Five More Days on the Cohos Trail

61 pics and random babbling from another amazing Cohos section: Coleman SP to Stark. This time I came armed with better insulation except for one important omission and of course not nearly enough socks!

The folks at the Stark Village Inn weren’t available for a shuttle on the day I started, so I made arrangements for parking the scoot at Coleman State Park and getting a ride back when I finished. I hit the trail around 1pm after making a tour of the campground because I missed the trail the first time heh. That was about as lost as I got the rest of the trip, so glad I got it out of the way early.

The Tumbledick Trail passed through a few areas that had been forested but were in various stages of growing back. In one of these spots I scared a bear out from a pile of slash pretty close to the trail. He must have been napping to not hear me coming sooner. I felt bad about how scared he was, but after the bear that wasn’t scared I was glad to see his butt tearing off down hill away from me heh.

The trail had been pretty squishy throughout, but sometimes all the water was put to good use. There was a sign reading Allison Falls here and it seemed a lovely place to be on a warmer and dryer day. I didn’t stay long…this time.

It was a short day ending at the Panorama shelter after about 3 hours from Coleman. As the cloud bounced up and down off the ridge the air would go from wet to wetter. I grabbed a bag of water from the flow just a bit south on the trail that passed right in front of the shelter. Looking at how dense and wet the forest was I opted to stay in the shelter. That is when I realized that I’d forgotten to add a sleep pad for just such an occasion.

In between rain splatters I caught this picture of the panorama heh. Then it was dinner and curling up on the boards on top of my underquilt and sit pad. The air inside the shelter was full of cloud in the light from my headlamp. Better than outside, but definitely cloudy for inside a shelter.

The morning temperature was 38°f and the clouds had parted a bit. There was coffee and my new high speed breakfast concoction. Actually it is the same old blend of two packs of Cream of Wheat plus one pack of full fat cocoa. Recently I discovered by accident that if you add too much water you can chug the whole thing in a couple of minutes. Much faster without chewing and no spoon to clean up heh.

That left more time to appreciate the changing view, but it was chilly and despite the happy looking sky I was expecting sadness later in the day. Best to get rolling and watch some of those beautiful yellow blazes go by.

Well, OK, maybe just one more minute. That was so pretty I had to soak it in a bit more. Totally breaking the rule of thirds on this shot, but that cloud pattern was amazing!

Even up on the ridge the trail was squishy. No point in worrying about it after the first ten times you hit a wet spot so you learn to laugh about it. The cool air was great for my pace. The sense that the clouds were coming for me was a good motivator too.

I felt bad for NOBO hikers having to pass by this sign on their way up from Dixville. There was a sign to the right advertising the Panorama shelter ahead via the yellow blazes though. Good placement!

While taking some pics before descending I found my boots slipping on this rock at the edge of the void. Sorry I don’t have better pictures, but I wasn’t going out there heh. I was in a hurry, but that isn’t how I wanted to descend.

I had to avoid a few cars crossing the highway, but saw no people wandering around in the wetness. On my way back on Sunday there were people all over the area. Glad I missed the crowds.

Starting the climb up the other side there was a big surprise…water! No, this part may have been squishy, I don’t recall, but it was very pretty. They list an upper and lower falls, but there was a steady cascade for quite a while.

As I climbed up the other side of the notch I could feel the moisture in the air building. The cloud was coming for me! Given the slippery rock on the other side and the increasing moisture I opted to skip the Table Rock selfie experience. I know that is wrong and bad, but there was a cloud out there looking for me!

The cloud was definitely on my trail as I passed through the open areas of the ski runs. Thankfully I had a good footpath to follow and just enough blazing to navigate without wasting any time. It was exciting to be hunted, but I was getting the sense that the cloud was going to find me before I found the Baldhead shelter.

Of course the freaky noise the wind was making as it blew through this tower didn’t help much heh. I’d hate to be up there alone on a dark day with weather closing in, except I was and it was sort of neat 🙂

This is the last pic I took on this second day of the section. The cold and rain was enough to make me put on my raincoat, which is a rarity while hiking. After descending this road there was a short section of lesser road where I refilled my water bottles at the bridge before starting the climb. The Baldhead shelter is “dry” so I filtered an extra 3L bag as well. Then began a long, wet hike up a mountain that really tested my patience.

Sweating from the climb inside my raincoat kept me from freezing to death in the increasingly cold wetness. As  much as I was tempted to take it off I had a feeling it was safer this way. That extra heat comes in handy when making camp and getting dry. That poor raincoat doesn’t smell very nice any more though 😦

There seemed to be quite a few more false summits than necessary before reaching the shelter location. Each time I saw sky above the next steep pitch my hopes went up and then so did the trail heh. I lost count of how many, six maybe? Then I reached the hut to once again find nothing but dense forest around. I considered trying to hang across the trail to the latrine, assuming no one else would be dumb enough to come up there that night. Then the rain started coming down seriously and I hid inside the shelter like a wet puppy heh.

I woke up around 11pm and my thermometer said it was 38°f. Doing some simple math told me that I was going to be a popsicle  laying on those cold boards for another 7 hours. Thankfully I come prepared for just such emergencies and was able to quickly locate a hand warmer. Tucked into an interior abdominal pocket it kept my core temperature up until dawn. People talk about fire building being a life saver, but those pocket warmers are worth carrying year round.

Dawn showed hints of a sunny day to come. I knew it wouldn’t be warm, but at this point I was looking forward to warmer at least. It was 33°f as I got busy making a bag of hot chocolate gruel and a cup of coffee.

Then as the sun began to climb higher in the sky I saw something scary; The digital thermometer showed the temperature plummet 4 more degrees in a few minutes. Suddenly the grass in front of the shelter all frosted over and turned white. Not knowing how far it would go I was happy when it held at 29.1°f for a while before climbing back up towards 30 again.

The grass wasn’t the only thing that turned white during the sudden freeze over. My boots and wet clothes all went solid as well. I opted to swap out the clothes for dry, but only had the one pair of boots. On a cold morning you can tell how hardy a hiker is by how they deal with latrine seats and boots. This morning the boots were much worse than the seat.

Time to get stomping!

It was good to be moving to generate some heat, but I kept stopping to pull out my camera. Maybe it was the not freezing to death thing, but everywhere I looked was beautiful.

These trees were catching the morning sun and sending up clouds of steam as they warmed up. I spent a few minutes taking pics and video, but also just staring at it, soaking up the moment. It was still very cold, but life was very good on the Cohos that morning!

