I've never been more happy to hike than I was today. After being out for 2 weeks with tendonitis, I was relieved that I could put my pack on and get myself up a mountain. Two weeks ago, I could not move my left arm and my right wrist was not doing well either. One trip to the walk in clinic and I was on a two week vacation with 2 weeks of prescription Naproxen. Thankfully not any longer and no extensive damage as I thought I might have torn my rotator cuff. So, today I had originally planned to head up north to Tecumseh. Well, then I had other ideas... Stratton Mountain. I'm so glad I did this as I feel my ass would have been dragging up Tecumseh for the, I don't know how many times. I really needed the change of scene and I needed to feel at home.
After an hour and a half of back roads from my home in Southern New Hampshire, I landed in familiar territory (So close to home I could still listen to my radio station all the way there). The last time I was here, it was after 2 days of soaking rain and my gear was a mess. When I reached the trail head sign, I had declared that I would take the first camp site I found... It was about 100 feet up from the trail head and it was one of the best nights from back in 2015. My gear did not dry out but I'll get back to that later. This time around, there are 3 SOBO's still asleep at 8:30am in my old campsite. I smiled and tried to keep quiet. There is a slight incline heading up from the parking area which is also big and holds a lot of cars. The trail from there evens out and begins wandering in the woods a little. There are bog bridges over that famous Vermud we all love to hate. The forest around me today is nothing like I remember. It's bright and lush and green over the dreary August day from 2015. My shoulder feels good and I have switched to my day pack, which is feeling lighter than my backpacking pack today. Isis and I enjoy the trail's quiet to ourselves.
We were passed by two women and their dogs. How refreshing it was to be thanked for the warning about Isis being on leash and how nice it was that they kept their pups moving past and complimented Isis. I absolutely loved this over the usual "White Mountain Lecture", which is more like a scolding. Things are different over here as we wished them well. Isis and I are in no hurry today and this is how it should be every day. We get so wrapped up in getting to the summits and "beating time" that we forget it's the stuff in the middle that matters. The trail is very kind. It's such a gradual ascent that I don't even notice the climb. There are a few sections that might qualify as steep but then it levels out quick and gives you a nice mellow section to walk. You hardly notice it. We run into another SOBO about 20 minutes from the top who is hoping to get to Goddard Shelter tonight. I fill him in on the trail and he's appreciative of this info. What a great crowd hiking today. But then, it's not very crowded at all. Isis is doing well as people are leaving her alone for the most part. Unless you are family, you have to let her approach you first otherwise she will snap. Many hikers don't realize this until it's too late. I believe that she too benefitted from time off the trails as she is not acting up at all and is not seeking out treats like a mad puppy. Mind you that all the while I am thinking to myself that this trail seemed so much harder the first time I did it but today, it is flying under my feet. We pass the only real water source. I'd still filter as it is passing over a metal (somewhat rusted) piece to act as a spout. I know we are close now. The trail from here is very enjoyable.
There is a lot of history at that summit. The caretakers (Jean and Hugh) have been there forever. They live in the cabin during hiking season and are full of great information and stories. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and I thanked Jean for getting me going again in 2015. It was her pep talk that got me to continue on and eventually make it to Lincoln Gap. We need more people like her in this world. Isis and I hung out at the summit for quite a while. I tried to get up the tower above the trees but only made it to the first platform before my knees said, You know what... No. So, no real view for me but that's not what this trip was about. The crowd from the gondola was filling in and a few Thru's were milling about. Such an interesting mix of people and I caught some interesting looks between the two groups. What a riot to people watch when tourists, day hikers, and Thrus, meet. We sat back down ad talk with Jean for a while before deciding to head back down. What a joy to hike today.
The hike out went slow at first since Isis really does not like non-loop hikes. Once we got going though, it was smooth sailing. We ran into a few LTer's and a lot of NOBO ATer's on the way up. Mixed in with a family of day hikers. So, the trail was picking up a bit. Everyone was still in great spirits and full of compliments on Isis' behavior. We happened upon a group of naked thru hikers as well shortly after the family. Great kids but I did warn them that there were even younger kids up ahead. In Vermont, you can actually hike naked any time of year so, this is a common occurrence on the trail. They appreciated the warning and began to devise putting some clothes on. Isis and I landed back at our old campsite which was now vacant and waiting for the next group of hikers to amble in for the night (it was still early). I could picture it set up just as I had back in 2015... I pictured how happy I was that my gear was drying and then remembered that more showers came in over night. What a great section of trail for us to re-enter hiking on. I was so thankful for today on so many levels.
LT Camp 2015