Mt Jefferson, Mt Washington, Mt Monroe, Mt Eisenhower, Mt Pierce, Mt Jackson – 6/12/20

Hi folks!

I’m apparently on a roll of posting a monthly blog post, as the last post I wrote was May 14th recapping the Squam Range Traverse. Today I’m back with another hike recap, shocker, I know.

Before getting into the Mt. Jefferson to Mt. Jackson traverse, let’s chat about life lately real quick. I’ve been hiking A LOT. Like, A LOT A LOT. And, completely digging it. Hands down the highest volume of hiking I’ve ever done/sustained and knock on all the possible wood but my body feels good and rest days are magical as well. The month of June has been an interesting and humbling month as all the hiking is related to a “June hiking project”.

Being someone that normally doesn’t set goals directly but who also competed nationally in sport as a child, this experience been out of my recent element but also a total blast. At the end of the day, and even the end of each week, I’m finding myself just proud of myself and the human I’ve been hiking with for most of the hikes, and just genuinely fulfilled. Hiking, nature, the woods – they feel like home. Everything flows. Everything makes sense.

Outside of the hiking project — I’m nearing the end of my Sports Nutrition course and will start the final exam/certification process soon, I have a job interview next week for a position at a addiction treatment center, have been low-key looking at graduate programs, made some mega changes to my business website, and have been doing loads of internal reflection on what I want to continue/start/stop “pursuing”/including in my life.

Now, onto the hike recap:

GPS from Strava

Hike info: Covering from Mt. Jefferson to Mt. Jackson (6 peaks) in the Presidential Range in New Hampshire, 18.2 miles and 6,680 ft. elevation gain.

Trails taken: Jewell Trail, Gulfside, Jefferson Loop, Monroe Loop, Eisenhower Loop, Crawford Path, Webster Cliff Trail, Webster-Jackson Trail.

First trail junction of the day

Jess and I met at the Depot Lot in Crawford Notch in the morning to leave a car for the end of the hike. From there, we carpooled (in masks… something we’ve been doing all along) to the Cog parking lot where we started up the Jewell Trail from. You can pick up Jewell Trail from its trailhead across the street from the Ammonusuc Ravine parking lot, or at the Cog Railroad lot. We opted for the ladder to cut off a little mileage as we had “enough” miles planned that day/that week/this month. Why add more.

Had Jefferson Notch Road been open, we likely would’ve taken Caps Ridge Trail up Jefferson to start versus taking Jewell Trail up to Gulfside, over to Jefferson and back (as you can see on the above GPS, we retraced a little over a mile and a half. Caps is also a lovely (and fun) approach.

Sitting on Jefferson summit, looking at Adams
Jefferson summit rock pile

A little before the intersection of Jewell and Gulfside trails, you leave treeline and remain above treeline. For this hike, we were above treeline until the section between Mt. Eisenhower and Mt. Pierce. The day of this hike was a WINDY one. Higher summits forecast called for 30-40mph sustained wind with guts up to 50mph. Let me tell you, this was the windiest hike I’ve ever done. While I’ve been in wind this strong, it’s never been for this duration of time, or sustained winds. Definitely an experience. I was certainly glad the temperature was fairly warm and the skies were sunny.

Earlier in the week, we had intentions of a full Presidential Traverse (two days before this hike). When getting up to the Madison Spring Hut we knew this wasn’t happening as the forecast was not in our favor that day. We submitted Madison and then called it, deciding we would hike Adams solo another day and then Jefferson to Jackson later in the week. While I’m cool with wind in warmer temps and sun, the day of Madison was socked in, cooler, and drizzling. #notafan. Working on my comfort zone I suppose? Yes, yes, this is good for me.

Walking on Gulfside headed back towards Washington
Alongside Gulfside Trail

Mt. Jefferson is one of my favorite peaks of the NH 48. Monroe too. So, this hike day was surely a favorite. This was my first hike linking multiple presidential peaks since mid-Winter and it was a treat to be up on those higher exposed summits again for a full hiking day.

