October 7, 2017: Mt. Moosilauke (17/48)

Today I joined a relatively large (for me) group of seven other humans and one dog for a hike of Mt. Moosilauke. This was my friend Lisa’s finish of the 48 4000-footers. Lisa was one of my hiking partners on my first 4000-footer (Cannon), so it was great to be able to join her for her 48th. Also on today’s hike were my friend Devon, Lisa’s cousin Deb, and Lisa’s friends Krista, Dave, Neil, and Karen, as well as Neil and Karen’s golden retriever, Maggie.

The day started off partly cloudy and just slightly chilly. Unfortunately, due to an alarm mishap, I didn’t get out of bed until after I had already expected to be on the road. Fortunately, I got all my gear and food prepared the night before, so I just had to get dressed, quickly brush my teeth, throw the refrigerated stuff in my pack, and hit the road (after messaging all my hiking companions to let them know I’d be about 15 minutes late).

All eight of us (plus Maggie) met up on Ravine Road by the Dartmouth Outing Club’s Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, and hit the trail shortly before 8:00 AM. We took the scenic Gorge Brook trail to the summit, following along a stream near the beginning. It’s generally an easy to moderate trail compared to others in the White Mountains – rocky, but no scrambling. It’s relatively easy to rock-hop in some spots and go around the rocks in others. About a mile and a half into our hike, there was an area of downed trees off to the right of the trail creating a view down into the valley below. Not sure if this area was cut intentionally (I suspect that may be the case) or if it was due to a storm. Luckily, I took a couple photos here, because it was the only view we had all day!

We reached the summit in a little under three-and-a-half hours, with Neil instructing Lisa to hold back a little. We all got out our trekking poles and formed an arch through which Lisa made her grand summit entrance, while another hiker at the summit performed photography duties with Neil’s phone. After congratulations and a few quick photos at the summit sign, we headed back down since it was cold, foggy, windy, misty, and starting to drizzle.

Descending via the Carriage Road (not really like a road, but there were some spots where it was wider and had ATV-style terrain) was rather pleasant. Gentle grades, rocky in spots but with easy footing, and even a couple brief spots below treeline where the trail was suddenly devoid of rocks and became a beautifully level dirt path.

As we were descending, there was a point where Lisa was behind me, and kindly let me know that I had a rip in my pants! Just a small rip, but I was glad to know so I was careful not to bend in such a way as to rip it even more. (Still not sure how that happened – it may have been when I half-sat on a rock at the base of the summit sign. It was a clean slit and not at a seam, so it was from something sharp.) We hiked most of the way down in a misty drizzle – so light that I hardly realized it was raining.

Since there were no views to be had, we didn’t bother with the spur trail to South Peak, and instead continued down the Carriage Road trail, and farther down we took the Snapper trail to return to Gorge Brook. As we approached the Ravine Lodge at the end of the trail, the misty drizzle turned to a light rain. Got back just in time!

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September 17, 2017: Mt. Pierce (15/48) and Mt. Eisenhower (16/48)

This spectacular and unseasonably warm September Sunday in the Presidential Range did not disappoint! Lucy and I met up at the Edmands Path trailhead parking lot, where we left one car before driving down Mt. Clinton Road to begin our hike up Mt. Pierce on the Crawford Connector trail.

After a moderate climb up the historic Crawford Path, we reached the summit of Mt. Pierce in just a hair over two hours. We snapped a few pictures at the summit (my 15th of the 48 4000-footers), then retraced our steps back to Crawford Path to continue on to our next destination, Mt. Eisenhower.

The descent from Pierce was relatively easy until we began the rocky climb up to Eisenhower, which became extremely steep once we reached the base of the summit cone. There were even a couple small ladders (more like stairs, really). That enormous cairn at the top was a most welcome sight! Following a few quick photos, Lucy and I sat down to enjoy some lunch with amazing 360-degree views of the White Mountains. Mt. Washington even made a brief appearance between passing clouds.

Descending the northeastern side of Eisenhower’s summit cone was just as steep as the ascent, but it provided exceptional views over to the northern Presidentials and down into the Edmands col. Upon reaching the junction, we took a left on Edmands Path to return to our car spot. This stretch of trail begins with a narrow, rocky section with some tricky footing. Thankfully, that section ended pretty quickly and soon we were below treeline once again.

