Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mount Moriah by way of Rattle River (AT)

Sometimes things fall into place perfectly and you are not even effected by a steep trail.... Today, I hiked up to Mt. Moriah from the Gorham side on the Rattle River Trail. Another trail I had never been on and another section of the AT to complete. Isis and I were in good shape and we'd be well sheltered from the heat of the day. The first 1.6 miles to the Rattle River Shelter is really mellow and nice. The trail is wide as it's an old road bed... I don't want to jinx it by saying that I loved the trail too early. But I was thinking it. There are a few meager water crossings leading up to the shelter but nothing that cannot be managed (we need rain really bad). We approach the shelter and I see a dog's tail. I announce our arrival but we keep moving through... It looked like two Thru Hikers were just starting their day but they were nice enough to control their dog as we moved through. 

As we continued the next 2.6 miles to the Kenduskeag Trail would be a nice mix at first. Isis and I crossed two more water crossings on the river and those were over large rocks. Isis was so proud of herself on the last one that she climbed the last big rock and demanded treats after licking my face. How could I not give them to her? It was shortly after this that the trail starts climbing...

You know how in the Whites there are those rock stairs that are never quite even... There are a lot of them on this trail. It's getting to be a hot day so, I am slowing us down and being mindful of Isis and water. There are a few seeps for her to drink from but I am ready with extra should I need it. The trail is quiet and I'm just loving the forest. Today feels great for a change... Not a care in the world. But I am starting to sweat out of my cloths on this steep section. Isis and I ran into two other section hikers coming down. Older guys who are just coming off the complete traverse. Boy were they happy to be going down... Carter Moriah range is tough! It was nice chatting with them about the trail and the trail beyond New Hampshire. At this point, Isis and I are close to the Kenduskeag Trail junction and we push up to the top. A sigh of relief as we are greeted by flat bog bridges... My feet and legs get a nice break. Maybe even for the next 1.5 miles to the junction with the spur to the summit. 

It wasn't all bog bridges but it was pretty close. There were a few sections that were steep and some that were thin as far as the trail goes. As Isis and I approached the junction of the Carter Moriah Trail and the spur to the summit, I heard people... 2 day hikers were coming down the steep .1 to the summit and informed me that there were a lot of people up there. I figured we'd see what we could see. Scrambling up the .1 (almost a chimney) to the summit, Isis and I did very well. She trusts me to lift her to the next section and I have enough room to get up myself. We break the trees just below the summit and I see that it is indeed crowded. I check out the lower views (not that much lower than the summit) and once Isis had rested, she let me know she'd like to go to the top. Isis is her own dog and I follow her lead a lot. She may be moody and choosy with others but she knows that I have her back and she trusts me. When we came out to the outlook, It was indeed crowded with 5 or 6 day hikers and one dog. Both dogs managed well with each other and Isis and I got our picture taken. We ducked back down and then I stood at the top of the spur... Looking down at the trail signs was kind of daunting. 

What looks daunting was really quite easy to get down... Even with a dog on leash. We both did very well and then began the walk out. We would only see one other from the summit after this. Going back over the way we came, the flat sections were of course very easy. We hit the steep section in what seemed like no time. Then we slowed down... Renavigating, I began looking for my land marks. The stairs, the obnoxious blowdown and the big rock at the water crossing. The rest of the hike in-between was auto pilot for me as I looked at my surroundings and smiled. I had it in my mind to swim in the big pool I found once we were closer to the shelter (thank goodness for quick dry compression shorts and a sports bra!). It would be perfect to end the day after working so hard. Before we hit the water crossing, we ran into the Thru hikers form this morning. They are southbound to Georgia and I wished them all the best. Had they not zeroed yesterday, they might have gained my gummy bears. Their packs were well stocked which was also slowing them down. It's always tough to resupply and do these steep trails. I shared with them my opinion of the Carter Moriah range... :P

Once we got back to the shelter, we took a break and sat for a bit. I was running low on water (it was another 3 liter day) but I knew that the car was not that far away either. Isis was getting tired too. She was way past her zen look and more into her, I'm over this look. Extra AC once we got back to the car. We were passed by 2 large groups. One on the upper trail and one that was probably heading to the shelter. It was going to be a busy night on the Carter Moriah range. Isis and I were happy to be down and feeling very satisfied with our day. I changed at the car and located the start of the next section of AT that I needed across the street. We headed for coffee and home. 

