for us. It was definitely a fight to get to Taylor Lodge though. You walk around a beaver pond and then over the actual beaver dam. 

 View from the Beaver Pond

Taylor Lodge

I did run into two southbounders who were heading to Puffer and we had a nice chat. It was shortly after this that I arrived at Taylor Lodge for the evening. We settled in and were entertained by two practically tame chipmunks. They did not even care that Isis was there. Dinner, and chores were completed as well as journal writing. Looks like we may have the shelter to ourselves tonight which was even better for us. The water source for Taylor Lodge is good. It's a nice flowing spring BUT, it's about .3 down a side trail that of course goes down so you have to go up again. I tried to have enough water for the morning and to get us going again. Isis was not having another walk today so, I had to carry her. I can't leave her at the shelter alone as I am not sure how she would react if someone showed up. Nor would I want anything to happen to her. She's stubborn though which make me feel like I don't know what I am doing with her when she refuses to move. 

 One of our new friends

 Isis has had enough of today's adventure

Good Night

Sometimes at night, I can feel my outside world creeping in. The world off the trail that is... I do my best to keep it out but it might be a rough night tonight being alone. I'm starting to think of the end and wishing I could continue on. Tomorrow will be a short day of 3.4 miles unless I decide to push over Mansfield and stay two nights at Taft??? 

Mood: Nervous
Pain: Right Shin
Isis: Cranky after today and reacting to me. 
Outlook: Hopeful
Weather: ??? (this makes me nervous)

7/28/16 Day Three: Taylor Lodge to Butler Lodge
3.4 miles/4.9 miles to Smuggler's Notch/79.4 miles to Canada

Butler Lodge

Well, when I spoke last night about it being a rough night, I was right. Two "hikers" showed up with a  fifth of whiskey and proceeded to make an awful racket. Their headlamps were bright and Isis was not happy that they had another dog with them. This was her home for the night. Sorry, my dog is alpha and when she is the only dog in a shelter for a while, she considers this home and will protect it and me. More so me... So, yep. There was barking and swearing. They were not happy that I was here and I was not happy that they showed up. They must have left about 2 hours later and well, when I woke up, the fifth was still on the table, half full. 

We got under way after breakfast around 7:45am. Knowing it may be a short or a long day, I was still in no rush. I was however anxious to get a signal to check the weather. We ran into a day hiker around the second beaver pond and he did mention clearing skies but I wanted to be sure. We had to gain significant elevation to get a signal and when we did, the forecast was calling for thunder storms later today and just clouds tomorrow. As promised to Isis, a Nero Day was at hand. A nearo is when you do very low miles in one day. 

 By the Twin Brooks Tenting Area

 Climbing to gain the ridge reminded me of New Hampshire

On the Ridge

As we continued to climb, we crossed three well flowing streams and I filled up there rather than back at Taylor Lodge. We continued the steep climb before gaining the ridge. This was hard work on yet another humid day. We arrived at the junction for the Butler Lodge a little after 10am. After navigating a short ladder... Isis skipped it and went down the rock. 

 Inside the cabin it sleeps 14

Isis relaxed on the porch

It's a beautiful log cabin with a great view. I can see all the way to the Adirondacks with Lake Champlain in view as well. It's very peaceful here and not may people are filing in and out. It must be the weather. We did visit with two very nice day hikers who shared some fresh fruit with us. This was funny because I had just been thinking of fresh pineapple on the way over here. They left soon after they finished eating as they wanted to beat the storm. I sent out a quick text requesting pineapple at pick up. We settled in for the day. I set up my bed (or Isis' bed depending on who's POV you are taking). Isis took a good nap and we then walked around for water and the privy. We are not going anywhere today and Isis is getting restless. There is thunder starting to boom all around us. And I tell her that this is why we are not going any where today. Mansfield will be tomorrow. For now though, we watch the storm roll into camp. 