The Gadwah Notch Trail worked its way down towards Nash Stream gently. Eventually it began to follow an old woods road with meadows from time to time.

I came upon a tree with a yellow blaze that had fallen across the trail. Taking it as a sign and a nice place to sit, I opted for a serious lunch break since the clouds weren’t after me at this point. Please note the sock you see next to my food is actually my phone protector and not a used sock. My phone pairs with my inReach to let me pull up my location on a map. When I did a spot check to verify my location I was pleased to see that I was closer to the stream than expected.

That break was a great motivator and I hauled butt through the short walk along the road just after the headwaters of Nash Stream. I saw a person outside of a camp and we waved from a distance. 48 hours and that was my first contact heh.

The rolling section bypassing the Nash Bog flew by and even the hike up the Sugarloaf Arm was soon finished. Finally a camp with some open forest! First I hung up all of my clothes. Then I thankfully got my hammock up so I knew I’d be sleeping in comfort.

The Old Hermit Shelter is amazing! It has been there since ’12 if I recall and it looks brand new. No ugly graffiti, but also no stains on the floor. It has an unusual design, to me at least. That opening at the rear gives it really good ventilation I’d guess. The whole thing was held together with big wooden pins rather than metal hardware. Beautiful craftsmanship!

Being able to spend a few hours in camp was a great way to end a really great day on the trail. My clothes weren’t really going to dry, but I was out of the wet stuff and enjoying my camp clothes.

I loved the way the pegs that hold the shelter together were left long and sticking out. There are many places to hang things under that roof and some of the stuff I left in there over night actually did dry a bit.

Day four started with some great sunshine. Again I had to resist the urge to keep pulling out the camera. The weather wasn’t expected to last and I had plans for the day despite only needing to get to the Percy tent site.

There was my plan! Lunch on top of North Percy was my goal, though I giggled a bit when I first spotted it from this vantage point. I put my chances at a solid maybe as I recall.

Nash Stream from the snowmobile bridge was looking pretty, but I could see the clouds gathering. Really appreciated the bridge as the stream was wide and I’m guessing cold heh.

As I stopped to take these pics of the falls along Pond Brook a man passed by on the trail above. We waved, but again from a distance.

Then I came upon the high water warning sign and began to wonder if this was high water. I wandered back down to the road and met the man I’d seen earlier, so about 70 hours in I had my first conversation. He said not to worry about the water crossing and I headed back up.

I laughed when I got to the dangerous crossing. No one had mentioned a bridge. It was a bit wobbly on one side though, so a bit scary. 🙂

Then it was up the Trio Trail towards Percy. This climb was so gentle and even had a few views along the way. By the end I was sort of tired of winding around and ready to just climb straight up, but taking the longer, easier way was nice for a change.

The rolling hills thing was a great way to work the way up towards the ridge. Some parts were steeper than others, but all just a nice forest walk.

Can you spot the skinny moose in this picture? It won’t be easy because he kept his tail to me as he looked over his shoulder.

I did what I could in post production to give you a better view. There just isn’t much moose there to work with.

I stopped at the Percy tent site and quickly set up camp. Then with only my food bag and rain gear in my pack I headed up towards North Percy. I grabbed this pic on the way up the slabs near the top because I wasn’t sure how long the weather would hold off.

Almost there! I could hear voices ahead and sure enough there were some day hikers at the summit. It was interesting but strange to see people in such numbers. There were at least five or six heh. It seemed very crowded after being alone for days.

Soon they had to head down and I had the place to myself for a bit. Pictures were taken, cheese and sausage were eaten. It was nice!

On the way back down I was struck by just how steep that slab was. Going up was much faster as I had to carefully make my way down. Glad I didn’t have a full pack on for that!

I was sitting on the tent platform pondering an early dinner ahead of the rain when I heard the first drops hit. I started sprinting back and forth, ferrying everything from platform to tarp. After hanging out for a bit it was clear the rain wasn’t going anywhere so I arranged things to allow me to make dinner. Of course being Day Four my friend the Hunger showed up. Much chocolate was eaten and I think some Doritos too if I recall heh.

It rained all  night. In the morning it was still raining. I decided to go with my secret weapon, no cook breakfast. It is a special mix of chocolate, nuts and espresso beans. Too much sugar to use on a regular basis, but super fat content to go with the caffeine.  Great for a hard, fast burn without stopping to make coffee or anything in the morning. Perfect for hiking out on the last day of a trip!

The hike out was going to be wet even though the rain stopped as I was breaking camp. I opted to save my better pants for the shuttle ride so put on what can only be described as my worse pants that morning. It really didn’t matter much at that point.

With some rain on four of the five days I wasn’t pretty and I didn’t smell good, but I was laughing my way down the mountain.

The early parts of the descent were a bit ugly. Some very large boulder drops that could use some steps or at least a smaller boulder to break up the distance. Those giant steps down are murder on old joints. Looking at them from below I’m not sure how I’d get up them going the other way.

The lower sections rolled along quickly and I soon passed the turn off for the Devils Rest shelter. My map shows another connection from the other side, but if it exists I walked past without noticing.

Eventually the trail rose up and joined the Bald Mountain Notch Trail to descend towards Percy Road and Stark. It was on this section that I ran into the famous Bonnie of the CT and her owner as they were headed up. I was not only recognized by name, but she placed a call to Nancy at the Stark Village Inn to come pick me up for my ride back to Coleman. You just don’t get service like this on most trails 😉

I really can’t say enough about how nice the Cohos Trail is for someone like me who enjoys a remote, wilderness feel to their hike. Camping alone and seeing no humans for days on this section is definitely my sort of hike. With so little traffic the footpath is not always well defined, especially now with leaves falling. The blazing is sporadic at times, but generally always there when you need it. I’m sure that on weekends and especially during the summer months there are more people out there so I can’t promise you solitude. Still, this is definitely a path less traveled, so if you’re heading out pack your self reliance…and your  sleep pad!

