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Lucky 13 and the Journey over Liberty and Flume

                The hike for Liberty and Flume started pretty much when I got home from South Kinsman. I had to do a quick turn around and repack my pack for the following day. Not to mention eat, clean up (myself and the house), and get some rest, so that I could get up and do it all over again. I was happy to do this though since hiking had become a significant part of my life. Never before had an activity spoken to me in the same way that hiking had done. I had often joked that I was having trouble staying below 4 thousand feet and in truth, I really was. There was something so freeing about hiking through the woods with nothing but the sounds of nature around you. I would often find myself hiking trails in my head over and over again throughout my “week day life” and getting ready for Liberty and Flume was no exception.

                I was excited to have some company on this hike as I was going to join Chuck and Cheryl. They were the couple I had met on my birthday hike for the Osceola’s. I had originally thought of doing the entire 48 peaks solo for thesheer experience of it all and also because in my small circles, it was hard to find someone who wanted to join me. As I had been hiking though, I began to really want to share this with someone in the moment rather than waiting to show off pictures when I got home. Something was pulling me towards hiking with others which was odd for me given that I am often “just me”. The sacrifice for me would be that the sometimes off the wall conversations I would hold with the trees, rocks, and occasional squirrel or chipmunk might not happen. The trails had become a place where I could work things that happen during the week out with myself and “whoever” was listening. As I was driving up to the trailhead we had agreed upon in a series of emails the night before, these are the things I wondered about. I wanted to be early to the trailhead to have a few moments to get myself together and as the sunrise caught me off guard enough to want to take a picture of it, I realized that I had done it again…
                “You have got to be FREAKIN’ kidding me. AGAIN? Really?” I had forgotten the memory card for my camera. Just like I did for my climb of Mount Washington. “Stupid Hashimoto’s brain.” Usually if I forgot something, and had no excuse, it was easy for me to blame my disease. After all, it is a disease that can make you forget things and I am always conscious of this fact. Well, except when I forget and that usually results in me leaving the memory card for my camera in my laptop. I kept driving but I was determined to find another memory card. Getting closer to the trail head, I began to stop at any convenience store that I could find. Of course everyone that I stopped at, didn’t have any. I guess my theory that these things are now sold like film use to be had been disproven. And now of course, I was officially running late and I really dislike running late.
                Once at the trailhead, I spotted Chuck and Cheryl’s jeep liberty and pull my car in next to them. Then I see them coming up from the road leading to the Flume. Or what I think is the Flume. I became really excited to see them. After all, it had been over a month now and we had some catching up to do and all day on the trails to do it. Suddenly, everything that I was concerned about didn’t seem to matter. I was no longer concerned that my private hike would be less private. I was excited to actually have people to talk to and share this experience with. And we greeted each other and began prepping for the hike… Shoes were changed and packs were arranged, along with Abby’s gear, and we were all set.

                As we set off, there was talk of the hikes I had been on in the past month as well as thoughts on the hikes that Chuck and Cheryl had already done. I can always count on gathering some really great information when I hike with Chuck and on this one; I figured I’d learn a whole lot since I would now have the whole hike with them. Hiking up the White House trail to the Liberty Springs trail, the conversation was light and fun. We spoke about my solo trip up Mt. Washington and how I had decided to just go for it. We joked around a lot about the slides on the Tripyramids and how much it took out of Chuck and Cheryl to do those in the humidity with Abby (who they almost lost on the trail). We were all reminded that there was a slide to get up the Flume however, we all agreed that it was not the way to go on this day. The trail itself was a moderate incline and not a bad hike at all for a while. The typical water crossings and rock stairs presented themselves and we kept walking, talking, and laughing. Then, the incline started and so did the comments about wanting escalators and our quick scheming as to the quickest way to get to the summit while still keeping it legal under the AMC guidelines for completing the 48 peaks.

Also along with the steep incline came my traditional time of feeling every step that I was taking. Things for me start to get a little sluggish on the steep inclines and yet my heart rate increases from the work out. I need to stop every now and then and thankfully we are able to do this. I grab some water and a granola bar to quiet myself a little bit. All the while I am telling myself to keep going and to not give up on this. The reward was coming.

So, we kept hiking and came to the Liberty Springs camp site and I could imagine myself camping up there in the higher elevations someday.  Maybe after I finish the 48 but then again who knows what I’ll be doing then. We continued onto the Franconia Ridge trail. It was not long to the summit now and I could feel something building inside of me. It was a feeling that I got as I approached the summit and even though I was with a group of people, it was a personal experience. As we climbed towards our goal, we passed a US Coast Guard jacket that was hung on a tree. All three of us thought it was more than a little strange to see. The owner was nowhere to be found.

