I really was not going to hike until September... I was going to give myself and Lil' Nugget a nice break and maybe get a few things done. I did not count on the real world having such a slow integration (not that I am complaining) or for the weather to be... Perfect. So, early in the week, I thought I'd head up the ridge, thinking it would be a nice little hike. Then I realized that 3 of my trail friends from the LT/AT were going to be on the ridge too. So, I stopped and picked up some goodies in hopes that I would run into them. Call me crazy but after my two weeks on the trail, I get it and I get the value of someone gifting you with a tasty snack. I may have only gone 151 miles and these guys are going a lot further but I still understand what happens. The trail changes you... And it makes you hungry (literally and figuratively). I needed to get back on the trails again and So, I hiked Franconia Ridge (half of it anyway), as a nice welcome back to the Whites. We left the house by 5:30am and hit the trail around 8am. Deciding to go up Old Bridal Path and then down either by Liberty or ducking down Falling Waters... It depended on how the day went and how far I wanted to go.
Starting out, we of course stop by my favorite tree. A picture with just Lil' Nugget this time... As we were getting back on trail, someone was running at us waving and a little manic. He was asking to hike with me but the energy really creeped me out. He wanted to hike with me because he was "scared of bears".... After declining due to not knowing him, and reassuring him that there were no bears in the area (and hoping that didn't bite me later), he seemed to pass on by. I shook it off and got back to it. There are a few things that I suddenly notice: 1. My pack is so light, I feel like I am cheating. 2. My legs are very strong and I'm not even getting winded anymore. And 3. Lil' Nugget does not want to do this yet. I think she believes we are in for another 151 miles. So, after some convincing that we are only in it for a few hours today and that we will go to our home and not a tent or shelter, she get's her groove going again. We're on the Old Bridal path and really enjoying how easy it is to move up the trail. There's no trail work that needs to be done as these trail are so well traveled. We are then passed by a group of slow moving students who have a croquet set on them... Not interested in seeing what they will do with this. We hike to our own beat and soon hit the ledges for Agony Ridge... The view is... Classically clouded and I laugh to myself and say "Well played Lafayette... Well played".
I love this section but usually, I am very winded and looking for breaks. I've barely needed a break today and we seem to be moving pretty good now. We take in both the clouds and the sun on agony ridge and then begin the Agonies... The ups from Agony ridge. Seeing as I am use to these with snow, this is well, different. The rocks are very smooth and yet where I am usually worried about slipping, I just step right up. Yes, the trail does change you after a while and I am happy with he changes. Seems to take no time to get through the agonies and then to hit the hut... And the clouds roll in. So, we have a seat outside the front door and I have some tuna (yep, tuna!). Lil' Nugget also has a few snacks. We try and take a long enough break to see if it clears up. After all, I saw from Agony Ridge that it was clear going towards Liberty. Unfortunately, it was also chilly still and it seems that everyone wants to pat Lil' Nugget but she's not too interested in being social. I wouldn't either if I just hiked my butt off twice as much as any human. Give a girl a break.... Let her snooze while her owner eats.
So, after a little bit of time, we head up the Greenleaf trail and begin making our way to the summit. It's chilly, so my layers are back on but I'm not wearing anything winter related which is great. There are no views of the hut as we move up and keep going. We run into Larry who gives us the news of another hiker having a hip replaced. Amazing what happens when you take two weeks off to hike in another state. Great to begin to run into familiar faces though. Again, I note that I am not struggling at all on the trail today. I'm very pleased with this as yet another change from my Long Trail experience. The trail is also in good shape No real maintenance needed and it's not even really wet (yay! No mud!). Before we know it, we are at the summit and it's an absolute zoo in the clouds... The students have set up a croquet set in the shelter of the foundation up there and there are people in costumes and what not... I'm really not interested in this. I can appreciate it but it's not my thing. I just want to hike now. I don't need silly costumes or any kind of agenda to get up and over a mountain. To each their own. We don't stay too long but think that we'll forgo the crowd and try and punch through this cloud over the summit. I'm also thinking that my 3 trail friends have already passed over the ridge so, we continue hiking down Lafayette and then Lil' Nugget starts with the butt wiggling... She recognizes someone and is excited for it. It's Rigga! We pop down and catch up for a little while. Lil' Nugget gets plenty of love from her too. I give her some chocolate I had packed in with the intent of giving it out and we try and wait for Boston and Yeti to show (they were waiting for the clouds to clear on Lincoln). What a nice visit right here on the side of the mountain, talking about our experiences and Rigga talks about how the mileage has gone down for them. The understanding is that it's the Whites... It's not a flat trail anymore and they are so thrilled to be hiking through on a good weekend (Hoping to be on Washington by Sunday). You'd think I'd get a picture together but no.... My brain doesn't work that way sometimes. It's all good though. Today was turning into a great day. She's off to have lunch on Lafayette and I keep moving down the trail after I woke Lil' Nugget up from her nap.
