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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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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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Mount Moosilauke

I had been itching to do some hiking since my last hike up Monadnock a few weeks ago. So, on a Tuesday at work, I started getting the idea to take the next day off & run up to New Hampshire to hike Mount Moosilauke.

And that is exactly what I did. Up at 5:30 & on the road from Waltham at 6. It was a beautiful crisp 60 degree morning. Perfect weather. However, I realized as I was driving that while I was packing the night before, I had forgotten to pack a long sleeve shirt, a jacket, a sweatshirt, anythingfor warmth at the top of the mountain. Given that it was going to be in the 70’s for a high at the base, I figured the top was going to be chilly, especially if there was wind. So, I knew I had to stop somewhere in Lincoln, NH to grab something. I had a feeling that when I got up there at 8, I was going to be looking at Rite Aid as the only open place to grab some cheap tourist gear. And, I was right. I had also grabbed my camera without a camera card, so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone. Unfortunately, they were sold out of camera cards. But, I was able to get a cheap sweatshirt for $14.00. For insurance, I’ll take it.

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Moosilauke Summit Survey Marker

I had selected to hike Moosilauke on this day for several reasons. First off, it is one of the southern most peaks in NH on my lists to do that is not in/around Waterville Valley (where I am hoping to do some camping/hiking with Drea soon). Secondly, I know New Hampshire better than I do Vermont. So thus far, I’ve done more reading of the summits I need to tackle there than I have Vermont’s. I’ve been wanting to test my legs on a longer hike than I have done so far (5.6 & 4.4). And lastly, I had read the section of “Best Loop Hikes: New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the Maine Coast,” which highlighted an 11 mile loop over several peaks that sounded perfect for a day trip.

Moosilauke is an interesting mountain in that much of it is owned by Dartmouth College & maintained by the Dartmouth Outdoors Club. They even run the Ravine Lodge at the base of the mountain. Their work is felt as soon as you arrive at the “parking area.” You are basically parking on the side of a dirt road that dead ends at a turn around. There are several clever signs hanging, including one that says “Warm up for your hike. Park far away & walk!” I found the trail head, signed the register & began my hike.

I have to admit, the club is doing an outstanding job at trail maintenance. For as soon as I began my trek up the Ridge Trail, I could see how much maintenance they were conducting. There is a stretch just after you cross the first foot bridge that is just remarkable. I’m not sure what kind of storm ripped through there (relatively recently). But, there were many downed trees. Their roots structure are still clutching to the earth that they peeled away, as they fell. One of the pine trees that had fallen, still had an abundance of small pine cones developing on the tree top, which was no abutting the trail. There were so many down trees, that that section of trail could have been rendered almost impassible. However, not one tree was obstructing the trail as the club had already removed them. The Ravine Trail, in particular, was just a gorgeously maintained trail.

I had hoped that with a name like Mount Moosilauke, that perhaps my chances of seeing my first ever moose would be higher. It was wishful thinking, I know. (And the name doesn’t actually have anything to do with moose. From Wiki, “Its name is thought to be derived from a contraction of the Native American words moosi (Bald), and auke (Place).”) However, I had taken note of the many cars parked along the road. And, on the moist trail, I had certainly seen evidence that there were hikers ahead of me. Not surprising given my 9 am start time. I did pass a group of about 6 men & women in their 60’s early on. And, I’m sure partially for that reason, I never did see any moose or significant wildlife.

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Me near/at the Summit of Mount Jim

For the first couple of miles of the Ravine Trail, the slope is very easy going. It is not until you are about 3 miles in when the trail starts its first serious climb as it nears Mount Jim. I was feeling very strong at that point & did not want to slow down when I came upon a gentleman who stepped out of the way for me. As I passed he said, “Show off!” It is within these switch backs on this climb that you get your first views. You definitely feel like you are stealing them, as there are no real outcroppings, and even the summit of Jim is covered in trees. Your only views therefor are in breaks between the trees. But, one summit down.

