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Hiking Franconia Ridge

Scott, Mike, & I at Cloudland Falls

Mike, Scott, & I had decided to head up to New Hampshire to squeeze in some hiking.  So, on the morning of Tuesday, June 12th, we got started heading up to the Whites without having decided where we were going to hike exactly.  After some discussion, we had narrowed it down to either Franconia Ridge or Moosilauke.  Partly because they know I am working on the various lists, and partly because the weather was supposed to be great during the morning, we decided to hit up Franconia Ridge.  Scott & Mike had done this hike previously, but had never had good weather on the ridge.  They were hoping for a different outcome.  I had not read much about this actual hike, only had the views of the ridge (from across the notch) on my last hike fresh on my mind.

After parking at the Lafayette Campground hikers lot, we got onto the trail at 10:00am. We started up the Bridle Path to the junction of the Falling Waters Trail.  Crossing the bridge onto Falling Waters, I quickly realized how readily available I wanted my camera to be.

As the name implies, the trail follows, and crosses a couple of different brooks with waterfalls that increase in size the higher up the trail you go.  It really is a beautiful trail.  The first mile, mile and a half, seem to meander through the woods slowly gaining elevation.  It then begins a steep climb just before the largest of the waterfalls reveal itself.  Cloudland Falls is an 80 foot tall waterfall that was quite stunning.

Two Scott’s on the summit of Little Haystack – Mike’s photo

The steep climb continues over the next mile or so towards the summit of Little Haystack.  At about 2.8 miles, we took the .1 mile spur path to the Shining Rock overlook.  Shining Rock has a consistent flow of water seeping down it.  From the floor of the Notch, it glistens in the sun earning its name.  Unfortunately, the overlook wasn’t much of one on this day, as it was quite hazy at that time.

Back up the trail we pushed.  My heart was definitely pounding as we ascended the last quarter of a mile up to the summit.  As the trees began to thin out and get smaller, my desire to reach the summit and, finally, stand on the Franconia Ridge only intensified.  Also, I was freaking starving and couldn’t wait to dig into a PB&J wrap!

Even as hazy as it was, standing on the 4,760 foot summit of Little Haystack, it was readily apparent to me why Franconia Ridge is revered as one of the best stretches in all the 2,184 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  With 360˙ views, and the trail now above tree line, it is just a spectacular sight.  To the west, looking at the granite cliffs of Cannon & along the ridge to the Kinsmans, with Moosilauke hulking in the distance, I was able to reflect on previous hikes.  Looking to the east, overlooking Owls’s head, and off to the Bonds, and the south towards Liberty & Flume, I was dreaming of future hikes.  And to the north, miles of trail along the knife’s edge up to Lincoln and Lafayette were waiting to be imminently tackled.

Warriors upon Lafayette

The next 1.7 miles were a nice easy jaunt, up and over Lincoln, and on up to Lafayette.  We paused up on Lafayette to don our Warrior Helmets earned a couple days prior at Warrior Dash.  It’s funny to me that people looked at us, but no one dared questioned why we were wearing such ridiculous garb.  We enjoyed the summit for a bit, taking in the views and enjoying the highest peak of the day (5,260′).

On the way up, I had been setting the pace for the majority.  Beginning the descent, I was going much slower.  I think I was making sure I wasn’t feeling anything in my knees on the rough terrain coming off the peak of Lafayette on the Greenleaf Trail.  Anyway, I caught back up with the guys just before the Greenleaf Hut.  We stopped here for a bit to use the facilities and grab a bit more water.  It was only my second time in a hut, having stopped at Lonesome Lake on my last hike.  Scott & Mike were extolling on the pleasantness of staying in one, and despite my desire to “tent it,” I’m certain that I will give a hut a try someday.

After leaving the hut, I felt like my legs were back and was able to continue on my normal pace for the last 3 miles or so, on the Bridle Path, back to the car.  It was a fairly easy 3 mile descent, with some great views looking back on the hike we had just conquered.

Scott looking back at Little Haystack, and Mount Lincoln

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 6/12/12
  • Elevation: Little Haystack – 4760′, Mount Lincoln – 5089′, Mount Lafayette – 5260′
  • Elev Gain: I’ll have to, once again, go back and calculate the total elevation, but from Lafayette Campground to the summit of Mount Lafayette: ~3560
  • Mileage: ~9
  • Trails: Up:  Bridle Path -> Falling Waters -> Franconia Ridge Trail -> Greenleaf Trail -> Bridle Path
  • Time: about 6 hours.
  • NH 48 Peaks #6 (Lincoln) & #7 (Lafayette)
 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Hiking

 

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Amazing Spring Day in the White Mountains

What makes a tree grow like this?

