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Eisenhower Takes One For the Team

         Amazing restraint as I waited out the cold temps and winds from Saturday and chose to hike Sunday instead. After another hectic week at work and trying to continuously adjust to the roller coaster of my job, I was craving the mountains. This is how everything becomes right again for me and how I can make sense of the world around me. I clear my soul when I am up in the high peaks. I think you could see it in my eyes if you know me and you looked close. After watching the Patriots almost drop the game and then come back, I was ready to hike. Today, it would be Eisenhower for number 44 of my winter season and Isis' 24th of her winter peaks. Again, not going for a single season and happy to be getting down to the last few. We parked at the Highland Center and got ready for the cold temps. It was -7* to start the day and I hoped that it would warm up a little. There was a big group forming in the parking lot and while I wanted them to head over to Willey, Tom, and Field, I also wanted to know that someone else was on my trail. Company is desirable these days and even more so in Winter. 
       I started out in my Hillsound trail crampons with snowshoes taking a ride. I had a feeling that at tree line, I'd be switching out. There had been snow recently and the wind was bound to make a few drifts. As we continued up the Crawford Path, it's still well packed out and temps are so cold that my iPhone is only turning on as far as being available for an emergency. I was skeptical if I would use it to take a single picture once we broke tree line. At the junction for the Mizpah Cut off, Isis and I stop for a food break and we are joined by a Gray Jay who appears to be full from the group of 12 that I let pass. I was happy to know that I was not the only one out today. This Gray Jay didn't even care that Isis was barking. He just sat there looking fat. 

         I could feel the temps fluctuate as I hiked to tree line. It felt as though it was warming up a little at points and yet it was so clod at other points. Isis is having a good morning and since some of the water is still available, she is able to get nice cold drinks along the way. My line is tucked in my coat defrosting and my gatorade is a little out of reach. We continue on and start to break tree line with the snow starting to get a little deeper. Isis and I make it to the outlook below Pierce and we catch up to the group of 12. They have a nice looking husky with them named King and as it turns out, I have met up with some of them before. I take in the views as they are milling about. Turns out they are all friends who hike together and one guy just joined them this morning after talking to them in the parking lot. I check out the trail and as I thought, it's poorly broken out so, on with the new snow shoes (Tubbs Flex VRT's 22"). I am like a kid again as I put them on and have no issues with the bindings in the back or the nob tightening system that snugs them to my boot and when I say snug, I mean these things are not moving at all. I am in love with this investment from the moment I put them on... And they are purple too which I love.

              All set to get over to Eisenhower. Isis and I head out behind the group of 12 and eventually catch up to them. Ultimately, instead of leap frogging and waiting for them to pass, I just joined them. I also figured it would be safe for me if I was with a group. The views are all around us as we walk and some are in snow shoes, some are in microspikes, some are in Yaktracks which made me worry, and even still some were in nothing. A real mix of experience levels here and one older dog who was having a good day. Everyone was nice though and seemed like fun. We stopped a few times to take breaks and making our way over ice, drifts, and deeper sections sheltered in trees, we came to the junction for the Eisenhower loop. There was some question on which was to go and I explained that one will lead the group around Eisenhower so, the group needed to follow the trail up. This is a rocky, icy, and tricky part and it's also the final push to the summit. Isis gave space to those that were struggling on the ice and I offered my Hillsounds to one of the group members but there were no takers. We came to a tricky rock spot and took the wrong way up getting hung up on some rocks and on my knees to hoist myself up with my pack and my awkward larger feet with the snow shoes. Carefully, We are able to stand again and we begin walking on the wood "stairs" to the summit proper. These were also icy and my super aggressive traction on the shoes were worth it. No issues at all getting up the ice. The next test is of course, getting down. We made it to the summit and it's a little chaotic with everyone up there. I'm asked to take some group shots and of course I do and I also have my summit shot taken.

          The summit is a little chaotic with all of us up there and I make the best of things as groups sometimes frazzle my mind. I look out and see George and the rest of the Presidential's are in the clear and looking magnificent. One of the group members asked me how her makeup looked and I was a little tickled by this. I have to say it's the first time I'd been asked this ever and given as I had not showered yet today, I didn't know how to answer. I lock onto Monroe which is my next target and then my concentration is broken by a squabble between Isis and King (who had been getting along but apparently neither wanted the other in their space now). I kneel down to deal with them and as I do, I nicked Isis with the crampon on my shoe. I was horrified as her white fur turned red and trying to get this group together for a group shot was making my anxiety go up more. I knew I needed to get out of the wind to take care of Isis. So, I took two shots and gave back the camera, gathered my walking stick and began heading back down. I wanted to get past that tricky spot where we would be sheltered. Isis was a trooper though where I was a basket case. She's my girl, what can I say. She took one for the team and we both learned a lesson here. I figured that I would use the alcohol wipes from my first aid kit since they would not freeze and clean her up a little. Once we got down the ice path, and I scooted down the rocks, that is exactly what I did. And she kept squirming away from me. I was careful not to clean the ear as that may have been painful. Plus, I wanted it to stay closed and clotted. I knew that there was extra water in the car and I had my bandana to really clean her up once we were down.

            There were no hard feelings on anyone for any part after this... Isis and I hiked our own hike out and the group caught up and also hiked at their own pace. There was a light snow falling over the ridge and it made this hike so peaceful. I looked back at the summit when I was almost back to the outlook at Pierce and saw that weather was indeed moving in and the Upper summits were now in the clouds. I concentrated on getting back to the outlook, unaware of what time it was due to the cold temps. Once we were back there, I ran into more people that had run into us on previous hikes or knew of me from the blog and previous postings. It's always good to run into such familiar and friendly faces. I lingered at the outlook, almost unwilling to go back down to ground level. I wanted to stay up there for a long time even though the weather was telling me otherwise. We fell line behind a group and make our way back to the first junction of the Mizpah Cut off. Since we are moving rather fast, we are allowed to pass and as I contemplated taking the shoes off, I quickly change my mind since, why would I want to add the weight back on? They are not doing any harm on my feet. The trail goes by fast. There was a few more coming up and one big dog named Jackson that Isis paid no mind too. It seems like we were back to the car in no time. 6 hours and 15 minutes round trip was a really good day for us. So good that I was already looking forward to next weekend and possibly making a go at Monroe. 

             It's amazing how much this journey has shaped my life and how it continues to evolve right in front of me. I have never been one to latch onto any particular activity (unless you count softball in my youth). I can never put into words accurately how I feel and try my best here to give trail conditions and a little of that feeling. I am ecstatic that so many are following along and glad to hike with anyone on the trails. You all enhance my journey so much and I thank you all for that. The Winter Six has been reduced to the Winter Four... Watching the weather for a hopeful pass at Monroe next weekend.   

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