Sunday, May 1, 2016

Monadnock Sunapee Greenway End to End Hike.

I'll be there first to admit that I missed trail life... The chance to walk and think. The chance to meet some pretty interesting people and see some pretty amazing things that you never see from the sofa. It's hard at times and you want to give up completely at your worst moments but if you push on, something pretty amazing happens. You get to know yourself and your relationship with the world around you. I suddenly decided to do the 48 mile Monadnock Sunapee Greenway. I would take four days to do it which would give me enough time to get my legs under me and to test out some new gear for my up and coming Long Trail trip in July. 

Day One: 4/28/16 Dublin Trailhead to Crider Shelter. 15 miles.

The pack was heavy with all my provisions and some winter gear because it would be cold at night. Four days of food and snacks for both Isis and myself. We would start at the Dublin Trail trail head in near by Dublin NH (Close to my home in Jaffrey NH). The weather was cooperating with chilly temps in the AM so I was layered up at first. I said good bye to my mother who had dropped me off and would eventually pick me up (my biggest supporter). Heading through the hard woods we transitioned to a pine forest. The grades are easy for the trail with nothing over 3000 feet. It take me no time to get to Route 101 in Marlborough. Crossing here carefully for traffic. No issues with the trail so far and I'm just trying to get my head in the game and my feet under me. Isis is trying to eat every blade of grass and roll in anything she can find. The first thing we come to of interest is Eliza Adams Gorge which is beautiful and then a quick stop at Spitoir Shelter for a snack. I've run into two other hikers heading this direction. At least I know someone else is out there. 

 A nice walk by the Howe Reservoir Dam reminded me of 19 Mile Brook Trail... Except bigger. The trail itself has a lot of rural road walks to take which I was aware of but somehow surprised by the amount. I was giving my trail runners a good test as I imagined that walking this in boots, I'd be feeling it immediately. At least I had some cushion. 

Another pass by the Childs Bog Dam and we walked through some pretty open areas. A stop for lunch brought out a new tuna packet to try. Packed in sunflower oil for extra calories. This really worked for me. Passing under route 9 using the underpass was interesting and creepy all at the same time. Heading into Stoddard via logging and local dirt roads I came upon the site of the recent forest fire. How much Isis wanted to roll in the soot! And how much I held her back. this area was depressing and while I love the smell of a campfire, I am not a fan of a forest fire smell. It was too much for my nose. 

It wasn't long after this that Isis and I reached our first stop for the night. Crider Shelter. After starting at about 7:30am, it was now around 3:30pm... For a 15 mile day on a full pack, I thought that was pretty good. Only one minor hot spot to tape up. We set up camp and were joined by the two hikers we had met earlier. Dinner was served with a healthy side of black flies. I had chosen my turkey, white bean, and sweet potato chili over rice. Great choice! Really enjoyed it after that long day. Isis was fed and chores were done. The black flies drove us into the tent though, instead of being social. I don't know how those two hikers stayed in the shelter. But it was cold so the bugs eventually went away. I have to get use to sleeping in a one man/one dog tent... It's low so, you get dressed/undressed laying down. I brought my fleece liner and my 40 degree bag. Plus my winter shell and long johns with fleece socks. This combination did the trick but the adrenaline was still pumping so it was hard to sleep. Day two would start on very little energy. 

Day Two: Crider Shelter to General Washington Shelter. Washington, NH: 15 Miles

Day two started early around 6:30am due to lack of sleep and getting chores done. Needing water, we stopped by the lake for breakfast... Traditional 2 packets of oatmeal and coffee. Nice view. I breathed in and felt the trail come alive. Today would be a hard fought day. Day two usually is. We were heading up and over Pitcher Mountain. The two hikers I shared shelter with hiked on by and I kept my own pace. Going through some great forest land (Andorra Forest) and eventually coming out the parking area for Pitcher Mountain where the two hikers from the shelter were taking a break and making plans. It was also in this stretch that I came close to seeing a bear... I saw fresh scat and heard some movement so I too made movement and sound. While I wanted to see the bear... I'd really like to stay safe. 

