It’s game time!
Yesterday, Saturday November 24, was such a big day for me. I headed to the mountains for the first time in 4 weeks to figure out this winter hiking thing. I’ve hiked in the winter and snowshoed but not a big mountain and definitely not a 8 mile 4,000 footer.
I’ve read all the books about mountain rescues and being safe in winter. I had all the gear I needed and watched the weather fanatically. All signs pointed to a good day to hike Hancock North.
In reality I didn’t set out to hike to the top. I wanted to scope it out; at least make it to the trail junction of North and South to see what the trail was like and to test out my snowshoeing skills and try out my spikes. I’d never used spikes before.
The day’s temperature started out in the 20s and not a cloud in sight. The parking lot for the Hancocks was almost full (a good sign that people were on the trail, I wouldn’t be alone). I saw that the trail from the parking lot to the trail was packed so I decided to leave the snowshoes in the car. I could alway turn back if I needed them.
I didn’t need them.
The trail was fantastic; hard packed and I seemed to be following someone wearing snowshoes. I knew this trail pretty well since I’ve already hiked it twice to South Hancock in September . In winter it was glorious. The river crossings were easy.
The snow was falling off the trees and crashing to the ground; sometimes loud sometimes softly. The snow falling to the side of me and behind me was creepy at first because it sounded like someone was following me in the trees, but after a while I got used to it.
After the last main water crossing, shortly before the first junction I met a man coming down from the peaks and chatted with him a bit. I noticed on his watch that he was at 3 hours 11 minutes and he did the loop – that guy was fit. He mentioned my hat, my Leadville Race Across the Sky beanie, and asked if I did it. I said it was my dream. He had raced it and was signed up for the coming race. Two years I said. Two years. I will do it.
It was the first time I said it out loud.
I met a solo woman hiker coming down from South Hancock and another solo man passed us going up as we chatted. With all the people out there and the trail being well marked, I thought I could make the summit. So at the trail junction Winnie and I headed for North Hancock.
The trail got pretty steep about ten minutes from the junction and someone had slid down it, wrecking the trail. I encountered a second hiker actually sliding down. I didn’t have the heart to say she was wrecking the trail; she knew it but did it anyway.
The spikes helped me from falling backwards and I had to take a few breaks to catch my breath. Then Winnie came running back to me and jumped on me and licked my face, which she never does while hiking. We stopped for a break: water and treats. Then started again.
I’m sweating bullets, the views are starting to get good and she runs back again, jumps up and licks my face – it’s time to turn around. Something happened to her or it was just too much – I don’t know but I wasn’t going to force it.
We turned around, 0.2 miles to the top.
The hike down was tough. I fell a lot and slid a lot and stepped off trail a lot. It was a bit nerve wracking when I stepped off trail and my leg disappeared in the snow. We made it back to the junction and I realized how warm it got. My spikes were clumping and I was still sweating going down.
It was a tough hike that I know I have to do again shortly. But you know what – I love winter hiking. It’s so quiet and peaceful. There are less people. It was wonderful to follow a trail in winter and know exactly where to go. The snow made my pace slower so I took in the scenery more than summer/fall hiking. I was so much more calmer winter hiking; I wasn’t in such a rush.
I can’t wait to hike when I need my snowshoes. I’m excited about this new hiking option!
Since this is the fourth time through Lincoln to do the last hikes of the 4,000 footers I have started a bit of a routine. I stop at Half Baked for a latte and then the One Love Brewery for a take home beer. Today, I changed it up a big and got the latte but instead of the beer I stopped at the Mountain Wanderer.
I’ve been reading Steve Smith’s blog and have checked out his book, The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains from the library. It was time to buy the book and marked it up so I remember the hikes. Plus, each mountain has a section about hiking it in winter.
