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Surreal Beauty and Perfection on Monroe

"Load the car and write the note
Grab your bag and grab your coat
Tell the ones who need to know
We are heading North."
Avett Brother's
I and Love and You

        Sometimes, things are just perfect... The music on the way up to Base Station Road really set the mood... Dead, Dave Mathews, Avett Brothers were all much appreciated. It brought a certain calmness to my mind. Isis and I arrived at Base Station Road in good time. The sun was just coming up after negotiating the snow and ice covered road. At the base of the cog railway, we parked in the hiker lot and got ready. First I got Isis "dressed" and then I got myself suited up with my boots and my coat. I attached my snowshoes to my new Deuter ACT Trail 32 pack that I picked up at EMS recently. I had my spikes on the pack as well but I didn't use them. We got underway at 7:50am. The trailhead was up a little ways but not a bad walk past the Cog station and over behind the cabins. Isis and I got underway with about an inch of new snow on the trail but not enough to cause me to change my foot wear. At least not initially. Isis and I were stopped by another hiker for a quick chat and I also decided then to put on my shoes. I was going to wait until the Jem pool however, I figured I'd save myself the pack weight. The trail up to the Gem pool is decent with a mild elevation gain to it. Nothing like we'd experience once we got to the base of the pool at 8:55am. 

        Isis and I took a break at the Gem Pool for some food and a chance to catch my breathe. The next section would prove to be a work out considering this is where the bulk of the elevation gain is. I immediately put up the televators on my snowshoes to lessen the strain my calfs would suffer and we got underway at 9:06am. I anticipated some issues with Isis as she likes to play with snowballs and given the steepness of the trail, I tried to limit breaks to flat areas that would not kick up snow. My mind was on the return trip and how we would get back down. But my thoughts were not so clouded that I did not enjoy the views or remember certain areas from the last time I was on this trail in winter. I like the Ammo trail. I just knew that it would be a challenge today. Maybe it was the perfect challenge I needed to push me on? Determined to just take my time and hike today. It didn't matter if I caught up to anyone on the trail. And if anyone caught up to us, they could pass. 

       As Isis and I broke tree line just below the hut, things began getting interesting. The post holes took over the trail and it became very difficult to get even footing. Remembering my experiences the last time I was on this trail, I knew stepping too far off would send me up to my waist in spruce traps. So, I had to deal with the post holes. Isis was not too crazy about it either. But I was very proud of her for getting up the steep sections. I needed to take a few more breaks and catch my breath as well as rest my legs. My shoes were even having a hard time getting a purchase on the snow due to depth. None the less, the landscape was no less than beautiful and I was reminded of how I liked this range so much better in winter. Even for the harsh conditions, it's just beautiful when snow covered. I was humbled and in awe of my surroundings as George poked into view and then I saw the hut. 

    Once we crossed the ice field behind the hut, we came around the side and climbed up on the roof at 10:34am. The view was impressive for a grey day. The landscape was surreal. We looked to our destination and began our ascent first on the Crawford Path which we basically forged our own way towards a sign post for the summit spur. The snow was hard packed and crusty so it was easy to travel. Once we arrived at the summit spur, I began my ascent with Isis in tow. Another steep section and I just hoped that it would be smooth. I follow the rock path for a bit and then followed the snow field. Arriving close to the top of the first false summit, I needed to use my hands and let momentum for Isis help me up with a little boost from my capable hands too. Once standing again, we navigated some sparsely covered rocks and my snowshoes made an awful racket. Isis spied two others that were down at the hut and I reassured her that they would catch up. Again, making our way over to the official summit, I claimed my #45 Winter peak at 11:08am and Isis claimed one for her list as well. The wind was low and while it was cold, I was not in a rush to get down. I leaned my pole with my camera on a rock since it would not stand on it's own (not enough snow to grab) and we got our summit photo. 

      As we made our descent, the two gentlemen caught up to us and as it turns out they recognized both myself and Isis from my postings. Great to talk to Brewster on the false summit and always nice to hear that people are following the adventure. They were on their way to Franklin for the Trail Wrights list. As Isis and I made our way back down, I could not see the tracks and ended up bushwhacking across the summit taking an easier grade down so I could stay upright. We rejoined the lower trail at the rocks and I stumbled a bit but remained on my feet. Once we were on flatter ground, we again made our own trail on the Crawford path back to the hut. The snow was crusty and appeared to ripple from the winds that have blown up that high. We took another break at the hut for food and some fun on the roof. I could not get over how peaceful it was up there today considering the lack of wind. It was hard for me to believe that the snow was flying down home. At 11:35am, we began our descent back into the trees. 

         I knew that this would be a quick descent with the majority of it being spent on my butt. Not on purpose but because the momentum just carried me that way. No sooner than we cleared the ice field then it happened. Safe to say that some of those postholes got flattened out a little more too. It was not too hard to control my speed but I knew that steeper sections where coming. Once heading down, it was nice to run into Kim who we had run into on Pierce a few weeks back. We didn't chat long due to conditions and time but nice to chat none the less. It was pretty much an up and down descent in terms of if I found myself on my butt, I was going to slide until I stopped and could stand again. Another group was coming up and I waited as I knew I would just end up sliding down the section they were on so, to avoid hitting them, I had to wait. Isis and I were back to the trees in no time and with one final push, we were back at the Gem Pool. Another break to readjust things that had shifted in the sliding. Isis got some food and we got ready for our exit. It was not long at all that I found myself poking out at the start of the trail and wishing that maybe my descent didn't go so quickly. How can it be that I was already back at the car? It's only 1pm and I have a lot of hike in me still. Hard to believe that a hike like this would take such a short amount of time now considering, it would be a day long event if I was still at the beginning of this journey...

     It was great to meet and talk with so many people today and I feel again that peace in my life after making such a trip above tree line. Putting aside lists, goals, and other stats, today's hike proved that I can face challenges and over come them. The Ammo trail is nothing to take lightly given the steepness and today was no walk in the woods. It was work and work that I gladly took on. It's in my blood now. This is my way of life and I am thrilled to see where it takes me. I cannot wait for my remaining three peaks for Winter. The big boys are lining up: Jefferson, Adam's, and West Bond. Now is the time for feeling proud of my journey and how far I have come as I look forward to the new challenges that lay ahead for me. If you are looking for me, I'm probably up high looking out on the world and smiling. I'll see you out there!

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