A word about this section of my day... Confusion. The two other hikers took the road by Pitcher. I did as well. But they kept going on the road instead of going to the summit. I went to the summit. Got turned around a few times... Each time ending up at the parking lot so, I did the road twice to the turn for the summit trail and the extended road road walk which added miles. This about killed my spirit BUT, I pressed onward. Determined to make it to the shelter for the night. This part gets very tricky as it's not well blazed and neither is the summit. You travel through grasslands and over some pretty good size hills. With a full pack and a bit of a frantic head for mistakes, it takes a lot to gain concentration again. It's hot and the bugs are out... Makes for a challenge. Then there is a reroute due to beaver activity. I'm not sure if this added or subtracted miles. It felt like an addition. this was a steep down and then a decent flat section leading to a road in Washington NH. I was happy to see this but my feet were pounding from the road walks. Pressing on, we made it to the Clark Robinson Memorial Forest... Almost to the shelter. You just have to climb the BIG hill with ledges and lots of black flies. UGH! Who's idea was that??? The hill was Oak Hill... I'll never forget that one. 

I had run into three other hikers at the top of Oak Hill. I had hopes that I would not be sharing a shelter with them. Being a solo female, you listen to your gut. I was making plans to stealth camp but got to the shelter first and chanced it. My two other companions on the trail arrived from the opposite direction... they had taken an extended road walk instead of going over Oak Hill (I'm not sure what was worse). They were calling it quits and heading to Washington General Store for dinner. I was having Steak with Mashed potatoes and Gravy. This was also a winner of a combination... All together in one bowl. The three other hikers did pass by and my other companions departed to meet their ride. General Washington shelter is privately owned and you can see the owners house from the actual shelter land. No cell service even though the home is that close. But Washington always seemed to be a dead zone. Great water source and an enclosed privy. I enjoyed this shelter and sleep was a little better. I turned my 40 degree bag into a quilt over the top of Isis and myself. This worked like a charm. Ready to do it all over again for day three....

Day Three... General Washington Shelter to The Steve Galpin Shelter at Moose Look Out.
15 miles. 

Starting my day off pretty close to 6am. Legs are tired still. The third day on a Thru is always tough as you wait to get your legs under you. That comes on the fourth day... But that is also my extraction point. So, the day starts off with a walk through down town Washington. This is not well blazed at all. I walked a little of route 31 and get on track. Heading on a side road through the town, I wait to head back into the woods. Lots of hills to walk up. Give me some ledges any day but these flat hills under my pack weight are killing me. We turn finally down another road (Lovewell Mtn Rd) that quickly deteriorates and is a muddy mess. The blazing is poor here too so I turn back feeling very discouraged by this. But decide that I'm going to press on. We turn back into the forest and are climbing Lovewell Mountain. To my surprise, this is a pleasant climb. just under 2500 feet tall with a great trail leading up to the summit. 

The day is hot so, I am thankful for the shade trail which also takes the bugs away. After Lovewell Mtn, it's a hard fight through Pillsbury State Park land with all the PUDS on my way to my shelter for the night. I will admit to tossing out many F Bombs as the bugs fly in my mouth and up my nose. I will admit to loosing it completely and wanting to head down to Pillsbury Ranger station to get picked up... But, I sat and had a snack and then pressed on. Slowly but surly we climbed hill after hill and enjoyed some pretty fast sections too. The woods seems to be dying here though... Not a spot of green save for some plants just starting to poke through the ground. Everything is late this year. The trail itself is decent but I have noted very little water for a dog to drink freely. We make it to shelter again around 3:30pm. Always with a sigh of relief. My pack is getting much lighter now as the trip wears on. It seemed as though we would have the shelter to ourselves again. So, I did my chores and fed Isis and myself. This was a real test... Dehydrated chicken chunks and Zatarand's Cheesy rice... Wow! That was about the best dinner I could ask for. Really filling and perfect after a hard fought day. Again though the bugs were out in full force which sent us into the tent. I eventually decided to close up the outer fly and try and rest. Around 7:30pm, Isis begins growling. I'm not hearing much so, I try and calm her. Then I hear rustling. I call out and a man answers. Hmmm.... Guess I won't be alone tonight. I poke my head out in the dimming light of day and see that 3 hikers have arrived. They are seasoned AT section hikers... One by the name of Zenith and the other Mike. I never got the third's name. Classic guys in long white beards. Trail hardened. Zenith is a talker... He's a gear head talker. I entertain until the people are shadows. I try and sleep to the sounds of them setting up camp. Thankfully two of the hikers are soft spoken. Then when all is quiet, the loudest snore erupts soon after Zenith's last words... He warned us he snored but how does he fall asleep so fast?? I did not get a lot of sleep... Note to self: EAR PLUGS! Time for day four... Summit extraction day. 

