Welcome to a new start… A chance to look at things from a new angle. Returning to the White Mountains after 3 months in Maine and returning stronger than when I left. And even still, this was not going to be an easy day. The peaks were easy (I’ve been there twice before). I was not sure the rest would be easy. What a luxury to sleep until 4:30am. I had gotten use to a rise time of between 11:30pm the previous day and 2am to get to Maine. This morning was indeed already feeling different for me. I got the car packed, let Isis out and she promptly sat by the door to the basement. I grabbed my coffee (decaf hazelnut) and a slice of chocolate chip cake (gluten free) for breakfast. We were off down the road and I ticked off some of the things I forgot (like a change of clothes). The cloths were not important and what was important was the portable cellphone charger. An oversight on my part and I made the decision to keep going. I was too far away to let it matter. As we drove, the sun rose over the peaks and I noticed that when this happens, you tend to start examining the cloud cover. What kind of a day was in store for me could sometimes be read in the clouds.
“Hello Mountains, I have missed you.” I looked down at Isis as we pulled off at Exit 32. “We’re home Isis. We made it through Maine and slaughtered Vermont and we are home.” I smiled.
The first hairpin turn was our trailhead. Not too far into the forest boundary and when I arrived, there was plenty of parking. The last time I was here was to try and surprise someone and I remember how it backfired terribly. I let the thoughts pass through my mind and told myself that indeed today would be different. Today, I was starting over and creating a new chapter. Back to the grid and helping Isis get her 48. It was time to revisit some old friends. The Hancock’s. Two modest 4k peaks. Isis and I got ready and we were off after crossing the road and heading into the forest. The grade to begin with is easy and the long flat section allows Isis and I to get a rhythm in our step. I was pleasantly surprised at the familiarity of the trail. Having been here twice before, I was able to just move down the trail without too much concern. Soon, I discovered that I had covered a mile and a half in just over a half an hour. This was more than a decent pace for me and I was pleased.
Cedar Brook trail on the way to the loop was a little less flat and a little more wet. The water crossings came into play and thankfully they were low. No need for the poles for balance and Isis just powered right through. I was so proud of this given her hesitation and her tendency to stall for fear of getting wet. We had run into another woman on the trail while crossing and enjoyed the brief company. Nice to know that someone else was going to the top. At the next junction, we made the decision to go south to north. It was here that the real elevation gain over took us. As usual, it was slow going for me so that I could keep my heart and my breathing under control. Today, it didn’t affect me much to go slow. I was on my own time and I had plenty of it. I was quickly remembering both trips to the peaks. Each had snow and today, was my first trip without the covering. So, this is what the actual trail looks like, was what I thought. We did great hopping over rocks and small water crossings. I was relaxed and for the most part just hiking. A little on auto pilot and just letting the thoughts pass without too much dwelling. Things were indeed different and I was both sad and excited to see what happens next.
At a half mile to go before the summit, I paused to catch my breath. Isis was raring to go and pulling me up the trail. I turned to look out and the Arrow Slide caught my eye. A heavy sigh and I thought that if I did not have the pup, I’d so go up it. Next time. I had 9 more shots to get it. We continued and took our time. There was a lot of loose rock and roots to step over. I dropped Isis’ leash to a carabineer attached to my belt loop so I could have both hands free. Once at the summit, we rested and had some food and water. Another peak to add to the lists and we were satisfied. Shortly after we settled down, we were joined by a young man who was also pursuing his lists. I explained my accomplishments and we chatted for some time about our mutual goals. Isis got her lovin’ and we said we’d see him over on North peak.
Shortly after he left us, we set out and moved slowly across the ridge. I always liked this ridge as it was fairly flat and easy to walk. Treed in and on a day like today, I was fine with that. I didn’t need a view today for some reason. We came across another two gentlemen and a German Shepard named Kaiser. Isis and he got along just fine. There was more talk of accomplishments and the older gentleman told me how much he respected me for my attainments. I was having a hard time with the whole respect thing. I smiled though and wished them safe travels with a pat of Kaiser’s head. I had been struggling with the concept of respect since I did not believe myself to be anything except a woman who likes to hike. I’m aware of what I have done and I am proud. I just know that I have miles more to go and there are a lot of others who have done way more than me. I still feel like a little fish in a big pond. Even my record finishes didn’t really faze me.
Isis and I approached the mud bogs. I was aware that some work was to be done on building bridges and I was pleased to see it done. Outstanding to keep my feet free of mud. Isis however, took it upon herself to jump in. Such a different pup now considering she hated to get dirty and wet in the beginning. We quickly came to the summit of North Hancock and caught up with everyone that was on the ridge that day. A nice little summit meeting took place and I was able to rest Isis for a bit more as well as have a picture snapped. She got in a mild disagreement with another dog while we all were talking so; I was more than a little embarrassed. I took my leave when they went to the outlook for a picture.
We began our descend and the North side was looking more and more slide like with each visit. Lots of loose rocks and chances to slip and fall. I began giving Isis commands and we slowly made our way down. Allowing the people I was at the summit with pass was a good idea so that I was not holding any one up. Isis and I again took our time and made our way down to a flatter trail. Once there, we were able to move a little quicker. We passed a few groups coming in and looked at them with concern as most did not have enough equipment between them. It was good to be back in the Whites where towards the end of a hike I can get a good laugh sometimes when I needed it most. More often than not today, I was moved to tears for memories and other thoughts. This was expected with my return to the mountain’s I loved. One final laugh as I got back to a packed trailhead parking lot. Not packed with hikers but tourists taking pictures of my beloved mountains. I felt like standing behind them and whispering about how I climbed them all with my own two feet. I knew it would be lost on them though. Isis and I got in the car and made our way back home.
After all, we had an Owl hooting for us to return tomorrow. That meant rest and turning it around again….
I had the pleasure of doing a radio interview recently with Maine station 92 Moose, Please give it a listen.