Mount Pierce would have to be the goal for today as I slept late and didn't want to hike Waumbek just yet. And this (Pierce) would be my #2 of the 48 (again) for Rheumatoid Arthritis. So, I opted to head up the Crawford Path by the Highland Center off 302 in Crawford Notch. This would be my 10th visit to the summit and the Crawford Path is my standard route. Northern New Hampshire has received a great deal of snow in the past week and my decision to wait until trails were broken out was sound... Short dog and still building strength back.
The lower section of the Crawford Path is well packed down and easy to travel. The temps this weekend have been warm so, there is a softening factor to the day. I am wearing my Tubbs Flex VRT's primarily for the heel lifts on the steeper sections of trail but really you can wear spikes and be OK with things. Just don't step off the solid trail or you will sink in. Not as many layers on today as it is warmer than usual but my white puffy is packed for above tree line. Isis is having an easy go of the trails too. Plenty of people out including one boy scout troop from Connecticut. I did my best to try and keep distance but would often bunch up with them. I'm moving much slower these days so, I am anticipating a longer than usual ascent (Which drives me crazy!). I've made up my mind that this journey is no longer about speed and long distance/multiple peaks, but about being better than I was the last time I hiked. My back has been stiff recently and the heel lifts really help alleviate the pressure on my back and other joints. I was thrilled with this find. These snow shoes (The Tubbs Flex VRT's), are worth it for the heel lifts and the bindings (my hands don't tighten traditional bindings tight enough). I take a brief break a lot more frequently than I use to but I push to the intersection with the Mizpah Cut Off, take some water and give Isis some treats. I can now hear the wind picking up but I put off putting on my puffy layer. I try again to get some distance from the boy scouts but they are soon on my heels. When I pull over to put on the puffy coat, I waited as they passed and then made sure I let them get far ahead. This section of trail is some of my favorite and I enjoyed not feeling rushed as well as the quiet.
The snow is getting deeper on the upper section of the Crawford Path and you have a greater chance of both crashing into branches and falling into spruce traps if you step off the trail. I've taken to picking up Isis as we pass people because I'm not crazy about spruce traps. The trail is only a snowshoes width so, passing is tight. A couple of steep sections make me realize that this is harder than it ever has been for me but I am determined to make the summit. Once we pass the Alpine Zone sign, the trail looks completely different. You are walking above the trees due to the snow depth. There are more views than ever right now too. The wind is kicking up and when this happens, Isis begins to rush things. In fact, she breezes by the sign post and heads for the summit. Normally this is a climb too but the snow has filled in nicely.
At the summit with the boy scout troop, I have a nice chat with the scout leaders. They were talking gear, RA, and dog hiking with me when suddenly down trail we hear a HELP.... Everyone clears the summit and heads in the direction of the call. A hiker was concerned that he had lost his hiking partner, I'm assuming they were coming over from Eisenhower. The good thing was that, as it turns out the guys hiking partner was mingling with the group. This of course could have been much worse. Isis and I head for tree line since the wind is pushing her to her limit in terms of stress. I try again to get space from the boy scouts but they are right on my heels and making me nervous. People are coming up to the summit and the trail is crowded. I push through and ask for space for the dog and myself. I just need to get her to tree line where the winds are calmer. At the point where I take a layer off the whole group again passes me. Going down the trail is always easier than heading up and since the trail is solid, this is a breeze. My heels are a little raw in my boots but other than that, I am finally feeling good. Or at least better than when I started. At the road, it's difficult to get over the huge snow banks to get back over the the Highland Center and care needs to be taken when crossing 302.
So, here's the low down on my recovery... It's going to be a long one. Still have pain in my feet, hands, knees, elbows, and now my back... It's a pain that makes it hard to bend these joints due to stiffness and swelling as the disease flares up. The new pain and stiffness in my back makes it hard to to do a lot of things too. But here's the thing, if I can push though it, by afternoon I am able to function somewhat normally. Every day, this is life. Getting out to the trails is a challenge since I am whipped out so, any day I get on trail is a great one for me. Making it to the summit is an all out party for me. On today's hike of Pierce, it was an constant battle to keep going as my energy was being sapped on the ascent. I had determined that it's no longer a race to the summit but a slow journey and I was finally OK with that. As I get stronger, the harder hikes will come back to me but until then any day I get on the trail is a win. Staying positive and being positive to others on the trail helps too. I stopped being so concerned about trail conditions and the people around me that I just enjoyed my hike and let others enjoy theirs. Blocking out the off trail world really helps too.
And as for the final leg of the LT, it weighs heavy on my mind but I will push through it when the time comes. I am hoping that I'll be much better by June. The gear is rolling in and I'm just waiting for my sleeping bag to arrive. Food is being planned and I am pushing forward. Full speed a head.
Keep hiking the good hike and Isis and I will see you out there.