Always have several game plans when heading into a hike... You never know what could happen. At least that is how I seem to hike these days. It's been on my mind to finish off round 3 of the White Mountain 48, which would also add to my Grid, and so on and so forth... These stats are always on my mind even though I just hike and what ever happens happens. But the stats seem to drive... Until I put the brakes on. What causes a back pedal? Gut feeling and physical exertion, time, and of course, weather... Call it what you will, I still have no problem calling off a summit no matter where I am in the hike. Today, I wanted to go to Isolation via Glen Boulder. I knew there were tough spots on the trail and I did question, my 4 legged partner. We went anyway to a less than stellar beginning that left me uncomfortable. We parked at Glen Ellis Falls and prepared to head up Glen Boulder trail destination at this point unknown. It was only 8am and I was already uncomfortable and hot. Not feeling well? Maybe? My disease has a habit of rearing up at the change of seasons and I had not been kind to my system as of late... I press on.
Glen Boulder trail is a nice one with some flat sections of dirt to start and a general up and down feeling before it starts climbing on rocks. Fall is in full swing despite the temps and I make decent time to the junction of the Dirittisma trail that leads to Pinkham Notch Visitors center. I estimate that we would be at Glen Boulder for 9:30am (I was off by a half hour ahead). Isis and I move up the rocks and gain elevation. I'm still feeling uncomfortable and still pressing forward. The pack suddenly feels like it's not fitting right and my boots have lost their grip. Perhaps it's time for a gear switch? There is not a lot of water to start with on the trail so, Isis and I have a few water breaks from my ill fitting pack. She's finicky about the bottled water and I know there are water crossings higher up. The fall foliage is making itself known and there is not another soul on the trail yet.
I knew that two particularly tough sections were coming up and I was anxious to see how Isis would do. Of course, I was fully prepared to turn back as well. I'm not interested in making her do anything she can't do. This hike of course was a risk since you go up to 5000 feet and go down to 4000ft to reach Isolation... Not to mention if you are out and backing it, you have to do it in reverse! Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Le't see... We reached the scrambles and Isis got all the leash she could. She listened well and I was the one having trouble. I needed hand holds and it was awkward. I did find them and I did get up the scramble. Isis and I made it to the Carin and we rested. When I turned to sit down, I was greeted with the White Mountains... On fire with fall foliage. It was drop dead beautiful out today and the breeze was calming. Isis and I took in the view for a while. I felt content here. I wanted to keep that feeling. I love to linger on the side of mountains and take stock of my life. I began to think that a hike to Glen Boulder and a nice sit would be perfect.
More people were coming to the summit and the next group of 3 had also never done this route to Isolation. It is not a bad thing to me to be new. Just be informed that this is a tough route and if you are doing the loop out Rocky Branch, have a car at that trail head. I question if they did. Once they got moving, we did as well in the opposite direction, we were heading down. As we made or start, a shirtless older gentleman was coming up. He seemed shocked that we were heading down. I explained that I'd already done Isolation twice and my dog had done it as well. He could not comprehend the route at all and finally I explained that I simply didn't need it. It wasn't crucial to get it and I was OK with it. All he could say was what a shame.... Obviously we have two different views. Mine was beautiful to me. We continued down the rocks and we were greeted by another group of 2 gentlemen who were a little more sociable. We all agreed that this was beautiful and bid each other happy hiking. I then ran into several other singlet hikers on the trail before the tricky down and they did not speak at all. They didn't even blink at us. What happen to the super friendly groups of hikers form 3 years ago? Where did the friendly trails go where I would run into people I knew? I wanted to hike with people again after this experience. I was tired of being a singlet my self.
Isis was carried over that tricky section on the way down because I didn't feel like a visit to the hospital for a broken anything would be a good start to my "new life". We managed to avoid injury as I scooted on my ass for these sections. Once down, we began our slow descent knowing that down below was a slew of leaf peepers and amateurs. I should have mentioned earlier that close to this section, there is a nest of wasps to get around. Being allergic, this was on my mind as we made our descent. I really didn't want to step wrong and just as I was over thinking things, I rolled my ankle and sent myself to the ground. Isis shot back to check on me and I thanked her with tears. She licked my face and I got up again. Dusted myself off and determined to get down... I had no choice really. Those friendly gentlemen caught up to us and we chatted and they patted Isis. They heard me say her name and the elder of the two said... "Isis..." I held my breath for what I knew was next. "The Queen." He smiled and patted her. I was never more happy and explained her demeanor to be that of a stubborn queen and how we clash a lot. She is my best girl. We made our way back down to base with minimal issues except for my constant feeling of being off. As I predicted, the lot was full of leaf peepers and many stared as I walked to my car. I should have hugged them so they could get a good whiff of me being a sweaty hiker just getting off the trail! I changed at the car and didn't care who was looking. When you pee in the woods each weekend, you loose some modesty here and there and I wanted out of my sweaty hiking cloths. We headed for home bypassing Conway as I knew it would be busy. The major trail heads were over flowing as we passed by.
There is no doubt in my mind that I was way off today and that did factor into my decision to cut out the summit. I straddle a line between wanting to hike and the stats constantly but sensibility will always prevail. I do not do good with change, waiting, or heat, and today I had two out of the three. The changes are happening and a new life begins tomorrow while I will miss my team of coworkers, I know that the decision to leave was the best to keep myself from falling off that cliff. I had been exhausted for months working 6 days a week and not being able to care for myself the way I needed to was taking a toll on me as well and I was impatient to get back to the life I use to know... This life I had over 2 years ago that I missed. All at the same time, I was anxious about starting this change and wanting to stay in the comfortable position of knowing... If I stay here, I may never get a summit again and I might just walk away. So, it's time to refocus and tend to life and get things in order. The mountains will always be there and of course, Winter is coming... There is a goal there I need complete with 6 peaks. The grid will be a life time and that life time needs some attention right now. I need to be just a little better.