Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Shiba Inu... On and Off the Trails.

     "Oh my God, I want your dog.", is something that I am quite use to hearing on the trail and when I am walking Isis around the neighborhood. It makes me smile and I agree (although I may be a bit biased) that she is a great dog. Trust me though, she is not a dog for everyone. You have to be a special breed of person to own a Shiba Inu. Let me explain....

         Shiba's are described as a breed who thinks she is superior to everyone and every thing. She's the queen of the world and no one can tell her different. She's got a bold and independent personality to go with that queen attitude and so, she's a little hard to train, nail down, or convince that your way is better. Although I have had the good fortune of training her on the trails since 4 months old, Isis is a wonderful trail dog. And for that reason, many people stop us and ultimately want to take her home. Off trail, she can be possessive of everything that is hers and mine and that also includes the cat of the house too. The cat of the house does not appreciate being a chase toy as Shiba's are born hunters and will probably NEVER get along with a cat. Although, there as only one time at a friends house that Isis was actually submissive to a Maine Coon. I think it was because Isis knew that we were not home and she was on her best behavior. My cat (a feisty Manx) tolerates Isis and understands that she can just go to higher ground. Shiba's are highly intelligent and the owner has to show dominance immediately or loose the the Shiba forever. Also in regard to intelligence, Shiba's have been known to figure out how to escape from pens and even yards. You have to stay one step ahead of this breed. It has been said that a Shiba is not for the first time dog owner. Mind you, Isis was my first dog ever and at 40 something, I feel I actually picked a winner (for me). I think that the Shiba personality and mine actually match and for that I am thrilled with having her in my life.

        Isis is very protective of me and of our home. The breed actually can make great guard dogs even though they do not bark much. She will often be protective of me on the trail or on our local walks too. I trust her with my life and I think that lends to the relationship we have. Shiba's can become dog-agressive with dogs of the same sex or in Isis' case, many other dogs. She is choosy about who she plays with and because of her dog-agressive nature, finds herself with myself and the cat for companions most of the time. Many other dog owners do not like the aggressive play and attitude of a Shiba. This of course has gotten better over time with more exposure to other dogs on the trails. Isis does not lunge or even bark anymore. She now practices that aloof ignore attitude that Shiba's seem to get around humans that are not their owners. However, it should be said that if anything were to happen to me, I'm pretty sure all bets would be off or Isis might run and find rescue before they found me. She is very much my dog. Shiba's are one owner dogs and become very bonded to their caretakers. A Shiba Inu will ignore most other humans in favor of their caretakers. That is unless your name is Isis. She LOVES people. I trained her that way and she is very friendly to other humans on the trail (again, other dogs not so much). I think it's also fair to say that Isis and I are a bonded pair given all that we have experienced together. She does not leave my side at home. Ultimately, the breed is very loyal to their owners and her territory (all toys and things included with in said territory).

        There should be an easy care label on the maintenance of a Shiba. They are cat like and often groom themselves. No need to actually take them to a groomer and no need to bath constantly. Because they are double coated, frequent washing will wash away the undercoat that keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Let them be and use baby wipes to freshen up. I bathe Isis once every 6 months (if that) unless I really need to. Of course, I learned this the hard way and let me tell you, when she lost her undercoat, she looked awful. I also felt awful for it. Rookie dog owner mistake but then again, I have never owned a dog until Isis. I trim her toenails if I need to because regular exercise keeps them trimmed. The only down side to the double coat is, it gets blown out twice a year. I have a dark house and a white dog... My vacuum cleaner actually cries when she blows her coat. Enough said. Isis goes to a vet every 6 months because she's an athletic dog and every 6 months, the vet tells me to keep it up. She has maintained her healthy weight and all bones and muscles are strong. I had originally thought that starting her on the trails at 4 months was a big mistake. Turns out, it was the best one for both of us! She gets regular exercise and I get a great hiking partner. Shiba's are smaller dogs with males standing 14.5 to 16.5 inches tall and weigh about 23 pounds. Females stand 13.5 to 15.5 inches tall and weigh about 17 poundsIsis is right on track at 16 pounds. 

