When the opportunity comes to grab an Owl's Head Summit, you take it. It's not the easiest peak to get to. You really work for it in any season and anyone will tell you they either love it or hate it. I happen to love this hike. Today, I was attending yet another Grid finish for 2 fantastic hikers in our community, Jason and Andrew. I am honored to call these guys and anyone that I hiked with today, my friends. This was a fantastic group of skilled hikers who shared something special today. For me, it was a hike for December, my last fall hike of 2014, and another step on my Grid. More than that, this mountain will make you work for it. At least for me, that was how the day went. It started with fighting to get out of bed and ended somewhere on the summit. In-between, I faced my doubt, insecurities, and other negative feelings. I came out on top celebrating with Champagne for my two friends achievements.
I came screaming into the parking lot thinking I'd be late. It was just 7am and people were getting ready. I put my boots on after taking them out of the snowshoe bindings and I left the shoes in the car. Yep... I don't know what I was thinking. Actually, I literally thought that the break out might have been better. I'll get to it soon. So, we do introductions and I am excited to meet this group and see some old friends. It means a lot to me to hear that my little dog is a legend and that people are generally excited to meet and hike with us. Today is also different as I have been solo for a very long time. We all get underway and the trail through Lincoln Woods as usual is a straight shot that you kind of grow to dislike at the end of a hike. It's long and flat and boring but at least today, it's packed down and we are all (mostly) bare booting.
We walk all the way out to the Black Pond Trail. The intent is to take the bushwhacks today to eliminate some nasty water crossings that may or may not be bridged. Things are going OK but I am starting to lag behind just a bit. Which is not so much of a worry now as it would be at the end of the day. This is also the shortest day of the year. Yeah, perfect to visit the Owl! We all make our way over the Black Pond Trail to the look out over the pond. There is no view this morning. It's a nice break and I am able to catch my self and keep going. A little sip of the Dr. and I'm warmed and ready to go. Hillsound Trail Crampons were added at the start of the trail. All except one are waiting for Snowshoes. We enter the Bushwhack and it's a mix of scrub and sticks. The depth is getting a little more noticeable and I am still doing OK. Hiking my own hike I catch up to people and chat a bit and also hike a lot solo in my own thoughts. It's a great feeling to weave in and out of these two worlds for me. As we are walking, we look for the turn to rejoin the Lincoln Brook trail and second guess. Heading down a pretty good descend, we finally get to the bigger trail. It feels like being on this trail, if I start doing poorly, I can get back. But I push on. Again, it's intermittent solo hiking and chatting with people about why we get into this sport and things that we have experienced. In my opinion, there are some pretty good stories out there as to why we all do this. Me? I do it for health. Being really sick for a while, the road back has been incredible. I never thought I'd be able to say that I am all muscle again.
Another quick break on the Lincoln Brook trail, we are moving again and having a great day. Even Kali and Isis are squabbling very little. But we are doing our best to keep them separated. Again, I am lagging behind a bit and still OK with things. I know that the next stop is for the Brutus Bushwhack and the trail right now is still in great shape. There are some thin spots by the water but we manage. My feet are not too tired yet and Isis is doing great. As we walk, the snow is falling and it all seems too perfect. I'm feeling very peaceful and just happy to be out here. Also wishing I could be out here more often. Maybe some day... We arrive at the start of the Brutus and take another break. I dive into my cheese and salami and have some soup... Who cares if it's not noon yet. I am hungry. Then I notice, the Brutus is not so broken out. This is going to be "fun". The Owl makes you work with everything you have. I just hope I have it today. We begin and I'm doing OK. The distance is growing between me and the group but the good thing is that in winter the bushwhack is a little more noticeable. Part of me needs this alone experience because I do eventually want to do this peak solo. It's the last peak for a complete solo round for myself. Keeping in mind, I have no snowshoes which means no televators, we are ascending pretty steadily. Thank goodness I am all leg muscle but even still, this might be too much.
