On Sunday we climbed Mt. Pierce, in NH, making that hike, Bruce's and my first winter 4000 foot summit. Whoo hoo! I would like to say it was easy-peasy, but you are way to smart for me to pull a fast one on you. You are all too aware of my struggle with COVID-40 - the 40 extra pounds of fluff I must squeeze into my hiking outfits.
Bruce and Patch almost share birthday's, but Patch came about 10 hours too early for that to happen, so their special days are back to back. For his day he wanted to hike in NH close to his home. First though, he and his bride to be, came to Maine Friday night so we could have a joint celebration here with other family members on Saturday.
One party done and by late afternoon, Patch and Brittany headed back to NH and Bruce and I followed a little while after. The ride was uneventful until about 2 hours before we reached our destination when it began to snow. Yuck. It was late and we were tired. We didn't need the snow. Thankfully it was not a blizzard.
We arrived at 11:00pm, a very late arrival considering our plan was to do a sunrise hike. We all agreed there was no sense in racing to the trailhead to beat the sun to the summit when the weather forecasted snow for the next day also. So, an early morning hike was planned replacing the super early hike.
It was way to soon when I heard the soft sound of Patch waking us up. I looked at the time and it was 5:00am. That's what my Brain saw, but my body was screaming, "No, it's only 4:00am, remember, the government still has that stupid idea of changing the clocks twice a year and in spring you lose an hour!"
Oatmeal fueled our bodies and strong coffee ignited the rest of our being, then off to the trailhead we went. 30 minutes later we arrived at the parking lot, we were the first ones there, who else would be foolish enough to be up so early on that cold day. The wind encouraged us to hasten the task of switching from truck ride to hiking as fast as we could. We wasted no time walking the quarter mile jaunt from the truck to the trail. The notch we were in created a wind tunnel, and it was all uphill. I thought I might be done for the day after just the warm up walk to the trailhead.
Once inside the security of the trees, we were buffeted by the wind. I was so excited to finally be out in the woods for my first winter 4000 foot summit. The forest was absolutely beautiful even if the sky was grey. The snowfall we dreaded the night before decorated the evergreens and hardwoods with a fresh layer of powdery crystals, making everything look clean and vibrant. We welcomed it on this day.
This bridge was a different trail from the direction we went. If you look closely at the middle picture you can detect a heart. Nature is always showing love, you just have to be open to it.
We hadn't gone too far when I was doubting my ability to complete this hike. My heart was pounding in my chest and it was hard for me to catch my breath. After several stops early on, I told the guys to not wait for me. It was obvious I was slowing them way down. I reassured them I would be fine, I don't mind hiking alone, in fact, I like it. So they hiked on and I dragged behind. I caught up to them but they reassured me they weren't waiting. They were just having snacks. After the second time of this, I told them I really doubted I could make it all the way, I was struggling. I told them to go on and if they summited without me, that was okay, I'd catch them on their return and I would turn around when we reunited. I also had the notion of just laying down and taking a nap. I came prepared with a ground cloth. The woods were so peaceful, and you know me, I am all about the nap. I let the guys know if they saw me lying down on the side of the trail not to worry, but if I was collapsed in the middle of the trail, then call for help.
Off they went again and I relaxed knowing I could enjoy the day at my own pace and I didn't worry about the summit. I continued to huff and puff. I sat when fallen trees or rocks presented themselves, which wasn't often enough. Leaning over onto my poles was the next best thing. Through all that, I still managed to smile.
While I was enjoying my solo hike, I thought how much fun it would be to sled down the trial. It was well packed and banked on each side. One would just have to break to keep from going out of control. I had even wondered if it was allowed.
Not too far before the alpine zone I caught up to the boys again. Patch proclaimed, "Mom, you are almost there!" They insisted they weren't waiting for me. Apparently, their breaks were longer than what I was taking. I just hiked slower. Their breaks included indulging on calorie loading snacks, while I paused briefly just to catch my breathe and to let me heart settle. At one point I really thought I was having a heart attack. I felt this burning in the middle of my chest and I remembered learning at first aid that women experience heart attacks much different than men and a common error is thinking it is just heart burn. That time I rested longer. It wasn't until I reached in my shirt to rub the area that was burning, when I felt my hand warmers. I had stored them in my sports bra earlier and had forgotten about that. Phew, no SOS was needed!
Once we were together that last time, we stayed together. Just before treeline we added all our extra layers. If we thought the wind was bad at the truck, it was going to be even worse up top. Add that to the 10 degrees recorded on Patch's thermometer, meant we were in for a chilly experience.
After we bundled up, all we had to do was roughly a quarter mile to the summit. Most of the steep incline was over but the snow was now a tad deeper and still coming down slightly. We were breaking trail. It was only a few inches but in spots the drifts were knee deep. At one area a drift was over shoulder height, but we didn't have to traverse through it. Instead, it created a wall to our left for about 10 yards. The trail was smooth and packed on the uphill side of the drift. Even with a clear day our view would have been blocked by the drift caused by the mountain's updraft.
it was a whole other world above treeline. The mountain top wasn't void of all trees, there were the short shrubby ones. In fact, the summit was only a small clearing surrounded by dwarf evergreens. The wind whipped and howled. There wasn't even a sign to welcome us to the top and the clouds skewed any chance of seeing how high we were. The only evidence we had climbed so high were our sweat-soaked shirts, and my heavy breathing. No time to lallygag, we took our ceremonial summit-selfie and were out of there. Just after lowering the camera, a couple and their dog approached. They were the first hikers we had seen.
The way down was a dream. I barely even increased my breathing. At times, I even jogged. It wasn't so serene though, we saw another twenty-seven hikers and one more dog on the way down. We were cruising, at times I felt like I was flying, what a difference going down. This is completely different then going downhill in the summer time. But in the winter the show covers all the obstacles making it almost like a sidewalk.
We came to a trail junction. On the way up no tracks had gone that way yet. But this time there was evidence of traffic. Someone had in fact, done what I had wondered. They must have hiked up by a different trail and slid down on a sled ending at the junction of our trail. How cool! Guess what's on my bucket list for next winter.
The trail may have been well packed making it seem like there wasn't much snow, but all those facts were deceiving. The truth was, there was lots of snow. One step too far to the left or right proved that. I thought my side step off Blueberry ledges when we hiked in Baxter was deep. Heaven forbid if one needed to step off trail for a potty break, as Bruce found out. Some places was crusty snow, other places not.
We had a great time on our first winter 4000 foot summit. My outings in the woods never cease to amaze me. I am always learning something about the environment, myself, life, or all the above. Not so long ago I would have ripped myself a new one if I couldn't accomplish some physical goal I set out to do. But this day, even though I did complete it, I was completely okay with the thought of not actually being able to make it. In fact, once I thought I couldn't make it, I relaxed and enjoyed however far the journey was going to take me.
There once was a time in order for me to commit to something, I had to eliminate any backdoor escapes or plan B. I am not talking about safety back-up plans, those are always vital. I am mean the kind where you keep one foot in the door and never really step out. Or when you push on no matter the consequences. But as I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, that system doesn't work for me now, it's too stressful. Maybe it's my pride not getting in the way of my happiness as I mature. Who knows. I do know that going after something is great but if for some reason it doesn't happen, it doesn't mean I am settling for mediocrity, rather, I am enjoying the journey no matter where or how far it takes me.