Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saying Good Bye On Signal Ridge

    All week you watch the weather and you have a perfect plan for the weekend which, if you are me, sometimes starts on Friday. But not this week. As of Tuesday, I was working since my car needed brakes and I spent Tuesday at the car shop instead of working. I'm OK with these things and the weather, I thought was going to hold for Saturday. So, I planned on hiking Mt. Carrigain to say Good Bye to the Whites until September. I had my pack with a weeks worth of supplies and it was topping out now at 50lbs. I will need to cut a few things naturally before we leave for the LT. But I took it out at 50lbs anyway to see if I can. As I head down 302 to Sawyer River Road, I see 3 hitchhikers with huge packs. I pull over and pick them up. Gear in the trunk and they are on their way to a resupply at the general store. I was happy to do it, even for another door mishap which I fixed on my own. All's well that ends well and I am getting ready at the trail head in no time. The good thing about this time of year is that there is no road walk. We only have 5 miles to the top today. 

Isis and I start out to a quiet trail and I'm feeling really good. I've added my Superfeet insoles from my boots to my hiking shoes and that seems to have made a difference. It's a familiar and well groomed trail to start. Nice brushing and clearings without an immediate climb. I feel a little twinge in my right foot and stop to tighten my laces. Maybe this contributed to the day? As we kept walking, Isis is sampling water from everywhere and the sun is out, making it warm. I am determined to just take my time today. To spend a full day out there and really take it in. I was hopeful for the sun to remain out too. People began catching up to us and passing and as they did they paid attention to two things. Isis and my large pack. I gladly explained my situation and they were happy for me. They were rooting for me and it felt really good. There were those that were quiet and kept to themselves too which I was also good with. All were in great spirits going up. The water crossing was a non-issue and very walkable on half submerged rocks. Not deep at all and no feet got wet. Isis even did it on her own figuring out which way to go. One sole we ran into was someone I originally ran into in 2013 on The Crocker's in Maine. He remembered me and we reminisced about that day. The search for Inchworm and his knee issues. I figured I would catch him around the summit given todays slow pace. 

 Isis and I just kept to ourselves and hiked the day away. I was remembering my land marks from other hikes and remembering how good the trail was with snow. As you begin to climb in ernest, the rocks are uneven, loose, and jagged. It makes it hard on the feet. I felt as though I was curling my toes on my right foot a lot more and compensating for the rocks. I was slowing down for sure and Isis was looking for water at the higher elevations (there is very little). I continued to navigate the rocks and stop for rests. We talked to a lot of hikers on the way up and even with a light drizzle starting, people were in great spaces. There was one other dog going up and it looked like a corgi mix. We did not really get a good look as Isis was not a fan. Nearing the break in tree line, I was deciding on whether to turn back or not. My foot was starting to become a focus rather than a thought. The hiker from the Crocker's met up with us again and was curious as to why I had slowed. I explained my foot to him and he sympathized given his experience with knees on the Crocker's. He also told me to save it for the LT... Turn back. I had determined that I would go to the ridge (even with no view) and call it. It was really great to run into him again and I felt like I could go on. It's funny how small the world is sometimes in the mountains. 

Slowly, I walked up to the ridge and slowly, my energy was sapping away. My foot was throbbing and I knew what I would do. The rain was falling harder which meant that I was glad for putting my pack cover on and also that the rocks would be slippery on the way down. And me with a bad foot means that the descent is going to be slow and painful. As Isis and I stood admiring the non-view, people were filing past and wondering if they had made the summit. I told them that they had a little ways to go yet and thy would know the summit by the tower. No one really stuck around or questioned if I had been there, which was fine with me at the moment. I was however able to get my picture taken from one guy going to the summit. I wanted something to remember this hike by. Then Isis and I began going down. I thought that the descent was going to go a little better as it seemed my foot was good on the way up in a decline position. Not so much anymore... Each step was a new experience in pain for me. Each step made me think that my LT trip was slipping away. And then with each group that came upon me and passed with only so much as a good luck, or a conversation about Isis and how cute she was, as I was clearly in pain, again made me really loose faith in humanity. I would literally say that I was in pain and the subject would move back to the dog. Except for 3 hikers who offered a phone or to carry something for me. I was determined to walk out on my own power though and while I appreciated the support from those few, I was conflicted because I didn't know them (even though I realize I should accept help on the trail from anyone). After a while, I just kept quiet. I managed to hold off getting my poles for a while. But I could not stand it anymore. An older couple that I had run into on the way up had caught up and Isis came around and growled as I was getting my poles. I was tangled in her leash and asked the older gentleman to be careful as I was hurting and did not want to be pulled over but the tangle. He wanted to do everything and carry everything as did his wife and I found the questions overwhelming as I was in pain. But really, I just needed my poles to lean on like crutches. I thanked them for the concern and asked that they just keep hiking and enjoyed their hike out. Isis is very protective of me and is hyper aware now that I am hurt. She's not going to let anyone near me and I love her for that. I'm also stubborn and I'm also guarded. If I don't know you right now, I'm not going to be accepting of help. It's just the way I am. Once I'm able to let my guard down without getting hurt, I'll be in a different place.

