Friday, October 2, 2015

Mount Moosilauke with a Chill

In a typical week, I start planning and watching the weather early. I had intended on either backpacking for the entire weekend or doing an over night at Isolation. Neither one of those panned out. The backpack because of the weather that was initially rain that almost threatened to scrap the whole weekend entirely. The over night of Isolation for 2 reasons: One, the cold weather tonight and Two, my 20* sleeping bag is not Ultra Light and would not fit in my pack. My winter camping gear is just not up to it. So, rather than chance it with my 40* bag and fleece liner (sure to freeze), or chancing it and trying to break in my new hammock with my 20* bag, I decided on Moosilauke. Knowing for me, any day away from home and in the mountains is a good day. I'll wait it out and see if we get one more warm weekend as I really would like some tent time before the season ends.

This morning, the weather was cold. I was dressing in my long pants, heavy boots, base and mid layer. I would also add my top layer wind jacket and a hat and gloves eventually too (at the summit). I got a later start than usual which didn't phase me. We arrived at the Ravine Lodge Rd around 8:30am. As a side note, 118 has been partially repaved! It was smooth sailing to the ravine lodge road and then a careful trip up the dirt road to park by the lodge. People were parking every which way so, I opted to park away from everyone to not get blocked in by a crowd. I got myself and Lil' Nugget ready considering this was the first time I had to put my boots on over just wearing my trail shoes. Once we got moving, the trail warmed up but I did start in 3 layers and went down to 2. We crossed the bridge and began heading up the Gorge Brook Trail, following it over a few bridges and eventually taking the newer section that reroutes around hurricane damage. I really enjoy this section of trail as it's mostly even and has a nice wandering feel to it. We come out and over a bridge and find ourselves at the Last Sure Water sign at 3300 ft. Lil' Nugget and I took a break here and had something to eat. It was not anywhere close to noon but lunch was on the menu with cheese and beef jerky. I would have had tuna but I didn't want to sit that long. 

This next section has a lot of elevation but it's not all at once. It's pretty gradual and easy. Lil' Nugget has way better hearing than I do and she begins slowing down and stopping, looking back, and waiting. So, I pull her over and sit her at the side of the trail and we wait for a group to pass. They have a dog who's apparently just learning to use the trails. His owner picked him up to pass as Isis just sat and only barked a little. Then we waited to give space. As we continued our climb, I realized just how easy today is for me where my first hike made this peak seem like something so much bigger. It's amazing what hiking for 4 years will do for perspective. We arrived at the first outlook which is always special to me. Continuing on, we passed the second outlook and knew that it would not be long to tree line. Before we got above tree line though, an unexpected 3rd out look presented itself. I was a little sad about this. There is no need to clear an outlook so close to tree line. Especially on a peak that is prone to being in the clouds.... A lot. 

 Shortly after this, Lil' Nugget and I broke tree line and began our final push to the summit. The wind has picked up only slightly and the skies are partly to mostly clouds. The good thing is though, I have a view today. I didn't need to layer up just yet as we weaved in and out of scrub for a little while. Then the view opened up to reveal the summit sign in the distance. I always love this perspective. It's sort of like coming out of a tunnel and the world opens up again. Lil' Nugget and I begin the final steps to the summit and pass who I think was a father son team. They seem cold in shorts, jeans, and cotton T-shirts. I explained to them that I start carrying winter gear at this time of year and I have my winter coat with me as well as several other layers. It's just smart hiking when the forecast says temps will be in the 30's at the summit. Finally, we climb up and stand by the summit sign. Someone has been sitting in the rock shelter for a little while eating lunch and waves. We chat for a while before we are joined by a 3rd person who warns that a high school group of 30 are on his heals. The three of us scurry around like mice and do pictures as well as finish up any conversation. The 3rd guy leaves first and the one I initially talked to follows after a brief introduction as Glen from New Zealand. I take a little more time but quickly decide to go when I hear the cries of "Ooooo a puppy" as each kid climbs to the summit. This will not end well I decide and we take off down the Carriage Road. On a side note, when you see a dog at a summit, don't overwhelm it. Leave it alone and if you really must approach, first ask the owner as respect her decision. If you are allowed to approach, do so for a very short time and don't overwhelm the dog. 