With the leaves falling I am going to leave the southern half of the CT for another time. Not sure I’d want to try to follow the footpath with a heavy leaf carpet. I have a few weeks of duty at home anyway. Then we’ll see what the weather looks like I guess before deciding what is next. The legs were feeling pretty perky out there for an old fat guy 😉

Four Days on the Cohos Trail

35 pics and some excited babbling from a four day section hike of the Cohos from the Canadian border to Coleman State Park. Had hoped this would be a thru hike but concerns about my sleep insulation sent me home to swap out some gear. I’m heading back to do another section in a few days heh.
No passport required. 
I’d made arrangements to park the scoot at the Stark Village Inn and for a ride to the border. It was after 1pm by the time I put my pack on and headed into the no man’s land between US and Canadian customs booths. The CT starts with a lollipop loop around Fourth Connecticut Lake that starts and ends with a walk literally along the border.
The lake loop was soon completed and I was headed back to where I’d started. I’d seen the sign for my next bit of trail on the way in and despite the late start felt good about having dinner on time.
Kayaks on the Third Connecticut Lake shore.
The trail from the border towards Deer Mountain was not heavily used, but easily followed. I passed by Third Connecticut Lake where I found a few kayaks parked. Never saw the owners though. The lightly used trail joined up with a snowmobile trail that eventually became more of a road. Being interested in getting to camp I passed by the trail up to Deer Mtn without  notice, though I’d already decided I wasn’t going to make the effort.
I’d made a reservation at the state park not because I thought it would be full, but because I wanted a spot that would work for my hammock. My guess was correct that site 17 had what I was looking for heh.
Dinner was served, neighbor was chatted and sunset enjoyed. The next day was going to be a race against the weather, trying to reach a shelter about 8 miles away before the expected rain hit. Early to bed…
Day two started out with a wide open road that became grassy and eventually well grown over. Somewhere along the way I missed the turn to Upper Blackcat and ended up on the highway. I followed that from the East Inlet intersection down to the West Inlet intersection where I was easily able to pick up the trail properly. This was the only time I actually lost the trail for the whole section though there were a few doubts at times heh.
Second Connecticut Lake
When I reached the dam at the bottom of Second Connecticut Lake the water level had been brought way down. The sky was what I was watching though and it was a great motivator.
I followed the Falls in the River Trail south from the dam and with the gate open there was a nice noisy flow. I ran into a few day hikers around the falls, but didn’t stay long to chat.
The CT passes through private lands in many areas and that means running into sections that have had trees harvested at various times in the past. This section was cut a year or two ago and trail maintainers have artfully painted a series of blazes to get you through. Challenging at times, but totally doable thanks to their efforts. That is my last picture from day two because feeling the rain getting closer was keeping my focus on speed. Once I cleared the cut area and was back on trail I flew through Moose Alley and on towards the Bog Board section. I was on the boards when the rain started and I was almost running the last mile or two to reach Tillotson Hut. Once there I did a quick recon of the possible local water source to find a few puddles but no flowing water. As the rain picked up I thought I might just collect from the shelter roof. When I looked again after a few hours there was a nice stream to collect from in the gully. Near dark I thought I was hearing strange sounds in the forest and at one point felt something thump the shelter. I was curled up under my quilt keeping warm when suddenly a man in a raincoat walked past the open front of the shelter. I didn’t get his name because I was so surprised, but he’d come out in the rain to tend to the latrine! The Cohos may not be famous yet, but they really do try hard to take care of their hikers 🙂
Day three was also expected to rain on me so I hit the trail early to get in some miles. The top of Covell Mtn had a bit of a view, but the giant blow down was hard to stop looking at. Amazing how that tree stood there for so long with so little dirt to work with.
The rains were kind enough to hold off for a while. I eventually broke out of the forest onto an old road that led towards the highway again. This crossing held the joys of the Happy Corner Cafe and Young’s Store. Despite my protests at being too dirty and smelly the folks at the cafe let me sit at a table and eat heh. I had lunch and ordered a second meal wrapped up to go for dinner.
This signboard outside Young’s Store was the start of a section that had few if any blazes for the most part. Some corners were marked, but long stretches of road or snowmobile trail were unblazed.
Following the map and guidebook instructions kept me headed in the right direction, but attention was required to maintain confidence. As the sky darkened with the approaching storm I admit I checked my GPS once to be certain that I was where I thought I was along the Lake Francis Trail. I made camp for the night near the lake with my tarp set at what I hoped was the right angle to take on the storm. The first big blast hit just before dark. The windward side of the tarp was perfect, but the lee side barely survived as the foot end caught too much air. When it seemed to have passed I messaged my wife that all was well and dozed off…only to be awoken around 9pm by another huge blast of wind moving through heh. It popped one of the lee stakes and then another as I held on to the tarp looking for the first one. After managing to get both back in the ground securely I took the end of my whoopie sling and tied it to the corner of the tarp. That took some of the load off of that stake when the gusts hit and I was able to ride out the rest of the storm in my sleep.
After a night of wind and waves the morning was shockingly quiet. Noise had become the norm at some point and now it seemed strangely absent. I had cold french fries and a cheese stick for breakfast, laughing about it being the hiking man’s poutine, but it actually was pretty good.
Then it was time to take on the 20+ miles of road walk to reach Coleman State Park. A new route that heads more directly through the forest is planned and may be blazed next year, but for now, this is the route. It was almost all forest roads and ATV trail with only a few paved sections.
A big highlight of the day was the snack bar at Grandview. If they had been open it would have been nice I’m sure, but being alone there with the view was fine by me. I broke out the cheese and sausage for a late lunch.
A couple on ATVs did pull in for a few minutes, take some pics and then head back the way they’d come from. It must be very different during the season with a bunch of those things ripping around. I did encounter a few ATV trains during the day, but they were easy to hear coming so I had plenty of time to get out of the way. Thankfully none caught me in areas with giant mud puddles 🙂
Then the trail branched off onto a farm path and the next few miles were very peaceful indeed.
After two days of rain it was wonderful to be soaking up the sun. Walking through farmland was reminiscent of my youth, but we didn’t have mountains on the horizon like this.
A horse…some cows….
Even some people! I ran into these two nice ladies working on a NOBO section hike that would complete their hike of the entire trail. After walking all day without seeing any footprints I’d been starting to think the road walk was a cruel joke I’d fallen for. Seeing them doing it too made me feel better heh.
Someone had piped this water along the road, but I couldn’t tell if it was just a gravity feed from the ditch or an actual spring. Given the rubbish scattered about I took the time to filter it, but appreciated the easy way of filling my water bag. From here I ground out the final miles to Coleman State Park where I threw myself in the shower before making either camp or dinner. I wanted some time to get dried off before it got dark and was glad I’d kept moving all day. I’d made it from Lake Francis to Coleman in about 9 hours including breaks. A good dinner in my belly and I was ready for bed. Well some chocolate and then some snacks too, but then bed. Seems the Hunger was starting to appear after four days 🙂
The night was an odd one…first the neighbor’s camper seemed to be configured to kick on the generator every few hours which is not only against the rules, but really annoying! Then it started to rain unexpectedly, at least to me. Each time the generator woke me up I was surprised to hear it still raining. In the morning I checked the forecast via satellite and the numbers worried me. I’d been borderline cold at night several times on this trip and something about being cold and wet in the mountains made me nervous. Something clicked and I decided to pull the plug here rather than keep going.
Looking back now I’m not sure why that seemed like such a clear choice, but I had to respect the feeling. I knew if I was dying later I’d feel pretty silly for not listening to this hunch heh. So I went  home, took the girls to the fair, road the Ferris wheel and bumper cars with my daughter and will head back to Coleman to pick up the trail in a few days. Maybe something bad was going to happen out there, maybe I was just meant to go to the fair and have fun with my family, but no matter what any fortune cookie says, I think I did what I was supposed to do even if I don’t know why.
Actual fortune received at dinner the night I came home. I laughed, I cried, I made my plan to get back out there!
So far my time on the Cohos has been amazing. The trail has a wonderful feel to it and the bright yellow blazes and signage have become familiar and friendly. The folks I met along the way, hikers and locals, were also notably friendly. I have some video I shot on this first section that I’ll be putting together later, but hopefully the pics have given you some idea of how pretty the far northern reaches of New Hampshire can be. Honestly though, I think a person has to walk through these forests to really appreciate the peace and beauty found there. I know I can’t wait to get back!

