I FINALLY got some much needed tent time. Which is to say, I finally sucked it up and put my heavy pack back on and got my butt to a summit for some much needed tent time. Of course, because I'm me, I choose a really cold night. The first snow really. Even if it did melt by the time Sunday ended. So, Isis and I headed up to Mt Isolation and considering the winds, I scrapped my traveling over Boott Spur. We opted for Glenn Boulder and then down the Davis Path... Literally, you go up to 5000 ft to go down the 4003 feet at the summit off the Davis Path and you have to work for this one (think of the pain doing an out and back). It's not my favorite. I find it long and tedious with no clear way to get there. Which of course also makes it more of a challenge peak that I put off until I'm in the right frame of mind. I borrowed a 20 degree bag from my Supervisor (Best team EVER!) that was smaller than my 20 degree bag so, this one fit in my pack. My first excuse was gone... Time to hit the trail. I put that pack on my back and felt the weight... I remember this. Then I sniffed. It smelled like a Thru Hiker... Yes, I remember this well. Time to hit the trail.
Like I said, Glenn Boulder is nothing to sneeze at. It has some decent steeps and then when you break tree line, before you get to the actual Glenn Boulder, it gives you the most contorted entrance ever. There are no clear foot or hand holds and it can take a little while. People were backing up behind me and on my first attempt, I needed to rethink my approach. So, I announced that I was coming down... No one moved. Short of stepping on people, I got back down and waited. Got my breath and attempted this section again. Those that know it, try doing it with a full pack and a dog on a leash. Yeah... It's tough. I got Isis up and tried to get my hands and feet co-ordinated. It was not working. I called for help and thankfully a hiker name Dave gave me several hands. I was slipping and that would have been a disaster. I remember our hands locking and I knew that I would be fine. He worked with me and got me up. So, after I collected myself and spoke with Dave who was going back down instead of continuing, I too thought of going back down. I can always take my pack off and drop it while I scoot with the dog through that gully. But instead, we headed up to Glenn Boulder. Everything is frosted up here and it's cold. I'm in three layers and will stay that way for the weekend practically.
It's so beautiful and given what I knew we were facing, we didn't stay at Glenn Boulder very long. We pushed up to Slide Peak and tried to stay ahead of the other group, which I just really didn't feel like attaching myself too. Thankfully, the section after Slide Peak goes back into the trees because it's just cold and the wind is making colder. I'm really torn between the beauty and the danger of this day. I kept thinking of excuses to turn back. I checked the forecast a few times and tried to tease out and exit... Each time though I could also think of how I would be safe. I had a warm bag. I had plenty of food. We both (Isis and I) had winter gear and that included microspikes. I slowed down but I told myself to keep going because I needed one last overnight for the season. There is just something about setting up camp, firing up a stove and cooking something that tastes so good after a long hike. Something about being able to watch the sun go down and then sleeping (kind of) in order to get up and head someplace else (in my case, the car). It's peacefully simple and so pure. Of course, I have to get there first... Isis and I made it to the junction of the Davis Path and the world was a cold and frosty one still.
Having reached this point, I could either turn back or push on. Thinking of my options and really not wanting to be home, I pressed. I pushed everything out and told myself to go for it. I kept what I really wanted in mind but also worried that I would not be able to find a site to rest my head. Isis was not showing any fatigue but she did want to get back in the trees rather quickly. She has been eating all along but I have not. As we head down the Davis Path, I try and eat a now frozen energy bar... So cold I could've broken a tooth. Yuck! We caught up to two guys that were also hiking but also hiking out tonight. A quick chat in the calm winds and I'm ready to deal with the mud of the Davis Path. We head below tree line and I immediately start looking for tenting sites. I find quite a few as we made our way but I knew that they were just too far away for us to get to once we summited. This 1.6 mile stretch seems so long when you take into account the PUDS, the mud (Yay! It's like the LT!), and the lack of trail up keep. Seriously, this trail needs some BIG LOVE. But it's also below tree line and I'm warming up. I'm feeling OK but I'm grouchy because I really have not eaten. I just want to get to the summit and with a lot of breaks and pushing, we make it. Up the spur trail, we catch those guys from earlier. Then we arrive to an empty summit.