The remainder of the hike out went very slow. Even on the flatter sections of trail, my foot was in pain and every step I could not find comfort. I would fall and loose my balance. I'd scream and cry too. I think I finally had that experience like the scene from the movie Wild where she screams her shoes go over the edge. Except I am screaming from pain. Even still, I walked out on my own power which was what I was determined to do. Assisted by my Leki hiking poles, I realize now that I can use them and hike with Isis on leash and they do help take some of the weight off my legs. I will be using them on the LT. As I got back to the car and loaded everything in the car, including myself and Isis, I laughed and smiled. It was a GREAT DAY. No summit needed, I passed the test. I'm ready (after a rest) for my LT trip. I'm stronger for what I experienced today and thankful that even though I cried and screamed and carried on about hacking off my foot, I made it out. In hindsight, I should have turned back a lot sooner or just not gone at all. But I can't change much of that now. I can only move forward always. And as I sit here on my couch with my foot on two pillows, another dose of Vitamin I on board, I regret nothing.

So long to The White Mountains of New Hampshire. The next time you hear from me will be from the Long Trail through Vermont. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Field, Willey, and Tom... A Patience Tester.

I'm a strange mixture of feisty and exhausted these days... And I am starting to freak out a little. I'm also very lucky that the job I have now (after switching jobs how many times??) allows me to have Fridays off pretty regularly. So, I treated myself to a quiet hike or at least my fingers were crossed that the vacation crowd was not too much today and I'd get a quiet hike. I was not disappointed. Making it to the Highland Center in good time, We made our way across the field to the Crawford Depot and across the tracks. All the while I was fiddling with my camera because it was having focus issues. I cleaned it... That didn't help. I put it away and decided to use my phone... But I can't let go of a challenge to fix something (probably why I do the work I do). So I keep fiddling up the A to Z trail which is in great shape down low. Playing with the zoom which is clear when zoomed in but blurry when normal. Hmmm. What will I do for the LT? I can't use my phone for that... Eventually, the camera works out it's issues good enough for the day. Isis and I are walking up the A to Z trail making our way over the mostly dry trail to the first water crossing which is dry boot rock hoppable. As we continue, there is some mud before the next water crossing but it's not deep and you can avoid it well. The second crossing is my favorite... It's low and easy to cross as well. Isis and I take a break and I adjust a few things on my monster pack. I'm carrying everything except my weeks worth of LT food and testing weight with the 2 person tent. It seems pretty good now but I will judge when the elevation really kicks in. It's such quiet day, I can hear all my thoughts.... 

We decide at the junction of the Avalon Trail to head up that way to Field first (as if Isis has a say in the decision). That way, I'll just have a bunch of down trail to deal with rather than some ups. With the heavy pack, I am fine dealing with rocks to hop and climb on. Things feel really good but it is getting hot and I am drinking a lot of water. Isis has also run out of streams to drink from as there is really no sources for dogs from the last water crossing up to Field. The tree cover is doing what I wanted it to do... Provide cool shade for us because I think I will sweat myself right out of my beast pack today. I don't do good in heat. I'm great in winter and mid to late fall as well a early Spring... These days, I take it slow... And it kills me. I'm stuck in the ground level mentality of gotta get there and back as quick as we can... I wish I could move past this because it brings out another not so pleasant feeling... Anxiety and eventually grumpy sets in. This is when I take a break, eat and check myself. Isis does the same. We continue with a mile to go to Mt. Field... Intense Up trail... Well, intenseish.... I'm clumsy so, the rocks and roots of the season always pose a unique trail experience. It's still hot so, there is plenty of stopping and starting and a lot of positive talking to get myself to Mt. Field.

