The thought occurred to me that I needed a really GOOD hike after two solid weeks of nasty and negative behaviors at work (Nothing like being threatened, swore at, and pinned against a wall to make your work day complete) and a few other things happening outside of work as well. I craved the peace of a good and challenging hike and then it occurred to me… George. I checked the weather forecasts once I arrived at work and decided that I would give it a go with the hopes that the winds would die down. That childlike excitement that I always get when I think about hiking George came over me and carried me through a decent end of the week on my other “mountain”. I told Isis when I got home because really, she was the only one I answered to these days and then I presented her with the new “doughnut” (pig skin) that I had bought her… All attention went to that, so I made the decision on where we hike on my own (not that she really has a say any way). Then the nerves and the scared thoughts sink in. It’s George in early Spring, anything and everything could happen and I’ll have the time of my life… Solo, as that is how I always hike good old George and I’ll see if we have it in us to go to Monroe too. Rationalization says that when you’ve done most of the New England 67 solo, you can go up George and have a good day. It’s just the stigma of solo that I rest on. I should be embracing it. I should be proud, which I am. Except that I also crave company… Still.
I figured we would scoot up the Jewel Trail and take it from there. Snow shoes and hillsound light traction in tow, we changed our plan heading up I93 to Pierce and Jackson that morning because those Presidential winds just would not cooperate. Isis and I made our way to the Highland Center for Jackson and Pierce. These two peaks were our Plan A to begin with so, I was pleased. For fun, I decided to head up the Crawford Path and hit Pierce first rather than go Jackson and over to Pierce. I was happy to see that the snow had cleared enough to not have to summit the snow bank in front of the Crawford Path entrance. Isis and I made quick time of the trail and the still winter conditions. It had been spitting snow and rain on the way up and that had given way to just snow now. This was April? I remembered last year at this time and how nice it was. Being already familiar with early Spring conditions, I changed to my spring shell and felt fine as I was generating heat heading up the trail. I kept my hat and gloves on or at least handy. Traction was good right now (I wear Hillsound trail crampons) and I was carrying my snow shoes. The weight was OK today and I was feeling good about the hike in general.
Isis and I kept a good pace and I didn’t mind stopping for her as she tried to make sure that no buds would open at her level. She continues to rip them off the low branches and I laugh along with her. We run into Kimberly and chat for a bit about working with difficult students and patients as well as hiking and how much it helps refocus and destress. I’m not really hiking with anyone now so, I am happy for the brief interactions. She and I part ways as she speeds up and I take a short break. Continuing up the Crawford Path, we make it to the junction of the Mizpah Cut off and run into two other gentlemen. Isis captivates them and she even wins over some cheese from one of them. We talk about the challenges of hiking and how some gain a new respect once the take a hike in the same conditions we have today (cold, snow, clouds, and wind). As we are talking, the Meet Up group known as the Random Group of hikers (of which I am a member), also comes up to the junction. Within the group were friends John and Mike. As I had decided to continue up the Crawford Path, I followed the group and had a nice chat with John as we climbed into the clouds.
The meet up group as big and at one of the stops, I had decided to keep going to keep Isis moving. Approaching the summit, the wind was picking up but the trail was in great shape and the monorail, while it was post holed slightly, it was intact. The weather had been cold enough to hold it so, we continued on. Almost continuing to Mt. Eisenhower, I doubled back after I got my bearings in the low visibility and made our way to the summit. Rather than stop in the wind, we kept moving on the Webster Cliff trail that would lead us down to the Mizpah Hut. The first thing I noticed was that things were much calmer as we hiked by ourselves and the second thing was that there was significantly more snow and snow drifts up here. I did not put my snow shoes on yet as I was planning that for the hut. The snow was still deep as I kept crashing into trees and the thought occurred to me to put my pack cover on. I just never made that happen either. Isis and I made our way back to the Mizpah hut and the steep section with the ladder was slightly challenging for us to negotiate. In other areas, the monorail as really thin too. Once at the hut, we took a long break to decide with we would go to Jackson. Two ladies we had met up with over the winter on the 19 Mile Brook Trail were sitting at the hut and recognized Isis right away.
We chatted and had some food and drink and decided that we would make a go of it. Once on the Webster Cliff trail again, I put my snow shoes on to try and salvage the integrity of the already post holed trail. It had not been well broken out recently and I was hoping that this didn’t just make our day longer. Isis and I again enjoyed the solitude of the trails and my mind drifted to other hikes and also future hikes that I wanted to do. We caught up and passed the two gentlemen that we first ran into at the junction of the Mizpah cut off. One was having leg problems and I wished him well as well as told him to give a holler if he really needed help. We laughed about some relationships and how they don’t seem to survive winter hiking (on my part, if someone worries too much, it becomes an issue). I skipped ahead to make my ascent of the summit and the ice was a significant issue coming from this side. The steepness leading to the summit had me grabbing at hand holds to bring myself up. Isis was becoming anxious as the wind picked up on the exposed summit too. We paused long enough to take a picture with the timer and we were off again.
Heading back down the other side, it was a sloppy descend going down the Webster Jackson trail and summit cone. It was steep and bare and narrow causing my snow shoes to get caught up. In a word, it was ugly and we made it down just fine. Using everything I had, Isis and I kept moving and the temps got warmer the lower we got. One water crossing was open and flowing but it was able to be jumped so, things were fine. The monorail was a mess but maneuverable and there were some ice flows on the lower trail heading back to the road. Isis and I were walking through mashed potatoes the closer we got. Walking the road back to the Highland Center was no problem at all and we even ran into someone we had met at the 4000 footer awards night last weekend. I put Isis in the car and grabbed my bag to go change at the Highland Center (I figured I’d be civilized instead of changing in my car like always). It was a great day on the trails for us and probably just what I needed to refocus my mind.
Have you ever felt like even though you didn’t know what direction to go in, you were heading in the right direction? I have been feeling that way recently even though the rug a has been pulled out from under me, I feel good and as if I can navigate things on my own. It’s been so long since I experienced this and while I do crave company, I am also enjoying the solitude and doing my own thing. I am enjoying realizing that I love owls and butterflies and snails who wear cute shells, and the way an acoustic song goes well with traveling through the mountains. I’m constantly one step away from falling into the abyss and yet, I am so peaceful these days. I don’t ever want to not feel peace of the journey up a mountain or the feeling that everything is right (even when it is not) that I experience at the summits. The bills always get paid, there is food in the house, and the fur kids are always well cared for. I may not have extravagances, or the food that I crave over just food in the house, and I may stretch myself to the limit but, I have a great life and I can go to some amazing places with some great views of the past present and future. Who knows at this point what it will hold but I am confident that I can face it with strength and confidence and a little white dog at my side.