Other than that first rocky section, Edmands Path was relatively easy to descend. A little on the rocky side, but not too steep, and the last mile or so was a relatively easy hike back to the parking lot.

Calci di merda!

What’s that headline mean? Well, according to Google Translate and a friend who’s fluent, that’s Italian for “shit-kickers”. Which is what I’m fondly calling my brand-new hiking boots.

La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX Hiking Boots

I’ve had them bookmarked on REI for a month or so, and now that I had some birthday money to spend, I noticed they were on sale and jumped right on that. After snowshoeing in my trail runners last winter (with OR Huron gaiters that cover my toes – no issues with wetness) I realized I need more ankle support, particularly when snowshoeing. And I think true boots will be better for some of the tougher 4000-footers.

They’re a high ankle style, so breaking them in is extremely important. I’ve decided to wear them on a few shorter (under 5 miles) hikes before heading up north with them. I chose an easy hike today for their maiden voyage, a simple out-and-back to the north summit of Piper Mountain in the Belknap range. Fortunately, hiking buddy Cat was available to join me for an early (6:30 AM) hike.

We started out from the carriage road and headed up the red trail, the most direct route up to the north summit of Piper. We got there pretty fast! After a quick photo at the summit, we discussed our options. Since we still had plenty of time, we decided to take the Old Piper trail (orange) over to the Belknap Mountain white trail, then hike down the carriage road to our cars. The remainder of the hike was equally as fast as the first half.

We both still had a lot of energy left after such a short, quick hike. Cat ended up doing another hike nearby, and I decided to go for a run after making a quick trip to pick up steaks for grilling this weekend.

My report on the boots so far is this: I love them! Besides the fact that they look rather badass:

  • The Vibram soles are quite grippy – no problems with slipping today. Though this trail wasn’t particularly steep, there were some sections of slabby rock and I made sure to hike right up them to test out the soles, rather than going around to an easier spot.
  • The fit is perfect – I have a good half-inch between my toes and the front of the boot, and plenty of room along the sides of the toe box.
  • Even with this extra room, my foot does not slide around within the boot at all. The back of the boot cups my heel extremely well without being too tight.
  • Going downhill, there was no toe-smashing at all. Again, that well-fitting heel cup held my foot in place. These boots also have La Sportiva’s “Impact Brake” system, which may aid in this as well.
  • The high cut of the boot provided excellent ankle support. No issues with rubbing at all, though I felt I may have tied my right boot a little tighter and I felt one spot of pressure occasionally.
  • No blisters at all upon finishing the hike!
  • These will likely not be summer boots for me, unless I’m going on a particularly rough trail. They are breathable, but Gore-Tex lined, and my feet felt quite warm through the whole hike.

I’ll hold off doing a final review until I’ve worn them on a few more shorter hikes as well as some longer ones, so I can evaluate how they’re wearing.

August 26, 2017: Mt. Adams (14/48)

After being rescheduled twice (once so I could come along, and a second time because of bad weather), hiking buddy Lucy was finally able to finish her NH48 on Mt. Adams.

The forecast was good – either clear all day or mostly sunny with possible passing clouds depending on which forecast you were reading (Mountain Forecast vs MWObs Higher Summits, respectively), and cold (highs in the high 30s/low 40s with 10mph winds). Yes, I would be wearing a winter hat, mittens, and multiple layers in late August! But this is the Presidential Range, and that’s to be expected.

Cat and I reached the already-full Appalachia trailhead parking area just after 6:00 am. Shortly after, Lucy and Devon arrived from the opposite direction, and we hit the Air Line trail a little before 6:30 am. Below treeline, it was a typical White Mountains hiking experience – rocks, roots, and moderate to steep climbs. Maybe a half-mile or so into our hike, we spotted a tent or two out in the woods off-trail. We made a few stops on the way up, still below treeline, to de-layer as we warmed up. Though it was a cool day, below treeline it was still about high 40s/low 50s, so it didn’t take long to break out the short sleeves.