Lil' Nugget and I head down the Carriage Road and run into a few other hikers coming up. We detour up to South Peak and it's so quiet (yet I can hear the commotion from the summit as well as see everyone). I take a seat and enjoy my tomato soup in peace along with a few more pieces of cheese. I love this weather because hot soup on a summit tastes so good and the cheese doesn't have the consistency of warm something that has been in your pack for too long. It's actually still cheese. Lil' Nugget relaxes and settles next to me with her head on my thigh. I breath in and even though I do not want to go down yet, I know that I can't sit still in the cold for long. So, reluctantly, we scurry down the spur and back on the Carriage Road. We hook onto the Snapper Trail and before we know it, we are back at the junction for the new section of the Gorge Brook Trail. I talk with 2 nice older gentlemen who are looking for Hurricane damage from 1938 (?). Such nice conversations today! 

Lil' Nugget and I begin to run into the students form the summit again. They seem to all be converging on the lawn of the Lodge but there are several stragglers that seem to be puzzled by the trail system. I'd hate for one of them to get lost because a trusted adult was not with them. I happen to mention this to one of the faculty that was by the field. She didn't seem too concerned. It was my hope that everyone made it back to the lodge or waited for a faculty member that was up the trail and coming down. Lil' Nugget and I didn't really wait around because everyone was overwhelming. Once back at the car, I changed and gave Lil' Nugget her treat for completing the hike. We were on our way back home in no time but not before thoughts of swinging over to Tecumseh again. 

I passed on Tecumseh since I knew that it would be hard to get Lil' Nugget going again. Why ruin a good day and besides, I am in no hurry any more. Perhaps my new goal is just to maintain this good health that I have found. I can't help but reflect on a time when my health was not even close to what it is now and even though I still have issues with depression and anxiety, even that has been brought to a minimum level. I owe it to a lot of lifestyle changes and my continued love of hiking. It gives me good reason to get up and get up north to hike a mountain each week. But I am at a point where I don't have to hike in bad weather and I don't really want to hike with a super heavy pack... Yet. Give me time, that second leg of the Long Trail will be here before I know it. I'm prepping for that as a long range goal and I am looking for a few new challenges. Maybe some longer trips to get me in shape for winter. Speaking of Winter, I have 2 very big peaks left to what could be my final "List Goal". for the New Hampshire Winter 48's I need Mount Adams and West Bond... I'll get them but I am pretty sure that Lil' Nugget will be at home so I can move a little quicker. While I wait for all of this, I am looking for a loop hike that is not  Pemi Loop, while I watch the weather for that one last warm(ish) weekend. 

Happy Hiking to all! 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tecumseh After Work

I can't express again, how lucky I am. Things have this habit of working out and worry seems to be far away. I have this great job that on top of my co-workers getting genuinely excited for me and my passion, it sometimes sends me to conferences right at the heart of where I love to be. I was at Loon today and while it's not really climbing, I had the opportunity to ride the gondola to that summit. Then, since the conference got over at a good hour, I was able to swing over to Tecumseh (Waterville Valley) to climb that. The drawback would be that Lil' Nugget was at home. Because of this, I was curious, would I be faster? I decided to keep track of my time a little more closely than I usually do. It's 2.5 miles up and 5 miles round trip.

I started at 3:50pm, after changing in the lot and getting my pack together. I headed up the Mt. Tecumseh trail from the ski resort and seemed to be making good time. I was able to keep a pretty steady pace and there was very little stopping. I guess this is the one difference when I hike with Lil' Nugget, I'm constantly compensating for her need to stop and smell things as well as her short legs. Yes, being on a leash might be hindering my time. I realize this. As I keep going, the second water crossing is completely dry (the first one is not an issue either). Heading up the trail, I manage the rocks pretty good where again, when I am with Lil' Nugget, I feel like I'm tripping over everything given her inconsistent stop and go on the trail. At the third water crossing, I admire my favorite stairs and cross the water with ease as it is also low. Did I mention that we need rain here? Even the foliage is suffering.