After summitting Jefferson, we headed back towards Washington. Unlike Jefferson and Monroe, Washington is one of my least favorite peaks, mainly because it’s not exactly an empty summit per se. With everything going on around COVID right now, Washington wasn’t busy this day outside of the mass of skiers and snowboarders we saw on Gulfside Trail as we approached the summit. This was the first hike of Washington I’ve done where there wasn’t a line to take a photo with the summit sign – a slightly off-putting feeling.

Yay hiking!

After reaching Washington we quickly left and continued onwards toward Monroe. With higher winds on the summit and not wanting to need to add any layers, plus a chance of afternoon T-storms, it was best to at least get ourselves off the highest summit of the day.

The hike from Washington to the Lake of the Clouds went by quick and we were surprised to see a fair amount of ice and snow remaining on the Lake. Not surprising was a closed Lake of the Clouds hut. Alike Washington summit, with COVID, the AMC huts have been closed (although some are now opening for certain uses as far as I know). It’s been a little strange hiking during this time, with trying to distance, cover our faces, and yet still wanting to be friendly. The vibe has felt a little off in general although we have had some hikes were it felt more “normal”.

Semi-frozen Lake of the Clouds

After passing by the hut we took a quick snack pit stop at the trail junction where you can either take Crawford Path and bypass Monroe or the Monroe Loop Trail. The last time I was on Monroe was during a hike of Monroe and Washington last summer with my friend Dawna. A surprise surprise (sarcasm) is that day also had a chance of T-storms. Welcome to summer in the White Mountains.

From Monroe to Eisenhower is one of my favorite stretches of trail, it’s gorgeous and Crawford Path is quite lovey especially after a morning of Northern Presidential rock hopping. Along this stretch we were also welcomed with a good amount of alpine flowers! We were also playing leap frog a bit throughout the day with another hiker who was out for a full traverse that day, and passed him again on this section. It’s always entertaining leapfrogging throughout the day and saying to people “oh, hey there again!”.

Diapensia
Crawford Path between Monroe and Eisenhower

When we reached the Eisenhower summit we were shocked to be the only two humans there. THIS.DOES.NOT.HAPPEN. Grateful to have this experience.

Between Eisenhower and Pierce is the first stretch of treeline we had been in since popping out early morning and it felt so warm being out of the wind and in the humidity (a trend that has decided to stick around… again, hello summer.) I even ended up changing from the leggings I had been in all day to shorts a little further on because #teamnopants and I had them in my pack so why not?! Perks of packing shorts: you can change into them if able, or if you get cold you can keep your bum warm but putting them over your pants… a little protip (but please don’t try this in winter… or at a minimum at least pack a second pair of pants too).

Looking at the trail to Pierce from Eisenhower
Jess

One neat thing about this day, was that exactly three years prior I had hiked Pierce which was my first 4000 footer back after stress fracturing my fibula. I wouldn’t have know this had social media not told me, but I found this really eye opening to how far I’ve come and how much progress has been made as these years have elapsed. Pierce was also my first solo hike, so needless to say this mountain holds a special place in my heart.

View from Pierce. And some rad clouds.
Another closed hut (Mizpah hut)

Between Pierce and Jackson is another neat section of below tree-line trail. The trail passes by another hut which alike Lake of the Clouds hut, was closed. For the most part, once off of the Pierce summit the trail is fairly moderate and there are some flat sections which felt like gold for the feet after the morning. My favorite part of this section of trail has to be the bog bridges!

The final stretch headed towards Jackson

Once on Jackson we had another food break before the final descent to the car. Jackson was technically my first 4000 footer well before I got into hiking or knew what the 4000 footers were. Each time I’m on this summit I can’t help but think back to what my life was like at this point, similarly to Pierce on this day I suppose. I think the reflection is important, and there has sure been a lot of it this month. Hiking has been such a pivotal addition to my life, and I hope it’s something that I’m always capable of doing in some capacity. For the current moment, I’m grateful for a body that allows me to pursue “hiking projects”.

“I think things are beautiful when you don’t plan them, and you don’t have any expectations, and you’re not trying to get somewhere in particular.” – Alison Mosshart

Squam Range Traverse – 5/14/20

Well… hello blog fam!

