Kinsman Notch, an outdoor story

I drove up north to hike the Kinsmans on Saturday. I realized too late that I didn’t research the hike well enough; and this is not the first time I’ve done this with disastrous results. Although, I swear I read a bunch of trail descriptions last week and thought it was a good day hike with my dog. I thought that I would just go do the hike and then come home – no big deal. 

Once I turned west on the Route 112 in Lincoln from the I-93 the road was highlighted with fall colors. I was glad to be off the highway and driving through small towns that had characters. I smelled a campfire burning.

Then the anxiety started. I usually love driving to the mountains, but on this trip, I was tired of driving it by myself. I remembered how last year when I started hiking in the White Mountains again after many years away, as I got closer to the trailhead the more nervous I got; especially when it was a trail I didn’t know or hadn’t been to before. I remember hiking Mount Hale for the first time last year and I almost turned around three times before hitting the USFS road; and twice once I was driving on the road. Now, after hiking that mountain three time it’s a piece of cake and I’m not nervous anymore.

I remembered just last month heading north with Kyle and our dogs and not being anxious at all. I was mad a lot; mad at his shitty driving but not anxious. Scared that we were going to die from his lack of paying attention to other cars but not nervous about hiking. That’s what is most fun (and not fun) about a hiking trip with someone.

Today, I was nervous once I hit the section of 112 that heads into Kinsman Notch. I don’t know what to expect and the anxiety started. 

I turned into a parking lot that I wasn’t sure was right, then circled around not seeing signs for Kinsman Trail and then turned back on the highway. I immediately passed the hidden trail sign but only after seeing the Appalachian Trail sign. I forgot that the AT followed the Kinsman Trail. My anxiety lessened once I saw that sign, I’m not sure why. I turned around at the pond parking lot and parked in the lot. I took the last spot at 10 a.m.

Winnie and I crossed the highway and the trail was an immediate endless set of rock stairs. Some rocks were slippery from rain. I don’t feel awesome. I wanted to give the trail some time and settle in, but never got to that point. I stopped to look at the map and realized it was going to be an 18 mile day. I planned this wrong. I looked at the map before leaving the house but didn’t count the miles. Sometimes I just don’t pay attention to details. Okay, maybe a lot of the time. 

But also too, it wasn’t the first time I headed north to the mountains mad and hoping the mountains would redeem me, turn my anger around. Likewise, I thought if I prayed enough that I would get what I want but it doesn’t work that way. It’s like what Lamott says, “you get what you get”. 

About .28 miles into the Kinsman trail I turned around. The map showed Moosilauke on the other side of the highway. But first, Winnie needed a drink and a cool down in the lake up the highway.

As we walked I yelled at Winnie for pulling. I hate it when I’m mad and frustrated and yell at my dog for doing things that she shouldn’t do like pull on the leash or sniff everything in sight. I normally just let her do these things and just get frustrated but I yelled at her. I’m not a yeller and I don’t like myself when I yell at my dog, so I knew I was in trouble. I needed to turn my attitude around about this hike – and soon.

As soon as we got on Beaver Brook Trail, still part of the AT I was instantly relieved. We crossed a bunch of streams, Winnie drank and played, and my anxiety was gone; I came back to myself, the self I love who is okay with the world because I have my trail shoes on, water and food in my pack, and my dog is running around off-leash. After 10 joyful, joyous minutes on the trail the climb began and it was a rock staircase again with a river cascading next to it. Fifteen minutes later a worn and withered sign read: Warning – this is a steep and dangerous trail. If you are not prepared, turn around. Something about the cascades and water. I thought for a minute. A few seconds of positive thoughts:  I’ll give it a try. How bad could it be? And many more seconds of negative thoughts: I suck. Why didn’t I read about this trail? Why am I so stupid? What a waste of time. 

After hiking for a few more minutes on the slippery rocks I stopped at a large waterfall and decided to eat my roast beef sandwich and think about things. I almost never do this. Until I hiked with Kyle last month, I never stopped, I didn’t hang out at the top of summits – I just hiked, bagged the peak and went back home. When we hiked it was fun and relaxing; we’d spend 30 minutes at the top with wine and cheese, taking in the views and then leisurely hike down. Lately when just hiking with Winnie, when I do stop, Winnie stops too and lays down next to me or sits and stares at me. Then we hike until we get back to the car. 

