Solo Mt. Pierce – 2/5/20 & a story of shifting

Hi folks!

Happy Friyay 🙂

Wednesday was another frolic up (and down) Mt. Pierce. Guys, I was just on this mountain last week. Might be time to call an intervention soon. I kid, I kid. The contrast from last Thursday to Wednesday though is crazy, it was such a different summit experience and Eisenhower looked much more moody.

The southern presidentials are so wonderful and they feel like a great hike option for a half-day hike (considering your pace of course) and they are far enough to feel like the escape I need. This is actually one of the hardest things about living up north – finding my escape. Coming up here for the day to hike always felt like an escape from the seacoast, because it was. The mountains, North Conway, anywhere past mid-NH on 93 or 16 would do the trick. Living here is different. I LOVE it, but it’s different. I find myself in North Conway no longer feeling that same magical experience. It’s too close to where I live. Rather, it’s more the mountains that provide this now, especially the ones that are an hour to and hour and a half away, not 30 minutes. Something about the drive to and from, time to get really excited and time to reflect on the hike after.

From Pierce looking at Eisenhower last Thursday
From Pierce looking at Eisenhower Wednesday (photo credit Sue)

This hike was actually my first winter solo 4000 footer. I’ve hiked solo in the winter before, but never a 4K. I’ve hiked a handful of 4K’s solo, but mostly summer and fall.

It was fun.

Freeing.

Full of joy.

I felt so much enthusiasm.

Exhibit A:

The solo hike was great for my creative mind. I had two client calls Tuesday eve, so spending time along in nature the following day was great for brainstorming ideas for them! I find nature is where I do my best thinking, where the puzzle pieces come together.

I’ve started keeping a notebook in my car for post hike thoughts, or even when I’m just driving and need to get something out (is this what writing a book looks like?). Historically I would voice message myself or create a voice memo. I prefer actual pen to paper. Voice messages do still come in handy though when I can’t write fast enough, which happens.

Crawford Path

This post isn’t a typical recap.

I could simply only write about the hike and trail itself – telling you that the winter wonderland is real. That the wind on the summit was very much present and whipping. How I was happy to have many layers on. And that there were very few hikers out on Wednesday, one of which was my landlord, Sue, which was fun and I enjoyed playing the guessing game of at what point I would catch her and her hiking friend on my ascent.

That could be my post.

Rather, there’s more of a story to this hike.

And I love stories.

I’m an introvert. Myers Briggs INFP for those than know what that means. I come across as an extrovert often because of my outgoing tendencies. I’m social. I enjoy connection and can appear to thrive in most social realms. I love public speaking. Teaching is one of my favorite things.

But I need that alone time. If I don’t get it, I combust, eventually.

Alone time equates to recharge the battery and recalibrate the balance.

Working part time in retail again has taken a nice hit towards my introvert side which also means my creative side. I’m notoriously bad at saying ‘no’ when people place external expectations on me in work environments. I’ve never been a human who operates for extended periods of times. I operate in bursts, often accomplishing in 2 hours what takes others 4-5. It’s my M.O. I dig the company I am working for, and my co-workers, these are the saving graces.

Flashback to September:

Moving North was the icing on the metaphorical cake.

I didn’t think I was going to pull it off, but deep down I knew it was happening. This whole intuition/sixth sense/internal knowing has been running the show for a while now and I’m learning more and more to just trust it vs. question and trust it.

Moving wasn’t an option. Staying on the seacoast or relocating was an option. Staying in the comfort of employment that was already established, in an area with a strong support system close by, and in the geographical location I had lived my entire life – option 1. Moving away, finding a part-time gig to support myself as I embark further into entrepreneur land, piecing together new social connections, acclimating to a new area – option 2.

Option 2.

Insert: trust fall with the universe and my gut feels.

I was terrified but there was a little spark inside of me that knew it needed to happen.

What has been so painful is feeling a lack in creative energy. So many ideas but an inability to act.

And fear. Fearing my capacity. Fearing the light. I’ve been so efficient at managing the dark stuff for years, that actually it has become more comfortable.

Fast forward to now: puzzle pieces are aligning. While I describe working retail as a highly sensitive introvert kind of like the Dementors in Harry Potter are coming for you – I did it for 9 years before, so I can surely do it for the time being. I’m getting my groove in navigating this specific position as well and reminding myself that it isn’t my career, which helps. The clients I am working with are wonderful. I have found a space for an office in North Conway. Things are coming together and my sleeve is full of ideas.