Day 4: Steve Galpin Shelter at Moose Look Out to Mount Sunapee. 7.6 Miles including Summit trail to the parking lot. 

Giving up early in the morning around 5:30 means that I get an early start... This is good because according to Zenith, it's gonna rain. They are heading SOBO and planning to stop either in 5 or 11 miles. I was treated to a pretty decent sunrise which was viewed from of all places... The Privy! There's no door here but there are walls at least because it is visible on a hill from the shelter. Same old routine of breakfast and chores. The guys pack up pretty quickly and seem to get under way. I was not far behind them. With only 7.6 miles and a ton of ledges between here and Mt. Sunapee, I want to get in as much as I can before the rain really comes. .2 heading north there is a great stream for water. I'd say it rivals the Garfield tent site spring and Liberty Spring as well. I only take 2 liters since it will be short and cool to hike today. Isis is tired but I've discovered my legs... I can crank it out today. A lighter pack too since most food has been consumed.  This stretch is really about getting up and over the hills and walking the ridges. at .5 is Lucias Look Out. A little view here and we sign the register. A ridge walk provides a break on my calves. I am enjoying my walk out today.

We head down to 2400 feet and walk a flatter section before heading up to 2600 feet for a while. The rain is starting to pick up and I ask my grandfather to hold off the heavy stuff until after the ledges. I take one slip of a spill but recover nicely. The pack cover comes on as I skipped the liner. Isis is shaking off excess water. Our next stop is Lake Solitude which is down a piece from 2600 feet. But it's peaceful and sort of Lonesome Lake esque. There's even a random chunk of ice in my path. We then come to Jack and June Junction making the final push to the summit. Gotta head up 100 feet. 

Climbing, we break out to the ski trails and I remember how hard it was to head up this way on Bromley. The terminus comes into view and I just put my head down and go. Standing there, in the rain which is now falling harder, I get my summit shot and find the summit trail down. It's now 2.1 to the parking area and a short wait for my ride with two pop tarts and a packet of tuna. I feel very much accomplished and pleased with how my gear performed. I'll be subtracting some things and adding a few others. I'm looking at food and how much I will carry and that includes water. While the inline filter helps, I may not fill the 3 liter bag up so much on the less humid days. I learned so much about myself and my hiking style in this short time. I never thought I had it in me (or Isis for that matter) for a 15 mile day. All in all a very successful trip from Dublin New Hampshire to the top of Mt. Sunapee. The adventures will continue though.... After a zero weekend next weekend. 48 miles earns me that much. And a patch too. ;)

I should also note that while I waited for my ride, there was a massive gathering of EMTs/and Paramedics at the base... I was well taken care of and checked on often. Thanks for reading and stay tuned.... 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Little Guys... Morgan and Percival.

Never underestimate the little ones... I'll never forget this now. So, today I decided to explore Mt. Morgan and Mt. Percival. I needed to work with the ladders and figured that the ledges would also help as I prep still for the next section of the LT coming up in July. The pack is full (minus a full supply of food). I was the third car in the parking area and I am sure it will be full on return. The morning is crisp and I set out with Isis in my new hiking skort from EMS... I am never going back to traditional shorts. I loved it that much. I kept a long sleeve layer on due to wind and in the shade it was still chilly. The start of the Mt. Morgan trail is great. The trail is wide and while the leaves are plentiful, they are not slick. My trail runners are perfect for today. After a few muddy sections, we start to gain some elevation and walk through some beautiful hard woods. It's a perfect spring day. We reach the ladders on the Mt. Morgan trail and this is my test. I look at the first two and see clearly that I have some room to stand after the first one. Transferring to the third one would be tricky. So, I pick up Isis (who trusts me to no end) and we climb the first one. She's not too sure about this and I pause for balance. But I look at her and we back down the ladder. This is not right for us. I did not like the balance with my full pack and her so, I took the by-pass trail. I will do the same for the LT. Safety is first as always and while I am willing to try things, I am equally able to listen to myself. I would hate if anything happened to Isis because I tried to over step our comfort. 

From the by-pass it's .2 to the summit (there is a patch of ice here but it can be by passed as well) and we stop at the outlook for a beautiful view of the Squam Lakes region. A break for some treats and a snack for myself is in order. The breeze in combination with the sun is just heaven. It's only a short trail up to the actual summit which is treed in for the most part. You can see over them a little. Next up is to get to Mt. Percival which is a .8 trek over the ridge.

