Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pierce and Jackson... No Views and A Lot of Focus.

                The thought occurred to me that I needed a really GOOD hike after two solid weeks of nasty and negative behaviors at work (Nothing like being threatened, swore at, and pinned against a wall to make your work day complete) and a few other things happening outside of work as well. I craved the peace of a good and challenging hike and then it occurred to me… George. I checked the weather forecasts once I arrived at work and decided that I would give it a go with the hopes that the winds would die down. That childlike excitement that I always get when I think about hiking George came over me and carried me through a decent end of the week on my other “mountain”. I told Isis when I got home because really, she was the only one I answered to these days and then I presented her with the new “doughnut” (pig skin) that I had bought her… All attention went to that, so I made the decision on where we hike on my own (not that she really has a say any way). Then the nerves and the scared thoughts sink in. It’s George in early Spring, anything and everything could happen and I’ll have the time of my life… Solo, as that is how I always hike good old George and I’ll see if we have it in us to go to Monroe too. Rationalization says that when you’ve done most of the New England 67 solo, you can go up George and have a good day. It’s just the stigma of solo that I rest on. I should be embracing it. I should be proud, which I am. Except that I also crave company… Still.
                I figured we would scoot up the Jewel Trail and take it from there. Snow shoes and hillsound light traction in tow, we changed our plan heading up I93 to Pierce and Jackson that morning because those Presidential winds just would not cooperate. Isis and I made our way to the Highland Center for Jackson and Pierce. These two peaks were our Plan A to begin with so, I was pleased. For fun, I decided to head up the Crawford Path and hit Pierce first rather than go Jackson and over to Pierce. I was happy to see that the snow had cleared enough to not have to summit the snow bank in front of the Crawford Path entrance. Isis and I made quick time of the trail and the still winter conditions. It had been spitting snow and rain on the way up and that had given way to just snow now.  This was April? I remembered last year at this time and how nice it was. Being already familiar with early Spring conditions, I changed to my spring shell and felt fine as I was generating heat heading up the trail. I kept my hat and gloves on or at least handy. Traction was good right now (I wear Hillsound trail crampons) and I was carrying my snow shoes. The weight was OK today and I was feeling good about the hike in general.

                Isis and I kept a good pace and I didn’t mind stopping for her as she tried to make sure that no buds would open at her level. She continues to rip them off the low branches and I laugh along with her. We run into Kimberly and chat for a bit about working with difficult students and patients as well as hiking and how much it helps refocus and destress. I’m not really hiking with anyone now so, I am happy for the brief interactions. She and I part ways as she speeds up and I take a short break. Continuing up the Crawford Path, we make it to the junction of the Mizpah Cut off and run into two other gentlemen. Isis captivates them and she even wins over some cheese from one of them. We talk about the challenges of hiking and how some gain a new respect once the take a hike in the same conditions we have today (cold, snow, clouds, and wind). As we are talking, the Meet Up group known as the Random Group of hikers (of which I am a member), also comes up to the junction. Within the group were friends John and Mike. As I had decided to continue up the Crawford Path, I followed the group and had a nice chat with John as we climbed into the clouds.

                The meet up group as big and at one of the stops, I had decided to keep going to keep Isis moving. Approaching the summit, the wind was picking up but the trail was in great shape and the monorail, while it was post holed slightly, it was intact. The weather had been cold enough to hold it so, we continued on. Almost continuing to Mt. Eisenhower, I doubled back after I got my bearings in the low visibility and made our way to the summit. Rather than stop in the wind, we kept moving on the Webster Cliff trail that would lead us down to the Mizpah Hut. The first thing I noticed was that things were much calmer as we hiked by ourselves and the second thing was that there was significantly more snow and snow drifts up here. I did not put my snow shoes on yet as I was planning that for the hut. The snow was still deep as I kept crashing into trees and the thought occurred to me to put my pack cover on. I just never made that happen either. Isis and I made our way back to the Mizpah hut and the steep section with the ladder was slightly challenging for us to negotiate. In other areas, the monorail as really thin too. Once at the hut, we took a long break to decide with we would go to Jackson. Two ladies we had met up with over the winter on the 19 Mile Brook Trail were sitting at the hut and recognized Isis right away.

                We chatted and had some food and drink and decided that we would make a go of it. Once on the Webster Cliff trail again, I put my snow shoes on to try and salvage the integrity of the already post holed trail. It had not been well broken out recently and I was hoping that this didn’t just make our day longer. Isis and I again enjoyed the solitude of the trails and my mind drifted to other hikes and also future hikes that I wanted to do. We caught up and passed the two gentlemen that we first ran into at the junction of the Mizpah cut off. One was having leg problems and I wished him well as well as told him to give a holler if he really needed help. We laughed about some relationships and how they don’t seem to survive winter hiking (on my part, if someone worries too much, it becomes an issue). I  skipped ahead to make my ascent of the summit and the ice was a significant issue coming from this side. The steepness leading to the summit had me grabbing at hand holds to bring myself up. Isis was becoming anxious as the wind picked up on the exposed summit too. We paused long enough to take a picture with the timer and we were off again.

