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. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Redlining Lincoln Woods... The East Side and Pine Island Trails.

         Today probably could have panned out just fine had I not listened to the voice in my head. No... I'm not crazy but the weather was a little this morning. I was heading to Waumbek as a kind of throw away peak. I knew the weather was not going to be great in the morning so, I didn't want a good view to be wasted. I backed off the Kinsman's last night and reduced it to Waumbek based on forecast. Driving up, I was approaching Lincoln and saw the reduced speed limit due to "snow in the road". The plows were out and well, it looked to be about 4 inches on the road through the Notch. I pushed on in a Whiteout trying to find a place to pull off the road due to other's not remembering how to drive in winter conditions. I find a parking lot to calm myself after pulling off at Exit 35. I decide to head to the trailhead anyway and drive through squalls to find that the road to the summer lot is not plowed... No way I am getting up there. And I turn around and check out the Winter lot with the new snow plus the incline, I'd probably not get out of that at the end... Crap, this is not happening today. Of course, I had this feeling when the alarm went off at 4am and I snoozed until almost 5am. I should have stayed in bed. Determined to not waste the day knowing that next weekend I am on call and need to stay within 2 hours of work, I decide to do some Redlining... The act of hiking EVERY TRAIL in the White Mountains... And marking them off with a red sharpie. 

        I first think of Aerathusa Falls and double back that way... Not plowed and a little too deep for my car still. I head the long way home through NoCo and hit the Kanc... I half wondered if I was making a big mistake given the drifting out there, but I pressed on. I first thought of Sabbaday Falls but I really want to see that one when I can get to the summits and the falls are flowing. So.... Lincoln Woods! Plus, I have to pee now too. I decide to check out the Eastside trail instead of the often busy and really congested highway that is the Lincoln Woods Trail. Plus, I really owed Isis a walk at this point.

    Lincoln Woods parking area has about 3 inches of wet sticky snow. The skies are now bluer than blue of course and after my pit stop, I get my boots on and Isis all set. I leave the snowshoes in the car and we are off down the East Side Trail. It's well packed and icy to start with spring snow on top. Still easy to walk with just my winter boots (Merrill Whiteouts). After about .6 miles, I take the Pine Island Trail which leads you closer to the Pemi and gives me that view from the other side that I have seen and often wanted to explore. I really like this section of trail and it's so quiet and less congested than the other side. There are a few water crossings that are open. One is still bridged though. That's the one that I unintentionally slid down the bank on my butt because of the ice.... Ouch! This is a nice .9 mile trail that brings you back out to the East Side Trail going to the Franconia Brook Tent sites.

       The next 1.4 miles out to the Tent site is a mix of rolling hills and flat sections. It would be a great hike in any season. Right now, it's a little tough with the Spring thaw slowly creeping in. I am still bare booting and contemplating my spikes. Probably could have used Snowshoes too. Isis and I break and I debate turning back, which is so easy when you are solo. I can talk myself out of the best (case in point today). I override myself with food and water. We walk and find some great views and a rock for Isis to climb on. We have some fun walking and talking... Planning. Yes, I talk to myself out in the middle of no where. How else can I organize all these ideas in my head? I come to the tent site and see a friendly reminder to NOT peel the Birch Tree's. Well, there goes my reason for heading out there today (kidding!). I love the random signs in the Whites. This was an easy walk today to make the most of some jumpy nerves and over active brain thoughts. I am a work in progress and at least I got out instead of just driving home or sitting at home and not even trying. I'm just not the sit at home type... I'm not even good at being sick. Maybe the answer when I back off a peak is to redline instead? Today was actually kind of fun for me. The walk back is just a little tougher with the melt in full swing since it's now decided to be Spring as opposed to the Winter that was happening this morning. I'm even hot in my gear... But I have forgone the winter pants in favor of my wind pants over my hiking pants and base layer. As we approach back to society, I am hit with a few dogs that crash my calm and a family that just looks miserable because they are not prepared for the snow (a particular fowl mouthed Dad remind me of someone from my past and I stared at him in disgust)... Ahhh, the absurdity of it all. I change and Isis and I head for our Dunkin' Doughnuts off of exit 28. Then it's home to get ready for another week and a week's worth of On Call to ground me next weekend. The weather remains Spring like all the way home.

