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Liberty and Flume in Winter... For the Dogs.

                How many people would hike a few four thousand footers because their dog needed it? Today’s hike had definitely gone to the dogs as both Heather and I did not need the peaks officially. Our dogs needed them for grids and winter lists. We were just the lucky ones that got to join them (who else was going to drive them to the trail head?). The night before was a little emotionally rough on me, having come to a few conclusions and upon resting, I knew one thing was for sure, I would need to hike my ass off behind my little girl dog who was going for her numbers 44 and 45 of her multi season. To me there was nothing worse than feeling as though you are not worth the truth and are ignored as if you are not deserving of any kind of acknowledgement and feeling this way was very conflicting. Isis remained curled at my feet while I moved through the emotions. We were meeting Heather and Kali at the Basin for the hike and as we drove from our home in Jaffrey, even Isis knew something was still wrong. She curled up in my lap while driving as if to provide some comfort (which about broke me). I could feel her sigh several times as I would pet her head and tried to pull my head in the game for the day. One thing I knew for sure, when life gets overwhelming, the mountains are the place I chose to sort it out and I was happy to have Heather’s company and perspective today.
                We started on the bike path from the Basin parking lot and intended on taking the bushwhack to save a lot of walking. We got to talking and the dogs got to playing with one another as we walked, we missed the entrance to the bushwhack completely and would now take the full Liberty Springs trail to the summit. Each of us bare booted it for quite some time because the snow pack was very firm and able to be walked. I had a new pair of Hillsound spikes if I needed them as my footing can sometimes be off. Heather and I continued to share stories of life and different exciting opportunities that were happening for us (A new job for me starting very soon). As we wound around the lower trails, we knew that when the incline kicked in, so would our snowshoes with televators to help us get up to the summit. I was struggling with Isis and her short attention span more so than usual today. It was extremely cold and I wanted to keep her and myself moving and with everything else weighing heavy on my mind, I was getting short with my little girl and not feeling very strong today. I was fighting off something (tears) and hoping to make it just to Liberty. Heather even noted that I was a little different and a little down. I was struggling up the incline and not able to talk a lot. But I was grateful for the strength to keep going. The trail was really good today for a lot of reasons. Conditions were perfect albeit a little cold.

                The snowshoes came on and things got a little lighter pack wise. The snow was piling up on the trail but I would not consider it deep or drifted, just new snowfall that had not been touched yet. We were the only souls on the mountain today. Continuing past the camp sites, we were getting closer to the summit. Kali was having troubles with her paws and the snow balling up, we were all getting cold, and I was mentally fatigued and losing it fast.  We would evaluate going to Flume at the Liberty summit. I began having snowshoe issues as I stepped out of them several times and that was of course adding to my frustration. The trails were absolutely beautiful with the snow and the blue sky peaking through the trees.  My mood would lighten and we would continue to talk about our surroundings, always agreeing that winter hiking provided the best scenery. I tried to reframe my mood by providing some positive encouragement to Isis and myself. Heather was also an encouraging force to get me to the summit. I continued to stop and fix my snowshoes and then finally, we broke tree line. I felt everything lift off of me as I moved to the summit. Heather was waiting up there with Kali and the sun was shining down with very little wind. The offer of a hug was all I needed to make everything come up and out of me as I broke down and admitted that I was indeed broken (just not enough to stop).

                The summit was beautiful and we had our pictures taken as well as a few snaps of the surrounding scenery. It was another day that you could see for miles and the wind was low. I hugged Isis tightly and told her how proud I was of her, and I cried for how short I was with her, as I held her in my arms. Heather took a shot at my snowshoes and got them tightened for me. We made our way over the other side of the summit to go to Flume. It was only a mile to the summit and there would be some down trail and some flatter sections prior to the short up. Heather took my mind off my anger and we talked hiking and about good things that were happening for us. The snow on this side of the Franconia Ridge trail was deeper and while not completely untouched, we had some trail breaking and packing to do. In the Col, we stopped for some food for both ourselves and the dogs. Isis took a lot of her trail mix and I had some potato soup which really helped. Heather had curried lentils which sounded equally good. Once back under way, Isis and I took the lead and made it through the deeper drifts to the summit. We had made it and it was probably the best thing for me as if I had turned around, it only would have added to my disappointment. I thanked my good friend for getting me over the rough patches and to the second summit. We all paused to take in the view and chatted about things we had experienced on this particular summit. It felt good that I was standing there in the sun and feeling a lot better about things. The way was not clear for me  however, I was happy to be exactly where I was.

                Going back was easy with every up now being a down. Even the incline to get to Liberty again was good and easily navigated through the snow on the trail. Footings were solid and I had figured out that if you tighten the back strap on my Tubbs Flex Alps Snowshoes and then the front strap, they stayed on better. Another pause at Liberty for a panorama shot and then we were heading back down to the cars. It’s always an easier task to talk on the way back down for me as my lungs are not working hard and I can talk and breath easily. Heather and I entertained ourselves with stories and theories on life and relationships. It was again the level of conversation that I craved and needed. Some things I didn't want to hear except, I needed to hear them in order to begin to heal. The Liberty Springs trail on the way down was soft footings due to sun and ice was apparent in some places. We were careful and kept our snowshoes on to help us keep our footing. We became aware of looking for the entrance to the bushwhack as we began taking corners on the trail. This time, we successfully found it and continued to break it out form the previous people or person who used it. Hoping over one huge log and crossing the minor stream, we were back out to the bike path. Ever watchful for snowmobilers, we made our way back to the cars, successfully working through doubt and getting both Kali and Isis their summits.  After all, it was a hike that had gone to the dog days of winter.

                My Isis now has 3 summits left… A visit to the Cat’s and Isolation will finish her multi season and my second round. I am forever grateful for the therapy I receive in the mountains of New Hampshire. Knowing that I am right with myself and that I can find the strength to get myself over two summits when the spirit is low means the world to me and the connection I feel to both Isis and those good friends that accompany me is one that I cherish always. It can be said that each of us is on a journey and that journey is always at the beginning, it’s where you decide to go with each new experience that makes it interesting and personal to you (even if it takes 576 summits to get it right). Follow your bliss and above all else, be honest and kind to one another always. You never know who’s spirit you might just lift from the dark.

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