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Mount Flume. Are You Sure this is December?

Alright, so last week pretty much set me up for this week as far as hiking. I left Mount Flume hanging and so, I pretty much just watched the weather for a Saturday attempt ( I actually worked Friday for a change). I had no idea that I'd be hiking from a warm early fall day to a slightly chilly late fall day at the summit, rather than winter conditions. Truthfully, I woke up thinking that maybe I'd take a zero... But I got myself up to Lincoln Woods and on the trail. Amazing that I keep doing this since I'm a solo hiker and it would be very easy to just go back to bed. I don't really know what drives me but I'll keep going for as long as I can. 

Lincoln Woods trail is relatively quiet for what is actually a late hour. The sun is shining and well, it's warm... I had my winter coat on, as well as my hat and gloves. I quickly lost it all in favor of just my base and mid layers as well as my head band instead of my hat. I could not believe that this was December. The trail itself is still long and flat. It's 1.4 out to the Osseo trail. Lil' Nugget and I pass a jogger on his way out as well a one other dog who looked to be just walking the flats. She wants treats and I want to walk... We work it out. At the junction for the Osseo trail, I stop for some food for both of us. From here it's 4.1 to the summit which sets us up for a nice long day out there. I'm determined to just hike. Not focus on diminishing day light (I have a headlamp). Not focus on Lil' Nugget and controlling her pace as she stops every four steps to smell something. I just want to enjoy the day. The sun is out and it's warm after all. The start of the Osseo trail follows the stream and then climbs through some nice birch trees.  This trail is a very gradual climb and Lil' Nugget is enjoying all the smells she can smell. I swear she hears and sees things way before I do and when she starts to lag or darts to catch something, it's usually because someone is coming or a mouse just made an appearance. I try to keep her moving and get frustrated by my lack of patience with her. I stop myself and breath. I have something to eat and see if that improves my mood. It seems that we are the only one's on the trail today but I see footprints in the leaves and know that others are on their way up too. I'm waiting for the rock stairs and the elevation gain to begin.

Once we begin this section of the Osseo trail, it bends out of the sun and becomes chilly. There is ice building up and I begin carefully stepping to avoid it while walking the rock steps. It becomes a little more prevalent and so, I put on my microspikes. I again think to myself about why I go to great lengths to avoid putting them on when it actually takes less energy to walk with them than to continue to dodge the ice. I hear voices coming to us and as we walk, we encounter another solo hiker coming up behind us. He's on a mission to get over Liberty and so, he wastes no time. Continuing, it's getting colder so, the jacket also goes back on but no hat or gloves yet. Next up is the famed ladders of the Osseo trail. I enjoy this part so much and I am happy to see that they are mostly clear. There are two other hikers by the side and I find out that they are on their way up too. Lil' Nugget and myself pull onto the down look and admire the view of the Bond's and the Pemi... I tighten my shoes here as well. I'm wishing that I had snow shoes on.

Once we reach the top of the ladders, I stop and catch my breath. I'm amazed that even after hiking all these years, I can still feel like I'm dying on the way up. The snow on the trail has the consistency of a slushy here and I keep my microspikes on. It's flat for the time being and the consistency of the snow shifts to something like a snow cone. It's getting colder so, my hat finally comes back on. We are passed by a group in shorts and I silently question their judgement. Hypothermia is still possible. It's not long until the trail turns to just ice. I'm glad my microspikes are still on. There are some bare patches as we climb and Lil' Nugget tries to flush out something from a rock. I break a few times and then finally we come to a rest by the entrance to the Flume Slide Trail. As I exhale, someone comes up over the trail and I'm impressed. That trail is not easy when it's icy which is most assuredly is today. She pats Lil' Nugget and says her name. I didn't recognize her but maybe she recognized us. Or it's just a coincidence that she used my dog's trail name. We speak for a bit and Lil' Nugget gets riled by a member of her party (there were 2 others). We opt to get moving to the summit. Just before you break tree line, the ice is broken up and it's like you are walking through a giant bucket of shards of ice. I could not really call it snow at this point... Then we look out onto the world. We are on the rocks heading up the ledges to the summit. I am struck by how much I enjoy the exposure and the narrow trails. Way back in the beginning, I'd be terrified. Today, on my 9th visit, I walk with confidence. We summit around noon time.

We spend some time looking at the views and talking with hikers that are passing back over the summit on their way down. The winds are picking up but we persist on the summit for some time. I'm conscious that I've once again over come the feeling that I'm dying on the way up and here I stand... Strong. Another summit attained and I think of the winter to come. We are joined by the three that came up the slide. They are concerned about going over Liberty and down and I assure them that it's not far between the peaks and then it's all down hill. We exchange phones for pictures and then Lil' Nugget and I make our way back below tree line. It's been a great day and I'm now confident again that I'll make it back before dark. Once back at the junction for the Flume Slide, we have some cheese and some salami. It seems too warm for my soup. Ready to descend the peak, we sail over the ladders and stop once again to admire the Bonds. Continuing down, I take is slow over the ice and eventually hit the clear trail. While taking my microspikes off, another couple is on their way up but Lil' Nugget is not impressed with one of them and lets out a growl. Dogs know good people... The next person we run into, she practically collapsed into as he scratched her shoulders. He seemed to have a very gentile demeanor. I enjoyed that conversation. His boys were skiing at Loon... Even with a lack of open trails. Slowly, the layers came off until we were back in the early fall temps. We caught up to one of the hikers that crossed the summit and as heading back down to his car. When we hit the Lincoln Woods trail, it was smooth sailing back to the car by 3pm. Plenty of day light left. But I had an extra large Snickerdoodle Coffee calling me as my reward. Lil' Nugget had her Greenie. There were plenty of tourists walking the flat trail on such a nice day. The Ranger station was open and it was business as usual at Lincoln Woods. Another step closer to Winter but, will winter ever get here???

Ascending is still difficult for me. Even after all these years of hiking, I still feel like I am dying as I move up a trail. It seems to take forever and I appear to loose patience with myself. It's usually at these points that I talk myself out of some extended trips, quit, or like today, work with my resistance and make it to the top. Of course, my struggle sometimes begins when the alarm goes off too and just continues until I get to a high point or not. I'm a solo hiker so, the only one motivating myself is... Me. How I'm doing this is beyond me but something keeps me motivated to get up and get going as well as keep going. No one is there in the morning to make me get out of bed... Lil' Nugget is certainly not a motivator but she is great company. I'd certainly turn back for her in a heart beat but more often than that, I turn back because I talk myself out of it. I think I'm just amazed at how much I can motivate and over come my thoughts of quitting. This will hopefully come in handy when Winter finally arrives on the calendar. The remaining peaks I have for my final list are tough and I'll need every ounce of strength to do these long hikes without turning back because my anxiety gets riled up. One more Fall hike before I'm put to the test. 

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