Blueberry Mountain Birthday Hike

In honor of surviving the adventures of the last year, both solo and family, it seemed appropriate to celebrate my birthday with a hike. The weather certainly looked much better than we’d seen on our last adventure, so everyone was excited to get out there.

I picked a random spot on one of my White Mountains maps and a little research verified that it just might work. We loaded up the packs for a rare day hike and headed towards the ME/NH border where Rt 113 crosses the border a few times on its way between Rts 2 and 302DSC01356aOur goal was the top of Blueberry Mountain for lunch after climbing up the White Cairn Trail, then a walk across the short ridge and down the easy trail back to the road. Our little camper was excited at the prospect of bagging another peak. She has a lot of trail miles in her short years, but not too many mountains. This year she has started to use my old poles and thinks she is ready to hit the summits with daddy.DSC01358aShe is both fearless and strong when it comes to adventure. We never have to push her into this stuff, but we often have to hold her back heh. Thankfully everyone remembered their head nets because inhaling black flies while climbing can be bad for your health.DSC01360aIt really wasn’t supposed to rain on us, but the building overcast was looking a bit ominous at times. The early season greens seemed extra bright against the dark skies.DSC01361aOn the NH side of the highway we could see Baldface and were glad we’d left that for another day. It has much more exposure, not to mention miles and elevation. Our little one will be ready for that next year I’m guessing, but more than she’d enjoy at this age.DSC01363aBoth my wife and daughter have had far too few opportunities to get up into places like this. The experience was exciting enough to overcome the flies which I have to admit were pretty thick that day. Certainly not the most stunning view in the Whites, but through their eyes, and mine, it was a pretty special thing to take in.DSC01365aHere they are posing together, from the rear we have daughter, mother and fly. For the most part everyone remembered to lift their nets before putting food or water into their faces…for the most part heh. Even with the swarming bugs I have to say this was one of the best birthday meals I have ever enjoyed. DSC01366aAfter lunch we headed along the ridge and then took a side trail to the ledges. Looking at my topo maps I think we crossed the actual summit in here somewhere but we didn’t notice anything that day. DSC01370aWell we did notice this big hole in the ground! We had started down there somewhere to the right of the pond, only about 1150′ of climb to the 1781′ summit, but enough to count as a real mountain. Which of course means that these two are real mountain climbers!

Not sure which one I was more proud of, but hiking in a spot like this with them was a darn nice birthday present. It reminded me of how many times I’ve been in a spot like this and wished I could share it with them. It also makes me think about the all of the great places that will open up to us for family hiking and backpacking soon.DSC01374aOnce my daughter was safely down the trail I dared to sneak closer to the edge for a few shots of the valley. DSC01375aI’ll just leave the view from the ledge as the end of this trip. The hike down included two groups of folks with uncontrolled dogs that took most of our focus so there were no more pictures. Other than that I would say we all had a great time with this strange day hiking thing. I’d have preferred to stay up there and camp, but dinner out and sleeping in a bed can be nice after a hike too. Certainly one of the best birthdays of my life and enough to make me want to stick around for another one to see if we can top it!

Baxter Season Opening – Family Trip in Late May

Baxter Season Opening – Family Trip in Late May

48 pictures from a four day family trip to Baxter State Park.

We tempt the gods every year by making a reservation for a few days in the park the week before Memorial Day. It really is too early to be sure there won’t be snow, in the air or on the ground. We’ve only cancelled once due to a heavy rain forecast. This year we didn’t even let that stop us!

The first day we hiked into the Martin Ponds site so quickly I didn’t take any pictures on the walk in. I have some video of the girls walking across a bridge, but the still camera never came out. At less than three miles it is less than our usual morning walk, but we did have packs on. Still the hike just flew by and we were in camp early in the afternoon.

