Entering into the 2013/2014 Winter season, I was free and clear to attempt to finish off what was already 2 winter seasons in the making and having less than stellar winter seasons in the past, I was hungry for this one. I was already at 21 peaks and looking to get the remaining 27 knowing that this was a very busy winter for myself, I entered in knowing that I needed to be OK with not finishing again this winter season (but hope was already built up inside of me). I was however not going down without a fight. The only obstacles in my way would be the weather, distance to the mountains, and me. Knowing this might be a large solo effort, I needed to quiet the doubtful voice and just go for it with everything I had.
I began my season on the Osceola's (East and Osceola peak) on Dec 28 2013 after a quiet family Christmas season, I was reunited (so to speak) with NHITHIKER for the day’s journey. After meeting up early one morning at a safe location, and packing the gear into one car, we were awkwardly on our way up north. The trail itself for this hike was the challenge I faced as approaching for the Greeley Pond side meant that we would have the ledges and those ledges would be covered in ice. Sure enough, even after a significant snow fall, the ice almost turned me back as I sat on the trail and debated turning back in utter embarrassment and defeat or going on and facing a number of obstacles. My one saving grace was a tiny voice that said to try harder as I blocked out everything and anything that was negative and doubtful and triumphantly made it to both summits on my own power. Some of the more beautiful winter scenes were here for my eyes to take in. While we separated for a lot of the ascent of the peaks, together NHITHIKER and I took on the chimney section and were able to even get Isis up the bypass and back again after separating and meeting back up at the summit of Mt. Osceola. I was happy for that brief reunion hike of someone I once enjoyed hiking with and it was nice to have his help to kick off my bid for finishing my winter 48’s. Perhaps paths would cross again some day...
January would usher in many changes in my life as I began searching for a new identity, voice, and career. With plenty of time to hike, I figured that my winter peaks would be a piece of cake to attain. The bills were being paid and everything was cared for so, as long as I had gas money, I might as well hike. Given that I had no plans for New Year’s Eve, I figured I would ring in the New year on Moriah Jan 1 2014, I soloed on a very cold first day of the year on a great trail that I knew a lot of my friends had broken out weeks before I made my trip. Isis and I enjoyed the solitude of the trails and a chance to reconnect and plan for a new future. The Carter-Moriah trail up to the summit was perfect and I admired how easy it was to get up and navigate when filled in by snow. The tree's themselves took on that look of being covered in soap bubbles that I was so fond of in winter. The temps were well below zero (-30*F) and the winds were wicked enough for Isis to get spooked at the summit. We did a quick 360* and were heading back down by way of sliding on my ass (my favorite way to descend in Winter). I was ready to face 2014 and anything that it had for me.
Continuing to take advantage of my lack of work, I hiked Cannon Jan 9 2014, these peaks would also count for Isis’ multi season 48 so, I was pulling double duty with her and happy for it. The ultimate goal for the next annual meeting was to receive my NE67 Scroll, Isis' NH48, and my NH48 Winter. Cannon was a bit confusing as I headed up the wrong trail to begin with and after back tracking and almost tossing in the snowshoes, I headed up the Kinsman Ridge trail to the summit. The day itself was another cold one and the cloud cover looked very threatening at best but this was a n enjoyable hike as the clouds seemed to dance around us. Isis and I made our way up the ice covered trail and she handled it all so well and we only took one bad fall. I had the feeling I was beginning a very special winter with her on this hike no matter what the outcome was. We passed many familiar sections from other journeys on this trail and paused briefly to remember some happy times and on our way, the clouds would open up and give us some incredible views of the area. At the summit tower, the winds were again too high for us to stick around and really take it in like we do in warmer months but I was proud to have made this summit after a rough start.
Another set of familiar faces joined Isis and I on our winter journey as we hiked Galehead and the Twin's on January 13 2014, Silverfox, Heather and her dog Kali. We hiked for Heather’s birthday celebration and for adding to various lists and accomplishments for each of us. This would be one of the longer trips for the winter season and also one that I seemed to struggle on more than most. On most of the vertical trails, I was struggling to keep up with my trail companions and feeling like I was no match for them. I considered turning back and letting them go on and again, that little voce spoke up and told me to try harder. I had to focus myself and Isis to get over some pretty tough sections of trail and it was all worth it for a deeper connection with Heather and a chance for Isis to hike with Kali. At the end of this day, I was exhausted and incredibly proud of myself for making it through.
As Isis and I continued to move through January, looking for work and maintaining things below 4k (coming to some very hard decisions about how to shape this year and turn things for the better), we rejoined Heather and Kali for a girls hike of Garfield on January 18, 2014. It was really good to just have the girls on the trails and Heather and I really had a chance to talk about life and love and hiking. Having similar hiking goals was a great springboard to our continued friendship. Our talking all the way up and down the mountain was more than I could have asked for in terms of remaining connected and passing the time. The views from Garfield that day were amazing as we looked over to Franconia Ridge and out at the surrounding peaks. Isis at this point was moving closer to her multi season 48 finish and I was feeling very confident about my winter season. This was shaping up to be the best winter for myself so far.
