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Gear Testing on Pierce

Last week, there was no hiking. I had a cold and well, it was freezing out there. So instead, I geared up for the LT with a new pack and camera (Tax time!). This naturally leads to needing to hike to test them out. The pack is the Mariposa 60 from GossamerGear and the camera is a Cannon Powershot SX400 IS with 30x zoom and 16 Mega Pixels. So, now that I am feeling better, that leaves a hike for today. I had originally thought about Whiteface and Passaconaway. I was concerned about the ice this "winter" seems to be generating and I know that loop is always icy and with the ledges, I could not put Lil' Nugget through that. So, when I got up I first thought Mt. Willard but then I remembered that across the street is Mt. Pierce. I'd rather hike a 4K today so, even with the winds a tad high and no chance of a view, Mt. Pierce it is. I parked at Mt. Clinton Rd where there is plenty of parking and it does not interfere with the Highland Center. Taking the connector to the Crawford Path is slushy and soft so, spikes go on to stay. 

My new pack, the Mariposa 60 from GossamerGear has so much room that I am really looking forward to a full pack for the LT (WHAT???). It's also super comfortable and sits well on my back, shoulders, and hips. I don't even notice that I have it on which is key. The pockets are big and I don't have to take it off to reach stuff I need. Yeah, Lil' Nugget has her own designated treat pocket too... I'm 5'6" so I got the medium with the small hip belt. Perfect! At the bottom of the Crawford path, it's ice scratched up from spike's traveling on it. Not bad and there's a lot to grab so, I'm doing well. It's getting noticeably quieter as we travel up the trail away from the traffic passing by on the highway. Seems to be a less crowded day today but it's still early. As we climb, there are a few thin spots that are nothing but flow ice so, care is taken to not slide off the edge. One thing I am noticing is that winter is here. There's no snow at my house so, this makes me smile. Plus, there's snow falling today too. I can hear the winds up above. 

I stop and check out Gibb's Falls and only go as far as the ledge due to ice but the falls themselves are mostly frozen. It's warm so, the gloves and hat are off for now but I have my winter shell and layers on. No insulated pants but my hiking pants and base layer are good for today. Lil' Nugget and I hike up to the Mizpah Cut off. No Gray Jays greet us today. A quick food break here for both of us and I put on my hat and gloves with a noticeable drop in temp and an increase in the winds. All water seeps are frozen solid still which is good but these seeps never seem to be an issue. The Crawford Path is filled in nicely with snow that seems to be increasing as we climb. I noticed my shadow too which made me hope for a clearing. A few people had hiked past us heading down as we were heading up and all seemed to be in good spirits. We approached tree line and I could feel the winds increase now. If it was not favorable, we'd just go to tree line. We definitely were not going to Ike today. 

Once we get to tree line, a gentleman from the parking lot is already up there (he passed us long ago). He was contemplating going to Ike as well but agreed, not today. Lil' Nugget and I made our way up to the summit with the winds to our side. The snow that had fallen the night before had filled in the trail nicely but you can feel the hard ice under the layer of snow. Not enough for snowshoes here but you could certainly use them on the approach to tree line. Lil' Nugget is managing the wind but I don't want to spend too much time at the summit to avoid stressing her out. I take a few shots with the camera and laugh as she sits right in front of my new pack in front of the summit cairn (a shot I had intended without her in it). We have another brief conversation with the guy from the parking lot who joins us and then we head down into the wind which is bitting and bringing tears to my eyes. This is winter to me. Not what we have been having. I like today much better. 

Once back safely in the trees, Lil' Nugget gets her snack that she usually gets at the summit and we continue down. She's almost running which sets our pace a lot quicker. There's quite a few people on the way up. Most are talkative and in decent moods although this close to the summit, I can see the fatigue from the climb. I try to deflect Lil' Nugget from the sea of huge black mittens to her face which she does not like but some sneak by and she growls just a little. The older she gets the more distinct Shiba traits I see in her. She's particular of people and dogs and I love her for it. She's fiercely loyal to me which is all I care about and I notice that there are things she will let me do which she will let no one else do. We pass by two black labs and she has words. We break at the junction for the Mizpah Cut Off and chat with some nice guys that ask about trail direction. Shortly after the Cut Off, she tries to play with a Healer who is also leashed but they end up just staring at each other instead while the Healer sits and she's in a play stance. The humans had a laugh at them. I know from here the trip will go by quickly. We cross paths with a few other hikers and another dog on the way up as we are coming down (Dog first followed by the people about 500ft apart). Back at the bridge for the Crawford Connector, I thought about going to Crawford Cliff but figured I'd save it for a view day. Once back at the car, it's time to change into dry clothes, Lil' Nugget has her greenie, and we are off for coffee at Exit 28 on the way home. A fantastic winter hike in what seemed like a nonexistent winter.  

The time has come to gather gear for the next leg of the LT coming up in July. With a little over 4 months to go, there's not a whole lot of time. Luckily, I'm only making a few gear switches so, that helps with the timeline. I'm forever pleased with the Mariposa 60 from GossamerGear and this was only my first hike with it. I tried with with my 3L Platypus bladder which is housed on the outside of the pack and it was not that bad ( I may switch to a large Smartwater bottle for the LT). I didn't feel off balance and it stayed unfrozen today too (It was still too warm even in the wind). There's also plenty of room in the pack. I have not filled it with all essential LT gear but in due time. The camera is also great and has it's own pocket on the pack so no need to get another camera bag. I will put it in a waterproof stuff sack though for protection. Lil' Nugget also received her own sleeping bag which stayed at home but she seems to like it. If we use the tent and not the hammock, it will eliminate fighting over my sleeping system (she's a bag hog!). Ahh, peace in the tent again. While winter winds down, I am dreaming of the greener trails and my next journey on the LT.... 

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