There is a perfectly good mountain in my backyard. It's not even ten minutes from my house to the trailhead. And yet I still drive three hours EVERY weekend to go to the Whites. Except, sometimes, I just can't wrap my head around another hike in the Whites. I need a break and I feel awful for it. I had intended on hiking to Isolation this weekend. It would have left only one more peak for my 3rd round. I struggled with thoughts all the way up the first mile. I could not get my head on the trail and I had to turn around. I had to bail except I was thinking of bailing on the whole endeavor. I was feeling lost as I often do this time of year. There is something about the change of seasons that sends me for a nose dive and no mater how I push, I'm not going to make anything happen. I went home after playing tourist in Franconia Notch State Park and felt... Tired. I wanted to try again on Sunday but winds told me differently. Yet, I still made a go at a peak. I needed to do something after trying to tread water all week. I needed to stretch my legs.
Now, like I said, there is a perfectly good peak in my back yard. The Old Toll Road trailhead is not even ten minutes away from my house. Why I don't go up this one more often is beyond me. Except that it's a little over crowded in the warmer season. I actually went back and forth with myself. First I was going, then I was not, then I was going, then maybe not. I took Isis for a walk and the wind at ground level was wicked. I was dressed for winter. I have the gear to walk the dog. I think I can go up a mountain. I've gone up in worse conditions on bigger peaks. Why was I being so weak now? Stress has an interesting effect on me. I crumble in addition to some nasty physical symptoms and if I am not careful, I'll be back on the couch. So I have to push through. I have to get up that mountain. Even if it is little old Monadnock in my back yard.
I convince Isis that I am "going to work" with a Greenie for distraction since dogs are not allowed in any State Park in New Hampshire and I make it to the Old Toll Road trail head. There are others up there today so, I know that I won't have the trail to myself. The first mile on the Toll Road is your basic road walk. Easy up hill... Only a little icy. I leave off the traction until I finally get to the actual trail. I'm heading up the White Arrow trail today which is my standard "Quick and Dirty" hike. I started at 1pm and the first mile went by in a half an hour. As I begin to climb, the snow is pretty uneven but I'm careful to avoid the deeper post holes. As I climb, I break to catch my breath since the ascending trail is always tougher on me. It's like I don't know how to breath without gasping. It does not take long before I make it to the ice flow and take the detour around it. Although I probably could have made it up the flow with my hillsounds on my boots. So far, I am pleased with the day and enjoying the quiet of the trail as well as just being outside.
From here, I was getting ready to beak tree line for the first time. I stopped to talk to Jeff who was on his way down. We seemed to compare in experience in the White Mountains and agreed that Monadnock is over looked. I make my way to the first ledge and get hit with not only the first view but also the first winds... Bitter and strong. A good mix of bare rock and snow await as I continue to go up. Continuing on the White Arrow trail above tree line, I first change my head gear to my balaclava and pull my buff up over my nose. I am lucky that the rocks and some tree cover provide a little shelter. As I continue, I follow the foot prints ahead of me and wind my way through the rocks up the the second ledge. I'm still able to stand up and feeling pretty good about summiting. I do wonder about some of the steeper sections towards the top. Trying to remember a year ago when it was really icy and how I managed but today, the snow is easy underfoot and the hillsounds are grabbing nicely. The wind is just wicked though.
It takes me no time to pass the second ledge and reach the really steep sections of the White Arrow trail. These sections are normally worn slick form travel but in the winter, the snow just fills in these sections and makes traversing them a little tricky. I look up (straight up) the trail and I am blasted by the wind. I begin to climb and carefully put one foot in front of the other. It's maybe a 50 foot section of trail to climb up but in the wind, it makes for interesting steps. There is a rock for shelter once I make it up. The trail twists around and flattens out briefly before going to exposed rock for the rest of the climb to the summit. Once on the summit, it's very windy and everyone is covered up with goggles and face protection. My glasses usually do the trick up here to protect my eyes and I too have my face covered. I talk to a kind gentleman and we point out different land marks as we move around the summit, bracing when the wind gusts. He took my summit picture and laughed as my arms raised from the wind. We wished each other well and parted. I was getting cold which was a sure sign that it was time to go down. After missing the trail briefly and turning back, I am heading down White Arrow again.
Those two initially steep sections going up are probably steeper going down and with the wind, it makes for an extra challenge. I step carefully and I'm lucky that the snow is hard packed. I use the boot marks as steps and make it down easily. This section gives me just enough of a challenge to help me remember why I like this sport so much. I make great time down the two ledges and pause before tree line to take a deep breath. I feel better about this climb than when I started and ducking back into the trees, I make quick time to the ice flow again. I bypass the ice flow again and continue down the trail. I can feel the warmth (even though it's not that warm today). It was easily -30 with the wind chill and the wind made it a challenge on the summit. I was not completely knocked over but I was tossed around a little bit. Stopping at the base of the trail before the road walk, I take off my spikes and continue to the car. Happy that I made a climb this weekend and hopeful that I can make a return to the White's next weekend.
I missed my trail partner today. The unfortunate thing about New Hampshire State Parks is that dogs are not allowed so, Isis stayed home. I had to sneak the pack into the car and take her for a walk before I left and hopefully she'll forgive me. As I had said, Mount Monadnock is right in my back yard and not even a 10 minute drive to the trail head. It's quick mileage makes for a very quick day for me. Considering I started at 1pm and was back to the car by 4pm, I feel pretty good about my time. Although truth be told, if it took me all day, I'd be just as happy. I get caught up in peak counts and times and the rush rush rush of "gotta get it in and get it done" that I forget the basic principle... The Mountains Will Always Be There. I don't need to finish my GRID in any time frame as long as I finish it. I came close to walking away this weekend and it really opened my eyes to how I view things and how I get wrapped up in races. Time to slow down... Life will happen and if ever there is a time when I don't feel like hiking the Whites, instead of dragging myself all the way up there to try, I need to remember that there is a perfectly good peak near by to give me a challenge, a work out, or just a chance to breath.
August 8th to August 23rd, I'll be hiking the Long Trail by starting at the AT in North Adams Massachusetts and hiking through Vermont for 150 miles, stopping at Lincoln Gap. This will be my biggest challenge to date and one that I am both equally eager and anxious about. Isis and I will be traveling together and hopeful for a a good trip. In the coming months, I will be planning stops and gathering gear. I've entered a contest to have my trip sponsored by the Pet Outfitter KURGO. Right now, Isis and I are well on our way to being considered for the Top 10. You can help us out by clicking on the link below and voting for us on our page. The Top 10 will be chosen APRIL 17th and then the TOP 4 winners will be chosen from there. Help us out here: TELL KURGO TO SPONSOR RACHEL AND ISIS!