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Back Door To Mount Madison

Perfect forecasts are made to be above tree line. You just have to get there first. This week, I hiked up Mt. Madison... The back way. Old Jackson Rd to Madison Gulf, to Great Gulf, to Osgood Cut Off, and then straight UP Osgood. So, now that you know the order of the day, here's the run down... First today was the Mt. Washington Road race which almost made me do the other end... Webster Cliff. BUT my car found her way to Pinkham Notch... Lot was full so I parked in the overflow and took the bridge. Pinkham is so busy but once all the ants take the turn to march up Tuckerman's I head down Old Jackson and things quiet down. Well, except for the road noise from 16 that will be replaced by the auto road... People are few and far between though. 

Old Jackson Road has some great grades to it once you get up that one big incline. Then it's like smooth sailing on a flat wide trail with a section of bog bridges. I'm a fan of this trail from when I went up Nelson Crag last year. Today it's a little hot out but Isis and I start out strong. Make our way to the last water crossing and make the turn up the trail... Rock stairs. We're making our way to cross the auto road where we meet up with Madison Gulf... Along the way we stop at a little bump out and get an eye full of just how beautiful the sky is today. We see the same thing from Lowe's Bald Spot just after we cross the auto road... 

Once back on trail, Isis and I navigate some larger rocks and water crossings. All crossings are easy as of now due to our lack of rain. There are a couple of variations in elevation as well and I note these for my tired return... This will be a long day today. The bugs are out as it gets warmer and we pass by some standing water... A recipe for mosquitoes. The black flies are buzzing too. We come to the junction with the great gulf trail and after a pit stop and some food, we head down to the next crossing. It's a suspension bridge... I swear Isis army crawled it. She is not a fan. But it was nice for me. 

This leads us to the Osgood Cut off for a half mile and then we hit the junction with the tent site and then the UP... Osgood Trail is one straight up full of boulders, energy sucking trail (I had other colorful words in the moment). I would not recommend this trail to just anyone. You need skills here. Skills like patience and the ability not to loose your mind completely as it just keeps climbing... I will also say that this trip was well worth the ass kicking I received. Isis and I took it extremely slow which added to our time out in the wood. It's been a log time since I spent and entire day out here. I was determined to get my summit today. But at this point, I was determined to get to tree line. this deep in, you really only run into section or thru hikers. I'm pretty sure at this point too I smell like a Thru Hiker. One dousing of bug spray as the black flies were crazy... In my eyes and under the rim of my hat. We took several breaks to keep my sanity. I'm also quickly going through 3 liters of water. But after what seems like forever, we start breaking tree line. 

I'm trying not to think of the return trip least I psych myself out of something really great. BUT, I'm not going to lie, the awareness of the steep down and my tired feet are a recipe for disaster. Isis and I get up the first hump and break out of the trees... I see Washington (It's probably a mad house) and I see the Madison Hut... Then I see four humps to get up and over... Time to put my head down and go. It's getting kind of late in the day and knowing what I have ahead of me to get back to the car well, it's time to move. Isis and I navigate the rocks and carefully make our way over the three false summits and then climb up to the actual summit... This is tedious and requires that Isis and I remain in synch with each others steps. We stumble a lot... My legs have the cuts to prove that. Once we begin our actual ascent, I'm thinking it will be a quick visit. One because it's busy up there and two because it's getting late... I have to get back to my house that is 3 hours away tonight. So, we tag the cairn and head back down. There's at least a breeze and a good difference in temp so, I'm cool off. 

It's pretty slow going as we head back down... My feet are tired but the good thing is that my trail runners are preforming well and my new socks.. Toe socks are also holding up. I do not feel any blisters or hot spots and I'm use to having them between my toes too... My feet are just tired and I'm ready for coffee and what ever food I haven't eaten today. As I make my way back to the car, I'm reflecting on my longer distance hikes and how much less pressure there seems to be than when I'm peak bagging. I like the fact that on my longer hikes, if I'm feeling tired, I can just find a site to camp at and call it a day and then restructure my days to follow... When I'm peak bagging, I need to get back to the car and that means timing and pressure. I am my own worst enemy sometimes too as darkness approaches, I hate it when family worries so, I try and get down as soon as I can which is also completely different if I am hiking with someone else. Heading back to the auto road, we meet up with some people who have stopped to cool their brakes. Nice enough but a sure sign we are almost back to the car... Then the mixed emotions kick in. I did have my tent with me but I was lacking some other gear as I wanted to go somewhat light today due to the trails conditions and length. We also ran into a mother and two younger boys... Mother had the best hat on... A hat that could've been warn at the Kentucky Derby, and her shoes were really pretty wedges... How do people do this?? These trails are not paved after all. We make it back to the bridge to the over flow lot just in time to catch the sun going behind the Presidential Range. I smile and get back to the car to change... I am not far from probably the best tasting cup of blueberry coffee ever. It will get me home at an extremely late hour for my usual Saturdays. But this was a day well spent in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. 

Time is growing short for me in the Whites once again... July 16th will be here before I know it and I still feel like I have miles to go to prepare, mentally, physically, and gear wise. I've been dealing with some sudden joint pain (elbows, fingers, and knee) this week and it has thrown me for a loop... But my philosophy is to walk it off and today, I did just that. We'll see how I feel tomorrow. This is the hazard of my medical condition I am sure. Considering how active I am, I can't think of what else it would except over use of my knee but even that is doubtful. I've added stretching to my routine and I'm considering strengthening too... But still, it's disconcerting and I need to take better care of myself for sure and that includes hydration wise and nutrition. I have a month to get myself in shape. All other aspects will work themselves out over time. I've also been thinking of my solo endeavors... It's something that I've just always been doing without question. I've always been comfortable out there with just myself or now myself and Isis. I've never really focused on what could happen and only focused on my capabilities and how those will carry me through any situation. I believe this to be my secret of my Thru's as well. If I let the doubt and the negative in, I'm sunk. Like so much of my life... I'll work it out, figure it out, and rise above or get back to the car in one piece. Today, made me a stronger hiker for not backing down and not completely losing my mind on those insane trails. I am so proud of myself and of Isis for also sticking it out. It shows how much she trusts me to not push her too far as we rested a lot today. It also shows that I have trust in myself to hike remote trail alone with confidence. I'll be working through the butterflies for the LT in the coming weeks. We'll see if I get to Webster cliff too, which would complete the AT for the Presidentials... I'm scheduling a few zeros and a possible 4 day shake down to rest up and prepare for July 16th. 

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