Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Owl's Head - 4025' (40/48)

Beginning our Adventure
Owl’s Head.  Possibly one of the most talked about yet least enjoyed hikes on the NH48 list.  The time had come for Paloma and I to tackle this hike.  While this hike is certainly doable as a long day-hike, Paloma and I opted to split this hike into two days to make a weekend of it.  We had initially considered hiking up to the 13 Falls campsite on the first day, then around the north-side of Owl’s Head to the summit on the second day before returning to the car, but decided we wanted more of a backcountry camping adventure.  We instead chose to hike directly out to Owl’s Head, set up camp just before the slide, hike the slide, return to camp for the night, and hike out in the morning.  This proved to be a great choice.

We set off on our adventure on Saturday morning at around 6:30AM.  The ride up 93 was uneventful, per usual, until we reached the Concord, NH area and saw the remains of about two dozen pumpkins that appeared to have fallen off a truck earlier that morning.  Welp, guess that was as good of a sign as any that autumn is here (my favorite season)!  When we reached Lincoln, NH and merged onto the Kancamagus Highway we began to see some traffic for the Highland Games that were taking place at Loon Mountain – a giant Scottish festival complete with bag-pipers and whiskey tastings.  There was something funny about seeing people walking along the side of the road wearing kilts and funny hats, but I will be honest it seems like a pretty awesome weekend!  We got through all of the hoopla and arrived at the bustling Lincoln Woods Visitor’s Center at just after 8:30AM.

Pemigewasset River
We made our final preparations and I spent some time adjusting my hefty backpack and began our hike at 8:47AM.  We encountered a forest ranger at the trailhead who asked us a few questions about where we were headed and reminded us to camp at least 200 feet off of the trail, hang our food to deter bears from rummaging through our tent, and to leave no trace – all items that should be common sense to anyone hiking in the Whites.  As we crossed the iconic suspension bridge over the Pemigewasset River the reality of the adventure we were embarking on truly hit me – I was filled with feelings of excitement, wonder and apprehension as we made our first steps onto the Lincoln Woods Trail.

How Many Paces?
The Lincoln Woods trail was a wonderful warm-up and allowed me to continue to adjust my backpack into the most comfortable position possible.  This was my first time using this bag and first time hiking with quite a bit of additional weight.  I was, after all, carrying: a tent, a sleeping pad, Paloma’s sleeping bag, my sleeping bag, 4 liters of water, 2 days’ worth of food, a mini propane tank and stove, a change of clothes, a rain jacket, flip-flops for the river crossings, a water filter, nylon rope to hang our food bag, a map, a head-lamp, two lighters, a knife, a compass and a mini cedar fire-starter.  This trail was more or less completely flat and offered some beautiful views out over the Pemigewasset River.  There were a few other people hiking along the trail – some just out for a quick day hike while others were hiking out with us towards for Owl’s Head or to the Bonds.

There were a few signs along the trail highlighting ways to stay safe in the woods – and I thought it was pretty neat that they placed a pair of signs two hundred feet apart so that you could pace out exactly how many steps you should take off the trial before setting up camp.  I counted 74 paces.  Before we knew it we passed by the Black Pond Trail (which offers a popular bushwhacking opportunity for those looking to shorten the trek out to Owl’s Head – but we weren’t equipped to try) and the Franconia Falls trail and officially crossed the bridge entering the “gateway” to the Pemigewasset wilderness.

Water Crossings
We reached the point where we bared left onto the Franconia Brook trail, splitting off from the Wilderness Trail that led out towards the Bonds at 9:45AM.  This section of trail continued to be relatively mild – only gaining a slight amount of elevation over its 1.7 miles.  We were hiking at a decent clip but took a few minutes to admire some of the boggy areas off the side of the trail, hoping to see some sort of wildlife.  Fail.  We reached the junction with the Lincoln Brook Trail at 10:28AM – only 3.4 more miles till I could ditch some of my stuff!  First though, we had to navigate ourselves across two major water crossings – first crossing the Franconia Brook, then the Lincoln Brook. 

We took our shoes off to cross Franconia Brook, and the ice cold mountain water was quite refreshing on our feet.  When we got to the other side though, we found ourselves a bit turned around, as there were a number of “could-be” trails veering off in different directions.  Needless to say we chose the wrong trail, multiple times, and found ourselves backtracking after a few hundred yards in the wrong direction.  Note: follow the orange hang tags on a few of the trees – they point you in the right direction!  We got back on track after a few minutes and shortly thereafter came to the second crossing.  This was a bit easier and we were able to rock hop to the other side without removing our boots.
Home Sweet Home

The Lincoln Brook Trail is a little bit rougher than the first two trails we hiked on, as it skirts alongside the Lincoln Brook with many pointless up and downs, wet portions, and washed out sections.  Still, though, we were able to maintain a decent pace as at no point was there any big gains in elevation.  The Lincoln Brook provided a nice soundtrack of rushing water to our hike.  We encountered a few individuals along the way and inquired about potential “stealth” camping spots – all of them said there were plenty closer to the slide once we passed the final water crossing.  We easily rock-hopped the final water crossing and began to look for a good spot to set up camp.

Beginning the Slide
We wanted to follow the 200 foot rule as best we could – unfortunately most of the nice spots we were passing looked to be well under that.  Finally, at 12:45PM we found a spot off of the left side of the trail right on the shore of the Lincoln Brook that looked promising.  We bushwhacked through the woods for 200 feet or so and came into the clearing – it was apparent that someone had camped there before as there was a make-shift log bench and remnants of a fire ring.  The Lincoln Brook would provide us not only with a water source so that I could filter water for dinner, breakfast, and the hike out, but also some “white noise” to help us sleep.  It felt great to get my pack off of my back and we took a few minutes to survey our new home for the next day to find a good spot to set-up our tent.  We set up our tent on a nice flat spot, ate some lunch, and transferred some items to Paloma’s bag that we would take with us up the slide to the summit.  We figured this way I could carry Paloma’s pack with only the essentials and she could carry nothing up the steep slide.