On Saturday, May 12th, I rolled out of bed early and headed on up to Franconia Notch for some peak bagging.  I had decided I would depart from the Lafayette Place Campground because that would provide the most options for the day.  I could bag Cannon and the North East Peak of the Cannon Balls.  Or, I could bag the Kinsmans.  Or, if I was feeling good, I could bag all four.  I had read in the AMC White Mountain Guide, that the approach to Cannon was fairly steep, so I decided to head their with fresh legs first.

I departed from the campground around 8:30 am.  It was a beautiful, cloudless morning and the temps were already in the 50’s.  I hit the Lonesome Lake Trail behind a couple of guys who had said they were heading towards the Kinsmans.  When I got to the turn-off for the Hi-Cannon Trail, they continued along the Lonesome Lake Trail.  The Hi-Cannon Trail was pretty narrow trail that had a few blow downs on it, but they were easy to step-over or duck-under.  The trail had several switchbacks, and before I knew it, I came to an unmarked trail junction.  I paused to catch my breath, and review the map, and couldn’t quite figure out what was going on.  According to the map, the Hi-Cannon Trail should have gone .8 miles before it reached a trail junction with the Dodge Cutoff.  I had read a recent trail log that mentioned that the Dodge Cutoff wasn’t marked well.  But, despite how hard I was sweating/breathing, I didn’t think I had gone .8 miles on that stretch.

Lonesome Lake & the Kinsmans

As I was putting the map away, I saw the two guys hiking up the trail that were supposed to be going to the Kinsmans.  At that point, I thought, “Hmph.  I guess they changed their minds.”  But, I didn’t say anything.  I continued hiking ahead of them.  After a few moments, I found myself at the shores of Lonesome Lake, looking towards North Kinsman.  Somehow, I must have missed a trail junction while on the Hi-Cannon Trail, and ended up back on the Lonesome Lake Trail.  Whatever trail it was, wasn’t marked on my map and the intersection certainly isn’t marked on the tail, either.  It was a bit annoying as I knew it was going to add some unneeded mileage to my day.  But, no harm no foul.  I pressed on, deciding to continue up the Lonesome Lake Trail to Kinsman Ridge.  Over the next mile, half of it was fairly steep.

Once onto the Kinsman Ridge Trail, I started my ascent of Cannon.  Immediately, the conditions changed.  In the shadow of Cannon, the air was much cooler.  You could hear the wind whipping.  But, thankfully, I was mostly protected by the trees.  I saw my first evidence of left-over monorail patches, but they were very easily avoided.  This .4 mile section was quite steep, and had some areas that were hugging a cliff on a narrow trail.  Once past the junction with the Hi-Cannon Trail (grrr….), the trail eased up on it’s approach to the summit.  I stopped to pee check out the first outlook I saw just short of the summit, looking back over the Cannon Balls.  It was beautiful for sure.  But, I was blown away by the 360 degree views from the summit tower!  Blown away, both in amazement and the high winds.  I thought I was going to lose my hat!  It was definitely intimidating standing on that tower looking down at 93 below.  I’ve always looked up at the cliffs of Cannon (where Old Man on the Mountain used to be), and marvel at how steep it was.  And now, for the first time, I had the exact opposite perspective.  Crazy.  The views were beautiful; still no clouds.  But, there was a bit of a haze to the air as you were looking off into the distance.

Looking along the Kinsman Ridge at the Cannon Balls & the Kinsmans

I turned around and started heading back down the Kinsman Ridge Tail to work my way to the North East Peak of the Cannon Balls.  I had remembered reading that it was an unassuming summit, but I thought there was some sort of marker.  Apparently, there was not.  I crossed the summit, barely acknowledging it’s existence without even slowing my pace.  I knew the Kinsmans would be more impressive, and I was on the longest trail section of the day.  At 2.4 miles from the NE Peak, to the Kinsman Junction, I had some work in front of me.  And, I have to say that I was not all that impressed with those 2.4 miles.  Very few views (I know. I’m greedy.) along those 2.4 miles, and no exciting nature sightings.  Blah.

