I am prefacing this report with the fact that it was a great day to be out on the trails. Remember that any day that is spent in the woods and in nature is better than sitting at home on the couch (at least that is how it is for me). Lately, I have been escaping to the woods as a form of release and to of course continue to move towards completion of my winter peaks. Isis having completed her multi season 48 is just along for the ride (until I decide if she is gridding for sure). So, today we were going to attempt the Carter’s from 19 mile brook and it has snowed recently. It has in fact snowed a lot. So, seeing as we are hiking solo primarily now, Isis and I are going to see what we can accomplish, knowing that we will be breaking trail and also hoping that someone will have gotten to it yesterday after the snow officially cleared out.
Isis and I are on our way at about 430am and the roads are good for traveling with the only slick spots through Franconia Notch. Isis likes to play a game of flipping my hand that rests on the shifter to the top of her head for pats and love and she is in rare form today. I start singing Elton John and she tilts her head back and forth listening to me sing… “And butterflies are free to fly… Fly away… High away… Bye Bye…”. We make it to the trail head in style with the music up and I slide the car literally on the snow so that it is facing out to the road. I know that it’s going to be a snowshoes from car to car kind of day so, I automatically put them on. We head to the trail and realize that my good friend Heather’s car is parked here as well. Heather and Kali must be traversing the Wildcat’s with Gumby Hiker as I believed that Kali still needed them for February. I hoped to run into them at some point in the day as I had not seen Gumby in ages.
The 19 mile brook trail was well packed out except for one set of bare boot tracks that made it slightly uneven. I hoped that anyone else that followed me would be smart enough to wear snowshoes to keep the trail even and packed. Isis and I are making good time with the decent trail conditions and warmish temps. The predicted snow has not started to fall yet so, we are in good shape. The river the trail follows is solid and as predicted, the crossings were bridged and easily navigated. My hopes are high for success today. Isis is doing great with her pace as well which is a plus. My mind is on the summits and hopefully decreasing my need for winter by 3 by the end of today. The trail is passing quickly as it is completely filled in with snow and being well broken out, easily passed over. Isis and I have not run into a soul on the trail although I believe she does hear someone coming up behind us due to her stopping and waiting.
It’s encouraging that we are moving so quickly and as we approach the junction of the Carter-Moriah trail, we stop for a break. Isis gets some food and I grab a drink. I turn to look at the next section of trail and realize that it’s completely unbroken. Isis and I are just a small group and while capable, the unknown depth plays into the morning. I glance at the continuing 19 mile brook trail to the hut and it’s still well broken out. I could not see Isis doing the steeper side of Carter Dome by the hut so, I put my pack back on and we begin to head out. She is initially out front and sinks into the drifts. She is not thrilled with the depth as it is about up to my knee. She tried to keep going and quickly falls in behind me so I can break it down for her to walk. Eventually, Isis gives up and I can visibly see that she is done. Her ears are flat and she’s looking at me unapologetically pissed off that I have gotten her into this. I try an coax her to keep going because to me, this is a cool experience with breaking trail that is deep for the first time. It seems almost thrilling for me that I am the first person to step on this trail after a storm and watch as my shoes sink into the powder. It’s heavy though and Isis’ lack of mobility is not helping. We maybe get about 2 tenths in and she quits on me. I scoop her up and feel that he belly is snowballed and she’s cold. Right then and there, we turn back as even her purple coat would not help her. A group of 4 meet up with us and agree to take over the job. They thanked me for the work I had done thus far. It seemed comforting to hear although I hated to let others break trail only to come back tomorrow to hopefully use the newly broken trail. We bid them farewell and head back to the junction.