One peak in Isis’ multi season that turned us back on and we were ready to face it again: Carrigain was hiked on January 23 2014 with Lady Grey to accompany us. On this again very cold day as the Polar Vortex continued to make sure that things remained frozen solid, we headed up Sawyer River Road for the 2 mile road walk. Lady Grey and I had really not hiked and after her October Grid finish, I was happy to have her company and to connect with her. The trails were filled with great conversation and beautiful sights. The day itself warmed up and the Ridge to the summit was beautiful. I had hiked it in the clouds for my multi season 48 finish and to see the views that we saw was amazing. I must have sounded crazy as I carried on about the views. We celebrated at the summit oh so briefly and in the blustery wind made our way back to the car. I was happy for another connection made through this journey I was on.
To balance out the group hikes, I took Isis solo up Cabot on January 25, 2014. As my luck would have it, time was now growing short as I was to return to work at the beginning of February. Grateful for the new job, I was now wondering how I would be able to continue hiking and juggling work. Secretly, I did wish that I was unemployed for the entire season, however I knew that it was not economically a good thing for me. This Cabot hike was very peaceful and enjoyable as we walked through the woods surrounded by trees covered in fresh snow and on the flatter sections, Isis and I moved with ease. While I struggled up the vertical trail to the summit, I took my time and Isis and I made it with a round of applause from some hikers we met along the way. We spent a lot of time at the cabin on the top and met a lot of great hikers this day. Cabot being the furthest northern peak was sometimes the one that got pushed aside until it was absolutely needed. I was not sorry for making the long trip and rewarded with a great sunrise followed by a really enjoyable solo hike in great conditions.
To date, outside of the cold temps, Isis and I had not run into bad weather to hike in. We had waited out storms and managed to hike pretty steadily. I took Isis on an out and back journey of The Wildcat's to end January (1/31/14). This would again be a test for us as only A and D peaks counted and we needed to cross all 4 peaks and back again to add them to our counts. The trails were in great shape to begin with and drifted towards the peaks on the ridges. Isis and I enjoyed a little trail breaking, butt sliding, and a lot of achievement as we made the long out and back over the Wildcat’s together, only to find out that the ski resort does allow leashed dogs on the trail leading down from Wildcat D (we could have traversed it). Again, there was a great sense of pride for what I had accomplished on my own with a little dog that continued ot amaze me. I was ready to face anything that life threw at me but first Isis and I needed to finish her multi season 48.
On a snowy morning, Isis and I headed to Isolation, February 2, 2014 for Isis’ 48th finish and it was also the day before my first day back to work. A month’s worth of unemployment had been put to great use (In my opinion). We took Rocky branch as it was the easier winter route and given that we were solo, I opted to not break out the bushwhacks after a recent snow fall. I was so proud of my little girl today that nothing else mattered. I was determined to make this day special for us. The trails were virtually empty of hikers and that was strangely fine with me. The skies were grey and the wind was gusting. The Davis path was also unbroken from recent snows and still easy for us to plow through. The spur trail tot eh summit was a bit of a challenge for us but as we crested, an amazing sense of pride washed over me as my little girl pup finished her multi season 48 with a brief celebration under overcast skies with no views to speak of. Isis gobbled up her venison sausage and we made our way back to the car. From here on out, it was all about my winter peaks.
The Tripyramid's after my first week of work on Feb 8 2014 was a nice solo jaunt however, it was a bit of a challenge with the crowds on the trails and again my lack of energy on the vertical trails. I seemed to lose my breath and my energy very easy and needed to take my time. This of course raised my anxiety in the winter season as a need to get out and back set in. It takes a lot for me to quell this sense of urgency occasionally while hiking and solo can have a negative effect on my outcomes. The trails were in beautiful shape and so easy to walk with Isis as we enjoyed her post 48 hike and moved on to her second round. On this day I was able to keep a lot of my anxieties about solo hiking in in check and was joined by friend Tim C on the summit of Middle Tripyramid. We split after that and due to my slower pace never caught back up to him. The Tripyramid's had once again proved to be a great hike with great conditions.
There were two tries for the Carter’s with the first one resulting in a turn back due to a winter storm. Isis and I could not break out the trail and maintain an energy level to complete the hike. So we went back the following week for a successful hike on Feb 22, 2014 where we met Rick and Lisa from a posting group online. It’s amazing the network of hikers that resides on the internet and we all rely on each other for information and to join up at times for company or trail breaking. Today’s hike was fun and full of laughter and some interesting trail conditions after ascending on a perfect trail and descending into a maze of postholes. I was happy to have connected with Rick and Lisa and grateful for the positive experience on the trails. My strength as a winter hiker was increasing and I was enjoying the season and some of the incredible winter scenes to go along with it.