I settle in on the summit for a rest. Again, taking my time I am determined to sit and eat and recoup from the climb. I break out a tuna packet while some are milling around... Inhaled it and sat for a while. Isis waits patiently for her food as she now eats after me and knows her place in this pack. No more temper tantrums like from our half Pemi a few weeks back. The day is just beautiful and we have a nice chat with an older couple who's out to do Field and Tom. They enquire about the big pack and I tell them of my training. They are impressed... My mind still thinks I'm crazy. They head to Tom and we grab some quiet as well as some Gray Jay time... They don't land though because Isis might eat them. I get ready to head over to Willey on the Willey Range Trail. Again, it's dry with plenty of ups, downs, rocks, roots, a few slide like areas and intermittent shade and sun. The blow downs have been cleaned up but the trail is still narrow in places. The trail is basically empty until we get close to the summit... There is a crowd eating lunch at the look out. I squeeze to look at the view... Washington looks good today but not for me. I'm happy where I am. Isis and I head back to the summit cairn after answering a few questions about what lies on the other side of Field... Seems people underestimate the ladders and the steepness of this end of the trail to Mt. Willey. Quietly, Isis and I enjoy some food then we get ready to head to Mount Tom by way of Mount Field and the Willey Range trail... Heading back the way we came.

I decided to charge my phone using my solar panel set up on my pack and it works really well even in  the intermittent sun. Although I know that it's gone off a few times in the shade, I am pleased and can work with it. We make good time heading back to Mount Field and spend little time there... I'm starting to get that itch to be back at the car because I am really hot. The trail remains in great shape and from here on out is mostly down. Rocks to contend with but they are manageable. Just uneven footing to look out for. I'm trying to manage my grumpy self again as we make it to the Mount Tom spur and the A to Z trail again. I decide to not drop my pack in the name of training... Or torture. it's .6 to Mount Tom on easy grades and good trails. It's getting a little late but I sit and relax on he summit. Isis also chills out. I want to be rested to get back to the car. I eat and Isis eats and I do note the difference as I am prone to not doing this. When I am feeling ready, we head down and it's tedious because maybe I am overly caution and not wanting to fall. Or maybe I'm tired and have sloppy feet. Isis is raring to go which provides a test of my patience. We need to work on pacing. Back at the entrance to the spur, I rest... My feet hurt because I need to mange my callus'... My feet are hiking feet. They are not pretty perfect feet. I am rough on them. When I am ready again, I begin making my way back to the car.

It's a long journey back to the car and I didn't expect the reality checks along the way. But of course, this is how the trail goes. It teaches you about yourself and dishes out a dose of your own medicine if you are not careful and that means tears sometimes. Isis finally get's a water crossing and drinks the cold water rather than the water from my bladder which warms from my over heated self. She's better but I am just decompensating... It's hot and I want a coffee (hot blueberry hazelnut oddly enough). It's really just a sign that I'm looking forward to my homeward bound rituals. I ran out of water before I even reached the junction of the A to Z and Avalon trails. So, this is how I know it's been a work out... I carry a 3L water bladder and I never go through it all on this loop hike. I heard voices coming down the Avalon trail and decide to push on. It's not long to the car now and I know that the trail is easy from here on out. I skip the Cascade loop (again)... I really need to visit this one but I'm focused on getting off my feet right now. I manage to evade the crowd behind me and as we pop out but the train tracks, I spy something in the lot by the Depot... As we move closer, I smile. It's at least a familiar vehicle... Too bad we missed each other. It would have been nice to see a familiar face. I thought about putting Isis in his open jeep but played it safe... She's filthy anyway. I'm happy to be down and almost home. The day was a success and a test at the same time... One I feel I passed and failed. I've been so conflicted lately, I am not surprised.

I have one hike left to train on before I leave from my Long Trail trip on August 8th... I have no clue what it will be but I am thinking that It should be something simple and easy. As I move closer to the time I actually hit the LT, my mind races, and like I say at work... I'm ACTUALLY going to go through with this? This is happening? And my team laughs at me and reminds me how powerful I am. I go through two feelings lately... One is to run away on the trails and the other is to stay in bed... It's such a conflicting thought process in my mind. Either way, this is happening... I'll let the details unfold as naturally as possible... As I quietly freak out. <3

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Three Days in the Pemi

I ran away again... The weather was way too nice to stay home so, I ran away and left everything behind. I needed to calm the chaos that was building so, I planned another 3 day in the Pemi. This time I'd go in over the Bonds and end on Galehead with an exit by way of 13 Falls on the third day. It's 4th of July weekend and the trails are packed... What could happen? 

