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!