Last year, I had decided to move up my annual cabin stay in Pittsburgh, NH to September and I was lucky enough to get the cabin on my birthday. Seeing as Pittsburgh is only an hour and a half away from Cabot which in 3 hours from my home in S New Hampshire, it seemed like the logical choice to climb on such a stay. It would be my 4th visit to the peak and it would be climbed for September. Lucky for me the weather was also looking like a "Cabot weekend" because it was to be raining and cool. Everything was in line for the climb and as a bonus, it was also Flags on the 48 (a flag is flown on all 48 peaks in memory of 9/11). I had other hikes planned except that I felt so at home at the cabin that I decided to stay local and relax. So, Saturday morning, I got myself ready and we hit the road for the fish hatchery in Berlin NH. Snapped a picture of the sunrise on the road in Milan NH. I had hoped that today would be a good day, in spite of my not really feeling it this morning.
I kept talking to myself up the trail too, about not feeling it and wondering if I should just turn back. I had been feeling that way a lot lately about hiking. Something has been weighing on me for a long time now. Still, I pressed on throughout the thick of the over grown York Pond trail which now is a allergy sufferers worst nightmare with all the rag weed around. I think Isis didn't even like it any more as things were dying and not as lush and green. Bunnell Notch Trail was not that much better and eventually, we hit the Killkenney Ridge trail into the woods. Once into the woods, the temps dropped a few degrees and the jacket came back on after having stuffed it in my pack by the car. Isis and I continued walking and talking about things. It's been a fantastic stay at the cabin (even just the two of us) and one of my better solo birthdays. The trails today are quiet for it being flags on the 48 and then again, we are just really early. My decision for that was two fold, the weather and the location. I am maximizing my time at the cabin and wanting to get back there. So, as we hike, my mind is floating to different areas of my life. Not dwelling too long but just enough for me to notice that my heart is heavy. Killkenny Ridge is a mix of water and mud and dry trail. Isis dances around the mud, drinks the water, and tries to run up the dry trail. Me, I'm just the one that tags behind her.
As we continued on the trail, things began to look less familiar to me. I questioned whether we were on the right track even though I know we didn't make any turns. The landscape just seemed to feel and look different to me. I kept hiking and looking for familiar landmarks and found the much later than I thought. Time seemed skewed as we hit the water crossings, certain bridges, and sections to the ridge trail. Then I waited to see signs for the Mt. Cabot trail and specifically the sign that said it was no longer maintained. At that sign, we would truly be going up. Isis and I kept walking in the quiet and the cool morning. I was beginning to wonder if I should have packed soup to eat instead of the cold offerings that I had. Fall was definitely here and I was happy for that. We eventually gained some elevation and flattened out and things looked a lot more familiar to me. Then, the sign appeared and I took off my pack and we had a nice break before the real elevation gain hit. I gave Isis some snacks and myself some of the spicy salami chunks I packed along with some nuts (before 10am). No one had made an appearance on the trails yet and I was both happy and confused by this. Surely I would run into someone today. I had a feeling. I just didn't know who.
Still aware of the time, I knew that we could take another extra long break at the outlook before the cabin. Isis and I began climbing and I was begin careful of the rocks and loose earth so that I didn't trip or fall. We made a lot of stops along the way so that I could rest. I was feeling tired at this point which is a feeling that I really don't like. Weakness never looked good on me and I feel this way a lot when I am hiking. Isis and I make it to the outlook in about a half an hour and we settle down in the cold. I pulled on my coat which had found it's way off and on throughout the trip and was now being put on again. Plus, my hat which had not seen the light of day since winters end. Could snow be far behind? Isis and I had fun taking pictures and she let me know when she had enough by growling just a little.
We began our final push to the cabin and with plenty of stops and starts, we made it about 15 minutes after the outlook. We stopped at the cabin briefly to find no one there and so, I told Isis we would stop back for some warmth and something to eat. This time there would be no accidental loop of Unknown Pond. We continued our way to the summit... The real summit that is. I noted that at the first false summit there was a cairn now and that was sure to trip up some people. We kept walking and as we approached the real summit (after the second false summit clearing), we saw three other souls. Finally, some other people on the mountain. They were older and as it turns out, finishing their 48 on Cabot today. They were from Connecticut and of course completely taken by Isis. That was until they actually asked her name and joined by another couple, began telling me yet again that I needed to change her name and that it was no good and how could I? STOP!!!! Just stop I said to them, almost in tears because it just reminds me of how much people love to hate this dog. "Please know how offended I am by this. My dog had her name FIRST. I had my birthday on SEPTEMBER 11th, FIRST. My father served proudly in the military all his life. So just STOP IT NOW. I'm going back to the cabin." And with that, I turned and kept walking sputtering still. I'm so tired of this that I might as well not talk to anyone and there will go my chance at meeting new people. I was even more heart broken, again.
Isis and I were stopped shortly before the false summit before the cabin by a somewhat familiar face. As it turns out, Guy J was who it was and I really enjoyed talking to him and his companion. She as astounded by our talk of the hiking sub culture and how we were choosing our peaks to hike. Both of us agreed that weather and the simple fact of what we want to hike was how we designed our months. After the summit, I was feeling a little better after talking with him. Thank goodness for the true hiking community. Isis and I came back to the cabin which we were also told that there would be more people for Flags up there. and sure enough, there were and lots of familiar faces too. Two people from the summit attempted to apologize to me and while I accepted it, I really didn't want to stick around. But I was greeted by Shari and her dog Eddy, and Lisa and Rick F who had broken out the Caters with me this last winter. So very nice to see these faces out of the computer to interact in person. Isis and I began making our way down shortly after some photo opportunities.
The way back down was always quicker for us. There were a few more falls on sloppy tired feet but the trails, while they are over grown and wet in a lot of places, are still in great shape. No real need to worry about much more than what squirrel will catch Isis' eye on this trail. I was happy to get out for the day, even if it did take me away from my beloved Cabin on the Connecticut River. I was happy to be on the fringe of the Flags on the 48 ceremonies and also honored the day in my own way as I moved up the trail. Once back at the car, we headed north for the hour and a half drive which seemed right and strange all at the same time. I have big things on the horizon after this vacation is over tomorrow and still I am wishing that my time in Pittsburgh would not come to an end...
I went into the woods to find people… In the beginning it was a way for me to meet people and not sit at home or go shopping all the time. It was both a way to over come being shy and getting in shape. Now, years later, I have found people and lost people and found my true self. When faced with walking away or walking up another mountain, I pushed aside all my fears and kept going and I still keep going. In the time I thought I found the love of my life and loosing him, I faced my deepest depression and my highest anxiety. I am still rebuilding my life but I am stronger for it and the pursuit of the number 576, while daunting at times, has not extinguished the fire in my heart. For in that pursuit, I found within me my darkest corners and faced them and come back stronger than I ever was. From first peak to last, I walked the path with my own power and no one will keep me from those beloved peaks... Now at 28% and still going....