Day one begins with me ACTUALLY thinking of canning the whole weekend but I push out the door after some convincing, Isis did too. We arrived at Lincoln Woods to a packed parking area (I expected this). After moving my car once due to the car behind me containing a pack of pups, I got everything together and paid my fee (with a little extra). The pack was hoisted and we were on our way across the bridge to a weekend adventure....


At 7:30am, I head down Lincoln Woods along with a conga line of hikers. I kept to myself but I did say hello to Milo (another Shiba Inu) who was also hiking the Bonds with his owner. I'm not feeling very social this morning and trying to shake off civilization. My feet feel good and Isis is doing OK. Lincoln Woods smells like every dog that lives in and visits New Hampshire so, to hike her in can be a bit of a patience tester as she smells everything. I try and back down and let her and I try and shake my "gotta get there" mentality. I have 3 days... Slow down! We pass all the other trail entrances and stop over the bridge before entering the Bond Cliff Trail. Lincoln Woods is of course in great shape. It's so well traveled by tourists, how can it not be? I feed Isis and myself and also take a few deep breathes. Things will be OK, I tell myself. Milo and his group catches up and passes us. Of course Milo and Isis have words... Well, Isis has words for Milo. I love her... She's very protective of me and speaks her mind. Other's don't like this but she's still the best trail partner I've had. I'm determined to take my time and enjoy the weekend. We head down the lower Bond Cliff trail which is mostly flat and wooded. There are no new blowdowns to contend with and the water crossings at this low point are very easy. The crowds are building and a group of what I think are college kids comes up behind us. I happen to mention to one that his sleeping bag was coming unraveled (he had it cinched under his pack without a stuff sack or other waterproof bag). I though he might want to not get it wet... I was brushed off. I began to go inward at this point. Time to sort out my thoughts... Isis and I kept climbing, keeping to ourselves. 

We catch up again to Milo and his pack and chat a little while on a break. Being close to breaking tree line, there is a certain amount of excitement. We come to my favorite entrance to being above tree line. The steps... It's just a fun climb with any size pack and it even feels good to do this with a full size pack on. Plus, Isis is on a leash so, co-ordination is always key. It's sort of like riding a tandem bike. We break tree line with a gasp. Still on the Bond Cliff trail, we see the actual cliff ahead of us. It's packed but I am not letting it get to me. I should note here that I am really not one for crowds. I've grown to like the quiet and solitude of the trails. I am waiting for night fall... This is when the crowd thins out. As we approach Bond Cliff, we are stopped by a gentleman who wants to take our picture. We get this a lot and oblige. He's just crazy over Isis and how white she remains. But also that such a small dog can climb as she does. We have a nice chat and part (as are most of my conversations). Making our way to Bond Cliff, it's crowded with people camped out on the actual summit. I'm content to settle off the summit as I have been here before but, also note to others that people hike for a great many miles to get an iconic shot on that summit... It's a shame when people don't make room.

We rest and judge the crowds who seem to be in disagreement over where the summit is. After the crowd thins, Isis and i head over to the summit and ask Milo's owner to take our shot. This summit always get's the butterflies stirring. I may have gone to therapy to help with my fear of heights among other things but, this summit always brings it back. Keeping several points of stability and getting Isis to sit still as well, I brave the small rock. I want off the summit immediately after my picture is taken. I need to take a few deep breaths once I am back on the trail. I go back to my pack after a thank you and eat. Isis also gets treats. She's already showing signs of being tired. We begin to make our way on the Bond Cliff Trail to Mount Bond. The winds are intermittent depending on the bend in the trail. It's a spectacular hike on the ridge and everyone we start running into here seem nice and easy going. We appreciate this as we begin climbing. I take my iconic shot looking back over the ridge prior to summiting. And also prior to summiting, another hiker tipped me off to a camp site over on West Bond that was suppose to be very nice. I'm hoping that with the crowds, no one else takes it.

