We are all creatures of habit and we all make choices in our lives. Those habits and choices will shape our futures so, choose carefully. Currently, I have been experiencing an unusual amount of time on my hands due to unemployment (New job starts Monday). It has provided me with an opportunity to hike through the month of January and really fatten up every list I am working on. Remember, we are creatures of habit and if I am going to do anything, when faced with free time, I am going to hike. This situation has also given me a chance to really bond with Isis and know myself. She has been moving through her list along with me and has just embraced hiking. You see, she came into my life in November of 2012 and didn’t have the greatest start to being in my world. It would seem that I was one of the few that cared for her and wanted her around so, there were a lot who pushed her away and that made for some uncomfortable choices on my part. She and I would also go hiking to escape a particularly bad situation, until that situation changed. Then we just enjoyed the trails and through all the other changes that have happened, we still do. She is my constant. Now, she is more bonded to me and going for her 47th New Hampshire peak of the 48 and a lot of those have been in winter. For a small dog, she packs a lot of power. This morning, we were off for a solo day on the Wildcat’s, A through D and back again because dogs are not allowed on the Polecat trail down to the base of the ski slopes.
This morning, Isis is not trying to curl up in my lap as she did on our last trip, she is smiling and sitting next to me as I sing to the radio. At 8am, we arrive at the 19 Mile Brook trail head. There is no one in the parking lot and it looks as though I may have the trails to myself. Perfect for a solo day to reconnect with myself. I carry my snow shoes and bare boot it up the trail. There is ice immediately off the trail head parking and I skirt the snow on the edges as. 19 mile brook is always well packed and today was the same case. Isis and I moved up this trail with ease because all the rocks and roots are buried. We continue up the trail and are quickly met by Bruce who recognized Isis for her presence on line. It’s always so nice when people have a favorable reaction to her and show her lots of love. We hiked behind Bruce for a short time and chatted about different people we knew and our goals. He was on his way to the Carter’s and we separated at the trail junction.
Isis and I continued on the upper section of the 19 mile brook trail and discovered that it was still icy and had not been covered in by snow. I was still not in traction however, that would change soon and not because of the ice. Isis was doing great out in front and since the temps were not too cold, she was playing all the way up the trail. I could not get mad at her today. Soon, the snow was drifting in the trail and on went the snowshoes. My theory about tightening the back strap first before the front on that snugs my foot in the front binding, worked. They were tighter than I had ever felt them. The drifts got deeper as we approached the junction with the Wildcat Ridge trail and I packed down the trail once again. At the junction, we took a break for some food and a rest. Warm temps allowed us this luxury.
Turning on the Wildcat Ridge trail, things started to get interesting. Not only was I dealing with the elevation gain up to A peak, the snow continued to drift in the trail and that meant trail breaking. This was going to be a long day and I was cautiously optimistic about getting to D peak. Carefully, Isis and I navigated up the switchbacks for A peak. A couple of sections looked like they were forming cornices and I was careful to control Isis through any possible instability. We slowly made our way to A peak and stopped at the outlook. Isis had her summit picture taken and then we needed to keep moving to D peak. I had not been on the rest of the Wildcat Ridge trail so, I was heading into unfamiliar territory. The trail continued to be drifted in and Isis was now up to her belly in snow. We traveled the ridge on A peak and then went down in elevation. Of course, this was easy as sliding would happen. We then walked the col and were faced with another steep up for B peak. I was beginning to get concerned as we needed to get to D peak and back again. I started to think of sneaking Isis down the Polecat trail and just dealing with anything that came up if we got caught. Again, we walked the ridge for B peaks and another down section that I slid. I hated doing this as it packed down our return trip and can make it harder. A short col and we were heading up to C peak and repeat the process. My cut off was 2pm as usual and it was approaching 1pm at this point. My legs were fatigued and as we approached the viewing platform for D peak, I thought seriously again about Polecat. I was not interested in being out on the trails past dark and was figuring a road walk might be better. The observation platform came into view and the mood changed to excitement as my little girl who barely stands a foot tall, was claiming her 47th summit and the hike suddenly changed to an energized hike again. A summit photo was not going to work due to the noise of the now machines and the wind. Isis was spooked and looking to turn around.
We took the ridge trail again as it was only 1:30pm and back tracked over all the other peaks. Each up was now a down and vice versa. The downs that I had slid on were a degree more difficult to get up again given the snow pack. Isis and I took our time and made up time of the flatter cols and ridge sections. Of course, by going out and back on the same trail, we were able to pack it out even more (not that Isis was able to pack out much). I felt stronger than I had been feeling lately and so proud of my little girl. I could only imagine what would happen when she walks on her final summit. We found ourselves over on A peak after struggling up some of the more icy sections between the other peaks. From there it was all downhill for us and the steepness of the ridge trail made it difficult for me to not stay on my butt and just go. Speed and navigation made this a quick .7 of a mile. The down side was the certain parts of me needed defrosting.
Isis and I hit the junction and stopped to have another bite to eat as I had tried to keep her moving to save day light. She was happy for the rest and the trail mix. Luckily, the wind remained, low and there was not much redrifting on the lower trails. Isis and I got moving again and ran into a group from William’s college. They were heading to the hut and excited for the conditions of unpacked powder and drifts to greet them tomorrow morning. We continued down the trail back to the car and keeping the snow shoes on made the ice a little more bearable too. We arrived back at the car at 4:45pm. 15 minutes to sun down and a very good day for myself and the wonder dog. Our sights now set on Isolation for her 48th peak and a guarantee that she can go to the annual meeting with me come April. I am a creature of habit and will often take off to the mountains because that seems to be what I do every weekend and it’s my habit as well as my way to feel safe and at peace with myself (I have a hard time sitting still at ground level). I would hike in the past because I sometimes didn’t know what else to do with my free time and that is not the case anymore. I hike now because it is my choice. It is my habit and I would not change it. A day on the mountain is better than any day on the couch or in the office. I am lucky that I am able to do this. I am aware that I live a life that many only wish that they had (I own my own home, have a great job, and participate in a great sport that has lead me to some great people) and I get to see things that they will never see. I am in my greatest physical shape because of this life I chose to lead which has made all the difference in my confidence and I am aware of just how truly lucky I am. I will never have it all but, what I have is enough and I am enough.
Isis has just Isolation to complete… My first round #47 was Wildcat D from the other direction of the ridge and now it is mine (again) and Isis’ too. We will actually both finish on Isolation as that will complete my second round. To end January, I have hiked 11 peaks total (16 over all for my GRID), I have 33 completed on my winter list, and have logged 98.4 miles for January (911.4 miles since 9/3/2011). We are now watching the weather for Isolation and possibly foregoing Super Bowl Sunday for a hike.