DSC01136aOnce we arrived I hurried to set up the new bug house we are trying this year. We’ve always set up our Kelty TR3 in lean tos previous years. The shelters vary quite a bit in terms of size and shape with some being a real challenge to squeeze the tent into. This big net rectangle can change shape to fit into what space is available. Thankfully the bugs weren’t too bad, it was cool and threatening rain, but it was good to have a safe place in case we were attacked.DSC01141aThe skies were looking like the bigger threat at this point. Baxter and Pamola both disappeared into the clouds on the far side of the pond.DSC01145aThere was still a lot of snow up in the Hamlin bowl. Looking at that under the dark and threatening sky made me look forward to getting under the quilts later. We were expecting a damp night before the real weather hit the next day.DSC01156aThere were only a few early trillium out and about as Spring was taking it slow this year. DSC01158aWith the increasing dampness we decided to get rigged for weather before dinner. This being our first trip with a tarp rather than a tent we thought it best to have a plan that had been put together before we got wet rather than after. First I rigged it for the coming storm, then pulled it back like you see above so we had more light and air inside. This way I could go back to storm mode in an instant if the wind started pushing rain at us.DSC01170aKnowing we’d be hiding out from the weather all too soon made me want to hang out down at the pond for a while after dinner. It looked very dramatic no matter which direction you turned your eyes in this light.DSC01187aEven South Turner, a lower peak just to the north of our camp, began to fade into the clouds. The sky was coming down to meet us and it looked like it was going to be a wet embrace.DSC01189aI said goodnight to the pond and what trees I could still see and headed up to join the girls in the lean to.DSC01191aA good night’s sleep, warm cereal in our tummies and even a little coffee for the big kids left us all smiles as we prepared for the short hike to the North Katahdin Lake site. The rain waited until we were ready and then started in earnest just as we left camp.DSC01196aYou can see puddles were forming before we even got started. I was taking advantage of the opportunity to test out a new rain skirt. Weighing almost nothing it kept my legs pretty dry until I topped my gaiters on a water crossing a little later in the morning. This soon after the snow melt things were pretty wet before the storm hit. After an hour or two of heavy downpour the two small water crossings we had to manage were a bit larger than we’d have liked.

The first we dealt with relatively easily with me carrying our daughter as we usually do. The second crossing looked bad so I started across alone without my poles to see how it might go if I tried to carry her. Glad I did because just a few steps told me this wasn’t going to work. Thankfully my wife and I work together well as a team. Just as I was feeling a bit stumped she noticed the brook split into two channels up stream and suggested we bushwhack to look for a better crossing. I married well!

It was an exciting crossing we won’t soon forget, but that is the stuff adventure is made of. Working as a team we got our little one safely across without her feet even getting wet. She actually led the way most of the day with a huge smile on her face.

