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A Northern Long Weekend and Mt. Pierce

I'll get to my trip up Mt Pierce in a moment... This was the one long weekend I had been waiting a whole year for. The weekend I get to spend at the cabin in Pittsburg New Hampshire. Thursday to Sunday is nothing but good food, reading, music, and hiking. There's not a Big Box in this town. There's not traffic light either. There's no cell reception, no cable at the cabin, and a much needed disconnect. It's the one weekend I can literally feel my anxiety level go down the minute I cross into town. It's just that good. So, Isis and I had planned on hiking Mt. Cabot since it's only about an hour and a half from the cabin. We spent the first full day hiking around the Connecticut lakes with the intent of hitting Cabot on Saturday. But, something told me not to when I get up and got ready. Maybe it's the fact that I've been going strong, every weekend since I got back from the Long Trail? Maybe I finally realized that I just needed to sit and read by the fire? So, even though we tried to head out to Mt. Magalloway, after nixing Mt. Cabot, I eventually decided that down time was more important. I love this cabin and I love Pittsburg NH. I'll be back next year. 

So, after a very nice recharge of my batteries and almost finishing Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, I checked out and headed back to reality. But first, a stop at The Highland Center but not before pulling over to gawk at the sight behind the Mt. Washington Hotel. What a beautiful sight to behold but I also knew that it was very windy. I was taking a slight risk heading up but I had packed the majority of my winter gear too. So, at the Highland Center, I changed into my hiking gear and we set out. It was about 11:30am when we started and my intent was to just go up to Pierce an then meet up with a hiking crew back in the parking lot. I had figured that it would make a nice way to end my trip North. And I also thought that I'd be a lot slower than the other crew. The Crawford Path up to the junction for the Mizpah hut was muddy in places with a gradual buildup of snow and a frosting of ice glaze. It's sort of enough to remind you how slick it can be but not enough to wear any kind of traction for it to be of help. So, you just keep pushing. Careful of your step. I knew I'd be falling when I was heading down. We stopped for a beak at the junction. No Grey Jay's met us which was totally atypical. There's some standing a running water on the trail that is not quite frozen yet but it's easy to get around. We had also run into a few hikers who were on their way back down. Nice people and everyone was a great spirits today. There were several comments about Isis and I matching. What is it about dogs and their owners starting to look alike? 

Continuing on from this point, the snow was getting more apparent (by about a half an inch) and the ice was building. I probably could have used my microspikes in places but it's still not consistent enough to keep them on. I again grin and bear it. The Crawford Path is relatively easy and straight forward to the summit of Mt. Pierce and I am eager to break tree line. My 4 legged hiking partner is however not. She hears the wind we are facing. She does not like wind so, it takes a little convincing and a lot of treats. But we are moving again over some slick rocks. We encounter a couple coming down who are not very experienced in the conditions but enjoying the day. They loved meeting Isis too and wished us well. As we continued, the water was becoming more apparent on the trail. Sort of standing and running water that has not yet frozen. This is the start of the ice on the Crawford Path. It just needs to freeze and build so I can use my microspikes. Again, I get eager to break tree line and Isis and I are greeted by a stoic hiker. It'd been a long time. After a brief drink for Isis out of the run off on trail, we were on our way again. Happy to keep moving on.

It was shortly after this and slightly before 2pm that we broke tree line and went up to the true summit proper for Mt. Pierce. Stopping to admire the view only briefly as the wind was whipping and the cold was bitting. There would be no break at the summit for food and I was hungry. I'm always hungry though so, I'll eat when we get back below tree line. My famous last words. Isis and I headed back down and re-navigated the rocks with the nice coating of ice. Yes, I fell. No it was not enough ice for microspikes. Ahhh... Shoulder season. There was one other gentleman heading up to the summit. He was going to make quick work of it today as we did and it was nice to chat with him briefly. As we went down in elevation, the snow retreated and the warm increased. Not enough to strip a layer but enough to note that I was hot (I'd be instantly cold again if I took a layer off). So, we just dealt with it and we were back at the route 302 in no time. I had thought that I would meet up with a rather large celebratory group once we got to the car but that was not the case. A fellow hiker was completing his grid today (all 48 peaks completed in each month of the year or 576 summits) and we had hopes of joining the celebration. I lingered in the car. I got changed and let my family know that I was down from the hike. Then began to get cold and finally let the pull to be home get the better of me (a rise in anxiety). Isis and I hit the road for home but first there was... Coffee to warm me up. This was the best way to end my most anticipated long weekend. Pierce is always a favorite for it's ease of access. Best time for me yet at just over 3.5 hours round trip... But I'm not hoping to be a speed hiker. I just want to enjoy my day.

It's amazing what happens when you knock out a lot of the noise of life and just relax. Things that seemed so important are now trivial and the only thing that matters is that you are completely in the moment. It was a lot like that for me on the LT this past summer. Perseverating thoughts were distant and life just seemed to have a new meaning and a simple meaning at that. Spending time at the cabin and in Pittsburg in general was the best thing for me as I miss the trail more and more with each noisy day. I didn't have to hike a 4K to find peace either, I just needed to be on the trail and those trails around the lakes were perfect. Then to cap off my time on a favorite Mt. Pierce was also good. Weather was almost perfect except for some wind and for the most part conditions were good (ice made a few slips on the way down). I am truly grateful to know a lot of great hikers out there and know that as I continue my journey, I might always run into someone with a smile on the trail. I'm equally good with just passing by silently. As long a I continue to recharge and feel the pull of the trails I'll be there. I've come such a long way in the year between my visit to the cabin and always proud of myself. It seems that at this time of year, my growth is most evident because I've shut out all the noise to really take a long hard look. It's great to know that when the words won't come, I can just keep moving forward because maybe there doesn't need to be any words at all.

Next up for me... Winter 2015/16... West Bond and Adams to put my FINAL list to bed. Then it's on to the Long Trail 2016 for that completion (Lincoln Gap to Trails End). I'll have plenty to celebrate at the cabin next November. :)

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