        Because the Shiba Inu has originally been bread for hunting, they really cannot be trusted off leash. Isis would sooner forget about me completely if she saw a squirrel on the trail and because of that, she is on a leash when we hike. I have more control over her and she is safer for it. There was one occasion on Mt. Jackson in New Hampshire that she got out of her harness (cheap PetCo fashion harness) and I never want to go through that again. I was lucky she stuck to the winter trail and only ran wicked fast up and down a section. I had her extra collar and was able to get her secured again after a very anxious couple of minutes. So, because of this and because of our bond, I'm OK with that leash and after over a 100 summits with her, she is too. We follow all trail etiquette and I find that a 6 foot leash (non-retractable) is best. I use a carabiner to clip her to my pants for hands free hiking.

        So, the Shiba Inu who looks like little fox, wolf, or any of a number of woodland creatures, is quite fetching when seen on the trail. You really don't see a lot of them as hiking companions either. They have a very distinct personality that is not for every person and as they say, a Shiba is not for the first time dog owner. ( Unless you are me and you go in blind and it turns out to be a great match.) Isis was my greatest impulse buy ever and I am not sorry for one minute we have spent together. I feel bad when I have to go to work in the morning and heaven forbid I need to leave her at home for a hike or some other reason. I'm that dog owner that will show you pictures if asked and because I have no human kids of my own, her pictures are all over my house and office. She is my family.

        People ask me all the time about Isis and I never seem to go into too much depth about the breed. Please understand that I love my Shiba Inu and I mean the best when I say, DO NOT GET ONE if you cannot handle one. They are a lifestyle more than a dog to be owned. Isis, she fits my independent lifestyle and dare I say, we get each other because we spend a lot of time together. She's not traditionally trained but she is trained in the things that are important to me. She doesn't need to give paw or roll over. She just needs to sit when called to do so and that is usually on the trail. Isis has a great personality that is uniquely her's. I could not have asked for a better hiking companion and have never regretted my decision to start my dog relationship with a very challenging breed.

If you would like to follow Isis, feel free to like her page Hiking Pup Isis

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Liberty and Flume for a Thankful November.

         I have shown a lot of love to Liberty and Flume this year and November was no different. I remember last year how the entire ridge eluded me for the weather so, I guess I was making up for it. This area can be tricky for sure. Last week, I was on Lafayette and Lincoln so, to finish the ridge for the month seemed appropriate. For those that are new to the blog, let me catch you up. I'm primarily a solo hiker (although open to hiking with others) who is working on her Grid or the New Hampshire 48x12 or completing the New Hampshire 48 in all 12 months of the calendar year. I have given myself a lifetime to complete this latest goal so, I will be hiking for a long time. What ever life may bring, I'll still find my way to the mountains. I'm shooting for the number 576 and as of today, I find myself at 29.9% and will close November for this year probably over 30%. The goal is to keep moving forward as with most of my life.

          So, on to todays hike. Liberty and Flume to complete the ridge for November. I was up and ready to hit the road by 4:30am. Snowshoes in the car just in case and spikes on the pack. Isis settled into her seat and I just zoned out. We parked at The Basin in Franconia Notch State Park. First car in the lot and we parked right by the bathrooms. Getting underway, we hiked the bike path towards Liberty Springs. If I could find the Whack for meeting the trail earlier, I'd be ahead of the game. Heading down the hill, I get my first taste of what is under the snow. I'm instantly on my ass and my Nalgene's are flying everywhere. I did not put my spikes on just yet. As I thought, Isis and I did not find the entrance to the Whack so, we were standing at the start of the Liberty Springs Trail. I figured that I would try for it on the way out thinking that someone might travel it today.


        Liberty Springs Trail is crusted snow over ice and in places, there is a lot of ice. Welcome to winter (unofficially). After a quick pitstop for myself (I didn't have to go when I parked the car), I put my Hillsound microspikes on my feet. Ready to take on the summits, Isis and I kept moving because it was cold this morning. We followed Liberty Springs and the first .6 to the junction for the Flume Slide Trail, went by in a quick hour. I had a great sense of how my time was going to go today and I was pleased. I knew that I would slow on the vertical gain and I wondered about the winds. Isis and I kept climbing with our next goal of the Liberty Springs Tent site. The water crossings were open with some solid places to walk on so, things are firming up nicely. Intermittently, I break to rest but those breaks are quick because it is very cold today. The snow was building the closer we got to the tent site. On one break, we were passed by two ladies hiking today as well. I was busy eating some cheese and salami and soup (I think it was around 10am. No judging!) and Isis was cleaning her bowl out. I knew that we'd see them again but we did say a hello.

