Solo Mt. Avalon & Mt. Willard plus a hiking anniversary

Hey buttercups 🙂

This past Saturday was another solo adventure for me, and a stellar one at that. Ok, let’s be real, all adventures are stellar on some level.

With the heat index in NH being over 100 degrees, I opted for some less aggressive mountains that I knew had water intermittently along the trail. Driving North I had a few ideas in mind and made my decision once I got to the Conway area. Mt. Avalon was the pick for the day.

Driving along 302 to get to Crawford Notch I’ve never seen so many cars parked along areas where there is access to the Saco River. Figuring everyone would be seeking rivers, lakes, oceans, and air conditioners for the day, I didn’t expect to see many people hiking. But, when I got to the Notch there were a lot of cars (not super surprising given that the Highland Center and Notch Train are right here too!), so I parked across from the Jackson trailhead and walked up the road to begin along Avalon Trail.

There is something about the start of each hike that gets me so incredibly excited. The beginning of a new adventure, being outside for hours, immersing myself in the woods, the aspect of the unknowns – it’s exhilarating.

This was the first hike on these trails when a thunderstorm/downpour didn’t occur at some point of the hike! Each time I’ve hiked Mt. Willey, Mt. Field, and Mt. Tom or some combination of these peaks (the 4000 footers behind Avalon and Willard) I’ve found myself getting drenched and questioning the safety of hiking in thunder and lightening.

The temperature in the Notch sat around 90° and humid (sauna status) all day, which is definitely prime t-storm weather so I was very glad to not be blessed with mother natures electrical storm shenanigans.

Avalon Trail

The hike up to Avalon is a quickie at 1.8 miles. Heading up I passed a few other hikers so when I got to the summit I was shocked to have it all to myself! I’ve had hikes before when me and my hiking friend for the day were the only ones on the summit, but I’ve yet to have a solo hike where I’m the only one! Being completely alone on a summit is a really interesting feeling that I can’t fully describe but I would definitely like to experience this again (and again).

YAY mountains!

On the summit, I had a quick snack/water break and proceeded onward… downward? I’m Casper the ghost status and could just feel myself burning so choosing to not stay in the direct sun for more than 10 minutes was a smart choice!

The half mile section of trail just before the Avalon summit is a full rock scramble fest, my personal fave. I caught up to a couple about a quarter mile into my descent who I had passed close to reaching the summit and hiked the remainder of the scramble section with them while entertaining some good conversation. One of my favorite things about solo hikes is the people I meet – this most certainly is the outgoing side of my outgoing introvert personality. I find that when I’m hiking with friends, I’m less likely to strike up a conversation with groups of hikers other than a quick “hi” or “happy hiking!”, but when solo it’s fun to connect.

View from Avalon

Following the scramble section I hauled it to the junction where you can either go back to the car or hike Mt. Willard. Not finding myself too hot and feeling really great I decided to also hike up Mt. Willard. At this point I turned on one of my mellow Spotify playlists and was fully jamming out by myself heading up Willard – another perk of solo hiking, solo music jam sesh’s.

One of the best parts of adding Willard onto this hike? Hands down centennial pool and being able to dip my disgustingly sweaty headband into the fresh cold flowing water and cool off! Centennial pool would also be a cool little spot to come to after bigger 4K hikes in the area to just hangout for a while and relax – mental note to self!

Fun fact: Mt. Willard was my first ever hike in the White Mountains back when I was a pre-teen! Another fun fact: Saturday marked my 3 year anniversary of starting the 4000 footers, not that I knew what I was getting myself into when I started! When I arrived home Saturday after my hike, I logged onto Facebook to add pictures from the day and got a notification that 3 years ago I had hiked Mt. Liberty & Mt. Flume with my friend Amy. That was my first 4000 hike, meaning 3 year hike anniversary (“hikeiversary” – can I low key create a new word?!).

View from Mt. Willard

It felt super fitting that I would hike on my 3 year anniversary – I mean hello, big deal celebration 😉 I’m a big fan of anniversaries, mainly because it marks another year of doing something. For this, it marks another year of hiking, opting outside, choosing adventure, immersing myself in the environment which best supports me on so many levels, and celebrating that my body can take me on these lovely hikes!

All in all the day was all that I needed it to be and I’m looking forward to many more upcoming frolics in the middle of the woods.

“The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask.” ― Nancy Newhall

XO, S

Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln & Little Haystack – 7/16/19

Hey folks!!

