Sunday, May 17, 2015

Moosilauke My Old Friend

     Mount Moosilauke has a special place in my heart. It was my first 4K back in 2011 and will remain a beloved peak for that reason. There have been a lot of firsts on this one and each time I hike it, I seem to get called back to it. As if it's telling me that "even in times of transition, it's time to walk it off". So, this week, even though I briefly considered Carrigain, I went for the Moose. Leaving pretty close to 5:30am, this seemed late for me. Route 118 is in decent shape for driving and of course the last time I headed up this way, it was winter so, anything is an improvement. Ravine Lodge Road is open and so, there is no road walk again for a while. I park my car further up and way from the crowd so that maybe I have an easy time getting out at the end of the day. I have packed my winter boots, my Asolo boots, and my trail runners. My snowshoes are also in the car and there is where they will stay. I choose my Asolo's as I am just not sure of the trail above 3300ft. I want something that will stand up to any rotten snow and can hold my hillsounds on them. Isis has her new harness on again and is ready to go. 

         After passing the Ravine Lodge, we head to the trails over the bridge. Gorge Brook is clear down here and the wildflowers are out. There are a ton of new smells for Isis so, I figure we'll take our time. We have all day and this hike does not usually take us very long. I'm just enjoying the warm temps and green trails. I'm also simultaneously mourning the loss of my snowshoes and other winter gear. It's a mix of emotions when you love winter hiking. Things are feeling good today though and  my feet and legs are adjusting back to my Asolo's as I anxiously await a transition to my trail runners (maybe next weekend?). This is also the first time I have been on this trail with the the reroute and there is absolutely no snow on it. I'm really enjoying it as it's all an easy grade to climb and there is just enough shade from the fir trees to keep my cool. I have stripped off a layer so I am in my racerback tank now and questioning my choice to pack other layers but, this summit is unpredictable. Right now it looks like a view is questionable. Isis is moving good but she is looking for water to drink. I know the next break is at 3300ft at the last sure water sign. There continues to be no snow down this low.

             At the Ross McKenney sign, we take a food break and Isis also gets some water from the last stream access. Things also get a little dirty as she's found something great to roll through. We are off and climbing and soon start running into others that are making their way up to the summit. Everyone is nice and very talkative today (this includes me too). I think it's time to make some changes in life and Moose offered a perfect platform to make some. Isis and I take our time making our way to tree line. The next break would be the first outlook. I've always liked the view from here even if today, it's a little hazy and clouds. The snow and ice have been intermittent and I'm cautiously making my way in places. The spikes finally come on just below tree line and are intermittent according to the conditions. While it's tempting to just wear them out, it's awkward to walk on them with no snow or ice.

        Once we break tree line, the views are clearing up and there is minimal snow/monorail to deal with. Except when you enter into the less sunny areas in the scrub that seem to let the snow hang around. with 200ft to go to the summit, it's clear and the spikes come off again. I've been really peaceful this hike. Just letting everything go and enjoying the day. Thinking about what I have coming up in the future and my two big trips (a Pemi next weekend and then the LT in August). I'm present and I'm unshakable. Isis and I make our final approach and I get that classic view of the summit post. Everyone that passed us is sitting in one of the rock shelters and others are milling about. I am greeted by a man from Montreal who tells me this is his 42nd peak. I congratulate him and Isis begs for some love. There are no views towards the Presidentials but there are other views all around. As I talk to the gentleman from Montreal, I just take it all in. He asks me to take his picture and does the same for me. My seventh trip and I never get tired of a summit shot. We watch as others come and go and I literally breath in and feel that I am in the perfect place at the perfect time and that no matter how uncertain things can seem, I am on the right path.

      We begin to make our way down the Carriage Road and over to South Peak on a beautiful and snow free walk. It's heating up so, the layer I put on at the summit came off as I continued down the Carriage Road. The monorail comes back but there is a corridor that I can walk next to it. I am thinking that this should be gone in about a week. We make it to the South Peak Junction and stop to chat with some other hikers. There's talk of the Grid and winter hiking. Isis gets a rest as we chat. Shortly after we get going again, the pant legs finally come off. It's been warming up as we go down so, again,  off come the boots and the legs. We begin again and I dodge the rocks. This always makes me remember that in winter, I don't have to do this. and it's easier. Just colder. I'm careful not to roll my ankles and I wonder if I had my trail runners, if I role my ankle, would it be worse than in my Asolo's?  One last section of snow by the rocks and we are free. The lower elevation of the Carriage road is clear. We hook on to the Snapper trail and soon realize that it'll be time to head home soon. Time to head back to everything soon. Can I go do Tecumseh and postpone?