         At 10:30am, Isis and I made it to the tent site for another quick break and to gear up as my face was cold. I put on my face mask and quickly had to adjust to the constriction on my nose (I dislike things on my nose and that actually includes kisses too) and the moisture under the mask. So, I was adjusting it and then took it off for a little while after warming up while walking. As I was stuffing it in my pocket, who comes up behind me but... Larry!

                  "Rachel!" He says. "You should stay home more." He joked.
                  "I should say the same for you. Larry. Nice to see you as always." I smiled

          Larry and I seem to run into one another a lot now. We discuss plans for the future and where we are at in terms of peaks now. I am resting at 193 total 4K summits in New England. Larry hikes ahead and Isis and I give space. He's nice to run into on the trails and I can continue to hike my own hike. Isis and I make it to the Junction of the Franconia Ridge trail, the final push to the summit of Mt. Liberty. It's been cold and snowy for this last push to the junction.

          Making the last .2 to the summit fun, the wind was picking up just slightly. The snow was easy to walk and there was minimal ice... Until we broke tree line. The ice on the rocks was a tricky coating but Isis and I navigated it well. The snow itself had a nice crust on it too. I saw my summit. The classic Liberty Profile showed itself in great light today and then I turned around and saw my destination from last weekend in all it's Glory.

       Isis and I climbed over the rocks to the summit and the ascent was tricky and steep with the crusted snow and ice. Once up there, we ran into the two lades that had passed us earlier. Each group obliged pictures gladly and I scooped up Isis for our shot with Franconia in the background. After the pictures were done, we didn't stay long as I was moving on the Flume and they were heading down. All four of us were cold. So, Isis and I ducked back below the summit and the snow was a little deeper. It wasn't much but for a few feet, I had my first butt slide of the season. We came to a tricky section of rock that was a little bit like the rocks that turned me back on Wildcat. I slowly slid, gripping the available edges to hold myself to the rock and made it to a place to swing my legs down. Isis waited somewhat patiently. We continued to head down into the trees and warmed up little. I slid my facemark down knowing that I'd be pulling it back up for Mt. Flume. Once in the Col, we cruised on the flat sections. Another quick break for a snack before we made our final ascent and ran back into Larry again. He gave me some great tips on Whacks to avoid the summit a second time going back to Liberty and I took them into consideration. We joked about next weekend and who know, maybe we'll run into each other again. It's inevitable actually.

       Final push to Flume and I'm feeling little over come by the fact that I've spent a lot of time between these two peaks this year alone. It's become a nice hike for myself and for Isis. I pull my face mask back up and we again crest the summit. I look over to Liberty and beyond to Franconia Ridge and get a few shots. Three guys are coming over from the Osseo Trail side and I'm betting they actually came up the Flume Slide trail. I never fond out as the wind was picking up. I managed to have one of them take a picture and then ducked back below tree line as it was really cold. Isis going down the trail is very quick and I get my balance even quicker. We are heading back over the Col and still moving until we hit the incline for Liberty again. We rest as the guys pass us on their way ultimately to Lafayette. As it turns out, Isis and I did not take Larry's whacks around Liberty, we summited again and got a few more great shots in the light of the day. Another hiker was coming up to the summit as we were heading down we said hello in passing and he would be close to follow. People were moving quickly because it was so cold today.

         Isis and I made good time over the rocky ledges and down to the junction of the Franconia Ridge trail. It was not broken out when we were coming up and now on our way down, I saw that those guys were indeed on their way to Lafayette. I silently wish them luck not knowing the winds over there. In no time, we hit the tent site for a snack break. Our last summit company passed us with a hearty "Snack time is a good time. Happy trails!" and he was off and hiking. Below the tent site, I heard two ladies before I saw them.

          "Awww... THERE'S THE PUPPY!" One of them squealed and I just smiled. I loved this greeting for my girl. We talked Shiba Inu talk for awhile and pictures were snapped. They had been following her tracks up the mountain and I was glad to have met them. I love it when Isis makes people smile because it makes me feel good. Back down Liberty Springs trail and over the water crossings again. Isis and I hit the Whack for the bike path and in no time we are back at the car. I love how much time is saved by cutting down through the woods. Over all, I am pleased by the day and down at the car by around 3pm. Well worth it for the wind and the cold temps. The smiles and the people we met were in great spirits and it was contagious.