Owl's Head Slide
We left our tent at 1:40PM and began the final push towards the summit.  Now, up until this point we were hiking on maintained, relatively flat trails for over 8 miles.  That quickly changed as we reached the cairn marking the start of the Owl’s Head Path - an unmarked, unmaintained scramble up loose rocks, ledges, and giant boulders.  There were a few people at the beginning of the slide eating lunch, gaining the energy needed for the final mile or so to the summit.  We passed them and began the ascent.  The first part of the slide is made up of tiny loose rocks and the trail is quite steep – I’d guess approximately a 60-70 degree angle.  Fun!  Every step you took up you’d slide down half a step.  After this section the smaller loose rocks dissipated a bit and we came out onto some open air rocky ledges.  You have to be careful of your footing in this section as the rocks are still loose, and at this point much bigger in size.  Many times one of us would step on a rock only to have it slide down hundreds of feet below.  Thankfully no one was behind us to catch on in the face!

Summit of Owl's Head!
This open section provided us with amazing views over the backside of Franconia Ridge, and we could see some people far across the valley hiking along Mt. Lincoln.  No time to soak in the views, however – we were less than a quarter of the way up the slide.  After skirting along the ledges the trail finally enters the woods, though it maintains its steepness.  By this point our legs were shaking and we kept saying “how much further?!?!”  Finally the trail began level out and we began the final push towards the summit.  For those who are unfamiliar, up until around 2005 the summit of Owl’s Head was basically where we were at this point – close to the top of the slide.  In 2005 it was declared that the “real” summit was actually about a quarter of a mile further, accessed by following somewhat of a maze through the woods.  Whoever pushed the summit further away is a sick, sick person!  We encountered a couple of hikers on their way back and they offered us encouragement that it wasn’t too much further.

Paloma Coming Down
At 3:10PM we finally came to the make-shift cairn in the woods marking the summit of Owl’s Head.  I wish I had something good to say about the summit but in reality, it is just a pile of rocks in the woods with no views or ledges to relax on.  Someone had scribed an “Owl’s Head” on a piece of bark and left it on cairn which offered us reassurance that we were, indeed, on the summit.  Even though the summit was unremarkable, knowing the effort it took to reach gave Paloma and I a great sense of accomplishment.  We were happy to be able to cross the Owl off of our list – both agreeing that this would probably be the first and last time we hiked it.  We spent no more than 10 minutes at the summit and turned around.  A word of caution to those hiking Owl’s Head – when you leave the true summit, for some reason the hike back the way you came is harder to follow – so pay attention on your hike up!

Going down the slide, while less physically exhausting, was still quite difficult as you have to be extra careful with your footing to avoid face-planting down the slide.  Paloma deployed her usual “crab-walk” down the slide at some points to avoid falling.  Also, don’t get too distracted by the views of Franconia Ridge that are now in front of you – pay attention to your footing!  We were quite exhausted when we reached the base of the slide at 4:55PM.  Time to return to camp and cook some dinner!

Picante Chicken Ramen
Back at camp I fired up our MSR Pocket Rocket stove to cook some Ramen Noodles.  For those that haven’t had the Spicy Chicken Ramen – you are missing out.  It absolutely hit the spot.  Once we got our fill of noodles it was time to filter some water from the Lincoln Brook so that we would have ample water for breakfast and the hike out in the morning.  This was my first time using the Sawyer Mini Filter that I bought, and boy, am I in love.  I ended up drinking more water than saving but with a water filter and river – you can virtually never run out!   After filtering our water it was time to hang our bear bag – basically making sure that all of the food we had brought with us was suspended from a tree away from our tent to deter bears from making an unwelcomed visit to our tent in the middle of the night.  It also helps to keep smaller animals such as mice and squirrels out of your bag.  I spent far too much time trying to get our nylon rope over the perfect tree branch, and even knocked over a massive dead tree in the process – thankfully it didn’t come crashing down on our tent.

Our Camp
Paloma and I both cleaned ourselves up in the river which was quite refreshing and I rummaged the woods for some sticks and kindling and built a small fire.  We sat around the fire eating Oreos and hydrating before calling it a night at 7:45PM.  What else were we supposed to do in the middle of nowhere once it became pitch black?  It took some time to get comfortable and I finally was able to doze off around 11PM, only to be awoken at 2AM to the pitter-patter of rain on our tent.  Thankfully we had put the rain fly on as shortly thereafter the skies opened up and it began to downpour.  Save for a few wet spots at the corner of the tent, we stayed relatively dry and were able to catch at least a little shut eye.  Our alarm rang at 6:30AM and boy was that too optimistic – we quickly agreed that we wanted more sleep and ended up waking up at 9AM instead.

Long Hike Back
The morning was spent drying off and packing up our tent and other supplies while eating some oatmeal and peanut butter and filtering some more water for the day.  It was sad to see our adventure coming to an end but we knew we should hit the trail as we still had 8 miles to go back the way we came the day before to reach our car.  It was 10:45AM when we began our trek back.  The hike out was relatively uneventful and we were absolutely cruising.  We did see some moose tracks but still no wildlife.  I had mentioned to Paloma that I wanted a burger and fries once we got back to civilization and that gave us the motivation to kick it into a higher gear.  We crossed the river crossings with no issue – thankful that the rain hadn’t made the river crossings more difficult.

Finished!
By the time we arrived at the Lincoln Woods trail it was 1:10PM and the trail was filled with people taking advantage of the beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Not going to lie, it felt quite manly to be hiking among these tourists with my massive backpack on.  We passed the 200 foot pacing signs and I was only one step off of my calculation on the way out, 75 paces.  We reached the lot at 2:00PM after taking an “after” photo on the suspension bridge.  What an adventure it was!  We quickly shed our gear and used the facilities before hitting the road for our ride back home. 


