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Liberty and Flume for a Thankful November.

         I have shown a lot of love to Liberty and Flume this year and November was no different. I remember last year how the entire ridge eluded me for the weather so, I guess I was making up for it. This area can be tricky for sure. Last week, I was on Lafayette and Lincoln so, to finish the ridge for the month seemed appropriate. For those that are new to the blog, let me catch you up. I'm primarily a solo hiker (although open to hiking with others) who is working on her Grid or the New Hampshire 48x12 or completing the New Hampshire 48 in all 12 months of the calendar year. I have given myself a lifetime to complete this latest goal so, I will be hiking for a long time. What ever life may bring, I'll still find my way to the mountains. I'm shooting for the number 576 and as of today, I find myself at 29.9% and will close November for this year probably over 30%. The goal is to keep moving forward as with most of my life.

          So, on to todays hike. Liberty and Flume to complete the ridge for November. I was up and ready to hit the road by 4:30am. Snowshoes in the car just in case and spikes on the pack. Isis settled into her seat and I just zoned out. We parked at The Basin in Franconia Notch State Park. First car in the lot and we parked right by the bathrooms. Getting underway, we hiked the bike path towards Liberty Springs. If I could find the Whack for meeting the trail earlier, I'd be ahead of the game. Heading down the hill, I get my first taste of what is under the snow. I'm instantly on my ass and my Nalgene's are flying everywhere. I did not put my spikes on just yet. As I thought, Isis and I did not find the entrance to the Whack so, we were standing at the start of the Liberty Springs Trail. I figured that I would try for it on the way out thinking that someone might travel it today.


        Liberty Springs Trail is crusted snow over ice and in places, there is a lot of ice. Welcome to winter (unofficially). After a quick pitstop for myself (I didn't have to go when I parked the car), I put my Hillsound microspikes on my feet. Ready to take on the summits, Isis and I kept moving because it was cold this morning. We followed Liberty Springs and the first .6 to the junction for the Flume Slide Trail, went by in a quick hour. I had a great sense of how my time was going to go today and I was pleased. I knew that I would slow on the vertical gain and I wondered about the winds. Isis and I kept climbing with our next goal of the Liberty Springs Tent site. The water crossings were open with some solid places to walk on so, things are firming up nicely. Intermittently, I break to rest but those breaks are quick because it is very cold today. The snow was building the closer we got to the tent site. On one break, we were passed by two ladies hiking today as well. I was busy eating some cheese and salami and soup (I think it was around 10am. No judging!) and Isis was cleaning her bowl out. I knew that we'd see them again but we did say a hello.

         At 10:30am, Isis and I made it to the tent site for another quick break and to gear up as my face was cold. I put on my face mask and quickly had to adjust to the constriction on my nose (I dislike things on my nose and that actually includes kisses too) and the moisture under the mask. So, I was adjusting it and then took it off for a little while after warming up while walking. As I was stuffing it in my pocket, who comes up behind me but... Larry!

                  "Rachel!" He says. "You should stay home more." He joked.
                  "I should say the same for you. Larry. Nice to see you as always." I smiled

          Larry and I seem to run into one another a lot now. We discuss plans for the future and where we are at in terms of peaks now. I am resting at 193 total 4K summits in New England. Larry hikes ahead and Isis and I give space. He's nice to run into on the trails and I can continue to hike my own hike. Isis and I make it to the Junction of the Franconia Ridge trail, the final push to the summit of Mt. Liberty. It's been cold and snowy for this last push to the junction.

          Making the last .2 to the summit fun, the wind was picking up just slightly. The snow was easy to walk and there was minimal ice... Until we broke tree line. The ice on the rocks was a tricky coating but Isis and I navigated it well. The snow itself had a nice crust on it too. I saw my summit. The classic Liberty Profile showed itself in great light today and then I turned around and saw my destination from last weekend in all it's Glory.

