Monday, October 8, 2012

Just One More ...

Just one more peak to finish Monica's 4000'ers.  As most people near the end of their list they start evaluating the remaining mountains to choose the right one for the final peak.  The three remaining candidates for Monica were Carrigain, Cabot, and Isolation, and she chose Isolation for a few reasons.  I think being a long hike worked a bit against it, but it's much better than Cabot for the view, and the road walk for Carrigain (Sawyer River road was closed until this weekend) dampened that choice.  She's been working on the list for 2 years as she got the hiking bug just before we met.  Until we started hiking she didn't really know about the 4000'ers and this became a serious goal for her.  The past two summers we dedicated a chunk of time to knocking off mountains on the list, including some ambitious weekends.  She and her sister did a two night Presidential Traverse saying at Madison and Lakes last year, and this year we did a Bonds Traverse on a gorgeous day to pick off a bunch more, followed five days later by Owls Head.  As the summer ended and fall started we were determined to finish up this year.

Just one more mountain to finish my 3rd round of the 4000'ers.  For years I only needed two peaks to finish my 3rd round; Owlshead and Isolation. I hiked them the first time as part of my 4000'ers.  The second round I was accompanying others on their peaks and it was the same for the third round.  Well, that's not fair to Isolation, which has a fantastic view and is wonderfully remote.  Owlshead is just a too long walk in the woods to a cairn in the trees.  Sorry everyone who loves Owlshead, but it will never be a favorite of mine.  At this point, if I do Isolation and Owlshead again I think I'll complete my 4th round, but I think I'll stop counting at this point.

Just one more weekend dedicated to finishing the list. Hiking is a great joy for both of us, and the 4000'ers list is a great way to explore and track your accomplishments.  And it is a big accomplishment; it represents a commitment of time and energy over an extended time period to achieve an end.  There are (literally) high points and low points along the way; spectacular views and knee deep mud.  But with the end in sight it sometimes feels like a chore to knock off another peak on the list each weekend.  Fortunately there always seems to be at least one memorable view, animal sighting, conversation, or just mind clearing moment of Zen along the way.  Still, not having to plan your weekends around a list is extremely liberating and we're both looking forward to having no constraints.

Just one more day, the forecast on Saturday was for rain all afternoon.  I don't know if it really fell up there since we drove up that afternoon but the Sunday forecast looked good and we woke up to a beautiful sunrise in Jackson.  I'm not really good at delaying plans but I finished my first round of the 4000'ers on Isolation, alone and in the rain, and I didn't want Monica's finish to suffer a similar fate.  It would be colder on Sunday, but had the right gear and we could sense the start of Fall with some possible snow in the forecast for the next day.

Just one more mile from the junction of the Isolation (East) trail and the Davis Path to the summit.  We've been rock hopping, negotiating waterlogged trails, and leaping across stream crossings for 3.5 hours and the end is in sight.  It's a simple goal, but it also represents the end of a major goal and the two thoughts are intertwined.  Of course, the trail along the ridge is a muddy mess (how does this happen on a ridgetop?) and we navigate with care.  I knew that the sign to the summit spur trail was gone, but the two other signs remained on the Davis Path so finding the way wasn't difficult.  Just a few more steps and there we were!  Oops, the true summit is 20 feet further over the scrub; OK, now we're really there!

Just one more stream crossing, one more mile of mud, one more encounter with hikers headed in, one more stumble on a rock hidden under a pile of colorful fallen leaves.  After feeling a bit grumbly on the way in the return trip was surprising quick and painless.  Yes, it went on for a while but the rock hopping and mud were a minor inconvenience rather than the mind numbing chore we thought it would be.  Hiking out is always easier than the trip in and with the realization that this goal had been completed we started discussing other hiking goals, like a one day Presidential Traverse, backpacking the Adirondacks, some longer dayhikes next summer and the upcoming ski season.  But no new lists for a bit.

Just one more person accompanied me on this trip up Isolation than did on my first time; but if it's the right person one is enough.

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