Today, I realized that the shift in goals that occurred for me was probably the best thing that could happen to me. The potential for me to stretch myself and explore this great trail is so much more exciting to me and leaving the crowds behind has a great appeal (some those busier trail heads are an embarrassment with people parked for miles on the highway). Yet it seems, I still check to see if I have a peak in a certain month and I still try and plan around that... Old habits die hard I guess but I am happy with what is in the forefront while the GRID takes a backseat. It's so much more about the effort for me now and the greater effort for me is in the AT. I never got anything out of life if I half assed it so, why stop now... I'm through focusing on what I'm not (I have plenty of others doing that for me) that I'd rather focus on what I am.... I'm strong enough, I'm passionate enough, I'm brave enough to keep hiking. I am enough... I have one more hike before I leave for the LT (zero the weekend before to get my house in order). Today really showed me that my legs are ready and I am mentally ready. The pack will be heavy, it will be hard, and it will rain too. I already know this... So let's use it all to my strength rather than my weakness. I know what to expect so, that at least will be a help. Perhaps a shake down to the Maine border next weekend (16ish miles out and back) or Webster Jackson from 302... We'll see what the week holds. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Back Door To Mount Madison

Perfect forecasts are made to be above tree line. You just have to get there first. This week, I hiked up Mt. Madison... The back way. Old Jackson Rd to Madison Gulf, to Great Gulf, to Osgood Cut Off, and then straight UP Osgood. So, now that you know the order of the day, here's the run down... First today was the Mt. Washington Road race which almost made me do the other end... Webster Cliff. BUT my car found her way to Pinkham Notch... Lot was full so I parked in the overflow and took the bridge. Pinkham is so busy but once all the ants take the turn to march up Tuckerman's I head down Old Jackson and things quiet down. Well, except for the road noise from 16 that will be replaced by the auto road... People are few and far between though. 

Old Jackson Road has some great grades to it once you get up that one big incline. Then it's like smooth sailing on a flat wide trail with a section of bog bridges. I'm a fan of this trail from when I went up Nelson Crag last year. Today it's a little hot out but Isis and I start out strong. Make our way to the last water crossing and make the turn up the trail... Rock stairs. We're making our way to cross the auto road where we meet up with Madison Gulf... Along the way we stop at a little bump out and get an eye full of just how beautiful the sky is today. We see the same thing from Lowe's Bald Spot just after we cross the auto road... 

Once back on trail, Isis and I navigate some larger rocks and water crossings. All crossings are easy as of now due to our lack of rain. There are a couple of variations in elevation as well and I note these for my tired return... This will be a long day today. The bugs are out as it gets warmer and we pass by some standing water... A recipe for mosquitoes. The black flies are buzzing too. We come to the junction with the great gulf trail and after a pit stop and some food, we head down to the next crossing. It's a suspension bridge... I swear Isis army crawled it. She is not a fan. But it was nice for me. 

This leads us to the Osgood Cut off for a half mile and then we hit the junction with the tent site and then the UP... Osgood Trail is one straight up full of boulders, energy sucking trail (I had other colorful words in the moment). I would not recommend this trail to just anyone. You need skills here. Skills like patience and the ability not to loose your mind completely as it just keeps climbing... I will also say that this trip was well worth the ass kicking I received. Isis and I took it extremely slow which added to our time out in the wood. It's been a log time since I spent and entire day out here. I was determined to get my summit today. But at this point, I was determined to get to tree line. this deep in, you really only run into section or thru hikers. I'm pretty sure at this point too I smell like a Thru Hiker. One dousing of bug spray as the black flies were crazy... In my eyes and under the rim of my hat. We took several breaks to keep my sanity. I'm also quickly going through 3 liters of water. But after what seems like forever, we start breaking tree line. 

