Saturday, June 27, 2015

Humbling on the Tripyramids

Today was full pack day for me... A weeks worth of my food, Isis' food, and the remainder of my cloths were now in the pack. I was at capacity. So, what do I pick for today's hike? Tripyramids. These are not my favorite peaks. They are not even my second favorite peaks. The last time I did them there was snow on the ground. So, yeah, let's close June and do a full pack training run. AND we're going up Sabbaday Brook Trail and Down Pine Bend Brook Trail. It was going to be a long full day and I knew it. I just didn't REALLY know it until I was in it. So, I got up and got everything in the car and we headed down the road to Exit 32... Into the Kanc and we drive past the trail head for Pine Bend Brook. In hind sight, I really should have parked here and taken the road walk to Sabbaday Brook trail head but I can't change that now. So, there are a few people milling about some are staring at me as I get ready which can be very creepy when you are a solo hiker. So, I hoist the Beast on my back and feel comfortable. We start down the trail....

After a section of wide tourist path that is very well groomed, I decide to take the detour around the falls and I am not sorry about this. They are beautiful and my eyes sparkle with what they see. I really enjoy things like waterfalls and flowers and well, the little things. There are a few people on the board walks and all seem friendly. Some would be going on up the same trail as me... Mostly all, I would never see again. So, Isis and I continue walking and the trail gets narrower and narrower as it follows Sabbaday Brook. Then it stops. I look around, I think I see it across the brook, I start to cross and get to a center island and I see the trail continues on the same side I was just on... Back we go and we get over to the trail and keep going. It's a decent trail. At least it's pretty typical for this region. Not too muddy and rather even. Then it stops again... I look around to make sure I don't need to stay on this side... Time to really cross. I see the blaze on the other side and all rocks are submerged. It's time for water shoes and a little refreshing water walking.... It's up to my knees. Isis and I get to the other side and I change again... Keep walking down the trail a short distance to another one. We repeat this process about 5 times and some are pretty close to my upper thighs in depth. I'm awake now... I'm also a little cold. I really try to not let these water crossings affect my day but it was a little frustrating for me as water crossings cause me a lot of anxiety... Anxiety that stems for hikes past where I was judged as doing it wrong... I'm so aware of this fact that I try and work with it on the trails today. I try and turn this past into a powerful learning tool. This is how I work. At a certain point, Isis and I begin to gradually climb up the trail. No more water crossings and we enjoy the quiet... No road noise. No one else on the trail.... Heaven. With bear scat! Fresh too... So, I make a lot more noise. I'm ok with my noise. 

We have been following the upper sections of Sabbaday Brook and then we make a turn and I'm met with more crossings. I sucked it all in and resisted the urge to turn tail and run. I wanted to cry but I held that in too. Isis was really hating me and I can honestly say that I felt so bad. We continued and found one crossing was going to teach us a lesson. As I cross with Isis in my arms, I slip and I regain my balance. Then I step and I slip on a root and I go down. Isis goes down too. My first thought is not for the electronics in my hip belt pocket but for the sleeping bag at the bottom of my bag (not to self, put it in a trash bag!). Thankfully, only my ass and well, most of that region got wet. Oddly, my electronics were spared and my right shoe. The left shoe well.... I needed a break once I got out of the water. I wanted to cry. So, I ate something instead. Isis ate too but looked really upset with me. This was still just the beginning. I gathered my thoughts and told my demons to F off. We got moving again and dealt with more water... Then the up came in. The steep up of Sabbaday means business. We encounter scrambles and then slabs. Isis wants to play with sticks and at one point, I had to get stern with her. I love her playing but I count on her moving forward and we were on a pretty steep and exposed section. The slabs were slick and there were few hand holds. I did not want to fall here and I was a little scared. While I thought about calling it, I pushed forward. I pushed everything I had out there and we kept going. I sent a quick text to my mother to let her know that this would be a long day with very little cell service and not to worry. This made me feel a little better. I break when I can and try and keep my legs stretched out. I'm cramping with 45 lbs on my back but it still feels comfortable. It's been the use of my legs on this steep trail that is making me cramp up. We finally break out of this up and arrive at the junction. My pack comes off. and I look at my map. We are going out to Middle Tripyramid and then to North.... We'll go down Pine Bend. It was official. 