I head up the stairs and down the trail which will lead me to my first "check point". It's 4:25pm when I arrive at the outlook of the ski slopes that look out to the Tripyramids. I'm pretty happy with that time. But now, it's nothing but elevation gain until I get to the ridge. This is where even without Lil' Nugget, I loose time. The ascents are sometimes slow going as I still huff and puff up the trails. I push the sun set out of my mind and I keep going. I just want to get to the top tonight. It didn't matter what time. I took a few breaks for water and persisted. The trail dipped so that it was out of the sun and a little dark. There is also a long stretch of rock stairs that I took advantage of and practically ran up. I seem to be doing rather well with this section and managed to pop out to the ridge at 5:09pm. As I continued on the ridge, I wanted to take the left side trail to the summit after the flat section of the ridge. I managed to get into the zone and just kept to the right at the junction.

OK, so the steeper side it is... I'll just take the back side trail down and make it a loop of sorts. After one big push up to the summit, I popped out to the view and discovered one other hiker up there. Andrew was an AMC worker this summer who was now back in school in Plymouth NH. We chatted about the summits history and I explained the lack of a view prior to someone clear cutting the trees and how it was actually still a nice view prior to this. We laughed about the crowded trails rather sarcastically and shared the same opinion that the far off and secluded places are better. I shared my experiences on the Long Trail with him and how much I disliked the noise (either people, machines such as snow guns, or just civilization encroaching on the trail) that sometimes accompanies the trails. He completely understood and seemed to also feel the same way. Oh, and we agreed on one thing... People who walk Lincoln Woods smell way better than the hikers. Seems that I found the boy that thinks like I do, I'm still looking for the man though... As the sun was going down, so did he and we wished each other well as he departed the summit. It was nice to share it with him and also equally nice to have it to myself. I wondered if I would have anyone else join me?

I wandered around the summit, sat for little while, had something to eat, and wandered around again. I was a little restless. The winds were picking up so, I did pull out my hat and gloves after having put on an extra layer once I sat down for a while. I took some pictures and decided that at 6:10pm, it was time to head down. I did after all have some obligations for tomorrow and a dog that I really wanted to head home to. It was time to see how my time was heading out in the dark. I had my headlamp already around my neck so, I would not have to stop. Now the descend, I took advantage of those rock stairs that I also used going up. The time was moving rather well and I was doing good keeping momentum without Lil' Nugget tugging me down. I mad it back to the outlook by 6:47pm. I stopped here only briefly to admire the moon and the glow.

From here, I used my headlamp to give the trail some definition and so I could see the footings around the rocks. It was getting darker and I noted that because of this, I was able to just hike. There was no distractions as the darkness is a lot like a blinder. Although I did hear something in the woods, I kept moving and just talked to myself rather loudly about anything. I started to hear the water and knew that I was getting closer to the end again and back at the car and I had that same feeling that I had as I was leaving the LT, do I really want to exit the trail? I stopped after the last water crossing of the day (night) and the time was 7:20pm. I had expected myself to end around 8pm. I think I know my pace pretty well now both with Lil' Nugget and without her. Over all, I was very happy with the day and the hike to end my night. Tecumseh is the perfect little 5 mile round trip when you just want a quick hike up and back. Nothing fancy. Nothing crazy. Just a good lil' mountain that is also still mighty and will make you work for it, just enough. I changed... Didn't matter because I was the only one in the lot now and it was pitch dark and got myself on the road to coffee and then to home and my best tail partner who was Oh so happy to see me that she did her little dance and would not leave me be for about 20 minutes.