Shortly after visiting with Rigga, come the other two (Boston and Yeti). I had hiked with these guys a little. Or at least met them at a few shelters and then camped with them at the base of Stratton Mountain on the AT/LT in Vermont. Just all around great energy from these 3 and I was happy to provide them with some chocolate goodies to get them through. As I was hiking though, the views were coming again. The clouds were clearing and all three of them talked about how magnificent the Whites were. Tough but very picturesque was the gist that I got from them all. They had an awesome experience on my favorite peak (Sunrise and set on Mt. Liberty). Again, I neglected the pictures together but that's OK again. Boston really gives Lil' Nugget another dose of love and I think she was really happy to see these guys too (judging by the level of butt wiggling and smiling). We then continued on our way as they continued on their way to Maine.
We had some great views heading over to Lincoln and Lil' Nugget and I just enjoyed the walk. It was breezy but not unbearable cold and we eventually made it to Lincoln (we took our time) and stood talking with another Thru Hiker but the name of Luigi. He gladly accepted my last bag of chocolate covered cherries and was most appreciative. We talked for a long time about hiking and how much a long distance hike affects you. We of course cracked jokes about the weather and about the smell too. It felt good for me to reconnect with this mentality. It seemed to really lift my spirits and bring me back to where I was a week ago. It would not be long now before we hit Little Haystack and ducked back below tree line. I savored every last minute of this hike including another great conversation with a hiker from New York. Not a Thru hiker but someone who "gets it". The trail really does change you and you do need time to adjust again after a long distance hike.
We made our way through gargoyles and seemed to get over run by a school group. Lil' Nugget and I just pulled over to enjoy a view while they all past us. We were in no hurry. The views at this point were going on for miles and the sun was feeling very warm. I took my layer off and continued to hike on. Once we arrived a Little Haystack, it was an empty summit.... Wait a minute, that NEVER happens. But we quietly sat and enjoyed some peace before the next wave appeared and then we need to get moving down below tree line.
We passed by the water falls on falling waters trail and there were some that were climbing up Cloudland Falls with ropes and what not. They looked like they were having a good time although I heard one say that it was cold. It was really all down hill from Little Haystack as we made our way back to the car. I didn't much care for keeping track of the time, the peaks, or what others were doing today... I just wanted to hike and stay in that peaceful feeling for a little while. Lil' Nugget at first was not too keen on the hike (thinking we were going distance) but soon got her groove going. We had a fabulous day on one of our favorite ridges and while it was a little crowded, we enjoyed it very much. All trails are in fantastic shape and easy to travel.
I have written about how much the Long trail had changed me... I've felt stronger, not only on the trail but off too. I've been telling anyone we run into what I have done as well as what my dog has done (she's a little dog... Not a whole lot of little dogs do this!). So, I am taking advantage of the bragging rights. It's not that I did a Thru either... A section but a pretty big one at that. It was on this journey that I grew stronger... Nice to hike today and feel like my legs could handle it, my lungs were not taxed to the point of needing to rest, and finally feeling like I could handle the steepness that is the White Mountains of New Hampshire. You gain a certain perspective on the trail too. Being less concerned with others and more concerned for yourself, you begin to hike as if no one else matters. You can't control anything but your own actions. I'm am forever grateful for this lesson in particular. It's something that I have needed for a long time. Happy to have the sun on my face today as well as the breeze to keep me cool. We had a full day on the trails and went home with big smile son our faces (yes, Lil' Nugget too).