             I had spent a lot of time recently in a very negative space, seeming to struggle to get out of it and find balance. I'm am forever grateful that the mountains can bring me out of that negative space as they did today. It no longer mattered for the day today, that I had missed the boat on more than a few milestones in my life or any other struggle I might have. I still have a great life that affords me the chance to see some amazing things that those I compared myself to from time to time might never see. I'm reminded on this hike that Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. Well, I am again reminded that a few years ago, I was sick enough to believe that this would never be my quest and now, I've beat the odds. I am thankful for the the strength I have and I never take it for granted. My life is not perfect and I am prone to my emotions and impulses and because of that, I can go into the silence of the mountains and understand that it will all work out as it should and that I need only remain positive in the face of so much negative. Where so many have nothing, I am blessed to have what I do have in my life.

         Another hike for the month of November, the Grid, and two more summits for round 6 (Working on 3 through 6 now). All this is secondary to the lessons learned.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Coming Alive on Franconia Ridge...

       One thing is for sure, if you are planning a trip on Franconia Ridge, don't count on the forecast to be accurate and plan for anything. I had set a target early in the week to head up because the forecast was clear and it didn't change for days. I actually wanted to do the entire ridge to Flume and as always, I'm flexible in my planning. I've learned this kind of fluid flexibility in my life and it helps me not just on the trails but off too. So, why should today be any different? Isis and I packed up Friday night and got to bed early. We were bound for Franconia Notch by 4am which would give us a start around 6:30am. Upon arrival at the trail head, the wind was blowing as it always seems to do. It's just that this time of year, it's a cold and angry wind. Today would be in the negatives and I was prepared with all my winter gear. I brought the snow shoes and ultimately left them in the car. It was not long on the trail that I decided to put on my balaclava as well. Stopping at my favorite tree, Isis had a snack and I layered up. Plus, it was time for a photo too. Today seemed to be shaping up to be a hike that saw not to many intrusive thoughts. I was glad for this as I just needed to be out on the trails today. Old Bridal Path, set me up for a classic day.

     Having hiked this route already in winter, fall, and summer, I felt confident today which honestly has been a new feeling for me as of late. Isis and I made our way through the trails below tree line with ease. The snow was minimal still and Isis was having a great time tracking different rodents and birds. I was truly enjoying the colder temps and the fact that we seemed to be the only ones on the trail. I half wondered if that would remain the case. Right before the climb to agony ridge, Isis and I stopped for a snack as my stomach was about to loudly complain that I forgot my banana back in the car instead of eating it on the ride up. I soon realized that the zipper on my pants was busted but thankfully, I had enough layers on that I was covered. It just seemed that my shirts were riding up making my lower back a little colder. I would hopefully not have to worry too much and still, this was a concern in the cold. So, once put back together, we began to hit the agonies and agony ridge. The views were popping up and so was the ice. I barely managed to get up on steep section and quickly pulled over to slip on my hillsound microspikes. Perfect! I was able to get up the remaining steeps and found myself standing on agony ridge and looking up at a very clouded, dark, and stormy Lafayette. Classic! I said to myself.

      The temps were dropping and looking at Franconia Ridge sent a chill through me. Isis and I pushed on to the hut and we saw our first two hikers over take us. We gladly let them go as we were taking our time today. Now unsure of the official length of our hike which could be just Lafayette or we could get all the way to Flume. I just wanted to get to the hut first for a break and some hot soup (even though it was no where near lunch). Isis and I kept climbing over rocks and ice on the Old Bridal Path and she seemed to be doing well in her purple fleece coat (I had put that on at tree line). with 1/4 of a mile to the hut, my legs were tired already and I wondered about the rest of the journey. We made our last climb and the hut was directly in front of us. I knew that I didn't want to sit on the porch today so, we ducked under the backside stairs to get out of the wind. Thankfully, this was where the least wind was too. Isis had some food and I got some of my soup. Again, I fixed my pants and the rest of my layers. We got moving quickly again as it appeared that the cloud was not going to lift from Lafayette. It's OK, I've had the view before and I'll have it again.

