Ethan Pond Trail, trailhead
We were hoping to successfully execute Plan B today, Mt. Willey. I went to bed last night thinking that we'd have a shot at it, if the trail/ladders weren't too icy and if we were well protected from the wind.
I awoke at the usual 5am, got the gear in the car, got myself ready, woke up Alex, got her ready, and then left the house. It was raining quite hard, and I had my first serious doubts about Willey.
Just before 6am, we went through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru. We ordered our standard bagels with cream cheese and I got my very necessary large coffee. We drove off, the windshield wiper going full force and my doubts increasing.
It seems a few fog monsters ate Cannon and the Franconia Ridge. Those mountains were nowhere to be seen as we drove slowly through the Notch.
We continued along route 3, then turned onto 302. I noticed the entire Presidential Range had been replaced by a family of very mean-looking, dark, thick clouds. From bottom to top, these mountains had vanished. I began to wonder if we would be able to find Mount Willey, let alone climb it.
We found the trailhead, and now there was no question -- we were not going to get very far today. The clouds were dark and thick, the rain was cold and steady, and everything was dark even though it was past sunrise. The entire environment seemed to scream "Go Away!" If it were summer and I thought it would clear and warm up, I would have had some hope. However, I knew the temps were going to plummet, and that this mess may not clear up at all.
However -- I wanted Alex to assess the situation for herself. I had explained the forecast and she knew what to expect regarding the trails ahead of us (she chose the route for today).
I told her we would do what she thought we should. That we could start up the trail and I would turn us around if I felt it was becoming too dangerous. Or, we could just attempt the whole thing on another day. That I was game either way, and she could decide.
Alex looked around at the sky, thought for a while, and then slowly said that she thought we should wait. Her main reason was that the clouds looked "very scary." I told her that was fine, no worries. She then said she felt "strange" because she wasn't used to turning away from a hike, and that she felt "sad" that we haven't been hiking very much lately. I reminded her that safety comes first -- it's hard to reach a goal if you injure or kill yourself during the attempt. I think she truly gets this. I also told her that we've been hiking every weekend the weather's allowed, with the exception of the recent sick weeks we were all forced to take. I assured her that we will continue to do 4Ks as long as she wants to, though we may need to take a serious break once the snow really starts to hit.
[She is very, very proud of herself for being able to hike these mountains. She loves feeling like she's a part of the hiker community. She loves it when folks meet us on the trail, and she looks forward to meeting more and more fellow hikers, as time goes on.]
We left the gear in the car and walked up to the trailhead, a little ways away from the parking area. The cold rain came down, but we didn't mind it very much since we were so close to the car. We looked at the sign, and Alex thought it was funny that you have to cross railroad tracks to get to it.
We came back down, sat on some rocks, and talked for a bit. We were waiting for someone who had said they would meet us on the trail. We talked, explored the parking area, then eventually got tired of being rained on and retired to the car. Alex drew pictures of past hikes (Garfield and Hale), and most importantly -- we ate chocolate! We waited until it was half hour past the time I thought our fellow hiker was going to arrive, then I left a note for her and drove away. [We ended up just missing her, she had sent a message this morning telling me she was showing up a little later than originally planned...we had already left and I did not get the message until after we returned home -- rats!]
Not quite the morning I'd had in mind, but Alex and I had a nice time nonetheless.