It’s been a hot minute… month… two months. With current world/life events, I’ve found myself extremely uninspired to write/blog/create. Instead of forcing it out of feeling like I “should” or that I need to be productive – I’ve given myself the space and time needed to just be with my thoughts and feelings throughout the past two months. Honestly, I’m really proud of myself for this too. I’m a “doer”, and slowing down to give space doesn’t come naturally for me. At all.

Quickie life update: I’m furloughed from my part-time job until mid-July, the gym I was about to begin personal training at is closed, I will likely be done my Sports Nutrition Certification early/mid July, haven’t watched the news in a few weeks, my living situation is very socially distant, my 7 year recovery anniversary was the first weekend of May, I’ve come to conclusion that I’m an extremely independent introvert, and it’s been feeling like summer this week and I’m BEYOND giddy.

The past few weeks have felt a little more “normal”. While far from normal, I’ve been hiking again and having some (distant) social contact. Both of these have proven to be very helpful. I’m grateful to live in an area and be in a position where these are even possible.

View from Cotton Mountain, NH

Last Thursday, my friend Jess and I hiked the Squam Range Traverse in the Lakes Region of NH! If you’re a follower of my blog, you might be asking “who is Jess?!”. This is a fun story. So, good ol’ social media land – Jess and I have followed each other on Instagram for a while and had been chatting on occasion about hiking and such. Both of us had been doing lots of local walks and we just happened to run into (not literally) when I was out for a walk on my road and recognized each other! How crazy, right?! Anyways, we’ve gone on a handful of walks and hikes since and I’m stoked to have a new gal pal/adventure partner in crime.

Both of us have been taking social distancing, keeping local, and staying off the higher summits very seriously. For me, April consisted of road walks mainly from my apartment, lifting in the basement, and towards the end of the month a few local hikes. May has included some less local hiking, still within an hour drive. Insert Squam Range Traverse.

This hike is a gem and about 35-40 minutes from where I live. The most interesting part of the day was needing a car spot so during the 20 minute drive from each end of the hike in the morning and afternoon, Jess and I wore facemasks in the car – an interesting experience to say the least. Interesting, potentially overkill seeing we are both in the VERY UNLIKELY category, but important right now.

Crawford Ridgepole Trail sign

With not wanting to hike the higher summits at the current moment, trying to avoid snow as much as possible (real talk: over it), and wanting a slightly longer hike, we opted for the Squam Traverse. With where our cars were parked it was a 11.5 mile and 3,894ft vert. hike… according to Strava that is.

This traverse crosses over seven peaks – Cotton Mountain, Mt. Livermore, Mt. Webster, Mt. Morgan, Mt. Percival, Mt. Squam, and East Doublehead. Ups and downs throughout the day.

More trail time has felt like home. Pure bliss. I’m so thankful to have these mountains either in my backyard or relatively close to it. Moving North last October was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life for a handful of reasons… and that is being solidified almost daily at the moment in terms of location and feeling safe.

From Mt. Livermore

Before this hike, Jess and I had hiked the Morgan Percival loop the week prior and I low-key fell in love with the Squam Range (and the short drive to it). This range is beautiful, the drive is through a rural country area for the most part, and well it was Spring here before it was Spring where I live. Triple win. One “silver lining” of all that is going on in the world right now, is that I’ve been able to find new places and expand my scope a bit. On this, it feels off to say “silver lining”, because I still wish this wasn’t all happening. But I’m trying my best to be safe, make calculated decisions, be kind, and support myself and my friends/family to the best of my current ability. And with supporting myself to the best of my current ability comes hiking. Because for me, hiking is, and has always been, a form of self-care. It just looks a little different right now.

Trees!

Being in the mountains more recently after about a month and a half of staying home/very close to home has reminded me why I hike and why the mountains feel like home. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and not take a step back and remember the WHY behind why we do what we do. While the forced “step back” isn’t ideal, it’s definitely got me thinking. A lot of my thoughts lately have been kept fairly private vs. the usual blogging, instagram story tangents, or even just talking about them. I’ve needed the additional solitude, alone time, space to just be and process for my own mind.