        I've got to change it up a little these days. The Grid is a great long range goal for myself but, it's not the be all and end all of my hiking career and maybe I need some short term goals too? I need to also incorporate some long hikes for my Long Trail trip coming up this summer. I can't continue to feel discouraged every time I back off of a peak. I'll eventually just hang up my boots for good if this keeps happening. Trust me, I don't want that to happen. So, I'm backing off my "Gotta get a peak" weekend mentality that I have somehow incorporated into my thinking and mixing it up a little. It's getting to be no fun waking up in the morning to drag myself up North and feel like I'm not enjoying myself. I really do admire those that can do this and also these massive long hikes in crazy conditions (day and night) but that's not who I am (and I need to stop comparing myself to them)... I need to find my own groove and stick with it. I need to keep moving forward without feeling bored... I need to explore more and concentrate on the peak less. So, I hang up my Gridiot status and see where I go and what I do. Today was a small hike but I think it's pointing me in a good direction. Zero weekend next weekend so, we'll see what I can plan for the long weekend I have when I am free of work obligations. 
(Photo from an earlier hike of Mt. Willard)

Speaking of the Long Trail.... I am hoping to have my trip sponsored and have entered a contest that would mean $5,000 to spend on Gear and to fund my trip this summer. The Top 10 Finalists are going to be chosen APRIL 17th and 4 winers will be chosen to have their adventure with their best friend sponsored by Kurgo APRIL 30th... I am in the Top 5 for votes right now. Can you click on the link and GIVE ME A VOTE? Thanks so much... This trip means a lot to me. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Franconia Ridge... Where it All Comes Together.

         The weekday's for me are nothing compared to my weekends. I look forward to them, much like everyone else. My weekends are where I can breathe again. Where I can smile. Where I can hear my heart beat and know that I am indeed alive and no matter what, I'm going to be OK. It doesn't matter what the week brings. When the weekend comes, I make sure that I come first. I design my life around these trips and I will always find a way to get to the mountains. This is my time and no one will change that. I've spent far too long living in shadows and I realize that half of my slump was because I continued to listen to the voices of my past. Today, it was time to go back to Franconia Ridge and today, you don't just put your head down and go. You savor it. You keep your head up and you look around. You take your time and you make the day last. Today, Franconia Ridge was under bluebird skies. There was no turning back. Today, I take it all back and I move forward. 

        Isis and I started out a little after 7am. I started in snowshoes and would stay in them until the end mostly because I hate to carry them. We made our way down the trail and of course made a stop at my favorite tree. Here is where we ran into Brent and his pup General Patton (what a sweet boy!). We both conversed about the day we had in store and then he was on his way. I kept my own pace which matches Isis and that was fine with me. It was cold this morning and winter was still alive and well. The old Bridal Path was well packed and easy to travel though and for that I was thankful. We caught up to Samantha next who had pulled into the parking lot behind me and stopped to chat for a little while. We would leap frog a little and eventually meet back up at the hut. Isis and I enjoyed the trails on our own and waited for the incline to kick in. I was ready... Televators on my shoes. The views began to peak out too. 

       As I hit the agonies and Agony Ridge, the world opened up as it has so many times before and I see the rest of the ridge... It's clear. There are no clouds anywhere. I have a complete clear day ahead of me and I am excited. I can see the wind blowing the snow off the summit and I know it's going to be cold. No one is coming up behind us so we linger on the trail and take it all in. Today is a day to savor. Everything else can wait. This is my time. The trail is solid here and while it's little icy, my snowshoes grab nicely and I use my televators on the rest of agonies. I am looking forward to getting to the hut for a break. I also notice that the trail is a little... well... short. In that I keep crashing into branches and feel like I need to be "pintsized" like Isis is. We have so much snow that I wonder if we will be in snowshoes until June! I put my arms up to block the branches and keep pushing. A group of three guys pass us and we crest the trail to the hut. Time for a food break and the crowd starts moving in. Isis and I seem to have a following now and it's so nice to run into people. Especially those that seem to have the same ideas about today. Samantha is at the hut and very excited since she's never seen the views before.

