Nearly a week after my personally disastrous attempt at completing all the Carter peaks, I returned to try for the Last Carter (Carter Dome) and the two peaks needed to complete the Wildcat’s. Once again, I found myself confused and heavy hearted at the 19 mile brook trailhead. Things were still off in my life and I was feeling like there was nothing I could do to improve things. So, I had opted to just let it all be and hit the trail. I could not have been any worse than last week… Could it?
As I started out, I tried to push my lack of work out of my mind. I had a goal to reach and this was the perfect time to complete it or come closer to completing it. Never mind how to pay the bills. Never mind that I had to clean the house and keep up with things around there. Just… Never mind. I walked over rocks and roots and suddenly wished it was winter again and the whole trail was covered in a blanket of snow, making it easier to walk on as all the rocks and roots would be covered. This of course instantly led me to thoughts of how I would conquer the 48 in winter and I was looking forward to the next journey. I tried to continue to distract my mind with thoughts of my winter plan to redo the 48 peaks (some of which I had already completed.). And I would smile at the thoughts. And then something would jar me back to reality and I’d remember all my current troubles all over again. I was in need to leaving it all behind for the day and being overwhelmed by the volume of worry, I was finding it hard. That’s when I noticed all the trillium that was lining the sides of the trail. It looked as if Mother Nature had provided a nice border for me to walk by. I snapped a few pictures and said a Thank You. I needed a lot of distractions.
The trail was a little wetter this week from recent rains and I didn’t mind. I never mind the weather when I am hiking. As I walked, I began to realize that I may be the only one on the trails for the day. Given that it was mid-week and most of the world was working, I felt like I was cheating on something. In truth, I was just living and working out issues the only way I knew how… On the trails. There seemed to be a growing distance between my hiking partner and I did not want to bother him today so, I put contacting him out of my head as best I could. I had grown fond of him and despite our differences, I found myself working on a plan to work things out and at the same time working on a plan to live on without him. Whatever was going to happen between us was already in motion and there was not a whole lot I could do.
“If I sat at home, I’d just drive myself crazy trying to reach him even if he’s right in front of me. So, forget about it. Remember all that you have worked for and just keep walking. Do not let this screw up your goal. You’ll never forgive yourself then.”
And that’s exactly what I did. I kept walking. And as I walked, I began to notice all the small things on the trail. Interesting growths on trees, a slug, spider webs with spiders right in the middle of them, and endless amounts of green vegetation. Again, I slipped into a moment of total peace and I breathed it all in… Deeply. I knew that I had a long day ahead of me and I was aware of how steep it would be in places. I just kept focused on those issues rather than the heaviness I was carrying a long with my pack. I just wanted to make it to the end of the day and then to the end of the 48.
I had made it to the junction and made the turn to head to the Carter Notch Hut. New section of this already too familiar trail (I was reminded of the Kinsman’s and how many times I parked at Lafayette Place Campground) was where I was heading. I was at least in luck that all the water crossings seemed to be bridged. Some better than others but, there were boards for me to walk across without much thought. And as I was walking, I happened to see a leaf that looked like a ghost of its former self. You could see the veins running through it but the actual leaf was translucent and ghost like. I knew exactly what that was like as I had recently felt I had become a different person again and that people were just looking right through me rather than noticing what I actually had to offer. I felt I was becoming one that was more caught up in making others happy and less focused on herself in a very unhealthy way. And I felt as though I was moving away from where I wanted to be while at the same time, trying to discover a new “me”. I assumed this new me would appear at the end of this journey (if it ever ends). At the end of the 48.
I made my way up this new section to the 19 mile brook trail and I was relaxing a little more. I was into the hike as I had been so many times before. My thoughts would drift in and out and I settle into a walking meditation. I discovered that I needed to descend to get to the Carter Notch Hut and that woke me up just a little bit. I was not even close to the elevation I needed to be at for Cater Dome so, I figured that going down meant only one thing… I had a long way to go up and then to go down again only to go up again for Wildcat A and over to D. Mentally preparing myself as I walked, I tried to imagine the vertical gain and the rocks under feet.
I enjoyed the walk down by the pond which was by the hut and arrived at the start of the ascent to Carter Dome on the Carter Moriah trail. I saw by the sign that it was only .2 to the summit and I smiled a little. It didn’t seem that bad and maybe the man that was more of a roommate now was wrong about the amount of up I had to endure today. Of course, I was wrong and he was right. There was plenty of Up. So much so, that I began to concentrate more on where my hands and feet were being placed and less on my worries. After all, what was in motion was going to happen whether I was hiking or sitting at home waiting for him to make a move. I was in my element on this trail and appreciated each and every outlook as I rose higher and higher over the Carter Notch Hut until I looked down and it looked like a tiny spec of green plastic.