Happy Sunday! It’s another HOT one today, and I’m currently grateful for my AC going as I write this post! I actually hiked yesterday, too, but I’ll write this recap from earlier in the week first 🙂

Tuesday was another stellar frolic in the woods with yet another new hiking friend! I’ve been talking via the interwebs with Alyssa for about a year now and we finally managed to hike together. Initially I had planned a solo hike and was between a handful of different hikes (Franconia loop, Jefferson, Moosilauke, Monroe) knowing that I needed to be back home by 5:30pm as I had a client at 6pm and knew those were all safe hikes time wise.

Monday night I thought of Alyssa because I knew she has Tuesday’s off, so sent a message her direction. She was also planning a solo and like myself had a few ideas in mind. The similar one between us was Franconia. So, we decided to touch base in the AM and see if us finally hiking together was in the cards for the day.

When I got up Tuesday, I was still planning in my mind to be solo for the day. I packed up all my stuff for hiking, and made sure to bring along a change of clothes, baby-wipes, and deodorant (the ‘kit’ for when I have to work after just in-case I can’t get home between to shower!). 10/10 recommend doing this. Baby-wipes and deodorant can be a makeshift shower in a pinch.

Just before leaving my house I sent Alyssa a message saying I was leaving and when I’d be to Franconia and that my game plan was the ridge if there was parking when I got there. She was also in for this plan and even potentially adding Liberty, so we met at the Liberty Springs Trailhead where we left her car and I picked her up to continue towards Franconia.

Guess what? There was parking. I mean yes it was a Tuesday, but we also got there around 10am which is super dicey in the summer for this hike.

Giddy to get to hike the mountains I was crossing my fingers for and meet another hiker my age, Alyssa and I set off up Old Bridle Path.

Almost to the summit of Lafayette

I haven’t hiked the classic loop in two years! Last summer was a trip up Lafayette only via the Skookumchuck Trail and a traverse from Lafayette via Old Bridle Path to Mt. Liberty which then I took Liberty Springs down to a car spot (although you could probably fairly easily hitch from here or walk the recreation path if absolutely need be). I think the Skookumchuck Trail is my favorite, primarily due to the remoteness of it compared to other approaches. I’m low key planning a traverse of Lafayette to North Twin by taking the Skookumchuck up and heading out North Twin or retracing steps to Galehead and taking Gale River Trail out. For those of you reading this blog that are not hikers or White Mountain NH hikers, you’re currently like “what is she talking about”. Sorry not sorry 😉

Looking at the ridge from Lafayette

Hands down the loop is one of if not the most popular (looking at you Mt. Washington) 4000 footer hike in NH. So many humans. One side of me loves that so many people are taking in what the outdoors has to offer, but then the other side of me cringes when I see people hiking without adequate gear especially above treeline (e.g no backpack, tennis shoes, jeans, no headlamp/light source, etc.).

Happy, opting outside, AND safe humans is the best.

Most definitely a happy hiker

Next time I hike this loop I might swap things up and hike it counterclockwise, so summit Little Haystack first and then head to Lincoln and Lafayette. Neither Alyssa or I were super in love with descending Falling Waters Trail from Little Haystack on Tuesday, but I also half blame how hot it was that day (says the girl who hiked in the 90’s yesterday…). We ended up hiking the entire loop together instead of Alyssa adding Liberty, which I was happy to have continued company and conversation on the descent.

It was great to meet another hiker my own age that I seem to get along well with. Heck, we’ve already nicknamed ourselves the “Casper’s” because we are both Casper the ghost status on paleness and therefore the need for all of the sunscreen.

One of the many waterfalls on Falling Waters Trail

I think we all have our days where we physically feel “on” and ready to go, and then days where it’s just a struggle-fest. This is one of the great lessons of listening to your body that hiking and the mountains are great teachers of. No two hikes will feel the exact same, and this is just part of the experience. I try to just take each hike for what it is, find enjoyment in whatever I possibly can, and listen to the signals from my body.

“The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.” Pema Chodron

XO, S

Mt. Eisenhower, Mt. Pierce & Mt. Jackson – 7/13/19

Hey folks!

Happy Sunday!!!

Currently while writing this post: the sun is shining in through my window, I have a new playlist I created on spotify playing in the background, and I’m drinking my second cup of coffee 😉 Solid start to the day.

Yesterday was another mountain adventure day – shocker, I know. Last week I hiked Mt. Isolation with Dawna who I met on the women’s NH hiking Facebook group and yesterday I hiked with Laurie who I met while hiking last summer. I’m starting to really dig hiking with new and semi-random humans. So far it’s working out really well!