Finally, I got to the junction and had to make a decision.  Do I continue on and bag the Kinsmans?  Or do I start heading back now?  I was definitely hungry.  I had not eaten my PB&J wrap yet, and it was calling my name.  I had been aiming to eat it on the summit of North Kinsman.  Plus, I had just done that long stretch of the Kinsman Ridge.  And to not summit the Kinsmans after that seemed like it would be a huge waste.  So, on I went.  (Sorry, Drea.)

I always get a bit excited when I start walking on stretches of the Appalachian Trail.  From the junction, the Kinsman Ridge Trail heading over the Kinsmans onto Moosilauke & beyond is part of the AT.  The .5 miles from the junction to the summit of North Kinsman was rather steep and was kicking my ass.  Lots of granite with few handholds. Once on the summit, however, I was awed by the view laid out before me.  Looking down into the valley to Lonesome Lake, with the amazing presentation of Mr. Lafayette, Lincoln, and Haystack just beyond.  It’s a truly gorgeous view.  Plus, the haze from the morning had definitely burned off.  It was warm at the summit, mid 60’s I’d estimate.  Great spot for lunch – glad I waited!

From North Kinsman – note Lonesome Lake (center) and the tower on Cannon (far left).

After finishing up lunch, I definitely felt alot better on my approach to South Kinsman.  Interestingly, just after leaving North Kinsman, I came upon those two guys that I started behind that morning.  We had a quick conversation about how our hikes had been going, before we continued on our separate ways again.  Of course, that span of trail is a pretty easy mile.  I spent some time on the summit, but wasn’t as impressed with those views, in comparison to what I just had on North Kinsman.  I had heard a couple of guys talk about nice views of Moosilauke further down the Kinsman Ridge Trail.  But, I was less than interested in taking any steps more than I had to.  I was definitely a bit tired.  As I posted on Facebook (yes, I posted on facebook from the summit, shut it):  “Pretty amazing day for peak bagging in the Whites. Four peaks down. But, I’m about 4 miles from my car. If someone could please have a helicopter meet me at the ledge on North Kinsman in about 20 mins, I’d really appreciate it.”

On the summit of North Kinsman

But, I underestimated.  It was actually 5 miles from the car.  And, they weren’t exactly the easiest five miles I’ve ever done.  The mile back to North Kinsman was fine.  But, the .5 mile back down to the junction, was that steep section on granite with few hand holds.  I was certainly taking my time with my fatigued legs.  Once at the junction, I jumped on the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail.  This was also part of the AT and I don’t think I had actually read up on this trail, at all.  The trail is in good condition, but it is steep and most of it is slippery granite.  There are several sections where there are stairs bolted into the granite to help you out (again, no hand holds).  Those were very handy.  I did notice one was missing/broken.  But, it’s the AT.  It will be repaired soon, I am sure.  Regardless, for a good mile or so, my pace was reduced to crawling.

For some reason, I had it in my head that the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail was only 1.5 miles long.  In actuality, it is two.  That’s not much of a difference, but my legs were shot.  That half mile was feeling much longer.  Additionally, I drained my 3.0 litre reservoir for the first time ever.  That was probably about a mile from the Lonesome Lake Hut.  Of course, as soon as it was gone, all I wanted was more water.  The hut was a welcome site!  I refilled, grabbed a candy bar, and continued on down the trail.  I didn’t get far before being presented with yet another amazing view over Lonesome Lake.  What a beautiful spot!

What. A. Day.

The rest of the hike was uneventful.  It was a long, but great day on the trails.  There were tons of people out enjoying the day.  And, many had their dogs with them.  (It made me want one, even more than already do!)  I was also slightly jealous of everyone that was backpacking; heading to various shelters/huts/camps for further communing with nature.