                Heading back down the other side, it was a sloppy descend going down the Webster Jackson trail and summit cone. It was steep and bare and narrow causing my snow shoes to get caught up. In a word, it was ugly and we made it down just fine. Using everything I had, Isis and I kept moving and the temps got warmer the lower we got. One water crossing was open and flowing but it was able to be jumped so, things were fine. The monorail was a mess but maneuverable and there were some ice flows on the lower trail heading back to the road. Isis and I were walking through mashed potatoes the closer we got. Walking the road back to the Highland Center was no problem at all and we even ran into someone we had met at the 4000 footer awards night last weekend. I put Isis in the car and grabbed my bag to go change at the Highland Center (I figured I’d be civilized instead of changing in my car like always). It was a great day on the trails for us and probably just what I needed to refocus my mind.

                Have you ever felt like even though you didn’t know what direction to go in, you were heading in the right direction? I have been feeling that way recently even though the rug a has been pulled out from under me, I feel good and as if I can navigate things on my own. It’s been so long since I experienced this and while I do crave company, I am also enjoying the solitude and doing my own thing. I am enjoying realizing that I love owls and butterflies and snails who wear cute shells, and the way an acoustic song goes well with traveling through the mountains. I’m constantly one step away from falling into the abyss and yet, I am so peaceful these days. I don’t ever want to not feel peace of the journey up a mountain or the feeling that everything is right (even when it is not) that I experience at the summits. The bills always get paid, there is food in the house, and the fur kids are always well cared for. I may not have extravagances, or the food that I crave over just food in the house, and I may stretch myself to the limit but, I have a great life and I can go to some amazing places with some great views of the past present and future. Who knows at this point what it will hold but I am confident that I can face it with strength and confidence and a little white dog at my side.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Just a hike of Willey, Tom, and Field

                Today was just a hike of Willey, Tom, and Field… That’s all, just a group of friends (old and new) getting together with their dogs for what we assumed would be a cold and windy hike of these three peaks. Isis and I had no issues getting up and going this morning so, the day was starting off great. We drove up to the Highland Center enjoying the music and not being concerned about anything. We met up with everyone a little after 8 am and got underway. I opted to leave the snowshoes behind as the trail should be well packed from some cold temps that were lingering. Everyone was having a great time getting to know one another having not hiked together for a while or at all. Realizing just what a small world it can be when I find out that this group knows people that I work with on a regular basis makes me smile. Today was going to be a good hike. The dogs (Skipper and Reuben) take-off up the Avalon trail and the humans decide to go that way as well.

                I had never done this loop in reverse by going up the Avalon trail and the steepness without the televators of my snowshoes was noted. I was also determined to get up this section and decided that I would convince myself that it would be a great calve work out (which it is). Karen and I separate from everyone and keep a good pace together. Isis also handled the steep trail well and we continued to the summit of Field. The rest of our group would catch up periodically and then separate as we all hiked our own paces. I was happy that I was able to keep up and not feel like I was pushing myself too hard to stay with any one. Karen and myself were joined by the rest of the group on Field to continue on to Willey as we all needed it in one way or another. Plus, it didn’t make a lot of sense to leave it hanging. You might as well get all three while hiking this loop. The snow was pretty good although the sun was warming and it was becoming softer than that hard pack it started out to be.

                Heading over to Willey, there were sections that were softer than others and sections that were a little deeper than others. I managed to stay on top even without snowshoes and felt pretty good about things. Everyone was in great spirits as we talked about our lives and things we had experienced. We stopped on the ridge to admire the views of Carrigain and have something to eat. Isis waited patiently while the other two dogs wandered around her and she didn’t make a sound. The group of us continued to move on to the summit and again separated into our own paces. The weather was improving from what started out as a questionable day of high winds to a really beautiful day of blue skies. We stopped at every view that showed itself to us and admired the surrounding peaks. The trails were enjoyable and in great shape for us too. It was just a smooth hike over all for early spring conditions.

                On the summit of Willey, we enjoyed no wind and beautiful views of the presidential range as well as other nearby peaks. The blue of the sky and the white of the snow played off one another as we all enjoyed a break. Because the sun was stronger here, the snow was feeling a little more like mashed potatoes as it warmed up in the sun. In trying to get to the high point of Willey, I managed to get myself caught in a spruce trap and laughed at myself as I pulled my trapped leg out of the snow that had swallowed my leg up past my thigh. The group of us got moving after the dogs started barking and “being dogs”. We were on our way to Tom now and this was my favorite section of trail. After passing back over Field, we all enjoyed the even trail and the beautiful weather. The time passed rather quickly and we had run into quite a few people with other dogs as well. One particularly nasty black dog caused me to pick up Isis as well as two German shepherds. Almost at Tom, we met up with Beth’s husband who went to Field and summited Tom while we were on Willey. He joined us on the summit again as we made our way up the spur trail, I realized that this was the second time I did not drop my pack for the ascent.

