I'll be there first to admit that I missed trail life... The chance to walk and think. The chance to meet some pretty interesting people and see some pretty amazing things that you never see from the sofa. It's hard at times and you want to give up completely at your worst moments but if you push on, something pretty amazing happens. You get to know yourself and your relationship with the world around you. I suddenly decided to do the 48 mile Monadnock Sunapee Greenway. I would take four days to do it which would give me enough time to get my legs under me and to test out some new gear for my up and coming Long Trail trip in July.
Day One: 4/28/16 Dublin Trailhead to Crider Shelter. 15 miles.
The pack was heavy with all my provisions and some winter gear because it would be cold at night. Four days of food and snacks for both Isis and myself. We would start at the Dublin Trail trail head in near by Dublin NH (Close to my home in Jaffrey NH). The weather was cooperating with chilly temps in the AM so I was layered up at first. I said good bye to my mother who had dropped me off and would eventually pick me up (my biggest supporter). Heading through the hard woods we transitioned to a pine forest. The grades are easy for the trail with nothing over 3000 feet. It take me no time to get to Route 101 in Marlborough. Crossing here carefully for traffic. No issues with the trail so far and I'm just trying to get my head in the game and my feet under me. Isis is trying to eat every blade of grass and roll in anything she can find. The first thing we come to of interest is Eliza Adams Gorge which is beautiful and then a quick stop at Spitoir Shelter for a snack. I've run into two other hikers heading this direction. At least I know someone else is out there.
A nice walk by the Howe Reservoir Dam reminded me of 19 Mile Brook Trail... Except bigger. The trail itself has a lot of rural road walks to take which I was aware of but somehow surprised by the amount. I was giving my trail runners a good test as I imagined that walking this in boots, I'd be feeling it immediately. At least I had some cushion.
Another pass by the Childs Bog Dam and we walked through some pretty open areas. A stop for lunch brought out a new tuna packet to try. Packed in sunflower oil for extra calories. This really worked for me. Passing under route 9 using the underpass was interesting and creepy all at the same time. Heading into Stoddard via logging and local dirt roads I came upon the site of the recent forest fire. How much Isis wanted to roll in the soot! And how much I held her back. this area was depressing and while I love the smell of a campfire, I am not a fan of a forest fire smell. It was too much for my nose.
It wasn't long after this that Isis and I reached our first stop for the night. Crider Shelter. After starting at about 7:30am, it was now around 3:30pm... For a 15 mile day on a full pack, I thought that was pretty good. Only one minor hot spot to tape up. We set up camp and were joined by the two hikers we had met earlier. Dinner was served with a healthy side of black flies. I had chosen my turkey, white bean, and sweet potato chili over rice. Great choice! Really enjoyed it after that long day. Isis was fed and chores were done. The black flies drove us into the tent though, instead of being social. I don't know how those two hikers stayed in the shelter. But it was cold so the bugs eventually went away. I have to get use to sleeping in a one man/one dog tent... It's low so, you get dressed/undressed laying down. I brought my fleece liner and my 40 degree bag. Plus my winter shell and long johns with fleece socks. This combination did the trick but the adrenaline was still pumping so it was hard to sleep. Day two would start on very little energy.
Day Two: Crider Shelter to General Washington Shelter. Washington, NH: 15 Miles
Day two started early around 6:30am due to lack of sleep and getting chores done. Needing water, we stopped by the lake for breakfast... Traditional 2 packets of oatmeal and coffee. Nice view. I breathed in and felt the trail come alive. Today would be a hard fought day. Day two usually is. We were heading up and over Pitcher Mountain. The two hikers I shared shelter with hiked on by and I kept my own pace. Going through some great forest land (Andorra Forest) and eventually coming out the parking area for Pitcher Mountain where the two hikers from the shelter were taking a break and making plans. It was also in this stretch that I came close to seeing a bear... I saw fresh scat and heard some movement so I too made movement and sound. While I wanted to see the bear... I'd really like to stay safe.
A word about this section of my day... Confusion. The two other hikers took the road by Pitcher. I did as well. But they kept going on the road instead of going to the summit. I went to the summit. Got turned around a few times... Each time ending up at the parking lot so, I did the road twice to the turn for the summit trail and the extended road road walk which added miles. This about killed my spirit BUT, I pressed onward. Determined to make it to the shelter for the night. This part gets very tricky as it's not well blazed and neither is the summit. You travel through grasslands and over some pretty good size hills. With a full pack and a bit of a frantic head for mistakes, it takes a lot to gain concentration again. It's hot and the bugs are out... Makes for a challenge. Then there is a reroute due to beaver activity. I'm not sure if this added or subtracted miles. It felt like an addition. this was a steep down and then a decent flat section leading to a road in Washington NH. I was happy to see this but my feet were pounding from the road walks. Pressing on, we made it to the Clark Robinson Memorial Forest... Almost to the shelter. You just have to climb the BIG hill with ledges and lots of black flies. UGH! Who's idea was that??? The hill was Oak Hill... I'll never forget that one.
I had run into three other hikers at the top of Oak Hill. I had hopes that I would not be sharing a shelter with them. Being a solo female, you listen to your gut. I was making plans to stealth camp but got to the shelter first and chanced it. My two other companions on the trail arrived from the opposite direction... they had taken an extended road walk instead of going over Oak Hill (I'm not sure what was worse). They were calling it quits and heading to Washington General Store for dinner. I was having Steak with Mashed potatoes and Gravy. This was also a winner of a combination... All together in one bowl. The three other hikers did pass by and my other companions departed to meet their ride. General Washington shelter is privately owned and you can see the owners house from the actual shelter land. No cell service even though the home is that close. But Washington always seemed to be a dead zone. Great water source and an enclosed privy. I enjoyed this shelter and sleep was a little better. I turned my 40 degree bag into a quilt over the top of Isis and myself. This worked like a charm. Ready to do it all over again for day three....