        There is not a whole lot of water on the upper part of the snapper but I know that Isis will get a drink soon enough. We really do not stop except when I run into another group of two and we chat about the controversy from last year when the cairns were toppled. Turns out he's the steward of the trails and seems to know who did it. I thanked him for doing such a good job and we continued. In the tree's it's cooler and I'm feeling strong. We hit the streams and round a corner and I crash to the ground. I rolled my ankle about as bad as I ever have and I need to pause to catch my breath. Instantly hoping I can bare weight on it and walk out and also hoping that I didn't just screw up my Pemi next weekend. My feet got tangled and I had fallen pretty awkwardly. I stood up and took a few steps in a little pain. I hope for the best as we kept walking... Slowly. Rounding out after the second to last bridge, I rolled it a few more times and each time I felt like I was letting next weekend slip away. Isis and I slowed way down and seeing as it was my right foot, I wondered what would happen after i took my boot off and drove home. This was an interesting end to a perfect day as we made it back to the Ravine Lodge and up to the road. This is such a beloved peak that I'm not even letting my ankle ruin the day. 

         Moosilauke is a peak that I always hike in times of transition or at times of firsts in my life. Today was a transition hike as I got use to trails without snow and boots that are a little more snug and a little heavier. It's a transition to a reaffirmed way of thinking that puts me first over anything else. I may not know the exact destination to my current trail but I do know that taking that fork in the road has lead me to be happier and feeling a little more healthy. I am eagerly looking forward to this new adventure in two weeks and then to my Pemi on memorial day weekend. The summer will be capped off with the Long Trail. So much to look forward to and such great heights to reach for. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Washington. Top of the World and Smiling.

       My original plan was the Tri's for this weekend. I had not seen them in a while and figured it would be a good test for myself. And then on Thursday, I saw the forecast change... OK, so Washington it is. I had also been feeling the pull to go back up the Rock Pile too. So, after another less than stellar week below the Alpine Zone, I took off for the only place I feel on top of my game... Except I woke up with a raging cold that often gets brought on by stress and dehydration. I knew it was going to be somewhat warm so, time to sweat it out. I shocked myself by getting up on time and we got to Base Station by 7:30am. We started out for the Jewel Trail not knowing what the water crossing would be like. My pack was intentionally heavier so I can start getting use to weight for the Long Trail. The snowshoes are attached to the pack to start too. The water crossing at the base of the stairs from the cog is A MESS. There's a tone of debris and you can't really see a clear crossing. So, we whack it and make it over with a few steps into the water. Thank goodness I am still in my winter boots. 

As we head up the incline of the Jewel trail, it's mostly bare with a little ice that I can get around once at the top, Isis and I hit the crappy spring snow that is covering the region. I put my shoes on once I get to the crossing for the boundary path and then they come off briefly. I put them back on at the next incline after the bridge and there they would stay. It's just too much snow still and it's soft so, the shoes make it easier to travel. I know it usually does not take me long to get to tree line but it seems like forever. As Isis and  I continue up the Jewel, the layers are coming off. The legs of my convertible pants are being vented and eventually just unzipped to hang on my ankles like floppy gators. The sleeves are getting rolled up and the sunscreen (yes I remembered but I forgot my legs!) is being put on as I prep to go to tree line. 

     So, I poke in and out of the trees for a while and the Jewel trail is riddled with blow downs. Some are tricky to get around requiring some fancy foot work in snowshoes. I am completely immersed in this hike and looking forward to my time above tree line. For those that have not experienced it, you are in another world all together and in spring conditions, this should be fun. The spring trail can be tedious but my snowshoes are helping. Isis is also doing fine considering she's small and has no shoes. We run into one other soul on the way up and let her pass. The trees start to shrink and the views start to open up as does my mind and my smile. I'm home. I'm happy. I'm in complete control on the trail. Welcome to being above tree line.... The snow is VERY SOFT from the spring sun which is actually very strong up here. Just before tree line I had taken my pant legs completely off by removing my boots and snowshoes and then re-suiting up. What a pain. The women's pants need to be made wide enough to slip off over a boot. Heading up the Upper Jewel trail above tree line, I am careful of my feet since I am intermittently walking over exposed rock now. My snowshoes are making an awful racket and also making it awkward for me to walk. I make the best of it knowing that snow fields will call for snow shoes. 

