Saturday, June 26, 2010

Whiteface (I will not wear cotton while hiking)

I will not wear cotton while hiking, I will not wear cotton while hiking, I will not wear cotton while hiking. And seriously, after all those years at EMS, I should have known but today I hiked Whiteface with a cotton t-shirt. It was hot, it was cold, it was windy, it rained. It was a great hike. Scrambling up the cliffs on the Blueberry Ledge Trail, lunching on the bald peak while looking South over the Sandwich Range, hiking the ridge to the Dicey Brook Trail and down. But I should not have worn cotton. If it had gotten any hotter, any windier, any wetter, it would not have been be good. But the luck of the dumb but eager hiker was with me!

Oh, and a shout out to the Wonalancet Hiking Club. They do an amazing job of signing and maintaining their trails, and their map is fantastic. Printed on tyvek (as all good trail maps should be) it covers the entire Sandwich range on a 1:40,000 scale. The reverse of the map side contains great trail descriptions too.

Monday, June 07, 2010

No Wildcats, but a Beaver, a Bear, and an Osprey

In Walking with Spring Earl Schaffer, the first person to continuously thru hike the AT, notes that the climb out of Pinkham Notch via the Wildcat Ridge Trail is one of the more challenging sections. So it was with some trepidation that we headed to that very trail on the most beautiful morning of the entire week. I wasn't all that confident that two middle-aged city workers could scale the rocky 3000 elevation, especially now that we had our packs loaded for a three day trip.

We left the Joe Dodge Center at Pinkham Notch following The Lost Pond Trail, a level .09 mile spur going to the Ridge Trail and bypassing, what was referred to as the 'dangerous Ellis River Crossing'. Have I mentioned that it was a beautiful morning? It was. So clear you could make out every detail of Mount Washington, and so still that you could see the ridges of Tuckerman's Ravine reflected in Lost Pond, broken only by the determined swimming of a Beaver. There are times, especially in the age of digital cameras, when you realize your photos probably look just like thousands of others, and then there are times, very unique occasions when you realize you are being presented with a rare photo opportunity – and you wish you had the skill to take that phenomenal photo. This morning was one of those moments. I'll let the pictures I did get do the 'talking' but just imagine...

It was while admiring the beaver dam that SD felt his pack give. The left stay ripped right out of its pocket and barring a sailors palm and needle (which we did not have) was irreparable. Duct tape might have done the trick temporarily but it was not responsible to head out into the wilderness for 4 days, up the roughest ridge in the Presidentials, with a broken pack. And so we headed back to the trailhead, back to the car, and back to North Conway.

And that's when we first saw the bear. And I was just where I wanted to be when I say my first bear – in the car. He was cute, and he did look like Pookie, especially as he stood up and looked over at us. He also looked like he could swot your head of with flick of his adorable paw.

Osprey Atmos 65 Pack, Green Apple, MediumWe took a few (bad) photos and headed on our way to Eastern Mountain Sports where SD picked out an Osprey Atmos 65 Pack . By the time we repacked the bag and returned to Pinkham Notch it was noon. Too soon to call it a day, too late to reattempt the Ridge, we choose instead to take the 19 Mile Brook Trail with the idea that while we'd miss the Wildcats, we could stick with our original plan.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Mount Hale and North Twin Mountain

For two mountains standing right next to each other Mount Hale and North Twin Mountain make for very different hiking experiences. For while the 4054 ft summit of Mt. Hale is  reachable after only 2 miles, and North Twin is 4761 ft and a 4 mile hike, North Twin is by far the better trip.

We hiked Mount Hale first. Leaving from the trailhead on Zealand Road the Hale Brook Trail immediately begins its ascent,crossing a nice stream after roughly .5 miles the grade increases until the second stream crossing where a series of switchbacks begin as you enter the higher elevations of the conifer zone. Many of the firs here are dead or dying, probably as a result of ice storm damage a few years ago, but the good news is that this opens up occasional views North to Mount Washington. The firs on the summit, however are doing well and surround the clearing where the fire tower once stood, blocking all views except from the top of the man made cairn, and creating a nice wind-free haven for black flies. For those continuing on to Zealand hunt the Lend-a-Hand trail leaves the summit to the east but we headed back down the Hale Brook Trail. It was a nice hike, but probably the best part was checking Mt. Hale off the list once we returned to camp.

North Twin is another story. This was my third attempt although the first from this direction. Previously I'd planned to summit North Twin as a 'quick side trip' from South Twin. Not a great idea unless you're in good enough shape to make a quick 4 mile side trip after hiking at least 8 miles just to get to South Twin.

