Somewhere between the time I went to bed and the time I got up (after hitting snooze a few times), I had a massive change of heart. I woke up with no intention of going to Isolation (which would finish my 3rd round) and then it devolved into "I don't even want to follow my grid anymore. I don't care about Isolation, Owl's Head (a lie, I love it!), The Carter's... " and so, I changed my plans to Pierce and Eisenhower... These are busy peaks on a holiday weekend. My only hope was that because it was Monday, most would be going home already. Maybe I'd miss the traffic too. Except, I stood in my kitchen and thought that I should stay home. The only problem is that staying home leads to sitting on my ass. I don't want that. So, maybe I forced myself to keep going today and I forced Isis a little too.
Honestly, the Highland Center was not that bad today. The parking lot was mostly clear and I was able to get in no problem. I thought this was a good sign. There looked to be a few hikers milling around so, Isis and I hit the trail rather quickly. No one really bothered us which is a good and a bad things some days. Once across 302, we continued on the Crawford Path which honestly seems to be minus a few rocks at the bottom. There just seems to be a lot more dirt to travel on and the rocks seem a lot easier to navigate. I use to swear my head off on this trail and be in so much pain at the end of the day... Not so much any more. Isis however was not having it today and seemed to want to stop a lot, lay down a lot, and just eat the grass. Maybe I pushed he a little too hard this weekend? But wait, we hiked every day a few weeks back on the LT... She can do Pierce and Eisenhower no problem if she would just... Keep... Moving. I was becoming impatient with her which maybe soured my mood just a little (we all have off days). She and I spend a lot of time together and we feed off of one another. So it was a stop for long periods of time and try and get going kind of hike. I need to learn to stop and smell the grass apparently. And I need to shake this gotta get moving mentality. Slooooooow down and get out of my head.
As we break tree line, I gaze across at Eisenhower. I had been on the fence about going that way given how Isis was acting and how my attitude was. I guess I was not really feeling it today and when I saw the summit sitting in a cloud, my mind was made for me. I'll pass. I hiked in torrential rain on the LT. I've lost interest in hiking in weather that is not really ideal. If I don't have to, why put myself and Isis through it? So, we went up to the summit of Pierce and had some food. I had packed a bunch today but that wasn't really doing it for me either (but again, the pack really felt light to me). Isis and I took pictures and I scooped her up for a selfie. We enjoyed the summit to ourselves for a little while and watch the clouds roll by (rather quickly from the wind). Hikers were coming by on their way to the hut or to Jackson... All were saying that Ike and the weather over that way was crap. So, again, I made up my mind. But as always, there's a tone of "but you could get there if you wanted too". That's my issue. I don't want to. Not today. So, Eisenhower will hang. We were over run by about 40 French tourists. All walking dangerously close to myself and Isis (she HATES trekking poles and they all had them out it seemed. she was really riled up.). All were speaking rather loudly and I'll admit this was the first time I felt uncomfortable because I did not understand them and well, they were right on top of us and loud. Isis was getting growly and I wanted to avoid anything that was confrontational. So, I started pacing up and then they just left. I'm assuming they went on to Eisenhower because I never saw them again and they headed back towards the Crawford Path... This was a good thing. We talked to a few more hikers coming through and then decided to go down. Maybe we could beat the traffic home?
As we were heading down, I was recognized by someone who also had a dog with her.... Isis was barking so I could not hear anything and well, I wanted to keep moving so as to avoid a dog confrontation. I just was not in the right mind set to talk any more. I didn't want to answer the same set of questions yet again or get the same look for a barking dog. But I was happy that I was recognized before the dog for once. I think today, I just wanted to be quiet. Isis and I stopped at the lower ledge and took a video of the winds and the clouds and I took a few deep breathes. Sort of a final way to make my decision for me. Maybe it was the proof?
We continued down and stopped to chat with a very nice couple who loved Isis and knew her breed as well as her personality. Then another group of 30 French tourists came by and I was really turned off by these large groups. Too big for the mountains! Keep groups to 12 and under... 10 and under is best. I picked up lots of trash on the way out too (Yuck!). Kind of a sad thing. But I also knew this would be the case on such a high traffic trail. Isis and I took in some quiet at Gibbs Falls. She pulled me down there for the water and surprised me by wanting to play around at the edge of the pool. I think she was really hot a the end of this hike. It had become so humid at the bottom of the trail. We don't do good in humidity. Gibbs Falls was nice though for us to cool off a little.
Coming down by the bridge prior to exiting trail at 302, we passed a few more hikers. One that was recovering from ACL surgery. Always nice to see people get back on the trail after things like this. There as also a group of 3 kind of camped out on the rocks by the bridge eating and talking. There was no way around them so I had to go through them. I tried to make casual conversation... They seemed bothered by this so, I kind of slunk away back to the car. I miss the LT where if you ran into someone, they stopped and chatted, asked your name, and got to know you briefly because chances are if you were heading in the same direction, you'd catch up to them at the next shelter to finish the conversation. It was very friendly. What happened? We got back to the car and it was really hot. The ride home was long due to holiday traffic, but we made it back in good time and in good spirits for a mixed up and off kind of day. All in all, it was a great weekend full of different experiences... That's what makes it interesting. No hiking day is ever the same as the last.
I'm pretty sure that things are going to be shifting around for me again... I'm just becoming less and less interested in a formal grid pursuit. I want to hike and that's it. Maybe the grid will be just a distant goal or a very loose frame work. I have a life time to complete it and that to me says, SLOW DOWN and enjoy yourself. Stop being so focused on what to hike and just hike with your heart. Maybe I won't hike every weekend like I have been doing. In the interest of keeping in shape and getting myself out of the house though, hiking has become my outlet for those things. I'm just becoming dissatisfied by the crowds and being solo week after week. I know that sounds like an oxymoron of sorts but I do miss the days when I hiked with a small group. I guess when I hiked the LT, it kind of brought it back to me because I had people sharing the same experience and we got together at the end of the day to talk about that experience and Isis was also accepted as good company. I want that back... Yes, I still struggle being off trail. Trying to balance real life and hiking is a challenge. Gotta keep working at it. And while I think of taking extended time off of the New Hampshire Peaks, I know that I'll be back out there next weekend. It's my birthday... It's also flags on the 48 which I will probably not go to (too crowded a day for us and too many dogs). But I will find a day to hike some my favorite peaks. Just have to watch the weather to plan it.