About one third of a mile past Mount Jim’s inauspicious summit, you come upon a junction with the Beaver Brook Trail. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Just the next trail that I need to hop onto to progress to the summit. However, I went total geek time. You see the Beaver Brook Trail is a part of the Appalachian Trail. And, as far as I can remember, this was my first experience stepping foot on any section of the AT. (I have a vague memory that I climbed one of the Presidents back in the day & could have crossed onto the AT then… but I truly don’t remember.) As a result, I stopped to take a couple of ridiculous pictures. Like I told you, total geek time.

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I got way too excited seeing the AT logo

There are a couple of other significances to this trail. The first, is that it follows along the Beaver Brook cascades. Which appear to be very nice in the pictures that I linked to. Unfortunately, I would have had to turn the wrong direction to go see them. Secondly, it heads towards the summit of Mount Blue. However, the trail skirts around the summit about 250 feet below it. In order to actually get to the summit, it would have required some bushwhacking. Therefor, I have a hard time claiming that as a summit for peak bagging purposes. So, I am not going to. However, I might be inclined to do that in the future. I could come up the Beaver Brook Trail from Kinsman Notch, see the cascades, and leave myself plenty of time to bushwhack to the Mount Blue summit. However, despite it’s summit being at 4529′, it is not a summit of prominence. So, that idea is very low on my priority list. (Although it might be a good place to get some bushwhacking experience, which I will require down the road.)

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Some geek next to his first ever White Blaze

As you enter the Alpine Zone, and emerge from the tree line, you begin to realize whey the mountain earned it’s name. As opposed to Mondadnock’s “bald” which was pure granite, here fragile grasses and plants that hug tightly to the soil cover the top of the mountain area. In order to protect the plant life, the various trails that approach the summit are rock lined, & bordered. And, if that wasn’t enough of an indicator as to where to go, there are 6 foot tall cairns marking your way.

The summit itself is a series of boulders in which you can either use to sit and savor the views, or use to shield yourself from the elements. On this particular day, it was an incredibly comfortable day at the summit. The temperature was in the low 50’s & the wind was virtually still. Because of my sweat-soaked t-shirt, the lower temp was definitely borderline chilly for me. The $14.00 insurance policy was put to use, and I was glad to have it. It allowed me to savor the 360˚ views for much longer than I would have been able to otherwise. At 4802 feet, we were above the clouds looking over towards Benton, and underneath a cloud that was over us and stretching towards Lincoln. The clouds & a bit of haze blocked some of the view of the various mountain tops, but it was still a beautiful view.

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Unfortunately, there is nothing in the shot for scale, but those cairns are about 6 feet tall!

I wasn’t sure how my out of shape ass was going to feel once I got to the top. I knew if I was feeling beat, there were a couple of other trails that I could have hopped on to make the treck back to the car much shorter. But, I was feeling great & really strong. So, on to South Peak I went. The peak had a bunch of people on it once I got there. And, I knew there was another group of about 10 that departed the summit in the same direction as I did just a few minutes after me. So, in an effort to get away from the crowd, I just continued on.

The Carriage Road afforded some nice views on a relatively easy down slope. After passing the Snapper Trail junction, I was surprised at how almost overgrown some of the vegetation on the trail was. Clearly, this trail was not getting as much use as the others as it is not the most direct route to or from the summit. The other evidence that I was probably the first person on this portion of the trail, was the plethora of spider webs I was walking through. I did not clear a single one, on the approach. Well, believe me, I certainly made up for it on the way down!

After turning onto Hurricane Trail, you could start to hear the faint sounds of Baker River. (Is there any sound more soothing after a long hike?) I passed evidence of a couple of crews building bridges. Their equipment was there, but the people were not. Had it been a hot day, Baker River would have been tantalizing to soak your feet, or hop into. But, I pressed on, reaching the trail head again, signing out of the register, and getting back to the car.

The book had estimated that the hike should have taken 7 hours. I am not by any means trying to race but, I did it in 5. And that included a good half hour or so of rest at the summit. (Basically, I’m just trying to gauge the accuracy of the hike times that are published.)

Map taken from the "Best Loop" book. The trails in bold are the ones I followed.