Ideas that are becoming pen to paper not just running around in my head.

It’s a process.

I needed to slow down to speed up again.

Not a linear process.

Wednesdays hike was one of the moments I’ve felt most alive since moving. The other most alive moments have occurred within the past few weeks.

Things are shifting.

My brain and body are coming back online with each other.

It feels more flow than force.

I needed a chunk of time with myself and my parts. Self-ingredients.

Wednesdays hike (run) of Pierce was that chunk of time.

I just let myself feel all of it and embrace all of it.

The fear. The dark. The light. The unknowns.

Reminded myself that I can take care of myself.

Reminded myself of what I’ve previously overcome and that this in and of itself is actually the primary reason I started my business.

It’s not a puzzle, it’s just the process.

The current stage of the process and my story is this:

Rekindle the fire, do what I can to stay stoked and full of enthusiasm, trust trust trust, be an introvert as much as my creative self needs, and chase all the squirrels that feel like they are going to support the light not the dark.

Oh, and love. Love for everything that’s unfolding.

“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.” — Robert Holden

Mt. Liberty & Mt. Flume – 2/2/20

Hi folks!!!

First off, there are way too many “2’s” in the date of this hike. 2/2/20. That’s like three of them. Four if I use 2020… and then it’s a palindrome. Also, how is it 2020? I remember when 2010 was a big deal.

I digress from this tangent.

Sunday was one of those hikes where at the end I felt pure understanding. It wasn’t the stoked feeling I often experience with longer hikes, nor the introspection which occurs with solo hikes – it was a hike where the pieces aligned and everything made sense. A friend asked me Sunday evening how the hike was, to which my response was “NEEDED”.

Somewhere along Liberty Spring Trail

Originally my friend Melissa and I were discussing hiking the entire Franconia Ridge as a traverse, up Old Bridle Path to Mt. Lafayette and then across to Mt. Lincoln, Little Haystack, Mt. Liberty, and Mt. Flume, to then take Osseo Trail and Lincoln woods out. With a little bit of an iffy forecast, both of us having just done hikes, and me being sleepy AF, we made a plot twist early morning to “only” hike Liberty and Flume, aka Fliberty, but still as a traverse.

Our route: ascend via Liberty Springs Trail, tag Mt. Liberty, continue to Mt. Flume, and then take Osseo and Lincoln Woods out. A lovely 10.6 mile frolic.

I dig traverse hikes. It’s never repeat terrain and therefore there is this extra little spark of unknown excitement.

Having hiked Liberty the first day of spring a few years ago (which, it was very much winter), and Flume last winter via Osseo our and back, I knew the trails, and that Sunday was going to be a good day!

Looking at Flume from Liberty summit

Melissa and I met at the Lincoln Woods parking area at 9am to leave a car and take the other to Liberty Springs Trailhead. We started our hike around 9:30/45am, and there were a handful of other cars in the lot. Liberty is a popular winter hike, which isn’t surprising with the wonderful views it offers and superb butt sledding down if you’re into that. We joked at the end of the hike that we should have traversed the peaks the opposite direction so that we could have sledded down Liberty!!! Next time.

I always forget just how persistent the climb up Liberty is until about mile 1.5. Liberty Springs isn’t that steep, it just doesn’t quit. Up, up, up. I am one of the few humans I’m finding who greatly prefers summer trails. By summer, I mean not snow covered. Hands down winter hiking is lovely, practically Narnia, fun (hi, sledding), and falling on snow is softer than rocks. But, my ankles actually prefer the “staircase like” aspect to summer trails. Odd duckling, I know.

Hello from Liberty!

This was actually my first hike with Melissa, we met on trail when my friend Louis and I hiked Hale and Zealand this past fall and have been low-key trying to find a day to hike since then! Yay for new hiking pals 🙂

Somewhere between the two peaks
Flume summit

All the trails we took were packed out, with Liberty Springs, the section between peaks, and Lincoln Woods being hard packed white mountain highways. Osseo wasn’t as consolidated and arguably one could use snowshoes however it’s that type of “packed” where using snowshoes could lead to solid ankle twisting. We opted for spikes car to car.

My favorite section of the Osseo trail is hands down the ladder section, which in the winter when fully snow covered is sledding heaven. Having this trail not be as “highway status” as the others was helpful for more controlled butt sledding here. Also, I’d like to add that I’m becoming more and more of a fan of the Smartwool skirts. Not only is it a great option to quickly add if your lower body needs some extra warmth, but they are great for sledding too 😉 !

