This morning I was intending on Whiteface and Piper in the Belkanps. Since doing the traverse two weeks ago, I figured I might as well go get one more patch (with a shrug of my shoulders for enthusiasm) . With the increase in day light, I procrastinate getting going and end up leaving the house a little after 6am. This felt pretty good to me since it's not a HUGE trip. We tried to make our way to the trail head for Whiteface, we followed the directions and got to the paved circle at the end of the road... Didn't see the trail. It's not well marked and I got out of my car to look for it. There's a basketball hoop in the circle as well. This does not make me want to leave my car there. When my gut speaks, I listen. So, we headed back towards Mt. Belknap and then ultimately we went to Mt. Major. I changed my plan to go up Mt. Major and possibly over to the Quarry Peaks and maybe Mt. Rand. It was 9am at this point and the trail head for Mt. Major was already busy. I headed out with Isis and my now full LT pack (no food but all gear is now packed). It feels good on my back and we're moving pretty good up the trail.
The Belkanap Ridge Trail from this end starts as a wide dirt path and slowly comes down to a traditional trail. This mountain is very well traveled and popular with hikers and non-hikers a like. Isis and I begin to hit some of the ledges and with recent rains and the ever present below freezing temp (for Spring), there is ice on the ledges. So, since I have Isis with me, we by pass the icy ledges. I have my spikes but when given an alternative route, I'll take that over gearing up. The bypass is free and clear. We navigate the slabs and pop out to the stone structure on the summit which is surrounded by dogs and people and noise and we're off to Straightback. The larger puddles from recent rains have frozen again but they are melting in the chilly sun shine. The blue and Yellow blazes are easy to follow and we duck back into the trees. Walking through the woods, I start to feel less and less like I want to just hike the peaks today. Something different is calling me. I make note of the turn for the Brook Trail as well as the Spur for the Quarry Trail. We continue up the slabs to Straight Back Mountain. No one is around after we passed 4 people on our way here. I stand at the summit post and look at the directions on the post. I consult my map (Thanks Kim!). I consult my heart... The latter is the one that screams the loudest. I'm just not interested in peaks today. I am interested in being in the woods. We are greeted by a kind stranger coming back from a side trail.
We end up chatting about how nice this range is and how when you move back this far on the trails, away from Major and Belknap, there's hardly any people. I tell him my plans even though I really have no intention of going to the Quarry Peaks. We part but I am sure that I will run into him again heading back to the spur. We cross the one minor crossing and on the slabs we find him changing his socks. We get into another conversation about the White Mountains and our lack of enthusiasm for those peaks lately (outside of the tremendous ice age that seems to be happening now). He tells me that there's so much more to see out there without saying a word. He's right. Isis and I hang back for a bite to eat and to give some space. Isis gets some treats as well. She loves her Merrick Power Bites and today we are finishing up the salmon flavor. This is just something I discovered would keep her going on the trails. Especially when we do longer trips for multiple days. Thanks to Merrick for giving us a supply of Power Bites and Back Country Treats for our up and coming Long Trail back packing trip in July. Isis and I are forever grateful. The trails out to Straightback are frozen leaves and mud but not so frozen that my feet don't sometimes sink in. My trail runners get wet but as I move they dry out. This is also true for my darn tough socks. All of this is in prep for my next leg of the Long Trail. I take the turn up the orange spur trail for the Quarry Trail. I figure I'd give it a try. We cross a small stream and head into the hard woods. It's a beautiful area but I'm just not feeling it. I'm not feeling like chasing peaks any more. I don't need another patch. I just want to take a walk. So instead of forcing myself, I turn back. We get back on the BRT and head for the Brook Trail. This will lead us out to the car.
Once I get back to the turn for the Brook trail, it's 2.7 back to the parking area. The trail is a mix of rocks, water, mud, leaves, and erosion. I'm saddened by the amount of ware on the trail. So many boots on it and it's more like a dirt road than a trail. I reach a few minor crossings and get my feet a little wet. Today, it's still cold but I have two things on my side, I'm heading out to the car, and I don't have far to go. The trail runners do their job again and dry out fast. I start to think of my next big trip and realize that I don't need to train like I did last year... I'm ready. The pack has been full all day and I'm not even feeling fatigued and I am confident that once I add the food, I'll still be OK. The crowds are building and with that comes a lot of dogs. Isis does well to keep to herself but I do step in the way of a few that charge. I'm proud of her as always. People are hiking in various stages of prepared to not even close to being prepared but that is the nature of this mountain. No lecturing. I'm just looking to get back to my car. I've got bigger things to tackle now. I do like this area and I would like to visit it again sometime. Maybe when the crowds calm down or on a week day (much like the Whites).
My journey started 5 years ago hiking the 67 peaks of New England... Some I've hiked several times over. This part of my journey has ended for now as I explore these new passions.... I've been feeling a bit of wanderlust lately and peak bagging is just not going to satisfy this heart any more. I still love the views and I still love mountains. I'd just rather hike for longer stretches and see different areas of the country. I need to stretch my legs! I still like the White Mountains of my home state and when the ice melts, I've got some hiking to do there still (to complete this state in my plan). I just won't set foot up there until I feel it's safe for me and my dog and more than likely when it's not super crowded or during the week if I can score a week day off. I've just had enough of the crowds and the egos hiking out there these days. I'm trading in my peak bagging for something that satisfies my desire to see new views rather than the same ones over and over. I want to feel that WOW again when I come to a vista and gaze out. I want to feel myself collapse from the expanding horizon as I look out from a new peak. I'm going to focus my attention on the Appalachian trail and some of the other trails in this area: Monadnock Sunapee Greenway, New England Trail, and of course finishing my Long Trail. Trading one of those trail for the AT when I can't get to a section without a vacation. There are still peaks for me to climb. I'm just hiking my own hike in a different direction. We all have our own passions that call to us and I can't really ignore this one any more. Since I can't take six months off to hike the trail non-stop, section hiking will be the way to go. I'll finish what I have left in New Hampshire but that will take me away from the peaks and into the woods. I'm so excited for this and can't wait to share it with anyone that will listen or read about it. I just need some time to plan my trips and figure out how I can do this with myself and my dog.