Once we reached the “stop, you could die up here” sign, we knew we would soon be breaking through the treeline into the alpine zone. It was a welcome sight, for we knew now that we were getting close to the summit (or so we thought). Once above treeline, there was some rocky hiking ahead as we traversed the ledges overlooking King Ravine and the knife edge approaching the top of the headwall. It was now time to layer back up again, as we no longer had the trees to shelter us from the wind, which felt a bit stronger than the 10mph that was forecast. I ended up adding back a long-sleeved running shirt and light fleece jacket over my short-sleeved running shirt. I was also wearing running tights under my hiking pants (which I had been wearing since the beginning of the hike). I also added a winter hat and mittens. The mittens only lasted five minutes, since my hands heat up pretty quickly when I’m moving. Also after a short while, I zipped off my pant legs – mostly because the pants are a little too long and kept getting caught on my heels.

Somewhere near the junction of the Chemin des Dames and Air Line trails, Lucy suddenly screamed a bit and hollered, “Snake!” Of course, I had to ask, “Where? Where? Show me!” since I figured it likely wasn’t anything poisonous and I wanted to take a picture. As expected, it was just a good-sized garter snake warming itself up in the sun, slightly protected by the overhanging rock that Lucy had been standing on.

Just when we thought we were almost there, we still had to complete the bouldery, scrambly climb up the summit cone to reach our final destination. This was rough and slow-going for me, as I am really afraid of falling and take my time with careful foot placement and balancing. Plus, my legs tend to turn to jello in sections like this, so falling is a very distinct possibility. Fortunately, my cautious nature prevailed and I made it through without any significant stumbles – though I did end up slightly off the marked trail occasionally, and had to cross back to get to the marked path (which wasn’t any easier in most cases).

Finally, we reached the summit (the others reached it several minutes before I did – long enough to take a few summit photos before I got there for our group shot). I found a nice spot to sit behind a big rock, sheltered from the wind and with a spectacular view of Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson. I was soon joined there by my hiking companions and we enjoyed our lunch. After sitting for a while, though, we started getting cold and realized it was time to head back down.

We began our return the way we came, Cat and Devon somehow getting way far ahead while Lucy and I carefully picked our way back down the bouldery summit. After negotiating that for a while (and frankly, struggling a bit), Devon noticed a herd path (probably not an official trail) leading over to the nearby Gulfside Trail, which appeared to be an easier way to go. I led the way over, and Lucy and I were greatly relieved not to have to deal with those boulders for a bit! There was still a bit of bouldery stuff once we rejoined the Air Line trail, but not nearly as difficult.

Instead of following Air Line all the way back down, Devon also had the great idea to take the Gulfside Trail over to the Madison Hut, then return via the Valley Way trail. This was a much better plan than taking the steeper, rockier, Air Line down. Lucy’s knees, though not happy, were happier than they would have been with an Air Line descent!

It must have been a restocking day at the Madison Hut. On the way back down, we saw several hut croo members (four, I think?) at various times on their way up with heavy loads of supplies.

We finally reached the parking lot after 8.6 miles and 8.5 hours of hiking. Not too bad of a pace considering the bouldery parts and the time spent at the summit.

Adams-Stats
Stats from today’s hike.
Adams-Map
Map, splits, and pace/elevation graph.

August 20, 2017: Quarry Loop (Shortened)

On this day after my birthday, I made the last-minute decision to go for a hike. But not up in the White Mountains; instead, I stayed local and hiked in the Belknap range. My choice of trailhead was based on what would be the least crowded parking lot. And that choice was right – when I arrived at the Quarry Mountain Forest parking lot on Reed Road just after 9:30 AM, there were no other cars there. Just little ol’ me. I quickly loaded myself up with bug spray, threw on my pack, and headed up the gravel road to the trailhead.

The goals for today were mainly to get outside, do some cross training, and work on my pace. I’m training to run a 10K in October, and today was one of my cross training days. Also, I haven’t gone hiking in three weeks, so I didn’t want to lose any gains I’ve made in that arena over the summer. Plus, I tend to be a slow hiker; next weekend, I’m hiking Mt. Adams for my friend Lucy’s NH48 finish, and I don’t want to hold anyone up too much!

