It's Christmas Eve as I write this. Wait -- no -- now it's Christmas. The girls are in bed, I've taken care of all parental Christmas Eve duties, and the dog's gone out one last time for the night. I have a rare bit of quiet so, even though I know I will be woken in perhaps six hours time, I thought I'd take a few minutes and reflect.
It's been a year of massive changes. I sold our large country house and moved the girls and I into a nice-sized condo. I made the move to simplify our lives. I could have afforded to stay in the house, but, after the girls go to college, I want a low maintenance life of thru-hiking and simplicity. It is more important to me to be able to travel, and to show the girls what I can of the world over the next five to eight years, and to allow us to thru-hike for charity, than to keep up a huge house. The girls like where we live now -- they each have their own large bedroom and bathroom -- but the move was a change, and there was some sadness involved. On my part, I was happy to move, as I prefer the more relaxed lifestyle a condo affords...I'm not the type who wants to always deal with roofs/driveways/mowing/raking/shoveling/landscaping/etc.
Both girls have also taken on a ton of schoolwork, far more than they did last year. Their extracurriculars are taking up a lot of time, too. We always make room for hiking, for that is where/when we clear our heads, invigorate our bodies, and spend excellent time discussing life in general. However, it's been hectic...I'm always trying to make sure we get back home in time for them to accomplish all their academic assignments and/or make a scout meeting/karate lesson/class/get-together.
I don't expect the pace of our lives will change much over the next five years. The girls are growing quickly, and they are becoming more and more independent and separate from me -- as they should. I am grateful they each still love to hike, and I treasure every moment we share on the trails. One day, and that day will come faster than I'd like, they will both be gone to college, and it will just be me all the time out there, on my own. I predict I will throw myself onto the Appalachian Trail for six months to deal with my empty nest syndrome (assuming all our pets have died of old age by then). Until that happens, however, I will live in the moment as best I can, and I will be there for my girls as they need me...while I simultaneously let them go, bit by bit, so they can use their wings when they're ready.
Wow -- it really is late. The girls will probably be up in four or five hours. On with the Hale show.
We haven't had much snow for this time of year, but Zealand Road is now closed anyway. This means Hale is 9.6 miles round trip instead of 4.4, since you have to walk all the way up the road just to get to the trailhead.
|Walking along the snowmobile track by Route 302 in order to get to Zealand Road.|
|The Zealand Road road walk|
|The trailhead for Hale Brook Trail.|
|Sage is excited to get going (even though we've been going...along the closed road...for 2.6 miles),|
Once at the trailhead, you've half your mileage - but almost all of your elevation gain - to go. The girls were now happy, as they felt like the real, authentic hike (woods instead of road) was about to begin.
|About to begin the official trail|
|Pretty snow scene. The snow was never deep enough or slippery enough for snowshoes or microspikes.|
The girls always enjoy picking up huge chunks of ice out of the water crossings.
One of the great things about our boots (Sorel) is that they're waterproof. I kept reminding Alex to avoid the ice and just step directly into the water.
Snow always creates natural art to admire. Here, the girls check out the way the wind has blown bits of snow against a tree trunk.
Up into the white.
Sage took this photo -- she thought it looked as though the tree was covered in icing.
We arrived at the familiar summit -- only two or three more ascents of this peak before we've finished it for the Grid.
We ate Habanero Jack cheese for our Cheese on the 48 quest.
Though we were warm on the way up due to constant aerobic exercise, we became cold on the summit; our lack of movement on the peak brought the chill into our bodies fairly quickly. We only stayed for an ounce or so of the Habanero, then we quickly chugged some light eggnog and headed down the mountain.
We warmed within five minutes of moving, and by the time we returned to the road walk portion of the hike, we were hot again. The girls spent some time choosing icicles from the boulders/vegetation by the side of the road...they proceeded to battle it out here and there as we made our way back to the car.
It was a great hike -- and we meant to hike the very next day, my birthday, December 22. However, rain arrived...cold, steady rain...and we canceled our plans. I enjoy hiking in the rain during the summer, but we try to stay clear of downpours if the temperature is below 45 degrees. Too much of a hypothermia risk.
Tomorrow, we hope to do the entire Franconia Ridge. I imagine that, since it's now calendar winter, and since tomorrow is a Saturday, AND since there is currently little to no snow on a ridge that is usually quite dangerous this time of year, that we will see roughly two million people out there, all chasing their winter 4K/Grid hiking lists. :) If you happen to be one of those folks, then please nod and say hello if you see us. We'll likely give you a bunch of candy; Santa brought us way too much this year.
Peace and Joy, no matter what holiday (if any) you celebrate this time of year,