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A Late Afternoon on Liberty

        Having Monday off gave me the perfect opportunity to do some extra hiking this weekend and even though Isis had a vet appointment this morning, we headed up to Franconia Notch again. This time it was the other side of the street and I had intended on a sunset hike of Liberty. After leaving the vet's office with a super clean bill of heath, albeit, a little cranky, I felt a little guilty and this did not set well with me. I shouldn't feel guilty for doing what I love. I made a quick stop in Ashland to grab some extra food for the trip and we made our way to The Basin parking area. It was busy with low lander tourists and I could care less. I strap my snowshoes on my pack and we are off down the bike path. I looked at the bushwhack from the bike path and given how wet everything is, I figured that the extra mileage will not kill me today. We hook onto the White House Trail and I instantly begin doubting myself on top of the still lingering guilt. I started pushing back at my thoughts and figured that if this was a mid-life crisis, at least I'm still hiking... I figured that I'd see how the time was passing as we got closer to the tent site and if it looks like I might miss sunset, I may turn tail and head back down. I really didn't take a whole lot of pictures down low either as I just needed to walk. Once at the junction for the Flume slide, I broke out the snowshoes as the trail was little more covered up in that area. The water crossings at this level are flowing nicely and wide open at this point. Navigating in snowshoes was not a whole lot of fun but we made it across. As we continued to climb, we began running into the crowd coming down. Many were unfamiliar faces who seemed to be in over their heads and thankfully, a lot had turned back realizing that fact. I continued to talk myself into this hike and soon we not only hit the major elevation gain on the Liberty Springs trail, we also hit the monorail and post hole mind field. I did get in the snowshoes today and thankfully the monorail was pretty sturdy. It's obvious since the trail is lined with post holes... Just don't step in the shoe prints and stay in the middle of the trail. 

       Isis and I had taken a break at the tent site and it would seem that I was ahead of sunrise. It was only .3 to the Franconia Ridge Trail to the summit... My favorite summit in the Whites. The sun was warm today so, the trail was deteriorating. I had forgotten how much of the trail gets sun at this time of year. The snow is the consistency of rice mixed with mashed potatoes but the snowshoes are keeping me up. Isis on the other hand steps off the trail looking for a place to pee and makes herself a nice dog shaped post hole. She's not too happy about the days events but equally happy to be with me. I break frequently since we are not in a rush anymore and still I am eager to get above tree line. I should add that we have run into a crowd coming down and none were wearing snowshoes. Some were in sweatpants and post holing. A recipe for hypothermia given my experience yesterday. I could only imagine at this point how my descend will be.

      On the final approach to the summit, I pause briefly before breaking out of tree line and I'm conscious of my breathing and how I am finally feeling... Peaceful. I put up my televators one more time and dig in to get up there. The world opens up for me and I can do nothing except smile. The late after noon sun has shown me all the peaks I call home. I am eager to see the rock face for Liberty as it is my favorite view. As it comes into view, I feel my stress level drop again. Isis and I climb to the summit and we have it all to ourself. I could not be more happy.

     I took in the views and spent some time with my best trail partner on four legs. She's been the best constant in my life and as she lay down on the sunny summit, I sat with her and just looked out for a while. The wind was practically non-existant and we had plenty of time to make it back down to sea level. Up here, on this peak, I rested in peaceful thoughts and beautiful views. I could have stayed up there forever but like most people, I had responsibilities for Monday (even though I have it off). So, I put my snowshoes back on once we hit the snow again and we bid farewell to my favorite peak. Time to head back to reality and still carry this peace with me. I was reasonably sure that I would not run into another soul on the trail today.

        Once back in the trees, Isis and I begin to see the damage from so many people on the trail today. It's tough to navigate the monorail due to the damage from people crashing off the sides plus the sun making the monorail generally soft. I fall a few times and Isis runs back to check on me. With a few dog kisses, we are on our way again and again. At the Flume Slide junction, the snowshoes come off and are reattached to my pack. I am able to make good time now even with Isis avoiding all the water on the trail. There seems to be more since we made our ascent a few hours ago. there is no need for a headlamp as we make our way back to the car either. This day has been the best form of therapy I could ask for. With a new outlook and hopefully no place to go but up from here. 

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