Once the Carter Notch hut looked that small, I figured I was just feet away from the summit and this was true. As I crested the rise, I came to a flat section of the trail which led into a clearing and a large cairn. Setting my pack down, I pulled out a sandwich and tried to cram some life into me as I was getting tired. I took my summit picture a few times to try and get the one that I liked. This was after all, my first hike of the season in shorts so, I wanted to look good. I didn’t run into anyone at this summit so, I took my time and enjoyed both the warmth and the solitude. I held out for as long as I could considering my internal clock ticks and really does not let me forget that I am running out of daylight. Even if it is May.
I hoisted the pack back on and began my descent back the way I came. Heading down was of course easier albeit a little awkward given the angle and my balance. I had not hurt myself on these trips yet and today would be no different (at least that is what I was telling myself each time I felt uneasy). As usual, the descent took less time than the ascent. Momentum carries me down and I let it take me. I round the corner of the trail by the pond and ascend back over the junction of the 19 mile brook trail and the wildcat ridge trail. It was .7miles to the A peak of Wildcat Mountain and it was already 12:30pm. This made me feel anxious for reaching D peak. I pressed on and felt my balance return after that moment of anxiety. The trail wound around flat for a distance and then I began my next ascent. As I did this, a lot of people came to mind. Some fellow hikers who had joked about the steepness of the Ridge Trail and how much they were right about the vertical gain. I was happy though to be climbing in the heat of the day and still anxious to get these next peaks.
“If I can get both the Wildcat’s, I can break this bad cycle I seem to be in.” I told myself. “I don’t need anyone else to be proud of me. I just need me to be proud of me. I need this. I’ve overcome a lot; this should be a piece of cake.” The problem was that I didn’t believe what I was saying.
I kept climbing and breaking a lot to rest and look at the view. The trail was switch backing and I was also climbing over rocks as it was doubling back on itself. The other thought that kept running through my mind was that this would make on hell of a story someday.
I crested the vertical trail and began hiking along the ridge. Walking over boardwalks, I began looking for anything that marked Wildcat A peak. I knew that there was the last outlook for me to take a picture on. I was becoming upset with myself because I didn’t mark mileage to find the actual high point. I was sure that I had passed it as I was beginning to descend and probably head over to Wildcat D peak.
It took me almost an hour to get back to the view point of Wildcat A and during that time, my phone rang. Look down at the screen, I was both shocked that it was receiving a signal and that it was his number that came up. Of course, I fumbled to answer it and could not hear him and dropped the call. So, I became frantic and called him back, not wanting to make waves since there were already ripples between us. Of course, I could not get a clear signal and I must have dropped calls to both his cell phone and his work phone 5 times. This I was sure would piss him off even further. My anxiety went up again as I put the phone back into my pocket. I was not going to bother him anymore and I just wanted to get back to the A peak and get my summit. There would be no D peak today. I was too anxious and frustrated.
Reaching the outlook, I was sure that I had crossed A peak a few times so; I set the tripod and got my summit pictures. I double checked the elevation on my phone and noticed a message. The time stamp was the same time that I thought he had called me. So, I tried to listen to it. Standing completely still so I didn’t lose signal, I listened and found out that it was not him at all that called me. It was however the state board of mental health with a concern for my licensure paperwork. I about died thinking of the mess that I was in calling him at work and then the mess that apparently my professional life was falling into. With an extremely heavy sigh, I stuffed the phone into my pocket and began my descent. Of course the firs think I do is hit my head on a low hanging branch. The second thing I did was fall on my ass. I sat there on the very steep descent of the trail and almost cried. I was beyond disgusted and ready to be home.
“That’s it. I’m done. I can’t stop whatever will happen at home. He’s going to do whatever he wants. Apparently I can’t do what I want professionally either or something is telling me to seek another career.” I paused and got up. “Time to go.”
Most of the hike out was spent in random reflection. I had spent a lot of time in the woods today with very little to show for it. I was disgusted and still worried about what I would walk into when I got home. I was desperate for some peace and some answers.
“I can’t keep feeling like this and I can’t keep going on like this either.” I was in the home stretch of the 19 mile brook trail. “I’ve said it all day. He’s going to do whatever he’s going to do and if that means he goes to her, then so be it. I just know that we can’t keep living as roommates without some serious changes. I’m going broke with nothing to show for it and all I want is the guy I met in the beginning of the year back.”
The hike that started out rather light hearted and full of small details had turned into something too heavy to be considered a hike. I was glad to reach the car. I took note of the flowers growing by the side of the trail and I smiled. I knew that things would get back to basics and something of a normal rhythm soon. My one lingering question was if I was to finish this journey on my own.