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Maybe I was too hard on myself

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In September of last year I stated that I was reconciled to two, undeniable facts

Even though I am even MORE reconciled to the Phillies not winning the World Series this year, it seems that I might have been too pessimistic about my own capabilities.

Due to my less than stellar performance last year, I concluded that I was going to have to work up my strength a bit before I could consider heading into the Whites. Thus, my original plan this year was to start hiking in Southeast Virginia, and get a little more conditioned before heading north. As I've said before, I avoid a week of hiking when the weather forecasts tell me that I'll likely to be battling rain for three or more days out of five. In additional, community & home responsibilities can take away a week on The Trail. No problem, I thought, I'll just wait till I'm free and the weather around Pearisburg looks half-way decent for a week.

Nothing like that happened in March. Or April. Or May. Or June. Would you believe that, at Pearisburg, it has been raining pretty much half the days EVERY SINGLE WEEK since I began to check this spring!? Even next week doesn't look so great, either, so I'm wondering if I'll EVER get down there this summer.
This simple fact led me to decide I would either have to begin my hiking in the Whites, or just give up this summer altogether. Because the delay was driving me batty, I decided I would CAREFULLY check out my abilities in the Whites as a start. My warm-ups earlier this year
gave me SOME confidence about my general hiking abilities. When forecasts showed three straight days of perfect weather in the Franconia area last week, I jumped at the chance.

The key to all my planning was CAUTION. In all cases, my approach was to avoid painting myself into a corner, such that I would be find myself unable to handle the challenge I had set for myself, but be equally unable to end my self-testing. Thus, all the hikes I planned for myself HAD to be based on my being able to "bail" at any point. I was NOT going to allow myself to stuck on a mountain in the Whites, too sore to continue but having to do so because of weather or schedules. So every part of my plan including a promise to just turn around and go back if my body or the weather demanded it.

My A.T. miles had gone from almost-too-Pearisburg to the south base of Mount Moosilauke, near Glencliff. Thus, there was no getting around that I was going to HAVE to get to the top of that peak -- not exactly a good way to start when you're out of shape!

I had little trouble getting to Glencliff just before sunset after a ten hour drive. The question then became where I should spend the night. Trying to maximize my daylight hiking hours AND to minimize my costs, I'd made a choice that I (most definitely) do NOT recommend: I just slept in my car at the High Street Parking Area.
right at the start of the Glencliff Trail. Although I did end up getting some degree of sleep, it was (at best) fitful because-
1) the back seats of cars look a LOT bigger than they are.
2) I kept imagining the arrival of either police officers, telling me to move, or criminals breaking into the car with me in it.
3) I set off the car alarm at 1 am because I wasn't familiar with the alarm system on this rental car.

Despite my less than ideal night of repose, I was able to get up & about at 4 am, just as dawn was breaking, and was on The Trail before 5 am. I soon turned down the offer of joining another person heading for the top, simply because I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with him (or anybody who can hike faster than Stephen Hawking, as I've found out). The weather was cool but comfortable, the trail is presently in pretty good shape (don't panic when you see soupy mud at the start -- it's gone after about twenty feet), and the bugs were barely a bother. The only problem, of course, is that this is a steep climb -- but I found myself well able to handle it. I walked my typical slow pace, rested every hour, kept hydrated, and basically did everything to avoid trouble. It was, of course, discouraging when the steps up to South Peak never seemed to end, but it was never painful. After I got to the plateau at South Peak, the walk was relatively easy, and I felt real joy when I finally got my first look of the bald at the top of Moosilauke.
In a short while I had gotten the mandatory photo
and was taking a well-deserved rest.

Of course, I was hardly alone up there. Joining me were real backpackers, a group from Dartmouth Outing Club, gramps telling his newbie youngsters to add a layer for wind, about 30 kids who will (in 50 years or so) tell THEIR grandchildren about their first time up to this peak, and one guy who enjoyed playing rap music -- with frequent usages of the n-word -- without earphones, and loud enough to disturb all those around him. My only thought when meeting this creep was that I could get that type of noise without having to leave Philadelphia.

I hiked on to the intersection with the Benton Trail (a landmark for when I go up the north side of Moosiluake), then went back down the same route. The bugs were a little worse at this point, but nothing I couldn't handle. I again went out of my way not to overdo my efforts, and got back to car by mid-afternoon. I thus THOUGHT about doing some hiking after getting to Franconia Notch State Park, and checking into Lafayette Campground. But I decided not to seek too many blessings, and instead just spent a relaxing evening with a shower (four quarters for five minutes of hot water, and anyone can use them) and hot dogs cooked over charcoal.
One unexpected blessing(?) was getting to see a mid-size black bear walking through the campground this evening, who looked around at the site next to mine for a few seconds before heading for "better" opportunities. Only after getting my camera and deciding it was too dark to get a decent photo, did I decide to let other campers know that there was a bear walking through. Within five minutes I (1) heard a lot of shouting and horns blaring in the camp, (2) called Shuttle to let her know about this, and (3) spoke with a ranger about what I had seen. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that this is an all-too-common occurrence. I thus made doubly certain to pack all my food away in my car trunk.

Despite predictions of 0% chance of precipitation in the area, there was rain that night. No problem in my tent (I HAVE learned not to forget the rain covering!), but a worry concerning my hikes the next day. Again, I did not want to hike in less than ideal conditions when I wasn't certain what I could handle. When I woke up early the next morning to low clouds (rain on the way? or will they burn off with the sun?), I resolved to do hikes that could easily be ended if problems (either with the weather or my body) arose. I thus began with Falling Waters Trail (well described in this pdf)
and had no problem getting to Cloudland Falls.

When done with this, and with the weather definitely clearing up, I then resolved to do SOME hiking on the A.T. itself in this area. But now I had a time constraint -- I knew I had to leave by mid-afternoon (long story). I thus decided to do the ultra-easy hike up the Cascade Brook Trail, and back down the Basin Cascade Trail. Here's info on parking at Franconia for the A.T.
The up part of this walk was pretty dull, the walk back down had more nice waterfall scenes. I just hope the parents of the girls walking above the Basin, barefoot & in wet bathing suits, took my advice to not let their kids take a dip in these cascades. It's just not safe!

After feeling QUITE satisfied about my two days of hiking, without incident or body pains, I got some gifts for Shuttle at the White Mountain Visitor Center in Lincoln
and headed home. I'm happy to say that I now conclude I can handle SMALL BITES of the White Mountains. I'll continue taking these baby steps until (1) I build stamina, (2) I overdo it, or (3) it stops raining in Pearisburg.