We make quick work of the ridge to the up for Middle Tripyramid. I feel better now and my legs are stretching out. We begin running into people and most are friendly. We again break as we head up to Middle Trypramid. I stop and take in my Tecumseh view and see that there are two others at the very small summit. We join them and they don't stay long. They pay no attention to Isis. They barely talk. The bugs are buzzing about and I manage to get a summit photo. I feed Isis a lot of extra treats and I have some tuna I had packed for myself. For just a blissful moment, we had the summit to ourselves and I was able to smile. Just a note here, I have not eaten nearly enough today... Anxiety does that to me. I forget to eat and just keep going to push through what ever I am experiencing. There are about 3 dogs getting ready to over take a very small summit. I am quick to try and get out but Isis starts barking. She's a dog, she barks. Why is it that some other owners view this as an issue? I really don't care if she barks at your dog. I'd care more if she tried to do other things. but really, she's just barking... She's not a monster. We try to make our way quickly down but my feet get tangled in each other and I need to slow down or fall. We are over taken by another couple and an AMC group. We chat a bit but I don't want those other dogs to catch up. The question of the day for the AMC is whether to go down Pine Bend or Sabbaday. I fill them in on my experiences and my choice. Back at the junction, they are debating the crossings. I tell them that at the worst, they get a little wet and it's actually refreshing. Then another dog comes running up to the group. No owner in sight.... I yell "Who's dog is this". The owner catchs up wanting to know the problem. I keep Isis sort of calm but again, she barks... The ugly look comes out... She's a dog. She barks. I swear that I'm about to loose my mind. Have we become that perfectionistic that now our dogs cannot bark? Besides, you should have a visual on your dog at all times.... But I'm not going there. The AMC group is going down Sabbaday and Isis and I are bound for North. The trail quiets and my mind settles again. I always have these strange experiences on these trails. I loved talking with the AMC group... My feet are getting tired and I'm looking forward to a good sit at the summit of North. I was planning on eating again there and feeding Isis too. There are a few ups and then a final push and I see people at the summit... Too many people.

We settle off the summit a little near some mud... Feeling a little put out by the larger group, I try and eat something and I try and feed Isis. The other dogs catch up and set Isis off because she was eating. The comment is made that she's anti-social. She's not anti-social, she's eating is what I say and begin packing up. The young guy in the fashion plaid shorts tries to apologize but, I'm really done. The owners of the other dogs were again, no where to be seen until they heard the commotion. Control your dogs. Mine is in control. We begin down the steeps and the sections are tricky with tired feet, a dog, and a crowd coming up. A crowd who is not stopping even though I am coming down a tough section. There is no room for... Another dog. Isis wants to go meet this dog. She's pulling me over with 45lbs of gear and everyone is taking up the space that I need to get to. I'm about ready to scream but I bite my tongue as I watch the bigger dog struggle and slide back down the steep rock. He does not want to do this either. Poor thing. I try my best to manage the situation and I get myself to a safe place and catch my breathe, my patience, and my balance. My legs are throbbing and all the dog's owner can say is that her dog gets along with every other dog on the trail? Come on... This isn't about the dog. This is about etiquette and the fact that the dog slipped down some pretty big steep rocks. I bite my tongue but I am really considering night hiking now and wishing for winter. It's so much easier to get down this trail in winter. You just sit down and go! I shake this off and the trail quiets again. Every bad experience with my dog comes flooding back to me. I feel bad. Why do I feel bad because my dog barks at other dogs? Why do I take all this to heart... It's my nature. It's my past shaping to who I am today. Can I please just get a break? I regret things... I can't change anything. And I love my dog more than my own life.

