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Saying Good Bye On Signal Ridge

    All week you watch the weather and you have a perfect plan for the weekend which, if you are me, sometimes starts on Friday. But not this week. As of Tuesday, I was working since my car needed brakes and I spent Tuesday at the car shop instead of working. I'm OK with these things and the weather, I thought was going to hold for Saturday. So, I planned on hiking Mt. Carrigain to say Good Bye to the Whites until September. I had my pack with a weeks worth of supplies and it was topping out now at 50lbs. I will need to cut a few things naturally before we leave for the LT. But I took it out at 50lbs anyway to see if I can. As I head down 302 to Sawyer River Road, I see 3 hitchhikers with huge packs. I pull over and pick them up. Gear in the trunk and they are on their way to a resupply at the general store. I was happy to do it, even for another door mishap which I fixed on my own. All's well that ends well and I am getting ready at the trail head in no time. The good thing about this time of year is that there is no road walk. We only have 5 miles to the top today. 

Isis and I start out to a quiet trail and I'm feeling really good. I've added my Superfeet insoles from my boots to my hiking shoes and that seems to have made a difference. It's a familiar and well groomed trail to start. Nice brushing and clearings without an immediate climb. I feel a little twinge in my right foot and stop to tighten my laces. Maybe this contributed to the day? As we kept walking, Isis is sampling water from everywhere and the sun is out, making it warm. I am determined to just take my time today. To spend a full day out there and really take it in. I was hopeful for the sun to remain out too. People began catching up to us and passing and as they did they paid attention to two things. Isis and my large pack. I gladly explained my situation and they were happy for me. They were rooting for me and it felt really good. There were those that were quiet and kept to themselves too which I was also good with. All were in great spirits going up. The water crossing was a non-issue and very walkable on half submerged rocks. Not deep at all and no feet got wet. Isis even did it on her own figuring out which way to go. One sole we ran into was someone I originally ran into in 2013 on The Crocker's in Maine. He remembered me and we reminisced about that day. The search for Inchworm and his knee issues. I figured I would catch him around the summit given todays slow pace. 

 Isis and I just kept to ourselves and hiked the day away. I was remembering my land marks from other hikes and remembering how good the trail was with snow. As you begin to climb in ernest, the rocks are uneven, loose, and jagged. It makes it hard on the feet. I felt as though I was curling my toes on my right foot a lot more and compensating for the rocks. I was slowing down for sure and Isis was looking for water at the higher elevations (there is very little). I continued to navigate the rocks and stop for rests. We talked to a lot of hikers on the way up and even with a light drizzle starting, people were in great spaces. There was one other dog going up and it looked like a corgi mix. We did not really get a good look as Isis was not a fan. Nearing the break in tree line, I was deciding on whether to turn back or not. My foot was starting to become a focus rather than a thought. The hiker from the Crocker's met up with us again and was curious as to why I had slowed. I explained my foot to him and he sympathized given his experience with knees on the Crocker's. He also told me to save it for the LT... Turn back. I had determined that I would go to the ridge (even with no view) and call it. It was really great to run into him again and I felt like I could go on. It's funny how small the world is sometimes in the mountains. 

Slowly, I walked up to the ridge and slowly, my energy was sapping away. My foot was throbbing and I knew what I would do. The rain was falling harder which meant that I was glad for putting my pack cover on and also that the rocks would be slippery on the way down. And me with a bad foot means that the descent is going to be slow and painful. As Isis and I stood admiring the non-view, people were filing past and wondering if they had made the summit. I told them that they had a little ways to go yet and thy would know the summit by the tower. No one really stuck around or questioned if I had been there, which was fine with me at the moment. I was however able to get my picture taken from one guy going to the summit. I wanted something to remember this hike by. Then Isis and I began going down. I thought that the descent was going to go a little better as it seemed my foot was good on the way up in a decline position. Not so much anymore... Each step was a new experience in pain for me. Each step made me think that my LT trip was slipping away. And then with each group that came upon me and passed with only so much as a good luck, or a conversation about Isis and how cute she was, as I was clearly in pain, again made me really loose faith in humanity. I would literally say that I was in pain and the subject would move back to the dog. Except for 3 hikers who offered a phone or to carry something for me. I was determined to walk out on my own power though and while I appreciated the support from those few, I was conflicted because I didn't know them (even though I realize I should accept help on the trail from anyone). After a while, I just kept quiet. I managed to hold off getting my poles for a while. But I could not stand it anymore. An older couple that I had run into on the way up had caught up and Isis came around and growled as I was getting my poles. I was tangled in her leash and asked the older gentleman to be careful as I was hurting and did not want to be pulled over but the tangle. He wanted to do everything and carry everything as did his wife and I found the questions overwhelming as I was in pain. But really, I just needed my poles to lean on like crutches. I thanked them for the concern and asked that they just keep hiking and enjoyed their hike out. Isis is very protective of me and is hyper aware now that I am hurt. She's not going to let anyone near me and I love her for that. I'm also stubborn and I'm also guarded. If I don't know you right now, I'm not going to be accepting of help. It's just the way I am. Once I'm able to let my guard down without getting hurt, I'll be in a different place.

The remainder of the hike out went very slow. Even on the flatter sections of trail, my foot was in pain and every step I could not find comfort. I would fall and loose my balance. I'd scream and cry too. I think I finally had that experience like the scene from the movie Wild where she screams her shoes go over the edge. Except I am screaming from pain. Even still, I walked out on my own power which was what I was determined to do. Assisted by my Leki hiking poles, I realize now that I can use them and hike with Isis on leash and they do help take some of the weight off my legs. I will be using them on the LT. As I got back to the car and loaded everything in the car, including myself and Isis, I laughed and smiled. It was a GREAT DAY. No summit needed, I passed the test. I'm ready (after a rest) for my LT trip. I'm stronger for what I experienced today and thankful that even though I cried and screamed and carried on about hacking off my foot, I made it out. In hindsight, I should have turned back a lot sooner or just not gone at all. But I can't change much of that now. I can only move forward always. And as I sit here on my couch with my foot on two pillows, another dose of Vitamin I on board, I regret nothing.

So long to The White Mountains of New Hampshire. The next time you hear from me will be from the Long Trail through Vermont. 

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