         Isis and I take our time and soak in every view we can. The Cog is also now running and we hear it coming up the tracks. Skier's are skinning the upper trails and we will join them shortly. The clouds are moving in as there was a threat of showers today too (and thunderstorms). I tried not to think of the weather and kept going. There are a lot of bare rock sections that you could just use spikes but then you hit these deep sections of snow, slush, and ice that will still need snowshoes. I'm not a fan of changing traction so, I stay in my shoes and deal with the awkward snowless sections. Isis is doing her best to stay dry, not sink in, and play with the snowballs.  We hook onto the Gulfside trail and head to the summit which is now about a mile away. The views of the Northern Presi's open up and I can can see sun and clouds over that way as well as clouds swirling over Washington. I'm in awe and humbled as I walk. More snowfields and a lot of skiers are heading in all directions. It makes it a little difficult to follow the actual trail in places. We cross the Cog Railway and the summit is so close. 

      I had taken a picture of the workers trying to clear the auto road before I kept moving up the trail and this was were I dropped my camera! I did not realize it until we were .2 away from the summit on the Trinity Connector. I'm immediately reminded of my Old Speck trip where I dropped my camera. I'll find it on the way back is what I tell myself. Isis and I push to the summit and meet up with a guy who is up there for the fist time. He's got that wide eyed look to him and I smile. It will never get old is what I tell him. It never does. I take my little traveling companion to the summit for her 3rd and my 5th visit. We get our picture taken and then I head to the observation deck for food and rest. It's cold so, I throw on my mid layer (Columbia Omni Heat). Still in shorts though and feeling good. There are few people milling round considering the Cog is running. I guess the forecast kept them away. Isis and I enjoy our time at the summit and I get a picture of her sitting by the sign with the help of some skier's (Andrew, Josh, and Linsey). I'm so happy.

     I am getting cold though and a little more concerned for the weather so we smile and bid our company farewell. Back down the Trinity Connector we retrace our steps exactly and the snow is even softer it seems. Right before the Cog rail crossing, I look down and see... My camera. Just like Old Speck, I was able to retrieve it and it still works (the thing has been frozen more than I care to mention). It helps that not a whole lot of people were heading to the summit this way and no one picked it up. The trip down is always quicker and for that I am grateful sometimes (when dealing with weather). As I am heading back down the steeper sections of the Jewel trail after navigating the Gulfside trail, I end up on my butt in shorts. NOT how I wanted to be and sliding in these conditions actually hurts. Once I get back to tree line, I feel a lot better. Isis and I cruise down the Jewel trail and seem to make it back to the boundary path crossing in record time. Rather than deal with the Cog Crossing, I take the Boundary Path not realizing how far it over shoots the parking lot (It comes out by the Ammo Trailhead). This trail is intermittent snow, ice and bare ground. Hard to keep the shoes on. Less traveled in places and I lost the trail more than a few times. Isis was not pleased. Two crossings, where one was bridged by a wooden bridge. It added miles to the hike as well and I'll admit that I just wanted to get back to the car. I'll probably never take this trail again. I'll deal with the Cog and the water crossing. Isis and I land back at the car and I let out a huge sigh of relief. I'm centered again and tired. But it's a good tired. It's the kind of tired from activity that is not mental but physical. Unfortunately, I am on call again so, next weekend is a grounding... It has to be done so, I'll make the best of it. I've got some great memories of today so, hopefully the week will be kind to me.

