Sometimes things fall into place perfectly and you are not even effected by a steep trail.... Today, I hiked up to Mt. Moriah from the Gorham side on the Rattle River Trail. Another trail I had never been on and another section of the AT to complete. Isis and I were in good shape and we'd be well sheltered from the heat of the day. The first 1.6 miles to the Rattle River Shelter is really mellow and nice. The trail is wide as it's an old road bed... I don't want to jinx it by saying that I loved the trail too early. But I was thinking it. There are a few meager water crossings leading up to the shelter but nothing that cannot be managed (we need rain really bad). We approach the shelter and I see a dog's tail. I announce our arrival but we keep moving through... It looked like two Thru Hikers were just starting their day but they were nice enough to control their dog as we moved through.
As we continued the next 2.6 miles to the Kenduskeag Trail would be a nice mix at first. Isis and I crossed two more water crossings on the river and those were over large rocks. Isis was so proud of herself on the last one that she climbed the last big rock and demanded treats after licking my face. How could I not give them to her? It was shortly after this that the trail starts climbing...
You know how in the Whites there are those rock stairs that are never quite even... There are a lot of them on this trail. It's getting to be a hot day so, I am slowing us down and being mindful of Isis and water. There are a few seeps for her to drink from but I am ready with extra should I need it. The trail is quiet and I'm just loving the forest. Today feels great for a change... Not a care in the world. But I am starting to sweat out of my cloths on this steep section. Isis and I ran into two other section hikers coming down. Older guys who are just coming off the complete traverse. Boy were they happy to be going down... Carter Moriah range is tough! It was nice chatting with them about the trail and the trail beyond New Hampshire. At this point, Isis and I are close to the Kenduskeag Trail junction and we push up to the top. A sigh of relief as we are greeted by flat bog bridges... My feet and legs get a nice break. Maybe even for the next 1.5 miles to the junction with the spur to the summit.
It wasn't all bog bridges but it was pretty close. There were a few sections that were steep and some that were thin as far as the trail goes. As Isis and I approached the junction of the Carter Moriah Trail and the spur to the summit, I heard people... 2 day hikers were coming down the steep .1 to the summit and informed me that there were a lot of people up there. I figured we'd see what we could see. Scrambling up the .1 (almost a chimney) to the summit, Isis and I did very well. She trusts me to lift her to the next section and I have enough room to get up myself. We break the trees just below the summit and I see that it is indeed crowded. I check out the lower views (not that much lower than the summit) and once Isis had rested, she let me know she'd like to go to the top. Isis is her own dog and I follow her lead a lot. She may be moody and choosy with others but she knows that I have her back and she trusts me. When we came out to the outlook, It was indeed crowded with 5 or 6 day hikers and one dog. Both dogs managed well with each other and Isis and I got our picture taken. We ducked back down and then I stood at the top of the spur... Looking down at the trail signs was kind of daunting.
What looks daunting was really quite easy to get down... Even with a dog on leash. We both did very well and then began the walk out. We would only see one other from the summit after this. Going back over the way we came, the flat sections were of course very easy. We hit the steep section in what seemed like no time. Then we slowed down... Renavigating, I began looking for my land marks. The stairs, the obnoxious blowdown and the big rock at the water crossing. The rest of the hike in-between was auto pilot for me as I looked at my surroundings and smiled. I had it in my mind to swim in the big pool I found once we were closer to the shelter (thank goodness for quick dry compression shorts and a sports bra!). It would be perfect to end the day after working so hard. Before we hit the water crossing, we ran into the Thru hikers form this morning. They are southbound to Georgia and I wished them all the best. Had they not zeroed yesterday, they might have gained my gummy bears. Their packs were well stocked which was also slowing them down. It's always tough to resupply and do these steep trails. I shared with them my opinion of the Carter Moriah range... :P
Once we got back to the shelter, we took a break and sat for a bit. I was running low on water (it was another 3 liter day) but I knew that the car was not that far away either. Isis was getting tired too. She was way past her zen look and more into her, I'm over this look. Extra AC once we got back to the car. We were passed by 2 large groups. One on the upper trail and one that was probably heading to the shelter. It was going to be a busy night on the Carter Moriah range. Isis and I were happy to be down and feeling very satisfied with our day. I changed at the car and located the start of the next section of AT that I needed across the street. We headed for coffee and home.
Today, I realized that the shift in goals that occurred for me was probably the best thing that could happen to me. The potential for me to stretch myself and explore this great trail is so much more exciting to me and leaving the crowds behind has a great appeal (some those busier trail heads are an embarrassment with people parked for miles on the highway). Yet it seems, I still check to see if I have a peak in a certain month and I still try and plan around that... Old habits die hard I guess but I am happy with what is in the forefront while the GRID takes a backseat. It's so much more about the effort for me now and the greater effort for me is in the AT. I never got anything out of life if I half assed it so, why stop now... I'm through focusing on what I'm not (I have plenty of others doing that for me) that I'd rather focus on what I am.... I'm strong enough, I'm passionate enough, I'm brave enough to keep hiking. I am enough... I have one more hike before I leave for the LT (zero the weekend before to get my house in order). Today really showed me that my legs are ready and I am mentally ready. The pack will be heavy, it will be hard, and it will rain too. I already know this... So let's use it all to my strength rather than my weakness. I know what to expect so, that at least will be a help. Perhaps a shake down to the Maine border next weekend (16ish miles out and back) or Webster Jackson from 302... We'll see what the week holds.