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 8/3/11
  • Elevation: 4802
  • Elev Gain: 2750
  • Mileage: 11.0
  • Trails: Ridge Tr -> Beaver Brook ->Glencliff -> Carriage Road -> Hurricane
  • Time: 5 hours
  • NH4000 #10
  • NE100 #11
 
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Posted by on August 4, 2011 in Hiking

 

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Back to Monadnock

At the trailhead

I’ve been talking to the kids about hiking mountains, lately. We had gone on a short hike while camping a couple of weeks ago & that had been met with mixed reviews. But, it was just a hike through swamp land, and over a couple of brooks. It was not challenging. Nor was it particularly interesting for a 9, 7, & 5 year old.  So, I had told them about my recent hike up Mount Monadnock, and tried to gauge their interest.  The boys weren’t really hearing any of it.  But, Syd was interested.

As it turned out, Syd had a dance exhibition she was going to be performing in back in Gloucester, MA on a Saturday night.  It was not going to be finished very early, and the boys already wanted to stay back with my parents and enjoy a party with their cousins.  So, it was easy to convince the girls (Syd & Drea) to go hiking on Sunday.

But, because it was the last day of my week with the kids, I didn’t want to be away from the boys ALL day.  So, the disconcerting caveat to my loves-to-sleep-in girlfriend was that we’d be up EARLY.  So, on Sunday, July 17th, I was up at 5, prepping sandwiches and water bottles. (Snacks had already been put aside the night before.)  At 5:20, I rousted the ladies and we were off and running by 5:45.  We got to the mountain at about 7:15 and were hiking by 7:30.

Since I had some recent history with the mountain, I decided to attack the Halfway House Trail, to the White Arrow Trail for a nice, but challenging 4.4 mile hike.  Particularly the last bit of the White Arrow Trail.  It is steep & technical.  But, Syd has been dreaming of rock climbing.  So, I figured I’d give her her chance.

On the way up, we stopped for a quick water break at the Halfway House Site.  Then, the fun of the White Arrow Trail began.  Syd & Drea were troopers and both did excellent.  Once things got technical, we stopped for a snack break.  And, as these things go, we stopped about 100 yards short of a spot that would have had a nice view.  Oh well.

But, after we passed that out cropping, we started getting out of the trees and into the real rock climbing.  Syd was having a blast & even pretended to go “surfing” at one point.  She was definitely getting tired towards the top & her and Drea began making fun of my distance estimates.  For much of the way up, Drea had also dubbed me “Tour Guide Scott.”  Apparently, she thought it was funny that I had read up on the mountain after I had hiked it the first time.  But, hey!  The mountain has an interesting history & I thought I’d share it.

Once on the summit, we found a nice spot to relax, enjoy the views, and the breeze.  We ate our sandwiches and soaked up the rays.  Syd explored a little bit, walking around the summit, and pulling herself up on rocks that she wasn’t sure she could.

At the summit

On the way down, Syd was in rare form.  It was pretty clear the endorphin high had kicked in.  She was being a little comedian and making jokes at my expense with quite a bit of frequency.  It was actually quite funny.

"Rock Surfing"

Both Drea & Syd were getting pretty tired & complaining that their legs were burning.  We stopped for a water break just before the Halfway House Site.  Then down onto the Halfway House Trail & back to the car.  We were done & Sydney had completed her first ever mountain hike.  She was happy with it.  She said she liked it.  And, when I asked if she would do it again with me, she responded, “Well, not right now!”

Then we drove over to Kimball Farms & had, by far, the largest ice cream cones I’ve ever been served.  We didn’t manage to get pictures of them because our hands were so full.  But, trust me.  We ordered the small size cones and they had to have about 4-5 scoops of ice cream piled on them.  The “kiddie” size that we saw some other people get had about 3 scoops!  Crazy!  But, it was pretty yummy.  The girls each got a mint variety.  I went with strawberry.  The strawberry wasn’t the best I’ve ever had.  Next time, I’ll try a different flavor.

All in all, a great hike with my two girls.  I can’t wait to get Syd back out there.  And, Drea… she maybe hiking again before she realizes it.

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 7/17/11
  • Elevation: 3165
  • Elev Gain: 1807
  • Mileage: 4.4
  • Trails: Halfway House Trail -> White Arrow (& same return)
 
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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Hiking, Kids

 

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Mount Monadnock

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Me on the summit

So, I’ve been itching to get out and hike a mountain, or two, or 100 (see previous post).  I’ve been itching to do it with the girl.  I’ve been itching to introduce my kids to it.  I’ve just needed to do it.