As I hiked along today, I tried to keep a brisk pace, especially on flats and descents. I also didn’t stop for any great length of time – just one pee break and brief pauses to catch my breath now and then. I also took screenshots on my phone to time-stamp my position on the Belknap range trail map at key points (various summits and trail junctions along the loop).

After ascending the Reed Road trail, I emerged on the Dave Roberts Quarry Trail just west of the summit of East Quarry Mountain. Here I headed west, over to West Quarry. From there, I continued west, taking the bypass instead of the main trail over the ledges (only since I had never taken the bypass before), and headed to Mt. Rand, then Mt. Klem. When I started out, I had guessed it would take me until about 10 AM to reach Mt. Klem. Strictly a guess, since I didn’t look up the mileage. Well, it took me 45 minutes longer than that! After a quick glance at the map, I decided to make a loop instead of retracing my steps. Since I had only hiked that section of trail once before, I forgot how strenuous the DRQT can be. I headed down to Mt. Mack and Mt. Anna, looking forward to the more forgiving terrain. After reaching the summit of Mt. Anna, I again looked at the map and determined that doing a full loop over Straightback to return to East Quarry was more than I was up for today. Instead, I chose to still head east on the Belknap Range Trail, but take the Marsh Crossing shortcut back to West Quarry and retrace my steps back to Reed Road from there. In all, I ended up with an 8.27 mile hike in 4 hours, 19 minutes (including the bit of hiking on the road from and to the parking lot), for an average pace of 31 minutes per mile, which isn’t too shabby for me on one of the more rugged trails in the Belknap range.

The trail was completely devoid of other hikers until I was more than halfway done with my hike (between Mt. Mack and Mt. Anna, I think… but I’m a little fuzzy on that detail now). At that point, I ran into several hikers – a man with a white beard, a youngish couple shortly after him, and another couple with a feisty Boxer dog shortly behind the other couple. Then I didn’t see any other people until I was on my way down the Reed Rd. trail. I could hear them before I could see them – soon I spotted two women, and when I saw they had two little dogs with them I said “Hi, puppies!” in my typical talking-to-cute-doggies voice. The little white dog, which I’m guessing was either a Maltese or Bichon, ran right up to me for a quick sniff and ear scritches. I was told by her human that she rarely comes up to people that way, and that she must have thought I was really nice! 🙂 Shortly after the two women with the little dogs, I also saw a man and two young boys hiking up the trail. When I returned to the parking lot, I noticed three more cars had arrived since I had started my hike, so it was good to see that others are making use of this newish access point.

July 29, 2017: Mt. Whiteface (again)

My friend Lucy is down to her last three 4000-footers (well, now she’s down to her last two after today) and needed Mt. Whiteface (the one in the Sandwich range of NH). I had hiked this mountain last year with Devon, as a loop with Mt. Passaconaway. We were joined by fellow hikers Mandi and Katie for about two-thirds of today’s hike.

All five of us met up at Ferncroft Road and hit the trail (well, the dirt road to the trail) at about 7:00 AM. We took the Blueberry Ledge trail up, which starts off pretty easy, then gets steeper and rocky, and just below the summit offers some challenging but doable ledge scrambles.

Just before the true (unmarked) summit is a spectacular ledge with views of Moultonborough, Lake Winnipesaukee, Red Hill, and Squam Lake. There is a USGS marker for Whiteface here, which Devon and I missed last time. After a brief break for pictures and lunch, we continued ahead on the Rollins trail toward Mt. Passaconaway.

The Rollins trail is partly an easy ridge walk, but with some rocky ups and downs thrown in. We followed this trail a couple miles to its junction with the Dicey’s Mill trail on Mt. Passaconaway. Here we parted ways, Mandi and Katie heading up to summit Passaconaway, and Lucy, Devon and I heading down Dicey’s Mill trail to return to the parking lot. The descent was pretty uneventful – some steep downhill gravelly spots, some rocky spots, one stream crossing (using a fallen tree), and a relatively flat and easy hike out the last 1.6 miles after passing the junction with the Tom Wiggin trail.