The Crawford Ridgepole trail is fantastic and reminded me of the section of the LT from Porcupine Look Out to Goddard Shelter. I was completely at ease walking over to Percival and enjoyed peak out views and some boulders to climb on and over. The trail runners have an excellent grip so, I'm feeling confident here.

We come out to the summit of Mt. Percival and find a few others have hiked up fro this side. We chat with them for a bit and get our summit picture taken (traditional with me holding Isis). The view is amazing here too and the rock face is warm in the sun but cool with the breeze. You can't help but smile today. I check out our descent and think we can manage the boulders from my view up high. On our return to the summit, everyone wants to know how Isis does on rocks and things and I tell them that she does well but I will only push her so far. We know we have a task to get down from Percival and I'm perfectly willing to backtrack if I need to with her but I will try it. Another dog arrives at the summit and Isis is not to thrilled with this one so, now is as good a time as any to descend. It starts out as if you are just walking off the peak. It's rather steep but I can maneuver the scrambles with enough space to pause and recover. Isis is also doing well. we get to a tricky spot where I need to take off my pack and drop it down. I go first and then Isis in my arms after a tricky maneuver to turn around and get her. I retrieve my polls and reattach them to the pack I also meet up with again. I'm ready for the next section that is a little more open. I'm feeling a little shaky after that tight squeeze and now I am staring at some pretty open spacing and a cave... full of ice... and snow. Not for not being prepared but more for Isis and my sanity I study the rocks. I try... Nope. Not secure enough and awkward to maneuver to get Isis down. I had said we were committed but here, I uncommitted us... We had to go back up and I was not happy. Back through that tight squeeze... My pack is FULL. I unclip Isis and hoist her first to a spot out of the way. Thankfully she sits and waits for me. I straddle the rocks and try and lift the pack up with little room to balance and hoist it over y head. It's awkward to fit through such a tight spot and get it far enough away that I can get up again. I literally spin it end over end through the tight squeeze and it lands far enough away and I am hoping my gear is not getting destroyed. I then squeeze myself through and awkwardly stand. My legs are shaking. I put the pack back on which is another awkward straddle and we continue. The scrambles open up at this point again and we arrive back at the summit. I think both of us swore and breathed a sigh of relief at the same time. I stop for treats... Lots of treats and I apologize for even thinking that was a good thing. Thankfully we have done the ledges on Camel's Hump on the LT and Mansfield and know what to expect. We'll be fine there as I know they are much more open. So, back over the ridge and I'm actually happy for this. I just really connected with this section of trail. We run into more hikers coming over the ridge and all are having a great time. Everyone's pretty respectful of my requests to not try and pat Isis who's still pretty stressed from our re-ascent of Percival. We round the trail and begin to descend Mt. Morgan feeling much better. (The following pictures are the descent and ascent of the Mt. Percival Trail)

Walking back the way we came, was just as enjoyable as doing the loop. The temps are perfect and the sun feels really warm. We stop a little more often for treats and I let Isis roll in the leaves a little more than usual. We land ourselves back at the car  and to a packed parking area and I can feel the day in my legs. Once I carefully change to drive home (it's a busy ay here with kids everywhere!) we head for coffee. Isis sleeps the majority of the way home. She deserves it!

This week, I almost cut the top of my pinky finger off... In the ED, I asked the doctor "Can I still hike?" after he stopped the bleeding and had me bandaged up. Yes, it's that important to me. So, today was also done with a bandaged and protected finger (metal cap on my pinky). My point is that hiking and being outside is really important to me and I don't know what I would do if I could not be out here. I'm not the fastest, most agile, or graceful hiker. My dog is not the most well behaved or social dog... But none of that stops me. Today was the epitome of hike your own hike for us. We did what we could. Tried a few things we thought maybe we could do and we were OK with turning back and taking by-passes. I got my answers for when we hike the Long Trail coming up in July. Our route will be the easiest and least stressful route. After all, what good is something that stresses you out? I really just want to enjoy the sun and the trails with my reasonably well behaved dog. I'm at an age where it's not important to go on the longest hikes in a day any more or going out in outrageous conditions (like the ice age that is the Whites right now). But really, never underestimate the little guys. These peaks were under 3000 feet and had the potential to really do some damage. Today was a good day... What I have planned for later in the week will hopefully further satisfy my Wanderlust. See you on the trails!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