I'm trying not to think of the return trip least I psych myself out of something really great. BUT, I'm not going to lie, the awareness of the steep down and my tired feet are a recipe for disaster. Isis and I get up the first hump and break out of the trees... I see Washington (It's probably a mad house) and I see the Madison Hut... Then I see four humps to get up and over... Time to put my head down and go. It's getting kind of late in the day and knowing what I have ahead of me to get back to the car well, it's time to move. Isis and I navigate the rocks and carefully make our way over the three false summits and then climb up to the actual summit... This is tedious and requires that Isis and I remain in synch with each others steps. We stumble a lot... My legs have the cuts to prove that. Once we begin our actual ascent, I'm thinking it will be a quick visit. One because it's busy up there and two because it's getting late... I have to get back to my house that is 3 hours away tonight. So, we tag the cairn and head back down. There's at least a breeze and a good difference in temp so, I'm cool off. 

It's pretty slow going as we head back down... My feet are tired but the good thing is that my trail runners are preforming well and my new socks.. Toe socks are also holding up. I do not feel any blisters or hot spots and I'm use to having them between my toes too... My feet are just tired and I'm ready for coffee and what ever food I haven't eaten today. As I make my way back to the car, I'm reflecting on my longer distance hikes and how much less pressure there seems to be than when I'm peak bagging. I like the fact that on my longer hikes, if I'm feeling tired, I can just find a site to camp at and call it a day and then restructure my days to follow... When I'm peak bagging, I need to get back to the car and that means timing and pressure. I am my own worst enemy sometimes too as darkness approaches, I hate it when family worries so, I try and get down as soon as I can which is also completely different if I am hiking with someone else. Heading back to the auto road, we meet up with some people who have stopped to cool their brakes. Nice enough but a sure sign we are almost back to the car... Then the mixed emotions kick in. I did have my tent with me but I was lacking some other gear as I wanted to go somewhat light today due to the trails conditions and length. We also ran into a mother and two younger boys... Mother had the best hat on... A hat that could've been warn at the Kentucky Derby, and her shoes were really pretty wedges... How do people do this?? These trails are not paved after all. We make it back to the bridge to the over flow lot just in time to catch the sun going behind the Presidential Range. I smile and get back to the car to change... I am not far from probably the best tasting cup of blueberry coffee ever. It will get me home at an extremely late hour for my usual Saturdays. But this was a day well spent in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. 

Time is growing short for me in the Whites once again... July 16th will be here before I know it and I still feel like I have miles to go to prepare, mentally, physically, and gear wise. I've been dealing with some sudden joint pain (elbows, fingers, and knee) this week and it has thrown me for a loop... But my philosophy is to walk it off and today, I did just that. We'll see how I feel tomorrow. This is the hazard of my medical condition I am sure. Considering how active I am, I can't think of what else it would except over use of my knee but even that is doubtful. I've added stretching to my routine and I'm considering strengthening too... But still, it's disconcerting and I need to take better care of myself for sure and that includes hydration wise and nutrition. I have a month to get myself in shape. All other aspects will work themselves out over time. I've also been thinking of my solo endeavors... It's something that I've just always been doing without question. I've always been comfortable out there with just myself or now myself and Isis. I've never really focused on what could happen and only focused on my capabilities and how those will carry me through any situation. I believe this to be my secret of my Thru's as well. If I let the doubt and the negative in, I'm sunk. Like so much of my life... I'll work it out, figure it out, and rise above or get back to the car in one piece. Today, made me a stronger hiker for not backing down and not completely losing my mind on those insane trails. I am so proud of myself and of Isis for also sticking it out. It shows how much she trusts me to not push her too far as we rested a lot today. It also shows that I have trust in myself to hike remote trail alone with confidence. I'll be working through the butterflies for the LT in the coming weeks. We'll see if I get to Webster cliff too, which would complete the AT for the Presidentials... I'm scheduling a few zeros and a possible 4 day shake down to rest up and prepare for July 16th. 

