The alarm goes off at 5:45am. Sherman comes up and licks me, then snuggles. I don’t want to go back to sleep. He wants to go back to sleep. I get up and leave him covered up.
Today we’re gonna slack pack from App Gap to Lincoln Gap. Slack Pack means hike the trail without ones normal pack weight. In our case I’m carrying my day pack and Sherman is carrying his normal pack empty. My pack is about 8 pounds. Sherman’s is 8 ounces.

Bob makes us breakfast and we head to App Gap. We get there a little before 8. Sherman and I are hiking at 8. It’s very windy and cold. I think that I’m not sure I have everything for I want for a day this cold. The one thing I realize that I don’t have is an emergency blanket. I’m certainly not planning on being out here over night. That would be an emergency! I’ll put one in the pack that can live there.
We get out of the van. The wind is blowing strongly. The temperature is about 50 degrees. Sherman and I start up the trail. In 10 minutes I’m cold. I stop to put on my down jacket and let Sherman off the leash. He stays until I tell him he’s a good boy. Pet him. Tell him he can go. He bounds away. It feels like he’s smiling.
We hike up General Stark Mountain. It’s steep. And it’s sooooo easy with an 8 pound pack! The trail is rocky in a new way. Lots and lots of 6-12 inch rocks looking like they were scattered on the trail. Ankle twisters all. There are a few ladders of various designs. When necessary I boost Sherman to the nearest spot that allows him to continue on his own.
Ladders going up. Sherman climbed up himself by the tree roots.
Ladders going down. Carried him down this one.
Sherman is so happy to be outside and hiking again. I come around a corner and don’t see him. As I’m going up the grade, he pops out from between two trees where he’s been hiding in a down dog position and does a doggy dance with me. A way up the trail he does this again. He’s never been playful in this kind of way before. It’s so heartwarming. I laugh. He laughs. He does in a few more times. What a character!
Not game pics, but a common theme. He’s way up these rocks laying down watching me hike up and waiting…
When I get close he gets up, checks in, and goes on.
Sherman is staying pretty close today. He wanders of the trail for 10-12 feet after a smell and comes back. He stops for a lingering sniffing. I pass him. He follows me for awhile. Then I either stop to let him pass, or he runs to pass me on a wider trail section. He prefers to lead.
We arrive at the top of Stark Mountain after some steep rock climbing

and find a very nice ski hut owned and managed by the Stark Mountain Foundation.

It has picnic tables. Nice chairs. And rocking chairs. A working fireplace. Amazing views all around. We have a snack. 3 guys come in who are trail running the 11 miles from App Gap to Lincoln Gap. I offer them a tangerine. One accepts. A few minutes later they exit and trot off.
I could see planning on a hike up here to stay for a day or two. Beautiful cabin.

These are New Hampshire ranges in the distance.
We continue our climb to Mt Ellen and see another ski hut. We go in and have lunch. We share a half pound of sliced turkey. Mt Ellen is the first 4000 footer of the day. From here we hike the ridge line between Mt Ellen and Mt Abraham. There are ski huts on most of the peaks. Each being it’s own ski area.
We walked by a few of these. At first it was, “What the hell?” Then I realized that many of these trails were ski trails in the winter. Downhill and cross-country. Walking around one I got it. It’s a toboggan for the ski patrol to strap in an injured person and get them down the mountain.
The wind is blowing hard on the ridge and the temperature is much lower. I put on my down jacket. The terrain is pretty easy hiking and we make good time.
I’m always amazed at these sections of the trail. They are so well defined it’s as if a gardener tends them. But it’s the land and plants reacting to the pressure of thousands of feet compacting the soil and the topsoil being eroded away by rain.
I love these rocks being held up by small rocks.
 Couldn’t pass this emerald green. No idea what it is or what caused it. Haven’t seen this any other place than this broken and decomposing tree stump.
Another tree and moss covered boulder. Love it!

Nice easy uphill grade.
The last peak is Mt. Abraham. Another 4000 footer. The summit is all rock and totally exposed.
I don’t know which mountains these are. But was enchanted by the light and sky.
One of the vistas from the Mt. Abraham summit.
Trying to throw in some selfies…
The trail heading off the peak.
I get ahold of Chris from here and arrange to meet at Lincoln Gap in 90 minutes. The hike up was pretty easy in the rock and scrambling regard. As we start down though, it’s all rock and quite difficult in areas. It’s mostly schist, so at least the footing is secure.
A typical rocky staircase down a hundred feet or so.
A giant rock slab down. Fortunately it’s schist AND try.
Another milky quartz boulder in the middle of schist boulders.
We reach the bottom right at the 90 minutes mark. As we walk over to the parking area, Sherman pulls me over to a white van and is all excited. He’s ready to get in. However, it’s not Bob and Chris’ van. When she pulls up he’s now doubly ready. We return to their house feeling good, but tired. We hiked 11.5 miles in 7.5 hours, grateful for the opportunity to carry so little weight. We both sleep very well…