One of the biggest lessons hiking, or more specifically the trail, has taught me – it’s all about the process. The golden nuggets are found in the process.

Crawford Ridgepole Trail, NH

While I’m not sure what is to come in terms of… well… anything really (anyone have a crystal ball?) – I look forward to future trail time and trying to just keep doing my best at navigating whatever is throw in my direction with the uncertainty of the world.

“When I feel lost, I remember I am not the woods. I am my own tree.” – Glennon Doyle

XO, S

Solo Mt. Willard adventure day 2/16/20 & being honest with yourself

Hey folks!

Happy Tuesday. I’m currently writing this post from my couch, drinking turmeric tea with vanilla hemp milk + cinnamon + local honey, and looking up every so often watching the snow fall outside.

Sunday was a “solo” frolic day to Mt. Willard. I quoted solo because I was very much not alone, me and my 50 closest friends were hiking that mountain. What do I mean? It’s a popular mountain, a 52 with a view, was a holiday weekend, and currently Massachusetts school vacation week.

I almost hiked a 4000 footer instead. But between my ankle being sore from wearing snowshoes all day on the last three hikes (wanted to pick a hike I KNEW I would not need snowshoes and not push miles), and wanting to hike a mountain that felt like literal home to my core (Willard was the first mountain I hiked as a kid and was my first ever solo hike a few years ago)… Willard it was.

View from the summit

It’s honestly a lovely little mountain, with a stellar view. I felt social Sunday too so I was totally fine with the fact that I literally passed 20+ other hikers on my ascent. My tactic when approaching other hikers or groups of hikers from behind when going faster than them is to enthusiastically say “hello!” which then the typical response I receive is “oh hello” and some other conversation or “fast hiker move out of the way”, to which I giggle. But regardless I’ve found being super enthusiastic is great because 9 times out of 10 the response is enthusiastic in return. After passing I’ll typically then say “happy hiking” or “happy frolicking”, in an equally giddy tone of voice. I wonder if some people think I’ve lost it.

Moody mountains

At this point in my life I am high-key convinced the universe is no longer messing around. There have been way too many “this will never work” scenarios that have worked and synchronicities in the past year or so.

Two Sundays ago, on my solo hike to Mt. Tom, when coming back down the Tom Spur Trail, I met another hiker named Jen. We chatted for a bit and I mentioned the blog to her and that I post my hike reports in the women’s hiking group on Facebook and to contact me through that so we could hike. Fast forward to this past Sunday, Jen and her daughter were hiking Willard and I came up behind with my usual “hello!”, when they turned around we were both jaw-drop shocked. Jen hadn’t seen the Facebook post so we ended up exchanging information on trail yesterday and are going to hike together at some point. Literally though, okay universe, I get it.

I kept on going and was pleasantly surprised when I reached the summit that nobody else was there. Having the summit of Willard to myself after passing so many humans was shocking and I embraced every second of it. There is something truly magical about being by yourself on a mountain summit.

Jen and her daughter were actually the next to summit, and we all chatted up there while taking pictures and enjoying the warm sunshine. I ended up hiking down “with” them, we are about the same speed and would randomly say something to one another. All of us decided after getting back to the start of the hike that we would go check out the Cascade Loop which was just up trail. While the Cascades were frozen and snow covered now, I’m sure they are beautiful in the summer and am mentally noting to make another visit.

I love the hiking community that is out there. It’s part of why I feel so safe out hiking alone, because for the most part the people I meet on trail are genuinely wonderful human beings out enjoying nature and the mountains. The fact that I can just pick up conversation with folks on trail and sometimes that leads to new hiking pals, other times I just learn about someone else’s passion and love for hiking – it’s neat.

I love that over 50% of my current friends I’ve met through hiking and it’s great to be able to share an activity which is such an integral part of my life with friends.

From Willard Summit

This Winter has been an interesting one to summarize it into one adjective. During the moving and initial settling in process I figured I would get settled rather quickly (2-3 months), immerse myself into the community up North, find a new gym (for meathead lifting side), snowboard a bunch, get into cross-country skiing as a winter endurance thing to make the hit of not road biking much until Spring less of a sting plus I want to get into XC (I road biked year round on the seacoast and it’s slightly different up here for this).