Thanks for reading and following along with my story. This is were I love to be. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Finding the Fight on Waumbek

       What's a weekend without hiking? Probably something that's not going to happen unless I am occupied with work (AKA: On Call). Yesterday, after a big trip to Cabela's where I picked up some more Long Trail gear, I just had to get out to test it. Knowing the weather and that I had a few things that I needed to do prior to returning to work, I chose Waumbek. Plus, it had eluded me earlier in the month (call it redemption). Isis and I even slept late and left close to sunrise from Southern New Hampshire. On our way to the trailhead, I just took my time and stayed in the moment. Once we got to Starr King Rd, I was surprised to see that it was bare. We drove up the very frost heaved road to the trailhead parking to find a BMW sitting almost right in the middle of the parking area. There were hikers milling around so, I I rolled down my window to tell them that it's better if you park your care horizontal to the trail sign rather than pulling up right to it. I think they were a little confused since they told me that they didn't think that a lot of people would show up today. Once I backed my car into a spot next to them, I told them that they'd be surprised once they returned at how full the lot can get (which it did). I got ready in peace and let them go ahead. I didn't care if I caught up to them or anyone today. I strapped my snowshoes to my pack and we were off.

      The trail at first was pretty easy to get up. Just enough snow but not enough for shoes and I got by without spikes too. Isis and I made a stop at the well and that's where I put my spikes on. The weather looked like it was going to give me a run for either rain or snow today as we kept walking and let another couple pass us. Isis of course was excited to see them and each time they leapfrogged us, she was still happy. I just wanted to hike today so, I kept to myself. The snow was pretty soft but still easy to walk through and I felt that maybe the snowshoes would just serve as extra weight for me to carry. Isis and I kept moving up the Starr King trail and watched as the clouds rolled in. It was so quiet that it was almost eerie but the snow falling off the trees with a thud would catch my attention. I was looking forward to getting to the flatter section of ridge on my way to Starr King first. That was when Sheba caught my eye. Sheba the dog that is. I quickly warned the group coming up that I had Isis on a leash and they put Sheba on hers. To my surprise, it was Rebecca and Robert. Great to see them and let Sheba get to know Isis. I let them pass and held back just a little.

        It just seemed like Winter was trying to hang on up here in the elevation. Just before making the turn to really push to Starr King, I suddenly felt my heart let go. I had been hanging on to a lot of negative energy and just suddenly in the re-emergence of winter, I felt powerful again. I felt like I wasn't going to let anything bothering me, or beat me down anymore. I was going to fight back and stop the landslide that might very well take my trip of a lifetime on the Long Trail away. Isis and I made our way over the ridge and the trail was filling in with snow. I kept pushing back and kept pushing forward. Still in just spikes, I did navigate some post holes but this is spring and it's to be expected. This is a relatively flat section with a few pushes up and Isis and I made good time. This is also a really enjoyable section of trail for me.

          Pushing up and onward, Isis and I made it to the Starr King fireplace which is a favorite place to break and have something to eat. Sometimes there is a view but not today. The snow is falling and I layer back up with gloves, shell, and hat. Isis gets fed and we admire the grey jay watching from the tree. Isis kindof wants to eat the grey jay but she knows that she can't catch it. After resting, we begin pushing to the summit of Waumbek which is a pretty easy walk except for the few sections of post holing. But even those sections are solid so, there is not a whole lot of sinking. Winter really does still have a grip up here. We kept a good pace and broke only a few times. I was expecting to catch up with people close to the summit and as we approached, we met up with Rebecca and Robert again.

     Still carrying my snowshoes, I did fall a few times but I didn't sink in. I had decided that I would snowshoe back from the summit though. Isis and I felt the cold creep back in as we approached the summit of Waumbek and pushed up the final section. We were greeted by the group that had moved their car at the trailhead and stood talking with them. Most had a few hikes under their boots and I shared my plans for the Long Trail. This time though I shared them with confidence that it would actually happen rather than with a  tone of maybe. They departed and Isis and I stood in the silence. The trail was filled in to the view but then again, there was no view to be had today. I was just happy to be out again. I took out my new piece of gear, a goalzero solar panel, and stopped it to the front of my pack. I wanted to see of it would charge in these conditions plus I wanted to see how it felt on my pack. Lucky, it was not heavy at all and it stayed secure as we moved over to the Starr King Fireplace. As usual, it takes no time at all and the trail is pretty fast in my snowshoes. Once back at the fireplace, I plug in my phone with the USB cord and the battery turns green for charging. I am now even more excited to get to the Long Trail. I have power, even in crappy sun. Even better, my pack liner has been keeping things dry without my outer pack cover on.