I keep pushing and breaking. Isis is getting anxious and I try to keep digging. It's quiet and I can hear my own heartbeat from the amount of work I am doing. I start grunting through some emotions. I'm going to do this. I'm determined. I do hear the little voice telling me that if I turned back, the group would eventually catch up. I burry it. I try to keep it buried but it does come up. There's a section that is particularly vertical and I see Jason up top. He's waiting and when I catch up, he offers me his shoes. I hesitate briefly but I take them. I need to do this. The good thing is that these are the Tubbs with new bindings. I had looked at them in EMS and wanted to try them. Supper snug and not slipping off like my other ones do. I get going again, at my own pace and struggle a little. OK, I still struggle a lot. The Brutus seemed so easy back in March. I was not liking it this time around. It's a constant battle to get anywhere with lots of breaks. At another point close to the leveling out, another in the group (Sam) is waiting for me. I am so happy about this. Again, we chat for a while and then fall silent as we concentrate. Finally reaching a more level trail to the summit, we begin moving a little better. The snow is deep with lots of covered branches. We catch up to the group at the old summit. Another quick break and it's on to the big finish!
We reach the summit after separating from the main group again and suddenly, we are cheering, champagne is being passed, and photo's snapped. I offered up my walking stick which doubles as a makeshift tripod for a group shot. The temps on The Owl are dropping and since none of us are moving, I am guessing everyone felt the chill. Isis curled up and I I knew it was time to start heading out. I feel rejuvenated after my experience on the Brutus and I'm ready to face a lot. As we walk, I first faceplate after catching a root and then, Heather and Kali catch up to us by the old summit and it was nice to have a brief conversation with her. I love joking around with her because she gets it and I look up to her for all that she has done. She's a fighter just like me. The guys catch up... Did I mention that we were the only women hiking today. Go us! The guys catch up and we begin or descend which for me is so much easier. Some is spent on my butt but I really want to stay upright and warm and dry today. It's a long hike out. The Brutus passes in no time and we break at the bottom for changes of cloths and some take off the shoes. I still want to sample Jason's on a flatter trail. I am loving them though and he was loving the lighter pack.
Isis is getting sluggish and I notice the difference in her right away. My time is spent thinking about time and watch how she is walking. Plus, I am trying to keep her moving. We need to stay with the group now to learn the entrances to the return bushwhacks. My feet are fatigued and I am reminding myself that there is very little climb on the way out. We break in a few of the same spots and that allows us to find the entrance to the Black Pond Bushwhack again (after over shooting and turning back). Everyone is in great spirits as we make our way over that now incline where is was a decline on the way in. It about tires me out again and I look forward to flatter trail. I get caught up and face plant a few more times. I'm good for that. Resting back at Black Pond, the dogs provide a chorus and the mountains finally provide a view. I also give Jason back his shoes. He's sad to have the weight back.
Walking out to Lincoln Woods, I am watching the sun go down and I know that I will be in a headlamp on the straightaway. the separate groups pop out to Lincoln woods at different time and the long straight walk out begins. Because it's well packed, you only need to follow the snowshoe track for a nice flat packed trail. I pick up the pace because I actually do want to get home tonight. The Owl always takes a lot out of me and I can feel it in my feet. The sun goes down as we all walk. I push well into night before I put my headlamp on (essentially right by the bridge). Crossing and back to the parking lot, it's hugs and cookies and various beverages again. Such a successful trip in so many ways. To borrow a new favorite saying from a recent movie, "If your nerve deny you, go above your nerve". I did this today. I beat out a lot on the Brutus Bushwhack. I cried and I groaned my way up that trail and I did it. More over, I can do some pretty amazing things. I'm very much done with the focus on what I can't do. It's time to focus on what I can do. I can climb peaks and beat odds. I can keep going when something is screaming inside me to turn back. The mountains have provided me a unique challenge. Some call it crazy. Some call me insane. It's my life and my life alone to live and I would not ask for anything more. The Owl will teach you a lesson if you listen hard enough.