I hit my best pace for a 4000-footer on today’s hike, largely due to trying to keep up with hikers much faster than myself (plus the easy parts near the beginning and end, and the not-so-rocky descent down the Dicey’s Mill trail helped as well). Considering the total time included our 20 minutes or so near the summit of Whiteface for pictures and lunch, our pace came out faster than book time! Woohoo!

July 10-12, 2017: “G4” Vacation

Every summer, my best friend Pam (Mela), her sister Cyn, and Cyn’s best friend Tina all get together for a vacation. When we were kids/teenagers, we often vacationed with each others’ families and went away for a week at summer camp together, so it’s an old tradition we reinstated five years ago.

This year, we chose the Mystic, CT area as our destination. Since B&Bs in Mystic are quite pricey, we opted to stay in nearby Niantic at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina. It’s not inexpensive either, but it’s in a beautiful location with great hosts, lovely rooms, and delicious food! Planner extraordinaire Cyn worked in some more active things for Mela and I to enjoy. We all did a little hiking on some easy park trails and at a nature center, and Mela and I rented a tandem kayak for a couple hours and enjoyed paddling around in the Niantic River and Smith Cove. We also enjoyed some beach time, shopping, lots of yummy food, and sightseeing – but I’ve detailed only the activities relevant to this blog below (except that none of these places is in New Hampshire).

July 10, 2017: Yantic Falls/Indian Leap

This is a roadside attraction. There was supposed to be a 2-mile trail (the Uncas Leap Trail), but we couldn’t quite figure that out. The falls were nice, though. After crossing the bridge over the falls, the trail appeared to lead into someone’s backyard and/or driveway. Now that I’m able to get on a computer and research it, the trail continued onto an alley and through town. It looked like there were some unofficial trails accessed by climbing over the railing along the path on the other side of the falls. Mela and I ventured about 20 feet in, but after finding a discarded paring knife, a variety of trash, a broken and empty 40-ounce Budweiser bottle, and a herd path covered with broken beer-bottle glass, we decided it would be best to turn around.

Also in this area is the Heritage Trail, which turned out to be a 2.8-mile walk on park trails and city streets. We followed along most of the trail, then realized it may not loop back around to where we started. Luckily we were in a city and had cell service, so we could text Cyn and Tina (who were back at the car) and let them know where to meet us to pick us up. I had found the trail website on my phone, but the interactive map was not mobile-friendly and all I saw was a blank page.

July 11, 2017: Kayaking in Smith Cove and on the Niantic River

While Cyn and Tina did a little shopping, Mela and I rented a tandem kayak from Three Belles Marina for two hours and enjoyed paddling around. We saw lots of wildlife! After emerging from behind the docks in Smith Cove, the first thing we spotted was two adult swans leading their four babies out into the channel. I was able to get some photos, but we definitely wanted to keep a safe distance! On our way through the channel and while paddling up and down the river, we saw lots and lots of cormorants: perched on docks, piers, moorings, and buoys; flying through the air; landing in and taking off from the water; and swimming about, looking like mini Loch Ness monsters with their necks and heads sticking up, and their bodies mostly submerged. As expected, there were also ducks – mainly mallards – swimming in the river, as well as Canada geese. We even spotted an osprey next on a post about a hundred feet or less off shore from someone’s riverfront home. What drew us to it was hearing the osprey’s call. As we paddled closer to it, we could see what appeared to be an adult and three younger birds in the nest. Several yards away on top of a post was another adult osprey, and the two began calling to each other. This was a pretty cool thing to see and hear! We returned to the cove to explore a little more, especially near the marshy areas near the road. Here, we spotted a red-winged blackbird, a dead crab (floating), and a ridiculous number of freshwater jellyfish.

July 12, 2017: Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

A quick search for something to do on Wednesday brought us to DPNC, a wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation facility with an extensive taxidermy display (mostly birds and small mammals), live amphibians, rehabilitated hawks and owls that are no longer able to live in the wild, and a network of hiking trails surrounding a small pond. The center also offers a variety of camps for kids in the summer months – in fact there were several camp groups in the sanctuary on the day we visited. While walking on one of the trails, Mela and I even encountered a girls’ yoga camp outing! We talked with a couple of the girls and their two counselors for a few minutes before continuing on.