My Own Hike on Mount Major and Straightback

This morning I was intending on Whiteface and Piper in the Belkanps. Since doing the traverse two weeks ago, I figured I might as well go get one more patch (with a shrug of my shoulders for enthusiasm) . With the increase in day light, I procrastinate getting going and end up leaving the house a little after 6am. This felt pretty good to me since it's not a HUGE trip. We tried to make our way to the trail head for Whiteface, we followed the directions and got to the paved circle at the end of the road... Didn't see the trail. It's not well marked and I got out of my car to look for it. There's a basketball hoop in the circle as well. This does not make me want to leave my car there. When my gut speaks, I listen. So, we headed back towards Mt. Belknap and then ultimately we went to Mt. Major. I changed my plan to go up Mt. Major and possibly over to the Quarry Peaks and maybe Mt. Rand. It was 9am at this point and the trail head for Mt. Major was already busy. I headed out with Isis and my now full LT pack (no food but all gear is now packed). It feels good on my back and we're moving pretty good up the trail. 

The Belkanap Ridge Trail from this end starts as a wide dirt path and slowly comes down to a traditional trail. This mountain is very well traveled and popular with hikers and non-hikers a like. Isis and I begin to hit some of the ledges and with recent rains and the ever present below freezing temp (for Spring), there is ice on the ledges. So, since I have Isis with me, we by pass the icy ledges. I have my spikes but when given an alternative route, I'll take that over gearing up. The bypass is free and clear. We navigate the slabs and pop out to the stone structure on the summit which is surrounded by dogs and people and noise and we're off to Straightback. The larger puddles from recent rains have frozen again but they are melting in the chilly sun shine. The blue and Yellow blazes are easy to follow and we duck back into the trees. Walking through the woods, I start to feel less and less like I want to just hike the peaks today. Something different is calling me. I make note of the turn for the Brook Trail as well as the Spur for the Quarry Trail. We continue up the slabs to Straight Back Mountain. No one is around after we passed 4 people on our way here. I stand at the summit post and look at the directions on the post. I consult my map (Thanks Kim!). I consult my heart... The latter is the one that screams the loudest. I'm just not interested in peaks today. I am interested in being in the woods. We are greeted by a kind stranger coming back from a side trail. 

We end up chatting about how nice this range is and how when you move back this far on the trails, away from Major and Belknap, there's hardly any people. I tell him my plans even though I really have no intention of going to the Quarry Peaks. We part but I am sure that I will run into him again heading back to the spur. We cross the one minor crossing and on the slabs we find him changing his socks. We get into another conversation about the White Mountains and our lack of enthusiasm for those peaks lately (outside of the tremendous ice age that seems to be happening now). He tells me that there's so much more to see out there without saying a word. He's right. Isis and I hang back for a bite to eat and to give some space. Isis gets some treats as well. She loves her Merrick Power Bites and today we are finishing up the salmon flavor. This is just something I discovered would keep her going on the trails. Especially when we do longer trips for multiple days. Thanks to Merrick for giving us a supply of Power Bites and Back Country Treats for our up and coming Long Trail back packing trip in July. Isis and I are forever grateful. The trails out to Straightback are frozen leaves and mud but not so frozen that my feet don't sometimes sink in. My trail runners get wet but as I move they dry out. This is also true for my darn tough socks. All of this is in prep for my next leg of the Long Trail. I take the turn up the orange spur trail for the Quarry Trail. I figure I'd give it a try. We cross a small stream and head into the hard woods. It's a beautiful area but I'm just not feeling it. I'm not feeling like chasing peaks any more. I don't need another patch. I just want to take a walk. So instead of forcing myself, I turn back. We get back on the BRT and head for the Brook Trail. This will lead us out to the car. 