I’m confident in my decision to turn back and confident that it will not set me back as I have extra days to play with (this is why I will (hopefully) come back tomorrow). Isis and I hit the now evened out 19 mile brook trail and begin to move quickly. She is back to her usual trail self and I can honestly say that snow depth and her are not good friends. We continue and I make plans in my head for the rest of winter. Isis sees an older gentleman and his daughter approaching and becomes excited to catch up. We chat about the trail and they are heading to the hut. He slips in a quick “I’m proud of you”, for my decision to turn back and I smile. That was what I needed to hear given the last time I turned back for Isis on Carrigain. Encouragement goes so much further with me these days. We part and the trail is in great shape so there are no worries. Yet again, I want to remind you that this was a good day for me on the trails regardless of who else I run into on the hike and even still, they were not all bad. The two friends of the gentleman and his daughter were lagging behind by only 5 minutes and they were in great spirits. What happened next though really got me worried and a little angry.
A group of 5 adults were approaching and they were rowdy and clearly unprepared. The woman in the lead, while she had a great winter shell on and all the right cloths, had no pack and at a closer look at the group, there was only 1 and a half packs between them all. I asked her where her pack was and she so curtly replied… I don’t need one. I asked if anyone had a first aid kit and was told yes (probably a lie), I asked about a map and was told no, I finally asked about head lamps and was also told no. They were heading out to the hut and at this point would probably run into some kind of trouble. I always get concerned for rescue when I run into groups like this. They essentially brushed off my concern and seemed to play off the lack of experience for some kind of experience. This is winter, if you are going to be on the trails, be prepared and know what you are doing else, you have no business being on the trails. I only needed to worry about myself and Isis today and after seeing this group, I was happy for that. As it would turn out, they were already drunk as I found a discarded wine bottle down the trail a ways which I carried out (It’s well before noon at this point and the bottle was not there when I started this morning). But before I picked that up, I ran into two dad’s and their young daughters (under 10) on their first snow shoe to the hut. I loved this and Isis finally had someone her size to give kisses to. After that last group, my heart was warmed again. I expressed how much I loved seeing this to the two dad’s and again let them get on their way with a wish of luck and have fun (with a big smile).
Closer to the trail head, Isis and I hear the traffic again and pop out to the lot full of cars. Two guys (father and son) are getting ready and their gear is resting on my car. I’m not upset by this as they seem nice enough. Again, they are going to the hut and I warn them of who’s already heading out there. Neither one wants to rescue anyone on this night and seem less than thrilled. I give them a quick trail report and they are on their way. I load Isis into the car and begin taking my gear off. I hear them talking to another group who is suiting up from Massachusetts. I walk over and figure I can help him out. He asks about snowshoes and I of course recommend them to help keep the trail even. He scoffs at my suggestion (well, why did you ask?). I ask him where he’s heading to and he rather shortly says the hut, in a tone of “What are you stupid”. I pretty much stop him right there and ask him to not be so rude and explain that I am asking to see where he’s going to give his an accurate report. He doesn’t apologies and simply says that he’s been cooped up in the car for too long. Under my breath I make a comment about Massachusetts (even though I was born there). I walk away knowing that he will do whatever he wants. Once in the car to change out of my wet cloths, I see him put his snow shoes on along with the rest of his crew.
Today was a lot of different lessons rolled into one important decision to turn back. I was pleased with my decision and less than pleased by the company on the trail in the end. With the exception of a few, I could have done without the rudeness and the blatant disregard. I am not out there to be the trail police. I just want people to be safe and I want rescue to maybe not have to work tonight. Lately, I don’t seem to connect well with people and maybe that is why I like my job of working with the severely mentally disabled and autistic (most are blissfully unaware of the connection and yet happy I am there) and of course, my relationship with Isis. The people on the trail today, with a few exceptions, had no business being out there in any season, let alone winter. I was disheartened by a lot of the interactions as usually the trails are friendly and I see at least one familiar face and I found myself missing the company I use to keep on the trail and yet I was fiercely determined to see this winter goal through until the end either solo or with others. Sunday is my fall back day in case things go wrong on Saturday and I would need to take advantage of it this week. Weather permitting as more snow is predicted, we may try again tomorrow. Else, we’ll be rethinking the plan for the end of winter. We drove away, knowing that at least one person was proud of us today and that made me smile just a little as well as Isis' game of flipping my hand to pat her and her head bobbing and smiling at me as I sang to the radio. We headed for coffee and for home.
To be continued…..