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A Beautiful Loop of Jackson and Pierce


I've been feeling a little guilty this week. It's strange really because I've also been feeling really good which is why I strangely feel guilty. I guess when you've been down for a while, to feel good is just strange. Well, as I continue to train for my Long Trail trip in August, I continue to be both in disbelief and in awe of the trip. It is so happening and I am so ready. Today, I put most of my cloths, and Isis' week supply of food in the pack and we went up Jackson and over to Pierce. I know... Busy area on a beautiful day, I am kind of asking for a crowd. The training must continue and I figured some intense gains at the summits would be good for us. The drive up was in perfect sync with how I've been feeling. Good music playing at my favorite hiking partner sleeping in the passengers side. We arrived at the Highland Center and got a parking space and were greeted by the Lupines. Time to start the day and at 8am, we hit the road walk to the Webster Jackson Trail. 


It's quiet on the trail this morning. There are people milling about and getting ready to head to their respective destinations. Isis and I head up Webster Jackson which is not that wet down low and of course rocky. I have not done this route since the trail was covered in snow so, it feels new to me. My landmarks are off and we begin to climb. It's a decent trail though and pretty easy to navigate these lower sections. Isis and I quickly cross some low crossings and dodge some mud. Trying to be mindful of not causing more damage, I stick to rock hopping over plowing through the mud sections. We are approached by a random dog who's owners are no where to be seen. A loud yell to them to control their dog and he's called back. Isis and I head to the first outlook that looks over 302. Beautiful views of the road and the Highland Center. I stop to take off a layer since is was chilly this morning and add that to my pack. This is a great test for myself today. The group with the dog have surely passed the outlook and as we are coming down. another group is coming up. Yes, busy day today. this group would catch up to Isis and I a little ways up the trail as we continue to climb over rocks and roots. We let them pass in favor of a take our time pace. No longer needing to race through, I told myself I was working on my Thru Hiker pace. We reached the junction of the Jackson Branch Trail in great time and took a food break. 




From here on up to the summit, it continues to get rocky and vertical. This is where the test comes in as Isis and I navigate the scrambles and the slabs. There is a family coming up behind us as well and I I can hear that they have children with them. The father is trying his best to direct them safely which is nice to hear. The sun is strong but thankfully, I have put on sunscreen and that includes on my legs and my ears. I am not burning today! The day so far is perfect for Isis and myself and I am feeling very strong and very peaceful. There is something about carrying over 40lbs up the summit cone of Jackson that is very empowering. The views go on forever once we crest the top and Isis and I settle in for a rest and some food. However, this is not before we are greeted by a golden retriever and his family. Isis barks a lot but quickly settles down to ignore him and he does the same. The family comes up behind us and I see that one of the little girls is in a skirt and I think sneakers or maybe crocks. Kids are amazing! My feet would be killing me. They are milling about and both the little girls want to pat Isis but don't seem to get close to her. I have something to eat and that includes the cherries I have packed for myself (with an extra ziplock for the pits and stems!). They tasted so good after that climb. Isis has some food after the retrieve vacates the summit. The views of Washington are clear and the day is just spectacular. 






We continue on the Jackson Branch Trail and head down the other side of the summit cone to head over to the Mizpah Hut. Once we navigate the steep down of the cone, we hit the water... I should have brought my hip wadders too (I kid, but expect to get your feet wet). I love this section of trail for the bog bridges and the wild flowers that line the trail are a nice treat. Since, I usually only travel this way in winter, today is a whole new experience for us and Isis has all these crazy new smells to smell. Me, I'm just smiling from ear to ear and loving this journey today. I cannot even feel my pack and my feet feel good too. There are a few downs to deal with before we level out and walk some pretty marshy and soft trails. The bog bridges help but again, expect to get a little wet. Even Isis is not letting this bother her and she is just powering through. I love how far this dog has come in terms of the trails. Again, we are taking our time and I know we are getting closer to the hut as we begin to encounter people. We hit the junction for the Mizpah cut off and have about 200 yards to our next rest stop, the Mizpah Hut.