I asked the man behind the counter if he was the author and he was! We talked for a while about winter hiking, Owl’s Head, Hancock and Winnie wanting to turn around. Steve motivated me to try the bushwhack trail to Owl’s Head since it will have a nice packed trail soon. He told me the story about Brutus the dog who has a bushwhack trail named for him. It was a wonderful, informative conversation; I was psyched to buy his book directly from his store. He was a wealth of knowledge and so kind.
It was a good day!
Training for my 2-year plan starts today.
I will finish the 4,000 footers.
I will run/hike 1,000 miles.
I will run a 50 miler in 2019 and I will run a 100 miler in 2020.
I’ve managed to keep the 24th edition of the AMC White Mountain Guide in good shape over the years (even though I did buy the newest edition). I recorded my first hike in this guide. I visited the White Mountains for the first time in May 1988. I hiked Lafayette and Lincoln with my boyfriend and his family just before high school graduation.
I caught the hiking bug from that hike and have Nathan to thank for that. Hiking and peak bagging kept me sane in my early 20s when I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I had no goals and no career aspirations. So I hiked the 4,000 footers in NH for a sense of accomplishment.
Every weekend I would head north from Portsmouth and hike, checking off each mountain. I got to a point where I had about 10 or 12 peaks and suddenly I found my career path. In 1999 I moved to the mountains full-time and stopped hiking 4,000 footers. Even after moving to Colorado I didn’t hike the big mountains, (14ers) but choose the mountains in the wilderness around Grand County to hike and explore with my dogs.
I knew I’d be back in New Hampshire to finish the list. Once I got here it took about a year to settle in and get back to my mountains.
I hope to finish the remaining peaks this month and start the list again. It’s been too many years and I need a fresh perspective of these beautiful, challenging mountains; and I need to hike Mount Washington and the Presidential Range again. I can’t wait to start again.
Garfield Trail is the perfect trail and the Mount Garfield is the perfect mountain. Water is abundant thanks to all the rain the last few days. The trail is medium difficult the entire way so I sweated but not that much. The views from the top are magnificent.
All the hikers on the trail were kind and interesting. One woman at the top finished her 48 peaks today! So impressed. One of her hiking mates was on her second round, hiking #19 today. All dogs were friendly and CUTE! I had great conversations with a few people about 4,000 footers and hiking buddies.
The last .2 miles to the top were pretty icy and a bit scary so it’s time to buy some spikes and start carrying them with me for every hike now.
Coming back down the icy .2 miles, I have to say, it was nice being behind 10 people as they slowly descended; I felt safe from falling. Winnie did great on the ice although most the time I couldn’t watch the path she took.
I’m excited to finished #44 of the 48 4,000 footers in New Hampshire.
Now all that is left is Hancock North, Cabot, Waumbek and Owl’s Head. Hancock I can do in a few hours, and Cabot/Waumbek I’ll finish next weekend. I’m still hoping to do Owl’s Head with Cheryl before the end of the month. I’m guessing Owl’s Head will be the last, and the most dreaded but still hopeful it will surprise me and be wonderful.
Saturday’s hike was epic. North Twin 4,761, 8.6 miles round trip during peak New Hampshire foliage.
4,000 footer #2 for Winnie and #43 for me!
We had to cross the Little River six times.
After slipping on a rock half way through the first crossing I decided for safety I would just walk through the water and not worry about rock hopping. My Injinji socks and Pearl Izumi trail shoes quickly dried enough to not give me blisters.
The fall foliage was beautiful and the lighting just right:
We saw a few dogs and about 20 people total which isn’t much considering the drive past Lafayette trailhead with cars parked for miles on I-93. I can’t image hiking Lafayette with all those people. One family hiked North Twin with children who looked 5-years-old – amazing! So many smaller groups that loved Winnie and petted her.
She’s getting less scared of people on the trail which is nice.
A great day to be on the trail. I had great conversations with hikers about hiking the 4,000 footers and other trails.
Then after driving home I met my mom to see to movie, A Star is Born.