I admire the view and then I start scouting for hidden spurs off the summit. I find one and duck down. I come to an opening with a tent set up. The couple that is tenting there of course invites me to stay as there is plenty of room. They are hiking for the weekend and share the same ideals as I do about hiking. One having hiked the AT and me having hiked the LT for 150 miles, we can't just day hike anymore. We seem to do better with a multi day hike that gives us that feel of a Thru. I really enjoyed sharing the summit with this couple and they of course loved Isis who after eating and setting up camp, promptly went into the tent and claimed my sleeping bag! I was OK with this though as it was cold for her. I was able to have my soup that I brought up in my thermos and then heated in my Jet Boil. The couple was heating pigs in a blanket on a large scale with full sized hotdogs. Along with my soup, came the cheese and cut salami. I ate as much as I could and my mood came back around. I brought Isis back out for some cheese (of course) and then we took a walk around the summit again. We had about an hour to sunset and ducked back in the tent. I put on my long johns and caved in to put on my puffy winter coat. Isis and I hung out until I went up to watch the sun set. A few groups came and went before the 3 of us (minus Isis) went up to the summit. It did not disappoint tonight.
Then the night set in. It was cold but the sleeping bag really kept us warm. There was squabbling between Isis and I for room and I was up and down all night. I never really sleep through the night when I am in my tent... And I'm not at all bothered by this. At 3am, I need to go to the bathroom and truth be told, I kept putting it off but I no longer could... It felt really good to get back in and be warm as it was really cold still even with the step supposedly rising. I slept until sunrise.
Oatmeal and coffee while Isis laid bundled up in the tent. I had put her coat on and wrapped the sleeping bag around her. She stayed there until she decided that she was hungry and the break down of camp began as well as the eventual hike out. I said good bye to my camp mates and wished them well. Such good energy from these two and I really enjoyed making that connection. Again, the plan was to just take our time and head back the way we came. The only difference was that it was really super windy. So we battled through mud and the bad sections of trail. I made sure that I ate... A lot. I had 3 packets of oatmeal and it was nice to know my Thru Hiker appetite was intact. On the trail, I kept eating too as well as feeding Isis. We ran into a few souls that were heading to the summit. Some were in awe that we stayed out. Some just passed by. All were in great spirits. We approached tree line finally and I heard the wind. It was incredible to be blown around even with my heavy pack on. Isis was getting scared and I knew that we just had to keep going. I would shelter by the larger cairns and watched the grasses blow around like waves on the ocean. I was never more happy to see the junction sign. Relief was coming as we entered the trees and as we made our way back to Glenn Boulder, I prepared for that tricky spot. I also warned the hikers coming up what was ahead for them. One particular couple who said they were going to Washington, didn't have map or much knowledge of the land (thought the Presidentials was a sheltered hike), or much in the way of supplies, got the turn back vote from me. I don't say that often. We pressed on tor Glenn Boulder and once back in the shelter of the trees, stopped for a little lunch. Isis got more cheese and I had some too. Feeling a lot better today, we were set to exit.
Past the Slide Peak, I stopped to take off my long johns... Finally. It was a little out in the open but I didn't care. I felt much better after getting those off and the couple I had told to turn back passed me heading down. I told them it was a good choice but got no response beyond a scowl from the guy. The rest of the way to Glenn Boulder was tedious as you are going down a rock field. Everything is uneven and jarring on the knees that was so easy to get up before. I again stop at Glenn Boulder and change my shirt to my short sleeves and tuck my jacket under the top pocket of my pack... It's still heavy. I do not like this. Next up is the tricky spot. Isis and I make a rather graceful descent to the spot where I almost fell. I stop her and switch her to my belt loop instead of my pack. I take my pack off and drop it with an announcement for anyone approaching. I crab walk it a little but the ledge is tight. Isis gets down pretty good with some coaxing that is awkward and I eventually follow. Gaining my breath and my wits, I look at this section... It could really use a ladder like on Zealand. Everyone was saying how tricky it was. The rocks are worn smooth and very hard to grip and get up or down. A ladder might help out.
Again, the exit is tedious as we navigate the rocks. It's become apparent to me that bifocals on the trails of New Hampshire might be my down fall. Perception is way off sometimes and I loose my footing. I fall a lot on the downs and it seems to take a very long time. All in all though, I got what I needed out of this weekend and without really thinking of it, Isis and I finished my 3rd and her 2nd round of the New Hampshire 48. I'm now ready for winter to come after playing in the first snow.
I spent a lot of time this weekend reflecting on my life as I walked the trails. From my feeling regretful for my lack of children in my life to the fact that I work with kids and families. On the summit we talked about how we each seem to spend a lot of money on gear and that seems to be what leads me to my happiness. It was such a struggle to get to the summit of Isolation but once I got there, the company and the tent site just brought me back to that simpler time when I carried everything on my back and didn't care about much else. Even on the trails, I seem to find just who my people are. I've become rather choosy about who I spend my time with. I believe that people give off energy and I'm listening to myself more and more. If I don't like how I feel, I'm going to move on. I'm not much for rowdy and obnoxious. But give me a little Grateful Dead at the summit and some great conversation about our travels and I'm there. The trail does provide... It made me work for it this weekend but it certainly provided me a way to close out my tenting season and set my soul at ease again... Next year, I hammock!