Today, on this gorgeous, warmish Saturday in late September I sat and watched the cascading waterfall in front of me on the biggest, dampest rock on the AT. I thought of nothing but that damn waterfall for five long minutes. However, my thoughts led to needing a plan. What was I going to do? 

It wouldn’t be the first time I didn’t get to the summit. It wouldn’t be the first time that plans changed minutes into a hike. What I really wanted to do was sit there with my journal and write about the natural world; and find joy in a moment which is what happens when I write. Lamott says that writing and reading can decrease our sense of isolation. And this is what I want to do right at this moment but I don’t have a pen or paper. I quietly decide that I will always carry pen and paper with me which I promised myself a decade ago when I hiked around my house in the mountains of Colorado; back when I was writing and publishing stories more frequently. 

Miraculously, I decided to keep going forward, a primal urge we have when paralyzed with expectations, guilt and foreboding. One foot in front of the other, a mantra I try to use in ultra running and long distance hiking. I continue up the slippery slope of Moosilauke when I realize that this just isn’t fun anymore. I fear slipping or my dog slipping. I’m okay stopping when I’m not having fun anymore. Winnie doesn’t seem to care and we change direction and head back to the car. Defeated; I walk the slowest walk back to the car. It’s only 11:30. 

I wander a bit off trail and look for something to take my mind off my defeat, and not finishing something, yet again. You see, I have a bit of a problem. In January I had so many goals and as of today, I have only finished about 75% of the what I planned for this year.

I hoped for a 100% finish rate.

I finished some important trail races and finally finished my 4,000 footers in New Hampshire but it’s that other 25% that makes me feel like I should just bury my head under a pillow for the rest of the year and not sign up for anything I might not start or finish. 

Hiking can heal that hurt; or it has for me in the past. But alas, today there is no summit and my finish rate plummets. As I write this story sitting on my sofa in Concord, 68 miles from that trailhead I feel blah. Writing does heals the hurt a little. Maybe I’ll head up there again tomorrow and try it again. I love that life always gives you that option. 

Mount Eisenhower

I hiked Eisenhower on Sunday like I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

Clinton Road was not well marked off the Auto Road, but once I knew I was on the right road, I found the trailhead easily. The Edmands Path is a gorgeous trail. The first mile was a nice walk in the woods although I was worried about water for Winnie. Luckily there were a few streams along the way. Once we got to the rocky section closer to the top there was water; it rained a lot there on Saturday. 

There were a lot of dogs on the trail, only two were off leash. But all well behaved and cute! One particular grey/blue pit bull – so adorable.

The top was windy and cold. Mount  Washington was in the clouds but a 360 degree view of the world was not too bad. It was Winnie’s 6th 4,000 footer and her first in the Presidentials. She did great.

I didn’t stay at Eisenhower’s peak for very long. I stayed hidden in front of a small cairn just below the summit cairn to stay out of the wind so Winnie could rest and drink water. I saw about 40 people all day. I probably should’ve done a loop and hiked to Pierce or Monroe. Next time I will plan a bit better. It took just 3 ½ hours to hike and 3,110 feet of elevation gain, according to my Garmin. 

I think next weekend I’ll try the Kinsmans.

Leadville Training, Week 7 Recap, Mount Washington, Baby

Here’s how the week played out.

Monday started out great – recovery day. 

Tuesday was a nice, short 4 mile run.

Wednesday’s run was fantastic with a 15 mile scheduled run and I finished 14 miles on a mixture of trails and roads. The bugs in the woods are terrible. If I wasn’t for wearing headphones with ear buds they would’ve been in my ears. The small, buzzy’ing black bugs really liked to bite the back of my arms. Grrrrrr

Thursday was a little longer than scheduled but again, a nice post-14-mile run that was about 7 miles. Since it was the 4th of July I packed in so many fun things that it felt like a super, big training day: swimming in Lake Winnipesaukee with Kendra, Adam and Toby-dog, and a fun swim in the Merrimack River with Kyle and Pants. Such a fun, fun day. 