On the way home we stopped at McDonald’s and ordered an embarrassing amount of fast food.  Actually, scratch that – I am not embarrassed, we earned it!  We reflected on how fun our weekend in the woods was.  Even though Owl’s Head is a relatively boring mountain – the adventure of getting there, camping, and enjoying a weekend in the wild made it a great trip.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking to escape reality for a while!  Can’t wait for our next backpacking trip!

Hike Stats
Trails: Lincoln Woods, Franconia Brook, Lincoln Brook, Owl's Head Path
Total Time (Not Including Breaks): 10:30
Distance: 18.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,850

Monday, September 14, 2015

North Twin - 4761' South Twin - 4902' (39/48)


Paloma Mapping the Route
On Sunday, September 6th, Paloma and I decided to head back up to Rt. 3 to tackle North and South Twin.  We were both a bit intimidated to do this hike as South Twin looked absolutely massive from the view we had of it when we hiked Galehead.  Never-the-less, the forecast was looking great so we made our way to the trail-head.  The ride up was relatively uneventful and quick, save for the few spots where the fog was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

The trail-head was easy to find, but that was only because we made a correct guess as to where Haystack road began.  There is no sign whatsoever marking this road but we somehow took the correct turn - keep this in mind if you are heading up there.  Even though we arrived relatively early there were already a number of cars in the parking lot - it was, after-all, Labor Day weekend.

North Twin Trail-head
We started our hike at 8:42AM.  The weather was a nice, crisp 60 degrees at the base with very little humidity.  My kind of hiking weather.  I forgot how much I love late summer/early fall hiking.  Our route for the day was to take the North Twin Trail up to the summit of North Twin, continue along the North Twin Spur to the summit of South Twin, then return the same way - a total distance of 11.2 miles.

The first half mile or so provided a great warm-up to the hike - a nice and flat trail through the woods – up to the water crossings.  I had read that the water crossings of the Little River on the North Twin Trail could be tricky, and those descriptions were correct.  The first crossing wasn't too difficult but at the second crossing I completely ate it on a slippery rock and wound up in knee deep water.  It figured that this was right in front of the first two people we encountered on the trail as well.  Oops!  Luckily we got Paloma across with no incidence.  The third and final crossing was also a big one but I learned my lesson from my prior fall and avoided wet rocks.

Water Crossings!
The next section of trail became incredibly steep.  Suddenly we were paying for the first few miles of flat hiking that we had just enjoyed.  Our blood was pumping and lungs burning as we made our way up this section towards the summit of North Twin.  As we climbed higher we were treated with some nice views through the trees, which culminated in a beautiful lookout point just below the summit.  A family was sitting down enjoying their lunch on the giant boulders overlooking the beautiful, untouched Pemigewasset Wilderness.  We snapped a few photos and continued on our way to the summit of North Twin, reaching it at 11:25AM.  The summit of North Twin is a pile of rocks in the woods – nothing memorable at all.  We snapped our obligatory summit photos and continued onto the North Twin Spur over to the summit of South Twin.
Great Lookout Below Summit

The North Twin Spur trail begins by descending quite steeply onto the ridge between the two Twins.  From here, the view over to South Twin looks incredibly intimidating.  I thought to myself “this can’t be right, that looks WAY further than 1.2 miles.”  I was convinced that we weren’t going the correct direction, even though we were following the signs exactly as they were pointing.  Sure enough, we were on the correct trail, and in all honesty it wasn’t that difficult!  Don’t be fooled by your initial view of South Twin – it goes by much faster than you would imagine.

Summit of North Twin
We reached the summit of South Twin at 12:10PM – the perfect time for lunch.  I would have to say that the summit of South Twin ranks near the top of all of the summits we have hiked to thus far.  The 360 degree views were nothing short of spectacular.  It was a bit breezy at the top so we decided to hunker down on a ledge overlooking the Pemi.  It was the perfect lunch spot.  I took my boots and socks off to let them dry in the sun as they were still soaking wet from my dip in the river.  We typically spend no more than 10-15 minutes on any given summit, but this was so beautiful that we decided to spend a few extra minutes to enjoy it.  We took some great photos from the top before heading back over to North Twin and ultimately down to the car, beginning our descent at 12:35PM.

Summit of South Twin
The hike back over the North Twin Spur went by quickly, and before we knew it we were on the top of North Twin again, ready to head down to the car.  The descent from North Twin was even steeper and longer than it had seemed on the way up, which made me truly appreciate the fact that we were hiking down and not up at that point!  We made pretty good time on the descent, reaching the car at 3:35PM.  We quickly changed out of our stinky hiking clothes and started on our drive home.  We needed to stop in Danvers on the way home to feed my parents cat, so we took Route 16 home, stopping in North Conway for a delicious dinner of pasta and bbq chicken pizza at Delaney’s Hole in the Wall.  If you can avoid Route 16 on Labor Day Weekend, do it…I’ll just leave it at that.

Overall this was a long, relatively tough hike but one that rewards you with fantastic views.  Take extra care on the river crossings and you will love this one!



Hike Stats
Trails: North Twin Trail, North Twin Spur
Total Time (Including Breaks): 7:00
Distance: 11.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3,700

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mt. Galehead - 4024' (37/48)

Gale River Trailhead
Where has the summer gone?  Paloma and I have been so busy this summer unfortunately hiking has taken a bit of a backseat.  Thankfully, though, we have a number of free weekends coming up to get back in the woods!  On Saturday, we decided to tackle one of the easier remaining mountains on our list, Mt. Galehead.  My parents decided to join us and we all set off for the Gale River trailhead up off of Rt. 3 past Franconia Notch.  The ride up was uneventful as usual, and the 70 MPH speed limit on Rt. 93 made the miles go buy quite fast.