Daddy Daughter Pemi Trip or The One With the Giant Bear

A few pics from a fun little adventure that turned into a bit more excitement than anyone could have imagined 🙂DSC03888aFrau Stranger had a work trip to DC on the calendar so we decided to sneak out for a night of serious wilderness testing for some reviews we’re working on. Well, that was our cover story any way. We just wanted to go play in the woods!DSC03891aWe stopped to admire the new fence along the Eastside Trail and the views on the other side.DSC03892aThe river has undermined this whole bank for quite a distance now. It goes where it wants and the trail will have to move eventually.DSC03894aThis is what we came for; Wilderness! My daughter made a point of telling folks we met that we were camping in the wilderness which seemed to excite her. I found that funny given how much time we’ve spent in the back country of Baxter State Park which actually is a wilderness 🙂 I guess it was the idea of camping in the woods as opposed to a defined campsite that made it different.DSC03896aThis is what we were really there for. The weather had been hot and sticky at home and wasn’t much better up in the mountains of NH. The water was cool though and I found a spot in the shade where I could supervise. That involved reminding her she couldn’t go into the deep water every thirty seconds. I’d had visions of her floating away the night before and wasn’t going to let that happen heh.DSC03900aJust a perfect afternoon for relaxing. We’d already set up camp on a ridge high up off the trail so we had plenty of time to enjoy ourselves. I brought my pack with the food and the rest of the gear down to the water with us to keep an eye on it, but mostly I was just watching the little one.DSC03902aI will admit we left a little bit of a trace 😉 The leaves were scavenged rather than picked and I’m confident the next big storm already flattened that sand right out. Hopefully the LNT police will let us off with a warning for this one 🙂DSC03907aOur happy little camp up on the ridge. This was right around where I’d camped in the snow this past March. We worked hard to hump our gear up the steep hill and were rewarded with a nice flat spot. There was a hint of a breeze once in a while which was appreciated. I rigged the two tarps together so we had a big porch area to share if it rained. This set up also lets us chat and keep an eye on one another while in our hammocks. Harder to do with three people, but often doable with just two.

We’d finished dinner and were settling into our hammocks for the night when the excitement began. I was laying back looking down the slope towards the river when I noticed a small patch of black moving through the green. Thinking we were about to see some cute forest animal I started to call to my daughter to look to see what it was. Then I saw what it was heh. It just kept getting bigger as it came up to the top of the ridge. “Bear. Big bear!” That is what I was saying as I swung my legs out of the hammock and peeled the bug net off my head.

What I said next isn’t fit for printing here, but my daughter mentioned later that there was an awful lot of swearing, Daddy. Some folks say “Hey bear!” Normally I say “Hello Mr Bear” in a friendly voice as I watch them run away, which is all I have ever seen a bear do before. Apparently I fall back on my taxi driver vocabulary when faced with Bears of Unusual Size that don’t seem interested in running away.

This bear had lost all fear of people, likely from the campground nearby. It had followed its nose to get close to us. He didn’t seem interested in our food bag. He seemed interested in us. That makes me assume he’d learned to drive people out of their camp site so he could go through their packs by visiting the campground. He’d smelled people, possible the tree my daughter peed on based on where his nose led him first and came to see what we might have.

What we had was one brave little girl who listened when I told her to stay put in her hammock. She made the mistake of peeking out from under the tarp and saw the bear at one point which didn’t make it any easier. I just wish I had been as brave as she was heh. She listened to my instructions and kept amazingly calm throughout considering what was going on.

After a few minutes of moving closer while I yelled at it, the bear finally turned and walked away from us around a hill. I was standing there running through the options and realizing I needed to get that little girl out of there when the dang thing comes around the other side of the hill and starts heading straight at us again. It would push towards us and then circle around us when I wouldn’t give ground. We did several rounds of this game and the longer it went on the harder it was to control the urge to get aggressive to drive it off. Doing that would have been bad because the bear and I both knew he was capable of kicking my butt. The situation called for maintaining the stand off as long as possible in hopes of it getting tired of the effort.

Finally, after the third time of pushing right at me, it walked past us one last time while making this huffing sound that seemed to imply he wasn’t exactly impressed with the things I’d been calling him. My daughter and I have been making our version of that noise in the weeks since, at first to scare each other and now for laughs.

By the time the bear headed off to make his nightly rounds of the campground it was almost fully dark. We got dressed and I took down camp in a matter of minutes. There were frequent breaks to scan the area with my headlamp and great effort made not to step on the child that was sticking very close to me. There was no thought to organization other than to put the tarp stakes in my daughter’s pack so they wouldn’t poke through the tarps and quilts which I was jamming randomly into my pack.

We made it down the steep hill and then the mile or so down the trail to the campground where we found the bear had already come through to visit the folks there. I considered setting up at the campground, but there was no way either of us was going to sleep well out there after seeing that bear up close. We made it back to the car by 10pm and she slept most of the way home. We got there around 1am, but I was up for a few hours trying to wrap my head around the experience.

Clearly I’m not going to be camping anywhere near that campground again heh. Maybe in the Winter, but even then I think heading  elsewhere would be worth the effort just for the quality of sleep. Definitely a little jumpier in the woods now. Heard a big falling branch the other day and had a good start heh. We’ve done some family car camping since then, but the first solo night in the wilderness is going to be interesting I’m sure.