Soon, Abby was put on her leash so that she would not wander too much around the summit. As we came up over the ridge, we just happened to run into an older gentleman who was sitting close to the high point. At first we thought that he was just sitting there and as we joked around about our journey, we realized that he was actually on the phone. And he actually appeared to be upset that we were laughing and carrying on and obviously disturbing his conversation. Our thought… “Who the heck climbs a mountain to make a phone call?”

Suddenly, we are caught in the wind of the high point and I am able to get a good look at the surrounding mountains. As I look around, I am overcome by the miles upon miles that I can see. Lafayette, Lincoln, and Little Haystack are visible along with Cannon and the two peaks of Kinsman. Off in the distance lies the Presidential range as well as several other peaks that we have yet to climb. I let out an audible gasp and stated
“This is why we do this!” I was amazed by the whole experience and we had a good laugh over my genuine reaction.
Each of us too k a summit picture with our numbers. The gentleman who was on his phone when we came upon the summit had since left but others were filtering on and taking their turn to admire the view that presented itself. Chuck and I discussed a mutual distaste of Cannon Mountain as we looked at it From Liberty. We then began our descent of Liberty to move over to Mount Flume. All of us working together to get through some tricky rock sections; although I have a little more trouble accepting help partly because of my nature and partly because I am so use to solo hiking. We continue walking and talking about different experiences we have had and not just in hiking the 48 but in life in general. I find myself appreciating their company more and more. Laughter on the trail is welcome now over the usual conversations I would have with myself.

As we move through the dense woods leading to the summit of Mount Flume, we begin to ascend and we notice a group coming towards us comprised of a woman, a small child, a dog, and a man in a kilt. It was Chuck that began to get excited first.
“I think that’s Mad River.” He tells us and I look up from my middle position in the hiking line. In truth, I had no clue who Mad River was at first but then I realized that Mad River was also with Trish, her daughter Sage, and their do Max (who looked like Benji).
This particular group of hikers had some fame attached to them. Well, at least in the hiking world. Trish had written a book (titled: Up) about her experience hiking the 48 with her oldest daughter Alex (who was not hiking that day). Trish’s ex-husband had also gained notoriety for a tragic accident that cost him his legs on Mount Washington. He had since gone on to invent prosthetic legs for amputees. Sage was now going for her 48 and today was numbers 43 and 44 for her. We were slightly star struck by meeting up with this particular group and as we passed, we’d hoped that we’d at least get mentioned in Trish’s blog following her day on the trails. The four of us continued on to the summit of Mount Flume.

Both the summits (Mount Liberty and Flume) were very narrow and the combination of that plus the wind, made presented view even more dramatic. It almost seemed to me that a person really didn’t belong up there and this of course made the summit mean just a little bit more to me. I had conquered number 13. Prior to taking the summit picture, we watched two climbers coming up the Flume Slide trail (a rock slide that people climb up) with ropes and all kinds of equipment. Each of us was impressed since slides are not the easiest to climb up (with or without equipment). We congratulated them and took their picture for them. This of course was followed by our summit pictures and our first group picture. I grabbed a quick granola bar and some water and we were on our way again; back to Liberty and eventually back to the parking lot.  

As we descended back into the tree line, we wondered if we would catch up with Trish and Sage’s group on Liberty. We stopped in the Col between the two peaks for lunch and a rest. This far into the hike, I am thankful for resting as well as food and after hiking two days in a row, I am all the more thankful. We pack back up again and make our way back to the summit of Liberty.

At the top again, we run into the gentlemen who came up the Flume Slide and struck up another conversation with them. The exchanged information with Chuck and Wished us all luck on our journey to the end of the 48. I had set my end of the 48 for my birthday in September of 2012 and Chuck and Cheryl, as well as Abby (by default) had decided to join me. As we made our final descent to the parking area, the three of us discussed things such as the journey for the 48, the fact that we now have completed the entire Franconia Notch, and our plans to monitor our new found property.  Once down on the paved path leading back to the parking area, we are able to look up and see where we had been. Perspective gives me a great sense of awe for the journey I have been placed on. I smile knowing that while I have a few solo hikes to come still, I now have a solid hiking party that has playfully been named the Fantastic 4. We part and I head for home again satisfied that another weekend of hiking has gone by and already planning for the following weekend in my head.   

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