When we reached the parking lot at around 8:25AM, there were already quite a few cars in the lot.  I had been holding a large iced-coffee in my bladder for the majority of the ride so needless to say I had to pee.  I went to the far end of the lot down a short trail, thinking I found a nice, secluded area.  Little did I know there were two people sleeping in the back of a Subaru right next to the little trail.  Whoops, hope you enjoyed the show!  The weather at the trailhead was just over 70 degrees, a bit overcast and quite humid.  We made our final preparations and were on the trail at 8:43AM.

MUD
Our route for the day was an out-and-back up the Gale River, Garfield Ridge, and Frost trails.  A total distance of 10.2 miles.  The Gale River trail follows along the Gale River (wow, what a unique name) for the first four or so miles of the hike.  This provided a great warm-up as the trail had easy grades for nearly those entire four miles.  There were a few water crossings that were easy to navigate, but I bet during rainy periods some of them could be a bit more treacherous.  Despite some extremely muddy sections, we were able to keep up a pretty good pace until just before the junction with the Garfield Ridge trail, where things got quite a bit steeper and damp.  Even though up to this point the hike was relatively mild, we were all sweating buckets as the humidity level was high and the temperatures were rising.

Galehead Hut
We reached the junction with the Garfield Ridge trail at 10:45AM and took a quick break to cool down a bit, re-hydrate and enjoy some trail-mix. With only 1.1 miles remaining to the summit, we were in pretty good spirits and ready to tackle the remainder of the hike.  The Garfield Ridge trail was quite a bit steeper than the Gale River trail, but all in all it wasn't too difficult either.  It was still quite a bit damp so we had to take extra care to make sure we didn't slip into one of the numerous mud puddles along the trail.   We reached the Galehead Hut at 11:26PM, but decided to go for the summit first and then return to the hut for lunch.

Lookout Point
We took the Frost Trail from the Hut for the remaining half-mile to the summit.  I had read that this section was strenuous but I am not exactly sure why it got that description.  Aside from a 100 yard steep section, this was an easy and fast section of the trail.  We stopped at a great outlook point just before the summit to take in some views since the summit is just a pile of rocks in the woods with no views whatsoever.  The view from the outlook was beautiful and we could look back down over the Galehead Hut.  After we got our fill of the view, we continued to the summit, reaching it at 11:49AM.  We snapped a few obligatory summit photos and then set off back down the Frost Trail back towards the hut.  We were all starving so we had some extra pep in our step.

Summit of Mt. Galehead
We sat down on the beautiful front porch of the hut to eat lunch.  The view from the front porch was great, looking out over the valley below between Galehead and South Twin.  There were quite a few other hikers at the hut, eating, refilling water, and relaxing before continuing on their adventures.  The Galehead Hut is gorgeous on the inside as well, and it was interesting to read that this hut is the most remote in the AMC hut network, given that it is a 4.6 mile hike from the road.  I kept thinking about how awesome it would if this hut was your summer home, and how great it would be to spend a few months living here.  Dreams!  After we had our fill of sandwiches, cookies, fruit and chips we decided it was time to begin our descent, leaving the hut at 12:41PM.  The clouds were rolling in and looking a bit threatening so we figured we would get back into tree cover - the forecast did predict scattered T-storms.

Lunch a the hut
The descent was quite easy and quick and we made very good time coming down.  We reached the parking lot at 3:00PM on the dot and shed all of our sweaty clothes to attempt to freshen up for dinner on the ride back.  We stopped in Plymouth, NH at the Lucky Dog Tavern & Grille which is quickly becoming one of my favorite after-hike dinner spots, mainly due to their delicious pulled pork nachos with diced pickles.  We ordered a full size as an appetizer and the thing was so massive it nearly took up the entire table.  It proved to be no match for us hungry hikers though!  We enjoyed some sandwiches and salads and continued on our ride home, stopping briefly in Concord to visit with my Grandparents and check out their new apartment.

All-in-all a great day for a hike, a good meal, and a visit.  I'd recommend the Galehead hike for those looking for a longer hike that isn't going to kill you.  Even though the views aren't spectacular there are still a few nice vantage points along the way and the hut is a nice place to visit.

Hike Stats
Trails: Gale River Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, Frost Trail
Total Time (Including Breaks): 6:15
Distance: 10.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,450'

Monday, June 1, 2015

South Carter - 4430' Middle Carter - 4610' (36/48)

Trail-head
Exactly one week after our hike up Carter Dome, Paloma and I wanted to finish the other two Carters – Middle and South Carter.  In retrospect, we should have tackled these two when hiking Carter Dome, but alas, any day hiking is a good day so we didn’t mind the extra trip up.  Plus, my parents decided to join us for their first hike of the year.  We met up at the Park-N-Ride in Newburyport so that we could carpool.  The ride up Rt. 16 was pretty uneventful as usual, and I was able to relax a bit after volunteering at a beer festival the night before.

We arrived at the Nineteen Mile Brook trail-head at approximately 9:15AM, made our final preparations, and were on the trail at 9:34AM.  Our route for the day was a 10.8 mile loop up the Nineteen Mile Brook and Carter Dome trails to Zeta Pass, then along the Carter-Moriah trail over both summits, before finally descending by the North Carter and Imp trails back to Rt. 16.  Per usual, the Nineteen Mile Brook trail provided a nice warm up to the hike and we finished this section relatively quickly.  It was stunning how different the temperatures were from the previous weekend, as during that hike I was wearing a jacket and quite chilly yet was already dripping sweat on this hike by the time we reached the junction with the Carter Dome trail.

Summit of South Carter
The Carter Dome trail was a bit steeper than the Nineteen Mile Brook trail so we took it pretty easy, knowing that we had quite a bit of mileage in front of us still.  The trail gains elevation quite quickly through a series of switchbacks, but never really hits any extremely steep grades.  That being said, the humidity was catching up to us and we were all sweaty.  Unfortunately, any time we stopped to take a breather we were met with an onslaught of black flies and mosquitoes.  There is nothing worse than black flies when hiking.  Nothing!