I pull myself together and I'm able to focus on all the lady slippers on the trail. It's a tedious trip down full of slips and falls. I ripped my hiking pants. I bruised my pride until I got through all the rocks and  finally hit the flat sections of Pine Bend Brook. Then I realized, I did it. I freaking did it. I carried a full pack for a long distance hike up and over the Tripyramids. No one else did this today. At least not that I saw. My pace quicker once I was on level ground and the remaining water crossings were a bit cumbersome and the mud was plentiful but Isis and I eventually popped back out at the road for the Pine Bend Brook Trail Head. The kids were coming down behind us and congratulated us for making it out. I smiled a thank you and kept walking down the road. It was a mile back to the car. I think this is where I killed my feet. We landed back at the car and ran back into the AMC group who proudly say they fell in the water crossings and could have cared less because it was a fantastic 11 miles on the trails. You know what, they were right. All of this dos not pale the fact that I had a fantastic training hike around the summits for the Tripyramids and that no matter what, no one can take that away from me. I could have given up but I kept pushing and the result was such a beautiful feeling and a beautiful day.    

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Beautiful Loop of Jackson and Pierce

I've been feeling a little guilty this week. It's strange really because I've also been feeling really good which is why I strangely feel guilty. I guess when you've been down for a while, to feel good is just strange. Well, as I continue to train for my Long Trail trip in August, I continue to be both in disbelief and in awe of the trip. It is so happening and I am so ready. Today, I put most of my cloths, and Isis' week supply of food in the pack and we went up Jackson and over to Pierce. I know... Busy area on a beautiful day, I am kind of asking for a crowd. The training must continue and I figured some intense gains at the summits would be good for us. The drive up was in perfect sync with how I've been feeling. Good music playing at my favorite hiking partner sleeping in the passengers side. We arrived at the Highland Center and got a parking space and were greeted by the Lupines. Time to start the day and at 8am, we hit the road walk to the Webster Jackson Trail. 

It's quiet on the trail this morning. There are people milling about and getting ready to head to their respective destinations. Isis and I head up Webster Jackson which is not that wet down low and of course rocky. I have not done this route since the trail was covered in snow so, it feels new to me. My landmarks are off and we begin to climb. It's a decent trail though and pretty easy to navigate these lower sections. Isis and I quickly cross some low crossings and dodge some mud. Trying to be mindful of not causing more damage, I stick to rock hopping over plowing through the mud sections. We are approached by a random dog who's owners are no where to be seen. A loud yell to them to control their dog and he's called back. Isis and I head to the first outlook that looks over 302. Beautiful views of the road and the Highland Center. I stop to take off a layer since is was chilly this morning and add that to my pack. This is a great test for myself today. The group with the dog have surely passed the outlook and as we are coming down. another group is coming up. Yes, busy day today. this group would catch up to Isis and I a little ways up the trail as we continue to climb over rocks and roots. We let them pass in favor of a take our time pace. No longer needing to race through, I told myself I was working on my Thru Hiker pace. We reached the junction of the Jackson Branch Trail in great time and took a food break. 

From here on up to the summit, it continues to get rocky and vertical. This is where the test comes in as Isis and I navigate the scrambles and the slabs. There is a family coming up behind us as well and I I can hear that they have children with them. The father is trying his best to direct them safely which is nice to hear. The sun is strong but thankfully, I have put on sunscreen and that includes on my legs and my ears. I am not burning today! The day so far is perfect for Isis and myself and I am feeling very strong and very peaceful. There is something about carrying over 40lbs up the summit cone of Jackson that is very empowering. The views go on forever once we crest the top and Isis and I settle in for a rest and some food. However, this is not before we are greeted by a golden retriever and his family. Isis barks a lot but quickly settles down to ignore him and he does the same. The family comes up behind us and I see that one of the little girls is in a skirt and I think sneakers or maybe crocks. Kids are amazing! My feet would be killing me. They are milling about and both the little girls want to pat Isis but don't seem to get close to her. I have something to eat and that includes the cherries I have packed for myself (with an extra ziplock for the pits and stems!). They tasted so good after that climb. Isis has some food after the retrieve vacates the summit. The views of Washington are clear and the day is just spectacular. 

