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

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