DSC01197aWe call this the gumdrop look. You’ll notice my wife hasn’t even taken off her garbage bag skirt and we already have our little one in dry layers and swaddled in her 20°F synthetic bag. You can also see that she is staring intently at something she is about to devour heh. I stripped out of wet layers and applied dry ones to myself as well, though I opted to keep my down quilt packed up to avoid soaking up too much moisture from the air.DSC01200aThe scene in front of our new lean to looked a bit grim though there was more light in the sky than during the worst of the storm. The rain would linger throughout most of the day with some breaks later.DSC01202aWe made sure everyone stayed warm and dry. No duck left behind! is in fact one of our family’s official mottoes and we made sure this one, Boo Boo was as comfortable as the rest of us.DSC01204aAfter making certain our daughter (and her duck) was warmed up it was my wife’s turn to get under her quilt. Then the Skip-Bo battle reignited which also helped keep things warm.DSC01205aThe next day we took our time leaving camp so we could dry out a bit before putting on our wet clothes for the trail. It also made sense to give the water levels time to go down, or at least we hoped they would be lower rather than higher.DSC01212aThe rain had stopped but the damp air was cool and no one felt like paddling out on the lake. It wasn’t choppy, but it didn’t look inviting.DSC01213aThis is one of the camps where a canoe is included in your site rental at no extra charge. I have a feeling we will be back here for a warm weather visit so we can spend some time paddling and swimming in the clear lake water.DSC01215aThis was the little flow we used to  collect drinking water to filter. It didn’t look like it would last into the drier months but it was handy on this trip. The lake had a lot of debris on the surface and suspended after the storm despite being relatively clear by Maine pond standards.DSC01222aThen we were back on the trail headed to Martin Ponds for one more night. We stopped for a morning snack break next to this little falls.DSC01226aJust below it filled a swampy bog which looked about ready to explode with life. These areas and the larger ponds support huge populations of frogs. The sound can be deafening at times as multiple breeds try to all be heard at once.DSC01227aBeautiful to look at, but areas like this are why bushwhacking is not a good idea in large parts of Maine. If you don’t know how to get around all that wet then you are going to get wet!DSC01228aHere we had the luxury of relatively well maintained trail including the occasional, well placed bog board or two. DSC01231aThis was part of our exciting water crossing the day before. It was still exciting, but without the pouring rain and having survived the first attempt, it seemed less dangerous. The water level had dropped a bit too which likely helped.DSC01238aHere are the girls bushwhacking back downstream after we finished crossing the second channel. Again I have to acknowledge that I have been blessed with two strong and courageous trail companions. These two handle adversity better than most folks out there, staying cheerful and full of adventure.DSC01240aThis is where the two channels rejoined making for a wide, deep section that was flowing strong. I could have crossed this alone that day, but we don’t take any chances with our little girl.DSC01241aOnce we got back to Martin Ponds I got the bug house set up first, then set up my hammock down by the pond so I could air out a bit in the breeze. Good thing I had the bug net because this was their day and they were out in force.DSC01251aI also had a lot of time to play with the camera. Total count for this trip was 277 pictures over four days, plus some video that will show up once I’ve had a chance to do some editing. Here I was testing out the zoom function looking at Pamola and the start of the Knife Edge from a few miles away.DSC01261aIt isn’t all pretty out there though. After all the rain it was nice to have a chance to hang out the wet trail clothes. Something hopeful about stringing up the line and seeing if just maybe you can put them on dry the next day.DSC01263aThe girls were enjoying a bug free afternoon of Skip-Bo in the shelter. After one trip we have decided that we really like this new set up in the shelters. We just aren’t sure if we will like it under a tarp without a lean to. It would work well enough in good weather I’m sure, but rain might be difficult to manage.DSC01266aLater in the day the wind dropped enough for the pond to start reflecting the sky and everything around it.DSC01270aThis is the summit of South Turner which my daughter would like to climb later this month. If we have good weather on the day we’re scheduled to be there we’ll give it a shot. Not sure she can do it, but she wants to try so we’ll find out I guess. No harm in turning back I always say 🙂DSC01273aOne of the best parts of going on family trips is seeing how happy my wife is when she gets to play outside. I feel the same way myself, but it is nice to see that look on another person’s face. Just the simple joy of existing in a beautiful place with time enough to appreciate it.DSC01274aI don’t know exactly what she sees when she looks at the mountain. She has never been up there and I can’t imagine Katahdin looks the same to those who haven’t as it does to those who have been to the top. I hope we get the chance to do it together some day, with or without the little one.DSC01280aThe rhodora around the pond were just starting to put out their beautiful flowers. For now green was still the dominant color around the edges of the water, but within days the entire area would turn purple it seemed.DSC01282aDSC01289aAs the water became even more calm and the sun started drifting lower bringing softer colors out it was time to capture some magic. Camera and location get all the credit, I just lug it around and point it at this stuff, so I’ll be quiet and let you look at the pretty pictures for a few minutes…DSC01291aDSC01302aDSC01304aDSC01307aDSC01321aDSC01325aDSC01342aThe next morning started with fog hanging just above the trees. Everything seemed quiet and peaceful. It would have been a good morning to go back to bed, but after three nights in the woods we were all looking forward to the traditional on the way home cheeseburgers.DSC01343aStill there was time to stop and soak it all in for a few moments. To be here at this misty pond listening to the nothing and being the better for it.DSC01346aThese are ringed ducks I’m told which explains why they didn’t look like loons to us. Other than splashing about playing or fishing they made no sound we noticed. They were pretty though!DSC01348aAlso pretty! I rarely make a fire these days, but on this damp morning it seemed it would be appreciated. It looked picturesque as I recall so I thought it should be documented as a darn nice fire given the wet conditions.DSC01349aHomeward bound! Everything, wet or dry, crammed into packs one last time and then it was a sprint to the car. Cheeseburgers highly motivate us on the last day which is why everyone is sworn not to mention them earlier in the trip. DSC01350aDespite that we had to stop along the road on the drive out of the park for this view. In another week that meadow was probably filled with colorful flowers, but you won’t find me complaining about the way this looked.