All in all, a great way to end a nice day of work and play. I am so happy that I continue to have these opportunities and that my life allows me to continue to pursue my passions for the outdoors. I'm hoping that the weekend obligations calm down just enough for one last backpack before the weather gets too cold... I've been in need of some tent time recently to really focus myself and of course spend some time with Lil' Nugget too. Make no mistake, even though I was faster tonight, NOTHING beats hiking with my little four legged furry partner. She is my heart and soul in a way. She's been there when no one else has and she was very missed today. I had often joked when my last relationship ended rather poorly that I was just going to have a relationship with my dog... So far this is true and I am completely at peace with this. Yes, today was a good hike but it was empty and time will tell what unfolds in the future. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Mt. Eisenhower, Just Because.

It's so loud down here... Let me start by pointing out this morning in my supposed "quiet" little town, it was noisy and congested with big trucks and loud motorcycles that seemed to clog the roads and my head. I wanted out and I've wanted out more often these days. Lucky for me, I possess a 4 day work week (for now) and I can get away to the White Mountains on a day when even the trails are less crowded. Maybe I'm showing my age but I'd rather enjoy a day away from it all now. Today, I was heading for Mt. Eisenhower which, I had missed when I was on Pierce a few weeks back. Today, Lil' Nugget and I would head up Edmunds Path. This is also my favorite approach to Mount Eisenhower. The grades are very easy and the path is clear. All water crossings are bridged (except for up high where there are a few small ones to cross but those are easy). Lil' Nugget and I set out in the early morning and just felt everything fall away as we walked up the path. 

Leaving it all behind, the world melted into the quiet of the woods. My legs are stronger than they have ever been and I remembered back to when I first hiked this path in 2011. It seemed so long and so steep and so... Hard. Now though the miles were passing quick and getting up those steep parts were not so steep. Lil' Nugget was even having a good time today. It was cool in the trees and the light was great coming through them. As we walked, people were filing past. It was defintly an older crowd today, given that it was Friday and most everyone was working. I met a lot of nice people though and we all just hiked and encouraged one another. Lil' Nugget so far was the only dog heading up.

Once we passed our favorite bad weather warning (Literally, my first hike it started snowing right as I reached this sign in October of 2011), we broke tree line and magically, it was a new world. With the exception of the sounds of the Cog Rail, all you could hear were your own thoughts and the wind. And that wind was minimal. It was another perfect day. Looking all around, you could see clear over to the Northern Presidentials and the towers on Washington were clearly visible too. Lil' Nugget and I stopped to talk to some other hikers and got on the subject of hiking the LT, I'll talk forever on this! My favorite question I get asked is what was my most favorite moment... I can't come up with an answer because it always leads back to the people I met. The experience doe snot have one moment but a bunch of moments strung together by hiking some trails. So, once we decide to move on, at the junction for the the Crawford Path and Eisenhower, and instead of heading up, we headed over towards Franklin... It was not until I looked back that I realized the hump with the large cairn was in the opposite direction... Time to turn around. Didn't even phase me that I took the wrong turn (were this earlier in my hiking days, I might get seriously upset). I was just happy to be walking around on my favorite trails, looking out over the world. So, Lil' Nugget and I made it back to the junction and began climbing to Eisenhower. No problem!

Once up the final piece of elevation gain, Lil' Nugget and I find a place to rest by the giant Cairn. There were a few other dogs milling about but everyone was pretty respectable of space and owners would call them back as Lil' Nugget would bark. I was able to feed Lil' Nugget and get her water without too many tiffs. She's a dog though and she's going to bark if someone (human or canine) crosses her area, this is natural. There seemed to be a variety of hikers moving through Eisenhower today, from the experienced to the less experienced. Many coming across from other peaks. We just settled in and enjoyed the endless views. Sun screen applied as I was spending an endless amount of time exposed to the sun. I was in no hurry to move anywhere and that included going back to the car. We'd strike up conversations with people coming and going and soon Lil' Nugget settled in my lap for a while and didn't even care that other dogs were around. This made me happy. She really can be around other dogs. She just needs patience and understanding and a chance to settle on her own. Today, I was happy she got this. Reluctantly, we began our journey back to the car at 2pm (we summited around 12pm). I knew that I had obligations at home and just hoped that things would be settled once I got there.