We continue on the Jackson Branch Trail and head down the other side of the summit cone to head over to the Mizpah Hut. Once we navigate the steep down of the cone, we hit the water... I should have brought my hip wadders too (I kid, but expect to get your feet wet). I love this section of trail for the bog bridges and the wild flowers that line the trail are a nice treat. Since, I usually only travel this way in winter, today is a whole new experience for us and Isis has all these crazy new smells to smell. Me, I'm just smiling from ear to ear and loving this journey today. I cannot even feel my pack and my feet feel good too. There are a few downs to deal with before we level out and walk some pretty marshy and soft trails. The bog bridges help but again, expect to get a little wet. Even Isis is not letting this bother her and she is just powering through. I love how far this dog has come in terms of the trails. Again, we are taking our time and I know we are getting closer to the hut as we begin to encounter people. We hit the junction for the Mizpah cut off and have about 200 yards to our next rest stop, the Mizpah Hut.

There are plenty of people milling about. A group of guys has settled for a good amount of food and wine after completing a two day traverse of the Presidentials. Well deserved and in great spirits. I enjoyed talking with them. Isis and I met a few followers of this blog here and I'm sorry if I cannot mention you by name... The long day has pulled it out of me. But it's always great to meet everyone. I also meet Milo, another Shiba Inu who is hiking today... He and Isis have words but quickly settle again to ignore one another. Unless Milo caught her eye and then it was 'tude all over again. After some food and a good rest with a lot of laughter, we head up the steep section of climb to Pierce. Our final summit for the day. It's really not a bad climb and there are ladders to help out but Isis doesn't take them but, I do. There is some water to deal with of course but none of it is good for a dog to drink. Again, we are taking our time and trying to navigate a slightly more crowded trail. I remain in great spirit though and just keep going. We level out and navigate some slabs after the steep section and this is followed by some down trail too. Once we climb again, I know we are getting close to the summit. And as we make one last little push, we come to the cairn and the markers. we arrived at Pierce and the actual summit proper is quiet. There are butterflies and smaller birds fling about but no Grey Jays. We see down by the junction that there are plenty of people sitting and plenty of dogs too. we slowly approach them and find our own place to admire the view of Eisenhower and the other presidents. We've arrived at the Crawford Path...

I linger here as I really am not interested in wasting this beautiful day. We have our picture taken by someone who asked us to take theirs and I chat with people who are also soaking in the day. I head down low to the look out by the junction to head to Eisenhower and we watch the people approaching from that distant peak. It gives some perspective to the climb and I just watch as they come and go. At this point, I have seen a lot of different people but I never expected the amish group coming over from Ike. Complete with plain blue dresses and bonnets... Now I have seen it all but I am happy that everyone is enjoying this playground. I finish a lot of my food that I had packed for the day and after a while, we begin to make our descent of  the Crawford Path. Lot's of people coming up with their dogs and I had asked one couple to control their dog. The wife called him back to leash him and it was her husband who gave me a mirror view of a very sad time in my life. He was swearing up a storm about how he was carrying everything and that this trail was a basic "fucking" nightmare to him... He was nasty to her and I felt bad as I remembered a time when someone else was like that to me. As I passed, I thanked her for leashing her dog and I asked him to have a better day. He said nothing to me as I also passed reflecting on the fact that I've carried everything for myself for today and a long time.... Without a complaint. I'm in a fantastic place and so far from where I was. Still, I felt really bad for her and for the rest of the family that seemed to grimace as they ascended to the summit. I hope they were able to enjoy the day. After this, it was a pleasant trail and an easy hike down and back to the Highland Center. I was amazed at how much it actually fills in with snow as long forgotten landmarks were revealed to me. Isis and I landed at the Highland Center, I changed, she got her greenie, and we were bound for coffee and home. A fantastic day on this loop.