       Isis and I climbed over the rocks to the summit and the ascent was tricky and steep with the crusted snow and ice. Once up there, we ran into the two lades that had passed us earlier. Each group obliged pictures gladly and I scooped up Isis for our shot with Franconia in the background. After the pictures were done, we didn't stay long as I was moving on the Flume and they were heading down. All four of us were cold. So, Isis and I ducked back below the summit and the snow was a little deeper. It wasn't much but for a few feet, I had my first butt slide of the season. We came to a tricky section of rock that was a little bit like the rocks that turned me back on Wildcat. I slowly slid, gripping the available edges to hold myself to the rock and made it to a place to swing my legs down. Isis waited somewhat patiently. We continued to head down into the trees and warmed up little. I slid my facemark down knowing that I'd be pulling it back up for Mt. Flume. Once in the Col, we cruised on the flat sections. Another quick break for a snack before we made our final ascent and ran back into Larry again. He gave me some great tips on Whacks to avoid the summit a second time going back to Liberty and I took them into consideration. We joked about next weekend and who know, maybe we'll run into each other again. It's inevitable actually.

       Final push to Flume and I'm feeling little over come by the fact that I've spent a lot of time between these two peaks this year alone. It's become a nice hike for myself and for Isis. I pull my face mask back up and we again crest the summit. I look over to Liberty and beyond to Franconia Ridge and get a few shots. Three guys are coming over from the Osseo Trail side and I'm betting they actually came up the Flume Slide trail. I never fond out as the wind was picking up. I managed to have one of them take a picture and then ducked back below tree line as it was really cold. Isis going down the trail is very quick and I get my balance even quicker. We are heading back over the Col and still moving until we hit the incline for Liberty again. We rest as the guys pass us on their way ultimately to Lafayette. As it turns out, Isis and I did not take Larry's whacks around Liberty, we summited again and got a few more great shots in the light of the day. Another hiker was coming up to the summit as we were heading down we said hello in passing and he would be close to follow. People were moving quickly because it was so cold today.

         Isis and I made good time over the rocky ledges and down to the junction of the Franconia Ridge trail. It was not broken out when we were coming up and now on our way down, I saw that those guys were indeed on their way to Lafayette. I silently wish them luck not knowing the winds over there. In no time, we hit the tent site for a snack break. Our last summit company passed us with a hearty "Snack time is a good time. Happy trails!" and he was off and hiking. Below the tent site, I heard two ladies before I saw them.

          "Awww... THERE'S THE PUPPY!" One of them squealed and I just smiled. I loved this greeting for my girl. We talked Shiba Inu talk for awhile and pictures were snapped. They had been following her tracks up the mountain and I was glad to have met them. I love it when Isis makes people smile because it makes me feel good. Back down Liberty Springs trail and over the water crossings again. Isis and I hit the Whack for the bike path and in no time we are back at the car. I love how much time is saved by cutting down through the woods. Over all, I am pleased by the day and down at the car by around 3pm. Well worth it for the wind and the cold temps. The smiles and the people we met were in great spirits and it was contagious.

             I had spent a lot of time recently in a very negative space, seeming to struggle to get out of it and find balance. I'm am forever grateful that the mountains can bring me out of that negative space as they did today. It no longer mattered for the day today, that I had missed the boat on more than a few milestones in my life or any other struggle I might have. I still have a great life that affords me the chance to see some amazing things that those I compared myself to from time to time might never see. I'm reminded on this hike that Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. Well, I am again reminded that a few years ago, I was sick enough to believe that this would never be my quest and now, I've beat the odds. I am thankful for the the strength I have and I never take it for granted. My life is not perfect and I am prone to my emotions and impulses and because of that, I can go into the silence of the mountains and understand that it will all work out as it should and that I need only remain positive in the face of so much negative. Where so many have nothing, I am blessed to have what I do have in my life.

         Another hike for the month of November, the Grid, and two more summits for round 6 (Working on 3 through 6 now). All this is secondary to the lessons learned.

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