Day Three... General Washington Shelter to The Steve Galpin Shelter at Moose Look Out.
Starting my day off pretty close to 6am. Legs are tired still. The third day on a Thru is always tough as you wait to get your legs under you. That comes on the fourth day... But that is also my extraction point. So, the day starts off with a walk through down town Washington. This is not well blazed at all. I walked a little of route 31 and get on track. Heading on a side road through the town, I wait to head back into the woods. Lots of hills to walk up. Give me some ledges any day but these flat hills under my pack weight are killing me. We turn finally down another road (Lovewell Mtn Rd) that quickly deteriorates and is a muddy mess. The blazing is poor here too so I turn back feeling very discouraged by this. But decide that I'm going to press on. We turn back into the forest and are climbing Lovewell Mountain. To my surprise, this is a pleasant climb. just under 2500 feet tall with a great trail leading up to the summit.
The day is hot so, I am thankful for the shade trail which also takes the bugs away. After Lovewell Mtn, it's a hard fight through Pillsbury State Park land with all the PUDS on my way to my shelter for the night. I will admit to tossing out many F Bombs as the bugs fly in my mouth and up my nose. I will admit to loosing it completely and wanting to head down to Pillsbury Ranger station to get picked up... But, I sat and had a snack and then pressed on. Slowly but surly we climbed hill after hill and enjoyed some pretty fast sections too. The woods seems to be dying here though... Not a spot of green save for some plants just starting to poke through the ground. Everything is late this year. The trail itself is decent but I have noted very little water for a dog to drink freely. We make it to shelter again around 3:30pm. Always with a sigh of relief. My pack is getting much lighter now as the trip wears on. It seemed as though we would have the shelter to ourselves again. So, I did my chores and fed Isis and myself. This was a real test... Dehydrated chicken chunks and Zatarand's Cheesy rice... Wow! That was about the best dinner I could ask for. Really filling and perfect after a hard fought day. Again though the bugs were out in full force which sent us into the tent. I eventually decided to close up the outer fly and try and rest. Around 7:30pm, Isis begins growling. I'm not hearing much so, I try and calm her. Then I hear rustling. I call out and a man answers. Hmmm.... Guess I won't be alone tonight. I poke my head out in the dimming light of day and see that 3 hikers have arrived. They are seasoned AT section hikers... One by the name of Zenith and the other Mike. I never got the third's name. Classic guys in long white beards. Trail hardened. Zenith is a talker... He's a gear head talker. I entertain until the people are shadows. I try and sleep to the sounds of them setting up camp. Thankfully two of the hikers are soft spoken. Then when all is quiet, the loudest snore erupts soon after Zenith's last words... He warned us he snored but how does he fall asleep so fast?? I did not get a lot of sleep... Note to self: EAR PLUGS! Time for day four... Summit extraction day.
Day 4: Steve Galpin Shelter at Moose Look Out to Mount Sunapee. 7.6 Miles including Summit trail to the parking lot.
Giving up early in the morning around 5:30 means that I get an early start... This is good because according to Zenith, it's gonna rain. They are heading SOBO and planning to stop either in 5 or 11 miles. I was treated to a pretty decent sunrise which was viewed from of all places... The Privy! There's no door here but there are walls at least because it is visible on a hill from the shelter. Same old routine of breakfast and chores. The guys pack up pretty quickly and seem to get under way. I was not far behind them. With only 7.6 miles and a ton of ledges between here and Mt. Sunapee, I want to get in as much as I can before the rain really comes. .2 heading north there is a great stream for water. I'd say it rivals the Garfield tent site spring and Liberty Spring as well. I only take 2 liters since it will be short and cool to hike today. Isis is tired but I've discovered my legs... I can crank it out today. A lighter pack too since most food has been consumed. This stretch is really about getting up and over the hills and walking the ridges. at .5 is Lucias Look Out. A little view here and we sign the register. A ridge walk provides a break on my calves. I am enjoying my walk out today.
We head down to 2400 feet and walk a flatter section before heading up to 2600 feet for a while. The rain is starting to pick up and I ask my grandfather to hold off the heavy stuff until after the ledges. I take one slip of a spill but recover nicely. The pack cover comes on as I skipped the liner. Isis is shaking off excess water. Our next stop is Lake Solitude which is down a piece from 2600 feet. But it's peaceful and sort of Lonesome Lake esque. There's even a random chunk of ice in my path. We then come to Jack and June Junction making the final push to the summit. Gotta head up 100 feet.
Climbing, we break out to the ski trails and I remember how hard it was to head up this way on Bromley. The terminus comes into view and I just put my head down and go. Standing there, in the rain which is now falling harder, I get my summit shot and find the summit trail down. It's now 2.1 to the parking area and a short wait for my ride with two pop tarts and a packet of tuna. I feel very much accomplished and pleased with how my gear performed. I'll be subtracting some things and adding a few others. I'm looking at food and how much I will carry and that includes water. While the inline filter helps, I may not fill the 3 liter bag up so much on the less humid days. I learned so much about myself and my hiking style in this short time. I never thought I had it in me (or Isis for that matter) for a 15 mile day. All in all a very successful trip from Dublin New Hampshire to the top of Mt. Sunapee. The adventures will continue though.... After a zero weekend next weekend. 48 miles earns me that much. And a patch too. ;)
I should also note that while I waited for my ride, there was a massive gathering of EMTs/and Paramedics at the base... I was well taken care of and checked on often. Thanks for reading and stay tuned....