Once I get back to the turn for the Brook trail, it's 2.7 back to the parking area. The trail is a mix of rocks, water, mud, leaves, and erosion. I'm saddened by the amount of ware on the trail. So many boots on it and it's more like a dirt road than a trail. I reach a few minor crossings and get my feet a little wet. Today, it's still cold but I have two things on my side, I'm heading out to the car, and I don't have far to go. The trail runners do their job again and dry out fast. I start to think of my next big trip and realize that I don't need to train like I did last year... I'm ready. The pack has been full all day and I'm not even feeling fatigued and I am confident that once I add the food, I'll still be OK. The crowds are building and with that comes a lot of dogs. Isis does well to keep to herself but I do step in the way of a few that charge. I'm proud of her as always. People are hiking in various stages of prepared to not even close to being prepared but that is the nature of this mountain. No lecturing. I'm just looking to get back to my car. I've got bigger things to tackle now. I do like this area and I would like to visit it again sometime. Maybe when the crowds calm down or on a week day (much like the Whites). 

My journey started 5 years ago hiking the 67 peaks of New England... Some I've hiked several times over. This part of my journey has ended for now as I explore these new passions.... I've been feeling a bit of wanderlust lately and peak bagging is just not going to satisfy this heart any more. I still love the views and I still love mountains. I'd just rather hike for longer stretches and see different areas of the country. I need to stretch my legs! I still like the White Mountains of my home state and when the ice melts, I've got some hiking to do there still (to complete this state in my plan). I just won't set foot up there until I feel it's safe for me and my dog and more than likely when it's not super crowded or during the week if I can score a week day off. I've just had enough of the crowds and the egos hiking out there these days. I'm trading in my peak bagging for something that satisfies my desire to see new views rather than the same ones over and over. I want to feel that WOW again when I come to a vista and gaze out. I want to feel myself collapse from the expanding horizon as I look out from a new peak. I'm going to focus my attention on the Appalachian trail and some of the other trails in this area: Monadnock Sunapee Greenway, New England Trail, and of course finishing my Long Trail. Trading one of those trail for the AT when I can't get to a section without a vacation. There are still peaks for me to climb. I'm just hiking my own hike in a different direction. We all have our own passions that call to us and I can't really ignore this one any more. Since I can't take six months off to hike the trail non-stop, section hiking will be the way to go. I'll finish what I have left in New Hampshire but that will take me away from the peaks and into the woods. I'm so excited for this and can't wait to share it with anyone that will listen or read about it. I just need some time to plan my trips and figure out how I can do this with myself and my dog. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Belknap Range Trail Traverse.... For the WIN!

As the week moved on, I went from hiking one or two peaks in the Belknaps to a traverse. Thanks to my friend Kim whom I contacted for info on Mt. Major, she suggested picking me up at Gunstock and hiking with me for a bit. I jumped in with both feet! Studied my maps and a few blog posts... Thought briefly that I may do a patch in one day. Set my alarm for 2:30am.... This is serious business today. I got to Gunstock in just under 2 hours. Kim followed shortly and I'll be damned if I can remember the way to Mount Major's trailhead. I was half asleep still and hoping that Connie and Isis would not fight (they didn't). We both got suited up and hit the trail. The trail itself is well maintained but in the early AM, there will be ice for a while... Black ice. A couple of sections of rocks to climb around but still a quick ascent. It seemed to get light quickly and as I noticed my headlamp dimming, I just took it off. I could see well enough any way. But we both missed some sections of black ice going up to the summit which made for some laughs. The sun rose while we were heading up and it was beautiful. Of course it got even better at the summit with views all around. We chatted with another group that was already up there and snapped a few pictures. I loved the feel of this hike already and the day felt like it would be a success. Kim and I along with the dogs, headed over to Straightback next. The trail reminds me of Mount Monadnock and that makes it a little easier. 

At straightback, we are set to part ways. Kim has things to do today and Connie is an older dog. She had a blast out there today though and the big smile I saw was proof. I was glad to share the morning with them and have a great conversation up the trail. Some things, you cannot get when solo hiking. But both have their benefits. One things for sure, it was a great morning. I'm ready to do this traverse now. Next up for me is Mt. Anna... But not before I once again fall on my butt with the black ice. I'm good though and I'm also enjoying my trail runners instead of my winter boots today. The trail over to Mt. Anna like I said, has some black ice and some really obvious ice. You're back in the trees for some of this but the views peak out. Isis and I happen upon a heart shaped red marker and I need to stop for a photo. It was not long from here that we hit the summit. Walked out to the view and then started for Mt Mack. 

There are a few ledges to contend with in this section as well as some down trails to get to the next summit. I had imagined the ups and downs prior to hiking today and I was pretty spot on. I'm also realizing that this is actually a pretty tiring hike for us today. Not even aware of the time, I declare a second breakfast because first was in the car. With treats, we are underway and after a few switchbacks, we arrive at Mt. Mack. A small sign post on the trail. And then we open up to views. 