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 5/12/12
  • Elevation: Cannon – 4100′, Cannon Balls NE Peak – 3769′, North Kinsman – 4293′, South Kinsman – 4358′
  • Elev Gain: So many gains and losses – but from the Laffayette Place Campground to South Kinsman: ~2558
  • Mileage: 13
  • Trails: Up:  Lonesome Lake -> Hi-Cannon -> Unmarked Link -> Lonesome Lake -> Kinsman Ridge Trail -> Cannon -> back via Kinsman Ridge to Cannon Balls -> North Kinsman -> South Kinsman -> North Kinsman -> Fishin’ Jimmy Trail -> Around Lonesome Lake Trail -> Lonesome Lake Trail
  • Time:  8 hours 25 mins.
  • NH 48 – Peaks #3 (Cannon), #4 (N. Kinsman), & #5 (S. Kinsman)
 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Hiking

 

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The Birth of a Highpointing Family

Everyone knows that I have been bit by the hiking bug in a big way.  As a result, peak bagging lists seemed a natural progression.  I’ve pointed out some of the ones I am keeping track of in a previous post.  Well, since then, I have certainly added the Catskill 3500 list into the mix.

But, those limit me to the Northeast region.  And, I want to explore as much of this country as possible.  And, I want to show my kids as much of this country as possible.  So, a list that I’ve decided to tackle, and my children and Drea have embraced have had pushed onto them is – Highpointing the 50 States.

I saw your eyes glaze over.  It is ok.  It’s the same thing that happened when I described it to Drea (that is, until she realized that Hawaii had a highpoint).

So, you are wondering, what is highpointing?  Well according to wiki:

Highpointing is the sport of visiting (and finding) the point with the highest elevation within some area (the “highpoint”), for example the highest points in each county within a state. It can be considered a form of peak bagging.

  • The goal is to attain the highest “natural point.” In other words, regardless of what man-made structures have been placed on top, the goal is to stand atop the highest “natural point.”
  • If the natural high point is covered with a structure and that structure is accessible, even on a limited basis, entering the structure and standing over the presumed high point is the goal. If the structure is completely and permanently inaccessible—e.g. a military base or private telecommunications tower – the goal is to reach the highest accessible natural point. At times, The Highpointers Club will deem a highpoint closed due to private property issues and may allow an alternative spot very near the highpoint. But, this is only in extreme and special conditions. Some of the highpoints are open on certain dates only and the Club expects all members to abide by these dates.
  • Any route to the top – walking, climbing, riding a cable car, dropping off a helicopter – is a valid means of attaining the high point. Each individual must decide what constitutes good sport. Many will prefer reaching the high point under their own locomotion, but the goal of highpointing is reaching the highpoint – means is a personal choice.

Still with me?  Ok, good.  As mentioned in the wiki quote that you just skipped over, I’m not alone in my desire to reach this achievement.  And, just like any other subject, when there is more than one person trying to achieve a similar goal, someone formed a Highpointing Club.  (So, what if the most prominent photos on their homepage seem to indicate that the average age of members is deceased!)  And, there is this view point from my list-obsessed friend Steve, who’s reasons for wanting to tackle highpointing list aren’t too dissimilar to my own.

With regard to the last bullet, when possible, I fully intend on taking the hiking approach.  For example, the high point of New Hampshire is the summit of Mount Washington.  Now, everyone and their grandmother could drive up there.  Boring.  Or take the cog railway.  Really?  Come on!  Where is the adventure in that?  Where is the challenge?  Where is the journey?  Not for this highpointer.  I’ll be taking the long way, thanks.  (Not to mention that Mount Washington is on my NH 4000 & NE 100 lists… but my point still remains.)

Curious what the highpoints of your favorite states are?  You know you are!  Here’s a map view.  And, here’s a list.

DSCF2923

Close.... but not the true highpoint.

All right, with all of that said, it only seemed logical to tackle the home state’s highpoint as the start of this adventure.  And, as I had the children for April Vacation this year, and I’ve been starving for some hiking, the time was right to dip our toes into the highpointing waters.

Now, Rhode Island’s highpoint is truly a massive summit of 812′ on the top of Jeromith Hill.  Shockingly, this is not the lowest high point of the United States; that honor belongs to 345′  Britton Hill  in Florida. (Of course it does, Florida gets all of the freaking rejects.)  Despite it’s minor elevation, Rhode Island’s highpoint was not-too-long-ago known as one of the most difficult highpoints to achieve, due to land owners that were particularly ornery and trigger-happy.  Yes, I said trigger-happy.  Check that link out!  Thankfully, all of that nonsense is in the past, and RI’s highpoint is accessible 7 days a week between the hours of 8am & 4pm.