It took us an hour and a half to descend the summit. Not a bad time for not hurrying back down. A day well spent on the trails that has now left me wanting to go back already. Like I said, it's loud down here and while I have demands and obligations to fulfill (and I'll do it my way and always figure out how to make it all work), I will always have a mountain top to escape to as my back up plan. Even if it's just for a few hours, I'll find a way to rejuvenate and refocus my mind and soul. I owe a lot to these peaks and I continue to benefit from visiting weekly... Call it my mental health prescription (it does keep my anxiety and depression at bay!). The world seems to move a lot fast that me these days and I'm OK with this. I don't need to rush through things and I am less concerned with controlling every little think in my life... I'll get to it on my time... Maybe that's mountain time or trail time? After all, time moves differently on the trails too.

I have become very protective of my fragile White Mountains. I've begun carrying extra trash bags to run trash out with me when I find it. I'll even admit to asking people to be mindful of the fragile alpine environment above tree line. Having hiked these trails since 2011, I am starting to notice some changes that are not too pleasing to me... Trash, erosion, and dying alpine flora have left me feeling like I needed to do something to help... To do my part. As a person who has seen her overall health and well being improved by a region that she now calls her second home, it only seems fitting that I try and give back. So that I can keep coming back here and enjoying time well spent sitting and doing nothing on a mountain top with my best friend while the world spins madly on at a break neck speed below me. I want to challenge you all that are reading this to do the same thing... Don't just walk past the trash and complain about it later, pick it up and take it with you. Yes, I realize that it's not your trash but you can be a part of the solution before we don't have these trails to enjoy.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Flume and Liberty Rain and Shine.

I'm a pretty lucky woman these days... I know that like most, I don't always realize it but I truly am. I have enough in my life to keep me fed, warm, and healthy. Not to mention busy and I have the ability to continue to pursue my passions in the outdoors. I have a job that allows me to not only do good meaningful work but also allows me to balance my own care and hike pretty regularly without worry or guilt. Not to mention the support I feel. So, on this Friday, I decided to treat myself (to honor myself and the day) to my favorite hike... Mt. Flume and Mt. Liberty over Osseo Trail to Liberty Springs Trail (taking me to both summits) and back again. I don't even know why this is my favorite hike and two favorite summits. It just is and on this day, it seems appropriate. I have not always liked this day. Which is funny because it's kind of my day... But now, it's not really my day. And today, it was a mixed day. 

It was raining pretty hard when I woke up. Isis and I drove through that rain and hoped that it would pass. Once we got to Lincoln Woods, I took my time getting ready. I got out my rain gear and got my pack cover on. The rain itself seemed to be lightening up so, I was hopeful. Isis however, was not impressed and probably having flashbacks to the torrential down pour we walked through on the LT. She was really pulling back as we crossed the bridge and headed up the Lincoln Woods trail. 

Lincoln Woods trail is of course flat and straight... The trees seem to cut the rain and Yet as Isis and I walk, we feel the rain get a little stronger and then lighten up again. She's trying to smell everything and straining a little so, I try and cut her some slack but I also don't want to get soaked. So, even though I know the rain will stop and I will dry off, I urge her to move on. There are a few other hikers out today and judging from the enlarge packs, they are doing some kind of Pemi Loop. Isis get's treats at the turn for the Osseo trail and we are on our way. The first stop will be Mt. Flume and I am hoping to actually go slow enough that the rain clears. Osseo trail has easy grades and is wide enough that it doesn't feel like trail to start. The rain is breaking up as I move up the trail and in elevation and then picking up again, so, the rain gear is coming off and being put back on again. Isis is also putting the breaks on still as well as actually walking herself. I dropped her leash for a while and let her follow but she was not consistent enough yet. My favorite section of this trail was coming. After the switchbacks and the rock stairs (9 sets!), it's time for the ladders!

