First full and hard week back into the grind below 4000 feet and I was thinking that we’d knock of Jefferson via the Caps Ridge. Like I had said, Isis has done the North side of Camel’s hump and those ledges with no problem, the Blueberry Ledges trail was barely barked at, and countless other scrambles were well… Scrambled by my 4 legged power pup. So, I figured, why not… At the very least (as always), we turn back. The thing of it is, we have all these summits and there is no “need” anymore. The journey I am on is a marathon now and not a sprint so, if we turn back then so be it. I am just grateful that I am still getting out and on the trail.
So, in the morning, we load into the car and make the drive. Jefferson Notch Rd is in great shape all the way to the trail head and there are not too many people there yet. A few recognize us and we stop to chat, swearing that we’ll see them “up there”. Isis is just raring to go and is also soaking up the attention that she gets. This of course, makes me feel good and I view it as a win win. It’s a meager 2.4 to the summit from this point and I estimated that we’d have breakfast at the summit. We just needed to get over the caps and that was the question. Could she handle them? Could we handle them together considering the leash between us. I brought he extender leash just to give her a little more room on them over her usual 6 feet.
Caps Ridge Trail is in great shape. A little muddy around the bog bridges but nothing that can’t be walked over. The grasses taste good to Isis too. Rocks and roots are easily maneuvered. We are having a great day so far and I am looking forward to breaking out of tree line. The trees are getting a little shorter and the skyline is beginning to make an appearance very shortly after starting the trail. That is the advantage to starting around 3000 feet and only needing to go about 2000 more feet to the summit. You get places a little quicker.
So, Isis and I hear this cracking of wood and discover a little woodpecker making an awful racket for such a little guy. We break for a snack, bug spray, and sun block (I am making a conscious effort to remember this always now) because everything is necessary and then get started again with no problem. Isis is doing much better in the cooler temps and her dermatitis is looking better too since using a cone and changing up her diet a little (as well as getting her into a routine so that she’s not stressed). So, we come to the first outlook where the rocks have the glacial pools in them and meet up with fellow hiker Ken and his hiking partner who is going to get the summit finally after a failed attempt. We all talk and I tell them my plan. Photo opts are taken and they get under way again eager to hit the Caps. Isis and I linger for some solo photo shots but she is of course, uncooperative (and I love it).
So, we too get moving and hit the rocks on the way to the first Cap. Isis and I begin working together and I am lifting her over some sections. There is not a whole lot of room to move so, this is very difficult unless I reach and put her much higher than I need to be (to give room for me to stand). I don’t have the stretch in me to get her where she needs to be so, we keep trying and I try to verbally guide her to other sections. She is getting spooked by the spaces in the rocks (as if she would fall into oblivion). I am a little determined but cautious. We come to the first Cap and we catch up to Ken and his hiking partner who are just cresting it. The path to maneuver is a little long and a little straight up so, I lean my belly against the rock and try and lift her to a ledge… No such luck, she slides back down and I feel her freeze against me. Ken is looking down as I look up and simply say, “You know what, nope, it’s not happening today. I think we will turn back and hit it some other day.” Ken smiled in agreement which in turn makes me smile as someone who understands the choices in hiking, that being, be stupid and press on or admit when it’s too much and turn back. The latter is always a better choice. I wished them both well and congratulated her for reaching the summit (early). It was simply a stunning moment on the caps and I was happy to turn back.
Taking it slow over the tricky spots we encountered, Isis was in my arms a lot more and I was doing some scooting over the more steep sections (which seemed steeper on the way down). I could only imagine what a trip back down the entire Caps Ridge might have been like. Again, I was happy to make this choice. Kneeling down to navigate a few rocks, we are over taken by a family of three. I asked rather politely to be given the time to continue to maneuver the rocks that I was on and without even looking up, the father scowled and continued up the trail which sent Isis into a panic. I scooped her up and continued to move down as the mother and daughter waited. I thanked them and continued moving in case anyone else was coming up. I understand that these sections are tricky and people with the ascent have the right of way however, if someone is trying to get down and is in mid “scoot”, wouldn’t it make sense to let them have the right of way? Especially if there is a dog involved? What happened to common sense and politeness?