Friday was another recovery day preparing for what was supposed to be a big mileage weekend. I’m trying to not be disappointed as I write about the weekend because I think part of the ultra running life is learning to go with the changes that happen in a long training plan and just not dwelling on it; keep moving forward to the next big training day. 

Saturday was hot and humid at 6am. I had to run 30 miles but after 4 miles in I had to decide to go left for the big loop that would bring me back for water/electrolytes at mile 15, or go right and 8 miles would bring me back for water/electrolytes or stopping – I went right. I was dripping from sweating and just felt off for the entire run.

At mile 8 I called it quits for running outside and went to the Y to run in A/C. The real feel was 84 and I was very low energy, and a bit dizzy. I ran 2.5 miles on the treadmill and did about 200 stairs and wanted to quit. 

I sat on the stretching floor for about 5 minutes trying to figure out what to do. I wanted to go home. I debated. I could do some weights which I seemed to have energy for or more treadmill or just sit here and decide. For the record, I don’t usually ponder for so long what to do, I usually act. I usually just go home. But this time, I decided to make use of the time and do weights. This is huge for me. I just couldn’t run. 

Then I proceeded to have a good rest of the day with Winnie, Kyle and Pants; and get over myself.

Sunday was a hike with Bob and Mark to Mount Washington. Originally the plan was to run 20 miles. At the beginning of the week it was unknown if I could even be able to go to Mount Washington since I didn’t have anyone to let out Winnie during the day. I couldn’t take her because it’s one of the hardest hikes in the White Mountains. On Saturday Jeff texted me and said his plans changed and he could let Winnie out. Whoo Hooo!!! It was on. 

When I arrived at Pinkham Notch Bob mentioned something about two loops. Wait, WHAT? Their plan, which wasn’t communicated, was learning mental fortitude for Leadville – they would hike to the top, turn around and do it one more time. I had no idea. But I should’ve known because these guys are ultra runners, they think like me however, this one caught me by surprise. I thought it was one run/hike ascent of Mount Washington. I said I would try. 

The hike was amazing and since I hadn’t hiked it since 1992, it was new to me. Although, I did remember all the rocks on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and how hard it was. However, being in the best, freaking shape of my life made the hike so doable and so enjoyable. We had to take Lions Head trail to the top of Mount Washington because the top part of Tuckerman’s was closed due to snow. Being on top of the rock pile is one of the most amazing things in the world.

Being on top of the world was amazing and I want to do it again – I want to do the Presidential Loop before heading to Leadville. The weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky. We talked about all our training and they told me about Leadville Training Camp, and what they learned. It’s so great hanging out with people who are going through what you are and have the same joys and concerns about preparing for 100 miles at 10,000 feet. It was a great day. 

I opted out of the second loop. But those two – total rocks stars with 9,000 feet of climbing in 8 hours and 16 miles. I drove home and hung out with Winnie-dog.

An end to a somewhat good training week and remembering where I started.

Heading into a big mileage weekend

It’s Saturday and I just got back from a warm-up hike with Winnie.

4 miles around Marjory Swope

And hitting Jerry Summit twice for some added vert.

Now it’s time to head out for 25 miles. I’ve been fighting a head cold that is now heading into my lungs but it’s very minor. However, yesterday running up hills was hard!

I’m heading for the hills west of Concord and not sure what the mileage of the first loop will be. The plan is to come back to my house to refuel and then head out again to finish the miles. It’s wet and muddy out there but I’m up for the challenge.

Tomorrow is a hike up north for a 4,000 footer and then a 13 mile recovery run. This is it. This is what I have to do to get strong and be ready for 100 miles.

Getting Ready For BIG Miles

Tomorrow is the TARC 50K in Weston, Ma. I’m excited for this race. It’s not really a race but a training milestone. I pretty much just need to finish and beat the cut-off times.

Then on Sunday, run 10 miles.

I’m ready.

Marjory Swope Trails today.

Today, Friday is a recovery day so I hiked with Winnie this morning and took her on a few long walks during the day. This morning it was sooooo humid.

91% Humidity – geez.

I’m going to bed early and then heading south of the border, the New Hampshire border.

Race report to follow shortly.