Last summer on a hike I met Laurie along the Lend-a-hand trail between Mt. Hale and Zealand hut and then ran into her again at the hut. We chatted for a bit and exchanged contact info in the event of hiking together in the future. Back in early June we connected about a hike this summer and made it happen yesterday! Originally hoping to do an overnight backpacking trip, we decided to call that off with the thunderstorms Friday night and settled on a Southern Presi adventure day instead!

The route: the hike began at the Crawford Connector trailhead where we first hiked Mt. Pierce via Crawford Path. From the summit of Pierce, we did an out and back to Mt. Eisenhower to then find ourselves back on Mt. Pierce for the second time. At this point, instead of taking Crawford Path back down to the parking lot, we continued along Webster Cliff Trail to Mizpah Hut and then Mt. Jackson summit. From the summit of Jackson, we took the Webster-Jackson Trail to link up with Route 302 and had a short road walk back to the car!

I love the Southern Presis and I’m very very happy to have now hiked Mt. Pierce in July. Pierce will most likely be my first grid summit and I’m totally stoked for this. For those of you reading currently asking yourself “what the heck is a ‘grid'”? The grid is hiking all 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers in each calendar month. So, all 48 in January, all 48 in February, etc. I’ve now hiked Pierce in all except October, so apparently you all know what mountain I’ll surely be hiking in October 😉 Real talk, I’m not sure if I’ll ever complete the grid, but it seems like a fun life goal and I dig hiking so why not see what happens?!

Looking at Crawford Path from Eisenhower

The weather yesterday was legit PERFECT, the bugs weren’t a bother at all (no rocking the headnet like last weeks Isolation hike), and there was plenty of mud for getting super dirty. I’m not sure how but I always manage to get so much mud on me, every hike no matter how much mud there is (well… not winter).

Exhibit A

Oh well, #sweatydirtyhappy. Oh so happy.

Another great part of yesterday was hiking a section of trail that was new to me. I had never explored the section of Webster Cliff Trail between the Mizpah Hut and Mt. Jackson, so I’m glad we included Jackson yesterday because that part of the trail might have been my favorite of the day! It was also the muddiest, ha! This section includes lots of bog bridges, dense forest, open rocky areas, and a quick rock scramble to summit Jackson at the end! I think both of our legs appreciated this section being a bit flatter and easy going, too!

Bog bridges

There were LOTS of hikers and runners out on the trails yesterday. On the way back to Pierce from Eisenhower a hiker coming from the opposite direction was a staff member I know from UNH! It’s not uncommon to see other Instagram NH hikers on trail, but it’s few and very far between where I run into someone “from real life” on trail!

We came across people hiking single summits, multi-summits, and even the Presidential Traverse. It’s great to see so many people taking advantage of what this little state of New Hampshire has to offer and opting to spend time outdoors! Seeing a group on Jackson wrapping up the the traverse was neat as that’s on my radar for this summer. The bod feels in a good position to take on the miles and elevation which comes with that hike, so I’m uber excited for that upcoming adventure!

Jumping for joy!

One thing I am becoming more and more aware of is how much I dig long mountain days. Shorter hikes are great too, don’t get me wrong. But, there is just something about being in the mountains for 8+ hour hikes that really strikes home for me on such a soul spiritual level. Immersing myself in nature for these chunks of time has created so much space in my being to think, process, connect. One thought that keeps popping into my brain on recent hikes is how grateful I am that my body can handle, and seems to really enjoy, long mountain days. I’m just in constant awe of what our bodies can do and what they are capable of when we really listen to them.

“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.” ― Ram Dass

XO, S

Mt. Isolation – 7/5/19

Hi buttercups 🙂

Happy Sunday!

Should we even be surprised that I went hiking on Friday? No, no we should not. We should however be surprised that I decided to hike 12 miles and 5000 ft elevation gain with a pretty much complete stranger. Not my typical M.O but I’m so glad I challenged myself!

There’s a NH women’s hiking group Facebook and a couple months ago someone had posted about hiking Isolation the first weekend of July. Given that Isolation is one of my absolute fave hikes, and I have an ongoing goal for myself to meet new hiking friends this summer – I commented that I was game.

So, Friday, I hiked Isolation via Glen Boulder with this human named Dawna from the FB group and I’m happy to report that she’s pretty much the 24 year older version of me.