So, on Sunday, April 15th, we took the drive out to Foster, RI.  Upon driving up the numerous hills along Route 101, I was struck with how significant some of them seemed; a few of them had several hundred feet elevation change between them.  From the East, you pass a highway sign that indicates you are on Jerimoth Hill, it even indicates that it is the state’s highpoint.  However, the true highpoint is not actually on the highway.  After passing the sign, we did a U-turn and found the matching sign on the other side of the road.  We parked and climbed out of the van.  It was only then, that I told the kids what we were there to do…. and that they had to hike to do it!  This was met with some shock, guffaws, and some grumbles.  All of which, I was expecting.  They asked how long of a hike it would be, and I assured them, it would be the shortest hike of their young lives.

DSCF2919

We followed the big conspicuous red sign indicating the legendary Jerimoth Hill Trail.  We labored up the pine needle riddled trail from the main road about 50 yards and stumbled upon a survey marker.  But, alas, that was a false summit.  Undaunted, we pressed on.

DSCF2918

Not a summit marker...

After another 25 yards, or so, we arrived, exhausted, at Rhode Island’s true highpoint.  It was a beautiful sight to behold; encircled in trees was a hunk of granite protruding from the ground, with a cairn 2 or 3 feet high erected on top of it.  The views were grand… Nope.  There were no views.  But, dammit, we became highpointers this day!  One down, 49 to go.

DSCF2911

The kids on the summit! Yay! (This was also the start of Brady trying to sabotage *every* photo with some ridiculous pose or face.

The children... exhausted after the monster hike!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Hiking, Outdoor Adventures, Travel

 

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An April Fools Day Hike Up Monadnock

On April Fool’s Day, two fools headed up the second most hiked mountain in the world; Mount Monadnock.

Well, that sounded like a good opening line.  In all honesty, there was nothing foolish about this endeavor.  It was a gorgeous morning.  Even if it did start with finding the van encased in a frost that almost appeared hairy on closer inspection.

After heading out from Waltham, and making record time, I arrived in good ol’ Jaffrey, NH around 9am.  As I was spearheading this hike, I had suggested we hike a trail that neither of us had ever hiked before.  The only issue was that I wasn’t exactly sure how to tell Mike, who didn’t have a Monadnock map on him, where to meet me.  I had sent a text telling him to head to the main lot area, but to follow signs for the campground.  Unfortunately, there weren’t really any signs directing you towards the campground.  A few texts later, and I was able to get the right directions into his hands.

Besides, our cars, there were only two other cars in the lot.  That alone was enough to tell me that his hike would be different from previous hikes up Monadnock.  Often times, you end up passing more people than you can count on these trails.  And, had we chosen one of the other main lots, that may have been true for this hike.  But, on the way up, we only saw three other hikers, and one was a woman that caught up to us at some point.

We started up on the Birchtoft Trail, which heads up the east slope of the mountain.  It is quite a gradual incline, as compared to some of the other trails I have taken.  It really wasn’t until we crossed the Cascade Link trail and onto the Red Spot Trail (guess what the trail markers were!), that the real steepness kicked in (about 600 vertical feet in 1/2 mile).  But, this approach still feels “easier” than that of the White Dot or White Arrow trails.  About a 1/4 mile from the summit, the Red Dot Trail merges with the Pumpelly trail and meanders it’s way across the granite to the summit.

As you can tell from the photo above, the clouds had started to roll in by the time we reached the summit, but it was pleasant up top.  I had hiked in only a thermal shirt the entire way up, and only needed to throw another layer of warmth and a windbreaker to remain comfortable as we rested.  The temps at the summit were probably mid 30’s and the winds were very light.

On the way down, we decided to check out the Pumpelly trail a bit further.  I expect that I will be hiking this trail a few more times in the future as I try to find the Pumpelly Cave.  The trail itself, follows a ridge that provides some nice views to the north of the mountain.  About a mile and a half from the summit, we hopped onto the Cascade Link.  The Cascade Link was certainly the more technical of the trails that we hiked this day.

It was a fun day on the trails.  It just made me even more eager to get out and do more hiking.

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 4/1/12
  • Elevation: 3165
  • Elev Gain: 1807
  • Mileage: 5+?*
  • Trails: Up:  Birchtoft -> Red Dot –> Pumpelly.  Down:  Pumpelly –> Cascade Link -> Birchtoft

*Something that drives me bonkers about the maps handed out by the Monadnock Park Staff is that it does not include any trail mileage. Yes, there is a 1/2 mile representation in the legend… but most good hiking maps have the mileage markers for each trail printed near the mid point of the trail.  Given that this is the second most hiked mountain in the world, attracting tons of families, and first-time hikers annually, you think that the maps would be better.  Seriously, NH Parks & Recreation, get on that!