Thanks for following a long!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Imp Shelter with Rain and Laughter

Ahhhh, Mom nature... Always playing with my plans. I had a nice 15 mile day planned for today. All the way out to Middle Carter and back again via Stoney Brook and the Carter Moriah Trails (AT)... It was my back door entrance to the Carter's that I have a love hate relationship with. I figured that the entrance from the other side would give me a new perspective on this range. But then... Weather happens. 

Stone Brook Trailhead was surprisingly not full when I got there at 8:30ish but there was a fair amount of cars already there. Getting underway, you cross a bridge to start and the trail is decent. A nice little meander through the woods. Weather is cool and I've busted out my long pants, and heavier layer. I even put the gloves and hat back in the pack since well, we've had snow recently too. Making our way on the Stoney Brook Trail, we are passed by a large group of people but I keep to myself. They have a  dog with them so we hang back as well. Crossing another bridge over a mini flume, the trail then widens out. I'm enjoying the walk. Then we reach an actual water crossing that has bogged down the larger group. Isis and I wait and I grab my poles. We crossed upstream a little where the level was low. My foot got a little wet but in my trail runners, it will dry even quicker. 

After this water crossing, the trail continues to be wide but quickly shrinks and then starts climbing. I seem to be struggling a little and at that point I am going over my trip in my mind. Still determined to get the Middle Carter but open to altering plans too. I remind myself that we have plenty of day light despite the late start. Another smaller group comes up with some familiar faces in the crowd. Nice to officially meet once we got to a decent place to stop after a smaller water crossing. When they had initially passed, I was trying to feed Isis some treats so, Isis was a little mouthy. They continued ahead of me as I fed her once more successfully this time. Once underway again, this section has elevation and rocks to climb. I remind myself that this will all be down when we return... This helps me a little. I slow down. I breath and we keep going. there are several sections of rocky and watery gain and at a certain point, there is another, what I thought to be, solo hiker in front of us. We also ran into the Old Man and the Saw. Great to see him after almost a year I believe. Maybe longer. I caught up to the other solo and it turns out, she was with the larger group who initially passed me in the beginning. They left her as she was a slow hiker and I stayed close making sure she got up to the junction... Mind you I had words for the group as well as the trail and none we kind. You don't separate a group member for being slow. You hike to her pace. Separating is dangerous and while there were plenty of us on there trail today, what if that was not the case? Seriously people, common sense... There have been far too many rescues in these hills as of late. OK, I am off my soap box....

OK, prior to my tanget, I was climbing up Stoney Brook. At the top, where it flattens out, a skunk has made it smell pretty. Thankfully not on me or the dog... But that stuff lingers. At the junction, I bid the other hiker good luck and I also briefly thought of altering my plans to make sure that she was OK and made it to the summit where her group was waiting... But I also figured that if I did that,  would open my big mouth too. I would not see them at all after I took the split to the Imp Shelter and beyond. As we hooked onto the AT, the weather looked to be turning as well. Showers were in the area and I was not thrilled with that. The Carter Moriah range in general is a bunch of slabs and rocks to climb and this section is no different. Add water and this is a recipe for disaster or a severely turn ankle. I began thinking of calling it at Imp Shelter for the day but figured I'd see when I got there. As we climbed and gained and lost some elevation, I remembered why I have this love hate relationship with this area. It takes a lot out of you to hike and I need to take is slow or I'll get really frustrated with myself. Isis and I come to a section that is a little more open and run into Bill R (Great to finally put a face to the name), who has come from where we are going. The trail ahead is wet.... No way around it just wet and probably getting wetter with rain coming in. I'll hike in the rain if I have to (as in the LT) BUT if I don't have to, I won't. So, the Carter's can wait and we'll try and beat the weather down to the car by turning at Imp Shelter. I'm not in the least bit sorry for this decision. 

