Table Rock Trail, Grafton Notch State Park
Adversity on the trail, footwear for winter hiking, and the company we keep.
Sometimes you don't get a summit photo because you don't make it to the summit. There are times when the risk is not worth the reward. Sometimes, you just have to call it.
Here is my summit photo from the Table Rock Trail.
Clearly, we never made it to the summit. This hike threw us a curveball and we had to turn back without reaching the top. We had to resort to Plan B - an overpriced coffee at the Sunday River ski lodge and a self guided tour of the surrounding neighborhoods, filled with beautiful ski homes. See above.
Plan A looked a bit different: my friend Becca and I would drop Finn and my nephew Jack off at Sunday River for some skiing, then do a quick hike up the Table Rock Trail for a stunning view. Table Rock is a short drive from the ski mountain and since the hike is a quick 2.7 mile loop, this seemed like a perfect plan to me.
Becca hadn't done much winter hiking and I was eager to show her how much fun it was. She was equally excited and up for all of it, even though the conditions were less than ideal: the wind blowing sideways, the cold temps and the crampons that refused to stay on her feet. Yet look at her adorable, happy face and rosy cheeks. Such a trooper.
Table Rock is not exactly a summit, but more of an overlook. The short loop trail should have been an easy-ish hike, but I forgot about the large section of boulders on the right side of the loop. If you follow the trail counter clockwise, you will cross these boulders before reaching the overlook. Here is a picture of the beginning section of boulders. The trail eventually falls away, leaving you with a climb - one boulder to the next.
The last time I'd done this hike, about a year ago, we did not have a dog. In that scenario, the boulders were less of a problem and more of a pleasure. Those pictures looked like this:
This time around, however, there was snow/ice covering the boulders and my dog Romy was NOT having it. With large gaps between the giant rocks, there was just no easy path for her to take. I tried leading her over several different routes, but she refused to budge...getting more agitated by the minute. We were SO close to the overlook and the view, but the reality of our situation - it just wasn't going to happen. Disappointed as I was, we made the decision to turn around.
Here is the view we didn't get to see. These pictures were taken the first time I did this hike in milder weather, with Tim and the boys...and no dog. It really is a great family hike with an incredible view. Here is the All Trails link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/maine/table-rock-trail
The other challenge we faced was footwear. Hiking in winter can involve slippery, wet and/or icy sections of trail. A good pair of ice spikes makes all the difference. Becca had some crampons that would not stay on her boots. I've been in this situation myself...in the past. And the last time I hiked with my friend Jaime, she ran into the same problem. Now I hike with Kahtoola MICROspikes, which I ordered from L.L. Bean. I wear them over hiking boots and they stay on my feet. They also give me plenty of traction on slippery, wintery surfaces. I LOVE my MICROspikes and highly recommend investing in a pair if you plan to do winter hiking.
Although we had to turn around, Becca and I commented on the beauty of our surroundings and how lucky we were to be hiking together in the great outdoors. If you want to enjoy your time on earth, no matter the circumstances, choose good friends. Keeping good company with fun, flexible people makes a little adversity surmountable, even enjoyable. And time spent on a trail with a friend is always time well spent, even if things don't go according to plan. Life is meant to be shared.
As we reached the bottom of the trail, we came across a young woman and her husky. I warned her about the section of boulders and she explained that she'd had to turn around more than once at that point with dogs. She now follows the loop clockwise, heading up the left side and returning the same way after reaching the overlook. She never crosses the boulders because she avoids that section of the loop altogether. Smart cookie.
When we made it back to the warm car, I gave Finn a call to let him know we were returning to the ski mountain. He told me that the chair lifts weren't running due to high winds...adversity on their end as well! He sounded happy though. They'd decided to build a ski jump at the bottom of the hill and make the most of the day. They were having a great time and in no rush to head home. Finn also chooses good company.
With some time to kill, Becca and I decided to grab a coffee in the lodge and take Romy on a walk around the neighborhoods.
Although it wasn't the day we had planned, we were all happy and tired on the ride home. My husband likes to say that, "A little affirmation goes a long way".
I also believe that, "A little adversity goes a long way." Today's adversity reminded us to be flexible, to be creative problem solvers, and to appreciate the company of good friends.
Adversity also makes the easy days that much sweeter. We will return to this hike at some point, in better weather, hiking up the left side of the loop, avoiding the boulders on the right side. And when we do, I can guarantee that our summit picture will be all smiles.