Hope you’ve been getting out there to enjoy the season. Won’t be long til we’re starting the next one so now is the time if you haven’t!

Bonds – South Twin – 13 Falls Loop July 2018

Bonds – South Twin – 13 Falls Loop July 2018

45 pics and some random thoughts from a New Hampshire trip last month. Random was the operative word on this one as I had no plan and stuck to it well.DSC03730aAs you can see from the mandatory picture while crossing the bridge over the East Branch of the Pemi there was water flowing better than the last couple of years, but still not a lot.DSC03731aSome beautiful greens to be found in the forest with Summer in its prime. The blend of birch and pine on the way up looked great in the sun.DSC03734aDSC03739aI found a spot below the cliffs where I could hang for the night out of sight of the trail. There had been talk of a front coming through but it seemed like a beautiful afternoon. Thankfully I noted the gathering clouds towards sunset and put up my tarp just in case. The downpour started around midnight and lasted for hours heh. I had to use my hiking pole to reach out and push collected water pockets a few times. I set up for a shower, not a downpour 🙂DSC03745aMorning came a bit early considering I’d slept with one eye on the tarp for half the night. It was pretty though and I was soon on my way up.DSC03747aA quick hop up this fun little face and the rewards for all the effort start pouring in.DSC03749aDSC03752aDSC03758aDSC03760aDSC03761aDSC03766aDSC03767aDSC03770aDSC03772aJust before heading up to Bond Summit I met this guy out for a run. Turns out he was the AMC caretaker for Guyot site that night. He probably needed a break heh.DSC03773aDSC03778aDSC03787aUp at the summit you get a neat perspective on the cliffs. Beautiful on a nice day, but deadly in bad weather with all of that exposure.DSC03789aDSC03791aDSC03792aDSC03794aI played summit ambassador for a couple of hours as others passed through in a hurry. Most were working on completing the well known traverse that loops the Bonds with Franconia Ridge. I also met two nice ladies who were grabbing a few peaks for their lists. DSC03799aDSC03804aI headed down to find a spot at Guyot for the night and was overwhelmed by the crowd. Expecting a zoo I was still blown away by how noisy everyone seemed to be. While I’ve had some nice visits there in the past I need to remember to stay away during the busy season 🙂DSC03805aAnother beauty of a day started with crossing the open slopes below the Guyot summit before heading over to South Twin.DSC03807aDSC03811aZoomed in view of Ethan Pond from the top of South Twin. A nice stretch of flat trail there, but you’ve got to cross a lot of rocky ground to get there from here.DSC03814aDSC03815aThis nice couple was from Spain as I recall. They were out doing a two week hike, just seeing how far they could get. Since they seemed nice I shared info on some camping spots they might enjoy later in the day.DSC03818aThese folks seemed like they needed attention so I stayed far away. The Whites in Summer have become a bit like a Fellini movie over the last few years; Entertaining or disquieting depending on the moment’s mood. DSC03820aDSC03823aEventually I decided to stop playing summit ambassador and head down the Twinway towards the AMC hut below. Previous trips have always gone the other direction and this “short” climb is one of my least favorite bits of trail. I was curious to see how going down worked out for me.DSC03825aDSC03828aDSC03830aDSC03833aThe boulders get bigger as you descend, but the entire section of trail is just a pile of rocks. Definitely a workout to keep gravity from taking over, but a lot easier going this way than going up.

I stopped at the hut to soak up water and rest on the porch for a while. Listening to stories from the thru hikers and chatting with some folks out day hiking was a nice way to pass the hottest part of the day. Then I headed down to 13 Falls to see about a site there. Upon finding out that they expected a large group to arrive I opted not to stay and headed down the Franconia Brook Trail to get out of the campsites protected area.DSC03835aDSC03837aAlong the way I met this woman of the forest who allowed me to take her picture. She laughed when I told her I wanted it because otherwise no one would believe me. Turns out she was the caretaker at 13 Falls and was transplanting some small trees to the site.DSC03838aDSC03841aI found this nice spot to hang for the night by chance. Watching the terrain I noticed where an old road branched off of the trailbed into the forest and followed it a ways. After a night at a busy campsite this was just what I needed. So peaceful!DSC03843aDSC03845aOnce more I had a beautiful morning for walking. I prefer to get my miles in early before things warm up on Summer trips. The flat trail sections just flew by. I’d packed light from the start and with the food mostly gone I had maybe 20lbs total which is like nothing by my standards heh.DSC03856aDSC03862aIt was nice to see the ponds were filling back up somewhat. Trips through here the last couple of years had me noticing they were drying up and plants were moving in. We’ve had a lot more rain since so I guess they’ll be fine 🙂DSC03865aRather than spoil this lovely trip report I’ll save the story of an encounter I had on the trail out for another day because other than that this was indeed a lovely trip. I need to remember to avoid those campsites during prime season, but the woods certainly are a great place to be this time of year. Hope you’re getting out somewhere too!