I did not settle quickly.
→ Progress not perfection

The immersion has been slow.
→ There’s some progress, but my social butterfly hat has been hidden in the closet 87.4% of the time

Finding my gym home happened TODAY
→ Tried the local CrossFit gym, not my M.O. Unlike the seacoast, there are not many options for gyms. Big news on this one – I went to a different local gym this morning and can happily say I found my gym home. Also happy to report that having not done a single pull up since October (when I moved), I can still do 11 strict ones. Pull up queen 😉 The ego got a slight pat on the back today.

I haven’t snowboarded once.
→ 60% because it’s been a weird snow winter, 40% because I haven’t had much desire to. Maybe this will change, maybe not. I’m content with either.

No skiing.
→ I ordered cross country skis and the order was cancelled by the company SIX WEEKS later due to inventory. Cool beans, no skis for me (this season).

It’s been interesting.
→ I’ve been feeling out of element, a little off kilter.

Lifting today feels like a good step towards “re-kiltering”. While I’ve been doing at home lifting sessions, which I do love, I am personally someone who benefits from the community aspect of a gym. I also really like barbell movements and pull ups and don’t have a barbell or a way to do pull ups at home. Feeling content and excited.

The past few days a concept I’ve been thinking about is how is how crucial it is to be friendly with oneself, and to reflect on current life regularly and honesty. I think this is coming up because I’ve been feeling off kilter. For me, when I find myself feeling off I know I need some solid reflection. The primary question is: is it an out of element feeling that is a sign of growth or an out of element feeling which is a signal/cue that I need to change something.

Right now: it’s both.

It’s both needing to shift a little and the discomfort of growth.

And it’s ok that it’s both.

I’m glad to have the awareness that it’s both.

Aware of the needs not being met. Community & connection is the biggest one.

And so, I focus a little more energy towards shifting. Towards finding ways to not feel as much like a ping-pong ball mentally with high highs and low lows. Transitions are hard and I’m growing my roots again.

“So, what if, instead of thinking about solving your whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.” – Rainbow Rowell

Solo Mt.Tom – 2/9/20 & being a safe space for yourself

Hey pals!

Two solo hikes in one week. Two Winter 4000 footer solo hikes in one week. Who am I becoming? I’m not quite sure, but I dig it. I really really deeply dig it.

Pierce was a wonderful solo day this past Wednesday, and I think that hike set the tone for this one. Like I talked about in the Pierce blog post, it’s all the process.

Yesterday was MAGIC. Epic. Stunning. Narnia-land.

It was also gratifying, freeing, and comforting.

I woke up unsure if I was even going to hike. I knew of a few friends hiking various mountains, none of that felt right. I’ve been angsty the past few days. Lie. The past few weeks. It’s just been a little more in my conscious awareness the past few days. Knowing this, I knew yesterday needed to feel good on a soul level.

It did.

Ultimately I decided I would drive to Crawford Notch to hike something in the Tom/Field/Willey Range. Tom ended up being the decision, and while my ego wanted to go tag Field, I didn’t. Quite frankly, I’m tired of doing things purely out of ego. It’s self-deprecating and when I do things out of ego it gives the vibe to my being that the internal soul self is less important.

OVER IT.

I think ego is arguably the hardest component of personal growth to tackle.

It’s so intertwined. To everything. And it’s easy to live based off ego in the Freudian sense (can you tell I have a degree in Psychology/neuroscience 😉 ) without even recognizing it. There’s a lot of unraveling to be done when getting to the core of why we do what we do – like peeling an onion.

Mt Tom summit

So, Mt. Tom hike from Crawford Notch: a lovely 5.8 mile frolic through the woods using the Avalon trail, A-Z trail, and Tom spur trail.

I LOVE the Tom Spur, it begins as dense trees and slowly opens up as you near the summit. While A-Z trail for about the half mile before you get to the junction with Tom Spur is consistently moderate, the Tom Spur is a lovely section of relatively easy trail.

