The Route Less Traveled (to Lonesome Lake)

At least, I had assumed that the approach from Basin-Cascade and Cascade Brook trail was less-traveled than the shorter (but much rockier and within earshot of the highway for too long) approach via Lonesome Lake trail. Based on the number of fellow travelers we met on our return trek, I’m no longer sure! But that’s foliage season in the Whites.

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Evidence in support.

I struggled to settle on a route for Saturday. I wanted to get above treeline and was sorely tempted to hike to Glen Boulder, but worried that route would be rougher and steeper than was appropriate for this stage of Titus’s rehab. And I wasn’t feeling motivated enough to hike it with Lilo in the morning and then switch dogs and head back out again. The Hedgehog loop would have been perfect, but I already had plan to peer int the Sandwich Wilderness on Sunday and wanted something different. Rumor was that Franconia Notch had the best foliage. Eventually I settled on driving to the Basin lot, fully expecting to reroute due to crowds.

Instead mine was only the third car in the lot and the drive into the notch had been as-advertised peak. We were on our way!

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Pit bull and her pet dog.

We haven’t seen any frost yet at lower elevations, but I’m a wimp; last weekend and this, I’m back to starting in my beloved perfect jacket and then shucking it half a mile down the trail. The dogs and I spent the first mile and a half leapfrogging with two men on their way to the Kinsmans. They’d stop to take pictures and we’d go by, then Titus would have to sniff something within an inch of its life and they’d pass us back. One of them noted that Lilo looked like a, “Very serious hiker!” Good eye, my friend. Good eye.

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Woods giving way to sky on approach to the lake.

I wasn’t sure how far we’d get on this hike. The trail is never technical or significantly steep, but it was more mileage and rougher footing than Titus has seen since the end of July. I had an eagle-eye on his right hind every time we stopped and on his gait while moving. He certainly wasn’t, as the rehab vet says, self-limiting; at least twice he leaped onto a boulder before I could intercept and I thought that would be the end of our hike right there. The tapdance between letting him do more to get stronger and fitter (and saner!) and not letting him do too much is back in our lives again. I’m not-so-secretly hoping for an early winter. I’ll worry less about having him back on trail once the rocks disappear beneath snow!

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Hulking Cannon seen across Lonesome Lake.
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And Franconia Ridge, its neighbor across the street.

Lonesome Lake Hut was still open, but the dogs and I opted to stay down by the shore. We settled quietly down at a respectful distance from the only other person around at the time. Eventually a few other hikers passed and the hut croo dragged first a small table and then a platter of amazing baked goods down. We chatted a few minutes with the croo and our fellow lake-watcher as the dogs and I packed up to go. Then I stealth-bought us each a baked good.

“You didn’t have to do that!” he said.

My reply was, “I know, but I wanted to. So I did. So there.”

…possibly I should be less belligerent in pursuit of good deeds?

But it’s always nice to have a stranger take an interest in the pups and I had exact change and he did, so I figured I could return the kindness and save the croo running back up to the hut to make change.

I had a piece of chocolate mint cake; it was worth every penny.

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Lonesome Lake, with our new friend stage left.

Titus did really, really well during this rest stop. So did Lilo, but she always does. No barking or fussing: he just ate his kibble and looked around. He loves watching the world go by more than any dog I’ve ever known.

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“(S)he’s not with me.”

I tried to pose them in front of the lake for a nice picture before we moved on. Titus’s stay at a distance still needs…a lot of work. We haven’t done much formal training since his injury, initially because I didn’t want to ask him for positions without knowing for sure what would hurt and more recently because he’s put on a number of pounds between the exercise restriction and needing to keep stuffed food toys in front of him to preserve everyone’s sanity. He was a trim 48 pounds at the time of his injury and I really liked him there. Now he’s back where he was when I brought him home: not visibly overweight (thanks, fuzz!) but there’s some extra Titus there when you put hands on him. I figure it will resolve itself as he’s able to get out and exercise more, so we’ll ramp back up the training as the weight comes off.

Anyway. The following pictures were taken within a few seconds. The sequence makes me laugh pretty hard.

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The return hike went much more smoothly than last week’s; we just picked up and went. Titus did bark a little while tied at one point when I stepped off-trail to pee…

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The face Lilo makes when Titus (off camera to her right) starts yelling.