We come to several other open slabs as we make our way to the junction for Imp Shelter which is 300 yards off trail. I enjoyed several views of the surrounding area too. Who said you have to go to a summit to get a view??? We head down to the shelter and navigate wet rocks and trail. Everything is wet... But when we get down there, we chat up the caretaker Kristen who is from the West Coast. She's got the best job for the summer. We check out the area and the bench she had told us about. Isis and I take a seat and watch the clouds. We stop at the actual shelter and sign the book as well as find that several other hiker friends had stopped by last year... AT life. I so need to get back on trail for longer than a day (soon!). Then we bid Kristen farewell and begin our backtrack down to the car. 

It's a slow and steady trek back but the .7 from the shelter goes by quickly. Once back at the junction, we running a group of 3 coming off Mt. Moriah. They were under the impression that I was red lining today... Well, maybe one long red line from Georgia to Maine broken into sections??? Regardless, here is where it started to sprinkle and we didn't stick around because of this. Knowing the rocks and things we were facing, I wanted to get as low as I could before the real rain came in. There were a few slips and falls and one turned ankle incident which resembled a kind of graceful crumple to the ground rather than something violent with any cracking or popping. My ankle was no worse off so, all it well... Just a little dirty. Around the water crossings, I put my pack cover on but did not use my poncho or rain hat. Isis and I got across the bigger crossing just fine but I could tell that the water level was rising. I laughed all the way back to the car as we got wet and Isis would shake off her fur every now and then. Today may not have been all that I intended it to be but I was still proud of Isis and myself. We got out and fought through some pretty big elevation gain with a full pack and got another section of the AT, no matter how small. Everything counts. I changed out of my wet cloths and used a blanket on poor wet Isis. The coffee today will be great to warm up.... And this is June??

When I initially started hiking my first round of the New Hampshire 48, I was in therapy (for reasons unrelated to hiking)... We had discussed my love hate relationship with Monadnock and I was told that in order to continue on the quest for the 48 to combat my depression and anxiety, I had to conquer Monadnock first... To do this, I needed to take a different trail up than the one that always trip me up. This was successful for me and well, the rest of the hiking miles speak for themselves. Today, I figured I'd do the same for the Carter's since I really had had rotten luck over on 19 Mile Brook Trail. So, I may have swore all the way up and down Stoney Brook, but I also successfully altered my opinion of the Carter Moriah Trail out to the Carter's. I can take this way again to get to them and have no issues. It's amazing what happens to someone if you just take another route and get a new perspective. Dreaded trails or situations in life even, become a little better... Still a challenge but maybe something you are better able to over come. I continue to be thankful for everything that hiking has brought me in this life. I'm stronger for all of it. One month or 3 hikes left before I leave for the final leg of my Long Trail adventure. I cannot wait to be back home again on the trail. Rain or Shine. 

My gift on the way home... 115 a moose crossed right in front of my car and allowed me to take this picture. :)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Cascade Brook Trail to Lonesome Lake Hut.

It's such a small section, 2.9 miles to the Lonesome Lake hut is all I needed to complete trail miles on the AT from route 112 to route 302. Today was a beautiful day to walk those miles on the Cascade Brook Trail (AT). While most were above tree line, I stayed in the trees. Arriving at the Liberty Springs Parking area, I swear the rest of the world followed behind me... That parking area filled up quick. From the chatter, most were heading up Flume Slide (not my thing). I was relieved that at a certain point, I would have the trail to myself. Temps are way better than last week already. Seems like it's .8 on the White House Trail, which has a short walk on the bike path before I get to the actual Cascade Brook Trail. From here, it'll be 2.9 miles to the Lonesome Lake hut. 

Cascade Brook trail starts by heading under Interstate 93 and then there's the warning about the bridge wash out from Irene a few years ago... We'll see what happens today but I am betting the water is low. Tomorrow we will get 2 inches of rain, it may be different then. So, once I pass under 93, it's a decent walk in the woods. There's a gradual climb with great footing and it levels out well in places too. This gives me a nice break and allows me to keep a good pace but I do better on flat or down trails usually. 

