Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cannon Mountain (solo). December 30, 2013

IF I end up doing the single-season-winter-NH48, then this will be 4K number 3.

Kinsman Ridge Trail from tram parking lot. 
About 4.8 miles roundtrip, around 2200 feet of elevation gain.

I was first on the trail after a winter storm -- there were a few inches of fresh snow down low and about a foot or more up top.  I'm happy to report I broke through all of that on my own, using snowshoes.  For the usual winter 4K hiker, breaking trail up a mountain through a foot or more of snow isn't a big deal.  For me, however, it is -- I had an extensive blood clot when I was pregnant with Alex and all the major veins in my left leg are permanently narrowed and somewhat damaged.  Therefore, my left leg has problems with circulation, especially when I'm wearing heavy winter boots and snowshoes.  Usually, I can get away with microspiking up a packed trail during the winter after others have already broken the way.  For this hike, however, I was determined to go as far as I could with my own trailbreaking (using snowshoes), even if I couldn't make it all the way up.  Figured I could at least make this hike a bit easier for anyone starting later, even if I could only manage less than half the trail -- it would be my payback for all those times I've taken advantage of other people's trailbreaking.

For whatever reason, I made it all the way up without any leg cramping whatsoever.  I broke trail, solo, up to just under the viewpoint (a few tenths of a mile below the summit).  At that point, Ryan (Farmer) and Adam W. overtook me and broke trail the rest of the way up.  Ryan and Adam were out for a quick hike of Cannon, and then, later, Tecumseh.  Those two are amazing athletes!

Here are my photos from the hike, starting with a look at the trailhead from the snowy parking lot.

Heading up...not too much snow down low.

The snow depth increases...

Now there's 8-12 inches...

The only decent view I had all day...that's Echo Lake from a third or halfway (?) up the mountain...

Deep snow!  My left leg was doing fine -- it felt like new, and I have no idea why.

Near the viewpoint...Adam and Ryan had overtaken me by this point.

My view up top -- Cloud...

Intersection with the Rim Trail, near the summit.

This will have to do for a summit shot.  The wind was fierce by the tower (not so much on the above treeline section on the KRT).  I could not stop and take a photo out in the open up here...far too cold and windy.  Downright nasty.

I stopped in the skiers' building for a cookie and hot chocolate before heading down.  My friend Mitch was there -- he and five or six others had broken out Hi-Cannon Trail.  They headed down the KRT after me, and I saw several folks heading up as I descended, so the KRT from the tram parking lot should now be well packed out and *perhaps* ready for microspikes.  Until the next storm, that is...

The girls and I might hike tomorrow (January 1).  Alex and Sage would like to get out before more snow arrives on Thursday.

Happy hiking, folks.  Stay safe.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tecumseh (solo). December 26, 2013

Mt. Tecumseh Trail from ski parking lot.  About 5 miles roundtrip with 2250 feet of elevation gain.

Quick picture-only post (for now).  I did a fast solo hike of Tecumseh this morning.  Will fill in the details late tomorrow evening.  Can't write more at the moment, for the Christmas holiday week continues and my family is telling me to get off the computer.  :)

***EDIT, December 28, 2013:

It's been a busy few days!  Alex is now eleven.  She's growing up -- an official tween.  Wow.

Back to Tecumseh. Up until now, this blog has focused on the girls' hiking.  Now, however, I think I'll start throwing in some of my solo ventures.  I hike, on average, twice a week...once with the girls and once on my own.  Every blue moon I'll hike with a group, but I usually prefer to be by myself.  I'm an introvert, and the solo hikes recharge my batteries.  The hikes also serve as more advanced self-training opportunities.  When I don't have the girls with me, I can move into more extreme weather and more remote territory.  I enjoy testing my limits and learning more about myself and what I can and cannot handle.  (This doesn't mean I'm foolhardy; I never mind turning back if the situation calls for retreat.)

Also....I MIGHT pursue the NH48-in-a-single-winter quest this season.  My success in that venture would entirely depend on what kind of weather the girls and I have on their once-a-week hiking days.  The girls can handle most anything during spring, summer, and fall, but the Whites often have some of the most extreme winter weather in the nation (above-treeline windchills are often lower than -30 degrees Fahrenheit, white-outs are common, and wind speeds are often above 40 mph).  I will only take the girls above treeline on perfect-weather days (windchills no less than -5 degrees Fahrenheit with speeds no more than 25mph, and no storms in the forecast for at least 36 hours).  The trail conditions have to be just so (not too much "boilerplate" ice, not too much unbroken snow).  Everyone has to be healthy.  Etc.  So...IF the weather and trail conditions work out on the days the girls hike, then I have a good shot at getting all 48 before March 21.  All I have to do is hike twice a week, with a couple of extra hiking days thrown in during late winter.