Isis and I continued to the next section and were again met by a couple who were coming up. They can see that I am trying to get her down and instead of waiting, also continue even though I again asked them to wait. The only difference the woman of the couple decided to make comments about my “little dog” and how I should not have her here. I would have been fine had I not heard her. Instead I let out a very loud and disapproving “Are you kidding me? This LITTLE dog is over half way through her second round.” She kept sputtering up the trail but I really didn’t care. We got off the rocks and took a break to collect ourselves. I probably needed it more than Isis at this point however; she was stressed by the descent of the rocks. I was reflecting on a lot of different situations over the past year to a year and a half of my life and was just floored by the crass rudeness of some people.
We came back to the section where I had initially caught up with Ken and people were taking their pictures and there was a family with a baby in a carrier as well as a little boy (who I think was 2). I love this so much and since Isis and I had planned on stopping here for a while, she grabs some love from the little boy (who is playing shy) and his father. They ask about the difficulty and I tell them of Isis’ experience level and that she has finally met her match as far as ledges and scrambles are concerned. They are not going to the summit and just enjoying the day as far as they can go. I love that about them and wished them well.
Isis and I sat on the rocks and I got her something to eat and some water. We had a brief moment where she was sitting in my lap and looking up at me as I rocked her back and forth. She licked my chin as if to say that she was OK as I was crying. I also got my bandana out and something to clean off her back and butt of bugs. She’s not thrilled about this but it’s something that must be done to help her. She seems to settle a little after some quick disagreeable yelps and butt shakes and then quickly realizing that I was actually helping her feel better. I take a few shots and even though I am still musing over the experiences on the trail, I am having a great day just looking at everything around me and feeling peaceful. A younger couple (very clean and very well put together with pristine gear and a well groomed pooch) approach the rocks musing that there is a little friend for their Irish Setter and I warn them that she’s not really a friend right now. So, they believed that they could get around us by going in front of the big rock with the glacial pools cut into it. When I correct them and tell them that it’s not the trail, the guy just kind of misunderstood my correction as a person affront to him and just started unleashing on me as he continued to move up the trail. I had also offered instead to keep moving considering this was a pretty popular photo spot. I could hear him pretty loud and clear and just finally had had it and just let out a louder “F*#! Off”. I had officially had it with the lack of filter and lost mine too. Yes, I too did not handle that as well as I could have.
Isis and I make it back into the trees and as we get closer to the parking area, more and more are on their way up. Most have very little gear and some have no packs what so ever. It’s just not the same crowd as the winter crowd and I am left wondering what the rest of the season will be like. Isis and I make it back to the car and it’s packed to over flowing with more people coming in. One convertible sees the “space” at the head of the trail and briefly contemplates parking there… “The lots full”, I say. If looks could kill, as he turns around. I continue to tend to Isis and get ready to change. I am taking my time in the parking area as each car pulls in and looks at me as if they are waiting for me to leave. I must have been quite the site in my sun dress and hiking boots at one point. Finally, I am moving out and there is barely room to get the car out with the way people have parked. The last guy to see me put my sandals on had waited patiently and was able to move up to my spot (next to a Porsche from Mass of all cars). I am very happy to be heading home and the plan is maybe the Jewel Trail next weekend (weather dependent).
My week day life is full of negativity and situations that will make anyone question reality. My team does its best to keep things positive as we try and support one another in the face of a never ending barrage of negativity and violence and still, there is one thing that makes me get through the week. A trip to the mountains that I plan throughout the unbelievable weekdays. I work with kids who manage their behaviors in some very negative and sometimes violent ways because that is all they know. A physical hold to prevent aggression on themselves and others (to keep everyone safe) is easier than changing their own behaviors and it makes me sad to know that this is their life no matter what I try and teach them. Something in me has also shifted and the fairy tale died about a year ago for me in place now is a stronger reality where I am more important than anything else (well, except Isis). I have to look out for me now and develop a life on my own so, I hike to change the view that I have during the week. The world is changing and it makes me sad to know that people would rather keep their head down and just keep walking rather than having to look up and deal with what is in front of them. Conversations have been lost to texts and messages as well as likes and comments on social media. We’re slowly losing the ability to communicate effectively. I am just as guilty of this even while making an effort to change (familiar is comfortable, change is not). Hikers help one another out and support each other and for that I am grateful to the community at large. If only more people would look up and have an actual conversation rather than jumping to conclusions, making judgments, and just walking away. Today was a good day to open my eyes to things and I will be more careful of the day and trail I hike from now on. You can’t keep me down for long and I will get to 576.