          From here it was pretty much back down hill and the snow was getting soft as it was warm and the sun tried to filter through the clouds. Isis and I would get hit with snow falling from the trees. It still looked like Winter up here and while I liked it, I also like this trail when it's lined with flowers. Next month I tell Isis, next month the flowers will be back and we'll see them in the Alpine Garden. I made plans most of the way down. and when the snow got thin, I took my shoes off and left off my spikes too. I kept winter in my mind though as we made great time back to the car.

      It's really been a struggle to hold onto what I want and not let it all fall out of my hands lately and I realize that I have a tendency to cut and run before things get too bad. I think that today, I finally found the fight and the motivation to get to what I want and what I want is to hit the Long Trail this summer. This trip for me is such a stretch of my comfort zone and I want it really bad so, I have a chance to stop the landslide which is what I intend to do. I'm not going to let the negative win this time and I'm going to keep on training. Today was just a small hike to Waumbek. It always goes quickly and in many ways, it goes way to quickly. It was a great treat to head up the Starr King trail to Waumbek today in Winter conditions. The snow was sticky and I had a few issues with snowballing under both spikes and shoes but all that didn't matter because I felt strong again. The carousel never stops turning... But how I react to it will make the difference. May begins next weekend and I have big plans for the month... I just hope the snow is gone by Memorial Day weekend. :)

Happy Hiking Everyone!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Late Afternoon on Liberty

        Having Monday off gave me the perfect opportunity to do some extra hiking this weekend and even though Isis had a vet appointment this morning, we headed up to Franconia Notch again. This time it was the other side of the street and I had intended on a sunset hike of Liberty. After leaving the vet's office with a super clean bill of heath, albeit, a little cranky, I felt a little guilty and this did not set well with me. I shouldn't feel guilty for doing what I love. I made a quick stop in Ashland to grab some extra food for the trip and we made our way to The Basin parking area. It was busy with low lander tourists and I could care less. I strap my snowshoes on my pack and we are off down the bike path. I looked at the bushwhack from the bike path and given how wet everything is, I figured that the extra mileage will not kill me today. We hook onto the White House Trail and I instantly begin doubting myself on top of the still lingering guilt. I started pushing back at my thoughts and figured that if this was a mid-life crisis, at least I'm still hiking... I figured that I'd see how the time was passing as we got closer to the tent site and if it looks like I might miss sunset, I may turn tail and head back down. I really didn't take a whole lot of pictures down low either as I just needed to walk. Once at the junction for the Flume slide, I broke out the snowshoes as the trail was little more covered up in that area. The water crossings at this level are flowing nicely and wide open at this point. Navigating in snowshoes was not a whole lot of fun but we made it across. As we continued to climb, we began running into the crowd coming down. Many were unfamiliar faces who seemed to be in over their heads and thankfully, a lot had turned back realizing that fact. I continued to talk myself into this hike and soon we not only hit the major elevation gain on the Liberty Springs trail, we also hit the monorail and post hole mind field. I did get in the snowshoes today and thankfully the monorail was pretty sturdy. It's obvious since the trail is lined with post holes... Just don't step in the shoe prints and stay in the middle of the trail. 

       Isis and I had taken a break at the tent site and it would seem that I was ahead of sunrise. It was only .3 to the Franconia Ridge Trail to the summit... My favorite summit in the Whites. The sun was warm today so, the trail was deteriorating. I had forgotten how much of the trail gets sun at this time of year. The snow is the consistency of rice mixed with mashed potatoes but the snowshoes are keeping me up. Isis on the other hand steps off the trail looking for a place to pee and makes herself a nice dog shaped post hole. She's not too happy about the days events but equally happy to be with me. I break frequently since we are not in a rush anymore and still I am eager to get above tree line. I should add that we have run into a crowd coming down and none were wearing snowshoes. Some were in sweatpants and post holing. A recipe for hypothermia given my experience yesterday. I could only imagine at this point how my descend will be.

      On the final approach to the summit, I pause briefly before breaking out of tree line and I'm conscious of my breathing and how I am finally feeling... Peaceful. I put up my televators one more time and dig in to get up there. The world opens up for me and I can do nothing except smile. The late after noon sun has shown me all the peaks I call home. I am eager to see the rock face for Liberty as it is my favorite view. As it comes into view, I feel my stress level drop again. Isis and I climb to the summit and we have it all to ourself. I could not be more happy.