Hope you folks are getting out! I am which is why I will be falling behind on these reports. Don’t expect anything to be posted for the next couple of weeks as I haven’t figured out how to to access this site via satellite 🙂

Thoreau Falls Without the Falls

Thoreau Falls Without the Falls

31 pictures and some babbling from a three day Pemi visit in late April. My research told me that the snow was rotten up top so I left that to the folks who don’t know any better. Staying low along the river was the plan, but I carried snowshoes and crampons since I didn’t know what I’d run into farther out.DSC01055aHitting Lincoln Woods about lunchtime meant I got to enjoy trailhead sandwiches before putting on my pack. Being the first motorcycle trip of the year they’d had to ride in the saddle bags, but were darn tasty even if they were a bit squished.

With temps in the low 70s I was happy to take my first break about four miles in. It was nice to be sweating in the hot sun rather than sweating in the snow for a change. It will get old soon enough I’m sure, but it was a beautiful Spring day.DSC01058aThe East Branch was looking full but not particularly angry. If it wasn’t so cold it might have been crossable. As it was I’m pretty sure the lower body would freeze before you got half way and you’d collapse. Also pretty sure I’m not gonna try it to find out heh.DSC01061aThere were some patches of snow that remained in the shadows. In the shade you could feel the residual cool despite the warmth in the sun.DSC01062aCedar Brook was not going to be a rock hop this day so I was glad it was warm. That water sure wasn’t! I eyed some trees that a younger man might attempt to use as a bridge, but I’m either too wise or too old for that stuff. I put on my water shoes, hung my boots from the top of my pack and squeaked like a chipmunk when I hit that cold water.DSC01066aThere was water everywhere in various forms. Small rivulets squeezing out of the dirt, minor cascades and often at least the sound of the river roaring somewhere in the trees.DSC01068aThe brighter sunlight of Spring made the forest look greener though the birch buds were yet to burst out into leaves. Winter trips on short days mean I don’t get very far on the first day so it was nice to be getting deep into the wilderness so quickly.DSC01071aBeing wilderness the definition of trail changes from what you get in “civilized” places. This is not a water crossing. This is the trail! One of the many reasons I prefer to wear heavy leather boots is the joy of stomping down a trail like this.DSC01072aThis thankfully was not the trail. This is a normally dry channel that sometimes has a small creek at the bottom which is easily rock hopped on large boulders. This time it was a serious brook with the boulders under water. After looking up and down the channel a bit and not finding an easy crossing I took it as a sign to make camp for the night. Getting into that cold water late in the day didn’t sound like fun and I figured the flow would go down over night.DSC01077aJust as well to stop early as this was my first time making camp in the wild with the new hammock I’m trying out this year. I wanted to be more flexible in where I was able to camp on longer trips so am seeing how this works for me.DSC01078aI’m still waiting on the custom tarp that I ordered so for this trip I just used a cheap plastic tarp from Reny’s. The ridge and guy lines make this crappy tarp look pretty good so I can’t wait to see what the fancy tarp looks like heh.DSC01080aThe next morning I was able to cross that channel with my boots on as the water had come down a few inches. It was a day farther removed from a rain event and snow melt on the mountains slows down at night. I was just happy I didn’t have to start my day by putting my toes in that water!DSC01082aThe old bridge over the East Branch continues to decline. Glad they haven’t take it away yet and hoping they do the right thing and replace it. Would be a shame to lose access, but no sane person is going to be crossing this river most of the year without a bridge. I walked carefully to avoid bouncing the structure and didn’t linger to take pics in the middle like I used to.DSC01083aLooking downstream after reaching the other side you can see that this is just not a river you want to play in. Even if it wasn’t freezing cold it is wide and deep with a powerful flow. I appreciate every visit up this trail because I know it could be my last. If that bridge goes unreplaced I won’t likely see these spots again.DSC01084aAnother minor side channel that had a lot more water than usual. This is another time when good waterproof boots come in handy making this an easy rock hop.DSC01085aWith the leaves not yet out it was possible to see much deeper into the forest than usual. This pile of relics from the old logging camp usually is passed unseen. I’m not sure when exactly old junk becomes an artifact and pondered that a bit as I headed up the trail.DSC01087aLots more flowing water here as the ridge to the East of the trail is punctuated with seasonal flow channels like this. They only run a few months of the year and then go dry except for a couple of them which remain as small trickles.DSC01090aThis time of year they are beautiful and the woods is filled with the sound of flowing water. I had a great morning walking on a trail that showed lots of sign of animals, but little sign of humans. There were at times patches of snow with faint signs of old ski tracks, but no human feet had left prints in the mud.DSC01091aThere were lots of moose tracks and a few bear tracks as well. This one was a good six or seven inches across. I’m no tracker, but that seems like a big enough bear that I was glad the print was so old.DSC01092aI continued on along the North Fork until the snow began to obscure the trail as I reached the base of the climb up to the falls. After standing in one spot debating if the trail was the patch of snow to the left or the patch of snow to the right I decided to skip the falls rather than risk getting lost. I’ve done this trail in the snow before and that section is really hard to follow. DSC01098a.JPGI decided to be lazy and set up the hammock to enjoy lunch. Ended up spending the entire afternoon swinging in the breeze and might have even napped a few times.

