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The Best Lesson on Adams

                There are things that spin out of control and all you can do it try and hold on. I’ve been doing that for a while now and in the process, getting in a lot of hiking. It’s become a part of me and something that I use to center myself and gain some sense of peace in my life. So, in a moment when I cannot even find my center and everything is spinning, I decide to head above tree line. I decide to go for Mt. Adams. On top of an unstable work situation that I just have to sit and wait for the outcome, I got bifocals this week, which has caused me to think thoughts of growing old and entering another phase of my life essentially alone. So, let’s just escape my issues and test these glasses out. On Adam’s. The second tallest of the White Mountain 48. On top of everything else, Isis has also been suffering the effects of my changes and for that I am hoping to correct a few things in the future. We arrive at Appalachia at 7:30am and I am already disappointed to be parking on the side of the highway. Everything is locked up and Isis and I hit the trail by 8am. Of course, my original aim was Adams and Madison and as usual, adjustments were made.

                Leaving behind the civilized world, Isis and I are moving pretty good. We hook onto Airline and decide to take Adams first. Why not go for the big one? Isis is drinking out of every stream she comes across and these crossings are never too high. Airline starts out pretty good and it’s cool in the morning shelter of the forest. It does have some immediate elevation gain so, Isis and I start working right off the back. I worry about her constantly as my work situation seems to have gotten the better of me and due to almost exhaustion, I have been giving her shorter walks during the week and we have been hitting the trails pretty hard. So, I was determined to just take it slow. If everyone passed us, so be it. We continued our way through the woods and I am happy that there are not many obstacles on the trail to deal with. It’s really in great shape.

                We soon hit the incredible section of rocks and elevation gain and are passed by a lot of hikers. Heading up with my new glasses, I am doing well and impressed with myself. We navigate the rocks and take it slow. Knowing that we have many rocks to deal with once we get above tree line, I give Isis a lot of breaks and she begins lying down. This is no good. This is too soon. We catch up to three gentlemen and take a significant break to see if that helps her. Everyone is taken by her and we have a good conversation of dogs and hiking. They take off before us and I watch them navigate the rocks ahead. This is not even the tough part yet. We take a few switchbacks and begin to start popping out of the trees. Just before my favorite bad weather sign, we stop and chat with a woman doing trail maintenance. I thanked her for her work and Isis got some love (she gets a lot of love from everyone). We are about 5 minutes way from being completely exposed above tree line. Isis has been sustaining herself on trickles of water that are running off the trails and the weather is getting hotter.

                There is no breeze when we hit the bad weather sign, we are over taken with bugs which is a sign of things to come I am sure. Hikers are coming down but most are from the hut and not the summits. Within a short amount of time, we break the tree line and take a break. I pour some water for Isis and thankfully, she drinks it. She also eats… A lot. We make our way across the ridge on Airline and enjoy the views. As usual, I am wide eyed and taking a ton of pictures. I know it’s just adding to my time but there is just so much for my eyes to drink in. We pass the junctions for Chemise Des Dames and Kings Ravine and soon find ourselves taking a break by the junction of Airline and Gulfside. We could have hooked over and gone to the hut and on to Madison but instead, I kept us on course for Adams.

                Isis has a tough time on the boulders heading up to the summit. I do end up carrying her over the more rocky sections quite a bit and to make matters worse, she is getting tired. ON the more sandy sections of trail, she is still willing to walk so, I take advantage of those. We begin our ascent at .5 from the summit on Airline and it was probably the toughest .5 I have had to date. Isis is refusing to navigate the rocks and I am working extra hard. People are passing us left and right and stopping to give her encouragement. She’s a small dog and has worked so hard. A bad day was bound to happen for us. I roll with it and I am told that there is a deer close to the summit. I have to see this!