                Again, we had beautiful views as we all stood on the summit and enjoyed the sun. The Grey Jays joined us but did not come down because of the dogs. Isis was beginning to act classically bitchy as she usually does at the end of a hike. We all got moving down the trail and made our way back to the Highland Center. Snow conditions were becoming softer as we went down in elevation. Footing became a little tricky on some of the descending trails. As long as you took your time and made some side steps, you were fine. Rush it and you’d probably end up on your butt. Karen and I were a bit quicker and separated from the rest of the group. We enjoyed the chat on the way down about family and friends. Isis was a little calmer too. The snow pack on the trails was holding however, continuous warm days will bring an end to these conditions very soon and the instability of early spring will be a challenge. Right now though, the conditions are near perfect for warm spring hiking. Layers were beginning to come off and jackets were becoming unzipped. We made it back to the Depot by 330pm to conclude a great day on the trails.

                Today was just a hike of Willey, Tom, and Field… Just a hike that I wanted. It was free of concerns and free of anxiety over who Isis was going to get along with and who she was not. She’s not perfect and that is fine with me of course, and I'm not perfect as well and that too is fine with me. Today was just a hike that I shared with friends away from drama and away from life below 4000 feet. Today’s hike, while it counted for rounds and for grids, was just the hike that I was looking for. Next week, the hiking community celebrates a year of accomplishments. Maybe Isis and I will see you there? Don’t be a stranger, say Hi if you see us.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Classic Moosilauke...

                The mountains I climb each have their own personalities and seem to invite me to climb them at particular times in my life. My relationship with Moosilauke has always been during transition times. The first climb, I was looking for someone (figuratively, he was nowhere to be found and has since walked away from me), the second time I was transitioning to winter hiking (success!), the third and fourth times there were people moving in and out of my life, and now on the fifth visit, it seems to be the same story from a year ago. Plus, the mountain is transitioning to Spring. I had attempted the hike last week and returned because I hate when things are left undone.  I wanted to put and end to my March on a good note and needed a win. I set myself up to get moving by 5:30am and that did wonders for my mind. Extra sleep these days is always welcome. Isis and I made our way up north and I hoped that the roads were not too icy… I was in luck but the frost heaves on 118 heading to Ravine road almost swallowed my car or sent it air born. We landed at the trail head at 7:45am and headed back up the road.

                The road walk for the Ravine lodge and to get to the trails was icy and in need of some pack down from post holing. I wore my snowshoes from the car, betting on some soft spring snow in the trails. Isis and I walked and reflected on the year (since the annual meeting was 2 weeks away) and enjoyed the warmer temps already this morning. Reaching the Ravine Lodge, we began making our way to the actual hiking trails. No issues crossing the snow field behind the lodge this time, Isis and I plowed through (after a quick human pit stop) and found ourselves heading up Gorge Brook. The gloves and the hat had come off and my warm outer shell was also on the verge of being packed. The day was gloriously warm and as we moved up the trail, the heat was evident. Gorge Brook had been rerouted from storm damage and this was my first chance to take the reroute. After a quick incline, it seemed to flatten out and moved swiftly in the trench that was made from other snow shoes before mine.  The pace we kept was our own and Isis and I were in sync with one another. This hike was turning into a great afternoon with my favorite four legged companion.

                We did slow ourselves on the real vertical gain (after the sign for the last sure water at 3300 Feet). The trails snow pack was mushy and a real work out for myself and I am sure for Isis too. Even still, we were moving at a good pace or at least one that was better than in the past. I was now hiking in just my vest and turtle neck so, I was happy to be down layers. Isis and I reached the first outlook and I stopped to take in my view. This was of course the first view I ever had from a 4000 footer on my first climb so, it was really special to me. I paused and remembered each individual time I stopped here and almost cried at the memories. I now shared it with Isis and we also stopped for some food. I took a few deep breathes and began moving again. We made our way up the steeper sections and began getting ready to break tree line. I was excited for the views and I also heard the wind picking up so, I put my coat and hat back on. We broke tree line and saw the clouds beginning to descend. The view was diminishing…. Classic Moosilauke.  This mountain had the personality of a trickster for and for as much soul searching as I do on this peak, I laugh all the same. Today, I laughed all the way to the summit. Over trails that were barely there and in some cases really slick and navigated like a balance beam while having one hand on the side of a slope. Balanced on a steep drop off and trying to get Isis to stop playing so that we didn’t slide down the mountain off trail.