Yesterday, I found myself with the opportunity.  So, I got up at 6 & drove on over to Jaffrey, NH to hike Mount Monadnock by myself.

I had hiked it once with the boyscouts back in the day. I remember being told that it was one of the clearest days ever. You could definitely see Boston, and I have a recollection of seeing the white cap of Mount Washington (which I have yet to climb). I did some quick reading the day before & read up on a route that should provide the least amount of traffic.

I got there about an hour later than I wanted to. (Drea’s stupid bed is so fucking comfortable.) But, I still got to the parking lot about 8:15 and there were only two cars in the lot. Had to spend a few mins calling the kidlets, and paying the hiking fee & started up the Old Toll Road around 8:40. The road started the incline right off the bat. If my eyes weren’t telling me that, my breathing and heart rate certainly were. Soon enough, I came upon Parker Trail & hopped on that. This was more of a single track stroll through the woods. I didn’t see any boot marks and I slipped through plenty of spider webs to suggest that I was the first one taking this trail today.

I then hopped onto the Cliff Walk trail which started ascending the mountain again. This trail was very well marked and had some nice vistas along the way. I saw a deer track on it once, but never did see any wildlife much larger than chipmunks. I came upon my first human descending the mountain while on Cliff… at least, I think I was on cliff. Because, shortly after I passed her, I noticed that I hadn’t seen any blazes in a bit. But, I was clearly on a trail. Hmmmm… And no map. I had memorized my route pretty well, but somehow I felt I was on the wrong trail. After a short descent, I came upon an intersection that told me I had just descended the Surprise Trail. And, given that it was a surprise for me to find myself on it, I had to agree that it was appropriately named. I recognized the Thoreau Trail & hopped that back up to Thoreau’s Seat back on the Cliff Trail. So, a bit of a diversion, but no worries. I sat on Thoreau’s Seat and enjoyed the scenery and a plum for a bit.

Somewhere around here, I noticed that there was an old New England farm wall. I found it surprising that it had been built that far up the mountain. It was just another reminder that those bastards had it tough.

Anyway, I then took Cliff up to Bald Rock, where I paused to apply some sunscreen, and saw my second person power walking on past me. And, then hopped onto the Ampitheater Trail over to the White Arrow.  I was definitely feeling the burn here.  I remember thinking that my body was trying to tell me exactly how out of shape I really was.  (As if I needed a fucking reminder.)  But, I climbed up those bolders and reached the summit… to find about 40 people up there.  Not exactly an opportunity for a moment of solitude.

Still, I found a place to sit, enjoy the view, and some well deserved food.  I made a mental note to get some sort of hydration bladder for my pack.  Stopping to fish out my water bottle from the pack was really annoying.  I also tightened my boots a bit more.  I felt like my foot had been moving around a bit too much.  I took a couple of shots of the view (maybe I’ll post them later), & then got ready to head on out.

The way down was considerably easier.  Plus, the sandwich & second plum had really done a nice job replenishing me.  I made a note to eat more than a single eggo with PB before heading up another mountain side.  On the way down, I did the White Arrow Trail.  It was fun going from rock to rock the entire way.  I saw a father, with a kid on his back hiking up.  I don’t even want to think about doing that.  That’s not like carrying a regular pack.  Kids move.  Plus, I was scooching on my butt several times.  Can’t imagine having to account for a baby/toddler’s legs too.  I also came upon three girls (8-10) hiking up with their mothers.  The girl I came upon first exclaimed, “I’m in rock climbing heaven!”  I finished up on the Halfway House Trail & felt great that I had finished my first mountain hike in who-knows how many years.

I can’t wait for the next one.

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 7/5/11
  • Elevation: 3165
  • Elev Gain: 1807
  • Mileage: 5.7
  • Trails: Old Toll Road -> Parker Trail -> Cliff Walk -> Surprise Trail -> Thoreau’s Trail -> Cliff -> White Arrow.  Down: White Arrow -> Halfway House
 
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Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Hiking

 

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