 Storm coming in
Storm arrival
Storm rolls out

It's hard for me to believe that this trip and my vacation is almost over. Just a few short miles to go really. I know that they will be tough but they will be worth it. It has been a good return to the trail and a good way to get away for a little while. I was so very happy that I came back and continued on. It was good to get away from all the noise and the world for a while too. I'm not ready to go back yet so, I will savor these last few miles. We were joined by two other hikers hoping to get over Mansfield tomorrow and the caretaker. We were gifted with the most amazing sunset I have ever seen on the trail.

Mood: At Peace
Pain: Right shin, Right arm (pulled forearm muscle), and fingers
Isis: restless and ready to go
Outlook: Sad to end
Weather: Partly cloudy for Mansfield tomorrow 

11/29/16 Day Four: Buttler Lodge to Taft Lodge: LT, Wampahoofus Trail, Maple Ridge Trail, Profanity Trail.
3.2 miles/1.7miles to Smuggler's Notch/76.2 miles to Canada

Last night, after that beautiful sunset, I got moving slowly. I know now that no mater what, the trail will be difficult to get up to the ridge. I'd be putting myself and Isis to the test and the work was at hand. I was told by the caretaker that the by-pass trail for the LT that is safe for dogs is nothing but a slick slab of granite and it would be even slicker with the rain we just had. Sort of like a luge track. So, she suggested I take something called the Wamphoofus Trail to the Maple Ridge and up to the forehead. It's .8 miles from here to the forehead so, I'm game. First you navigate some boulders...

Then, you also deal with a few crevasse and a cave...

Yes, this trail pretty much made last weeks bail out look really silly and I have to laugh at myself now. I DID THIS!!! Isis and I were a good team and navigated this trail which, turns out to be a favorite of the whole trip and what a fun way to get up to the ridge. After this, the trail was a trail again and then it was a slab walk... Steeply to the Forehead. 

The Long Trail Ridge walk over to the visitors center, was really nice. I always like a good ridge walk and we made easy time of it too. I met up with the Taft Lodge Caretaker and one of the interns who gladly took my picture. We continued on to the Chin which is the actual high point of the mountain. 

 Frenchman's Pile where he was struck dead by lightening

We made it to the summit with a few other Day hikers who seemed to be questioning why it took me 5 days to get here... Ahhhh, everyone has their own journey. Mine sometimes takes me the scenic route. This was a bitter sweet moment as Isis was about falling asleep in my arms and we were standing on the summit. This was the second time I had visited this summit but this was special... This was on the LT.

I again apologized to Isis for what was about to happen. We were taking the .5 Profanity Trail down to Taft Lodge. Dropping us from the 4393ft summit to 3650ft. It lives up to it's name and not many pictures were taken while we were on it. 

Lots of steep sections to that Profanity trial. I would need to jump down and turn around to get Isis down with very little room to move. This day has truly put all those other bad days into perspective and I am actually glad that I broke this section up little more. I believe I will be better prepared for next year as well. We arrived at Taft Lodge around noon... about a half hour after we started the trail down. It has been a good rest here for my second to last day.

Mood: At peace
Pain: I feel really good
Isis: Tired
Outlook: Not ready to head out. But ready for anything
Weather: Looks good

7/30/16 Day 5: Taft Lodge to route 108 Smuggler's Notch
1.7miles/1.7 miles to Smuggler's Notch/74.5 to Canada

It was a rough trail down to the road yesterday but it really took us no time. We were running into day hikers coming up the trail who again seemed to not understand that it took us 5 days to get here. They all smelled so nice as they passed by us... I wonder what they smelled too? We also ran into Kasandra and her dog Maggie who had a nice chat with us about hiking. Great to meet her on the trail up here. We met my parents at Barns Camp after checking out where the trail begins again and eventually where I will start again next year. After a quick road walk, we waited for them at the visitors center. After a nice picnic lunch, complete with root beer (last years must have) and fresh pineapple (this years have to have).... We were on our way back home. Happy this time to have conquered not only this section but the fear in myself. I CAN do this and I WILL get to Canada. The form the journey takes is up to me and this feels right. It doesn't have to be a Thru, a long section, or several short sections... It just has to make me happy and happy to complete it. I will be back next year and I will make it to Canada!

I will return to hiking after a rest... See you out there on the trails sometime soon!