                 I began getting glimpses of the summit post and knew that we were getting closer. The wind was not too bad although it was picking up. Isis and I continued to make our way across and up the final push to a very windy summit. I set up the tripod and the self-timer on the camera to capture the moment on Moose. Isis was not going to wait around too long and we began to move down the Carriage road trail which was blown over and down to just a crust. The cairns were covered in rhime and looked really pretty. We ran into Coco the Akita and her entourage of humans. Isis was very good with her and seemed accepting of her nose in her face. I was pleased with the interaction and while I wanted to stick around, they wanted to make the summit. We all agreed that this was a classic day on Moose. Heading down the ridge on the Carriage road, the post holes and the spring snow began to appear again and we soon ran into Gretchen who had just begun her journey on the 48 and was visiting for the first time. We had a great talk right there on the ridge and were it not for a need to keep Isis moving, we may have chatted longer. I am sure we will share the trails again sometime.

                Isis and I skipped the south peak and continued down the Carriage road to the Snapper Trail. As we were going down we ran into a lot of people skinning up to the summit. Most were intent on just keeping going but as we rounded a corner, we were greeted by 2 dogs that were unleashed and intent on greeting Isis. She was not thrilled and I noted that too many dogs make her nervous where only one dog will be fine to greet her. I picked her up and made my way past the owners who were disappointed to hear that they were probably a half hour away from the summit (maybe more). The layers once again came off as we hit the Snapper Trail.

                The Snapper seemed less broken out and a little unstable in terms of snow pack. I found myself sinking in a lot more and there was some post holing to maneuver through. It was a short trail though that connected with Gorge Brook and lead us out of the woods so, it was bearable. Isis and I again enjoyed the warmer temps and the hike in general had a rhythm to it (perhaps provided by the snow shoes I was wearing). Today’s hike had been such a success where for the past few weeks, we had such rotten luck. My own mind can sometimes seriously derail even the most enjoyable hikes. Today, I was able to just enjoy the trails, Isis, and nature in the warm early spring sun. We stopped a few times on the Snapper Trail to have some food or to take a rest and catch my breath. Once back on George Brook, it would not be long until we hit the Lodge and then the road walk.
                Indeed before I knew it, we were standing by the Lodge having another snack and I had some soup to fuel myself for the road walk. I smiled slightly as I looked down at Isis. The day was almost done and what a day it was for us. Isis and I had a good laugh at the classic move The Moose pulled by giving us great views on the way up and then pulling the grand view right out from under us and clouding in the summit. We ran into a family on their way to one of the cabins for the night with Cooper the dog who would not listen well and wanted to follow me to my car. I had to laugh again for the memory of my trip last April and I also noted how much quieter this one had been on the descend. Isis and Cooper got along just fine and I was a firm believer in my theory that too many dogs together overwhelm my little girl. Back at the car, we crossed through the mud and Isis tracked her muddy paws into my car. Spring was truly here. The ride home was full of music and cheese and coffee along with a Munchkin for Isis.

                Transitions are never easy and my desire to just hike was fulfilled today as there was no conversation and plenty of observation of trail conditions and surroundings, on a peak that I always seem to find myself on during times of new beginnings. This is my story as well as a trip report and blog, I have been lost and walking in the woods trying to figure things out. I had been discouraged and fighting with my own thoughts as I got turned back week after week and turned away from a lot I have known. A person gets tired of feeling this way and soon just learns that this is the way it is and so, I hike with Isis and enjoy  the company of those that join me either from start to finish or those I meet along the way. I have given up those notions from my very first hike of Moose in favor of a more seasoned hiker view point. Funny how this time last year, I came home to an empty house (and a puppy who needed to pee) and this year, Isis and I came home to the something similar… My life is my own again and the energy already feels better. Let’s see where it takes me. April should be a month of new beginnings on the peaks I love the most. See you all out on the trails.       

Fifth round officially started today.... Maybe I should finish my third and fourth rounds first??

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Moosilauke Transitioning....

                Transitions are never easy and in the transition from Winter to Spring, Winter was having a hard time letting go. Today, I was excited to head back to Mt Moosilauke for what I hoped to be a clear day at the summit. The weather report painted the picture of a cloudy day to start and then clearing with cold temps (-30 with the wind chill). In spite of the wind chill on an extremely open summit, I was going anyway and Isis was coming with me. It was time for us to return to Moose since we had not been there since June of last year.
                As a matter of fact, I had no issues convincing myself to get out of bed. I was looking forward to this and getting back to successful hiking trips. Of course the early spring conditions had something different planned. After an uneventful ride, I hit 118 and a snow storm broke out. The road reminds me of the mountain road I take to work and as it was poorly plowed and chock full of frost heaves, I thought several times about turning back (already) and I pushed and made it to the trail head, trying not to think of how I was going to get out if this continued for the majority of the day.
                I had read a trail report from Thursday that said there was some drifting and that the Ravine Road was skiable. This meant that it was also snowshoeable and broken out. Isis and I got ready to head out in this early spring snow storm. It was easy going for a while and we enjoyed the silence of the road walk. I continued to pack down what was already packed and covered in recent snow fall (about 3 inches). It was fluffy powder so, I thought nothing of it given the depth. As Isis and I walked, I did begin to think about what lay ahead and began coming up with alternative plans, including one that had us turning back at the lodge. Maybe it was here that I began psyching myself out.