Spring Pemi Snow Trip – 2 Nights March 2018

Spring Pemi Snow Trip – 2 Nights March 2018

DSC03067aA little work on the traces and my sled was ready for more real world testing. Well and I was ready for more playing in the snow! Loaded up and headed to New Hampshire to see what the snow looked like over that way. The late March sun was melting everything around home, but in the mountains there was still plenty to be found.DSC03069aI headed out on the Eastside Trail which was broken out for the first three miles until the wilderness gate. I bare booted this far and then wore shoes to handle the deeper stuff beyond.DSC03072aDSC03074aWith lots of sun and temps a bit above freezing I took lots of breaks to avoid over heating. Dragging is easier than carrying most of the time, but those other times can be hard heh.DSC03076aDSC03077aDSC03080aCan’t complain too much though because the Spring sun on the snow makes a person pretty happy. I wasn’t sure where I was headed, but I knew I had a few days to find out. There was some talk of climbing a mountain, though that would involve a long walk to reach the start of the climb.DSC03083aThe Cedar Brook crossing was worth posting two pics, though having someone to shoot video would have been better.  Several feet of open water bordered with ice with steep banks on either side.DSC03086aI folded the traces back, grabbed the sled with two hands, carried it across and tossed it on to the shelf above me. When I came back the other way I couldn’t imagine how I’d gotten across heh. It was a much bigger deal to try walking across with the sled for some reason and I ended up just sort of tossing it across.DSC03088aThe deep snow allowed me to dig a nice cooking hole to help block the wind. I used the snow from the hole to build a sitting spot right next to it.DSC03089aThe sled really opens up new possibilities when it comes to winter camping. Instead of stopping for a donut on the ride to NH I stopped for half a dozen and four managed to make the trip into the woods with me. None returned 🙂DSC03090aHiding under the donuts is my box of crap. Keeping all your crap in one place provides the illusion of organization. Not losing your crap in the snow is vital since finding crap in the snow is pretty hard. In the box I’ve got a pot, a kettle, a canister stove and fuel for it, a white gas stove, coffee mug, a few sporks, a wrench for the sled bolts and some duct tape for everything else.DSC03091aNow you can see my well placed sit spot heh. That let me get off my feet while still keeping an eye on the stove and pot.DSC03094aI camped early because based on how fast I was moving I had no chance of reaching that mountain I’d been thinking about. What a relief! Now I could enjoy the rest of the trip and focus on being happy where I was rather than wanting to keep moving. Where I was seemed pretty nice to me.DSC03099aI brought the big Cooke tarp and tied off to conveniently located trees for the most part. Had to bury one stick in the snow but unless I’m setting up for serious wind this sort of limp pitch does the trick without much effort. My reasoning is that making gentle tie offs to what I see is better than stomping down big areas without knowing what is under foot. Thankfully I camp alone so no one is there to make fun of my tarp 🙂DSC03100aDSC03101aMorning sun shining through the steam means coffee and breakfast soon will be ready. With no big plans I was able to relax and enjoy the morning. Frozen chocolate donuts and hot coffee in the snow are now a moment I will always carry with me. Also pretty sure I’ll be carrying those donuts again next Winter!DSC03107aSlowly everything was condensed back into the sled. The hammock came down later after I sat down to pull my frozen Limmers on. Much better feeling the frozen leather compared to the frozen synthetic boots on my last snow trip. Seems to soften up easier or something.DSC03113aI opted to head back closer to the highway for my second night so that meant crossing back over Cedar Brook. The sled is really nice except when it flips upside down and when you have to get over water crossings. This crossing took a while, though at least the sled didn’t flip over heh, and I was ready for a break when I finally got across.DSC03117aOh look, a perfect place for a break!! This big snow drift is actually right in the middle of Cedar Brook. Sitting there in the sun was a perfect place for elevensies so out came the sausage and cheese. Eventually the sun moved enough for a tree to cast a shadow on me so I moved on, but I was there for quite a while.DSC03119aThen it was back into the woods to find a place to camp for the night. My goal was to seek out a spot part of the way up the ridge that runs parallel to the river and trail in this area. First I scouted out a spot leaving my gear down below. Then when I tried taking the sled up I quickly realized that without a climbing brake that wasn’t going to happen.

To be honest I’m not sure I could have hauled the load up that slope even with a brake. In the end I made two trips, one with the pack and one with the sled, to get everything up there. It took me probably 90 minutes to break the trail, haul both loads up and set up camp.DSC03120aTotally worth the effort! I kept a little of the ridge above me to block some of the wind if needed as I camped on a little perch well above the river. A set of small deer tracks passed near the spot, but no other sign of animals were on the ground. The trees were full of rampaging squirrels though hehe. Two tiny reds came through engaged in either a major frolic or battle. It was epic acrobatics as they never stopped moving unless it was to scream at one another for a few seconds. Nature puts on some great reality programming 😉DSC03122aDSC03124aDSC03125aDSC03126aDSC03127aJust an incredible place to spend the night. Far enough from the river that it became a distant murmur allowing the other sounds of the forest to come through. I recall standing there eating my dinner and being blown away by what a great place I was in the universe. Well and the chicken noodle dinner in my bag was pretty darn good too leading to some more happiness.DSC03130aDSC03133aDSC03139aA bit of a snow squall came through over night. I knocked most of it off trying to get out from under the tarp. The sound of snow sliding down the tarp is very relaxing. Not sure about snow bombs though heh. Maybe I’ll get to test that out next year.DSC03140aDSC03141aDSC03143aDSC03144aDSC03147aDSC03148aDSC03150aI’ll just leave you with the pretty sun on snow pics from the walk out. It was great to get another chance to get out in the snow. These trips are hard to make happen, but always end up leaving me wanting to go back. Snow is going fast and I’m in Mud Season mode right now which means working on projects around home so I can go camping later. Hmm, now that I think of it, time to make some Baxter reservations!

Baldface / Wild River Loop – July 2017

Baldface / Wild River Loop – July 2017

44 pics and some babbling from an exploratory foray into New Hampshire’s Wild River Wilderness. Of course I’m not the sort to take the easy way that follows the river from the campground on a short trail with little elevation change. No, I started and ended my loop on Rt 113, hitting South and North Baldface on the way in before descending via the Eagle Link to the Wild River.