If I am able to get all 48 peaks before March 21, then Jackson on December 23 was this season's 4K#1.  Tecumseh was 4K #2.

Tecumseh's my favorite 4K.  It's a sentimental thing -- this was Alex and Sage's first 4K, it was my first 4K, and it was my dog's first 4K.  The trailhead is fifteen minutes from my home, and I can be up and down the mountain in three hours.  It's my little "exercise mountain," and I've visited the peak at least 14 times over the past five and a half years.  I enjoy this mountain each time I ascend it, though the last mile on the ski side can be a bit monotonous (lots of "stairmaster" sections).

Unfortunately, on the morning of my hike (26th), most of the snowpack had been washed away by recent rain.  There was a lot of ice to navigate...I wore microspikes, but Hillsound Pros would have worked much better.  There wasn't enough snow for snowshoes; my MSRs stayed on my pack (I should have left them in the car).

White flakes fell as I made my way up the trail.  I love hiking in a gentle snowfall.  There's a peace that comes with making your way through a winter wonderland.

As I neared the summit, a kind fellow caught up with me.  It was Jim Towle, a well-known, extremely accomplished White Mountain hiker.  I'd only met Jim once before, four years ago on the Kinsman Ridge Trail, in -20 degree F temperatures.  It was a pleasure seeing him again.  He graciously agreed to take my photo at the summit (below), then we shared our hike down the mountain.

As always, it was wonderful to get out into the woods.  The hike up the mountain was straightforward and peaceful (though rather icy), and I greatly enjoyed my conversations with Jim on the descent.  Looking forward to getting back out there.  The girls are skiing with Hugh early next week...I'll get out on my own while they're on the slopes, then the girls and I will hike something together on Friday (weather permitting).

Will post again soon.  It'll be interesting to see how far I can get with this single-season thing this year.  If the weather cooperates on the girls' hiking days, then I should be able to do it.  If not, then there's always next winter.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Best Present - Thank You!

Happy Holidays!  Hope Santa brought you everything you wanted, and that you're enjoying the season.  :)

We have already reached 50% of our fundraising goal for Feeding America!  That's the best present anyone could give me, so to those who have donated, thank you!  A special shout-out to SheJumps and "The Columbia Crew" for  recently bumping us over that halfway mark.

Time to relax with the family.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mt. Jackson. December 23, 2013

Webster-Jackson Trail.  5.2 miles roundtrip.  2200 feet of elevation gain.

Our first peak of the 2013-2014 winter season!

Happy to report that everyone's over the cold/flu/whatever-we-had.  It felt SO GOOD to get back on the trails! 

We recently had a warm and rainy spell, so most of the snowpack on Jackson has disappeared.  We had icy, slushy conditions all day...plus, it rained on us the entire time.  Fortunately, the upper ledges were mostly free of ice, so the steep bits right before the summit didn't pose any problems.  In spite of the less-than-ideal conditions, we enjoyed our hike.  It's always nice to get out in the woods.  :)

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!  I'll be back this evening to post some news about our fundraising progress for Feeding America.  Have a wonderful day -- and hang your stockings!  :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Life After the Camino: Lows, Highs, and Changes

Our trip report didn't happen last Monday.  We couldn't hike anything because I had a nasty, nasty cold.  I recovered, but now my kids have taken ill.  Arg.  We hope to be free of all bad bacteria and ornery viruses by this weekend so we can get back up a mountain!  There's a ton of fresh snow out there and it will be soooo beautiful on the trails!

Since I don't have any pretty pictures to share, I'll take this time to describe some of my personal, long-term, post-Camino changes.  The following might seem silly to someone who's thru-hiked the likes of the Appalachian Trail -- I hiked for six weeks, not six months, and I had a bed and a hot shower every night -- but, even though the Camino is relatively easy by traditional American thru-hiking standards, I'm experiencing an after-effect that radically influences the way I think and live.

Life, Eight Months Post-Camino

First, the lowsI long to get back on the trail.  I live in the mountains and there are trails all around me, so I am usually able to hike once or twice a week.  I'm lucky, and I know it, so part of me feels guilty for expressing this, BUT -- day hiking is wonderful, but it's not the kind of experience I crave.  I long to get out there and not come back for weeks/months.  I long for the simplicity of day-after-day hiking, and I long to see new terrain.  If my health and finances allow, I will likely become a full-time thru-hiker after the girls leave for college.

My tolerance for petty crapola has fallen to zero.  I no longer have time for posers, narcissists, manipulators, egomaniacs, or gossip hens.  Life's too damn short.

We still have too much stuff we don't need.  I gave away a lot of my possessions after returning from the Camino.  We still have too much stuff.  If it were solely up to me, I'd give away most of the house.  Heck, I might even give away the house itself and move into a small apartment...we're outside as much as possible, so how much indoor living space does a body really need?  I'm not the only one living here, though.  Everyone else seems to be rather fond of having multiple rooms and a basement.