We reached Zeta Pass at 12:25PM and chatted for a bit with a guy named Doug and his daughter Amy who were sitting down cooking some Ramen Noodles on a camp stove to the side of the trail.  Boy, did that little 50 cent package of Ramen look delicious!  We chatted for a few minutes before heading over to bag the summit of South Carter.  The going across the ridge was pretty easy with a few small PUDs along the way (pointless ups and downs), and there was still a couple piles of snow surviving the heat along the side of the trail.  A series of man-made bridges help us navigate the muddy sections and before we knew it we were at the summit of South Carter. 

Mom and Dad
It was 1:00PM on the dot and we were all hungry so we decided to hunker down and eat lunch and enjoy the views (or lack thereof…).  Seriously, the summit of South Carter is just a cairn in the middle of the woods – pretty unmemorable.  Once we sat down we were again bombarded by all sorts of flying insects – I guess it was lunchtime for them too.  We wolfed down our sandwiches, cookies, and some chips and decided to get out of there before we were fully consumed by the bugs.  We began the trek over to Middle Carter at 1:11PM.  Given the humidity I was nearly out of water already, which was impressive since I carried 3L of water to start the day.  Guess the beer festival the night before made me thirsty!

Again, the going across the ridge was pretty easy.  There were some sections of low lying brush which afforded us some pretty nice views, even though it was a bit cloudy out.  The breeze in these sections helped to keep the bugs at bay which was nice as well.  We reached the summit of Middle Carter at 2:02 PM – again, another pile of rocks in the woods.  At least here there was a little lookout point which had some pretty nice views from it.  Since we had already ate lunch we pretty much just took a few photos and continued on our way down.  Shortly into our descent we passed a couple people who warned us of a “crazy bird” that had been attacking people that afternoon on the trail.  Some sort of grouse or something.  I was actually hoping that we would run into it to see what all the fuss was about but we never had the pleasure.
Summit of Middle Carter

We reached the junction with the North Carter trail at 2:34PM and after just a few minutes we were hiking down the middle of a small riverbed.  This was interesting.  There weren’t any visible trail markings so we took a few minutes to look at the map.  I was convinced we were on the trail but it was in pretty rough shape.  The trail was extremely narrow and soaking wet with a few blown down trees.  Fun.  We finally began to see some footprints in the mud and realized we were, in fact, on the correct trial.  It took us nearly an hour to get down to the junction with the Imp trail, reaching it at 3:23PM.  Only a little over three miles were left!  At this point Paloma and I decided to take off ahead on our own as someone was going to have to hike or get a ride 1.5 miles back up Rt. 16 to retrieve our car from the parking lot since this route didn’t end at our starting point.  We figured we could cruise down, walk or grab a ride, and make it back by the time my parents were finishing.

Paloma and I at the lookout
The Imp trail, while consistently downhill, seemed to be filled with pointy and loose rocks, making it a bit difficult to go down as fast as we wanted to.  Usually we try a light jog on the descent at points but trying that here would have been irresponsible and dangerous.  We were still able to keep a good pace but with both of our waters empty and our feet starting to hurt, it wasn’t effortless!  The Imp trail taunts you a bit because you nearly get to Rt. 16 before it turns and skirts parallel alongside it.  You can hear cars but can’t see them or reach any parking lots!  We ended up passing Doug and Amy on the way down, but they caught back up to us when we stopped to determine if we could bushwhack back to the car instead of continuing on the trail.  Rather than bushwhacking, Doug offered us a ride back to our car so we decided to hike the rest with him and his daughter.  We spent the last mile or so chatting about hiking, recounting stories from our more memorable hikes.  It made the time go by very quickly.

Cloudy but beautiful!
We reached Rt. 16 at 4:44PM and followed Doug and Amy for about a quarter mile on the road to their car and they dropped Paloma and I at our car.  What nice people you sometimes meet on the trail!  Paloma and I shed our boots and drove back to where we finished the hike to wait for my parents.  It felt great to change into new clothes and clean ourselves up a bit!  My parents came out of the woods at about 5:15PM, exhausted.  A good meal was earned by all of us, so after my parents had a chance to clean up a bit we headed to the Red Fox for a delicious dinner!

All-in-all this was a decent hike but not one I would recommend if you are looking for views.  I do enjoy the Nineteen Mile Brook trail so that is a plus.

Hike Stats
Trails: Nineteen Mile Brook, Carter Dome, Carter-Moriah, North Carter, Imp
Total Time (Including Breaks): 7:10
Distance: 10.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3,500'

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Carter Dome - 4832' (34/48)

Trail-head
This past weekend Paloma, John, Foster, and I decided to head up to the mountains to tackle Carter Dome.  John and Foster slept at our place the night before so that we could get as early of a start as possible, anticipating that Memorial Day weekend would attract a slew of tourists to the White Mountains.  We were up and on the road at just after 5:40AM, and began our journey towards the Nineteen Mile Brook trail-head located just past the Mt. Washington auto road off of Rt. 16.  The weather was quite cool, barely breaking 40 degrees on the drive up.

Our plan for the day was to hike up the Nineteen Mile Brook trail to Carter Notch and the Carter Lakes, then take the steep Carter-Moriah trail up to the summit of Carter Dome – a total distance of 10 miles round trip.  I had toyed with the idea of tackling all of the Carters but given that this was our first big hike for the year I decided against it.  Plus, I wasn’t sure what the snow situation was going to be like at the higher elevations.

We arrived at the trail-head parking lot at 8:30AM and had to park on the road as the lot was completely full.  There were already a few cars parked on the road – looked like it was going to be a busy day.  The weather was a balmy 36 degrees, and in a rush out of the house I didn’t grab all of the layers I wanted to.  Oh well, I figured once we got moving I would be just fine.  We officially hit the trail at 8:42AM.