Summiting, there is another gentleman waiting at the top. He's so peaceful that I do not want to bother him. I respect that. Isis and I settle for another rest considering the amount of energy this is taking, as long as I make it to West Bond Around, 5pm, I'll be happy. We are joined by a crowd of I believe college students at various stages of their college career. One particularly outspoke woman questioned me about hiking as she was on her first backpack as well as slowly ticking off the 48, and struggling a bit with being tired. I tried to explain that it's really all in how the pack fits. She kind of scoffed at it saying she didn't know how to strengthen her hips. She was also insistent about getting to the tent site at Guyot to secure a site for their group of 12. I had fun talking to this group as they seemed genuinely interested in learning about hiking and not just fascinated by Isis. After a good rest here, we began to make our way to the spur to West Bond. Again, there trail remains is good shape. Easy to travel and even though my feet are getting tired, we make the turn on the spur in great time. Keeping my eye out for that spot and not really knowing what I am looking for, I'm getting closer to the summit. I get nervous that we'll need to search for a spot but then I see it. A nice flat area about 5 minutes from the top. I drop my pack and set up the tent. It's just about 5pm and it's dinner time. I have my dehydrated pork chop (cut up) and mashed potatoes. Isis has dehydrated fish and threw a little attitude at me. I guess, a note about Isis... She has no formal training so, she's rough. But I love that about her. I don't need her to roll over or give paw. She hikes the trails and keeps me in line. I'm the boss but she has the right to tell me if I'm doing something wrong. I gather up my cup and wine while Isis is calming from her meal and we begin to head up to the summit.

We are not alone up there but the company is nice. Unobtrusive and settled in on a peaceful mountain top. For those that have been here, you know how small West Bond is. A crowd is a recipe for disaster. I chat with the couple who is having dinner at what they called a 5 star restaurant. I smiled and agreed, Mountain house on a peak like this. Beyond 5 stars! I pull out my wine and they smiled at my idea. Heaven was happening right here. I finally got that feeling that I wanted and I started to cry. Things just felt right and as though I belonged here. I was surrounded by something that rendered me speechless and my rambunctious dog suddenly crawled into my lap and looked out on the world with me. We would chat in-between long periods of silence and it turns out this couple knows a few people that I know and I have met the guy when I hiked Lady Grey's grid finish back in 2013. Such a small world. I was happy to share the summit with this crowd who called me accomplished and I had no clue how to respond. I wish I got their names. Isis and I continued to shift around and watch the colors of the sky change. At around 7:30pm, the winds shifted and I caught a chill that had me wanting to move low and into my tent. I stood up and took in the expanse of scenery around me and bid good night to my summit crowd. It was a good thing we exited when we did as a very large black dog was coming up... This would have been that recipe for disaster. Isis just doesn't like other dogs and after a long battle with myself, I am OK with this. This night is now a top ten in my journey. I've dreamed of this. As I settle in for the night, I recharge my phone and listen as people file past. Isis hears them too and growls a little. She can't see them due to the position of the tent and this is now her home. Of course she will protect it... And me. I sleep in my long johns and my fleece liner only to start. Isis get's my 40 degree bag and we curl up. She slowly works her way onto my sleeping pad through out the night and I slowly work on my socks. My hat is out in my pack so, that will have be gone without. She curls up next to me and I pull my 40 degree bag over me like a blanket. The wind picks up and dies down throughout the night. I sleep because I can remember dreaming of my home... Who dreams of home out on the trail? Someone who has a lot going on there.

In the morning, I have breakfast and another tousle with Isis who also has breakfast. Change has a negative reaction to this dog and she's off her usual morning routine (I can't figure out how to pack in hard boiled egg!). We begin day 2 with a  bit of refocusing as I head to Guyot shelter for water.

Day 2: The Twins and Galehead

After settling our disagreement, Isis and I make our way to Guyot shelter to fill up on water. It's a crazy maze of tent sites that are full beyond capacity and it's down a little (a lot) so, the climb back up will take a lot out of me. Isis and I reach the shelter and cut through a camp site to get to the water source. Most people milling round seem to be scowling and sullen. Come to find out that people are stacked on top of one another and that can't be fun. It just reminds me of a frat house and as we wait in line for water, I realize that I'll be waiting forever for people to pump and treat. It's flowing really good so chances of contamination are minimal. I find a tributary that is flowing and fill up my bladder and Nalgene in no time. Repack my pack and get out of there but not before Isis has words with another dog. The maze of filter lines in the spring was unreal. How can this be fun? I'm so lucky to have had the night I had and to be able to have experienced something so peaceful as I did on West Bond. We are originally going to Zealand but first we need to get to Guyot. My feet are tired and I know that this will be a long day. I'm trying to keep it light as Isis feeds off of my moods.

