Why are there so many acorns, hiking Winant Park

Walking in the woods at Winant Park on Sunday I hear all kinds of sounds. As we enter the trails near the church on Pleasant Street there is a loud ripping sound. I look up and see the top of a tree come crashing to the ground. I half expect to see some sort of bobcat or mountain lion run away, like it is high up on a tree limb and its weight causes the tree to crumble. Winnie runs toward the sound, not a great thing in case there is a wild animal but no animal runs away and we continue on our hike. 

Black flies are still hovering which is obnoxious for this time of year. Geez. Go away. I swat the flies as I hobble over the thousands of acorns that litter the trail this year. I don’t remember so many on the trails and roads compared to last year at this time. We hiked as much last year as this year and I simple don’t remember them. And I definitely don’t remember the sounds from them falling in the woods.

The sound of the acorns falling is so loud for such a small nut. 

When you live in the same place for several seasons you start to see patterns such as the sun rising in a different spot or the trail start to be less socked in when the trees lose their leaves. When I lived in Killington, Vermont I watched and recorded how spring changed into summer and then later into fall. I noticed everything, wrote about every detail from hiking the same trail, Trail 17, every day with my yellow lab Abbey. Later when I lived in Granby, Colorado I watched the seasons change from hiking the same mountain trail behind my house for seven years with Abbey and Daisy. All the details never seemed changed from year to year.

The only reason I can guess that I didn’t notice the acorns last year is age; I’m getting older and don’t remember as much. 

That’s why I will now take my journal with me on every hike and take detailed notes again. I don’t want to miss a thing.

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.

Fall 2019 Racing and Training Plan

I have finally decided on my Fall Training and Racing Plan:

  1. Completing as many of the New England 4,000 footers as I can and in the meantime filling out my NH 4000 Footer Grid.
  2. Kismet Cliff Run – September 22
  3. Waterville Valley Mountain Race – September 29
  4. Run the Witch – October 27
  5. Mountain Bike Bear Brook and Franklin Falls

I have a few other races that I’m contemplating but really I just want to hike and mountain run. I’ve been in a bit of a training rut since I don’t have a big goal. I seem to do better with big training plans when I have big goals to meet. 

However, the weather in New Hampshire is finally fantastic; cool mornings – so I have to take advantage and get out of this rut. 

Just writing this and reading it over and over will get me there. 

I’m reading a lot of books about running and ultra running. I’m following a man on Instagram who is doing the Grand Slam of Ultra Running – finishing all four 100s: Leadville, Western States, Wasatch and Vermont 100. I want to do that one day but I have to finish a 100 first. I know that’s what I want to do; I’m sure of it. I know I want to do Lead Woman. I am just having difficulty getting started. But reading and planning and training help. I know I want it. I just have to do the steps.

4,000 footer club

It only took 30 years to get the 4,000 footers done, however, I was out of the region for 15 years. I finished my last one yesterday, August 11, 2019.

But I love a challenge and reaching long-term goals so I’m doing the 67 4,000 footers in New England next so I’ll be heading to Vermont and Maine a lot in the next few months. And, I might have just found a companion to do them with ….. and his dog.

4,000 Footer List, page 1
AMC Guide 24th Edition 4,000 footer list

#doepicshit #ne67