When you are saying "What a week!" since like... Tuesday, it's time to shake things off and hike. I was desperate for Winter and after turning back last week, I got wind that the snow was in Franconia (Thanks TipToe). So, I headed for the Kinsman Peaks, knowing also that I would have some more ice to deal with. I didn't get up super early since the days are getting longer. What I did do is add more weight to the pack. Time to start training for the LT again and I am so happy. Isis and I got underway from the trailhead for the Mount Kinsman Trail on 116 just before 8am. Trail conditions started out with a light coating of snow over what had already been tramped out. The lower MKT is in fine shape and easy to travel in my Hillsounds. It's cold today and I was preparing for the wind and the eventual ice I would find but also traveling quickly this morning.
Just after the shack on the lower trail, things start to get icy. The difference between here and the 19 Mile Brook Trail (from last week) is that the snow also has covered the ice and it's a little more grippy with my Hillsounds. Isis has something that she can walk on without slipping too and I am feeling confident. I'm experimenting with a Smartwater bottle rather than my bladder today. It's an old trick I learned on the LT last year. It's lighter than a Nalgene and carries just a little more water. The only drawbacks are that I need to make water stops rather than sucking on a tube while I walk and it will get ice up top above tree line. After this I encounter more ice and some elevations gain along with a few water crossings. These crossings are bridged and since it's so cold, they should stay solid for a while. Well, except it will be 70 on Wednesday I hear... Maybe it will be different next weekend. We begin to climb at this point and there are a few ice flows but with the snow cover, we can manage. We reach the junction of Bald Peak and decide that we might as well add it to the day. It's and easy .2 to the summit and there's only two spots that climb. Btu the summit is open and fantastic.
The skies are so blue today and even though the temps are cold, we are warm from walking. As we are climbing, there are other hikers coming up behind us and Isis is making me wait for them. She seems to do this constantly on hikes but we are not in a hurry so, we wait and they pass. We joke about her diva entrance on the summit since she let everyone else go first. The MKT at this point has snow building up but still solid and easy to travel with just Hillsounds. There are a few ice flows on this section that can be tricky if you don't get a good grip with your feet first. There are trees to help though. I can hear the wind but I am hoping that if I just take my time, they will die out.... It's worth a shot. Winter is all around me and I am in love. I'm also in love with my Mariposa 60 from GossamerGear. Even with the extra weight, I am not complaining... But I never complain anyway. Isis and I are getting ready to break tree line finally and the snow is deeper. You can probably use snowshoes here but I stayed in Hillsounds. The snow is not real deep and there is no post holing unless you step off the trail.
Once on the Kinsman Ridge Trail, we climbed up to North Summit and in the process run into many hikers just out enjoying the day. The wind had subsided as I had wanted and even though it was cold, it was not freezing. The blue skies, the sun, the views forever... This is what winter should be. I have waited all season for a day like today. I am incredibly lucky and I'm aware of that with every hike I do. When I have a crappy hike the week before and then a day like today, I make sure to send a quick thank you to my grandfather Chief because I think he's always responsible for the gift. Isis and I navigate the ups and downs for the KRT and I get to do some prime butt sledding (Which has also been lacking this year). Everyone is in a fantastic mood that we run into on the trail. Lots of laughter and stories to tell. I even got to meet a lot of readers today which I am always thankful for. There are a few tricky places that you need a root or something to grab to help you up... At least I did and we slid back once but Isis and I made it and as we approached the summit to South Kinsman, the wind picked up only slightly. The snow was a little deeper still but I again opted to stay in Hillsounds. Isis and I stayed on the summit for cheese and pictures. She was so happy to sit on her throne and even took a good picture with me for a change. Today has been fantastic from the start.
Heading back is really easy since everything is sort of down hill for a while. It's mix of glissading and butt sledding on the downs. The ups are a little sticky now since the sun has been strong today. The wind is still nonexistent. More people are heading to South summit and it seems to take no time to get back to North for us. Lots of people hanging out on the outlook so, I opted to keep going. Taking the turn for the MKT, I know it will take no time to get back to the car. It's truly all down hill from here. Isis likes to cruise on the down trail. I think she knows there are treats in her future and wants to get back to the car. We catch up to a group from the ridge and while we keep our distance, we still enjoy the company and the nice conversation at the junction for Bald Peak. Today has not been anything but a perfect day and because of that, I feel grounded and center again. We reach the car in great time and are soon on our way to coffee. Isis gets her Greenie and a ton of praise because she's such a strong little dog. I am forever proud of her.
Today and this week I have been reflecting on my hiking. I started in 2011 as a way to keep active and recover from a pretty serious illness that initially doctors thought was some pretty rare cancers. I still have this illness and always will but I am miles ahead of myself and "managed" well and I thank goodness every day that it's not cancer. It's been a pretty amazing ride through these lists and on the first half of the LT for both Isis and myself. I've hiked with people and now, I've settled into solo hiking. Now that I am off list, there's more of a casualness to my trips into the woods but all have a basic premise of "This is how I take care of myself". My work is pretty intense a lot of times which is another reason why I hike and maybe it's why I hike so much too some weeks. I look forward to the escape and just being out on trail as much as I look forward to the summits but, a summit is no longer necessary to my day. Days like today after weeks like this mean the world to me and will sustain me until I can get back out there again (probably next weekend, let's be real). As I train for the next leg of my Long Trail adventure this summer, I'll be thinking of different hikes I can do to help prepare us as well as some over nights when the weather allows. I have a hammock system to test out as well as a new tent and I am excited to see how Isis responds to both. But mostly, my hiking as evolved into a pretty important part of my life and my continued management of my health. I'm living proof that good diet and exercise is beneficial to both body and soul. I use to see Doctors every 6 months and now I'm going every 2 years. That has to say something about being outside and hiking as well as eating right. I could not be happier and I could not be in a better place in my life. This also doesn't mean I don't have my critics though. It's amazing the way people function these days, trying to change someone because they don't agree or really understand the other person (when they really on't know them at all beyond what they see through their computer). I thought seriously this week about making some changes to my hiking and to this blog but you know what, not going to happen... I'm a hiker and hikers hike no matter the speed, gear choice, miles, whether their dog is on a leash or not... Hikers hike plain and simple and no one is right and no one is wrong. How you hike is what is right for you and the critics can....