     Rather quickly, I realized that this leg of the hike was turning into my winter hike from 2012. I could not see the trail, the wind was in my face, and my steps were getting blown in as quickly as I was stepping. Isis did not really like this either but she kept moving with a lot of encouragement. I believe that if she had just refused to move, we would have turned back but she kept going, making her way to the summit. She did stop and she did hesitate except she did keep going forward. I was keenly aware of her stress level as it mimiced my own. I was careful not to get lost off the trail heading up (like last time I was in this weather). I was careful to stop and focus and look to see the cairn even they were blending into the white landscape. Other hikers were coming up behind us and passing. This again was fine as I needed to see where I was stepping. The sun was trying to burn through the stubborn cloud but was having no luck. Isis and I crested the trail to the summit and stood on the viewless summit. A few others were up there but all of us quick moved on in the conditions. Two gentlemen stopped long enough for pictures to be taken between us.  My original idea was to head back down. This was not a very nice day on the ridge. Or was it?

    Isis and I did start to head down again but she quickly about faced and went back and then towards the direction of Lincoln. As we began descending Lafayette, I found myself in knee deep snow and then with another step, I had snow up to my waist. I laughed and then quickly remembered how little Isis was. She managed to get through it though as did I and we were back on the trail as far as we could see (which was not very far). The wind was whipping and I wondered what I was doing. I also remembered the blue sky that i saw over in this direction. I wanted to punch through the weather wall that Lafayette often has and get to Truman or Lincoln to see. Of course, if I was going that far, I might as well go all the way. We would evaluate at Little Haystack as to the rest of the trip.

    Isis was not a fan of this leg of the trip either. She had icicles forming on her face and I did my best to keep her going. The ridge was definitely angry in this area today and I just kept pushing on. We crossed Truman and got a reprieve from the winds. I took advantage of this for a break and a chance to catch my breath. I too was significantly frosted over and seemed to be growing a few icicles myself. My water line froze as did my extra bottles. It was just cold today and I needed to keep moving.

      Somewhere between Truman and Lincoln, I saw the views and the blue sky. It seemed to brighten the mood from something concerning to I think I can do this. Isis and I melted just a little too. It was cold enough to suck the life out of my camera batteries and so, I began using my iPhone a little more. I was taking pictures just hoping that I captured something as the sun was actually bright in my face. The sense of urgency and my adrenaline had decreased and my steps got lighter. The scenes were breathtaking on this end of the ridge and the trail was actually down to the dirt in places. I kept my spikes on though since I knew I would find more ice in other places. 

   Isis and I slowly made our way through the gargoyles and over to Little Haystack where there were other hikers hunkered down or getting ready to head back below tree line on the Falling Waters Trail. We stopped to chat with two gentleman and they were quite taken by Isis and offered to snap our picture. The wind was probably about 20 mph here so, we crouched down and quickly got back up again. I didn't think that continuing on to Liberty and Flume was a good idea given how much energy it took both physically and mentally to get us this far. So, we quickly ducked below tree line on the Falling Waters trail. I neglected to get the two gentlemen's names and figured they would pass me and I'd ask then except they never passed. I guess I was moving downtime trail at a decent pace. Falling Waters goes straight down from the summit and there is ice and snow to deal with. Not enough snow to butt slide so, I am careful. Isis just wants to go which can cause me to fall. The crowds were coming up and most (at least this high up) had the right gear. As the trail flattened out and I was getting closer to the falls, I began running into several unprepared "hikers". Most were in regular street cloths (jeans and fashionable coats) and no foot traction. Luckily, they were turning around and not getting in over their heads. The water on falling waters trail is still flowing nicely which made for a tricky descend. It was well worth checking out though instead of continuing on to Liberty and Liberty Springs.

      It seemed like forever and yet it also seemed really quick that we were back at the parking lot. It was between 3 and 4pm that I found myself changing out of my wet hiking cloths and Isis was already asleep in the passengers seat. I was destine for the biggest and hottest cup of coffee I could find as my teeth chattered. The heat could not kick in fast enough. Reflecting back on the day, the one thing I could think of was how absolutely alive I felt coming across that ridge and how connected to myself I felt. Every fiber of me was concentrated on getting across that ridge and once I was at Little haystack, that release of energy once I realized that I did it. I pushed through not only the weather wall but also my walls. The walls that would have me turn back. Feeling raw and opened to this experience, I thankfully accepted an invitation to reconnect with a dear college friend. A perfect end to a high velocity hike with a glass of wine and some great conversation.

      Continuing on with my goals, two more peaks for my 5th round and mileage to add to my yearly and over all totals. I am becoming less focused on the numbers and more focused on how I can grow in these hikes. My journey continues as I try and build on these positives. I am stronger today than I have been in a little over a year and I can finally feel as though I am about to come alive again. I am in competition with no one except myself and from that growth is infinite. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Beloved Moosilauke for November... A Winter Wonderland.