        As Isis and I make our way past Eagle Lake, we begin the climb to Lafayette. As it begins in and out of the trees, I am sheltered from the wind at first but it is still cold. The crowd is coming up behind us but we are all just taking our time and taking in the views. You can see forever and all the surrounding peaks are looking great today. I view my old nemesis North Lafayette and smirk knowing that I'll see this peak again over the summer as I train for the Long Trail. I have it in my mind to try for a backpacked Pemi Loop again to help me train. Isis and I continue up the steep mile and as it turns we are hit with different degrees of wind. The trail itself here is blown in so, my snowshoes are perfect. Isis is making the best of things. She is struggling a little and I think about the trip and remember that it get's better the closer you get to the other end at Little Hay Stack. I pull my buff up over my nose to shield the wind. We even wait for the rest of the crowd to pass and I figure out why. Isis doesn't like wind and when we follow, she is shielded. Smart dog! I see another dog coming up the trail to the summit and this also makes Isis stop. She so wants to play with him except we need to keep moving from the cold. I hear a voice behind the dog owner proclaim that she's tired. This was about 100 feet from the summit.... They never made it. I think they turned back which was smart but on a day like today, you want to make your best effort. Take care of yourself. Eat and drink enough to keep going.

       My camera and my phone froze on Lafayette. A bluebird day straight across the Ridge and my equipment is dead... I break out the toe warmers to bring things back to life, sticking one on each side on my inner pocket of my jacket. I'm not going without something to capture the day. Isis and I decide to make our way across the ridge and I glissade down the other side of Lafayette. The snow is deeper and a little less consolidated but still passable. Franconia Ridge is just glorious! It's windy and for that, we keep moving. No time for a food break yet. As we come down from Lafayette, before we hit Truman, I come across a kind soul from North Carolina. He brings up a good point as I am being very passive about my summit picture fail since I've been here before. "While you've been here before, this is the first time you've been here today". He tries to take my picture again and struggles but he didn't realize that it actually took! At this very moment, I stopped being concerned about everything except the moment I was in right now. Nothing mattered and I finally realized that I had been living in the existence of things past. Where it was more concerning to catch up than to just enjoy the trail. I stopped to look around and just smiled. Today, was my day. As we walked, I looked all around and pointed out the peaks to myself. Every one of them looked like the place to be today... Even Owl's Head.

       As we were coming down from the Gargoyles, Isis and I saw two dogs coming up the trail. A beauty of a black lab and a Weimaraner that made me pause to remember a friend. Loki was having a great day on the mountain and I could not help but smile for him. After cresting Lincoln, the wind had just.... Died. It was warm and I was just in awe of this day. Everyone we ran into was a great spirits and so friendly. Each one loved Isis and just showered her with love. All of us shared the beauty of this day. As we came to Little Haystack, we paused to talk to a couple who were later joined by a former Thru Hiker who was getting ready for the PTC in a few weeks. We again lingered and talked about hiking, plans, and dehydrating meals. Isis rested on a rock and was only mildly upset when I picked her up for a picture We lingered here for as long as we could since I really didn't want to head back down and the weather was perfect.

      As we made our way down the Falling Water's Trail, I took one last butt sled... Who knows what the conditions will be like next weekend and the snow was already mashed potatoes on this end. It felt good to go sliding down the trail and made a quick descent fun. There were others coming up this way and I knew that fun would be had the closer I got to the falls. It was warming up too as we went down and I knew layers would soon come off. Isis and I savored the last remain experiences on the trail. The cool ice on the falls offered some nice eye candy... The funny tourists in jeans with a fashion (instead of functional) backpack who looked at me like I was crazy for having all the gear in the world. And the last moments of peace before the car.

           Isis and I meet up with everyone again by the restrooms before the parking area. I raised my hands in victory on the approach. This day was a complete success and restored my faith in myself. Having been on my own for almost 2 years now, I fall to periods of depression and also old patterns of thinking. I realize that most of the time I turn back is when I feel like I need to rush to catch up to someone (but no one is there). I use to feel this way a lot and it's easy to fall back into old habits. Today, I kept my head up and slowed myself down and I truly drank in the scenes of this hike. Today was about centering and moving forward. Today was my day under bluebird skies. I came to the conclusion, this is where my heart beats stronger and anyone that is going to be in my life will also need to be in the mountains. Back at the car I changed and wished I had a T-shirt instead of my sweatshirt. Isis laid down and promptly fell asleep after her Greenie reward. That is the sign of a GREAT day!

     Isis and I are officially training for the Long Trail. Even with the challenges of Shoulder Season upon us, we will be out there hiking a lot and I'll be adding weight to my pack as I go. The hope is to do a Pemi Loop this summer in order to really get a feel for things... Weather please cooperate! :) We are also still in need of votes to have our trip sponsored by KURGO... Please go to Our Page and give us a Thumbs Up.... Competition is picking up as new entrants are added... Top ten is chosen in less than a month and 4 winners are selected from there. Thanks for the votes!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mount Monadnock to Refocus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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