It's a hard fought climb in and out of the scrub to the junction of The Twin Way. I start going Zealand but before I get too far in, I stop and look at m map. I judge my level of energy and the distance. I'd rather be near my exit point with less miles down and more time than getting stuck out near Zealand. So, I turn Isis around who again does not like change and it takes some convincing. We come back to the junction and notice a woman coming up behind us. She continues to follow and we think nothing of it. The trails are packed this weekend. This trail is tough in spots. Lots of loose rock and my feet are tired. Isis continues to push forward and like riding a tandem bike, we try and get in sync. We leap frog with a number of groups and all seem to say the same things... She's so white, how does she stay so white? She looks a lot smaller than her pictures. She's a love. She's got such short legs. It was a pleasure to meet a fellow hiker who is "Peak Bagging for Parkinson's" today too. The Twin Way heading to South Twin is a mix of rocks, dirt trail and mud. To answer the how does she stay so White question, she does not do mud. She avoids it the way any hiker should. She's got the concept of least impactful hiking down. AND she takes advantage of water crossings.

We begin our final approach to South Twin and are stopped by a group resting in the middle of the trail. The same lady we saw coming up behind us at the junction is there too with a  map. She is wondering if this is the way to Zealand. She had become separated from her partner and is now fced with over 2 miles to reconnect with her around Zealand. I gave her some quick tips of how to wear her pack which was causing her discomfort and she took a deep breath and began her long hike back. This is why you never separate from a group! Isis and I continued to the summit of South Twin which was over come by people. The day is chilled and we had a great conversation with a Thru Hiker on the summit. It seemed as though I connected with him rather than those that were milling round. He was heading over the the Garfield shelter and heading south so, we parted and I was heading to North Twin. Energy was ticking away and my temper was shortening but luckily, I was keeping to myself. It seemed to take forever to get to North Twin and as I enjoyed the Col between the two peaks, I longed to be at Galehead and resting. Isis and I took a break after the ups of the North Twin Spur and sat at the outlook in the company of another hiker and his dog. We sat some distance from them as I really wanted to get her some food and I was unsure of her reaction. We were also joined by two other hikers who where heading to the same place I was.

Making our way back to South Twin, I kept a meditative pace and really just focused on one foot in front of the other. I was not struggling but I was not fully into it either. I wanted some really good food (French Fries!) and some comfort. This was a low point. We began climbing to South Twin to be greeted by another group of what I think was students. Younger students and possibly some kind of Outward bound group. I paid them no mind and got a few shots but left the summit rather quickly. The chatter was just really getting to me. My heart was unsettled. It was .8 straight down to the hut and it was rocky. Really rocky in a lot of ways. As we made our way through the maze of those coming up, we stopped and chatted with a Nobo thru hiker who had a mutal love of Vermud (another name for Vermont at  this time of year). He wished me well on my Long Trail hike which was something that I needed to hear. There was a mutual respect there and I was glad to have briefly met him. We battled with the larger rocks, mud, water, and various other obstacles coming down the Twin Way. And made it to the Hut.

Several other Tru Hikers were milling around. Again some good conversations but not the same mutual respect as the one I met coming down from South Twin. They did not seem interested but rather were eating and making plans for the night. I told them that I was heading up to Galehead to camp and continued to discuss lightening my pack. I think this is why they had the reaction they did. My pack is big but really I do not notice the size or the weight. I use everything and really, it's the water and the food that make up the most weight. After a few more words to others from Isis, it was time to go. She gets very vocal when she is tired and probably hurting over those miles. I've very conscious of this now as she is so lovable a the beginning of a hike. We make our way up the Frost trail to Galehead but not before I take a significant fall and cut my hand. It's bleeding pretty good but I don't want to stop. There's no real place to stop anyway. And we climb up to the outlook but pass it in favor of getting our spot. I go a little deeper and settle down. We have some dinner and I set up the tent. Isis has words with me and I really just need to let her be but we head to the summit after a number of people also head up. I hold m breath hoping there is no confrontation. At the summit, there are people coming out of the woods in all directions and they are just talking and talking. I'm usually very tolerant but it's just noise to me and I'm really longing for quiet. The group of boys from South Twin are now on their way to the outlook where I had planned to have another glass of wine. I'll wait.

