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Ethan Pond Trail Connecting Dots on the AT

Sometimes, in the middle of the journey, another journey emerges... I was finding myself feeling kind of stale and craving new scenes from a Grid pursuit. Then I really found my heart in longer distance hikes with all kinds of things to see and something new with every hike, I decided to call shenanigans on myself and start section hiking the AT and what better way to start than to connect the dots in New Hampshire. Hiking the 48 gave me a great start with hiking and also gave me a lot of AT miles so, it only makes sense. Today, I decided to hike the Ethan Pond Trail from 302 in Crawford Notch to the junction of the Zealand Trail... I already have miles from there to the hut and beyond. I love new trails and I was not disappointed today. 

Once you arrive at the trail head for Rippley Falls/Ethan Pond, you cross the railroad tracks and begin climbing... This section of trail takes you first past the top of the Kendron Flume Trail and eventually to the start of the Willey Range Trail... We turned at this point to continue of the AT (Ethan Pond Trail). I'm immediately struck by the lack of people on the trail and I like it. After the turn, there's a little push up and there's some standing water on the trail too. It flattens out briefly with a first set of bog bridge (many more to come). It's now a mile to the Ethan Pond Shelter junction. There's a brief section of ice that can be gotten around without traction. Once it flattens out again, it stays this way until the junction with sections of bog bridges and sections of trail that are flooded with water but there are rocks to hop. Isis and I make the best of this beautiful day and continue to walk and enjoy the woods. 

We turn down the spur to the Shelter at Ethan Pond and at the pond itself, we run into the first 3 hikes of the day. This is a great area and I'm sure that I'll be back to spend the night some day. There's some snow hanging around where the sun can't reach. We head back to the trail and make our push to the end. This is a 2 mile stretch that my mind starts playing with me. I'm wondering if I can get to the end and back to the car in a reasonable time. I start going down the road of altering plans and then I just shake it off... I've got a headlamp and a tent... I'm good. Now get moving. Isis and I enjoy the wooded sections and I do note a few stealth camp sites that look fabulous. The trail remains flat with intermittent water, rocks, and bog bridges before it takes you by a river and leads you to a foot bridge. Such a beautiful area. 

From the foot bridge, there is a short wooded walk and then the trail starts to open up and you see all the surrounding peaks. You walk by a pretty decent talus field and over some rocks reaching the junction for the Zeacliff Trail. First, I'll probably never take this trail for it's steepness and second, from here, it's 1.3 miles to our end point or in this case, our turn around point. The trail dips in and out of the woods over and around rocks. I love it. This trail has fed my soul today. We reached our turn around just after 1pm... 7.2 miles in just over 4 hours. I'm feeling pretty strong. 

I could tell I was near the hut because the traffic had increased and at this time of year, there's a cast of characters already hitting the trails. We did not stay and chat with a group as I wanted to keep the pace up and get back into the woods... Back into the quiet. Funny thing about a return trip going back the way I came, I tend to throw it on auto pilot and just go... Breaking occasionally for treats for Isis. I knew that the return would be long but also easier as all my ups are now downs and there are now more downs than ups... Let gravity take you and soon you land back at the car... The parking area is BUSY with tourists going to Ripley Falls. Another cast of characters. With more pouring in at 4:30pm... I'm changing in my car and hitting the road for a extra large blueberry coffee from Dunk's (I always stop at exit 28). This has been a fantastic day of connecting the dots. Another section of the AT is done for me. Slowly connecting all the missing trail miles.

When I started this journey of hiking, I was searching for something... I thought it was a person. Turns out it was a little dog, my best hiking partner and the person I was searching for was actually myself. My mother during the first leg of the 48 bought me the book Following Atticus and I now understand the bond between a person and a dog. My heart breaks for the Little Buddha has crossed the rainbow bridge but as I walked the trail today, I began to see my bond with Isis in a whole new way. She checks on me if I fall, she communicates with me if she needs something or she thinks I need something. She is choosey about who we associate with on the trail and I credit her for backing up my intuition when it comes to people and other dogs. We are bonded and I can honestly say when she is called, I'm pretty sure that I'll be forever changed. At home, she is my constant companion and makes sure that I'm never alone. I always reflect on a particularly dark time about 3 years ago... She use to be a crate dog but one particularly emotional night, she refused her crate to keep me company... She's never gone back in that thing since and pretty much that crate sits in my basement. She's helped me find my way in this madness and has walked with me with every step. She may be tiny but she is fierce and together we are strong. I found myself on the trails through her. I've reached a point in my life where peoples opinions matter less and my own voice matters more. I abandoned my GRID for a richer journey... One that really grabs my soul and feeds it with new visions at every step. I cannot wait for my future hikes in future states. I cannot wait to see what parts of me I find on the trail with my best trail partner by my side. 

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