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Hiking

 

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My First Winter Hike: Monadnock

I’ve been itching to go hiking for some time, now. It’s been several months since my last hike. (I’d link to it, but oops! – the hiking log is still in my drafts folder…) And, that’s certainly waytoo long. (Both the overdue blog entry and the hike.)

Notice the "White Dot" - that is the icy trail

So, on Friday night, I found myself at REI with my friend Mike, scoping out what I might need for my first-ever winter hike. After some deliberation, I ended up with some Ice Trekkers (they were completely sold out of MicroSpikes), a thicker pair of hiking socks, and some beef jerkey.  And, I was ready to go.

On Saturday morning, I headed on up to Jaffrey, NH to tackle Monadnock once again.  The forecast was calling for a sunny day with a high temp of 24˚F.  I figured that the summit was going to be in the single digits, and was prepared for it.  However, upon arrival at the base, I was thankful to find that the temperature was a much warmer 34˚.

Monadnock is known as the “Second Most Hiked Mountain in the World.”  So, I’m not sure why I was expecting to find only a handful of people on the mountain at the beginning of February… but, I was.  And, ohhhh was I wrong.  Before arrival, I had decided to be conservative and head to the main parking area and hike one of the “main trails.”  I was greeted by a ranger who was eager to collect my $4.00, and directed towards a lot that had, at least, 45 cars in it.  That alone was enough for me to know that this was not going to be the “big, scary, death-defying, winter solo hike” some friends and family were thinking it was going to be.

View on the summit. Not much snow anywhere on the mountain.

I strapped the spikes onto my boots and started heading up.  The trail was covered in ice.  Not snow.  Hard ice.  Having never used the spikes before, I was a bit timid while testing the grip.  But, it didn’t take long to see that I could walk fairly normally.  So, I started picking up the pace and by 1/4 mile in, I was starting to sweat and shed layers.  So, off came the jacket, gloves, and hat.  Thanks to the warmer-than-expected temperature, I hiked the remainder of the way without them.

It really was a great hike.  I felt pretty darn good for being fat and out of shape, and made it to the summit in about an hour and a half.  I had only fallen once on some particularly nasty glassy ice… the only type of ice the spikes do not want to grip on.  So long as you look for the cloudy, pitted ice, you are good to go.

All smiles on the summit.

The summit was blustery as I expected.  It was probably about 10 degrees temperature-wise, but the wind chill had it much closer to zero.  Visibility was pretty good.  I could make out about 4 ski areas to the north, but have no idea which ones they are.  I found a nice place on the summit where I could shelter myself from the wind, ate my sandwich, and headed back down.  There definitely was a bit of a mental hurdle taking those first few steps on a steep down hill covered in ice.  But, once again, the spikes proved invaluable.

I can’t wait for my next winter hike.

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 2/4/12
  • Elevation: 3165
  • Elev Gain: 1807
  • Mileage: 3.8
  • Trails: White Dot Trail (up & Down)
 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Hiking

 

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Welch-Dickey Trail

Three monkeys about to hit the trail

About a month ago, Drea & I took Syd on her first mountain hike.  A month later, and I had finally convinced the boys that this was something for them to try.

So, as part of our camping getaway to Waterville, I had decided to take them on the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail.  I had never hiked it, but it is “the single-most “suggested” family hike in the White Mountains.”  So, I made sure to introduce them properly.  They all brought their own backpacks, and they carried their own water, snacks, sandwiches, and sweatshirts.

It was a gorgeous morning, in the low 70’s, when arrived at the trail head around 10:30 am.  We started the loop as the trail name suggests and headed towards Welch Mountain first.  As soon as it started, the kids all had to do their first stream crossing.  They got very excited to hop the rocks across the stream.  The trail was well manicured, with many waterbars, and rocks/trees placed as stairs up the moderate slope.  It was certainly a far cry from the weathered conditions of the Sandwich Mountain Trail.