Skirt!

Another fun part of the day was having a snowman friend at our lunch spot. We opted to not take much time on either summit as it was snowing and rather chilly, and I’m so glad we waited because this (kind of grumpy looking) snowman was great company for PB&J time!

All in all this hike was lovely. Good conversations were had, the trails were in great condition, it was snowing lightly most of the day, and everyone we met on trail was friendly and seemed happy to be outside!

I’m excited that there was conversation about low-key planning a Bonds traverse from Zealand to Lincoln Woods if we can coordinate another hiking day soon! The Bonds will always have my heart as Bondcliff was my 48th 4000 footer!

Flume summit

As of late I’ve been dealing with feelings like I should be doing certain hikes, X number of miles, keeping X pace cropping up. Hello, ego… I see you. Placing slight “blame” on my naturally highly competitive side (looking at you 10 year old nationally competitive jump-roper Sarah), and also that I’m internalizing what many of of hiking pals are doing this winter such as single season winter 48 attempts. There’s been a lot of conversations lately which include one of the following statements, “I’m doing a small hike (insert 10-12 mile hike)”, “I love long days because I can eat whatever”, “I’m pushing limits I didn’t even know I had”, etc.

Real talk: I GET IT.

I’ve had all of those thoughts before in relation to hiking or past running experience. Heck, I’ve probably even said them out loud at some point.

My current reality isn’t revolving around a single season winter 48, not my goal. It isn’t to crush big mile days, although I do dig them.

It’s to grow my business, keep my creative energy high in the growth and book writing process, and allow my body some space after the last year of hecticness. Almost the polar opposite of what my ego is voicing.

I chalk this up to the “icky” feelings. Something I’ve wrote about before is what to do when thoughts that feel like absolute shit pop up, because they will. They always will. No matter how far along one is in their journey. It’s a cha-cha.

You know: fear, shame, guilt, envy, anger, irritation, restlessness.

The things nobody wants to talk about.

Historically I’ve found getting curious to be the most ideal method to approach these. Getting curious about the feelings, questioning them, why are they there, trying to stop running from them, and allowing them to teach me something.

It’s all a lesson.

I’m choosing to stay curious, and keep growing by supporting myself in the ways that deeply feel good to me and for my body/mind.

I’m choosing to not let the “icky” manifest, because that’s not helpful. It’s a teacher, not a destination.

This hike was what I needed Sunday because it was trail time that felt just right on every level.

“If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realizing that you are the author.” Houlahan

Mt. Pierce & Mt. Eisenhower – 1/30/20

Hey folks!

First hike recap on the blog for 2020 and it’s now February 1st. This is weird. Time is moving fast kids.

Thursday marked my 20th (I think, I really should check) frolic up Pierce and my first time hiking Eisenhower in “technical” winter. Let me tell you, I’ve very much hiked Eisenhower multiple times in full-winter conditions. And, every single time, yesterday included, the summit has been the warmest part of the entire hike. Odd but I’m good with it – means a longer break on top without the increased risk of getting too chilly. It also means I can feel my fingers when I take 76 photos in hopes 6 of them turn out how it looks in real life.

However, pro tip: pack sunscreen on days when going above alpine zone for more than an hour or so, especially when it’s sunny. Got myself a baby sunburn. Clearly I didn’t follow my own pro tip. Note to self: follow this in the future, your face will thank you.

Crawford Path at the beginning of the day

My friend Corey and I had been debating hike options and ultimately picked this duo on Wednesday night in usual last minute fashion. Real talk, the night before isn’t last minute. Driving to the mountains and deciding on the way is last minute, and there’s been plenty of this lately.

Knowing that Pierce would be a packed out highway, Eisenhower would have at least seen some foot traffic, and having an appointment to get to later in the day I was happy with this pick.

Visual representation of the excitement of hiking

Crawford Path to Pierce will always hold a special place in my heart. First off, the trail is absolutely beautiful. Second, it has been my first trail experience with many of my friends when they were first getting into hiking as Pierce is a wonderful first 4000 footer choice. Third, it has been the welcomed ending to many long days in the Presidential’s. I also think it’s one of the only trails I have almost visually memorized.

The forecast called for little to no wind, mostly sunny, and mid 20’s. A rarity in the White Mountains in Winter. A forecast to take and run with.