     I took in the views and spent some time with my best trail partner on four legs. She's been the best constant in my life and as she lay down on the sunny summit, I sat with her and just looked out for a while. The wind was practically non-existant and we had plenty of time to make it back down to sea level. Up here, on this peak, I rested in peaceful thoughts and beautiful views. I could have stayed up there forever but like most people, I had responsibilities for Monday (even though I have it off). So, I put my snowshoes back on once we hit the snow again and we bid farewell to my favorite peak. Time to head back to reality and still carry this peace with me. I was reasonably sure that I would not run into another soul on the trail today.

        Once back in the trees, Isis and I begin to see the damage from so many people on the trail today. It's tough to navigate the monorail due to the damage from people crashing off the sides plus the sun making the monorail generally soft. I fall a few times and Isis runs back to check on me. With a few dog kisses, we are on our way again and again. At the Flume Slide junction, the snowshoes come off and are reattached to my pack. I am able to make good time now even with Isis avoiding all the water on the trail. There seems to be more since we made our ascent a few hours ago. there is no need for a headlamp as we make our way back to the car either. This day has been the best form of therapy I could ask for. With a new outlook and hopefully no place to go but up from here. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tails From the Monorail on the Kinsman's

       I'm going to be completely honest, I ran to the mountains today because I had had it with my life below 4000 feet. I was done and I was exhausted. But Friday at about 7:30pm I found the energy to prep the pack and even better, Saturday morning I found the energy to get out of bed. I was a little late but I figured that would be fine. I had specific objectives for today in that I am still training for the Long Trail. I wanted to pace myself a little slower so that I was not exhaust myself and I wanted to test out my gear in the rain... As I was expecting a rainy day. I had changed my mind a few times between the Kinsman's and Waumbek but in the end, I decided to go for it. I was not going to let a week decide that I'd do the lesser peak. I was not going to let them win. At the trailhead for the Mount Kinsman Trail, there is no one else there and it's spring time conditions... Cool and the trail is clear of ice and snow. Isis is distracted by the deer hair that I parked next too as I get the pack ready (she rolled all over it!). I leave the snowshoes in the car... It's going to be a fun day!

     As we walk, she is extra aware of anything in the wood. I wish I could see what she see's. We pass over some pretty decent terrain and very little ice and mud. Things are solid and we make good time. I pass my favorite building (which is also creepy) and smile with an exhale of the week. As Isis and I continue, I find familiar landmarks to tell me where I am at and at the same time, the layers are coming off because I'm warm. We begin to hit some ice and I make my way around. I'm holding off on the spikes until it's more consistent. Slipping a little but that's nothing compared to what is coming. At the first major water crossing, I see winter up ahead and the spikes finally come on. As we cross (Isis in my arms), I remind myself that my boots are waterproof. The water is flowing but I can see a clear path and as I step on the ice.. Crash! Well, now the water crossing is a little wider... And the ice I broke off flows down stream. 

      Breaking after the crossing, I feed Isis and myself as well as take in some Gatorade. Ready to continue, we begin to add elevation. It's all up from here and then we start balancing on the monorail... Step to the side and you're going down (even with snowshoes). It's Springtime in The Whites. And still, I am enjoying myself. Trying to stay out of my head and on the trail. Looking for my favorite tree on this trail, it's the blowdown with all the holes in it, and I forget that it's after the Bald Peak junction, which is our next major stop. Isis and I break again here after battling mildly with the monorail. I catch my breath and she snacks. We decide to take the .2 to Bald Peak and are not disappointed. 

        On Bald Peak, I am thinking that the weathermen got it really wrong today and perhaps we will get away with no rain. Isis and I make it back to the sign post where I dropped my pack and get ready to continue to the Kinsman's. It's 1.6 to the Kinsman Ridge Trail. As we climb, she's post holing each time she steps off the trail which causes me to step off the trail and post hole. I lost track of the number of times I had to stop and yank myself back out and no, I don't believe that snowshoes would have helped. The Monorail itself is stable... You just can't stay on it with out an awkward balancing game. So, I groan and I yank myself out and in some cases, I am in it up to my hip and that's a struggle. We keep going and begin to break out of the trees. The views of Franconia Ridge start to poke out and I am happy. At this moment, I am out of my head and on the trail. Our next stop is North Kinsman but first we take a break at the junction for the Kinsman Ridge Trail. The sign is buried and at foot level rather than eye level like it should be. Yes, there is plenty of winter left... Too bad it's Spring. 