                The road faced the wind in places and the snow stung my face and coated everything. The drifting had begun and there were places that Isis was up to her belly. I promised her that we would evaluate at the Lodge and see what the day held. Summit or not, this would be a good day for us. Far better way to kick off Spring than sitting on the couch or anywhere indoors. No matter how long we were out today. Summit or not.

                In deed as we made it to the Lodge, the snow looked to be tapering off and I could see blue skies. We began to head down the trail by the lodge and seemed to step into deeper and deeper drifts. I of course pushed as Isis was not hindered yet and did not show signs of turning back. We came around to the front of the Lodge to the open field and suddenly we were faced with unbroken drifts up to my knees and thighs. Isis was not having it at all and did her about face. I was not going to stop her. I have always told her that we don’t have to do anything that she doesn’t want to do. So, we turned back. Much like people, I am not about to hike with a miserable dog. That makes it no fun for either of us.

                Heading back the way we came, I discovered that my tracks were now blown in and a little deeper in spots. We continued to walk back to the car and while I reasoned that the summit would have been too cold for us and what if we got too far in and became exhausted from breaking trail on our own, it seemed to help. There still remained that nagging voice and picture in my mind that I always get when I back out of something. Transitions are never easy and on top of the seasonal transition, I seem to be in the midst of a few others. I’ll keep plowing through the silence and the fog of bad energy and I’ll keep trying, hoping that once things clear, I am standing on a beautiful summit looking out over the world as I will come to know it, a calm and peaceful place surrounded by good people who get this lifestyle in the mountains.


                You can’t keep us down for long…. Even with a snow storm possible mid-week, I’ll be watching the reports to see what’s broken out for next weekend. Slow and steady I will build this grid. It may take a lifetime and in that lifetime, I will see 576.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sun Play on Monadnock

                On Sunday, I had it in my head to do a sunset hike. I waited throughout the whole crazy week at work to wake up to extremely cloudy skies and debated all day whether I was going up or not. Even driving home, there was indecision. At the last possible moment, I looked out my back door and saw the brightness in the direction of Monadnock. Suddenly, I was going and the hot chocolate was getting made and packed. I first drove around to the Dublin Side for the Pumpelley trail and it looked as though it was not broken out and pretty well post holed so, I drove all the way back around to the toll road trail head and decided to take the White Arrow trail up.  2.2 total miles to the summit and what I hoped was a beautiful sunset.

                Heading up the Toll Road for 1.1 miles, I got my feet under me and did not have my hillsound trail crampons on yet. It was ice but there was enough bare earth to wait it out. The road walk was uneventful except for warming up my legs. Once I got to the trail sign for the White Arrow trail, I stopped to put on my traction. The snow was a mix of ice and frozen granular and seemed to be well packed out however, there was a lack of snow shoe use on the trail which made it uneven.  The layers were coming off and the sun was beginning to move low in the sky. I continued to move up the trail with my usual pace for ascending. I felt as though I was trying to beat the clock for this one and soon stopped in my tracks. Looking up at a huge ice flow, I looked first up the trail and saw trees almost completely incased in 3 feet of ice. I looked to the right and found tracks for a bushwhack around it and continued to try and make it to tree line. I told myself that if I saw the sun set from tree line, I’d be just as satisfied. I am constantly underestimating my ability as a hiker.

                Breaking tree line, spectacular sun play began to reveal itself as I continued to hike up the rocks and through the crusty snow and ice. I saw tree after tree incased in ice and once I stopped to catch my breath, I heard what sounded like wind chimes. It was the trees blowing in the winds. I continued on the trail and navigated the rocks and ice with little difficulty. I took it slow though on a few steep sections. Cresting the rock faces, and coming around a bend in the trail, I had the summit to myself. The wind was about 25 to 30 mph however, I was going to enjoy the sun for as long as I could. Watching it dip lower and lower in the sky, I stood up there in the ice and snow of early spring and simply smiled. There was no denying that on top of a mountain was where I was happiest.

                Remaining true to winter, I slid down the trail on my ass to basically beat it to the punch of my falling on the steep sections of the trail. It was slower controlled slide as the ice was a little more sheer and the steepness might have me sliding into oblivion. The sun continued to play with my vision and provided a very soft glow to the walk out. All total, the walk back to the start of the White Arrow Trail took only a half an hour and the walk on the toll road was another half an hour. With decent conditions today, I made great time. After having worked all week and the stress of my job, I was thankful for the break and the refocusing that I so often do at the beginning of a season. It would seem that no matter what life brings me, I have the mountains to provide grounding and centering to my life.  