DSC01940aThe first part of the trail was wide and flat. It was mid morning when I started out and already warming up so I covered this section as quickly as possible.DSC01941aThen I arrived at the point where the trail split to create the bottom of the Baldface Circle Trail. I headed to the left intending on hitting both peaks early in the trip rather than tackling them on my way out on the last day.DSC01942aOnce I got past the shelter campsite the trail ascended a series of slabs interrupted periodically by cliff faces of varying height.DSC01944aEach slab was like a giant step up and the views began to really open up after I’d found my way up the first few.DSC01946aThe shelter campsite was down there in the col before the knob on the left, but almost invisible from up here. I’d met a large group of kids with a couple of older leaders there doing a team policing of the site to pick up any trash before they moved on.DSC01950aThey were headed down, but I was still going up. This knob here wasn’t the actual summit, but the climb up to it was totally exposed.DSC01952aThere I found the intersection with a trail that allows you to bypass the cliffy slabs I’d just finished with. Following the Slippery Brook Trail around leaves you with a short and steep hike up to this point without the challenges of the cliffs.DSC01955aThis youth group, not the ones I’d met earlier, was taking advantage of the easier way down. They were split into three or more groups and seemed to be quite a few in number.DSC01956aYou can see another batch of them approaching and the actual South Baldface summit rising up beyond. This was a really fun area to hike with a lot of time above the trees.DSC01969aDSC01971aDSC01976aLooking back at North Baldface nearing the end of my time on the ridge. Soon I’d be dropping down the back side via the Eagle Link Trail so I stopped here for a snack and to enjoy the views while I still had them.DSC01979aThere was plenty of pretty things to see on the Eagle Link Trail, but seeing the trail itself was not a frequent occurrence. It appears that almost no one uses this trail and being in the Wild River Wilderness it is not maintained or blazed. There was a faint footpath under all of those leaves at least so I was pretty certain I was headed the right way most of the time.DSC01980aWhen I finally reached the Wild River down below the trail become easier to see as it was more well used and open.DSC01982aNot seeing better options along the Wild River Trail I made it all the way to the Spruce Brook tentsite. They have removed the privy but left the sites at least. I was surprised to find a family camped there and even more surprised when several groups of folks arrived after dark. Seems this spot is easily reached from the campground parking lot just a few miles down river.DSC01984aI moved out early the next day though I did not have far to go. I decided I’d just head the few miles up to Blue Brook tentsite and spend a, hopefully, quiet day there.DSC01986aFirst I enjoyed a beautiful morning walking along the river. Sunshine on the greenery just made everything look bright and happy.DSC01991aDSC01997aThe sounds of the river bubbling along added to that sense of joy. Well and the fact that I knew I only had to hike a few miles that day didn’t hurt either.DSC02001aDSC02005aThere was some work to be done though as the trail ascended a bit after crossing the river. DSC02007aThen it ascended some more! Still this was a nice soft trail with dirt under foot in many places so I wasn’t really complaining.DSC02008aI was sweating a bit and happy to arrive at the Blue Brook site. Before even setting down my pack I started exploring the waterfall.DSC02015aFollowing it across the rock face for a while i found that it went all the way down. I stopped myself from following and headed back up to fill my water bag.DSC02025aThen it was time to make myself at home! There was no one else there and while I heard a few voices on the trails nearby, no one else ever showed up that day or night.DSC02028aWith all afternoon to relax and explore I managed to find a way to get closer to the bottom of the falls. This must be something to see early in the year when the water is really flowing.DSC02037aThis certainly was something to see! It was about head high and one of the biggest I have ever seen.DSC02039aRim Junction was aptly named and I spent a minute checking out all of the arrows to make sure I followed the right one to get me up on the Basin Rim headed towards  Mt Meader.DSC02042aEven before the trees gave way there were hints at the beautiful views to come. I’d really gotten three beautiful days for this trip.DSC02043aOf course there was still some more work to be done heh. I wasn’t excited about the climbs to come, but I was looking forward to being up on top of the ridge again.DSC02045aLooking back wasn’t all bad either as the morning sun began to get a little higher.DSC02047aDSC02049aDSC02051aThen it was time for me to get higher.  There were a few relentless sections like this and even a surprising bit of water flowing out of the rocks at one point.DSC02055aDSC02058aThen it began to open up more  and South Baldface came into view. Looking at it from here it was hard to imagine I’d climbed up that ridge with a three day pack on my shoulders.DSC02062aNow I was up on the ridge and feeling light footed with my food bag empty and a nice breeze blowing.DSC02064aI found this couple set up in a nice spot working on some plein air art. We chatted for a bit about what a great place it was to spend some time before I left them in peace.DSC02067aDSC02069aDSC02071aThen it was time for me to descend. Light pack or no this was a good time to go slow and try not to break my neck.DSC02073aI knew that search and rescue crews rarely carry cheeseburgers so it was vital that I get down in one piece. There were a few tricky bits, but I think this side was easier to go down than the other side would have been.DSC02075aI wasn’t too far from the parking lot at this point, but decided to stop to refill my water bottles and eat some cheese just because it was too nice of a day to rush out of the woods. I’d begun to see more and more people as it was summer Sunday so everyone was out for a walk. These last few minutes of peace were wonderful.DSC02076aBack at the road there were cars parked for a long ways along Rt 113 outside the full parking lot. I’d say I saw at least 20 people milling about the area and made a point of loading up quick to be on my way. Even managed to get back to Fryeburg before running out of gas. Definitely a great trip all around and a lot of fun to explore some place new!

 

Demi Semi Pemi – June 2017

Demi Semi Pemi – June 2017

59 pics and some random babbling from a three night June trip that started along Franconia Ridge and returned along Franconia Brook.

What most folks think of as the Pemi Loop – Franconia Ridge on one side and the Bonds on the other in whichever direction you favor – is really more of a “semi” Pemi loop since you cut down the middle of the Pemigewasset Wilderness rather than taking in the eastern side. This trip started out with that in mind, but rain on day three made me opt to get off of the ridge after leaving Garfield, so this ended up being more like half of the half.