All water crossings on this section are step overs. There is one I would classify as a major before the wash out but even that is just a trickle. We so need the rain here. A couple of other things happening on this section... I'm testing out carrying 7 days worth of food for my LT trip... It feels great on my back, I've got a new snack in the form of an Epic Bar in venison (So yummy, I want another box!), and I'm wearing a new sports bra which does the job well :) . It really was not long after the first major crossing that I came to the junction with the wash out. Getting down to water level, I find that it's very crossable and only use one pole for support in one place. Isis does well climbing the major rocks. Again though, we will have 2 inches of rain tomorrow so this condition will change. Today might have been the golden opportunity for this one. After the crossing, it's 1.3 miles to the hut. This day is going well and I have yet to run into a single soul. 

The trail turns rocky after this section and has a bit of an incline... Just enough to notice. Isis and myself ran into the trail maintainer taking care of the one pesky blow down that I don't need to report on now. He was a joy to talk with and I thanked him for his work. He just adored Isis but respected her stand offish behavior as she was not sure of him. I was toying at this point with returning by way of the bike paths but kept an open mind to see what I find at the hut. Following cascade brook to lonesome lake was really easy and very cool. I knew we were getting closer when more people started showing up. Some better equipped than others.

I really like Lonesome Lake Hut. It has some great views of near by Franconia Ridge and the lake itself is so inviting. Temps are cooler here and there is a nice breeze. But all the people... Yes, it's the busy season once again. Lots of noise which seems louder when you've been on a quiet trail by yourself. We head up to the hut after a group of 10 asked me to take they picture and found a quiet place to have some lunch. People are filing in and out and kids are running around. I had a great talk with an old time long distance hiker about the state of the Whites and people doing the 48 (it's almost trendy these days). It's a great place to start though that's for sure. Once I was rested, I decided to head back the way we came into the quiet. Heading down to the bike path is a busy trail... No need for that stress. We stopped back at the dock and asked a guy to take our picture which he happily did. Of course his son wants to pet Isis (who doesn't). I supervise but Isis growls which the father disapproves of... My dog doesn't have to like everyone... Sorry but that's just how she is. She's choosey and lets you know your place regardless of age. Heck, she does it to me too and I love her for it. We continue back to the junction and just tell people who want to pet her "no" as we pass. Again this is met with more jeers. Ehh, such as life.

Walking back to the car, we never ran into the trail maintainer again and the people disappeared once we crossed Cascade Brook. This was just a small but very cool trip that put things into perspective for me. I was able to crack 200 miles on the AT with this trip too. Looking forward still to longer trips and maybe a few summits in my future.

I decided about 3 years ago that I was no longer going to wait for anyone. It felt like for the longest time I was waiting for someone to do anything so, I took matters into my now hand and started making my own plans. I decided that now people were going to have to catch up to me... I finished a few rounds of the 48 in New Hampshire that way and since I have no one else I need to a account for, it's been easy for me to just pick up and go. But, people are more than welcome to tag along as always. Since I diverted to section hiking, I feel like this trail (The AT) is my home. It takes me away from the crowds and the craziness of the more popular trails. I find that I'm most comfortable in the woods with my favorite 4 legged trail partner, when it is quiet. I only wish I could Thru Hike a trail (longer than 4 days or 2 weeks) but, since I'm still working and love my job, plus maintaining my life at home single... I'll settle for those 2 weeks at a time to do some BIG sections. If I am still able to do this when I retire, my address might be the AT. While I am waiting for that retirement day, I'll continue to manage my life as it works for me... Pay down my mistakes of the past as I manage my own home and look forward to all the hiking I'll be able to do and all the places I'll get to see. Wanderlust is a beautiful thing.

I've got a month and a half to my LT trip... So excited for this and today's pack weight was pretty much full and felt fantastic. As for the AT, I'll be doing a few more small sections before I start cutting into the trail leading to Maine and Vermont. Once I am out of New England, the day hikes will stop and I'll be more reliant on vacation time for big LASH miles. I guess then, I may return to play more in the Whites... Maybe even pluck away at a grid a little more.