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Windy Waumbek Wandering and Pondering.

Wind was blowing so, I took to the shelter of the trees for this week. I've been picking off the lower summits this month and today, I decided on Mount Waumbek. Needless to say, as we approached Franconia Notch, it was raining but I could see bright skies beyond. So, sure enough as we approached the trail head, we not only got a clearing, we got a rainbow too. Then we got some more rain. At the trail head, I got ready to go at a snails pace... Because of the rain. I switched my winter shell for my rain and wind shell. I got my boots on and got Lil' Nugget ready. Then we sat and I was transferred back to my tent at the Kidd Gore Shelter on the LT. I was simultaneously listening to the rain on the roof of my car and on the roof of my tent. Then much like I did before, I got up and got going. This time though, the rain stopped. It was cold and definitely windy today so I was glad for the tree cover. 

 As you start out hiking the Mount Starr King trail, the first thing you come to is an empty well. It's not very deep but I would not want to jump into it. Lil' Nugget usually likes to jump up on it and of course avoid posing or doing anything I say. The trail today is covered in leaves that are slick from the rain and some standing water on the trail. From this point it's a constant and gradual climb that takes you through a hard wood forest. It's kind of creepy since a lot of the trees are older and well, showing their age. It's a very quiet day on the trails and the wind is the only company we have so far. I set the pace to just take our time. Lil' Nugget is given ample time to sniff and eat grasses. There is nothing like hiking and being fully present in the hike itself without a worry. Having an easy trail makes this possible. Having no negative thoughts to battle makes it equally possible. We are passed by two other hikers. One clearly is not a dog person and the other didn't pay much attention to my tiny partner. I was changing into my winter shell at this point as it was getting cold.

Walking the trail, we reached that turn to signal a transition to flatter hiking. We had hit the ridge. There are a few more ups to go from here but for the most part, we can just walk and my heart can go back into my chest as it has a tendency to beat loudly in my ears on the steeper ascents (this one being no exception regardless of easy grade). I note to myself that this trail never fails to send shivers through me. It just has that creepy energy which as tomorrow is Halloween, makes it perfect. From here, we continue but make one stop at the spring so Lil' Nugget can get some water. She loves fresh mountain water. Again, we are passed by an older hiker who is also very pleasant. I then become aware of my grey hair. It's sticking out of my hat and in the corner of my eye I see it. When I started this, I was not that grey... Time flies. I'm feeling good though... Not old. On the final push, we pass the Mount Starr King cairn and come out to the fireplace. Probably my favorite area in the Whites. I'd love to camp here and actually have a fire sometime.

After a quick selfie since someone was not cooperating and refused to sit by the fireplace and we are off to Mount Waumbek. It's a quick walk with some good footing but there are a few sections that are soft mud and decaying branches. These are all covered in the winter so, I have not seen them in a while. A group of 3 hikers come towards us and we laugh and chat for a bit. They were the first car in the lot today, I was the second. Everyone was very happy today too. I would see a total of 8 people all day when all is said and done. We continue and run into the others who passed us before. One last push up and we arrive at the dead tree and cairn. Mount Waumbek... Again. the older gentleman who had passed us was there having a snack. We had a great talk about being older hikers and just taking our time and enjoying the day. Before Lil' Nugget and I had our lunch, we went to the outlook just past the summit. Another mixed emotions view as this is a man made clearing... I remember when there was no view on Waumbek and I was fine with it. Not every mountain needs a view and the day Owl's Head gets one is the day I hang up my pack! We continue to chat as I eat my soup and have some cheese and salami. Lil' Nugget gets some more dehydrated muscles and of course shares my cheese ( I pay for this later... Trust me). He parts and we stay for a bit but I do notice that she is getting cold. We head back and run into two other ladies and two very well behaved dogs who were off leash. Soon, we were back at the fireplace.

The clouds had parted just a little as I sat and decided that I was not ready to go back down yet. The hike itself was going very quick today and I wanted something more as usual. So, I had a snack and so did Lil' Nugget. Going back down to the car was going to be a challenge. Slick leaves means I am bound to fall. It's just inevitable since I trip on flat surfaces. After the turn from the ridge, it warms up but I didn't strip my winter layer. I knew I'd be back at the car to change soon enough. On this section, I did fall. My feet flew out from under me on some leaves and I sat down hard. Another bruise to add to the collection. We passed the well again and made the turn for the car. At the trail head, I changed and got ready to head back home or to coffee first as I was chilled just a little. Next week, I'm going to my favorite get away up in Pittsburg New Hampshire for the long weekend. This means that Cabot will be closer than it usually is... It's a given what I will hike already as I enjoy some down time celebrating everything that this year as brought me.

I've really come full circle in my hiking and in life. When I started this adventure, I was alone and looking for direction. I've wandered from group to group and now I've come back to myself. Well, the only addition would be Lil' Nugget. To think that had my life taken one single turn in another direction, I may not have had all these experiences that have shaped me. I'm a strong and confident hiker and person because of my hiking. I may be a little greyer than when I started (I stopped dying my hair a while ago) but my legs are probably stronger and most of all, my spirit has been realized. The trail provides and I think in my case, it has now given me a second chance from where I started. I dream of the LT and my hammock every night and I'm making plans to return... In the mean time, I have my White Mountains to call home.

I've grown away from stats and traditional Grid hiking... But occasionally, I do look at them to keep up. I've hit 40% as of this hike. Something for me to be proud of since I seem to not stick to things too well sometimes. Hiking has a definite hold on me though and I'll keep going. Even more impressive, Lil' Nugget has hiked over 1000 miles since she began back in December of 2012 at 4 months old. She's just amazing (more so than me) and my best trail partner. We'll keep exploring together for as long as she likes. 

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