All week, I was watching the weather change from what looked like a really wet and unhikeable weekend to a bluebird weekend to be taken advantage of. My work had canceled all scheduled over time so, I suddenly had the weekend free. I had planned on Waumbek for Saturday however my body decided that sleep was more important. Sunday, I was determined to hike and since it was supposed to be such a nice day, I was going to go up on Franconia Ridge. The water crossings being super high though made me change my tune and Willey, Tom , and Field were settled on. This was my original plan since last week’s disaster of a Bonds trip. I needed a win in my May grid and this was an easy way to get 3 peaks. I pushed myself out of bed at 5am and again got a later start than I wanted. Something has not been right for a while now and the struggle to get out of bed was concerning. However late, I was happy to be hiking today because at least I was trying. Whatever I got, would be great for me.
Isis and I first stopped at the Highland Center to use the bathroom and then we moved to the Crawford Depot to be a little closer to the trailhead. We were all set for a great day on the trails. I had mixed up some almonds, cashews, ginger, and pineapple to eat and was happy with my choices to keep the energy going. I was feeling really good once we got moving and I could feel all the stress and all the confusion melt away as we headed up the trail. We came to the first water crossing and I struggled to remember such a thing. I had only done this trail 4 other times so, this should not have been new to me. It was high but we were able to skip over the submerged rock and not get too wet. Still, this area is usually a lot lower water wise and for me, it’s been frozen over so, water crossings have been a non-issue until today. At the second crossing, usually a hiker can just walk across the rocks without getting wet. Today, my boots went in and the water was higher than my ankles. Luckily, there was not a whole lot of seeping into my boots.
Isis and I continued up the trail and it began to look less and less familiar to me. I had become so used to seeing this area covered in snow that the rocks and roots were throwing me off. Not to mention, the rocks and roots were also becoming a challenge for me. I felt as though I had new feet attached to my legs. As we walked, Isis and I enjoyed the peace of the trail and made our first real stop at the junction of the Avalon trail. We were joined by Jason B who I had heard was also doing this loop to help him complete his May grid. We talked for a while and he was on his way up the Avalon trail where Isis and I made our way over to Tom first. We would see Jason at another point on the trail.
At about 2775Ft, the snow was back and it was icy. It was still a warm day and the snow patches were intermittent which meant that spikes would be pointless. I needed to wait until there was more snow to use them and that would come soon enough. At the third crossing, the water was easily walked over and even though that was the case, it was still high for this crossing as well. The snow pack increased after this crossing however, the snow was soft enough and not deep so, I held off on spikes. Good thing too as shortly after an incline, the snow was non-existent. It was just going to be a slow going day for Isis and I.
We stopped briefly at the Mt. Tom Spur trail entrance and had something to eat again. In addition to the snow covered trail, there was also mud to deal with and Isis was becoming another filthy mess. Making our way up the spur trail, I am again struck by how unfamiliar the rocks are to me and how moss covered the trail is. Views from Tom are still good although, not as good as when the summit is snow covered. I felt significantly lower today. Isis and I ran into two others hiking and one spruce grouse shared the summit with us. Making our way back down the spur, we began to make our way over the Field and ran into Jason again. He’s already done 2 peaks to my one and I am in awe. I will never have his speed however, I am still thankful to be out here and to be undertaking my own goal at my own pace. We discuss all things hiking and I probably could have talked all day standing in that spot. We parted and I continued on to Field. The monorail increased and decreased. It was stable and very unstable all the way over to Field. Isis and I did our best and arriving at the summit, we were greeted by two other hikers sharing a meal on the summit cairn. They seemed amazed that I was going on to Willey after a short break (no chance of getting these guys to budge off the cairn for a photo op). I quickly made my way down the trail and again, the snow increased and decreased all the way over to Willey.
There were sections of the Willey Range trail that were bare and then the monorail would be there to trip us up and slow us down. There was also a particular section of blow downs that gets really confusing because one of the blow downs has the trail blaze on it and you can’t tell which way to go anymore. It’s a mess. Isis and I figure it out and tediously make our way over to Willey. The monorail is beginning to get the best of me and Isis is also having a difficult time. It’s almost better to walk the narrow trail next to the monorail in order to stay upright. Time for me is growing short and again, I hit Willey right at the cut off time. We tag it and head out and back down the monorail for Field again. The way back seems to take forever due to the tedious foot work that needs to be done over the snow and ice. I was thankful for the bare sections at times to give myself a break.
Once back on Field, Isis and I took an extended break to talk with fellow hikers and give them some tips and tricks for completing the New Hampshire 4000 footers. Isis made herself at home in the shade as we all talked and shared stories of our adventures. Heading back down the Avalon trail after our break, might have been a bad trail to choose due to the steepness and the icy snowy monorail that was crumbling. Spikes went on to help me stay on my feet and it was very slow going. Isis and I worked together to get down the steep trail and soon the snow disappeared and we were left with the rocks to contend with. Again, I was struck by the trail being unfamiliar simply because every other time I had done it, it was snow covered. I missed winter at this point due to the slow and tedious nature of our descent. On the lower trail, we crossed back over the water crossings and had the same experience in reverse. The water was high and the boots got wet. I was not concerned since we were on our way out.
The hike back to the depot after the last crossing, took no time at all. I was pleased with the win for today and the boost I would get from completing these 3 peaks. I was concerned with my level of energy though as this hike usually does not sap away all my energy and leave me exhausted. Even Isis was looking ragged and tired from a usually easy hike. For all the challenge, I was happy with the outcome and happy that I once again got myself motivated to hike. It’s become a little too easy to talk myself out of hiking these days and every time I hit the trails, I am thankful. I am a hiker that has some extra disadvantages and every hike I complete is a victory for me in so many ways. I may never be a fast hiker and I may never be the most coordinated hiker but I am a hiker who gets out on the trails at least once a weekend (my days of hiking both days are over as I need sleep to recoup from my work week) were so many do nothing to challenge themselves. I will continue to move on with Isis on our way to 576.