Just Keep Hiking?

“The Best Laid Plans” or “There’s No Crying in Hiking”? Either one fits.

The plan: meet up with Right Turn at the Sandwich Mountain Trail/Drakes Brook Trail trailhead at 7:30 AM. Hike to Jennings Peak and Sandwich Dome. A simple enough plan. Right?

Woke up at 4:45 AM, by 5:30 AM (my planned time of departure), I see there is frost on the car. Not a big deal, just scrape it off. That part was true. However, my car doors were frozen shut. Both doors as well as the boot hatch. Hmmm. Tried all the tricks. Leaned on the doors, pulled on the doors, chanted incantations at the doors, begged the doors. Nothing. The boot hatch unlatched, but wouldn’t actually open. I finally got the passenger side door to open and climbing in that side, am able to push the driver side door open from the inside. Blast the heat, hoping to thaw out the boot hatch, which will now chime annoyingly at me because it thinks it’s open, even though it’s frozen shut. Pack up the car. Fiddle some more with the boot hatch. Attempt to use the ice scraper to break whatever ice seal is happening (DO NOT TRY THAT AT HOME). Annnnd while I DO manage to get the hatch open (so I can close it properly), I also break the rubber seal. Fine, whatever, ignore that, get in the car, text Right Turn that I will likely be 15 minutes late. Drive two hours.

Arrive at trailhead (well the turn just before it) to find Right Turn pulled over on the side of the road . Apparently, we aren’t getting up that road. It snowed last night, and the plows haven’t come yet, and it’s just mashed potato-y enough that MY MINI Cooper for sure won’t make it, and she’s doubtful even about her four wheel drive SUV after watching another car attempt it and bail out. OK fine. Smarts Brook Trail is down the road three miles and gets us up to Sandwich Dome. We drive down there. Only to pull open our maps and realize a) it’s likely going to be mostly snowshoeing (aka someone else hasn’t yet hiked this trail and packed it down) and b) it’s a longer hike by at least a mile. Now I haven’t hiked in two months. Also, it’s winter, and we’ve only got so much daylight, which we were pushing as it was with our planned hike. (And I wasted some breaking my car). OK fine. Plan C. Mt. Tecumseh. We’ve both hiked it before, it’s a good winter hike, it’s nearby and it’s only 5-ish miles. The trailhead is located at Waterville Valley Ski resort, so we know we can get in and out. Giddyup, new plan!

We park, gear up, and go!

Right Turn and I at Mt. Tecumseh Trailhead sign

Mt. Tecumseh is the name of the mountain that is also Waterville Valley Ski resort. As I said, we parked there for the trailhead. No one went by as I took a pic, but there is a tiny “spur” trail that allows you to peak out onto the ski trails.

Me next to the ski trail
Ski trail selfie

Let’s put on our way back hats, and recall July of 2018. Mt. Tecumseh was my first 4000 footer! I had a love hate relationship with that hike. The hate mostly came from walking down those stupid ski slopes in hip high grass that covered up loads of ankle breaking holes. But also, there is a stretch of this trail that is just stone steps. Block after block after block of stone. Now the bonus of winter is that these were completely covered. HOWEVER, no amount of snow makes this trail any less relentless. And relentless it is, for 1 1/2 to 2 miles of the 2 1/2 mile ascent.

Today my legs just said no. I hit a point on the hike that they were done. It was like a car with no gas. My brain wanted me to go. My lungs and heart were going, but manageable. But my legs? If they could talk they would have said “no, bitch”. Or nothing at all because they were just UNRESPONSIVE. I kept trying. Ten steps. Break. 15 steps. Break. Lots of swearing. Right Turn said at one moment, “Today’s hike brought to you by the letter F”. Finally, I just broke. I stood there, leaning on my poles, and cried.

Right Turn had once described me to a friend as “a hot mess, but she’s hysterical”. Today I was heavy on the hot mess, light on the hysterical.

I really tried to suck it up. And so, a first for me, hiking WHILE crying. Mind you, I’ve cried at least twice on hikes before, but only during breaks, not WHILE ACTUALLY HIKING. So that happened.

We stopped for a snack. I hoped that maybe I just needed a Snickers. Ha. Started up again. Still my legs said no. Finally I switched to my snowshoes, which have “televators”. A little bar that you can flip up when ascending so your foot stays level, even though the “shoe” is angled on the trail slope. Whether it was mental or the snack kicking in or the actual televators, I made it to the junction before the summit. I knew if I made it there, I could make it the rest of the way. And so I did.

Me at the summit of Tecumseh

Here is the view at the summit. The “partly cloudy” skies of the day opened up to allow some blue just in time for us to hit the summit. In the lower right photo, you can see the top of the chair lift from the resort.

Time for our descent! I brought a butt sled as I know Right Turn is a big fan. Butt sledding has scared me in the past. The first time I went, I didn’t have a sled and actually just went down on my butt. The second time, I had a sled and was terrified at how fast it felt and out of control and HELLO TREES. But I think I got the hang of it this time! One, I was wearing waterproof pants over my leggings for the descent. I took off my hiking skirt, which when butt sledding acts as a giant funnel creating what I can only describe as a crotch snow cone. I also wore my proper mittens. I don’t often need them as my hands get warm when hiking, but when you’re getting up and down sledding, you need properly warm, waterproof gloves or mittens. I also figured out how to safely slow myself down and steer a bit. Using the opposite of the pizza slice for skiing, I used a V formation with my legs. The slower I need to go, the wider the V, and the more snow builds up in front of me, hence the slower I go. I also used my hands as brakes/rudders.

For your viewing pleasure, my crotch full of snow. The pink thing is the handle of the butt sled.

Sledding makes the descent MUCH faster and more fun. It also makes all those burpees at the gym worth while (sit down, sled, stand up, walk, repeat).

The weather was great. The company was great. The ascent was dog shit. The descent was a blast. Happy I got out there, and that we made the best of a day that threw us some curveballs.

  • 5 miles
  • 2,075 feet of elevation gain
  • 5 hours, 56 minutes (including breaks, crying, and the summit stop)

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