Slainte from Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant!

The day was St. Patrick’s Day.  Bluebird skies. Crisp, fresh pow. And a dash of mountain air conditioning.  Four incredibly good hikers set forth for the adventure of their lives.  Erin go bragh!!

Wait? I’m not even Irish…

Ok…maybe that was a slight exaggeration. There were actually some clouds in the sky. 😉

You know what isn’t an exaggeration, though??  A 3rd nor’easter dumped more snow on the peaks! Yes. Yes…that means our plans changed at the last-minute, once again.  It also meant that I threw my New Russia traverse plan for my winter finish next season, right out the window!  But honestly, when have my plans ever actually worked out?? Hardly ever.

Giant and RPR were the smartest choices, with all the fresh snow.  Another duo weekend for John, Mallory and I.  The best part of this trip?  Kristen was back!! After chatting for months, we finally met in person as well! Hugged this lady as if I’ve known her my whole life. 🙂

Ok, so this is how it all went down.  Johnny and I would head to Rocky Peak Ridge first.  Mallory was in for that as well so far.  Kristen was fighting her own battle and headed to Sawteeth.  (And Peter was in Florida…relaxing in the sunshine! Smart man.)

We bid KT farewell and good luck on her journey back to strong, as we headed to Giant’s trailhead.  Upon our arrival, John was approached by none other than Spencer Morrissey.  Pretty freaking awesome! After introductions and some mountain chatter, it was time to get some mountains!

At 8:30 a.m., our snowshoes hit the trails and the climb immediately began.  This was a first for me on the Ridge Trail. I only hiked Giant from Roaring Brook.  It was my first high peak over 2 1/2 years prior.  Emotional to say the least.  Emotions came in waves like the tide.  Some were bittersweet, some were joyful…I just rode the heart-rending waters until they settled calmly on the shore. Ebb. Flow. Ebb…flow. I hid it well and channeled my soul into this gorgeous day that we were given!

And hey! I was trying out my new, bigger pack! I know you’re all clapping. My poor little Baby Pack of Steel was back home. I promised her she would be there until the end.
But...after the listening (finally) to some solid, sound advice, I bit the bullet and upgraded.

It would be the smartest move I made. Just have to get another Redfield patch for this one! 😉

The trails were hustling and bustling already and well-broken out for now!   Winter mornings in the mountains are just heavenly.

Morning mountain glow gently spilled both light and shadows through the woods.

Warm-up mode was in progress for me.  JK maintained the lead, as we ventured on.  There was a bit of “Adirondack trail swing dancing” here and there, as we skirted around some groups ahead of us.  The climb only lasted 30 minutes until the first lookout.

Once back in the treeline, we paused for a super-quick refuel while we waited for Mallory.  John glanced back a bit to see if she was coming. He may have even shouted a few “Cacawwws” out to her too, ha!   She waved us on.  Mallory decided to take this one nice and easy.  Awesome photography shots were sure to follow from her!

JK was a good sport for hiking with me, glitter and all! Haha!  #gottabealittlefestive

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The captivating views from the first little lookout! Yes, yes, yes!!

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Sneaky.  Onward we marched on, through the washbowl and up to the nubble?

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The winds ripped through the openness of the nubble…causing quite a swirling tundra! Giant’s washbowl resembled the perfect mountain ice skating rink down below.

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Glor.i.ous.

But why was it so windy??  My eyes hurt.

At this point, we waited for Mallory.  A passing hiker gave us the message to meet her at Giant. But we were going to RPR first, so we best thought to wait…just to make sure!

Sneaky again!

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Gorgeous skies…freezing winds.  And John’s gloves just hanging out.

Mallory came around the bend a little bit later…when we discovered only half the message was delivered.  Mal decided she would just go to Giant!  So we bid her farewell as John and I hustled onto Rocky Peak Ridge.

I am so thankful we chose the Ridge Trail for the ascent. Every view was healing. After going “around the bump,” we arrived at the junction for Roaring Brook. This is where I ascended from in the past. Every step past this point was pure magic.  John karate-chopped snow-capped branches, while I walked under them (haha), but still…pure magic.

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This would be an appropriate time to chat about my new Osprey pack!! The AG system is a dream. It’s still only a 24L, but alot better than my 16L baby pack.   I know I’ve been such a hard head about purchasing a new backpack, purely for sentimental reasons though. I attribute my new pack to the effortless-feeling climb.  It also has those nifty belt pockets, perfect for housing my cheese and pepperoni.  Love Baby Pack’s big sis!

This would also be the moment we decided to take Roaring Brook on the out! We just needed to communicate the change of plans to Mallory.  But of course, our cell service was spotty.  This would make for an interesting turn of events later on…

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Magical mountain goodness!  Hiking with John is always an education. He’s a walking encyclopedia of every slide and peak!  He rattled off the names of all the slides on Giant…the only one I remember is Tulip! Because, what an awesome name for a slide and it’s one of my favorite flowers!  Ha! Seriously though, this was a situation where this teacher assumed the role of “student.” Aren’t we always though?  The beauty of hiking.  The possibilities are endless.  Truly.  Excitement for warmer temperatures crept in, just a little, for this winter girl at the thought of slide climbing this summer! #adventuresawait

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Making my way up to the junction for Giant and RPR.  The snow was bright!!

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Looking back from the junction.

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Once at the junction, we noticed the trail to Rocky had been broken out as well.  Two for two!

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More Adirondack swing dancing commenced, as we advanced around more hiking clans.  Ohh and there was some buttsliding and jumping down tricky parts! Well, John jumped.  I crawled down tricky parts.  Once down in the col, it was time for a lunch break! The crazy clouds continued to swirl, but the sun was persistent and refused to give up on this day!