Johnny at the Lake
The first four or so miles up the Nineteen Mile Brook trail are quite pleasant and relatively easy.  The trail follows along the Nineteen Mile Brook, crossing it periodically.  It was quite scenic and enjoyable, even though I had already hiked down this trail in the past when hiking the Wildcats.  There were a few areas where there was some trail erosion and mud but nothing too concerning or difficult to get around.  The river was flowing quite aggressively due to the melting snow from this past winter.  For the number of cars we saw in the lot, we encountered very few people on the way up to the Notch.

As we got a bit higher in elevation there was some scattered snow in the woods but thankfully nothing on the trails at this point.  I could tell Foster was anticipating some nasty potholing up ahead and it was funny to hear him talk about how much he hates hiking in the snow.  We reached the split with the Carter Dome trail at 9:26AM though continued on the Nineteen Mile Brook trail to the Notch.  We reached the Carter Lakes area 10:15AM, and after taking some photos of the beautiful lake and the cliffs on Wildcat, began the difficult part of the hike – 1.2 miles up the Carter-Moriah trail to the summit of Carter Dome.

Snow!
To say this section is steep is an understatement.  That being said, however, there are plenty of hand and foot holds to hang onto and not much erosion – which made this section mostly just physically tiring than technically challenging, per se.  My heart was beating so hard at some points that I could feel it throbbing in the back of my head.  “Whew – this will get me back into hiking shape in no time” I had thought to myself.  John was pushing the pace up this section and we all silently agreed to reconvene at the summit.  The views from some points of this trail were amazing – looking back over at the Wildcats and Mt. Washington.  It was quite breezy at this point and my hands were going numb – I estimated it to be south of 40 degrees up there.  There was also quite a bit of snow but the cold temps overnight froze it solid so you could easily walk on top without post-holing.

While this stretch was only supposed to be 1.2 miles, it seemed like it was triple that.  Once you get past the steep, slide section you continue the ascent through another wooded section that drags on forever with minimal views.  Unfortunately, the summit of Carter Dome is the same way…not that exciting.  I made it to the summit at 11:24AM, John had made it there a few minutes before me and Paloma and Foster arrived a few minutes after.  There was a friendly dog named Monty at the top who almost made off with Paloma’s sandwich.  While the sun was shining bright on the top of Carter Dome, it was quite chilly so we quickly wolfed down our sandwiches and snacks, took our summit photos, then headed back down at 11:42AM.

Chilly Lunch at the Top
On the hike up we had passed a short trail off of the Carter-Moriah trail marked “View.”  We were too gassed on the way up to stop for a look but decided to hit it up on the way down.  It was only about 30 yards up the trail to a great lookout point, providing beautiful views of the notch below and over to the neighboring mountains.  Much better than the view (or lack thereof) at the summit of Carter Dome!

We had to take extra care on the descent as the trail was quite slippery with ice and water at some points.  Paloma had prepared for this and put on her microspikes – the rest of us bare-booted down.  Luckily no real bad slips or injuries!  We were able to get down from the steep part and back into the notch pretty quickly, and began the long, easy descent down the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail.  The trails got a lot busier as the day went on and now we were passing numerous people along our descent.  At one point we came to a bridge and another group of hikers were on the other side.  We let them go first but for some reason one of their dogs was terrified of me and wouldn’t cross the bridge until I did and moved to the side.  What did I do!?!?
Summit of Carter Dome

The rest of the descent was pretty uneventful and we were actually able to jog for long sections of the descent which helped us shave off some time.  We made it back to the parking lot at 2:00PM on the dot, shed our gear and hopped into the car, hoping to get out of the mountains before the evening traffic started.  On the way home we stopped in Portsmouth, NH for dinner at the Thirsty Moose.  It was quite delicious and much deserved after this 10 mile hike!


Overall this was a nice hike and while the views from the summit are nearly non-existent, the look-out point and the beautiful lake make it all worthwhile.  If you are up for it I would suggest grabbing all of the Carters at once (Carter Dome, Middle Carter, South Carter) because we now have to make the same trip up next weekend to finish them off!

"View"



Hike Stats
Trails: Nineteen Mile Brook, Carter-Moriah
Total Time (Including Breaks): 5:20
Distance: 10 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3,400' (approx.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mt. Monroe - 5384' Mt. Eisenhower - 4780' (33/48)


Edmand's Path Trail-head
With the weather forecast looking absolutely gorgeous for this late in September, Paloma and I decided to tackle the two remaining southern Presidential mountains on our list, Mt. Monroe and Mt. Eisenhower.  On Saturday morning we set off for the Edmand's Path trail-head, located on Mt. Clinton road off of Route 302 in NH, at approximately 6:40AM.  The ride up was relatively uneventful and quick - the weather was looking great, 65 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

Paloma's Best "I'm Scared" Face
When we arrived at the trail-head the parking lot was already full but we were able to find a spot alongside the road just outside of the lot.  Looked like there were plenty of others taking advantage of the weather.  We threw on our gear and made our final preparations, officially beginning our hike at 9:10AM.  Our route for the day was to hike up Edmand's Path to the junction with the Crawford Path, hike over to Mt. Monroe, and then return and summit Mt. Eisenhower, returning back to the car by Edmand's Path - a total of 9.8 miles round-trip.

The Ridge
The beginning of Edmand's Path was very easy and the trail was in excellent shape.  Early on we crossed a few streams on well-built man-made bridges.  I was surprised at how dry the trail was given that nearly every trail in the White Mountains we have hiked on have been pretty wet.  Needless to say, we were cruising at a pretty good pace.  After a mile or so the trail began to steepen a bit but remained pretty mild until only a half-mile or so before the junction with Crawford Path.  The trees began to thin quite quickly and we could begin to hear the whistles from the Cog Railway across the ridge on Mt. Washington.  We also began to catch some views of the Presidential Range and down to the Mt. Washington Resort.  Things were looking beautiful.