More than today being about training for the Long Trail, today was about Isis and how much I am so very proud of how far she has come. Yes, she will bark and she will protect me but when it comes down to it, she hikes her paws off and truly loves to be on the trails. I may have impressed myself by the load that I carried but Isis impresses me more as she goes over some pretty tricky terrain without help from me. We are a team and since we are leashed together, she and I work hard to understand our pacing and our timing. She has become my most reliable hiking partner and I believe that she understands my moods and what I am going through. She checks on me and when I need it, she stops me to climb a rock and look me in the face (and lick my face out of love). There has been a lot of coming and going in my life but Isis has remained... I am grateful and if someone else were to come into my life, they'd have to be accepted by her too. I have no kids of my own but Isis is my child. And it's crazy how the past is intertwined in my days lately. Having in a sense relocated professionally to a place in my past, I've been thinking a lot about those times in my life and I've been running into old friends. All the while, knowing that I am stronger and in a much better place than I have ever been. Thanks to these mountains, I am really enjoying my life and my simple good fortune. It feels good to hit the trails each week and I cannot wait until next weekend already.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mount Washington Stronger

I had a feeling that this would be a long day. I was being ambitious again and since I was finally able to pick up a pack for my Long Trail trip, I figured I would do a little "Packlimating" or getting acclimated to the load that I would be carrying. Forty pounds on my back and I decide to head up Mount Washington and since I wanted to see the Alpine Garden, I decided to take Nelson Crag to the Alpine Garden trail and then head up Lion Head to the summit. An ambitious day to say the least and I did not know all the details of what I was in for. I rose early at about 3:30/4am and we hit the road to a brilliant sunrise. I arrived at Pinckham Notch visitors center by about 7:30a and  we hit the trail but quarter to 8. The pack was already sitting well and I was able to move rather quickly. Old Jackson Road is rather flat and easy to walk. I enjoyed a little company of people both heading up the trail and down and some great advice from a section hiker, who told me to never be discouraged and to push on through. It gets better, he said and he is right. I was happy and for the first time in two weeks, my thoughts remained on the trail instead of feeling the stress of my week day. I had no clue what I was in for next. 

Old Jackson Road began climbing after a while and I think got me ready for Nelson Crag Trail. I know that this would be a challenge but I had no clue that it would be that much of a challenge. On top of the constant climbing, there were quite a few scramble sections which reminded me of Wildcat Ridge and other hand over hand sections of climbing. Now picture me doing this with Isis on leash and a 40 pound pack. I was feeling very accomplished now because of this and I was a little shocked to say the least but I was too far in. Not really though but going down would have been a little dangerous with Isis. So, we kept going with the noise from the auto road to accompany us and confuse us. I knew that we'd be crossing paths with the road soon as we continued to climb and hearing the cars just made me keep anticipating. We ran into a few souls on the trail and gladly let them pass. A couple with a dog who seemed overly concerned with me and Isis until I finally told them that I was not in the least bit of a hurry and I was not in the least bit bothered by the dogs barking. The gentleman however was and seemed very nervous and told me that he didn't feel like managing the situation. I just kept minding my own business. We continued to climb above tree line and noticed a group of three coming up behind us. We looked at the views and felt the breezes as we hiked. Isis was getting hot and I was conscious of her water intake, to the point that I was taking water to her in my hand from my bladder, but we kept going. Now, we were past the point of no return.

On our way the the Alpine Garden, we were already seeing plenty of flowers. Flowers so tiny, you really needed to look out for them and I was careful where I stepped. The sun was strong and the sunscreen came out. I was lucky that the pack allowed me access to my side pockets to both remove and return items so, I did not have to stop and take it off to get my sunscreen. The group of three caught up to us and we were recognized by Lisa who also introduced us to Ken and Section Hiker. We had a nice chat and then followed them with some distance. We caught up to them again close to the Alpine Garden at a food break and decided to join them. This was a good move considering what lay ahead for us. We compared notes on Nelson Crag and it was a unanimous "We're not going back down that trail" vote. It's too steep for tired feet. But, Lion Head would prove be a challenge too. I had not hiked with anyone for well over a year now and I have to say that it felt good to hike with company. Nice to laugh and to share stories. We all seem to run in similar circles even though I have been solo for a long time. Each of us just enjoyed the views above tree line. They were amazing today.

And we enjoyed the flowers in the garden.