There are a lot of them (as you could see), leading to a plateau of sorts. Then you climb just a little more, followed by another plateau and a final push out to the ridge which leads to a fantastic rock summit. I could sit up here all day in the now sunny skies. There is another hiker up there with us and he's enjoying the sun as well. We share stories about what we have been doing, what we are doing today and for the weekend. He's on a Pemi of sorts but doing it kind of the same way I did with the exit at 13 falls. I mention moving on to Liberty at which point, there will be cake. Well, cake for me that is. Isis will get cheese. It's actually an easy 1.2 miles over to the summit on the Franconia Ridge trail. 

Essentially, it's a down, a walk over the Col which is mostly flat, and then an up to the summit. This up section is characterized by a few scramble like sections with one really tricky rock. You know it by the split in it and you have to walk over it. BUT, on this day, after an uneventful walk down and over, I take the Whack cut by my friend The Old Man and the Saw. It takes out that tricky rock and brings you out to that incredible rock face of Liberty and you go up that way as opposed to the back side. Isis and I walk up the slabs to the summit and take a seat in the clouds... It's completely clouded in. We are joined by some others who are either Thru hiking or Pemi hiking. All are guys and there are no other dogs. Isis settles down for nap. I pull out my Gluten Free Chocolate cake and simply enjoy. This was my moment and much like my hazelnut coffee experience on Liberty, chocolate cake also tastes way better up high. People are filing in and out and I run into Brent who's happy to finally meet me in person after knowing both Isis and myself online for so long. Isis and I continue to enjoy ourselves as the clouds finally part. Ironically it was as my company on Flume arrived. It just proved to be a beautiful day on the summits as I enjoyed the sun on my back. I also met Sir Duke Smellsalot who is hiking the AT and heading to Katahdin in Maine. We shared our experiences in VT and came to the conclusion that it's all about the MUD. At around 2pm, I determined that I needed to head back in the direction of the car. This was a reluctant move but I knew that I needed to get home and I wanted to be on the flat trail if it came time for a head lamp, should I lag on Flume again. 

We make our way back to Flume in no time. The trails are dryer now and of course, I took the whack again rather than hike down the rocks. Once back on Flume, we have it to ourselves and so, I take a seat. I don't want to head back down yet. The real world can wait for a little while. It's so quiet (except for a little wind), warm in the sun, but the breeze also keeps you cool with no humidity, and well, I've finally made peace with this day. I feel like I can go back now and at 3pm, we begin our descend of Flume back to the Lincoln Woods parking lot. The trails are starkly empty for this Friday. A sure sign of the change in seasons. But also that it's still a week day after Labor Day. Most people are working. The walk down passes quickly as we make our way back over the ladders and then down 9 sets of rock stairs. We run into a few other souls that are hiking up. One hoping to make a successful 3rd attempt of Flume (the other two have failed), and a couple who was caught in the rain this morning and got a late start. Everyone was in great spirits and happy to be on the trails and enjoying the fine day we have been given.  Once on the flatter trails, Isis and I really make up time and before I know it, I'm on the flat Lincoln Woods trail being asked if the Falls are really worth it. Too bad I didn't go there... But I did tell her they were. Anything in nature is "worth it". Back at the car, changed and ready for coffee and what ever awaits me at home. Today has been worth every ounce of doubt and fight. I continue to love these summits and this hike. 

Like I said, I'm a pretty lucky woman. I get to continue to enjoy my passions and have a work schedule that fits my life not a life that fits my work schedule. I don't complain or speak ill of anyone. Nor do I feel the need to call attention to myself... I'm a mouse in that aspect. It suits me just fine. But this day, I have honestly disliked, liked, and been indifferent to. I've disliked everything that it's done to my family and to the world at large. I've loved it for what it has brought me and been indifferent to it because I simply did not know what to do with it for a long time... It's a day. But it's more than a day. Today, I chose to honor this day rather than with the crowds tomorrow for Flag on the 48 (when the fly flags on all the 48 4K's). It's better for me this way. I can continue to be the private person I had longed to be for so long and Isis got a day on the trails that is also low stress. On top of everything else this day stands for, it is also my birthday. I'm significantly older than the events of 14 years ago so, this day was not always sullen and somber. But now, it does not need to be. It's a day to honor those by living your life to the fullest and showing them that great things continue to happen. Through the rain, the sun does come out and people do rise above. My adventures will continue.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Just Pierce.