        Can you mark time with a mountain? Can you track the phases of your life with the summits? I can... Moosilauke has been the sight of a handful of firsts for me; My first 4000 Footer, My first winter 4000 Footer, the first time I ever put snowshoes on my feet, the start of something new and exciting and at the same time, the end of something stale and poisoning all in one day, and even though it didn't last 9that new and exciting thing), I still remember everything fondly. Moosilauke is the mountain I go back to when I need to feel at peace in a hectic existence where I feel less than I am sometimes. It's the mountain that calls to me when I feel off balance. Then it puts me back in my place and makes me stronger. Walking the trails allows me to think clearly of solutions I need to help myself. So, as you can imagine, in a sea of change, I was called back there today. It promised to be a winter wonderland and it did not disappoint.

        Isis and I left the house around 5am and it was later than I wanted but probably the right time just the same. The sun rose while we were traveling and I was calm on the ride up. That was until the herd of Turkeys clogged up I93... Lucky for me I was able to stop and let them pass. We turned off at Exit 32 and headed towards Woodstock. The snow was coating the ground and I thought about 118 and the trail head plus, my newly fixed car and not wanting any more bills! Would there be ice and would the gate be opened? My answer was yes, there was ice on 118 but it was surprisingly in good shape and the salt truck lead most of the way to the trail head. The gate was OPEN so, no road walk for us. I am sue that it will be closed soon though. My money is on next weekend. We parked and left enough room for us to get out (provided whom ever parked behind us did the same which was not the case on return but we got out anyway!). It was not so busy at the lodge today and the road was in good shape. I knew that it would melt as the sun came up though and provide ice for the ride home.

       I got my pack on and we were off around 7:40am. We took the walk by the lodge and over to the trails which was in get shape. Not too much snow down low. Maybe about 3 inches in places. We started climbing on the Gorge Brook Trail and stepped carefully on the still exposed rocks. There is not a whole lot of ice so, my spikes are getting a ride at this point too. Isis was enjoying the snow and playing with the snowballs she could find. We made it to the turn for the reroute section of the Gorge Brook Trail in no time and that was when I knew we were making good time for the day. Still no need for Microspikes at all. On the reroute, we broke trail for it (even though it was only 3 inches deep). Isis was out in front and loved it.

      Once back on the original Gorge Brook trail, it was not long before our first rest stop. At the Ross Mckenney plaque, we stopped for some food and a rest. My Merrill White Outs were perfect for the cold today and I believe my Asolos have been retired for the winter now. I cleaned off the plaque at the end of our rest and Isis jumped up. Perfect photo op! This is where the climb really starts and my next sight is on my favorite out look. The first view I ever saw in the White Mountains. As we walked, I felt the temps drop and contemplated Isis' coat (which was wrapped around my soup thermos). I decided to hold off until tree line. We were over come by two gentlemen hikers who had been following my trail breaking and were now  little disappointed that I would let them pass. I was doing a dog check for paws and cold so, they had little choice and why not share the breaking trail wealth? Everyone was in great spirits. Shortly after they passed, another hiker came up the trail and this gentleman, I knew and he knew me. It was Larry from my winter Bonds and a few other hikes. Always nice to see a familiar face. He was looking for the new blowdown and had his saw to clear it. Isis and I took our time to get to tree line from here. We caught up to Larry at the blow down and I put on Isis' coat and my balaclava. The wind would be blowing at the summit for sure.

       The snow was getting deeper as we climbed and it was also shaping up to be a winter playground for me. Just like my January climb back in 2012 (my first winter peak). Isis and I break tree line and to my surprise, the wind is not that bad. You can feel the low temps but the last 200ft of climb is not that bad at all. We run into Larry on his way back down and we discuss how wonderful today is and how much we are looking forward to winter. We also mention that snowshoes might have been good up here today as the snow was drifting to my knees in places. Once completely open on our way to the summit, I felt the winds and we made our final approach I was happy to see the familiar sight of the summit sign. It had been stolen and thank goodness replaced. Now it just needs to weather. The wind was blustery on the summit and Isis curled up near my pack as I scurried around taking pictures until my phone froze from eh cold. I got a few more panorama shots and another group of hikers approached and I was able to have my summit photo taken. This was my 6th visit and Isis' 3rd.

