Happy New Year! Can you feel it? It's winter out there. But not like the winter we had last year. I had a rematch with Waumbek today. Parked my car by the gas station in town since the winter lot is sometimes a trap for cars who can't make it out. Seeing as it snowed a few inches last night, I made a good choice. Can't park on Starr King Rd either out of respect for the home owners there... Emergency vehicles need to be able to get through. There's also a huge snowbank left from the plow at the end of the residential road and start of the access road to the trail. No one is getting by that. It's warmer than my last trip back in December so, no insulated pants today. Just my long johns and regular hiking pants. Isis also has no jacket today (She only wears it when we hike below zero). Snowshoes are packed and I happily trade the weight to my feet at the actual trailhead.
A note about my Tubbs Flex VRT's. This is my third winter with them. Last winter they only made it up the trail once due to conditions. This year, it looks like they may see more use. I love them. The BOA bindings that have everyone puzzled are my favorite. A lot easier than those old style straps. Currently, I have limited use of my right hand so tightening things, and tying things is a bit of a painful process and a challenge for me. The BOA's allow me to tighten them super tight and I never adjusted them once this hike. They also never got loose or came off. I highly recommend the switch to the BOA bindings.
So, heading up the trail, I am determined to take my time and make it further than last time. I set my sights on Waumbek but as always, I can adjust my plan depending on how I feel. I'm feeling good though so, I keep on going. Trail is well packed but as always, keep wearing the snowshoes to keep it that way all season. I notice that the trail, filled in, is much easier for me to hike today. Ankles feel really strong today and good in the snowshoes. I'm a little more hopeful for a great day. Isis is just happy to be out there too and as always happy to be with me.
Isis and I do great on lead. I switched her back to her non-retractable shorter (6ft) lead, since the retractable one freezes in cold temps. I have more control this way without having to worry about the retraction failing. She's not a fan of being rushed at by strange dogs so, I tend to protect her a little more on the crowded trails of the Whites. As was the case today... I'm through with the 'He's friendly call' from down the trail. Think of my wish to protect my dog as a plea to also help you with your dog... No one gets hurt... Win Win. It's as much about my dog's needs too and I'll advocate for her like I do myself. Plus, no one human or canine truly likes being rushed by a strange dog. Isis was rushed by two off leash dogs. One with poor recall. I make no apologies for how I protect my dog and that includes my loud voice. All dogs have a right to be on trail... Leashed or not. After a break to give plenty of space, we were under way again.
Making our way up the gradual elevation gain, I can feel the work out in my legs, hips, and lungs. Not willing to give up today, the pace slows on the ascent. My gloves are on and off and my fingers are doing OK in the cold (still can't make a fist with my right hand but I can at least bend them a little today). Not very many people are coming up behind us so, we just keep our slow pace. The blue sky is starting to peak through but I can hear the wind churning up above too. The snow pack is a little less consolidated in sections so, the snowshoes keep paying off for me today. The temps are dropping. Some of the longer steeper ascent really tax my legs but I push through. We reached the turn for the ridge and a flatter trail awaited us... Until it started going up... And down... And up... And down... And up again. But in-between, there are decent flat stretches to enjoy. Up's are definitely a weak point for me right now. Energy sapping.
I started running into other hikers on this section. Everyone is great moods and my apologies to the two guys I came up on (One was in the middle of his business). You know what they say, if you want to run into anyone on the trail, take a pee. The winds are getting stronger and starting to blow the trail in a little more. Temps continue to drop and we continue up the trail. I'll be ecstatic to get to Starr King... My hands are starting to hurt even in the gloves. But I can still work my fingers so, onward we hike. I use my left hand to bend the fingers of my right into a "fist", to keep the joints moving. The sun peaks through the tree tops but is quickly obscured by clouds.
There are a lot of breaks on this section of trail to catch my breath. I noticed my coat is soaked, and I feel chilled by this so, I think of switching back to last years coat which stayed dryer. I can use this coat off trail. Once we make the final push and then the flat walk to the Starr King Fireplace, I smile. I've made it farther than the last time. Small victories when you're feeling less than stellar. The wind is blowing and there's poor visibility. I know that the ridge to Waumbek is probably blown in but before I can even push towards the trail, Isis makes a complete and quick 180 and we start heading back down. I don't stop her and try and force the issue. I just follow her lead. Starr King was great for us today. The walk down is quicker paced and a lot less taxing on my hips and lungs. All those that we ran into still climbing, were in great spirits. Amazing how happy people can be putting themselves through some strenuous physical paces. Always nice to chat with people though... While I may be a solo hiker, I do enjoy others on the trail.
So, Happy New Year to everyone! May you continue to enjoy exploring the trails and peaks that you want. Set goals for your self and enjoy the journey. I'm hiking as much as I can while waiting to see Rheumatology later this month... Originally they were not going to accommodate me until April! I can't have that. I need answers and treatment now since well, I'm leaving for the Long Trail in 5 months. Yes, the beginning of June this go around to Canada. As always, this is my long term goal. Hoping for the best with my current situation but the good thing is that exercise does the body good... I'll keep hiking for better health.