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The Dirty Side of Cabot

                Earlier in the week, my situation changed and my trip up Cabot was pushed to the weekend instead of midweek. I have to say I was experiencing a mix of emotions over this. I’m the type that once I get an idea in my head, I like to see it through. Change sometimes throws me for a big loop. So, Saturday morning, Isis and I headed up to Berlin to the Fish Hatchery for Cabot. I had intended to just do an up and back to start with and we were also running late because I was lazy this morning. So, we got underway at 8:45am for the York Pond Trail Head. There were two other cars there on our arrival. After a pit stop for me, we got under way.
                After the initial .2 on York Pond trail, we hook onto Bunnell Notch trail and immediately we are overwhelmed and I think Isis was in heaven at the same time by all the tall grass. She’s been sampling the grasses of the White Mountains each time we hike and I thought I saw her smile. The sun was warming and it was feeling kind of tropical in the tall grasses. I hoped this was not a sign of things to come. We got into the trees and I felt the temp drop slightly. We cruised down the trail and walked for a while by the brook. Isis began taking advantage of the water crossings and drinking her fill. We were not stopping too much so, time was good. The trail was in rough shape with the mud from recent rains and both Isis and I were wearing it before we even got to the Mt. Cabot trail.

                   We were over taken by 4 ladies from Maine on the Bunnell Notch Trail and we happily lagged behind. All of us agreed that it was best to just take our time and enjoy the day. It was getting hotter as we got closer to the real vertical gain. At the junction of the Killkenny Ridge trail, Isis l took a big break for food and water and to catch my breath. The four ladies from Maine caught up and also took a break. They asked about the trail to the summit and I explained that it was just a little further up. We talked briefly about the dispute that closed one trail and how the trail to the summit is so well traveled that there is no need to worry. We again lagged behind them and enjoyed our hike through the mud. We took another break at the junction to head to the summit. I wanted Isis to remain well rested and then figured we would spend a good amount of time at the cabin and the outlook.
                As we began our climb, the heat became even more apparent. I was slowing down and being careful over the rocks and roots. Thankfully this trail is not over grown. Isis is doing much better than those previous hikes that were really humid and even though we were taking a few more breaks, we were still making great time. We made it to the outlook and again met up with the four ladies from Maine. Isis got lots of love and we shared a few laughs on the rocks. The view was clear and of course, pictures were snapped. Isis had a good break and was able to get right up and get moving again. We made the final push to the summit and were met by a few others on the trail too. Jan and Mike who we had met on Liberty were also hiking today and it was great to see them again. There were a few other couples on the trail too.

                The push to the cabin seemed to take forever which was a much different experience than in winter. The several groups of hikers began leap frogging as we took breaks at our own paces. We did come to the cabin and had said we would stop back on our way for food and a rest. This was after a quick water rest while chatting with Jan and Mike. We began making our way to the real summit (stick behind a tree). The trail was decent and we made a stop at the site of the old footings. Again the little views were clear and I snapped a few more pictures. AS we pushed to the actual summit, the group from Maine seemed confused and I offered to lead the way. It was about .4 to the stick and some of that was a little more up. We all got there in no time for a small celebration of someone’s first 4K peak and pictures were snapped as well as love given to Isis.

                As we made our way back to the cabin, we were following the four from Maine and instead of heading back to the Cabin, we continued down the Killkenney Ridge trail on our way to the Bulge and the Horn. Once I realized what was happening, we had already gone down in elevation considerably so, I continued hoping that things would work out. I had a chance to look at the map and while we were adding mileage, it was still very doable. The trails were just unfamiliar. At least I was aware and now able to give Isis a break and not have to worry. The trail itself over to the Horn was in good shape. It’s a little rocky for tired feet but we are making due. As we get to the junction for the spur to the Horn, I opt to not take another summit. We leave behind our trail mates and wish them well. The Killkenny ridge trail continues to gain and loose elevation as we make our way over the rocks and roots. There is significantly less water on this trail but we seem to keep moving without a water break. I was eager to get to the Unknown Pond trail and put it on autopilot for a while. The scenery was blending together as I paid more attention to my footings.
                At the junction I was hoping for, we still had 3.3 miles to go. I wondered if we’d be searching for someone to open the fish hatchery gate. My feet were tired and my ankles began to roll (painfully). Unknown pond trail was significantly over grown and you have a hard time finding the rocks to step on which causes the ankles to roll when you miss them. This continued for quite some time and as I was on unfamiliar trail, I had no idea when relief would set in. I was becoming frustrated and I could see that Isis’ demeanor was changing. We slowed down and just tried to enjoy the surroundings while stepping carefully among the rocks hidden in the grass and the mud created from the water running on the trail.

                As we came to Unknown Pond, I began to breathe easy. My legs were filthy as I had gone into the mud several times and I thought briefly about taking my boots off and walking in the pond. The problem was I did not know if the boots would go back on due to heat and my ankles. So, we opted to keep moving. The trail continued to alternate between a dry trail, mud beyond reason, and grass so high you thought you were in the jungle. Eventually, after several water crossings and some more down trail, we came to the parking area for Unknown Pond. I forgot how close it was to the trail head for York Pond and happily sow the car from the road. For once the road walk would not be that bad.

                Once back at the car, I chatted with Jan and Mike again who were ending their day as well. It was 3:30pm when we got back to the car and I was pleased with our time. I was asked where I would be next week and explained my selections as well as my process. It all comes down to Isis. If it’s humid, we may be grounded or we will be in the trees. If not, then the skies the limit. I was sure that we’d see one another again at this point, no matter where we went. It’s nice to run into familiar faces on the trails who share a passion for hiking. Isis was placed in the car with water and her greenie and I got changed. We drove past the gate at 4pm and it was still open when we left. I thought about the 4 from Maine who were way behind us on the trail in the end and hoped they were OK.

                Today was the dirty side of Cabot in that I came out filthy as well as Isis and I was sure we were both bound for a bath when we got home. All in all though, this was a great day on the trail as I took a risk and continued on with a mistakenly took trail system. I viewed it as a message that no matter what gets thrown at me, I am able to work through it and figure out how to have the best possible outcome. Driving home, the acoustic music seemed to match perfectly to the sun hanging low and the mountains having such a presence. It was the perfect summer day as I drove home singing along and at peace with my chosen path at sea level. It’s going to be a long fight but I believe that in the end, I will be successful and able to stand on my own two feet stronger than I already am.   

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