                For a day that was looking like I would be once again waiting to hike on Sunday, it certainly turned itself around and presented me with some great views of the setting sun. To think that once upon a time, I really disliked this peak. Now, I go back whenever I am called to hike it. Until next time…

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Winter 2013/2014 Review

                Entering into the 2013/2014 Winter season, I was free and clear to attempt to finish off what was already 2 winter seasons in the making and having less than stellar winter seasons in the past, I was hungry for this one. I was already at 21 peaks and looking to get the remaining 27 knowing that this was a very busy winter for myself, I entered in knowing that I needed to be OK with not finishing again this winter season (but hope was already built up inside of me). I was however not going down without a fight. The only obstacles in my way would be the weather, distance to the mountains, and me. Knowing this might be a large solo effort, I needed to quiet the doubtful voice and just go for it with everything I had.

I began my season on the Osceola's (East and Osceola peak) on Dec 28 2013 after a quiet family Christmas season, I was reunited (so to speak) with NHITHIKER for the day’s journey. After meeting up early one morning at a safe location, and packing the gear into one car, we were awkwardly on our way up north. The trail itself for this hike was the challenge I faced as approaching for the Greeley Pond side meant that we would have the ledges and those ledges would be covered in ice. Sure enough, even after a significant snow fall, the ice almost turned me back as I sat on the trail and debated turning back in utter embarrassment and defeat or going on and facing a number of obstacles. My one saving grace was a tiny voice that said to try harder as I blocked out everything and anything that was negative and doubtful and triumphantly made it to both summits on my own power. Some of the more beautiful winter scenes were here for my eyes to take in. While we separated for a lot of the ascent of the peaks, together NHITHIKER and I took on the chimney section and were able to even get Isis up the bypass and back again after separating and meeting back up at the summit of Mt. Osceola. I was happy for that brief reunion hike of someone I once enjoyed hiking with and it was nice to have his help to kick off my bid for finishing my winter 48’s. Perhaps paths would cross again some day...

January would usher in many changes in my life as I began searching for a new identity, voice, and career. With plenty of time to hike, I figured that my winter peaks would be a piece of cake to attain. The bills were being paid and everything was cared for so, as long as I had gas money, I might as well hike. Given that I had no plans for New Year’s Eve, I figured I would ring in the New year on Moriah Jan 1 2014, I soloed on a very cold first day of the year on a great trail that I knew a lot of my friends had broken out weeks before I made my trip. Isis and I enjoyed the solitude of the trails and a chance to reconnect and plan for a new future. The Carter-Moriah trail up to the summit was perfect and I admired how easy it was to get up and navigate when filled in by snow. The tree's themselves took on that look of being covered in soap bubbles that I was so fond of in winter. The temps were well below zero (-30*F) and the winds were wicked enough for Isis to get spooked at the summit. We did a quick 360* and were heading back down by way of sliding on my ass (my favorite way to descend in Winter). I was ready to face 2014 and anything that it had for me.  

Continuing to take advantage of my lack of work, I hiked Cannon Jan 9 2014, these peaks would also count for Isis’ multi season 48 so, I was pulling double duty with her and happy for it. The ultimate goal for the next annual meeting was to receive my NE67 Scroll, Isis' NH48, and my NH48 Winter. Cannon was a bit confusing as I headed up the wrong trail to begin with and after back tracking and almost tossing in the snowshoes, I headed up the Kinsman Ridge trail to the summit. The day itself was another cold one and the cloud cover looked very threatening at best but this was a n enjoyable hike as the clouds seemed to dance around us. Isis and I made our way up the ice covered trail and she handled it all so well and we only took one bad fall. I had the feeling I was beginning a very special winter with her on this hike no matter what the outcome was. We passed many familiar sections from other journeys on this trail and paused briefly to remember some happy times and on our way, the clouds would open up and give us some incredible views of the area. At the summit tower, the winds were again too high for us to stick around and really take it in like we do in warmer months but I was proud to have made this summit after a rough start.  

Another set of familiar faces joined Isis and I on our winter journey as we hiked Galehead and the Twin's on January 13 2014, Silverfox, Heather and her dog Kali. We hiked for Heather’s birthday celebration and for adding to various lists and accomplishments for each of us. This would be one of the longer trips for the winter season and also one that I seemed to struggle on more than most. On most of the vertical trails, I was struggling to keep up with my trail companions and feeling like I was no match for them. I considered turning back and letting them go on and again, that little voce spoke up and told me to try harder. I had to focus myself and Isis to get over some pretty tough sections of trail and it was all worth it for a deeper connection with Heather and a chance for Isis to hike with Kali. At the end of this day, I was exhausted and incredibly proud of myself for making it through.

