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Tom and Field for a Heart Felt Loop

           The turn around for the weekend was quick. I came home yesterday and got ready for today's hike. It's not often that I pull a double header anymore but I think this weekend called for it. I needed something. I was surprised that I didn't talk myself out of it at 4am this morning but on the road by 5am (I hit snooze a few times), Isis and I were off and feeling pretty good. I think the later start helps.  I do need sleep and by that I mean quality sleep these days. So, we are driving through Henniker on 202 and what catches the corner of my eye... A shooting star. I needed that although no wish was made. I just appreciated the sight. again, the roads were pretty good with clouds through the notch that stayed until we got to our notch... Crawford Notch. Isis and I park at the Highland Center since the Depot is not plowed. I have a confession to make. Last night I put my boots into my snowshoes and secured them in the bindings as tight as I could and left them like that. Sitting in the drivers seat, I slipped them on, snowshoes and all and it worked (as I had no issues all day!). I quickly got Isis ready and spoke to another hiker who was heading to Jackson. He was hiking his 48th today... The catch was that the 48th was a round solely in his fathers old hiking boots. What a tribute! Isis and I officially got under way at 7:50am.

          Temps are cold as we approach the trail beyond the Depot but they are not terribly cold. I know that I'll warm up soon as well with movement. The Avalon Trail is in such good shape though and that was a good thing. I'm able to really make good time today and I'm also well aware of the speed I am putting out. Such a difference from yesterday! Isis and I come to the first water crossing and it's a solid ice bridge to walk on. This is what winter is about and it's still fall. Everything is coated in snow and looking so pretty. Can it get any better? Isis and I make good time on some elevation gain and over to the next water crossing. This is also my favorite water crossing. I don't know why except that it was the first one that caught my attention when I started so many years ago in 2011. The first time I hiked these trails, I just felt that this was a good place and I fell in love with this hike. So, traditionally, I take a picture of my favorite crossing and it is also bridged so, Isis and I make it across easily. I am just at peace today and so very happy to have an easy hike. Heading up the Avalon trail, the next place I am watching for is the Junction that would lead us to Avalon or around to Mt Tom. I am opting to go by way of Mt. Tom today. There are a few new blow downs on this section that will either be buried with more snow or be at least easier to manage. No one else is on the trail as far as I know and that's when I stop and listen to... Silence. It's such a great sound sometimes. At 9:15 AM I am standing at the junction having some cheese, salami, and soup.

               Isis and I have 1 mile to the Mt. Tom Spur. One mile until I can take my pack off for a while since I always drop it at the spur to go up Tom. There are a few ups and downs and one more water crossing which is also bridged. My televators are coming in handy with some of the steeper sections. I am aware that there are animal tracks all over the place some are small and rodent like and others are bigger. I know of at least one Pine Martin in the area. Perhaps there are more? Isis and I pass the time on the trail just enjoying the scenery and the peace it offers. It's cold and we are in a cloud but we are happy. I did stop and put her coat on as I did feel that she was chilled. There are a few more steep parts to get through before it levels out by the Mt. Tom Spur. I was thankful to reach that level area as these steeps really put me through my paces. We arrived at the Spur trail at 10:26am and after hanging my pack and grabbing a few snacks, we make our way up the spur. My load is much lighter and I get my feet back under me noticing that my balance is different without my pack in snowshoes. This spur has a little more snow in it so, I am happy to not have the weight and happy to even it out a little. It's another world up close to the summit with only the animal tracks leading off the trail. We arrive at the summit at 10:51am and Isis promptly climbs the cairn buried in the snow. We snap some pictures and play with the Grey Jay's but unfortunately, they do not land on my hand like they use to because of Isis. That's OK, I still like that they visit. 

               There are no views so we head back down and I run into two others heading up. No snowshoes on them but I just let it go. I'm having a really good day. I am sure that we will run into one another throughout the day. So, once we get back down to where I hung my pack, we take a break for more cheese and salami and soup. It's piping hot and I burn my tongue! The Grey Jays had followed us down but again, would not land on my hand. We are on our way to Field when the two other hikers pass us. On the Willey Range Trail, it's starting to be a different story. There is more snow to get through and it's slightly choppy. Choosing to do the loop this way, you are going up hill to Field so, I am taking my time with the elevation gain. I'm just not a fast hiker in winter. I didn't care if I caught up to the others or not. Again, it's a winter wonderland on the trails and in the cloud it is a little colder. Isis and I keep moving slowly up the elevation gain. It takes us about 45 minutes to get to Field from the Tom Spur on the Willey Range Trail. Even with the slow pace, I am making good time. There are no views today from the out look that someone created. No one else is on the summit. Isis and I again snap some pictures and then try and decide which way to go.

         I lead Isis over to the trail that would lead to Willey. We did start down it and then quickly realized that it needs a lot more snowshoes to love it than the two on my feet. Having such an enjoyable day, I opt to turn back and head for the Avalon Trail. Willey for December will have to wait and I am OK with this. The avalon trail has a decent amount of loose granular on it to make the snowshoes needed still. I am happily staying upright for the moment although I know that some sledding will happen. It always does on this trail. The people we run into on this trail are friendly and even a few more dogs are on their way up too. We had left Field at 12:16pm and making our way down this trail is a rapid decent. After we cleared a few people, as predicted, I land on my butt and start sledding. I even picked up some good speed on a few turns. For the most part though, the snow is too wet and sticky for it and offered a lot of resistance. Still, this is the ideal way to descend a peak in winter sometimes. The trail was at least smoothed out and no longer pocked with boot prints. At the junction of the Avalon trail, we rested for a brief moment. Taking the Avalon Trail cut out a water crossing and a lot of ups and downs. Isis and I were on the final leg back to the Highland Center. The trail passes well under my shoes and we make it to my water crossing. From this crossing, we make great time back to the Depot and back to the car by 2pm. This was exactly what I needed.

             Taking a chance on a double header proved to be exactly what I needed to rekindle my faith in myself and how I approach my life, my work, and my hiking. It's always moments of clarity on the trail that I appreciate so much. I am not perfect. I am not a fast hiker. I am not in control of anything and I'm not interested in being in control of anything or any one. I don't live to work. I work to afford my life on the trails and that is how I like it. My life revolves around my dog and I could not have asked for a better trail partner. Without her, I may have given up on everything a little over a year ago. She keeps me motivated on the trail and moving towards my goals. I have some definite ideas of how the remainder of my life will play out and I really want to move in that direction now. The direction of what really make my heart sing. Life is far to short to live in stress and misery. I don't need notoriety, I just want to be happy. 

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