As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for, you may just get it. It won't be easy. It will push me to the wall. In the end, I will look back and be proud of the new that unfolds from this wish... It will be amazing. I'm not perfect in body or mind. I have flaws and I make mistakes. I'm more than ok with this because it makes me humble. It makes me human. I have the opportunity to rebuild from the bottom up as 2013 gave me one final kick in the pants just after the New Year. I can find me in this world and the first thing I am aware of is that I am not going to find me in a computer or an office for that matter. Out on the trails and in the world is where I truly am. Today, I found myself on Cannon Mountain and I have not been here since 2011. Well, that is not true, I was here back in June with Scott and two other friends. We took the tram up to show them what was once our world. I fondly remembered that day even though it didn’t “count” for anything except a great day full of laughs and picking on us because we don’t take a tram up things…
This morning, I cruised up 93 to some great music and Isis and I were at the Tramway for Cannon Mountain by 8am. The tram is not running anymore so, I parked with a few other cars in the empty lot. The morning was clouded and grey. It felt heavy to me as I got ready. Stepping out of the car and getting Isis settled, we began walking to the trailhead. The parking lot was ice so I was happy to have my crampons on. The second parking area did not look accessible in the conditions so, I was happy have parked where I did. A brief walk through some deeper drifts and I look at the sign for the Kinsman Ridge trail. The arrow to the trail is blurred and looking to my right and my left, I see foot traffic to my right so, I begin to follow it. Isis is doing well even though there are some deeper sections. The ice is beginning to build and there are more than a few places I lose the tracks on the trail. I kept going for a little while longer as the trail got steeper and steeper. I had not seen a blaze either so, I was beginning to get suspicious that this was not the trail we needed to be on. Obviously, it was passable to some however, I was becoming uncomfortable. Isis and I turned around and arrived back at the sign. We looked to our left… At a blue blaze.
We were on our way again after overcoming a moment of self-doubt and swearing that my winter season was over, Isis pulled me up the right trail a little and we settled into our rhythm. The ice on the Kinsman Ridge trail was plentiful and while I was thankful for the crampons, I was also thankful (as usual) for the poles to give me two more points of stability. Isis was doing well although she was a little timid in trying to dig into the ice to hoist herself up. I was there to help her though. The wind was still howling and while it was cold, as we kept moving, I kept removing my gloves. I was very warm and Isis was not even shivering. The vertical gain of the trail was increasing and adding that to the ice on the trail, it was difficult for us to say the least. I kept checking in with myself and Isis to see if we would make it. Given the mistake at the beginning, energy to continue comes into question. We wound our way through the ice flows and over the rocks. I would dig in my crampons to pick up Isis and move her through some tricky spots. She in turn would kiss my face as a thank you. There were no other thoughts (for a change) outside of getting up this trail. It was only 2 miles up. This was a hard two miles in the winter though.
Navigating a particularly tricky ice filled section lead us to a rather open pass and the wind spooked Isis as we moved through the snow field. I could hear the ice under the snow as it crunched under my crampons. Many times on the way up, I was hugging trees to keep myself from sliding down again. After this snow field, there was a rope blocking off a piece of trail that the people who ran the ski slopes didn’t want you to walk on. You can bet anything that I took a hold of that rope and walked myself up this pass. Once back into the trees, Isis settled and we began moving quicker. Again we warmed up and I was taking my gloves off. The trees were frosted with snow and ice and the trail had about 2 inches of powder over the ice on the trail. Slowly, the sky was over taking the trees and opening up the trail a little more with each step. I loved this part of winter the best. The upper trails were another world full of interesting ice and snow formations that were once trees and the blue of the sky looked almost too blue against the pure white snow. It’s not the colors that someone at sea level is use to seeing.
Walking the ridge to the observation tower, Isis explored the drifts and because it was relatively flat, she was able to move quickly and had no difficulty navigating due to ice. We came to the first outlook and she lead me down to it. There was no view here as this section was in the clouds where other sections were not. We kept walking in and out of trees and came a section of down trail that had me hoping that I was not going to lose too much elevation. We came out to see the observation tower in the distance and I stood examining the trail. It was closer than it seemed and while it was another significant gain, the trail wound around and made it a little easier rather than a straight up. I knew we were getting close when I came to my favorite bench… Engraved in the bench is “If you love someone tell them. Most importantly, stay close to your friends. Let it make a difference in your day and theirs." I smiled even though sometimes those words fall flat, I remember different situations from the past year. The happy times of 2013.
It was not long after this, Isis and I saw the observation tower at the end of the trail. We moved rather quickly and Isis climbed the stairs to the top. She again made a circle around the top and went back down because the wind was howling and the ice on the platform was probably uncomfortable. She gave me enough time to snap a few pictures and we were heading for home. Two skiers were on their way up and one snapped a pic for us to remember this summit. We didn’t talk long however, I heard my picture taker talking to his friend about us as we were heading back down. He was impressed by my little girl and with me 9I only told him that this was Isis’ 38th peak in NH). I smiled down the trail again, Isis climbed up on my bench and sat while I took some other pictures and managed to get one of her there too.
The tricky part of the trail was coming. Isis and I needed to get back down the ice and I figured that I would just slide down it. The wind had died down finally so, Isis was less spooked. When I went to slid down the first pass, I discovered that this would be tricky due to the uneven ice and the bumps that prevented me. Taking it slow, Isis would find the snow on the sides of the trail and I would dig in with the crampons. I used the rope again to get down on that section of trail that was blocked off and then crossed the snow field. We came to a tricky ice section and I lost my footing. Sliding about 20 feet down, I let go of Isis’ and tried to keep my feet away from her as the crampons were really sharp. Once we came to a rest, I scooped her up and looked her over. She was fine and maybe just a little shocked at how she got down that section. Back on our feet, we got our balance and kept walking.
Isis saw a group coming up the trail and rushed ot greet them. They had come up the section that I turned around on. I pointed out the blazes and where they now needed to follow. I told them to be careful of the ice and to be safe. They were just college kids from Boston and as usual, they had every piece of gear they didn’t need on them. Each was taken by Isis and how much she has done. Isis was getting caught up in them and I scooped her up and that was when I saw the blood on her paw. I scooted past the college kids and saw that her claw had been kicked by something. There was no flow and I believed that is was superficial. I continued to watch the ground as she walked and I didn’t see anything. She was not limping so, I believed that she was fine. We continued back to the car and she climbed in and lay down in her seat. I sat next to her and changed into dry cloths (not caring if anyone was going to pull into the parking lot) and sighed, we had finished Cannon for January, her 38th New Hampshire Peak, My 25th winter, and the 42nd of my second round. The day that started out as a near emotional disaster for a wrong turn that became a victory. I had at the beginning gotten really down on myself for taking that wrong turn which cascaded into other short comings in Life below 4 thousand feet and feeling like a complete failure. All the while, wishing that the feeling I get above 4 thousand feet would be enough to hopefully support me as I look to find where I belong personally and professionally as well as continue to work on my winter list. For as long as I am able, I will be hiking through the winter and those pieces of myself that I find will need to also fit into the trails... March 20th is approaching fast.