                Low and behold, as we begin our serious climb, there is a deer going from grass patch to grass patch. I always consider deer to be lucky for me and I need all the muck I can get. Isis has a burst of energy and we push to the summit but not before some moments of doubt and  with the summit is sight, I was thinking of turning back. Once up at the summit, I ask one of the other people up there to get a picture of us. I place Isis on the sign and look into her eye and a promptly lost it. I gather myself to have a smiling picture looking at the camera but I quickly go back to looking directly at her and saying over and over again how proud I am of her and how tough today was and how tough it has been lately and how sorry I am. The tears are just streaming down my face and all the while, my kind stranger is getting it on film. I am so grateful. We try and settle in the swarm of bugs and I gather myself just as we are joined by three ladies from Vermont that I have met before and are readers to the blog. We talk but it’s very chaotic with the bugs swarming round. I mention how the summit creeps me out a lot and then Isis and I decide to try and head down. She has not had a very good rest but has had a decent amount of food.  Everyone scatters from the summit because of the bugs.
                As we head down, Isis is slowing and then she is stopping. I’m picking her up and basket carrying her over some pretty tricky rocks. This is where I am suddenly aware again that I got Bifocals this week. The footing is tricky on the way down and I am trying not to fall. My feet are tired and soon, my arms are as well. I put Isis down when I can and she gets food and water, which she is still taking in without issue. I am less worried when she does this. The only thing I am aware of is how are we going to get down? This is going to be a long walk. We hook onto Gulfside and skip a boulder field. I need some flat trail to walk and we quickly arrive back at the junction of Gulfside and Airline almost by the hut. We are about to hit the ridge and While Isis is walking sporadically, I am giving my arms a break.  Half way back over the ridge, I make the decision I had been dreading. I took my pack off and began rearranging things. Isis was placed in and secured and hoisted back on my back. I just could not carry her any more.

                We cross paths with a hut volunteer and he moves out of the way for my precious cargo (as he put it). I thanked him for all he does and keep moving. I wanted to get below tree line to see if Isis would be rested enough to walk. She’s not too heavy thankfully and is sitting still. I was aware that I did not want her to overheat in the pack either and made plans to get her in some water as soon as I could. Each person that we came in contact with was proud of her and of me. There’s no shame in this. Shame would be not doing anything to help her and that’s not me. I’ll give you the shirt off my back if you need it and I’ll help any animal I can. We hit the decline of elevation that is nothing but rocks to navigate and my eyes are again reminding me that I have a new sight challenge. I am super slow and it is painful on my legs and feet. Isis remains secure even as I slip and fall. I am talking to her as we descend and reassuring her that there is no shame in this. Maybe I am talking to myself? The descend takes forever and as we hit the woods at the base of the rocks, I finally let Isis out of the pack. She is raring to go and we keep moving down the trail. My legs are in pain and my feet are throbbing. It doesn’t matter because I want her to keep moving. I am painfully aware that I have had little more than energy cubes, granola bars, and GU for the day. I am now down to the last of our water in a Nalgene as the bladder was emptied on the descend. I keep going on auto pilot. We hit the water and Isis drinks it in and I let her swaying as I wait. I’m contemplating a break from hiking at this point in our trip down. Isis and I need to work on our relationship again and I need to strengthen her as well.

                It took forever to reach the snowmobile/ATV tracks and when we hit them, I am overcome by the sweetest smell of flowers. I am surprised by this since my sense of smell has been intermittent at best as of late and even still, this is an improvement over last year when I had no sense of smell at all. We are almost back to the car and almost on our way home. As we pop out to the parking lot at 5:30pm, I am suddenly happy. It’s over. We did it. We hiked Adams solo and we have that to be proud of. The trails are in great shape and this tough route to the top should not be taken lightly. I am humbled from the experience of hiking this peak and yet I am empowered. Adams and the northern Presidentials intimidate me and to be picking at them is a big deal. There is a lot of work to do though and that work begins at sea level.

                I have been lower than my lowest low recently and just when it seems I get a plan together to rise up, something comes along to knock me lower and send my depression skyrocketing to a new high. Maybe I knew that a mountain ass kicking was what I needed for perspective? I know that my mountain hiking is a testament to my life and how I am able to live. Give me a challenge and I’ll overcome it. It won’t be pretty sometimes and I will come close to falling completely down but I will do it. Adams was a blessing today and while I wait for the unknown to work itself out, I can be proud of myself. Today, the grid did not exist. Today, was a test and I passed.

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