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Points on Madison for Winter.

                I have a feeling about today and I am drawing a line and challenging myself to go over it. Today, I wanted to do Madison and Adam’s. It would have been a great feet solo with Isis. Something was off with me and I kept pushing through it and crossing the line from the time I woke up. I tried to push out the fact that I had convinced myself that I needed to get both peaks and that is not motivating me. As Isis and I drive through Franconia on our way to the Appalachia trail head, the alpine glow was outstanding. At the trail head, there looked to be a busy day above tree line. One group was departing and two more were gathering. Isis and I stopped briefly to chat as we made our way through the parking lot. I was carrying my snow shoes and just had my Hillsounds trail crampons on. As we crested the snow bank, the trail appeared to be well paced out. We crossed the two snow mobile tracks roads and began our ascent on Valley Way.

                I debated on going to Adam’s or Madison first and settled on Madison and as Isis and I walked the well packed out trail, I tried to puzzle out these feelings I was having. She was doing great although, I worried about her above tree line due to the winds forecasted for the day. We pushed on and continued to enjoy the well packed out Valley Way Trail. It was warm already and I took off the gloves and hat as we were over taken by a group of men that were heading to Madison and Adam’s as well. I let them go ahead as I seemed to slow down a little more. I knew I had plenty of day light so, I really didn’t care who passed me today. I just wanted to enjoy the trails and hopefully get some good views above tree line.

                Isis and I began struggling on the ascent with the steepness of the trail. I felt winded and my right calf was significantly cramped. I began pausing to work it out and get comfortable. The angle of the trail and the lack of flat sections were not helping my case here and even though I had stripped off layers, I was feeling over heated. We were again over taken by a group and this time, it was familiar faces as Ken R said hello (we hiked Whiteface/Passaconaway back in Jan of 2012). I felt good that there were familiar faces on the trail today and still held Isis back a little so that we hiked separately and mostly because I knew we would be stopping a few more times that I would like to admit today. I began thinking of evaluating the trip when we got to the hut for a break.

                Isis and I continued at our slow pace. I tried to keep myself slow and steady except that my heart was pounding in my ears and I was sweating and uncomfortable. I needed to stop to catch my breath, take a drink, and feed Isis a few treats to help her out too. This process would be repeated throughout the trip several times. I felt weak in that I needed to stop and I was starting to wish I had left the snow shoes back in the car. My calf continued to tighten up and I continued to stretch it out. The only problem was, I was now getting tired myself and hoped that I could get Madison at least.

                The trail continued to be in great shape and that further made me wish that the extra weight was not on my pack. I thought about ditching them however, if I got to Adam’s and went down Air Line, I would not see my snow shoes again. So, they stayed and I made the decision to drop my pack at the hut to get Madison. Isis and I continued up Valley Way and while the trail was in great shape, the vertical gain was starting to get to me. It seemed that with each turn, there was more Up and today, it was not sitting well with me. I was starting to get psyched out and not liking it. We were breaking tree line so, the hut was not far off. Being above tree line was beautiful as always. I got a good look at both peaks and Madison looked better than Adam’s that was in and out of the clouds. You could hear the wind and feel the temps drop. Isis and I broke at the hut for some food which she had more than me and while my lack of food intake was a concern, I pushed on.

                We tailed a pair of hikers who I believe had German accents. I dropped my pack at the sign post to the entrance of the trail to the summit and put my wind breaker on over my winter shell. The wind was going to be wicked at the top. Isis and I began following the cairns over the blowing snow and ice. The rocks to the summit were bare in places and drifted in others (minorly) so, depending on where you stepped, you may sink into a drift. Isis picked up her pace as she always does when the winds pick up and she gets spooked. I did my best to calm her and once we turned away from the wind on the trail, she was better.   Once at the summit, I settled on a summit picture of her looking rather grumpy and then one that she finally looked at the camera for. We quickly made a descent after that and she was again full speed ahead. All in all, the trail to the summit was not in bad shape and again, snow shoes were not needed. It seemed like we got back to the hut in no time and without much of a pause, it seemed that I scooped up my pack and we kept moving.

                Isis and I made the turn to head to Adam’s even though I had been watching it look more and more inhospitable. I wanted to try seeing as it was before noon and I had plenty of time. Something stopped me not too far into the ascent. I stood there and looked at our destination and weighed my winter finish. Then I seemed to take stalk of my wellbeing and Isis’ and began to cry. I figured if it was taking this long to get moving, then Adam’s would need to wait. I was not in the right frame of mind anymore and began making our way back to Valley Way. I began searching for a way to still complete my winter list by next Sunday. I did not look back at the summit and wrestled with my decision. I asked my grandfather (Chief), who I often converse with on the trail, for a perfect weekend next weekend and a successful trip out tomorrow. I think at this point, I needed the win.

                We were coming back around by the dangerous weather sign and as I took stock of all I had accomplished, solo hiking in winter, all the peaks I had completed, and all that I had been though below 4000 feet, I simply said, ‘I get points for breathing. I… Get points TODAY, for breathing’. Then as I looked down the trail, I saw the familiar faces of Pepper and Me as well as Silverfox. A brief conversation about winter reminded me again that this has been an incredible season for me and that I should not count it out yet. I believed that Chief figured I needed to hear it spoken to me. I was rested in my decision all the more and hopeful for a plan. It was great to run into so many familiar faces today.

                Moving quickly back to the car, I managed to get my layers down to just my turtleneck and vest. It was increasingly warm and the trail was turning into mush. I had some snow balling under my hillsounds. Isis and I enjoyed the trip back to the car more and more as I began to think of a plan for my finish. I was still hopeful. I just needed to get some time in the hot tub to loosen up my right calf and some aspirin for my developing head ache (I CANNOT get sick for several reasons). Once back at the parking lot, Isis and I ran into another inspiration as we discussed our successes and failures to complete winter peaks. Again, I felt that my grandfather figured I needed to hear this before I got into the car.

                This was a great day on the trails and a great day above tree line. I enjoyed so many sights and seeing so many familiar and friendly faces. I continually battle my failures during the week and seem to crave success on the weekends however, sometimes that success comes at risk of pushing too hard. Perhaps something was pulling me back today and making me slow down. I don’t want to begin resenting my drive to the mountains or my hiking and I want to keep doing this. Too much pressure and too many failures and I am afraid that it will turn on me. So, as I draw lines for myself to challenge and cross, I also remain aware that I don’t need to finish next weekend. The mountains will be there for me next winter season too and while I am OK with this, I am not counting it out just yet. I figured that I can minimize the damage by putting Adam’s on hold and continuing to try with Zealand/West Bond, Pierce to Monroe, and then maybe Jefferson and a finish on Adam’s.    


                No matter what, it has been my best winter season yet with a lot of these peaks done solo and a lot of great trips with some good people too. I am forever proud of what I have done… I just like to push myself to see if I can go further.

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