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 302Our 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.She 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.It 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.On 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.Both 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.Here 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. After 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. Well 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.Once my daughter was safely down the trail I dared to sneak closer to the edge for a few shots of the valley. I’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!
I declared Spring right after this trip, but you can catch a glimpse of epic Winter Beard in this video stitched together from stuff shot on my last snow trip of the year. Lots of snow too!!
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!
25 pictures and a bit of babbling about a quick and fabulous winter adventure. It was supposed to be a two night trip with a lot more climbing, but changing weather forecast turned it into a short and relaxing trip instead.
This was my first cold weather trip to the Grafton Notch area. I’ve come up here many times over the last few years, but never with snow on the ground. The state park lot was sort of plowed and I parked along the edge imitating how others had parked. It was chilly but not cold, upper 30s-lower 40s I’d guess, so I loaded up and moved out to the highway crossing quickly so I could hit the trail.Mercifully the trail was well broken out with only one set of postholes marring the way. I wasn’t sure what I’d find up there and wasn’t looking forward to wayfinding if I had to break trail. White blazes in the snow can pose a challenge and I know this section isn’t heavily blazed to begin with.Instead I was able to focus on enjoying the climb. It was a warm day for this time of year so I kept my pace leisurely to avoid getting too sweaty. That gave me plenty of time to take pics and marvel at the light on the snow filled birch stands.I did have to break out majority of the short trail up to the Baldpate Shelter as no one had made the effort recently. There was several feet of fluffy powder so it was good fun, but I’m glad I didn’t have to do the whole trail like that.While the Winter had been somewhat mild with rain and melting at times there had been a recent dump of snow a week or so prior to this trip. This campsite looked better to me covered in snow than it had on previous trips. It sees a lot of use during the other seasons but with a white blanket it looked pristine.There are other reasons they build latrines up on high platforms, but making them stick out of the deep snow is a benefit. I had my shovel along if I needed to dig it out but the door opened easily enough.The brook that acts as water source for the shelter was totally buried. No idea if there was flowing water or just ice down below but rather than dig to find out I opted to melt snow. Of course with the sunshine there was melt coming off the metal roof of the shelter so I collected what I could during the afternoon. I put my kettle in a spot catching two drips and my as yet clean garbage bag in a spot catching three. Managed to get over a liter this way which cut down on how much snow I had to melt.I had several hours of wonderful sunshine in the snow to enjoy with a dead calm the entire time. Weather like that made me wish my wife had been able to come along. I’d hate to put her through some of the stuff I endure, but this was pure pleasure.With the sun dipping low the melt on the roof slowed quite a bit. Time to start melting some snow! The shelter clearing had a nice blanket of clean snow from the big storm. Often what looks clean is really layers of debris once you dig into it, but as I peeled off layers with my shovel I found almost nothing but snow. With the warm weather I had a canister stove and kettle instead of the usual white gas Whisperlite and a bigger pot. It worked well enough and since the trip was cut short the next day I didn’t have to worry about running out of fuel. With the warm weather I opted to run the final product through my filter rather than do an extended boil to purify it.Still not a puff of wind as the sun dipped into the trees. The quiet was overwhelming whenever I stopped to notice it. As night fell I heard what sounded like a coyote sound off twice and then again a bit later. After dark as I lay reading in my tent I heard a tree crash somewhere. With the quiet it was hard to tell just how far off it was, but it was probably a lot louder up close!
The best part of the night were the times I needed to step out of the tent. The first time I stood up I almost fell over when I saw the star filled sky. At elevation in the cold the sky is beyond anything you can imagine if you’ve never seen it. I seem to recall the words “Holy $%^#% @#^^&!” coming out of my mouth unbidden. The other times I got up it was still amazing, but even now I can remember just how blown away I was that first time.Morning dawned mostly clear which might seem good, but worried me because that was not the forecast. I’d expected some clouds with rain late in the afternoon. Seemed like a good time to fire up the inReach and get a new forecast. Sure enough things had changed. Today was going to be nicer, but the following day they expected rain early and often. Part of me kept staring at the mountain wanting to hit the peaks, but the smarter part kept pointing out that would mean going down in the rain the next day.It really would have been a great morning to hit one or both summits and even when I left camp I wasn’t sure the less smart part of me would turn left instead of right when I got back to the AT.Since plans had changed I now was in no hurry to leave camp. It was still very calm where I was, but the clouds up above were flying past at a good clip. I spent some time making movie clips which went into the video I posted a few weeks back.The morning light up there was amazing. Another good excuse to take too many pics. The total for the two day trip was 101 shots 🙂 Having grown up on film cameras I love the ability in the digital age to shoot without worrying about expense. Now that memory has gotten so cheap I don’t worry about storage space either.It was a great morning for sunlight on trees. The pictures do little to capture what I could see. Perhaps more skilled photographers could bring it out better, but these are good enough to at least remind me of how beautiful these two days in the snow were.I did manage to turn left and started my descent back to the highway on the AT. On the way up I did my best to clean up the postholes of the guy I was following up. Now on the way down I worked on his descending postholes. Near the road I met a guy going up in just spikes and realized that my efforts were probably pointless. No time to be grumpy about postholes when you’ve got a sunny morning to enjoy. Sun on birches is always nice, but in the snow with good morning light you can’t help but feel happy to be there.Sun through the pines is pretty darn nice too! It was such a great day I was a bit bummed I wasn’t hitting the peaks, but it was too nice to be grumpy about it.When the leaves are on the trees this route has very few views until you get to the top. This time of year there were chances to glimpse peaks in various directions at times.Pretty certain I stop and take pictures of Hedgehog Hill every time I pass through this spot. I know I did in both directions this time. Just something about the perspective looking through the stand of dead birch trees.Bit of the Mahoosucs poking through the trees. Think that is Old Speck on the left side but hard to tell with those pretty birches in the way.I was totally overheating by this point even though I was going downhill. I was down to my lightest base layer, but should have been in a tank top heh. Warm weather in Winter is really hard to adjust to after you’ve gotten used to really cold stuff. Once I got back to the car I stripped down and put on dry stuff. Then I broke out the sausage and cheese for a lunch feast before heading home.
Hope you folks enjoyed the pics. Sadly there have not been many trips in the snow this year. With the little one starting kindergarten and my wife very busy with her work I’ve been needed at home a bit more. If you aren’t getting your Nature fix from my posts perhaps you’ll be more motivated to get out there and see it for yourself! Things should pick up for me once the snow melts and I can get the scoot back on the road. Also starting to hear rumbles from a buddy about tag teaming the LT this Fall so it will be time for me to start riding that merry-go-round again soon 🙂
A little something from an overnight visit to one of my favorite mountains. Comes with dripping snow melt and music so make sure your sound is on.