From Pierce, looking at Eisenhower and the rest of the Presidential Range

My sleep has been erratic lately and I find myself either getting 5-6 hours or my body just overrides and I find myself turning off all alarms and waking up at 8-9 (I’m not normally a late sleeper). With this, I was very giddy that Corey agreed to a 10am start. I am also the queen, no, QUEEN of starting late. Go to example: starting the Bonds at 10:30am last September.

I don’t recommend starting late – it’s definitely a “do as I say not as I do” ordeal.

Corey and I were amazed with the number of folks on trail Thursday. Throughout the day we passed over a dozen other hikers, likely closer to two dozen. For a weekday, in the winter, on a non-vacation week – this is legit. Apparently everyone had the same idea with the forecast. We even heard of one hiker on trail Thursday wearing shorts and gaiters! We joked that hopefully he had on sunscreen or his knees might get burnt, which was a mental image to giggle at.

Crawford Path heading up to Pierce

I love hikes when the trees are covered in snow, fresh powder. While there haven’t been many storms lately, the wind has seemed to do a fine job at creating the Narnia-eque wonderland that us winter hikers dream of. The bluebird skies were also lovely to look at as we made our way up to the first summit of the day.

I was surprised that we didn’t see any Grey Jay’s on the ascent, and only once on the descent. They are usually quite persistent on Pierce and the other Southern Presidential peaks. Perhaps they were following the other two dozen hikers around on Thursday looking for snacks.

Christmas trees! 😉

The section between summits was a wee dicey. While there was a consistent monorail, it hadn’t been packed down nearly as well as the previous section, and with windblown spots it was sometimes a little confusing. Corey had snowshoes on and I played the infamous game of careful and light steps. Happy to report I only post holed twice on the way back to Pierce from Eisenhower and it was because I was half skipping. Worth it. Totally worth it.

I’m definitely not anti-snowshoe, although Corey might argue otherwise. I just trip on myself, A LOT, when I wear them. However, when ascending mountains such as Liberty or Cannon, snowshoes are great. By snowshoes, I mean the televators on the snowshoes.

Heading to Eisenhower!

Eisenhower is one of my favorite summits. It’s a fairly equal toss between Eisenhower, West Bond, Monroe, Mt. Hight, and South Twin. The views are stunning, especially of the trail headed towards Franklin, Monroe, and Washington. Plus, the cairn speaks for itself.

Corey had a blast with taking pictures all day, and even met another hiker into photography and the two of them chatted for a bit. This is another perk of good weather days – being able to take up conversation with other hikers if you wish without freezing due to lack of movement. We met a group of four hikers in their 50’s (?) that we passed early in the day and they joked we could pass because we were “youngins”, but then proceeded to stay within a half mile of us all day, which led to some fun conversations at summits or times we took mini-breaks and they caught up.

Walking back to Pierce!

My main takeaway from this hike: it’s all a process. In one of my last posts, I wrote about how the theme of the past decade was planting seeds and this is the decade for growing them. I don’t think I’ll ever fall out of love with the trail, the mountains, nature, and the wonderful community of humans these adventures have introduced to me. The trail continues to teach me that it’s literally one foot in front of the other. The mountains remind me to be patient, to listen to my intuition, and be grateful. And being in nature, it simply feels like coming back home to myself.

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” – Cynthia Occelli

Willey, Tom, Field – 12/25/19: a Christmas adventure

Hey folks!

Merry merry to those of you who celebrate Christmas ❤️🎄 I hope you all had a wonderful day!

This year, Christmas was a day for getting outside and adventuring with a gal pal, Alyssa.

I don’t have family or many friends in the area as I just moved in early October and my parents are in Florida currently (they are heading West soon!) doing the whole full-time RV life shindig. So, why not spend the day doing something that fulfills my soul and that I’m mega grateful to have in my life – hiking! I’ve found my Christmas tradition. As someone who will likely (never say never) always live alone, doesn’t love social gatherings, and won’t have family nearby for holidays, it’s fitting. It’s more than fitting, it’s perfect.

Spur trail headed to Mt. Tom

Alyssa and I decided to hike Willey, Tom, and Field and I think we were both very happy with this choice throughout the day and post hike! There are a few different route options for these mountains and we decided to do an out and back starting at Crawford Depot station and used Avalon Trail, A-Z Trail, the Tom Spur Path, and Willey Range Trail.

This out and back route is a nice 10.2 mile hike, and for most of the day, the trails were hard packed highway status.

Over the summer, I did this hike with my friend Jo and instead of taking the Willey Range Trail from Mt. Field back to A-Z trail to Avalon Trail, we added Mt. Avalon which was a fun addition! No hike recap for that day, but it was a misty and humid one!