     We did not stay long on the summit because of the wind and made our way to shelter on the Carriage road. Again, it was great to see the rebuilt cairns from those that had been toppled. This mountain is a beloved mountain and it breaks my heart when people disrespect it and that was what happened in the spring. So to see it put back together, made my heart smile. Once in a sheltered spot, I took my pack off and was able to get Isis some food and I had some nice warm soup. Thai sweet potato was back to get me through the season and it really hit the spot. There is nothing like something warm after being in such a cold environment. Ready to go again, we made our way easily down the carriage road. Again you can use snowshoes here and it would even out the trail as well as get it in great shape for the winter. We run into a few others by South Peak and have a great chat as we are approached by another dog. Not a peep out of Isis and I am proud of her. We get going again and it takes no time to get to the snapper trail. From there it's 1.7 back to the Ravine Lodge. The Snapper trail is rocky but manageable with the snow fall. All water crossings both ascending and descending were bridged or rock hopable. On the snapper trail we ran into a couple who were relocating from Texas and had the pleasure of taking their picture for them. So many nice people on the trails today and so many good experiences. The scenery was outstanding above tree line and all trails are in great shape thanks to the Dartmouth Outing Club!

     Back at the car by 1:30pm... Great time for me who hikes kind of slow and steady. This beloved mountain was the back drop of yet another moment. I measure life by the moments I have and a lot have been had on this mountain. It calls me back when I need to refocus and think of solutions to how I can make myself better in some way. If there was a mountain I was ever grateful for, it is my beloved Moosilauke. I can rest now with a plan to keep moving forward and to hopefully keep climbing higher. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Measurable Snow on Wildcat (An Attempt).

          Last week, I made it to Wildcat A before the weather got the better of me. No big deal to me really and any day out in the woods is better than sitting at home. I had been contemplating a break and a zero weekend for this weekend as my new job was just a little out of control and exhausting. Then I realized that I'd be worse off if I stayed home so, I chose to head back to The Cat's for a walk in the first measurable snowfall of the season. I was excited and I also knew the conditions I was walking into. I knew that it was shoulder season and that the trails would be a challenge. I knew there was a chance I would not make even to Wildcat A (let alone B,C, D and back again). I didn't really care. I was not at home and it was going to snow.

         Isis and I actually got up early (thanks to some funky dreams) and were at the 19 Mile Brook Trail Head at around 8am. There were not a whole lot of cars there and I suspected that the cars that were there were for the Carter Notch Hut. I got my boots on and we were on our way shortly after 8am. 19 Mile Brook Trail is still wet and full of rocks and leaves. We step with care and make good time. About 10 minutes into the hike, the snow starts falling and you can hear it hit the leaves on the ground. Isis and I keep walking up the trail and our first destination is the junction of the Carter Dome Trail. I'll be the first to admit that I zoned out and enjoyed the water flowing in the stream by the trail as well as the snow. The water level is lower than last week although the trail is still extremely wet. No ice is forming yet although, I would bet it's not too far behind. There is not another soul on the trail today (so far).

         Isis and I have a snack at the junction of the Cater Dome Trail and the snow is getting heavier. I am thrilled with this and enjoying the surroundings. I was remembering breaking out trail last year as well as all my other winter hikes that I had here. I have big plans for winter and I am really looking forward to the season getting under way. We walk the next section of trail and it's getting more snow covered. The bridges are of course covered and the rocks are starting to get slick. I was prepared for this and we just took it slow. That of course means that more energy is getting expelled and I need to eat as well as drink more water. Isis is excited and playing around and I'm laughing at her. She gets  a snowflake on her nose and of course shakes it off before I can snap a picture. It takes us a little more time than last week to get to the junction of the Wildcat Ridge Trail and I'm a little discouraged. I feed Isis but neglect to feed myself as it's also getting colder. I zip up the layers and keep the gloves on. We begin the .7 to the summit of Wildcat A and I'm extra cautious. It's very steep and rocky which of course has me concerned for slick spots. The trail is also thin in places.