The group of us came to the junction of the Alpine Garden trail (which is a nice flat 1 mile walk), and debated the summit. I was good either way to tell the truth but Lisa wanted to go up and see the crazy that is the summit in the busy season. So, we started up the 1 mile section of the Lion Head trail. This is a TOUGH section of a lot of rock hopping and navigating. I was feeling sluggish but I kept pushing. Thankfully, there was plenty of water for Isis who was being a good sport in the heat. We were all laughing and of course running into plenty of people. I lost track of how many times I had to explain that Isis was a 2.5 year old Shiba Inu who loves people but is not too crazy about other dogs and loves to hike. It seems to take a long time to get close to the summit and I got excited as I started to see towers. We navigated Split rock with a lot of help from Ken and continued up the rocks to the summit with hand over hand work. I was getting hot but the pack itself was barely noticeable for the weight I had been carrying. As Lisa had said "You are bad ass for carrying that around". I kept assuring her that I was just crazy and not actually bad ass. We would pause and look out at the view and drop a few choice expletives in a happy "I can believe the day" way. There was talk of a snack bar visit when we got to the top. We finally hit the Tuckerman's stairs and groaned to take them up because we are so use to uneven steps over the uniform stairs. The summit is BUSY and while Lisa and I got to the summit sign, we turn back at the line for it. We are covered in scratches, dirt, sweat, and that means one thing, we EARNED our summit. Driving up does not cut it with us. So, we opt for the snack bar. Section Hiker bought me a sprite and I was so thankful. I swear, I didn't even taste it as I drank it. We navigated the crowds for some shade and watch the people come and go. I didn't really sit and it took a lot to take off the pack... Mostly because I was unsure of my energy to get it back on. It's been a Looooooong day and we still have to get back down.

After a good rest and a lot of laughs, we began our slow decent of the mountain. Lion Head back down was tedious and a lot of tired steps over rocks that we all wished were covered in snow. We stopped at Lion Head and took in the view of Tuckerman's. Two hikers had not heeded the warnings of closure and were hiking down. Thankfully, they made it past the snow field that remained but what  risky and DUMB move on their part. We began to head back into the trees and I got that mixed emotional feeling. I wanted to stay up there BUT I also knew that responsibility awaited and I was also getting tired. Still, the pack on my back was barely a factor. I was just drained from the sun. Isis was keeping good pace and not really pulling me... Yet. We kind of separated between the guys and the girls and Lisa and I had a nice chat on the way down. I had missed this for a while and for as much as I LOVE my solo hikes, today called for moral support. There as a particularly tough section that I froze on prior to the Lion Head Ladder. The rocks were tricky and the pack was just so big. I was terrified and off balance. If it were not for Ken, I might have met disaster but we all got through it. I was only slightly embarrassed but still retained my "Bad Ass" title. I was now looking forward to going home and having my coffee. The trail became quiet as we all concentrated on our footings. Heading out on Tuckerman's was also tedious considering it was flatter and just filled with rocks. Tired feet trip but I also noticed that my arches were extra tired from gripping in my trail runners. I had also stubbed my toes a few times. Isis was getting antsy too as she was pulling me along. We stopped at the bridges on the way out and I had forgotten how many there were. All total, I believe there were 4 to cross and each on put me closer to my car. I walked with Section Hiker out and  we both agreed that having done this hike with this pack, I was more than ready for the Long Trail. What  fantastic day playing in the flora of Mount Washington. I landed at my car close to 7pm. A full day on the trails.

Today, the one thing that kept going through my mind was STRENGTH. It was apparent when I was on Nelson Crag and managing the hand over hand sections with my extra heavy load. I know I am in good shape and I am in awe of myself going over those scrambles and not even thinking twice with 40 pounds on my back and a dog attached to me by leash. I always remember at these times that it was not long ago that I was not this strong and really struggling with everything physically and emotionally. Today, I believe that I have over come a lot of set backs and proven to myself that I am a capable hiker in many ways. Today, I am stronger for my weaknesses and happy to have over come them. Two weeks of not feeling weighted down by stress and anxiety and walking tall. I cannot wait to see what happens over the next two months leading up to my Long Trail trip. I... Am... Ready.