Next, the highsProfound joy in the simple things.  There's a wonderful sense of satisfaction in shoveling your driveway, taking care of your roof, and holding your pet.  The day-to-day tasks now have deeper meaning.  I am grateful for the roof over our head, we are appreciative of our reliable car, and we celebrate our relative good fortune.  There are so many people who do not have what they need.  We realize we are lucky and we do what we can to help those who could use assistance.

Recognizing the beauty all around us.   We live in an insanely gorgeous area.  Breathtaking mountain vistas are only a few minutes from our front door.  It's therefore easy to appreciate the astounding beauty of Mother Nature up here in New Hampshire.  Since the Camino, however, I now see Nature's beauty everywhere.  I notice the grass pushing through the cracks in the Boston sidewalks.  The pigeons in Central Square look adorable.  And so on.  I'm truly noticing what I used to subconsciously dismiss.

Keeping the body healthy.  I've gained back a mere three pounds of the weight I lost on the Camino, which is pretty good considering I'm no longer hiking 10-18 miles a day.  My body still feels fit, and, overall, I continue to eat fresh, nutritious foods.

Now, the Changes.   Simplify, simplify, simplify.  If I don't need it, I won't have it.  Nothing new is purchased unless it's absolutely necessary.  I try to only spend time on activities I truly enjoy, and I've cut or limited contact with people who, for whatever reasons, caused great stress and discord in my life.

Growth.  My primary and most important job for the last eleven years has been the care and education of my children.  My role is shifting a bit...the girls and I are at the point where we would all benefit from the help of other educators.  My kids would probably enjoy some more independence and, frankly, I need more time to myself.  We are a close family and the girls are a joy to be around, but homeschooling is a huge, all-encompassing, sometimes overwhelming job.  Six days a week, almost all my waking hours are dedicated to the girls' education and extra-curricular activities/playdates (UP was written between the hours of 10pm and 2am during six consecutive weeks). 

I love my children, but I'd like to have more time to myself.  We are therefore moving in the direction of online charter schools.  With the charter schools, the girls would "school at home" instead of homeschooling...there'd be all the flexibility of homeschooling, but the job of choosing materials and assessing progress would no longer fall solely on my shoulders.  The girls are well prepared academically for such a shift, as each has tested at or above grade level for the standard subjects, so there's no anxiety about the potential change.  Who knows, they might eventually attend the local public high school (it's got a great reputation).  Would this shift be happening if we hadn't walked the Camino?  Probably not, as, like most mothers, I tend to put the rest of my family's needs before my own.  Walking the Camino gave me a real sense of what was working and what wasn't within my own life.  None of these changes in educational methods/styles will affect our hiking, by the way.  The girls still very much want to get out there on a regular basis, and I still very much want to take them.  I don't see that aspect of our lives ever changing.

If it doesn't feel right, then I don't do it.  I'm not talking about sloth.  What I mean is, if someone asks me to do something, and I'm already being pulled in five different directions, then I say "no."  If an outspoken person wants everyone else to agree with her, and I don't, then I won't nod my head along with everyone else (I'll stand up and state my opposing case).  I don't schmooze, and I don't support people who are only out for fame and self-aggrandizement. 

I also won't publish another book that concerns my family.  At least, not within the next decade.  I'm proud of UP, and the girls and I are happy to have it out there.  It got stellar reviews from every professional book critic who read it, and I'm thrilled so many people find it inspirational and enjoyable.  I love all the people at Random House.  No regrets whatsoever with that experience.  However, future books concerning details of our family's history..as in, details that don't pertain to hiking...will have to wait until my daughters are adults.  I'd want their mature (adult) and informed consent before I moved forward with any such publications.  I've written two full-length manuscripts regarding specific aspects of our past, and it felt wonderful to create those documents...but, truth-be-told, I won't mind if the girls never approve those two publications.  My enjoyment with writing comes from the act of writing itself.  Appreciation is nice, and everyone likes to get paid, but I don't have a drive for fame or fortune.  (No one should have a drive for fame or fortune....only unhappy and insecure people actively seek the fame-fortune package...such unfortunate folks don't realize peace and true success do not come from such shallow pursuits.)  That's not to say I'm no longer publishing...I am, but not in ways you might expect.  I'll leave those details for another day.

The above has gone on long enough, so I'll end things here.  I'll list and describe more examples of post-Camino changes on another blog post.

As soon as we're free of sneezes and mucus, we'll get back on the trails.  Hopefully next week...


Monday, December 9, 2013

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!  We've been traveling up and down the East Coast, visiting relatives.  We're finally back and will hike something later this week.  The trip report will be posted on Monday, December 16.

Happy hiking,