DSC01379aThe trip certainly didn’t start out rainy. It was warm sunshine when I left the Lincoln Woods lot around lunchtime. The East Branch was flowing well, but not terribly high.DSC01382aThe first mile or so was along the converted rail bed that makes the Lincoln Woods Trail so popular with families and older folks who may not climb mountains but enjoy a walk in the woods.DSC01385aOvergrowth now blocks most of the view at the “downlook” so looking down isn’t what it once was. The perspective from this little outcropping perched over the Lincoln Brook far below can be a bit dizzying when you focus on the bottom of the valley far below.DSC01387aLooking out at the sea of green was no problem though. Early Summer leaves were mixed in with the darker green of the pines as far as the eye could see.DSC01388aDSC01389aSome nice white clouds in the deep blue sky made beautiful patterns if you looked up or if you looked at the shadows they threw down below.DSC01392aBreaking out of the green tunnel of the trees for the final climb to the top of Mt Flume is always a treat. All of the hard work getting to this spot suddenly seems worth it when the sky opens up and you feel the breeze.DSC01395aOf course you still have to climb up there, but climbing always seems easier when you are in the open and can see the top of the mountain in front of you. Well most of the time at least!DSC01397aOf course the higher you climb on Flume the more you can see Mt Liberty which is the next climb and the col between which means you’ll have to give up some altitude before you can start climbing again.DSC01398aPlenty of time to worry about that later. Looking back the other way seemed less ominous and darn pretty as well.DSC01400aIt may have been mid June, but there was some snow left hiding in the depths of that col. Despite the warm day out in the sun at the summit, it was nice and cool down in the dark of the forest. DSC01402aThen it was time to start climbing again so there was no need to worry about hypothermia. The final push up to Mt Liberty’s summit has some loose rock sections like this as well as a few big slabs that require some effort to get on top of.DSC01403aThe rewards this day were more great views and access to the breeze. I’ve been up here when it was too hot and too cold, but this time it was just about perfect.DSC01405aThere were a couple of guys taking a break there when I arrived, but they pushed on to Liberty Springs to make camp and left it all to me for a while. Usually this spot is crowded so I enjoyed being able to sit and listen to the breeze for a while.DSC01406aFrom where I sat I could see part of the next day’s hike laid out there in front of me. I’d be dropping down off the ridge to camp first, but then I’d be headed past the ridge and over Garfield to the right.DSC01408aToday’s work was just about done though. It was nice to be able to sit up there and appreciate the spot alone for a while before heading down to the tent sites at Liberty Spring.DSC01410aThe AMC caretaker gave me my choice of spots, but in looking I found there were only a couple of small platforms still open. I set up my hammock off to one side in case she needed to squeeze one more person in.DSC01411aThe sunset view from my site was partially blocked by trees, but the color coming through was great.DSC01413aI timed it nicely to have my dinner in the cooking area and get back for the best part of the show. After that it was an early sleep both in hopes of an early start and from exhaustion after the day’s climbs.DSC01414aI headed out a little after sunrise, but still in time to have the trail mostly to myself for a while. Ran into a thru hiker who had started at the bottom of the notch that morning. He soon left me behind as he intended to try to reach Galehead by dark.DSC01417aNot sure what this pole was doing here, but if anyone needed a spare they were in luck.DSC01419aLooking back where I’d come from I could see yesterday’s peaks below me now. You can also spot an early season black fly 🙂DSC01422aSqueezing up this little rock outcrop is usually a good excuse to stop for second breakfast and take some pics. These short little trees are the last shelter from wind and sun for quite a while.DSC01423aBreaking out on to the ridge I made it to Little Haystack before the crowds appeared, but not by much. I had the summit to myself for about five minutes before the first day hiker appeared. Several more soon followed and I could hear the ridge hikers from the tent site approaching as well.DSC01424aMt Lincoln loomed in front of me, looking larger than it really was. I knew from previous experience it was a relatively gentle sloping ridge I had to climb, but it certainly looks imposing from this angle.DSC01430aThis rock pile looks imposing as well. The large, loosely stacked boulders on the top always catch my eye. They’ve been up there a long time and I always hope they are content to stay there a few more minutes while I pass by.DSC01432aDSC01436aDSC01437aDSC01439aThe crowd on top of Mt Lafayette grew as I slowly approached. By the time I got up there I’d guess there were at least 50 people if not more sitting in clusters on the rocks or with cameras at arms length taking selfies. I opted not to stop there for a break this time despite the fabulous views since I knew from previous trips how hard it is to take pics that don’t have someone else taking pics in them heh.DSC01441aI did take time to capture these little guys growing on the other side of the mountain. My wife loves small flowers growing in the rocks so I always try to catch a few with my camera when I spot them.DSC01442aOnce past the crowd on Lafayette the number of hikers dropped quickly. That speck of red in the distance is a guy from Scotland I chatted with briefly. He seemed to appreciate the lack of crowd on this end of the ridge too so I left him in peace.DSC01444aDespite being way down there from up here I knew that getting to the top of Garfield was about going up. Every time I reach this spot I find myself wishing there was a zip line to get there in minutes instead of hours.DSC01447aOf course that would mean I’d miss all of this beautiful terrain. There are some wonderful open slab sections before reaching the plummet at the end of the ridge.DSC01453aSoon enough it would be time to head down into the trees, but there was still a little time to appreciate the sky behind the rocks.DSC01458aThen the rocks ended and it was time to plummet! The climb up Garfield is a series of climbs and dips, but the drop from Franconia Ridge to the col below is down in a couple of steep drops.DSC01464aDown below I found more snow! I also found some water bubbling out of the mud next to the trail. Normally I’d not consider that a water source, but I was badly in need and there were already two other hikers scooping from the little flow. It was coming out clear enough and filtered just fine so I was happy to have it.DSC01466aThe late day skies were starting to look a little threatening as I approached Garfield summit. This area sees some strong winds and most of the trees looked a bit ragged.DSC01471aJust below the actual summit is this more sheltered area with a few big rocks which are nice for sitting. You’ll notice all of my trip reports from this area have a picture or three taken here. It isn’t just pretty. I’m usually exhausted by the time I get to this spot and ready to take a break!DSC01474aAfter a peaceful night spent at the Garfield campsite I woke to gray skies. Just about the time I finished putting my pack on it began to rain lightly.DSC01475aThis was a mild storm by local standards. The shortened trees with missing tops told a story of strong winds and heavy snows on this side of the mountain.DSC01477aThankfully the rain was just getting started and the rocks weren’t too wet when I reached this section. This giant rock pile is part of one of the steepest half miles sections of the AT. Normally I’m grateful to be going down instead of up, but with wet rocks, down is not much fun either.DSC01478aWith the rain increasing and the trail becoming messy I decided that when I reached the bottom I’d turn off into the valley rather than remaining on the ridge. It meant giving up a visit to the Bonds, but it also meant avoiding a slippery climb up South Twin and the exposed peak I’d find at the top there.DSC01480aThe Franconia Brook was flowing much stronger than on my last trip where I’d sat in the middle of the mostly dry river bed.DSC01481aI questioned my decision to come down off the ridge when the sun poked out for a bit. Still it was nice to be done hiking early and have camp all set up if things changed for the worse. DSC01485aThey soon did and I spent a leisurely afternoon in my hammock listening to the rain on my tarp.DSC01486aThe best hanging trees were not lined up over the tent platform, but I’m learning to work with what I find rather than trying for perfection.DSC01487aIn this pic from the next morning you can see how close the sites are at the 13 Falls campsite. There was a group of guys from Mexico City set up in a couple of sites behind me. They hiked in with beer! Maybe not serious backpackers, but I was jealous when I heard them popping cold ones in the dark that night.DSC01488aI had sunshine for the hike out and stopped for several big snacks along the way. A great morning for walking in the woods is always better with cheese and sausage!DSC01492aThere were plenty of little water crossings along the way and one big one. After the drought last year I was happy to see water everywhere again like it is supposed to be. Some of these crossings were bone dry last Summer.DSC01494aDSC01497aDSC01502aDSC01506aThe ponds were looking much better too though I think they need another year to really get back to normal.DSC01507aThe biggest one looked less scummy than last year but I think it could use another foot or so of water in there.DSC01509aDSC01511aIt being Friday I started to see more and more people as I worked my way out of the wilderness. Still plenty of pretty brooks to take pics of so I focused on that.DSC01513aDSC01517aAll too soon I ran out of trail, though at the time I seem to recall appreciating the cheeseburger I could smell on the horizon. Other than a little rain it had been a darn nice few days in the woods. Having done most of this route in the Fall it was interesting to see it in June. Different colors, different light, same amazing views!

Hope you folks are getting out somewhere. I’ve been out three or four times since this trip so there are plenty more adventures to report on. The question is; When will I stay home long enough to write them up? Hopefully not soon!

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!