I was really uncertain as to how Brady was going to do on this hike.  He is only 5, and I was daring to take him on a 4.4 mile hike.  Now, he had done a 3.5 mile hike with me when we camped in Burlingame, at the beginning of the summer.  But, walking along a flat trail is completely different than taking him up a mountain, even if it is relatively small mountain.  His pace was certainly slow.  But, after all, he does have tiny legs!  But, he wasn’t complaining.  And, more importantly, he was having fun!

Hiking on granite... heading to the summit of Welch

I had misread the guide, and a sign posted as we came upon our first overlook.  It is a large rocky ledge, that has islands of low vegetation that they are trying to protect.  The sign urged you to stay on the rock & trails on the way to the Welch summit.  So, when we arrived, I mistakenly told the kids that it was the first summit. Oops.  They knew they were going to get to two summits.  This would come into play later.

At any rate, we took a break, had a snack and took a bunch of photos.  The view was really nice, with Sandwich Mountain directly in front of us, Waterville Valley up the road, and the NH hills stretching towards the south.  Beautiful spot.

We then started the next leg of the hike.  The first portion had been in the woods, rock covered and rooted.  The second portion was made up of long sections of  granite which would frequently cause you to walk on all fours.  It was fun, but certainly more challenging & steeper than the first section.  And, it was wearing on the kids.  They were getting tired.  And, by the time we reached the summit… they were dragging!

As I started looking around, I began to laugh.  I had made a mistake.  The previous outlook we had, was not a summit at all.  This was the summit of Welch Mountain.  Dickey’s summit was a short distance away.  It was so clear.  It was a few hundred yards downhill & then another few hundred yards back up to the summit of Dickey.  Oops!

But, Zack was incredulous.  He kept trying to tell me that I told them we were only going to the tops of two mountains.  In his mind, this was the second & he had no interest in going to a third.  It took quite a bit of convincing to let him know that I had made a mistake.

We stayed there for a while recovering, eating sandwiches, and enjoying the views.  For a mountain dwarfed by it’s neighbors, (Sandwich 3980′, Techumseh 4000+’) the summit of Welch Mountain (2605′) has a impressive 360˙ views.

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On the Summit of Welch. Dickey is looming immediately behind us (to the right). Moosilauke is hulking in the distance

Once I convinced the kids that it was time to move on to the next summit, I was met with a little trepidation as the first few steps off the summit of Welch are a bit steep.  It took the kids a few steps to realize that they weren’t going to fall off the rocks, and then they realized that going down the trail can be quite a bit of fun.  Z started to charge ahead, while Syd took her time, and I hung back with Brady.

There was a large Cairn marking the division between Welch & Dickey mountains, and the ascent started immediately after passing it.  It was a moderate ascent with a couple of challenging sections where you’d have to pull yourself up on rocks.  But, it was short.  Zack got a blast of energy just before the summit and began to charge ahead again, eager to get back to the descent.  As a result, we kind of blew over Dickey’s summit.  Syd & I had noticed a ridge line of cairns looking towards Mount Techumseh, but could not see a direct way to get there.  And, the kids weren’t really interested in extra bush-whacking, they only had thoughts of heading down.  So, I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time… I’m curious about that.

The top third of the descent from Dickey was on large sections of granite with cairns marking the way.  I was somewhat surprised at how exposed we were to the sun & for how long.  The kids legs were showing the signs of being tired as each of them took a turn with a fall here and there.  Thankfully, Syd was the only one to fall on the granite ledge, and she bounced off just fine.  The boys didn’t really start getting tripped up until we were back in the woods.  They each slipped on loose gravel or tripped over the occasional root.  But, no fall was serious.

I started bribing Brady with a victory ice cream cone once we completed the hike, if he would complete it without whining.  The bribe worked.  Before we knew it, we were back at the trail head.  And, I was one proud Dad that my boys completed their first mountain hike & that we all completed it together.

The most important thing is that they all had fun.  They enjoyed it & actually want to do it again in the future.  They all thought the views were cool.  I can’t wait to drag their butts back out there!

Their reward for a great hike!

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 8/26/11
  • Elevation: 2734
  • Elev Gain: 1600
  • Mileage: 4.4
  • Trails: Welch-Dickey Loop Trail
  • Time: 5 hours
  • Companion(s): The Kidlets
 
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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Hiking

 

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Sandwich Mountain

This post is being done out of order. I have two weekend recaps to do, but they require much more emotional energy & time than this summit log.

