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Wildflowers on Waumbek

                If someone had told me my future when I was growing up and told me that I would be known for the mountains and a little white dog, I would have laughed at them. At several different stages of my life, I was as far away from the mountains and dogs as one could get. Now, I cannot see a weekend without either of them and I am OK with this. In this crazy, mixed up, and sometimes confusing world, both the mountains and Isis are the only things that make sense to me. Usually early in the week, I get a feel for something that I want to climb and then the weather dictates what I actually climb. In the case of this week, I started out thinking that Eisenhower and Monroe would be perfect and then I settled into a hike of Waumbek. It turned out to be exactly what I needed after a week of confusing emotions, confrontations at work, and some serious thoughts of “what the heck am I doing and how fast can I get up North to help myself feel better”?

                Without Overtime, I am free to hike on Saturday which is great and even though the forecast is calling for rain, I get up at 430am. Isis and I are on our way by 5am. It’s a good ride with some great music and not a whole lot of traffic for the holiday weekend. Arriving at the trailhead on Starr King Rd in Jefferson by 745am, we hit the starr king trail just before 8. There is a chill in the air so, I am wearing my arm warmers and my bucket hat in anticipation of the rain. The trail is lined with wildflowers shortly after the entrance at the trailhead and I am like a kid in a candy store taking pictures and smiling. I love wildflowers almost as much as I love snowy scenes. Isis and I are having an easy time walking up the trail and we make it to the well and Isis stops to climb up for a photo (of course, she would not look at the camera). As we continue up the trail, I am aware of how good this feels and how peaceful I finally feel. Everything melts away the minute my boots are laced up. Everything is not only colored with flowers, everything is very green and the trees are not even fully bloomed yet. My thoughts are on nothing but my surroundings.

                The sun is in and out of the clouds and my arm warmers have been taken off along with my bucket hat. I was thinking that we may have escaped the rain at this point and I was also wondering if I could have made the trek on Ike after all? I quickly decide that the day is still young and to stay in the trees was best given the chance of rain. We deal with some significant mud on the ascent and manage to escape any boot sucking mud in favor of some diversion trails. Isis and I also meet up with two other gentlemen on the way to Starr King and we are told that there are 3 others behind them. Seems like a busy day for Waumbek. We make the turn in the trail that leads into the more wooded section and notice that the moss has now over taken the flowers and the rocks are a little slippery. It’s cooler but as I keep moving, I am OK for not putting on a layer. We have let the guys go ahead of us so we can hike alone (as usual). There has been no snow or ice on this trail either which makes for an easier time on the legs (no monorail to struggle with). Except around 3540Ft, there was one patch of significant ice that popped up and I was able to get around it with some careful steps. Isis just walked up the center of it, licking up melt off as she went.

                We passed the Starr King cairn around 10am (I am guessing since my phone is in my pack) and find our way to the Starr King chimney for a food break and photo op. Enjoying the quiet and hoping for a grey jay visit, Isis and I are joined by the 3 other men that were hiking behind us. Many of them are very early in their journey on the 48 and they are enjoying the day. I hold Isis back as they hit the trail again and we sit some more to enjoy the quiet. No grey jays today and after a few more bites to eat, we keep moving on to Waumbek. The ridge walk to Waumbek is pretty easy for me on my third trip and Isis’ second. There was some mud sections just like on the lower and middle sections of the trail. Isis has no issues walking right through the mud now, impressing me with her growth. We are overcome by another hiker from Massachusetts and let her pass just before the summit. As we arrive, there are packs on the ground and people enjoying their victory with some food. Isis and I enjoy some food ourselves and some conversation of trail stories. There is no view from the outlook just past the summit today and the chill in the air gets me to move back on the trail to Starr King and make our descent of the mountains.

                Backtracking over the trail we came in on, the reverse is uneventful to Starr King. Isis and I run into other hikers (mostly novices) and one very old Chihuahua which I picked up Isis for. We stop briefly at the chimney again but do not stay because Isis was upset by two dogs that were on the trail. Isis being more of a people dog rather than and other dog dog, causes me to move her away from the two that have joined us (before their owners). I don’t mind that Isis is not a fan of other dogs as she and I will always hike regardless. What I do mind is those hikers that think just because their dogs are friendly with other dogs, they can let them continue to come at mine (who is not). Trust me, it will not be good for anyone (especially if Isis gets hurt because you did not control your dog). It’s up to us as dog owners to control our dogs on the trail and not assume that all dogs are friendly. Shortly after this confrontation, the rain started and out came the pack cover, the rain shell, and the bucket hat. Isis was left to soak up the rain however, I do not think she minded. Descending from Starr King, the rain was also mixed with just a little bit of ice for good measure. I enjoyed the change in the weather and with a big smile on my face, let the rain wash over me. After all, I was dressed for the weather which is more than I could say for some coming up the trail.
                The mud we encountered on our ascent was more plentiful and I did slip a few times. Isis was once again filthy and I loved seeing this. I was also covered in mud by the time we got back to the car and I was glad for it. Waumbek was the perfect choice for a day like today’s weather conditions. I didn’t need a view. I just needed a hike into the woods to clear the mind and rejuvenate myself after a significant time of self-doubt and questions with no answers. I needed to build on last week’s positive hike to continue to rebuild my confidence because big things are on the way and I will need all the strength I can get. I changed there in the parking lot, out of my wet hiking cloths and put on dry yoga pants and a t-shirt for the ride home. A cup of hot coffee would take the chill off and eventually, I would arrive back to the sun in Southern New Hampshire. Over time at work next week will push my next hike to Sunday and into June as I get closer to my Pemi Loop backpacking trip. The future is looking really good on the trails for myself and this little white dog who has captured my heart.           

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