I believe we passed over Mt. Klem without too much recognition as the next thing I spotted was Round Pond.... Do not let your dogs drink for this as the there are beavers in the area and leaches in the water (Thanks Kim!). This section really reminded me of the LT and we eventually stopped for lunch on a rock... Hickory Smoked Tuna packet (not a favorite at this point). With renewed energy, I declared my intent to hike the BRT to the end. Heading up a pretty steep and slick section of trail, I had a few different thoughts and some were not very positive. We'll see what happens. My key to hiking is to remain flexible. But I had no idea of bail outs since this was new. I needed to go by the map and see. Shortly after this up and a flat section followed by some stairs and a few boulders came.... A boulder field. I'd later find out that it's full of ice flows and a tricky spot. I was glad that I decided to back track and take the long way up to Belknap by the Round Pond Piper Link. It added miles but, I didn't have nearly the trouble I would have. A step section and I'm back on the white trail at the split for Piper. We'll leave Piper and Whiteface hanging for another day. Time to get to Belknap, Gunstock, and Rowe.

The trail up to Belknap has some more serious ice flows but you can get around them. There's a few ledge sections before it finally opens up to the tower site. This section of the trail after taking the longer way to avoid the bolder field seemed to take a lot longer than I thought. We rested briefly after disturbing a couple who didn't seem to want to stick around and then being charged by a dog so we didn't stick around. Time to get over to Gunstock was what I told the owner. It's been a long day but so worth it. My feet are getting fatigued at this point but I push. Again, there is a down trail with ice and followed by the up with ice and small edges. All are avoidable and that makes it go by quickly. We pop out at the rescue shack and are immediately called over by one of the rescue squad. Isis gets all the love! I am always amazed at how many people are drawn to her... But she's only drawn to me. I soak up the sun beating off the snow and we bid the rescue squad farewell. Time to get this thing done. Mt. Rowe is next.

Here is where it gets tricky and if you're not careful, you are heading down the wrong trail... You need to follow the white blazes. I accidentally got on the green blazes and then on the orange ones because it's not clearly marked on the map and the trail signs are tricky... If you find yourself on the orange trail, you are heading to the base of the carriage road and trust me, it's a STEEP climb up that green trail. Isis was not happy and neither was I. But once corrected, it's a flat walk for a while. We begin to head down and I think we are descending and I missed the summit. To my surprise, we are right by the ski trails with skiers coming down... One had to stop for a pee. Thank goodness he saw me. This of course has happened to me too. As we turn, I see signs and they tell me that I have 1.7 to the summit. OK, still more to go... Gotta buck up. We hike and hike and lucky for us the trail is pristine and easy to travel. We begin climbing and leave the ski area. I recalled seeing steep written on the map for the descent back to the parking lot... Wondering about that. We take in a view of the ski resort and I spy my car in the parking area.

Isis and I reach the summit which is nothing more than a transformer station. So, for ending sake, I take a selfie with my favorite trail partner and prepare for our steep descent... Down an access road. Not so steep but still jarring on the feets that are tired. We wind our way down and back to the car around the lodge to the parking lot. Cross the parking lot happy as can be and I raise my hands in victory at the car. The guy in the car parked near by must have thought I was crazy. Loaded Isis in and then got ready to head home. What a fantastic day and the win that I was most definitely looking for over the past few weeks. 

I wish I could tell you the exact miles of my route... I think it was around 15. Eight summits and a full day on the trails makes that a great day for me. One that I sorely needed. My company at the beginning of the day added a long missing element and I'll alway cherish those conversations and realizations that maybe what you are going through, is not so unique. Today was about the hike for me. Just getting out on the trails, being in the woods, and away from the noise and the vibe of civilization. With the exception of Gunstock, I had the trails to myself and only met a few along the way for my solo sections. I was able to focus and hike and when things got a little tough, I was able to talk to myself and keep going. I really felt in the spirit of the LT today and I cannot wait to get out there this summer. That spirit is hard to describe unless you've done any long distance hiking... It's sort of this feeling of family and support that goes beyond your regular family. This is your trail family and they are waiting to spend time with you at the shelter when you come to rest your head for the night. It makes you smile and makes you feel as though you can do the impossible. I love the hiking life! Hope to see you out there some day. Thanks for reading.