There are plenty of people milling about. A group of guys has settled for a good amount of food and wine after completing a two day traverse of the Presidentials. Well deserved and in great spirits. I enjoyed talking with them. Isis and I met a few followers of this blog here and I'm sorry if I cannot mention you by name... The long day has pulled it out of me. But it's always great to meet everyone. I also meet Milo, another Shiba Inu who is hiking today... He and Isis have words but quickly settle again to ignore one another. Unless Milo caught her eye and then it was 'tude all over again. After some food and a good rest with a lot of laughter, we head up the steep section of climb to Pierce. Our final summit for the day. It's really not a bad climb and there are ladders to help out but Isis doesn't take them but, I do. There is some water to deal with of course but none of it is good for a dog to drink. Again, we are taking our time and trying to navigate a slightly more crowded trail. I remain in great spirit though and just keep going. We level out and navigate some slabs after the steep section and this is followed by some down trail too. Once we climb again, I know we are getting close to the summit. And as we make one last little push, we come to the cairn and the markers. we arrived at Pierce and the actual summit proper is quiet. There are butterflies and smaller birds fling about but no Grey Jays. We see down by the junction that there are plenty of people sitting and plenty of dogs too. we slowly approach them and find our own place to admire the view of Eisenhower and the other presidents. We've arrived at the Crawford Path...





I linger here as I really am not interested in wasting this beautiful day. We have our picture taken by someone who asked us to take theirs and I chat with people who are also soaking in the day. I head down low to the look out by the junction to head to Eisenhower and we watch the people approaching from that distant peak. It gives some perspective to the climb and I just watch as they come and go. At this point, I have seen a lot of different people but I never expected the amish group coming over from Ike. Complete with plain blue dresses and bonnets... Now I have seen it all but I am happy that everyone is enjoying this playground. I finish a lot of my food that I had packed for the day and after a while, we begin to make our descent of  the Crawford Path. Lot's of people coming up with their dogs and I had asked one couple to control their dog. The wife called him back to leash him and it was her husband who gave me a mirror view of a very sad time in my life. He was swearing up a storm about how he was carrying everything and that this trail was a basic "fucking" nightmare to him... He was nasty to her and I felt bad as I remembered a time when someone else was like that to me. As I passed, I thanked her for leashing her dog and I asked him to have a better day. He said nothing to me as I also passed reflecting on the fact that I've carried everything for myself for today and a long time.... Without a complaint. I'm in a fantastic place and so far from where I was. Still, I felt really bad for her and for the rest of the family that seemed to grimace as they ascended to the summit. I hope they were able to enjoy the day. After this, it was a pleasant trail and an easy hike down and back to the Highland Center. I was amazed at how much it actually fills in with snow as long forgotten landmarks were revealed to me. Isis and I landed at the Highland Center, I changed, she got her greenie, and we were bound for coffee and home. A fantastic day on this loop.


More than today being about training for the Long Trail, today was about Isis and how much I am so very proud of how far she has come. Yes, she will bark and she will protect me but when it comes down to it, she hikes her paws off and truly loves to be on the trails. I may have impressed myself by the load that I carried but Isis impresses me more as she goes over some pretty tricky terrain without help from me. We are a team and since we are leashed together, she and I work hard to understand our pacing and our timing. She has become my most reliable hiking partner and I believe that she understands my moods and what I am going through. She checks on me and when I need it, she stops me to climb a rock and look me in the face (and lick my face out of love). There has been a lot of coming and going in my life but Isis has remained... I am grateful and if someone else were to come into my life, they'd have to be accepted by her too. I have no kids of my own but Isis is my child. And it's crazy how the past is intertwined in my days lately. Having in a sense relocated professionally to a place in my past, I've been thinking a lot about those times in my life and I've been running into old friends. All the while, knowing that I am stronger and in a much better place than I have ever been. Thanks to these mountains, I am really enjoying my life and my simple good fortune. It feels good to hit the trails each week and I cannot wait until next weekend already.

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