I had met Mark and Nat Truman through our mutual interest in the Mount Washington Observatory. We had a long distance "internet relationship" for some time before actually getting to meet each other at an annual event, Seek the Peak, to help support the MWObs. Mark had once emailed me that he enjoyed my trip reports and photos and that he aspired to one day do the same. If you have read any of his trip reports and have seen his photos then you know as well as I that he has done a great job! I can certainly say that I enjoy and admire his reports! His wife Nat has been a great friend and support for me as I have gone through many trials over the last few years. They both have become great friends.
As with all friendships we never seem to find enough time to spend together. When I heard they were planning this hike I invited myself along. Judy would be working as it was a mid-week hike, but Emma and I were free and would like to join. In the past year Mark and Nat have worked hard to complete their 48NH list, knocking off twenty since last September. I think attending the AMC Awards Ceremony last April may have tipped the scale and made them even more determined to finish this list. They are now poised to complete the list very soon. This hike of the Hancocks ticked off numbers 46 and 47 on their resume. I will cheer loudly when they receive their awards next spring as they did for me when I received my W48 this past year.
I have admired their cavalier attitude towards the whole list thing. I know they have hiked when they could and returned to many mountains again and again to be with friends or simply because they just enjoyed that particular hike enough to do it over. This summer they knocked off some of the harder, more irksome hikes like Owl's Head and Isolation, and they also returned to Washington for the annual pilgrimage during Seek the Peak. As much as we enjoy each others company we have spent far to little time on the trail together so I was eager for the chance to hike with them again. Emma and I had not been above 4000' together, or at all, since we hiked Washington and Jefferson in March. Her injury came the next weekend, and during a long, slow recovery we had hiked smaller, easier mountains.
It was time for her and I to get back to where we belonged, bouncing our old bones down the trail. I was grateful the Truman's would have us along! The day couldn't have been more perfect weather-wise. It was dry, cool and sunny, a perfect fall day as summer was waning. I love the Hancock Notch Trail and its old railroad grades. It is easy footing and allows me the time to get my legs working before I have to start pushing them harder on the uphills. Emma was ecstatic as we started off along the trail. She is acutely aware that she is in the mountains even before we get to the trailhead. Even though she may seem like an old dog around the house, she is full of puppy spunk when she hits the trail. She will be thirteen in a few short weeks!
Starting out along the trail we talked about much that has passed since we last saw each other. The time seems to fly when you're engaged in conversation and the miles melt away. There was some doggy funkiness near the first junction. Emma wandered off trail near some campsites and disappeared. A little unusual, but I didn't panic yet. I went in to look for her as she wasn't coming back. I couldn't find her. I began calling, she wasn't coming. My heart quickened, now this was beginning to be unusual. I went back to the trail, she wasn't there. I went up the trail, I went down the trail. No Emma. Now I was panicking. Mark and Nat continued to call and look for her, no Emma. With thoughts of her stuck in the mud or having slipped and fallen in the brook I ran back down the trail thinking she may have headed back. No Emma. Eventually I heard Mark calling, he had her. She had just returned to the trail near where she had left it. Where she was and what she was doing only she will ever know, but it was very unlike her. My heart got a better work out in that 10 minutes than it did on the rest of the hike!
Altogether again we set off on the Cedar Brook Trail, again conversation made the miles and time fly and we were soon at the Hancock Loop. I explained the options and the preference to going clockwise and we were off. I stopped numerous times pretending to be taking photos when in actuality I was sucking wind. Emma was a trooper. I can certainly say her right rear leg is indeed healed and useful again! Thank you to the surgeon, and high fives to my wife and I who patiently put her through weeks of rehab and waiting. We did not want to push her back too soon as I had done with my own knee years before. Our patience has paid off, we have our faithful hiking companion back on the trail and tearing it up again!
At the outlook on Hancock we shared lunch and Emma chowed like a wild dog who never knows where their next meal will come from. Even in the sun the temps were cool enough for everyone except Emma who nestled under the spruce while we finished up our lunches. We were soon off across the ridge and on to South Hancock. As we sat on Hancock we had heard a dog below and we were trying to determine just where it was. We soon ran into him and his companions between summits. He was a rescue that the owner said he had found in a Burger King parking lot. There was also a beautiful brindle Greyhound and a Golden Retriever, really nice dogs.
We were soon on the summit of South Hancock, #47 for Mark and Nat! We celebrated with a second lunch. We dropped down to the viewpoint on the east side and picked out the various mountains seen from there, then began our hike back down. We soon found ourselves back at the loop junction. From there out the trail and footing improve as you head back towards civilization. Emma couldn't wait to get to a brook so she could cool off and have a good long drink! Emma and other dogs bring their own version of erosion to the mountains. She had wallowed in the mud on the ridge and was now depositing it the streams below. Once quite muddy, she was now clean again. Before long we found ourselves back at the car. It had a been a great day! Congratulations Mark, Nat and Emma!