Barring that, the North Twin trail is a great day hike that starts as a walk on an old railroad bed along a perfect NH stream and ends with an invigorating climb to two great outlooks. Along the way we did waded in the stream, passed through the zones, post-holed through snow, ran into a tree, and battled hungry black flies. The first, the false summit, offers views to the North from the Bonds to Mt. Washington. From the true summit, while bracing oneself against the 30 knot winds, the view looks out over the Southern Pemigawansett, particularly from Garfield to Flume. On the day we arrived the view was a bit hazy as a result of the Canadian forest fires, which cast a literal pall over the day. Enjoying one forest so thoroughly, its sad to know another is burning out of control. Still in all, it was a great day and another 4000fter was under our belts.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Climbing the 4000fters Zone by Zone

Last week we ascended from 2000ft above sea level to 4000+ feet, 4 times in our successful attempt to bag 7 more 4000fters. Each time passing through distinct climate zones, zones so distinct that by the last descent I could tell how much further we had left to go just by the plants. (As opposed to how much my legs hurt going up or my toes going down.) 

2000ft - The Trillium Zone
As wildflowers go, the Trillium is pretty special.  Classified as one of the spring ephemeral perennials, they bloom only briefly, and only in the woods. This week at 2000ft they were blooming everywhere and on the trail up signaled the start of another adventure. On the trail down, especially on the last day, coming down from North Carter, in the pouring rain and thunder, they were absolutely beautiful.

3000ft - The Lady Slipper Zone
The hunt for the rare Lady Slippers, or wild pink orchids,  has become an annual ritual with my girls and me and so I was very sad that this year, what with being in Boston and all, I had missed my chance to see one of my favorite spring blooming wildflowers. However, I soon found that what blooms in early May on the seacoast is in full bloom in late May at 3000 ft. And they were everywhere! Considering that this plant is on the "At Risk" list and was almost extinct 100 years ago it was great to walk through large patches of them - even just as the terrain was starting to get a bit steep, my calves were starting to ache, and I questioned whether or not we really needed that extra pound of trail mix.

4000ft - The Conifer Zone
Somewhere between 3000 and 4000 ft the hardwood canopy of maples, birches and beech is replaced by pines and firs. Almost every trail we hiked had recently been effected by blow downs.  There were trees down all over, especially in areas that had been hit by the ice storm a few winters ago had suffered significant tree damage. So aside from scrambling up and down rock faces, we also enjoyed the challenge of navigating over, under and around some significant tree piles, and on occasion, making full body contact with a limb or two, as I did with the branch of one tree only 1/2 inch short of my eye. (An impact that soon resulted in a lovely purple eye). On the plus side, all those downed trees opened up some amazing views, and as always, the feeling of being "Up There" just makes the day.

4000 fters

The following list is of the 4000+ ft mountains in New Hampshire, listed in order of height, from greatest to smallest. Following the name, and the elevation will be the date I climbed said mountain. (This originally was in columns but the formatting has somehow been erased.)

1. Washington 6288 1976
2. Adams 5774 9/08
3. Jefferson 5712
4. Monroe 5384 9/08
5. Madison 5367 9/08
6. Lafayette 5260 7/07
7. Lincoln 5089 9/08
8. South Twin 4902 7/07
9. Carter Dome 4832
10. Moosilauke 4802
11. Eisenhower 4780 9/08
12. North Twin 4761  5/10
13. Carrigain 4700
14. Bond 4698  5/09
15. Middle Carter 4610  6/10
16. West Bond 4540  5/09
17. Garfield 4500 7/07
18. Liberty 4459
19. South Carter 4430 6/10
20. Wildcat 4422
21. Hancock 4420 7/08
22. South Kinsman 4358
23. Field 4340 5/10
24. Osceola 4340
25. Flume 4328
26. South Hancock 4319 7/08
27. Pierce 4310 9/08
28. North Kinsman 4293
29. Willey 4285  5/10
30. Bondcliff 4265  5/09
31. Zealand 4260 7/07
32. North Tripyramid 4180
33. Cabot 4170 7/10
34. East Osceola 4156
35. Middle Tripyramid 4140
36. Cannon 4100
37. Wildcat D 4070
38. Hale 4054  5/10
39. Jackson 4052 9/08
40. Tom 4051  5/10
41. Moriah 4049
42. Passaconaway 4043
43. Owl's Head 4025
44. Galehead 4024 7/07
45. Whiteface 4020 6/10
46. Waumbek 4006 7/10
47. Isolation 4004
48. Tecumseh 4003