Shoulder of Eisenhower
When we finally emerged from the trees onto the rocky shoulder of Mt. Eisenhower, we were treated with views that were nothing short of amazing.  It seemed fake.  Both of us were in awe at how beautiful it was.  One would think that after hiking so many mountains with great views that it would get old, but no...it doesn't.  We continued skirting along the rocky shoulder of Eisenhower until we reached the junction with Crawford Path, reaching it at 10:57AM.  There were quite a few people climbing up to the the summit of Eisenhower, so Paloma and I decided to head over to tackle Mt. Monroe first.

As we eventually learned, you cannot see the summit of Mt. Monroe from Mt. Eisenhower. It is indeed, actually quite far away but is blocked by some rolling hills.  When we got to the top of the first rolling hill we realized we were only about a quarter of the way there.  The hike along the exposed ridge was awesome, though.  The sun was shining so even though it was windy it was quite warm.  I even managed to get a bit of a sunburn on my face.  We eventually passed the summit of Mt. Franklin, a non-4k and continued over towards Monroe.

Looking back towards Eisenhower
When we reached the junction of Crawford Path with the Monroe Loop, we got a bit mixed-up,  If you continue on Crawford Path you actually circumvent the summit of Monroe.  We started this way for a few hundred yards but realized quickly that it was not leading us to the summit.  We backtracked and took the Monroe loop up.  Whoever designed this trail is a sick, sick person.  The trail literally climbs up the steepest outcrop of rocks before bearing right across a field to the final climb up Monroe.  If the trail was just 100 yards to the right you would avoid this rocky mess but no, the trail decides to go right over it.  Oh well, the views from the top of this rocky mound were great.  After this we cut across an alpine field and began the final climb up the rocks to the summit of Monroe, reaching it at 12:25PM.

Summit of Mt. Monroe
There were a few other people at the summit soaking in the sun and views but it was much less crowded than the summit of Eisenhower which we could now see, miles away across the ridge.  We enjoyed beautiful views of Mt. Washington and the Lake of the Clouds while eating lunch hunkered down behind a large boulder.  It was quite windy at the top which was actually quite refreshing.  It was neat to look back across the ridge we had just hiked across to Eisenhower, though knowing that we had to hike back all that distance seemed daunting.  We let our food digest for a few minutes and were back on the trail at 12:40PM.

Summit of Mt. Eisenhower
Thankfully the hike back across the ridge was quite a bit faster than our hike out.  We were cruising back towards Eisenhower, passing many people along the way.  I had to ask Paloma what she put in our PB&J sandwiches because my energy level was at an all time high.  We reached the original junction of Crawford Path with Edmand's Path at 1:36PM, this time continuing straight towards Eisenhower.  At this point it was quite crowded, so we decided to haul ass to the summit of Eisenhower, take a few photos, and began the descent to the car.  We reached the summit at 1:50PM, snapped our photos, and were on our way down at 1:56PM.  I hate crowds.

Our hike down was the fastest hiking I have ever done.  Aside from getting stuck behind people at many points, we were borderline running down Edmand's Path.  I was treading a thin line between hiking fast and being completely out of control on the descent, grabbing onto trees and sliding down boulders.  Paloma and I both worked up quite a sweat on the way down the trail.  Unfortunately, many people on the way down seemed to have little knowledge of trail courtesy.  If someone is coming up from behind you, move aside and let them pass!  There were numerous points where we were right on the heels of groups of others and it took ten minutes for them to finally stop and move over.  Annoying!

Paloma and I at the Summit of Eisenhower
Near the end of the hike we crossed back over the streams we had crossed at the beginning.  Submerged in the last stream was a man making strange grunting noises, clearly enjoying the refreshing water as his dog sat on the shore with a bewildered look on his face as if saying "I am NOT with this guy."  Hey, to each their own I guess.  It did, after all, look quite refreshing.  We finished the final few hundred yards of the hike, reaching our car at 3:22PM.  Overall this hike was on the easier side and had some tremendous views.

We quickly changed into new clothing and began the ride home.  I was shocked at how many cars were parked along the various trail-heads that we passed on the ride.  It looked like everybody and their brother were hiking the Franconia Ridge mountains as cars were parked for what seemed like miles on each side of Rt. 93.  We stopped at the Lucky Dog Tavern in Plymouth on our way home for dinner and ate perhaps the best plate of nachos I have ever consumed - pulled pork nachos with cheddar cheese and diced pickles.  Sounds strange but was absolutely phenomenal.  All in all a solid day in the mountains!

Hike Stats
Trails: Edmand's Path, Crawford Path
Total Time (Including Breaks): 6:10
Distance: 9.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3,800'

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Mt. Isolation - 4004' (31/48)


Rocky Branch Trailhead
The time had come for Paloma and I to stop putting off hiking Mt. Isolation.  I'll admit, I have always been a bit intimidated to do this hike just due to the sheer length of it.  I had heard it isn't overly difficult but with a name like Mt. Isolation one has to have a little fear in them of hiking it.  We set off early on Saturday morning, an after a relatively uneventful yet slow ride up Rt. 16, we arrived at the Rocky Branch parking lot at quarter of ten.  The weather at the base was a bit cloudy and warm, and the lot was relatively empty except for about four or five other cars.  Knowing that we had a long hike ahead of us and it was already later than we had hoped, we threw on our gear and officially started our hike at 10:00AM.