I move the tent back at our spot and I'm pleased with the resettling. What I am not thrilled about is the condensation buildup inside. Everything is damp. I do my best to stay in the middle of the tent and careful not to brush the walls but it's hard in cramped quarters. I know that Isis is in pain and I am tired. I really am looking forward to the walk out tomorrow for some reason and as I settle down for the night, I am thinking two things... The first is that I will figure out a way to pack my 2 person tent (less condensation) when I take my hike on the Long Trail and the second is that maybe next weekend will be a Zero Weekend. Surprisingly, I sleep through the night but I am glad I covered my pack with the rain cover as I think I heard some rain drops. At about 4am, I am awake and really wanting out of the tent. It's just too wet but I settle until 5:30am. Then, I am out and about in my long underwear. I walk over the to outlook leaving Isis to sleep. There was no view... Completely clouded in. I begin making breakfast for myself and trying to decide how I will handle feeding Isis. I settle on eating first and then letting her eat while I pack up. The tent is packed away dripping... Luckily, I've eaten a lot and the weight for the way out is down. I have enough water to get my to 13 falls. At 7am, we begin our exit in the clouds.

Day 3: Exit 13 Falls

Heading down Twin Brook, it's a struggle to get Isis moving and I again find myself questioning my Long Trail trip with her. Can she really handle it? Can we manage each other? I try and show her as much love as I can while keeping her moving. She's receptive at least. And we navigate the trail as best we can on very tired feet and bodies. It seems as though I just zone out and do my best just to make it to the next junction. It seems to take forever but we make it to the junction in good time. People are milling round and making their way to the falls. Isis and I do the same and I settle to clean the cut on my hand and bandage it up. My hands are stiff and my body is sore. I feel old today. I wash up at the falls too and feel a little better. Isis is restless. I fill up the Nalgene so we will at least have water for the ride home. There are not too many people on Franconia Brook Trail except for one family that we seemed to leap frog a little. Most of the water crossings were good with water shoes although I did fall in twice when I didn't use my water shoes. I was fine with this. I really just wanted to to get back to the car. Why? I have no idea. I'm a mixture of I want to be home and hell no. As we approach "civilization" or the Lincoln Woods Trail, I use the woods one last time and try and put the breaks on. Maybe I don't want to go back so quick.

The crowds are building as we make our way to the car. Everyone smells was better than I do but I'm fine with that. What I was not fine with was the kid who came at me with a stick raised above his head and a look of death as if he was going to hit me or my dog... Come one people! Really? The dog and I are just trying to get back to the car. As I approached, I ask him to "Please stop. Please don't do that." and just kept walking past who I think was his mother. What an intro back to the Lincoln Woods Trail... I keep to myself for most of the way. Smiles and hellos aside, there is very little stopping. We get back to the car and load the gear to looks and what not from people milling around. I appreciated the bikers who parked next to me who recognized he smell of 3 days in the Pemi. As I try to leave, my back door will not shut tight... This is not good as home is southern New Hampshire. I find the ranger (Fred) and he and another ranger bring tools to unstick my door. I thank them very enthusiastically and we talk for a while about hiking and what I just experienced. In particular, the experience I had on West Bond... My eye light up when I talked about it. I could feel in but it was time to head home. Isis was tired and I needed a shower. I thanked them again and was on my way.

 I got stuck in a little traffic on the way home (one nasty roll over accident and one back up due to the holiday)... Hot and sweaty with a head full of weekend memories, I made my way through the maze of civilization. It's so loud down here was what I noted. It's loud and crowded and somewhat unforgiving. I suddenly didn't want to be in the space that I was in. Nothing seemed right about being home and everything seemed wrong and broken and well beyond my control. I suddenly wanted to reverse myself and head back as well as reverse my decision on a zero weekend for next weekend. There are things I need to do for sure... I now have to get my car looked at and I need a dress for an up and coming wedding... But I long for the silence of the woods. At night, it's just so peaceful and cool. And despite my uncomfortable living quarters, I was truly happy up high. I hike and I hike a lot to some times avoid that which I have no control over and that which I am avoiding but I need to pay attention to things at ground level... There's alway Sunday if I get things done... I'm still unsettled. I long for something and I'm not even sure what it is.

Over Three Days, I hiked six peaks... The Three Bonds, The Twins, and Galehead. I left everything I had on those trails... Everything except what was waiting for me at home. 

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.