As is typical when I do the Carter’s, I leave Carter Dome hanging due to energy and time. So, Carter Dome was hiked on March 1 2014, the push to complete was being felt and I was dancing around the peaks each week trying to rework a possible finish not realizing the effect this was actually having on my enjoyment of hiking. Carter Dome however, was a very enjoyable hike as Isis and I made our way up the trails that are so well packed out and then hooking onto the Carter Moriah trail which is in need to some snowshoe love and breaking out from the drifting snow caused by the winds as of late. I was feeling confident and peaceful on the trails and remained hopeful for a successful finish on my winter 48 peaks while in the back of my mind, all the questions remained. I did not run into too many people on this day and I cherished having the trails to myself as things had become chaotic in my life and I craved some peace. This also marked several weekends of two days of hiking to try and finish on time…. The push was on for a successful season.
The following day, we hiked Owl's Head (March 2 2014), joined by Heather and Kali, Dan, and someone I had not seen in a very long time, Gumby Hiker. I was excited to hike with this group as it was almost like old times and nervous that I would not be able to keep up or that I would hold the group back. I sprang out of bed after having hiked the day before and my energy was good the entire day so it was a very good day. The conditions for Owl’s Head were perfect and the trails and bushwhacks were so well broken out that it felt like cheating. The Brutus Bushwhack had been broken in a new direction and we all agreed that we liked it a lot better than in the past. Owl’s Head being one of my favorite hikes, I enjoyed the scenery and sometimes kept to myself as they all hiked a head of me. I was happy and peaceful here in the woods. This long hike only took us about 8 hours to complete and for that I was feeling all the more confident in myself.
Coming down to the wire, I had 8 peaks left and knew that if the conditions were good and my energy remained high, I’d be able to finish. I had some tough ones ahead of me beginning with a trip to Madison on March 8 2014. I was hoping to get Adam’s as well and this is where the unraveling began. Madison was a tougher hike than I anticipated for my level of fitness. I struggled on the inclines and hiker after hiker passed me (Ken R was a familiar face in the crowd). The clouds were rolling in as we broke tree line and Adam’s continued to look less than hospitable. Isis and I took a break at the Madison hut and managed to drop our pack and make the summit in high winds which really spooked her. This of course made the descend of the summit cone a little stressful and as I stood between the two summits before noon time and made the choice to let Adam’s go, it also meant that my winter season was coming to an end without a 48 finish. I had run into Pepper and Me as well as Silverfox on my way back down Valley Way and even though the pep talk was much needed, I was still slightly disappointed and in need of a good hike. I had Pierce through Monroe, Adam's and Jefferson, and Zealand and West Bond, left to complete. Suddenly, I lost the happy hiking and felt more of a failure. Flirting dangerously with crossing that line of "do I want to keep doing this to myself".
The following day, I made the long trip to Zealand (March 9 2014). Usually this hike is pretty easy with a nice ride into the trail head for 3.5 miles. Of course in Winter, you have to walk the closed road adding that 3.5 to your hiked mileage. So, I had plans to try for West Bond as well, seeming to shoot high and dial back if I need to. The road walk in was really enjoyable as Isis and I made our way over the road to the trailhead. The trail itself was fast and in great shape. We made it to the hut well before lunch and then to Zeacliff around lunch time so, this day looked very promising for us. We even made it to the summit before our cut off time. However, we dropped West Bond to have energy to make it back to the car. It’s funny how a 3.5 mile road walk on this side seemed so much longer than on the Lincoln Woods side. I enjoyed this hike though for the challenge of myself and at the end of this weekend, I could not believe that Isis had done all 26 miles with me.
My hike to Zealand would be my last hike of the winter season for 2013/14. My energy was low the last weekend of winter and Saturday saw me sleeping in to catch up on things (or risk becoming sick). Sunday, I did drive to the Highland Center and sat in my car ready to hike. I even got Isis ready as the wind howled around us. The plan was Pierce with a hope of Ike as well and neither would be attained as I called off the hike after looking at the forecasts one last time. Listening to the other little voice to play it safe and hike another day, my winter season officially ended and I was not sad about it. Isis celebrated the end of winter hiking with her other venison sausage and the cheese that was meant for the summits. We took the long way home to savor the day at ground level with the sun shining and the music playing. The decision to not hike is always a difficult one given that it would be another week before Isis and I had a chance to hike again and even still, who knows what the conditions would be as we transition to Spring. I drove home with a head full of plans for the warmer months as well as a review of my successful Winter Season, determined to continue to build on my grid and hopeful that I could do some longer back packing trips with Isis on some long weekends this summer (I am thinking weekend Pemi Loop as well as a few other trips). I had a fantastic winter season with some pretty great hikers and pups. I am forever grateful for those that accompanied both myself and Isis (as in this season, she finished her first round of the 48). I am proud to say that I did in one winter season what initially took me two... 21 peaks total. Next winter, I will complete the remaining 6 peaks for sure and savor both the trails and the victory.
We will kick off Spring (hopefully) next weekend on a peak that always brings us back to center and has been a great starting point on so many journey’s…. See you on the trails in Spring time.