…and had one bout of absolute hysterics with a mile to go. I tethered him and gave him a bandana to shred; he found his brain again after that and hiked nicely the rest of the way out. I’m not sure what brought the meltdown on, but I liked his recovery a whole lot.

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Lilo being right. This was just after the first major water crossing — make that rock crossing this year — on the return. The AT, which we took from this point to the lake, branches off to the right; Basin-Cascade is the blue-blazed trail ahead. I had to pull out my map to make sure that this was indeed the where we jumped back onto Basin-Cascade. Lilo stood there waiting the whole time.

I know that I keep saying this, but the water levels are shockingly low right now. I’m a relative newbie hiker to the Whites and at this point, even I can tell the difference. Water crossings scare me a little — they can so easily go wrong! — but I am looking forward to seeing what these rivers and falls look like when — or if — they regain their usual glory.

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Tryhard Falls.

The morning mist had long since burned off as we reapproached the Basin. Many, many folks were out on the lower portions of the trail enjoying the leaves and fine weather.

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It was such a fine day and I had nowhere in particular to be after our hike, so the dogs and I ended up looping down into Lincoln, which was utterly jam-packed; it took me a good hour to go not even a mile through town. We continued east on the Kancamagus Highway, cut north on seasonally-gated Bear Notch Road, and then returned home via Crawford and Franconia Notches. The going was a bit slower than usual — only in foliage season can you get stuck behind a car with Massachusetts plates going 35 in a 50! — but not as horrific as I’d feared and the drive was every bit as pleasant as I’d hoped. The leaves even just a bit east in Bartlett weren’t at peak quite yet, which was encouraging for my tentative plan of hitting Pinkham Notch with the dogs later in the week.

The bad(?) news is that Titus was pretty sore. He looked great through the whole hike, including the end, but when I hopped him out of the car on Bear Notch Road he was definitely protecting his bad leg, although he walked out of it with reasonable speed. He did look better later than evening and then pretty close to his current baseline today, so I’m hopeful that we just overdid it a bit rather than a reinjury. I’m not sure what I could have done differently other than just not hiking him at all, which I don’t regret: we have the vet’s okay to carefully return to play (on leash) and it seemed like a reasonable increase in distance from his recent very successful outings. We’ll see what the vet thinks at his appointment this week. Rehabbing is hard, you guys. I’ve been very lucky that despite years of having animals, including a sport horse, I’ve never had an injury that required it before. Here’s hoping we just need to dwell a bit at this distance/difficulty rather than having an actual setback on our hands.

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5 thoughts on “The Route Less Traveled (to Lonesome Lake)

  1. What does a bout of hysterics look like with a dog like Titus? I can imagine a horse version of hysterics, but I can’t think what a dog version might look like. This is a failure of my experience and education, not doubt about your assessment or anything – I lack experience with actually training dogs to think what I might look for.

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    1. Lots of teeth. He needs! To bite! A thing! An awful lot of his civilization process thus far has involved a discussion of which things are appropriate to put teeth on and which things are not so much. Shredding the bandana worked a treat!

      Obviously the end goal is zero bouts of hysterics per hike and we were there in July, but the layup has set us back a ways.

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  2. I agree that rehabbing is very very hard! Being in the 6th month of it with R, I am sure that I won’t change my mind on that one. My rehab vet says that limping immediately after exercise is usually a sign of tired muscles (due to atrophy post-injury or surgery), especially if it’s gone by the next morning.

    Great photos! I love your leaves. I’d almost forgotten what autumn looks like in your part of the world. It sounds as if you and the pups had a fabulous hike and day out!

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    1. Thank you for the perspective and condolences! I was thinking about what you’ve been through with your Black Dog the other day, actually, and his current state is a great reassurance.

      Autumn in New England is pretty much perfection in every way. Except for the tapdance of when to turn the heat on! There’s rime ice above 3,500′ already in some of the ranges, I hear, but I haven’t seen it yet myself.

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  3. I’m beyond late in commenting per the norm – but omg the foilage. Gorgeous.

    Our water table was Stupid Low going into fall, too, which hurt the lead show this year. The rain has come back with the departure of the leaves though which is fantastic for the rivers!

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