Somewhere between the time I went to bed and the time I got up (after hitting snooze a few times), I had a massive change of heart. I woke up with no intention of going to Isolation (which would finish my 3rd round) and then it devolved into "I don't even want to follow my grid anymore. I don't care about Isolation, Owl's Head (a lie, I love it!), The Carter's... " and so, I changed my plans to Pierce and Eisenhower... These are busy peaks on a holiday weekend. My only hope was that because it was Monday, most would be going home already. Maybe I'd miss the traffic too. Except, I stood in my kitchen and thought that I should stay home. The only problem is that staying home leads to sitting on my ass. I don't want that. So, maybe I forced myself to keep going today and I forced Isis a little too. 

Honestly, the Highland Center was not that bad today. The parking lot was mostly clear and I was able to get in no problem. I thought this was a good sign. There looked to be a few hikers milling around so, Isis and I hit the trail rather quickly. No one really bothered us which is a good and a bad things some days. Once across 302, we continued on the Crawford Path which honestly seems to be minus a few rocks at the bottom. There just seems to be a lot more dirt to travel on and the rocks seem a lot easier to navigate. I use to swear my head off on this trail and be in so much pain at the end of the day... Not so much any more. Isis however was not having it today and seemed to want to stop a lot, lay down a lot, and just eat the grass. Maybe I pushed he a little too hard this weekend? But wait, we hiked every day a few weeks back on the LT... She can do Pierce and Eisenhower no problem if she would just... Keep... Moving. I was becoming impatient with her which maybe soured my mood just a little (we all have off days). She and I spend a lot of time together and we feed off of one another. So it was a stop for long periods of time and try and get going kind of hike. I need to learn to stop and smell the grass apparently. And I need to shake this gotta get moving mentality. Slooooooow down and get out of my head. 

Now, the weather looked bluebird and clear at the Highland Center. It was humid already for 7:30am so, that probably also fed into the morning and day's mood. It took forever to get to the junction of the Mizpah cut off and the Crawford path, with both the traffic coming down slow and the temps. I stopped there pulled out my secret weapon... Cheese. Isis gobbled up 3 pieces. I had a few too. Just to see if that would help out. We talked to one family coming off the cut off and then we kept going up. It was a little better traveling this section as far as pace goes. There are a few old blow downs on this section. Two step overs and one duck under. There is also some water on this section too... Isis was thankful for the drink. The water itself is not anything to worry about but dogs will appreciate. I should also mention that people are passing us going up the trail but really, no one is speaking... Just passing by. I find this very odd for some reason. I say hi to a few people but for the most part the vibe is very closed today. I'm enjoying the quiet a little but I do hear the wind kicking up the closer we get to tree line. This surprises me for some reason. I thought it was going toe another humid blue bird day.