Sweaty Animals!
Our route for the day was a 14.6 mile hike out and back up the Rocky Branch, Isolation, and Davis Path trails to the summit of Isolation.  We started on the Rocky Branch trail which began gaining elevation nearly the minute we left the parking lot.  The weather in the woods felt like a hot blanket over us, extremely humid with little to no breeze.  Oh boy, this was going to be a long day.  About fifteen minutes into the hike and I was already sweating like an animal - the humidity made it extremely difficult to breathe in any sort of rhythm.  After we passed a place where a ski trail veers off the right, the climbing continued and steepened.  Paloma and I were praying that it would eventually even out.

We encountered our first human shortly thereafter.  Before we got even within ten feet of this individual he proclaimed "I read your blog!  You are Tom and Paloma!"  Awesome, I thought to myself, this was the most proud I have been since beginning this blog.  Someone actually read it and recognized me!  We spoke with the man, named Doug, for a few minutes and discussed some other hikes we had done.  He was on his way down at this point after spending a night at the Rocky Branch shelter.  Doug - if you are reading this post hope the rest of your hike went well and I hope to see you on the trails again!  After our brief chat with Doug, Paloma and I continued on our way.

River Crossing
After a few more minutes we final hit level land, and the hike remained this way all the way to the junction with the Mt. Isolation trail and the Rocky Branch river.  What a relief!  Paloma and I both felt a renewed sense of energy and suddenly the completion of this hike didn't seem like such a difficult task after all.  After crossing over the Rocky Branch river we reached the junction with the Mt. Isolation trail at 11:55AM.  We contemplated checking out the shelter which was a few hundred yards in the opposite direction, but decided against it since we still had over ten miles to go - maybe someday we will hike to the shelter and actually spend the night - it seems like it is in a beautiful location!

Paloma Navigating the River
The Mt. Isolation trail follows along the river for a few miles, crossing it back and forth approximately five times.  The river crossings were not too difficult but I can imagine after a lot of rain or melting snow that they could be tough.  There were a couple of points where we couldn't exactly tell if the trail crossed the river or not, but thankfully there were some makeshift cairns that helped guide the way.  We were cruising pretty good at this point, trying to get as many miles behind us as possible.  After the river section we came into some muddy and wet sections of the trail, and both of us were slowly becoming covered in mud.  

What happened here?
We finally began to catch our first "views" off to the left as we emerged onto some sort of ridge.  This was a very interesting section of the trail.  I couldn't exactly figure out what happened but it looked like one of those micro-bursts or some sort of significant wind activity bent down (but didn't break) hundreds of pine trees.  I attempted to capture this in the photo here but I don't think it does it justice.  You will have to hike there to see just how interesting it looks!  We cruised through this section and shortly thereafter reached the junction with the Davis Path trail.

The Jerk!
The Davis Path trail, though easy, had plenty of PUDs to get your heart rate going.  PUDS = pointless up and downs.  Regardless, the excitement we had that the summit was less than a mile away took our minds off of how worn out we were and before we knew it we reached the Mt. Isolation spur - a steep but short climb to the summit.  There we encountered perhaps our biggest challenge.  In the middle of the trail, perched on a rock, was a little plastic toy soldier guarding the trail, protecting the summit of Mt. Isolation.  After being nearly denied passage, I finally reached into my wallet and gave him all of its contents for the right to pass.  He obliged.  Thank God!  Would have sucked climbing all that way only to have to turn back a hundred feet from the summit!

Summit of Mt. Isolation
We finally emerged from the trees to the summit of Mt. Isolation at 1:48PM and were treated with beautiful views of the Presidential Range and surrounding mountains.  There was another couple at the top and their beautiful dog, Ginger, who just completed her (the dog) 48th 4k.  Impressive!  Ginger took a liking to Paloma and I was worried that Paloma was going to hike down with Ginger and leave me by my lonesome.  We chatted for a bit with the other couple and then sat down for a well deserved lunch of PB&Js, chips, and Gatorade.  I could have fallen asleep at the top but since we had over seven miles to get back to the car, we wolfed down our food, took a couple photos, and began the long descent back to the car.

Paloma and I at the top!
We were cruising, and at some points lightly jogging, down the Davis Path, reaching the junction in about half the amount of time it took us on the way up.  By the time we arrived back at the portion of the trail that zigzags across the Rocky Branch river, a light rain began.  It actually felt quite refreshing and I joked with Paloma that it was good that it was raining because it meant we wouldn't be as stinky and muddy at dinner after the hike.  Maybe I should have held that thought to myself, as minutes later we were stuck in a full on downpour.  It still felt refreshing so I forewent putting on a rain jacket, rather Paloma tied it over my backpack to protect its contents.  Normally rain would annoy me but in this case I welcomed it.  That is, for the first ten minutes.  When it didn't stop for the next hour it got a bit old.

The last three miles of the hike took FOREVER, or at least it seemed that way.  I think I guessed that we were just about at the car over fifteen times.  Nope, more to go.  The rain made things a bit tricky as now everything was wet and slippery - this prevented us from being able to move too fast.  Just when I was about at the point where I contemplated laying down and giving up, I spotted our car through the trees.  At last, we were at the end!  We reached the car 5:38PM and immediately shed our boots.  Relief!  

Caught in the Rain
We both changed and agreed that we were going to stop at the first restaurant we came to.  That happened to be the Red Fox Bar & Grille in Jackson, NH.  I wolfed down some meat, potatoes, and a beer, Paloma a brick-oven pizza.  After-all we deserved it!  We must have looked like two goons as we hobbled in and out of the restaurant!  The ride home was uneventful, and I immediately hit the hay after a hot shower.  What a day!

Overall this was a long but not technically difficult hike.  The trails were in decent condition and the crossings weren't difficult though the hike up doesn't offer many views.  The views at the top, however, are great.  I think we saw more toads than people so this would be a great hike for people looking to avoid the crowds.  It is called, after all, Mt. Isolation...

Hike Stats
Trails: Rocky Branch, Isolation, Davis Path
Total Time (Including Breaks): 7:40
Distance: 14.6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3,400'