DSC01099aThankfully the spot I had picked for lunch was facing the right direction to set up the tarp to block most of the wind. It was really gusting as a front passed which dropped the temperatures a bit. It also was really rocking the trees all around me including the ones I was hanging from.DSC01100aMorning found me a bit chilly as the wind had stolen a bit more of my heat than I could spare. It wasn’t quite freezing, but definitely colder than I was equipped for. Coffee was the perfect solution to that problem!DSC01103aHiking out I was in high spirits. There had been talk of cheeseburgers for dinner when I got home so I was motivated. Thankfully I didn’t break my leg on this old railroad spike sticking up out of the trail.DSC01106aIt had been a few days since I had seen even a sign of another human so I felt it was safe to sing a bit as I headed down the trail. It just feels so great to wake up in the morning and go for a walk in the sun!DSC01109aDSC01110aThe trees were closer to leafing out. Another day or two and the forest likely started to turn green.DSC01113aI was really flying down the trail and soon could hear the East Branch roaring up ahead.DSC01115aThe sun on the water was amazing, but no matter how pretty it looks I always feel the power of that water when I look at it. It may look nice but it would kill you in a second if it got the chance.DSC01116aStill you have to admire that beauty. I could sit here for hours and watch, but promises to keep and all that. Promises of cheeseburgers!DSC01123aSo I stomped my way back out. I was well passed the tentsites before I saw my first day hiker. Just shy of 48 hours without human contact, which isn’t bad, but I could have used a few more days.DSC01120aI’ll leave you with this for now. Lots of trips planned for this season with the first family Baxter trip in just a few weeks. Hope you folks are getting out when you can!

Spring Camping Weather

weekendforecast

The calendar may say the seasons have changed, but Nature follows a schedule of its own. I’ve talked before about how camping weather means different things to different people. Some only go when fair weather is forecast while others revel in the thought of heading out into a storm. I tend to go whenever I can and try to be prepared for whatever Nature has a mind to throw at me.