This is a tough hike – Isolation out and back via the Glen Boulder Trail. We started just before 10am from the Glen Ellis Falls parking lot up Glen Boulder Trail and finished just after 6pm. A little over 8 hours of hiking – aka my fave kind of summer day. While this trail most certainly doesn’t give you much of a warm up period before bringing your heart-rate right on up there, it does pop you above treeline at about 1.3 miles and offers spectacular views early on.

Views from Glen Boulder
You know, just casually holding up rocks

This section of the trail, when you pop out above treeline to Glen Boulder (which is at the 1.6 mile mark) until Slide Peak about another mile away goes from scrambling up rocks to walking through small trees and brush. One thing that I love about this trail which Dawna mentioned too is the diversity of terrain – which is something that is consistent for the whole hike to Isolation. You really see it all – rock scrambles, below treeline, above treeline, smaller trees, and mystical dense woodsy sections.

Little trees 🙂
Rock scrambles

This was Dawna’s first hike to Isolation and my fourth trip. Round four was enjoyed just as much as one, two, and three. And, I had my period which seemed appropriate seeing it’s one of the harder NH 48 hikes along with Bonds and Owl’s Head which I also had my period during. Facepalm.

If I had to pick one section of trail throughout the entire hike which is my favorite I would say all the scrambling around Glen Boulder! I just love that type of trail. But, a close second is once Glen Boulder Trail hits the junction with Davis Path to head down (yes, down) towards Isolation. Davis Path is gorgeous and brings you the remainder of the way to Isolation, first you go down and then you go back up to actually summit the mountain! This little detail right here is why this route to Mt. Isolation is so difficult – you hike up to Glen Boulder then Slide Peak (4806 ft) to then intersect with Davis Path which you hike down to then climb back up to the summit of Isolation (4003 ft). Which what you do to get to the summit… you must to do get back to the car. So all told it’s quite literally up, down, up, down, up, down. Weeeeee.

Exhibit A
Davis Path

For the most part we didn’t take long breaks because as I phrased it, Friday was a “bugtastic” day. Hands down I’ve never seen the black flies/skeeters/horseflies so bad in the mountains. It is what it is and I’m just happy to be able to enjoy these mountains bugs or not. But, my 35+ bug bites are quite itchy!!!! All the bugs made for a day of rocking bug nets which also means we looked super stylish. I mean hello, totally on trend.

All in all the hike was wonderful, as they always are. Even tough, rough, buggy, muddy, sweaty hikes are still welcomed with open arms. It’s about being outdoors, spending time doing something that I love and feel good doing, connecting more with myself at the deep core level, and enjoying what this lovely state of New Hampshire has to offer!

My favorite part of the day? Jumping into the Ellis River across the road from the trailhead after the hike. Cold river = ice bath, right? Right.

I’m really glad I put on my big girl pants and stuck to my goal of meeting new hiking friends because by about mile 2 of the hike Dawna and I decided we needed to legit make a list of all the things we have in common. Which by the end of the day we weren’t even surprised anymore when the other person was like “oh me too”. Twins separated a few years for sure.

The list of commonalities: Subaru Impreza’s, we had the same bracelets on, both of us dig beets and brussel sprouts (not many people like both of these!), outgoing introverts, french press coffee lovers, listening to birds on hikes, our salad creations are close to identical, we both know how to play and like cribbage (fun fact: I did cribbage club in middle school), we both ran the Vermont Spartan Beast… the SAME year, and we both have tramp stamps that are far from “traditional?” tramp stamps aka location picked so it’s not really seen.

Yes, my bug net is half on

In my last post about my solo hike of Mt. Osceola, I wrote about how I’ve been in a hermit/growth phase as of late. 2019 for me is a year of many many changes which isn’t always my strong suit to manage and keep taking care of myself. Adding onto this I’ve been working on processing some deeeeeeeep stuff lately and a hefty amount of mental energy has been placed on this. Knowing this, I’m focusing a lot on personal development/growth, self-care, connecting when it feels right and hermiting when I need to be a full-blown introvert. This time period is all about creating the next chapter of life and making the most out of enjoying the process versus trying to control every little detail (real talk, not possible).

If there is one thing I have definitely learned in my 26 years it’s that I can’t keep pushing and pushing as a means to control things. I mean, technically I can but that doesn’t ever end well. Growth and change require listening to our intuition and gut feels. Listening and accepting. Calling on our skills and toolkits from past experiences, cultivating any new skills we may need, and focusing on trying to do what feels right deep down in our soul not ego.

For now I’m going to keep pushing myself to grow as a human, explore new things, go naturally with the ebb and flow of life, and keep on keeping on doing the best I can to tell my ego to shove it and give my intuition a high five.

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

XO, S