The month since our Mount Jackson hike had been rather full with new responsibilities. My Dad and Grandfather had recently reopened our farm stand into a full service store and Aubrey and I had been working our fair share at it over the last couple weeks leaving very little time for hiking like we are used to. I had become rather “itchy” and I am not sure if it was me being itching to get back to the mountains or if the added workload was really making me tired and bitchy but none the less I was craving some mountain air. So on a whim I reserved a campsite at the KOA in Woodstock, but instead of defaulting to throwing the tent in the back of the Escape, I made plans to take “Little House” our not so little pop up camper instead.
I am not a stranger to setting up our pop up and can do so rather easily on my own, but I had yet to take it out on my own. I had only recently just towed it for the first time during our last trip north, but my husband was with me to help ensure everything was ok. So this would be my first time taking Little House and Aubrey on a camping trip without any help. I was nervously excited. Thursday morning finally rolled around and it was time to go. I had asked for help backing the truck up to the camper but Gerry declined to help me and with good reason. If I couldn’t manage to do it in our driveway how would I manage at the campground when it was time to go home. Point Taken. So as I was backing up, thinking how annoying it will be to have to keep getting in and out of the truck to check on my alignment and scared to dent the bumper, I noticed our old tiki torches laying beside the trash can. AH-HA! I quickly ran over grabbed them placed one over the hitch of the camper, and one over the ball on the truck, got back in and line the two torches up and slowly backed until they were touching. I got back out of the truck, checked to see how I did, took the tiki torches off and dropped the hitch easily on the ball. Mission Accomplished! I crossed my chains and was ready to go.
We made it to the campground around 2pm and easily set up in the Pull-Thru site I had booked since my trailer backing skills are extremely limited. Within an hour of arrival Aubrey and I ventured off into Lincoln to pick up a few things I had forgotten (her camp chair) and made a stop to pick up some of my favorite fall beer Autumn Brew Ale by Woodstock Brewery. It was back to the campground to relax for the rest of the day and finalize our hiking plans for the next day.
I had originally planned to hike our second 4,000 footer Mount Tecumseh Friday morning, but the weather was looking a bit chilly at the higher summits. Mountain-Forecast.com was saying the high at the summit was going to be around 34 degrees with winds so I was growing skeptical of our goal. I glanced over a few other little hikes in the area to start building a back up plan incase I woke up and deemed it too cold for us to venture up Tecumseh. I cranked the propane furnace and we headed to bed.
I didn’t sleep well overnight. The heater was for once working great (it usually has a hard time switching on and off as needed to maintain a good temp) and it was getting really warm in the camper, but I was too scared to adjust the thermostat since I would rather us be too warm than too cold. I remember waking up at 12:30am thinking it must be close to morning (which to be fair in my backwards world working nights 12:30 would have meant I overslept 2 hours!) and tossed and turned for a bit before falling back asleep. I finally woke up at 6 am and tried to sneak out of the bed Aubrey and I shared, to make a cup of coffee and finalize what exactly we planned on hiking. “Good Morning!” I heard just as I was pouring my coffee. I checked the weather again, no improvement and since I didn’t sleep well, I decided to hold off on hiking a 4K footer. So after debating between the Sugarloaf’s and Mount Pemi I finally decided upon Mount Pemi since it was only 10 minutes away versus almost 45 minutes.
We arrived to the Flume Gorge Visitor center around 9:30am and easily found a spot in the back lot closest the trailhead. We had hiked Mount Pemi- which is often called Indian Head since its profile from the highway looks like an Indian Chief, last summer so I was familiar with the trail and knew it wouldn’t be a challenge for Aubrey. As we headed up the Franconia Recreational Trail, before the truck was even out of site, Aubrey started bawling about how she wanted Daddy and Brady to hike with us. This little meltdown has been all to frequent on our hikes lately and I am not really sure why but it happens at the start of every hike! Luckily this one was short lived and she was laughing by the time we had to take the turn on to the Mount Pemi trail. The Mount Pemi trail is a fun hike for kids, it has three tunnels under the highways to pass under which are perfect for yelling “ECHO” in as you pass through. The rest of the trail has decent footing and lots to see on the way up. Aubrey was doing well but her focus was lacking, and after meeting the first dog on the trail which also happened to be one the owners wouldn’t let her pet definitely affected her drive to make it up the mountain. We finally crossed paths with another dog who appeared happy to see Aubrey and the owner said it was ok for her to pet, but then he proceeded to hold its mouth shut making the dog rather uncomfortable and was giving warning signs it was not happy so I quickly excused us before anything bad happened. I am still puzzled with this this dog’s owners behavior. If your dog is friendly and you tell a small child the dog it’s ok to pet it why would you need to clamp down on your dog’s mouth thus making it more likely to lash out? If your dog is not friendly just say so to prevent any mishaps. Very Odd.
We didn’t see all that many hikers out on the trail which was a nice change. Some would stop and chat with Aubrey and answer her million questions before continuing but there were quite a few who had zero patience and wouldn’t even acknowledge her and return even a simple “Hi” back. Yet I did notice there was something in common with many of these rude hikers….they were all wearing jeans and no backpacks….tourists.
I was growing frustrated, Aubrey wasn’t listening and the rude people and dogs had definitely taken a toll on her morale, and I was beginning to think about turning around when we finally made it to the large glacial erratic boulder. I knew after this point we were just over halfway and the trail will begin to level out and become much easier. So we kept on hiking.
Once I could tell that the summit was getting closer I stopped Aubrey and got down on a knee to talk to her. I explained to her that there would be absolutely no running on the top of this mountain and she must stay by my side at all times. This summit features extremely large cliffs and while the rest of the trail is extremely kid friendly, the summit is an area of great concern. It should be noted that it is plenty safe enough to bring children up it and there are spaces that are more kid friendly along the summit area, it is not without passing the cliffs first. If you are uneasy with heights try not to look down over the edges but out to the horizon.
We enjoyed the summit for awhile. It was warm and sunny with little to no breeze which was well welcomed since I was fearing it was going to be very chilly at the top. I couldn’t help but think if this was what the weather on Tecumseh was like and if so we should have hiked it instead! After our lunch and taking some pictures we headed back down the mountain and made good time as we went.
It took us 4.5 hours to complete the hike, which when I looked back it took us 5.5 hours last year. Last year Aubrey hiked up and down half of the mountain and was carried the other half so to beat our time by an hour I think was pretty good! Book time for Pemi is 3-4 hours so to complete a hike just over book time was a huge accomplishment considering Jackson we doubled book time.
This has made me really regret not doing tecumseh since she did so well on Pemi I think Tecumseh would have been a good challenge for her.
We headed back to the campground to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing and playing mini golf before having dinner and a campfire. We made Jiffy Pop and headed to bed for our last night of camping in 2017. In the morning we packed everything up and we were on the road home by 10am. It’s going to be along 7 months without camping, but I am excited for next summer now that I have a new confidence that I can skip the tent and bring Little House instead! Time to start saving for all the added trips we will take.