As Isis and I continued to move through January, looking for work and maintaining things below 4k (coming to some very hard decisions about how to shape this year and turn things for the better), we rejoined Heather and Kali for a girls hike of Garfield on January 18, 2014. It was really good to just have the girls on the trails and Heather and I really had a chance to talk about life and love and hiking. Having similar hiking goals was a great springboard to our continued friendship. Our talking all the way up and down the mountain was more than I could have asked for in terms of remaining connected and passing the time. The views from Garfield that day were amazing as we looked over to Franconia Ridge and out at the surrounding peaks. Isis at this point was moving closer to her multi season 48 finish and I was feeling very confident about my winter season. This was shaping up to be the best winter for myself so far.
One peak in Isis’ multi season that turned us back on and we were ready to face it again: Carrigain was hiked on January 23 2014 with Lady Grey to accompany us. On this again very cold day as the Polar Vortex continued to make sure that things remained frozen solid, we headed up Sawyer River Road for the 2 mile road walk. Lady Grey and I had really not hiked and after her October Grid finish, I was happy to have her company and to connect with her. The trails were filled with great conversation and beautiful sights. The day itself warmed up and the Ridge to the summit was beautiful. I had hiked it in the clouds for my multi season 48 finish and to see the views that we saw was amazing. I must have sounded crazy as I carried on about the views. We celebrated at the summit oh so briefly and in the blustery wind made our way back to the car. I was happy for another connection made through this journey I was on.

To balance out the group hikes, I took Isis solo up Cabot on January 25, 2014. As my luck would have it, time was now growing short as I was to return to work at the beginning of February. Grateful for the new job, I was now wondering how I would be able to continue hiking and juggling work. Secretly, I did wish that I was unemployed for the entire season, however I knew that it was not economically a good thing for me. This Cabot hike was very peaceful and enjoyable as we walked through the woods surrounded by trees covered in fresh snow and on the flatter sections, Isis and I moved with ease. While I struggled up the vertical trail to the summit, I took my time and Isis and I made it with a round of applause from some hikers we met along the way. We spent a lot of time at the cabin on the top and met a lot of great hikers this day. Cabot being the furthest northern peak was sometimes the one that got pushed aside until it was absolutely needed. I was not sorry for making the long trip and rewarded with a great sunrise followed by a really enjoyable solo hike in great conditions.   

To date, outside of the cold temps, Isis and I had not run into bad weather to hike in. We had waited out storms and managed to hike pretty steadily. I took Isis on an out and back journey of The Wildcat's to end January (1/31/14). This would again be a test for us as only A and D peaks counted and we needed to cross all 4 peaks and back again to add them to our counts. The trails were in great shape to begin with and drifted towards the peaks on the ridges. Isis and I enjoyed a little trail breaking, butt sliding, and a lot of achievement as we made the long out and back over the Wildcat’s together, only to find out that the ski resort does allow leashed dogs on the trail leading down from Wildcat D (we could have traversed it). Again, there was a great sense of pride for what I had accomplished on my own with a little dog that continued ot amaze me. I was ready to face anything that life threw at me but first Isis and I needed to finish her multi season 48.

On a snowy morning, Isis and I headed to Isolation, February 2, 2014 for Isis’ 48th finish and it was also the day before my first day back to work. A month’s worth of unemployment had been put to great use (In my opinion). We took Rocky branch as it was the easier winter route and given that we were solo, I opted to not break out the bushwhacks after a recent snow fall. I was so proud of my little girl today that nothing else mattered. I was determined to make this day special for us. The trails were virtually empty of hikers and that was strangely fine with me. The skies were grey and the wind was gusting. The Davis path was also unbroken from recent snows and still easy for us to plow through. The spur trail tot eh summit was a bit of a challenge for us but as we crested, an amazing sense of pride washed over me as my little girl pup finished her multi season 48 with a brief celebration under overcast skies with no views to speak of. Isis gobbled up her venison sausage and we made our way back to the car. From here on out, it was all about my winter peaks.    

The Tripyramid's after my first week of work on Feb 8 2014 was a nice solo jaunt however, it was a bit of a challenge with the crowds on the trails and again my lack of energy on the vertical trails. I seemed to lose my breath and my energy very easy and needed to take my time. This of course raised my anxiety in the winter season as a need to get out and back set in. It takes a lot for me to quell this sense of urgency occasionally while hiking and solo can have a negative effect on my outcomes. The trails were in beautiful shape and so easy to walk with Isis as we enjoyed her post 48 hike and moved on to her second round. On this day I was able to keep a lot of my anxieties about solo hiking in in check and was joined by friend Tim C on the summit of Middle Tripyramid. We split after that and due to my slower pace never caught back up to him. The Tripyramid's had once again proved to be a great hike with great conditions. 

There were two tries for the Carter’s with the first one resulting in a turn back due to a winter storm. Isis and I could not break out the trail and maintain an energy level to complete the hike. So we went back the following week for a successful hike on Feb 22, 2014 where we met Rick and Lisa from a posting group online. It’s amazing the network of hikers that resides on the internet and we all rely on each other for information and to join up at times for company or trail breaking. Today’s hike was fun and full of laughter and some interesting trail conditions after ascending on a perfect trail and descending into a maze of postholes. I was happy to have connected with Rick and Lisa and grateful for the positive experience on the trails. My strength as a winter hiker was increasing and I was enjoying the season and some of the incredible winter scenes to go along with it.    