A few gentlemen were ahead of us on Rocky, which revealed the beginnings of a broken-out path.  We made quick work of the ascent to RPR and before I knew it…

At 1:05 p.m., I achieved my 28th winter high peak with Rocky Peak Ridge!! It’s true I almost blew off the summit like Toto, but still!! Extraordinary!

Rocky from my perspective:

These summit shots!! Haha! My face is somewhere in all of that blackness! Some serious Johnny Cash now.

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JK and “Buttsled Bunny Ears.”  My “red ride of fun” almost blew away too~

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From JK’s perspective:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/16R5MJynEDtIKcUbw9v56ji_ydKtGmCVO/view

Giant of the Valley. Pure love.  #makeyoursoulright

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Meanwhile…back on the trail to Giant:

Mallory’s stellar ability to take mountain naps! If there is anyone who can truly embrace mountain wonder, it’s Mal. A soul with peace in her heart and beauty in her mind.  She did startle a few hikers though, haha.

Are you ok???”

Yes, just taking a winter summit nap.

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More than one summit siesta too!

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However…this.  A heavenly shot of this high peak favorite! Like I’ve said before, an incredible photographer, she is.

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Simultaneously, over at the AMR,  Kristen reached her own victory at the junction for Sawteeth! It was a trailbreaking battle, brief hiker encounters, and as always, strength prevailed!  This was her transition point back to full power for the hikes that followed from now on.  Yay KT! Tower of strength.

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John and I didn’t linger on Rocky long. So it was the march down into the col and back up to the junction.  I was feeling strong now!  There was just the right amount of snow for my Tubbs to kick some major butt!  Somewhere deep inside, there was a reservoir of energy, that shifted into overdrive on the climb back up to Giant.  Finally!! Took me all winter to get to strong, haha!

John…doing his thing! What a day! Marvelous.  Illustrious.  Divine.  Spectacular. The list goes on and on!

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The Dix Range! I’ll be back for you next winter, old friends.

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The skies cleared on the hike back, just as John’s trusty weather app predicted.  And boy, what a glorious mountainscape waited for us!
Winning!! Haha! Yes! At 2:30 p.m….

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Woohoooo!!! Summit of Giant for #29!! Redemption.  Yes…definitely made things right with my soul.  Giant was my first love. My very first high peak.  How much life has transformed since then.  Now, solid ground.  Strong back. Soft front. Wild Heart.  Almost there…

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The rest of Adirondacks from Giant…holy moly mountains majesties!!

Slide School 101 continued from the summit of Giant. There is nothing better than witnessing joy from another person.  And John talking about slides…pure joy! Hard not to smile along with excitement as well! Good hikers. Even better people.  A day of mountain joy!

An enormous smile lived under that face mask. Happiness rushed inside me!

John’s too!  Ha!  Giant has that effect on people.

Are you kidding me?? LOOK AT THIS VIEW!! Winter…like a broken record, I say it again.  Winter.  Just do it.  Every defining slope and curve and crest of each peak breathes the pure beauty of Mother Nature’s strength.

Breathe it all in…love it all out.  This. Right here…is why I am winter hiker.

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The smartest decision on this journey was taking Roaring Brook on the descent!  That…and buying my new pack. 😉   JK and I broke out the sleds for the entire way down Giant and Roaring Brook.  It was AWESOME!!! Aside from the fact that I lost my really good sunglasses.  ):

John assumed the lead again, as my reserve tank was almost depleted.  I gave this range my all! The last leg of the hike I was running on fumes.

Hold the phone! Literally. When you get just enough cell service back to receive the messages from your fellow hikers…we would not have to hoof it down the road! Phew!

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Spring-like on the way out…bummed that I lost my sunglasses on the buttsliding shenanigans! (Did I mention that already? Heehee.)

Thumbs up for an all-star day in the High Peaks!

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Yes…a truly exceptional day in the mountains! Trailhead to trailhead = about 8 hours.

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Both Kristen and Mallory were waiting for us! Mallory was napping in her car…haha! Love her!

It was a victorious day for us all. Each in our own way.  Whether it was an internal battle, an angelic stroll, the chance to get your heart right or nabbing 2 more peaks for another round…this was the day we were given.  A celebration of life for sure.

Kristen, you are the definition of strength.  In its truest form.  And the reason for my recent Oreo addiction.   I cannot wait to hike with you soon!

Mallory, thank you for reminding all of us, that sometimes in life, we need to stop. Just stop…slow down and smell the roses, the gloriousness that surrounds us is never overlooked. You are the epitome of breathe it all in and love it all out. Love ya, girl!  #soulsisters

JK, you did it again! Thank you for this kick-ass adventure. Your knowledge and sense of humor are always welcomed and valued! You helped to bring new hope to these treasured mountains of mine. Once again, age knows no limits! We rocked this hike for sure!! I appreciate both yours and KT’s friendship more than you know.

I fell just one mountain short of my goal 30 winter high peaks this season. This was a crazy weather winter!  But it is really ok. I have never been more thankful for a life season in these past 6 years.  Good people.  Healing opportunities.  New victories.  The Universe continues to show me that 2018 is indeed a turning of the tide. Strong back, soft front, wild heart. 

Giant and Rocky, we’ve come full circle together.  My heart cherishes you always.  And hey, we still have that New Russia traverse to tackle so see you when I see you!

Thanks again, Winter. 

Forever your biggest fan,

J

P.S. Never miss a chance for a sunset…heaven.

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