A 5am wakeup call seemed so late and I even had time to lounge around before making my way to Vermont. Normally I’d be up and out the door however, things were different now. Things were more relaxed these days. With a quick stop at the store for some coffee, Isis and I were on our way. We were going for numbers 51 and 52 on the New England 67 list for me and 9 and 10 for her (individual peaks that is although I am at 58). Our first solo hike in over 2 months would be a good one: Abraham (4006ft) and Ellen (4083ft) in Vermont’s Lincoln Gap.
It was only 2.5 hours to the trail head and the ride was through some pretty peaceful back country roads. We gained a lot of elevation by going up Lincoln Gap Rd which, reminded me of Jefferson Notch and Hurricane Rds. over in the White Mountains. Parking was easy to find at the trail head. Everything was situated and we were off down the trail. The summit of Abraham was 2.6 miles away and I was prepared for an easy day. Vermont trails have a gradual elevation gain that never really seems like you are climbing anything. The trail started out with soil and roots and quickly changed to rocks to hop. I was already in love with this trail how could it possibly get any better? Isis was doing fine at 10 months old and I was just happy to be out in the woods. No worries and not a care in the world. I was at peace with myself and my life. My only thoughts for the day seemed to be wondering how I could combine my current profession as a therapist and my love of the trails and make a decent living. There was a nice mix of rock steps and rocks to hop over on the Long Trail heading north.
I wasn’t out of breath or begging for a break. I was just able to walk the trail and even better, I was not falling all over myself as I often seem to do. My balance was great today. All the way to the Battell Shelter, Isis and I enjoyed the woods. Once there, we stopped for something to eat and drink. I was getting a little hot but opted to stay in the cloths I was knowing that the brief section above tree line may be a little colder. Battell shelter offered a nice picnic table for lunch and a tent platform as well as the traditional 3 sided shelter. There also a privy that I passed on by. There was .9 miles left to the summit and I was not even close to noon yet. This section after the shelter was a little wetter but not unmanageable. Isis was able to get a few good drinks in as we walked. All wet sections were rock hopable.
We then came to the ledges leading to the summit and all I could do was grin from ear to ear. These were the best type of trail for me. My mind didn’t wander and I was able to focus on just the trail. Isis did great listening to my commands to stop and heel. She even did fine passing a group of bird watchers with bigger dogs that were off leash. There were a few sections I was able to turn around and take in a fantastic view of the surrounding hills and mountains. The reward was waiting for us though in the form of an open summit. There were a few other people up there and we all greeted each other. Well, that is to say, they greeted Isis and then me. Time for summit pictures and we all chatted a bit about different trails we had been on and some of our adventures. I talked about my last weekend on Moosilauke over in the Whites and what fun the Asquam Ridge Trail was. All agreed that they would like to try it and I fully endorsed it. Another gentleman on the summit mentioned the Adam’s slide and I grinned remembering many conversations about that very trail. Funny thing was I saw the same excitement in his eye as I spoke to this complete stranger about it.
Isis and I began to make our way to Mt. Ellen shortly after everyone disbursed. We took a moment on the summit to take in the view and began our next leg. More rocks to hop over as we made our way to the Lesser Lincoln Peak first. Here we were greeted with a platform to sit for a while and a small view of Mansfield and Camel’s Hump off in the distance. The mountain was a ski resort so, there was a chairlift at this lesser peak. We rejoined the long trail after walking through a field of dandy lions. We then continued after our brief rest and encountered a few blow downs. I made a mental note to buy myself a saw finally so that I could clear some out of the way. There was one that I was able to move so, I felt like I had helped out and accomplished something. We passed Nancy Hanks Peak without too much thought and the same with Cutts Peak. Mt. Ellen was an unmarked summit with little to get excited about. Isis and I crossed it just after 11am. We found ourselves at another ski lift and lodge. On the porch, I sat and had my traditional PB&J and Isis had her trail mix. Each of us took in some water too.
We were joined by some locals or people that were renting a condo at the base. I could not really call them hikers however, they were enjoying themselves. We again talked about trails and mountains. None of my new companions mentioned anything specific so, I had reason to believe that they had no clue about the work I had done to get to number 52 nor did they actually care. As one of them said ‘The pool is calling.”, when I asked if they would head over to Mt. Abraham. More summit pictures and it was time to head back the way I came. The day still felt really early and unfinished. I had not had an easy hike like this in a while and I really enjoyed it.
As we got closer to Lincoln peak again, the trail began to get busy. A lot of French speaking hikers were heading to Mt. Ellen and I would stop and let them pass at least 10 at a time. None of them giving me the time of day and I am sure that if I kept walking, they would not be a courteous. So, I opted to wait. Isis sat nicely as they passed. Then we moved about 100 feet and repeated the process. This would continue until the summit. On a particularly narrow pass, I was stopped by a young couple and what I believe was the woman’s father who was Japanese. He stopped in his tracks and just about scooped up Isis (who is a Shiba Inu and a Japanese breed). He admired her color (white and brown ears) and enjoyed a brief visit with her. At the summit of Lincoln Peak again, we only stopped long enough to send a quick text to say we’re heading back and almost down.
.8 to the summit of Mt. Abraham again and it went by quickly. The summit itself was crowded and may have been more crowded than a busy day on Mt. Monadnock. I didn’t stay too long at all and we made our way back down the ledges which were even easier on the way down. Isis was able to wait and not pull me over as she would normally bound down the rocks without realizing I was tethered to her. We took off down the rocky trail and began to run into people less than prepared for what lay ahead of them. I urged them to consider turning around for lack of proper foot ware. We continued on back to the shelter and again didn’t’ stay long because we were greeted by 2 huge dogs off leash who seemed to aggravate Isis. The bottom half of the trail seemed overcrowded but I was determined to not let it sour the day. The beer cans left on the trail made me sad though as this was a good set of mountains to climb. I packed them out because something game me the feeling that their owners would not remember them.
Once back at the car, I changed into dry clean cloths clothes and let out a deep exhale. Today’s hike had been different after not hiking solo for so long (not since Jackson in winter) and for not having a heavy heart to contend with along with my heavy pack. I was truly in the woods today and enjoying myself for what it was a hike up two 4k mountains in a beautiful forest. I was looking forward to not only more solo hikes but also hikes with my hiking troop too. It was time to continue my journey to 67 and beyond.