      Isis and I run into Conway and his owner on our way to North Kinsman. It was a quick passing but I learn that there are others up here too. All came from the Fishin' Jimmy side as I was the only one in the parking lot on the Mt. Kinsman side. It was up here that Isis got dive-bombed by... A bug! They are back and buzzing. We stop at the top of the outlook for North Kinsman and opt not to stop but rather just cross the peak on our way to South Kinsman. It's a struggle but  little easier as we loose elevation briefly. Going down the trail seemed to help with the sinking since I could glissade a little and with the soft snow, not sinking in was a blessing. Pretty much the whole way over to South Kinsman, it was a lot of concentration to stay on the monorail. The weather was beautiful and the mood was still light but I was thinking of my return trip in the soft snow. We ran into another soul on the trail and promptly, I fell in up to my... Yeah, that deep. And he fell in up to his knee in shoes. Again, it was a quick conversation and we were both on our way. Isis struggled up here as she continued to sink in. Getting closer to South Kinsman, we ran into another soul I would later find out is Peter. I did my best to keep Isis in control. She just loves people... A lot. It was not long but it seemed like forever with the sinking in that we reached South Kinsman. 

      I hang out long enough for pictures and to feed Isis. I know it's going to be a long trip back to the car and I'm beginning to pay attention to the weather. It's looking like a storm will roll in. The question is, can I get back to the car before it does? While we head back, I begin sinking in and my boots are filling with snow. I'm aware that my feet are in some kind of soup at the moment and while I have extra socks, I don't want to change them just yet since they will only get soaked sooner rather than later. It's a big time struggle to get back to the sign for the Mount Kinsman Trail and yet it seems to take less time that the trip out. Isis tries to eat the sign initially and even wants to go down the other trail but I redirect her to our way down. This is not an easy descend. I'm sinking in more than I'd like and more often than not getting stuck. Isis is getting yanked back or also sinking in and as we make our way down, I hear... THUNDER. I just want to get to the junction for Bald Peak and I know that the snow will be less and I can travel faster. Little did I know, that I would not have a choice. As we got closer to the junction, the rain came. I put my coat back on and my hat but I could not get my rain cover out in time. The thunder and lightening was spooking Isis and I opted for the quick descend. The only problem is that she's getting tired and wanting to lay down. I'm forced to be a little forceful with her. we need to get back to the car. 

      Now, as I reach past the open water crossing, I take off my spikes and just carry them in a muddy mess, I post hole in the mud too. Everything is a mess but I need to get back to the car. Thankfully, the thunder and lightening have stopped and while we are quick, we are not running anymore. Except as we round the corner by the one building on the trail, another clap of thunder and I let out a "Seriously Chief??" and I think to myself that now the rain will stop just as I get to the car. It takes no time for us to have the car in view and as we cross into the parking area... The rain stops and I just have to laugh at the whole thing. I love my grandfather  and I think he goes with me on these journeys. Isis is loaded the car and she just looks pathetic. I'm still the only car in the lot so, I get changed without worry out of those wet cloth and I seriously could have wrung out my socks. I'm not sure of my next plan of a sunset hike after Isis goes to the V-E-T tomorrow morning. But if it can be swung and if the bruises from today are not bad... Maybe Liberty for Sunset? We'll see. 

      It did feel really good to finally get out on my head after a long week (I seriously dislike how preoccupied I have been lately. It's not the life I want). Not to mention being on call last week and NOT hiking. Today was a challenge on a lot of levels and I was happy with the way things played out. My rain gear held and I was dry upon my return to the car. Isis, while she didn't like it was able to tolerate it too. The mileage was not an issue and when I (hopefully) hit the trail in August, the snow will be gone. I say hopefully because there are more than likely some changes coming for me (given how I feel lately) and if possible, I may have to postpone my trip to next year. But as of right now, even though we didn't place in the Kurgo contest (Thank you for voting!), Isis and I are still planning on being out on the Long Trail in August... With many more peaks between now and then.