Drea & I snuck away to go camping in Waterville Valley, NH for a couple of days. During that trip, we decided to hike Sandwich Mountain.

Sandwich Mountain holds a dear place in my heart. It was my first mountain hike, and the mountain I have, undoubtedly, climbed the most. My family vacationed in Waterville over many summers. For some reason, I kept going back to Sandwich for the same hike. As a result, I know the mountain fairly well & when it came to making a decision as to what to hike, it seemed almost natural to choose to do this with Drea.

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Drea hanging on for dear life

After paying the parking fee, we started the hike about 10:30 am. It was warm (high 70’s) & humid at the base. I had told Drea a few times, that most of this hike’s elevation gain is done in the first 1.2 miles on its approach to Noon Peak. But, saying it, and doing it are two totally different things.

Once past the electric station, the trail comes over a short rise to come down an embankment to Drakes Brook. After a bit of rock hopping, we were across Drakes Brook, and the trail began its steep ascent.  There really is no chance for a warm up.  This hike throws  you into it & it does not let up.  Both of us were getting beat down by the slope, but also by the humidity.  I know I said it was humid at the base, but that was a huge understatement.  Both of were dripping with sweat within a quarter mile.  Drea also hadn’t slept well the night before and she was definitely dragging on the last 1/4 mile (which might also be the steepest) of the approach to Noon.  Despite my warnings about the strenuous nature of the first 1.2 miles, she was definitely surprised at how intense it was.

However, we made it in just under an hour and took a well deserved rest on the rocky outcropping of Noon Peak.  We rested, soaked up some sun, rehydrated, and ate plums.  After 20-30 mins, we packed up and began heading up the trail again.  She was doubting that the rest of the hike would be “a walk in the park” as I was describing it.  Her exact words, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

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View from Noon Peak of Waterville Valley sitting at the foot of Mount Osceola

We continued on & headed up the gradual path towards Jennings Peak.  At the trail junction with the Drakes Brook Trail, we ran into an older woman and her two dogs that we had seen in the parking area.  We talked with her & the dogs for a few minutes and began the debate as to whether to continue on, or just head down.  To Drea’s credit, she wanted to persevere on to the summit.  I’m pretty sure the easier ascent, and the site of that older woman ahead of us, helped give us the energy boost we both needed to press on.

Shortly after, we passed the side trail to Jennings Peak and decided to skip that peak and just get to the summit.  We then over took the older woman, and then another couple that we had seen in the parking area.  Our pace had definitely increased.  When we reached the summit, there were another couple of guys enjoying the view.  When they found out we had ascended via the Sandwich Mtn Trail rather than the Drakes Brook Trail, they were blown away.  They asked, “Isn’t that really steep??”  Drea confided that she never thought she would have made it to the summit while she was on that portion of the trail.  I could only smile.  Proud that she did.  Proud that we did.  Happy to just be there.

After enjoying lunch, we began our descent.  Drakes Brook Trail meanders along much of the brook.  It was certainly nice to have the calming tones of the moving water with us.   And, there were definitely some spots that were almost daring us to wade into.  But, in the end, the allure of heading for a victory ice cream treat was too much and we continued on.   There was also something on this trail that we did not have at all on the way up… a breeze!  It felt so good!   After rock hopping across the brook one last time, we made our way back to the parking lot.  Another successful hike for us.  And, one more off my list of the New England 100 Highest.

Enjoying the views from Noon Peak

I have to say, that I am grateful that Noon Peak was my first ever mountain hike, and the mountain I repeatedly climbed growing up.  It is a strenuous climb.  It was what I knew to be mountain hiking.  So, any hike that has come after that, I’ve expected to expend the same level of intensity.  I think it was much better to earn my stripes there then on an “easy” mountain trail.  So, as much as my dad did not know that he was doing me a favor, I feel like I should say, “Thanks for bringing me there to hike, Dad.”

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 8/20/11
  • Elevation: 3980
  • Elev Gain: 2620
  • Mileage: 8.5
  • Trails: Up: Sandwich Mountain Trail — Down: Sandwich -> Drakes Brook Trail
  • Time: 5 hours
  • Companion(s): Drea
  • NE100 #68

* *Note:  We were technology deficient this weekend.  Neither of us had charged are camera batteries.  Drea’s iPhone died over night.  And, mine died as soon as we got to the summit.  As a result, we only had these few iPhone pics of our hike.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Hiking

 

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