Back to Christmas…

I felt pretty festive myself as I wore green leggings and a maroon colored jacket, sadly no Santa hat. Apparently the hat didn’t make the move North with me, because I did used to own one. Throughout the day we must have passed close to a dozen other hikers, which Alyssa and I were both surprised by! A couple we passed were much more dressed up and festive than myself and I’ll surely be upping my game for 2020.

Water crossing on Avalon Trail headed to A-Z Trail

Avalon Trail starts off as a mellow walk in the woods. There’s a branch off for Mt. Willard right at the start, which was one of my first hikes as a child. We talked about how amazing the trail conditions were for the first time out of what would probably be fifty times by the end of the day. I love winter hikes that you can do car to car in microspikes and not think twice about that decision. It’s easy walking, the noise of the spikes is practically walking meditation for my brain, and I’m not tripping over myself in snowshoes. Win, win, win.

There are two small water crossings on this section, both were a mix of ice bridges and easy rock hopping. Watching the water flowing under the frozen rocks and ice at crossings is such a peaceful experience. Nature truly is an amazing thing when you take a step back and really take it all in and think about it.

Which way which way

After about a mile on Avalon Trail we branched off to the A-Z trail to head towards Mt. Tom. This would make my fourth trip to Mt. Tom (Willey and Field too, although fifth time to these trails as I hadn’t hiked all three mountains together each time!). I forgot the steady climb of this section of trail. It’s just up, and up, and oh some more ups for your pleasure too.

On the return trip back to the trailhead, we really noticed how up the trail had been earlier in the day as coming down steeper sections in winter always seems more noticeable than summer. Mainly because all that crosses our minds is butt sledding and how that would be the most efficient way down. Having not ever hiked any of these trails in the winter months, everything felt much different as the entire landscape and external feeling is so varied from summer.

Spur Path to Mt. Tom

The spur to reach Mt. Tom is a quick 0.6 miles and nothing steep. There were MANY Gray Jay’s, more than I’ve ever seen at one time. On the way back down the spur path Alyssa and I decided to do a little game of “chase the elf”, apparently I’m an elf. Alter ego? I vote yes.

Next it was time to head toward Field and then Willey via the A-Z and Willey Range Trails. There are some hikes where more conversation is had with hiking buddies, and some where there is a lot of silence throughout the day. Christmas was a quieter day, and I used the time in the quiet woods to allow whatever wanted to come up to come up.

One thing that came up was how the different parts of my being find their “home” so to speak in different areas or during different activities. For example, my competitive/ex-competitive athlete side thrives in a gym setting (which I have to wrangle on occasion), my creative self thrives writing/painting/during solo dance parties in my apartment/during deep conversations/joyful movement, my intellectual (and neuroscience background) side really digs learning and being a mega-nerd on the science and the WHY, my intuitive side lives off synchronicities, and my soul lives off being in the mountains.

There are obviously other “self ingredients”, but these are ones I was pondering as I walked.

Looking into the Notch from Willey summit

The trail to Field is a “casual” climb and between Field and Willey is a bunch of rolling terrain, ups and downs.

I recalled a few areas between the peaks that offer some views, and the views on Christmas did not disappoint. Honestly they never disappoint, even when it’s dense fog, it’s still beautiful.

Somewhere along the Willey Range Trail
Somewhere else along the Willey Range Trail

We didn’t stay on any of the summits for too long, 5-10 minutes I’d say. I love hanging out at summits in the warmer months and sprawling myself out on a rock, but in winter I tend to get chilly rather quickly. While I do have a decent set up from a gear perspective, I’m slowly adding to my collection of *extra* warm layers and especially mittens with now working in the outdoor industry part-time (which is low-key dangerous for my wallet).

After summiting Willey, the trek out was just following the same path back. The trails were overall in good condition, some blow downs which are always fun to crawl under/over and you kind of feel like a kid again. We considered adding on Avalon (which really isn’t adding because it’s actually slightly less mileage to take that route out), but opted not to on this particular day. The steeper sections coming down were fun to run down and then challenge yourself to slow back down again, because momentum and gravity are totally a thing.

Staring down Washington from Willey

All in all, it was a wonderful day with great weather and stellar company. I’m giddy to have now hiked these three mountains in the Winter and to see the differences between snow covered vs. rocks and roots for these trails. The more I Winter hike, the more I fall in love with it.

Cheers to many Christmas hikes to come!

“We stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” ― Herman Hesse