This weekend I’m taking another stab at a two night stay on the side of West Baldpate with a casual summit day in between. I tried this back in February and had to abort when the forecast changed mid-trip to include cold rain the third day for the hike back to the car. Rather than risk the traction issues or hypothermia it seemed a good idea to head home early though I did hate to be going down instead of up on such a pretty day.

This forecast actually looks more promising as it has shifted over the last few days from a sleet and freezing rain event on Friday to just snow. I’ll go prepared for both and hope it stays cold. Then after the front moves through and it gets cold I’ll start hoping it warms up.

Still debating what shelter to bring on this trip. Last time I went with the double walled winter tent which is huge, but great for camping in the snow. The mice at the Baldpate Shelter are quite active even in the cold so I opted  not to sleep in there. Listening to them scamper over my tent during the night I was glad I’d closed the screens on the vents. This time I’m thinking about going with a lighter pack and setting up my 1P tent inside the shelter to keep the mice off. Pretty sure there won’t be anyone else camping there given the forecast and I can set up the Hubba in the snow if I needed to in an emergency.

This will probably be my last chance to get out before Mud Season is upon us. Hopefully the weather allows for some nice summit views on one or both Baldpates and it clears up enough to see across the notch to Speck and Sunday River Whitecap, but I will be happy with what I get. With the wind it won’t likely be as quiet up there as last time. Still if the mice give me some peace it should be a great chance to celebrate Spring in the snow. Hope you are getting a chance to get out and celebrate in whatever weather the season is bringing you. Go prepared for worse and enjoy what comes!

I Had a Dream

No really, I did. It was a backpacking dream of course or I wouldn’t be talking about it here most likely 🙂 Any time a person can dream about being the in the woods and climbing mountains it is a good thing I’d say. This one got me thinking which is even better.

This dream was really just two short scenes. The first was in camp getting ready to head out in the early morning light and looking up at the mountain overhead. The other was on top of the mountain looking down at the still mostly dark camp where I’d started. Not much narrative here in these bits of dream, but both had a well developed sense of feeling to them. Good feelings to be sure!

After waking up and thinking about it, two separate trains of thought came to mind. The obvious one is that I wanted to load up my pack and head out immediately. The other came more slowly as I noticed what wasn’t included in this dream; the climbing part. There was the anticipation of the climb before and the satisfaction of the climb in the end, but nothing of the climb itself.

As happens in my mind all too often this led me off on another couple of thoughts. First I laughed at how it made for a nice dream to skip the hard work and sweat that go into jumping out of the tent and hitting the first peak while the rest of the world is still eating breakfast. Only in dreams, or perhaps in campfire stories, can we leave out the hard parts and just focus on the idealized parts of an adventure. In reality just getting out of the tent before dawn can be an epic struggle, not to mention slipping into trail clothes that didn’t quite dry overnight without shrieking and waking up those sleeping around you.

Then I got to thinking about how my dream resembled how a lot of folks seem to see time on the trail. There are start and end points to be focused on, but the majority of the trip, the actual traveling part, gets glossed over in a haze of making miles. Their stories are often of how far they’ve come rather than what they’ve seen along the way.

Other folks you meet along the trail during the day do have time to chat. These are the people who will tell you of the ice cold spring they found off the trail on a hot day by following the faint sound of trickling water, warn you about the upcoming overgrown vista with no view or the secret camp site they’d enjoyed the night before hidden from the trail by thick bushes along the shore of a pond. Mostly I value the smiling faces rather than what was discussed because these are happy people sharing a moment on the trail with a random stranger.

Nothing wrong with being focused on goals, but there is a fair amount of joy and relaxation to be found in something more of a meander. Sort of like this post that started out with a dream about two moments and somehow ended up being about a whole lot of other moments. Just like a day on trail, it isn’t all about where you start and finish. What you find along the way between the two matters as much if not more.

Now I’m going snowshoeing before this snow melts again. Get out if you can, when you can and if you can’t then you’ll have to hope for good dreams.