As is typical when I do the Carter’s, I leave Carter Dome hanging due to energy and time. So, Carter Dome was hiked on March 1 2014, the push to complete was being felt and I was dancing around the peaks each week trying to rework a possible finish not realizing the effect this was actually having on my enjoyment of hiking. Carter Dome however, was a very enjoyable hike as Isis and I made our way up the trails that are so well packed out and then hooking onto the Carter Moriah trail which is in need to some snowshoe love and breaking out from the drifting snow caused by the winds as of late. I was feeling confident and peaceful on the trails and remained hopeful for a successful finish on my winter 48 peaks while in the back of my mind, all the questions remained. I did not run into too many people on this day and I cherished having the trails to myself as things had become chaotic in my life and I craved some peace.  This also marked several weekends of two days of hiking to try and finish on time…. The push was on for a successful season.

The following day, we hiked Owl's Head (March 2 2014), joined by Heather and Kali, Dan, and someone I had not seen in a very long time, Gumby Hiker. I was excited to hike with this group as it was almost like old times and nervous that I would not be able to keep up or that I would hold the group back. I sprang out of bed after having hiked the day before and my energy was good the entire day so it was a very good day. The conditions for Owl’s Head were perfect and the trails and bushwhacks were so well broken out that it felt like cheating.  The Brutus Bushwhack had been broken in a new direction and we all agreed that we liked it a lot better than in the past. Owl’s Head being one of my favorite hikes, I enjoyed the scenery and sometimes kept to myself as they all hiked a head of me. I was happy and peaceful here in the woods. This long hike only took us about 8 hours to complete and for that I was feeling all the more confident in myself.

Coming down to the wire, I had 8 peaks left and knew that if the conditions were good and my energy remained high, I’d be able to finish. I had some tough ones ahead of me beginning with a trip to Madison on March 8 2014. I was hoping to get Adam’s as well and this is where the unraveling began. Madison was a tougher hike than I anticipated for my level of fitness. I struggled on the inclines and hiker after hiker passed me (Ken R was a familiar face in the crowd). The clouds were rolling in as we broke tree line and Adam’s continued to look less than hospitable. Isis and I took a break at the Madison hut and managed to drop our pack and make the summit in high winds which really spooked her. This of course made the descend of the summit cone a little stressful and as I stood between the two summits before noon time and made the choice to let Adam’s go, it also meant that my winter season was coming to an end without a 48 finish. I had run into Pepper and Me as well as Silverfox on my way back down Valley Way and even though the pep talk was much needed, I was still slightly disappointed and in need of a good hike. I had Pierce through Monroe, Adam's and Jefferson, and Zealand and West Bond, left to complete. Suddenly, I lost the happy hiking and felt more of a failure. Flirting dangerously with crossing that line of "do I want to keep doing this to myself".   

The following day, I made the long trip to Zealand (March 9 2014). Usually this hike is pretty easy with a nice ride into the trail head for 3.5 miles. Of course in Winter, you have to walk the closed road adding that 3.5 to your hiked mileage. So, I had plans to try for West Bond as well, seeming to shoot high and dial back if I need to. The road walk in was really enjoyable as Isis and I made our way over the road to the trailhead. The trail itself was fast and in great shape. We made it to the hut well before lunch and then to Zeacliff around lunch time so, this day looked very promising for us. We even made it to the summit before our cut off time. However, we dropped West Bond to have energy to make it back to the car. It’s funny how a 3.5 mile road walk on this side seemed so much longer than on the Lincoln Woods side. I enjoyed this hike though for the challenge of myself and at the end of this weekend, I could not believe that Isis had done all 26 miles with me.

                My hike to Zealand would be my last hike of the winter season for 2013/14. My energy was low the last weekend of winter and Saturday saw me sleeping in to catch up on things (or risk becoming sick). Sunday, I did drive to the Highland Center and sat in my car ready to hike. I even got Isis ready as the wind howled around us. The plan was Pierce with a hope of Ike as well and neither would be attained as I called off the hike after looking at the forecasts one last time. Listening to the other little voice to play it safe and hike another day, my winter season officially ended and I was not sad about it. Isis celebrated the end of winter hiking with her other venison sausage and the cheese that was meant for the summits. We took the long way home to savor the day at ground level with the sun shining and the music playing. The decision to not hike is always a difficult one given that it would be another week before Isis and I had a chance to hike again and even still, who knows what the conditions would be as we transition to Spring. I drove home with a head full of plans for the warmer months as well as a review of my successful Winter Season, determined to continue to build on my grid and hopeful that I could do some longer back packing trips with Isis on some long weekends this summer (I am thinking weekend Pemi Loop as well as a few other trips). I had a fantastic winter season with some pretty great hikers and pups. I am forever grateful for those that accompanied both myself and Isis (as in this season, she finished her first round of the 48). I am proud to say that I did in one winter season what initially took me two... 21 peaks total. Next winter, I will complete the remaining 6 peaks for sure and savor both the trails and the victory.

                We will kick off Spring (hopefully) next weekend on a peak that always brings us back to center and has been a great starting point on so many journey’s…. See you on the trails in Spring time.