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Whiteface and Passaconaway for a Break and a Breath of Calm

                I could choose to do so many things being single and not having kids. I could spend my time in the bars trying to find him (and finding everyone else in the process). I could choose to funnel my extra money into any of a number of material things to fill my soul with something empty. Instead, even when I’m uncertain that I can continue to go north, I find a way and my mind can rest. My energy and resources are funneled into the Grid because up north is a place I can feel peace. In a world that seems unreal in the way we treat one another and confusing in the directions I am going in, when I hit the trails, all worry and all need for control slips away. Today, after almost succumbing to some serious darkness, I hit the road for Whiteface and Passaconaway. I chose these peaks because the weather called for it (winds). I wanted some protection from the elements.
                I had been nervous about Isis since the last two hikes did not go well for her. As we got underway from the parking lot on Ferncroft Rd, She appeared to be strong. We made our way through the houses and to the trail and with a chill in the air we began making our way up Blueberry Ledges trail. I have never seen this trail (or this loop) in anything but winter conditions so, this would be a new trail today. I was not sure what to expect. The grades are easy to begin with and Both Isis and I are doing well managing the leaves, roots, and rocks. We come to the Blueberry Ledges Cut Off and decide to take it and rejoin the regular Blueberry Ledges at about 1.4miles. This trail would be a redline for myself as well. The grade is again easy and the gain is gradual. There is a mix of old and new blow downs to deal with and most are easily walked around. Being ever mindful of Isis, I am confident except that I don’t want to jinx her. She’s going strong today and I don’t see any need to pack her out early. We keep going up the Cut Off trail and soon meet back up with the Blueberry Ledges trail by a large slab opening. I was remembering the brilliant sunrise from the first trip up (full of pastel colors against the snow).

                A little trouble finding the trail across the opening but that was only because the tree with the blaze has blown over and the tilt makes it hard to see. I credit Isis posing for a picture in front of it for helping me see. I knew now that the ledges were next up and I worried about two things. The wind and how Isis would do. First though as we continued on the Blueberry Ledges trail, I experienced rock stairs I had never seen before and a few sections that made me question if I was on the right track. When you remove snow, the trail is completely different. Today, it seemed longer to get to the ledges. We began leap frogging with a few hikers who recognized Isis and it was always nice to see people when we are out. Being solo, Isis and I get to say hello and still hike our own hike. As we were approaching the ledges, we ran into two hikers and Nanook (a huge husky). I warned them about Isis not really being use to other dogs and it was so nice to not hear any of the usual snide come back. It was great to be appreciated for the heads up and even greater to experience two calm dogs and no back talk from my little feisty girl. Maybe she is getting use to others finally? Time will tell.

                Isis and I began hitting the ledges and I remembered the section of trail that was iced over the first time I was on it and how it almost turned me back. We began climbing over rock and working together to get up these ledges, which sounds funny when you know that I am teamed up with a dog. They would only increase in difficulty too so, this was key. Isis needed minimal help over the ledges and seemed to wait when I needed her to so that I could hoist myself up or figure out a way a human could get up and over, where a dog can just jump. And also at this point, I am full of pride because Isis has not attempted to lie down and rest once. We come to that one ledge that looks as though you have to go up a sheer face and the two of us power around it and with a little thinking of hand and foot placement, I manage to hoist myself up and over and I am rewarded with a great view of the surrounding area. A quick break after this particular ledge and I let Isis lie down for a short time. I took in the view and sighed a smile.

                Rounding out the ledges, we come to the final one that everyone seems to mistake for the summit. The trails are really not crowded to day (thankfully) so, there is no one around to redirect. After another slightly noisy run in with a dog we had seen on the way up, we make our way to the actual summit. To my surprise, it seems to take forever and I am wondering if we just over looked the tiny cairn. Again this is the effect of not having snow to fill in the trail. It seems like we are going longer until suddenly, things look familiar and we arrive at Mt. Whiteface. A quick picture and a good break for Miss Isis, we eat and enjoy a nice breeze up this high. It feels like a fall day and even though the bugs are driving Isis crazy, I am thankful for them keeping her active. We head down the Rollins Trail along the ridge and I know that I am in for a new experience without snow. I seem to feel a little lost and a little found when I run into something familiar. The trail seems thin in places and Isis has trouble with this. I think she’s afraid of falling off the mountain. We navigate over the trail and it seems to take forever. Isis has some water to drink along the way and some grass to munch on (to my surprise). There is one tricky blow down that again seems like the trail just disappears. With care though, a person can navigate over it and rejoin the trail over to Dicey Mills.

                Once at the junction, we break again and I remind myself to take the left trail to Passaconaway. As we get underway, Isis is starting to waiver and I am finding ways to help her keep going. She stops at all water crossings and water ways to drink and rest. I can see her helping herself and then she picks up and is off down the trail with me.  The left trail to Passaconaway is traditionally the easiest way to get to the tiny cairn. This trail however is not without its rocks to navigate. There just are not as many as the right side and there is not a lot of exposure either so we are relatively cool. We begin running into the hikers that were moving ahead of us from Blueberry Ledges and everyone was still in great spirits. Heading to the top, Isis charms a younger couple and an older couple on the outlook. WE finally arrive at the summit for a well-deserved break by the very tiny cairn. A break that is interrupted by BUGS! Lots of bugs. We each gets some food and a drink but we do not last long.

                Making our way back down the trail we trip and stumble over the rocks and roots again as we meet up with the older couple again. We walk behind them for a while and then pass them on the flatter areas. I decide that another break is in order at the junction and we are met by a father and son team coming from Whiteface. We have a nice chat but I am mindful not to keep them as it is getting late. We head down the Dicey Mills Trail at what seems like a non-stop pace. Isis is still going strong and I could not be happier. Eventually, the trail begins to flatten out after the descend and we do slow our pace just a little bit. The trail is in good shape though so we make great time back to the houses at the bottom of the trail. We walk through the quiet residential area and I can only imagine what living here would be like. Completely peaceful and serene, surrounded by mountains and endless access to hiking trails. Heaven.
                We arrive back at the car and Isis gets water and is settled in her seat next to me. I change and try to keep it modest as there are kids afoot. We head back home and encounter some of the worst holiday traffic I have seen in a long time. While it is tense, there is still no other place I would rather be. In a world that seems so intent on not connecting as we hide behind computers, smart phones, and countless other avoidances, it is nice to connect with people on a face to face level on the trail and to see the emotions on their faces and experience what they are feeling. I will take this over the alternative at sea level any day. This contributes to why I funnel all my extra resources and why I will always figure out a way to get to the mountains. I am not going to settle for just anything or anyone. The mountains are where I make sense of the insanity that seems to find me at sea level and when I am hiking, there is no need to try and control things and the little things that would derail me seem to not matter anymore. The future looks better each time I get back to the car because once again, I didn’t let the darkness win. I got up off the couch and experienced life as I want too.

Down to the wire with round 3… Jefferson, Cabot, Cannon, Isolation, North Twin, Wildcat, Wildcat D are all that is left.

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