       We get pretty far which makes this a little harder for me. We came to the section that is really exposed and thin. Plus it appears that a slide has formed and you need to get by two large boulders. The problem is that you can't go in front of them because of the unstable branches and other trail junk that has accumulated (branches mostly and some rotten) plus, there's a huge drop off that if you slip, that's it for you. So I look to go high except it's really steep and slick. I have to go over the two rocks and there is no place to put my feet or my hands. Sliding on my butt is the only way and it's really slick. Isis is patient but I am unsure of the return trip after hiking out to D peak. It's a tough bunch of ups and downs between the other peaks and I'd be tired. Knowing myself and how tired I get, I opted to turn back. But not before I stood there and stared at the section to make sure I had no easy route for myself. I could not wrap my head around it and decided that it was finally time to head back down.

         Carefully, we make our way back down the Ridge Trail knowing that it was going to be an early day, I figured I could at least take my time and maybe see if we could go some place else after. We retrace our steps and while I am not so happy about turning back, I know it's the right thing for me to do. I have stopped beating myself up over decisions like this. When I am solo, I am cautious because if something were to happen (this time of year), it might take a little too long for someone to find me. I'm really interested in living these days and living this crazy life to the fullest. Isis and I run into an older gentleman just after we passed the junction for the Wildcat Ridge trail again and tell him about the experience we had. He reaffirms my decision and says that he's just going to the hut for the night. We part and wish each other well. I'm reminded of how encouraging the crowd can be as the weather gets colder. It's a different crowd. A more seasoned crowd.

          As Isis and I retrace our steps, she's still happy. Wet but really happy. I'm feeling a little better but still a little down. Then I reminded myself that I get to do this next weekend if I want and any weekend after that. The journey is far from over and I can make it go as slow or as fast as I want. Isis and I go back over the bridges and I notice that her paw prints look like dog prints instead of her puppy feet. We cross back over the small water crossing to the junction of the Carter Dome Trail and there is a group of two women and two young girls. They are loaded with gear and I know they are going to the hut. I tell them about the summits and how slick they are getting. It's not enough snow for spikes and there isn't even any ice for them to grab into yet. They assured me that they were probably just hanging out at the hut for the day. They wanted to beat a group of boy scouts to the hut so they were off in a flash. Isis and I did not stop for a break and kept going ourselves.

         The group of Boy Scouts coming up the 19 Mile Brook Trail was big. Most did not stop which was fine. Hellos were passed between us. The snow is stronger now on this lower section than this morning and I suddenly remember that my car brush and scraper are not in my car yet. Another group is approaching and Isis and I pull over. Many pass without a word. All have backpacks covered by trash bags. This worries me but I bite my tongue. I'm becoming selective wit who I mention things too. They are going to the hut is what I over hear. I just smile and let them pass. There is a group of 4 older adults bringing up the rear and they stop to chat. I tell them to watch their footing on the high peaks as there is not enough ice and snow to use winter spikes. They were appreciative of the tips and I wished them luck with the full hut for the weekend. I walked away thinking about the weeks to come when there will be less and less on the trails and soon just he experienced hikers like myself.

         Isis and I walk back out to the car with a smile and a laugh and the thought of how good the day was in spite of everything. I was happy to be out of the house and away from work for the most part. It's been a rougher transition than I thought with mixed feelings but the light at the end of the tunnel is the support I am getting from co-workers. It's something I am still not use to in all my years. Only this job and my previous job were supportive and I am thankful but still a little confused by it. Also happy that I am still making my way to the mountains and still pushing forward with my goals. I need to keep going on this no matter how tough. Even though there was no summit today, I think the lessons were well worth it. I'll pick it up again next weekend and probably wait for these last two of my third round until the trails fill in and the water crossings freeze. That will make both the Wildcat's and Isolation really easy for my solo hiking.

           There are two reoccurring themes from my week... Being solo and being hard core. My new co-workers especially are enthralled by my lifestyle and call me hard core. It seems so strange to me as I have been doing this for so long. It's second nature for me to try and push myself in any season or weather. My friends do this as well and we all just enjoy ourselves. Hard core I guess to someone who doesn't go to these places or hike out in winter when the temps are way in the negatives. So, I can accept that I am hard core. Even though my definition of hard core is one who keeps going regardless of the conditions. I wish I could calm my nerves when solo hiking. I enjoy my solo journey but I have made the comment that I do get a little lonely for as much as I enjoy Isis' company. I have some harder hikes coming up... Owl's Head and the Presidents in Winter. If anyone is experienced in bushwhacks or hiking above tree line in winter, and wants to help me out, let me know. I'd actually love the company on some hikes coming up in the future.