As we break tree line, I gaze across at Eisenhower. I had been on the fence about going that way given how Isis was acting and how my attitude was. I guess I was not really feeling it today and when I saw the summit sitting in a cloud, my mind was made for me. I'll pass. I hiked in torrential rain on the LT. I've lost interest in hiking in weather that is not really ideal. If I don't have to, why put myself and Isis through it? So, we went up to the summit of Pierce and had some food. I had packed a bunch today but that wasn't really doing it for me either (but again, the pack really felt light to me). Isis and I took pictures and I scooped her up for a selfie. We enjoyed the summit to ourselves for a little while and watch the clouds roll by (rather quickly from the wind). Hikers were coming by on their way to the hut or to Jackson... All were saying that Ike and the weather over that way was crap. So, again, I made up my mind. But as always, there's a tone of "but you could get there if you wanted too". That's my issue. I don't want to. Not today. So, Eisenhower will hang. We were over run by about 40 French tourists. All walking dangerously close to myself and Isis (she HATES trekking poles and they all had them out it seemed. she was really riled up.). All were speaking rather loudly and I'll admit this was the first time I felt uncomfortable because I did not understand them and well, they were right on top of us and loud. Isis was getting growly and I wanted to avoid anything that was confrontational. So, I started pacing up and then they just left. I'm assuming they went on to Eisenhower because I never saw them again and they headed back towards the Crawford Path... This was a good thing. We talked to a few more hikers coming through and then decided to go down. Maybe we could beat the traffic home?

As we were heading down, I was recognized by someone who also had a dog with her.... Isis was barking so I could not hear anything and well, I wanted to keep moving so as to avoid a dog confrontation. I just was not in the right mind set to talk any more. I didn't want to answer the same set of questions yet again or get the same look for a barking dog. But I was happy that I was recognized before the dog for once. I think today, I just wanted to be quiet. Isis and I stopped at the lower ledge and took a video of the winds and the clouds and I took a few deep breathes. Sort of a final way to make my decision for me. Maybe it was the proof?

We continued down and stopped to chat with a very nice couple who loved Isis and knew her breed as well as her personality. Then another group of 30 French tourists came by and I was really turned off by these large groups. Too big for the mountains! Keep groups to 12 and under... 10 and under is best. I picked up lots of trash on the way out too (Yuck!). Kind of a sad thing. But I also knew this would be the case on such a high traffic trail. Isis and I took in some quiet at Gibbs Falls. She pulled me down there for the water and surprised me by wanting to play around at the edge of the pool. I think she was really hot a the end of this hike. It had become so humid at the bottom of the trail. We don't do good in humidity. Gibbs Falls was nice though for us to cool off a little.

Coming down by the bridge prior to exiting trail at 302, we passed a few more hikers. One that was recovering from ACL surgery. Always nice to see people get back on the trail after things like this. There as also a group of 3 kind of camped out on the rocks by the bridge eating and talking. There was no way around them so I had to go through them. I tried to make casual conversation... They seemed bothered by this so, I kind of slunk away back to the car. I miss the LT where if you ran into someone, they stopped and chatted, asked your name, and got to know you briefly because chances are if you were heading in the same direction, you'd catch up to them at the next shelter to finish the conversation. It was very friendly. What happened? We got back to the car and it was really hot. The ride home was long due to holiday traffic, but we made it back in good time and in good spirits for a mixed up  and off kind of day. All in all, it was a great weekend full of different experiences... That's what makes it interesting. No hiking day is ever the same as the last.

I'm pretty sure that things are going to be shifting around for me again... I'm just becoming less and less interested in a formal grid pursuit. I want to hike and that's it. Maybe the grid will be just a distant goal or a very loose frame work. I have a life time to complete it and that to me says, SLOW DOWN and enjoy yourself. Stop being so focused on what to hike and just hike with your heart. Maybe I won't hike every weekend like I have been doing. In the interest of keeping in shape and getting myself out of the house though, hiking has become my outlet for those things. I'm just becoming dissatisfied by the crowds and being solo week after week. I know that sounds like an oxymoron of sorts but I do miss the days when I hiked with a small group. I guess when I hiked the LT, it kind of brought it back to me because I had people sharing the same experience and we got together at the end of the day to talk about that experience and Isis was also accepted as good company. I want that back... Yes, I still struggle being off trail. Trying to balance real life and hiking is a challenge. Gotta keep working at it. And while I think of taking extended time off of the New Hampshire Peaks, I know that I'll be back out there next weekend. It's my birthday... It's also flags on the 48 which I will probably not go to (too crowded a day for us and too many dogs). But I will find a day to hike some my favorite peaks. Just have to watch the weather to plan it.