I met some wonderful folks along the Spur, one who is also in the NH Women’s Hiking Group on Facebook, and two others who referenced themselves as “seniors”, ha! It was great to have conversations with all of them. This is one aspect of solo hiking I love – conversations with other hikers. When hiking with friends I rarely spark conversation with other hikers outside of the usual “hi”, “hello”, “happy hiking”, but when solo it can range from meeting new hiking pals to learning about what got someone into hiking, it’s so fascinating.

The other parts of this hike were, for the most part, me myself and I. Alike the recap of Pierce last week, this is another nontraditional hike recap.

Tom Spur Trail

When I first began solo hiking two years(ish) ago, I didn’t really enjoy it. There was some fear of the normal things one might be afraid of when being alone in the woods, but mostly I didn’t feel comfortable alone. I couldn’t necessarily pinpoint the discomfort at this time.

Being alone, in solitude – it’s a lot. You are all by yourself, in nature, with your body and mind. As a highly introspective and aware human being, this is overwhelming.

It was overwhelming because I didn’t feel safe in my body and mind. I still needed some level of detachment.

Avalon Trail

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so introspective, self-aware. Some of this is an innate tendency. I was a highly aware kid. Journaling and writing were practices I naturally adopted around age 12-13. Part of it is having experienced a near decade long battle with anorexia and working my way out of that. And part of it is what comes with doing personal growth work. But it can be lonely, isolating, painful. The more you understand yourself, it can, for a period, feel like nothing makes sense. This is an interim.

It’s understanding your own values, belief systems, intuition, and being able to honestly and gracefully call oneself out.

It’s not running from the dark that will come up.

This work – I wouldn’t go back and undo any of it. Because it really is the answer of why I’m able to actually help people. Because I’m doing the work, and I’m able to give space for people doing the work, and actually understand that it’s a long haul process.

This doesn’t make it easier.

Tom summit

I’m often asked if I’m afraid solo hiking. My answer has always been no – partly because I don’t feel like hearing peoples concern if I say “yes” and partly because even with some degree of fear it has still overall felt safer than general “front-country” life. My answer may soon shift to no because there really isn’t anything to fear if you trust your judgement and let go of ego/”shoulds”/”have to’s”/are aware of weather and surroundings.

I was grabbed by someone at work a few weeks ago. A male, 60’s-ish. I work in retail. THIS IS NOT OK. This is also reality. This happens. This contributes to the lack of feeling unsafe, from a different angle.

As someone who has been through a lot of darkness I still was taken back by this. And, honestly, I shouldn’t have an inkling of “oh well it is what it is and I can handle it”. It just isn’t ok. I’m tired of normalizing.

This shines a bright light onto why I am becoming more into solo time in the woods. I need time with my brain and body. I NEED them to be online with each other. I need to feel safe in my brain and body, because they are both mine and nobody can take that from me.

My fave Spur trail

Yesterday I found myself incredibly curious. Curious of what I would see around each corner. Curious of if I’d see any wildlife. Curious of how many mountains I’d end up summiting. Curious what would come up in my brain.

Solo hiking is incredibly healing when I stay curious and feel safe in my brain and body.

I’m learning that the level of detachment I used to still need, I don’t need it anymore. Rather, there is more of a craving towards more attachment and understanding. Less running from the feelings, and more embracing and thanking of them for being there.

The fight/freeze response I would often historically experience, it’s becoming very rare these days. It’s still here, in my physical body and mind, but avoiding it isn’t the answer. I felt it at work that day, and each shift for probably a week after. Our bodies know. Allowing this side of my being to feel safe is the answer.

Running from it only exacerbates it. No matter how good at running you are. It will catch up.

Oh hello Mt. Washington

The clouds are always moving, branches and pine needles rustling in the wind –

but you don’t notice until you stop to watch.

I didn’t notice I didn’t feel safe in my body and mind until I felt it. And, I FELT IT.

Likewise, I didn’t notice I felt safe until I stopped and watched the clouds. This is literal – I stopped on the A-Z trail headed back to my car and watched the clouds for close to probably five minutes.

In awe, content, happy, and SAFE.

There is a sense of becoming a home for myself.

“Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.” – Bethany Hamilton