I've spent a lot of time in the mountains and it's becoming a weekly adventure for me. A way to get away for a while and only have to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. After all, at this time of year, that's all I can focus on in more ways that one. I need to keep moving forward or be left behind. And the mountains are my biggest success it would seem. This is what I am known for above all else. I'm not complaining either. I'd love to just escape, build a tiny off the grid house and just live. Either that or sell all my belongings and take one big hike. Today, I settled for Mount Moriah via the Carter Moriah trail off of Bangor St. in Gorham NH. Of course, this also meant that I had to get out of bed. It was hard this morning. I was running late and almost changed my plans. I was glad I kept pushing on. This was a theme for the day.
At the trailhead, I was busy getting my snowshoes on and Isis squared away. I was the first car in the small lot by the trail and knew that not many more cars would fit. I was followed shortly by a family (grandparents and a grandson) from Massachusetts. They recognized me right away from writing here. I kept getting ready and then made my ascent but not before the big question. "You're wearing snowshoes?", "Well yes, it's full winter conditions up there." I kept walking forward knowing that they would probably catch up. My thoughts were also on the storm that had just passed and the lack of trail reports. I was sure that we'd be breaking trail at some point. Snowshoes are a must. The Carter Moriah trail from this end starts out straight up and it's smooth. I'm assuming this is because it's in a residential neighborhood and people sled down the hill. As we crest this first rise, I spy the trail and it's pocked with bare boot marks. It's going to be a bumpy go today.
Isis and I are enjoying the quiet of the trails and making our way to the ledges. Because of the storm, it's an easy go since my snowshoes are doing the trick and the trails is evening out. We keep climbing and it feels as though the temps are dropping. I can see the blue skies and I am eager to get to the open ledges to see what's around me. It's been almost a year since I walked this trail last. My mind is on nothing except getting to the top an it feels as though weights have been lifted. It's not long before the family catches up to us and then pass (as that is how I prefer it), I notice that they are not wearing their snowshoes but they are carrying them. I am hopeful that they will put them on. The snow is getting deeper and we have not even hit the first ledge yet. We do catch up again and I pass this time. The temps are cold and I want to keep moving.
Life finally opens up on the ledges and I am treated to several views of the Presidential range. I stand there and name them all to Isis and I am thinking of the winter I have ahead of me. Largely spent up there on those high peaks. It remains to be seen if Isis will be joining me. Trudging through pocked snow trails as that family had passed us again just before the ledges, We make our way back into the trees. I am careful on the downs and slow on the ups. The snow just calls for careful footing in snowshoes. I'm doing my best to smooth things out. We reach mount Surprise and this little peak always reminds me of the second trip I made to these trails. When Jen finished her 48 and I came down from my cabin to climb it with her. That was a great day. I take in my final views of the presidents as the next time I see them, I will be standing on the summit again. Isis and I duck back into the trees and keep moving forward. We pass the family again and take the lead.
As Isis and I hike, the snow is getting deeper still. I am glad that i have my shoes on now as we are suddenly breaking trail. I knew that at a certain point we'd be on fresh powder and low and behold, here we were. It was slow and tough going but I was determined to get there. This section of the Carter Moriah trail is full of PUDS and I loose count (as usual). Isis and I do run into another couple who appear to be struggling just a little. We stop just long enough to offer encouragement and then we keep going up a particularly steep section. Down again and then flat for a while. All the while we are breaking though the powder and laying a decent flat trail.
We enter the final push to the summit (just before the marker) and I begin to struggle. The family comes up behind us as I am slipping both down the trail and out of my left bindings. I can hear them behind me, just waiting for me to make it up. I'm worried about Isis who is also struggling in the post holes of a previous hiker. I'm a little over come with a sense of I'm alone in doing this journey and this family is just standing there. My anxiety is going up and I'm mumbling, sputtering, and of course, swearing. I slip one last time and head back down this steep section. "Do you want us to take lead?" I look at their feet. "You need to wear snowshoes. You'll just post hole if you don't." They huff and puff and as they do, I fix my bindings and dig way down beyond my reserve and I begin again. Again, they are right behind me and I ask for space. The grand son has his shoes on and offered to take the lead. THANK YOU! I was exhausted and exasperated (hence the swearing). But in all seriousness, if you are in snow past your ankles, wear snowshoes! It just makes the trail even and easier for the rest of us. Not to mention, it packs it all down so if there is more snow, it's an even coating. We push on to the summit and I am greeted with a beautiful 360 view from the small summit rock. with 5 of us up there plus Isis, it's really crowded. Another gentleman had arrived before us and he was enjoying the view too. I offer to take the families picture and they do the same for me.
We head down off the summit cone and away from some other dogs that are approaching and the couple we passed had finally made it. They recognized me from my first round and some Youtube videos I was once in from my hiking groups trail reports. I explain that I am largely solo now and still running a blog. They seemed like a happy couple and were doing the loop down to Stoney Brook. I wished them luck and kept moving. It was still cold and cold enough to suck the life out of my iPhone. I again catch up to the family and they are knocking the snowballs off their spikes. Gladly, they let me pass and I begin cruising down the trail. My one intent is to get back to the car before I need a headlamp. True to the Carter Moriah trail, there are great sections to slide on and that is exactly what I do (Maybe those PUDs are good for something?). Making good time of the down slopes and sliding on my ass. Butt sledding season has officially opened on the whites. I look back at the now smooth trail and smile. It's not packed into smooth ice. It's just smooth and not pocked by bare booters any more.
Isis and I hit the open ledges again and the sun is now directly over the Presidentials. No Alpine glow yet but they are silhouetted nicely. We keep moving down the trail and back onto warmer temps (for pre-winter Whites that is). My gloves are covered in snowballs and I'm basically soaked and I am happy. I'm am probably the most happy I have been all week. This is where I feel the most at ease and I am forever grateful that I can hike these peaks. After the ledges, it becomes easier to walk on flat trails and I notice the volume of foot traffic as we are back on some uneven footing. I step with care and then suddenly, we are on the down slope back to the parking area on the street. We had made it to another summit and back. I opt to not sled down this last section. I was cold and really wanting that hot cup of coffee I get on the way home. And there was a big smile on my face. Today was a fabulous challenge.
So many times I am reminded that this is a tough journey I have set myself on. When my back hurts, my hands are cold, my feet are twisted in snowshoes, and my dog is wondering why the heck she is not sitting at home on her ottoman looking out at the world, I am reminded that it's not only tough physically but it's also mentally. I have to focus on nothing but the trails and making choices to either keep going or turning back. Today, I wanted to quit when I was struggling and just wanting to give it up and let that family just over take me. It's these moments that I reflect on being solo and wishing that it were different. It's also these moments that I wonder if I can do bigger hikes and other journeys that I want to do. But I didn't give up, I dug deep and kept going to the top. If only I could translate that into the rest of my life. It's been a slow transformation below 4000 Feet. I'm finally feeling secure again in my personal life and I'm happy with that direction (which mostly involves the summits). All other areas will fall into place. I'll continue to live to play rather than live to work and I'll hopefully land on my feet and keep running forward. Don't forget to look up sometimes, you never know what you'll see.