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!

Thoreau Falls Without the Falls

Thoreau Falls Without the Falls

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

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

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

Four Day Pemi Snow Trip – December 2016

Four Day Pemi Snow Trip – December 2016

24 Pictures plus tales of adventure from a four day winter weather trip I managed to squeeze in during the holidays. Snow had been hard to come by near the coast in Maine, but watching the weather to the West I knew I’d find some in the New Hampshire mountains.dsc00552aEven there in the Whites the days had been warm at times so I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d find. Rather than risk running into bare rocks I left the sled at home and hoisted a hefty, 60lb winter pack. Arriving just after a light rain ended the snow was mushy and wet with the temperature well above freezing. This little guy was taking in the warm weather with a smile on his face all the same.dsc00553aThere was definitely more water in the river than on my last visit here. I was glad to see it wasn’t frozen over leaving me to melt snow for drinking water. Also glad I’d pretty much decided that I’d be staying on this side of the river for the entire trip so no worries about crossing.dsc00556aWith little breeze and a temp close to 40°F I got a bit steamy after only a few miles. Despite my best efforts to keep my pace really slow it was just too warm to be slogging through wet, squishy snow with a full winter pack. Rather than risk being caught out in damp clothes when it cooled off later I opted to set up camp early and get into some dry stuff. Of course it is important to dry out the pelt before putting on fresh layers.dsc00557aI squished down a bit of snow to make a spot for my tent. The extra room a two person tent provides is worth the weight on cold weather trips I find. Nice to set up the bed in back so any snow that sneaks in the door is far away.dsc00563aCertainly was warm enough that I could have used a canister stove, but I brought the full winter kit including the Whisperlite.  I used to push the limits before I bought this stove. Now I like to know I’ll be good to go no matter how cold it gets.dsc00564aBeing just a week past the Winter Solstice there was a pretty big chunk of dark to be dealt with. I ate dinner early, but lingered in camp watching the light fade slowly in the snow filled woods. Then it was time to settle in for a few hours of reading before pulling the quilts up to my chin to sleep.dsc00567aMorning showed that a light dusting had fallen during the night. I wasn’t planning on going far this day, so was in no hurry to break camp.  Hot cereal and coffee were enjoyed. Around 10am I realized my wife was probably wondering why my GPS location wasn’t updating so I decided to send her a message explaining I hadn’t left yet. Great minds thinking alike she was sending me a message asking me to check in at right about the same time.dsc00570aEventually it was time to break down camp. Organization is always helpful when it comes to getting everything back in your pack, but in the snow it is doubly important. Anything that gets away may not be seen again until Spring. At this point I’ve gotten everything ready to be stowed except for the stove and my coffee cup, as both were still hot.dsc00571aAlmost ready to put on the pack until I realized I was still wearing this warm camp jacket. No way I was going to unpack enough to get it stuffed where it belonged so it ended up crammed into an outside pouch. Should have noticed how cozy I was while packing heh.dsc00575aThere was a lovely bit of snow falling by the time I headed off along the river. The trail was relatively unbroken with only faint signs of old traffic so I wore my snowshoes though I was only sinking in a few inches.dsc00578aThere was no wind and the flakes settled slowly in the still air. The sound of the water from the river seemed a bit muffled by the snow even though it was close by.dsc00580aReaching the Cedar Brook crossing I found broad sections of ice on either side with open water in the middle. Knowing this crossing well I was pretty sure the water was low enough to allow me to walk on the rocks just below the surface of the open water. Mostly it was just a question of if the ice would break under me and how deep the water would be if it did. All went mostly to plan except that I discovered one of my waterproof boots had failed to live up to its name. dsc00591aI pushed on another five miles or so until reaching a spot high above the river where I could set up in the open to see some sky. The clouds moved out late in the afternoon and I was looking forward to a starry night. The wet boot and its dry partner had some time to recover while I stomped around in another pair of boots I’d brought for camp.dsc00595aWith the clouds gone the temp started dropping fast. I brought up a pot of water from the river while I still had daylight. Sticking it in the snow kept it sort of insulated so it wouldn’t freeze before dinner. My thermometer had it down to roughly 20°F before sunset and in the low teens by morning.dsc00597aYou can see that reaching open water required navigating a seriously treacherous ice field. That is why I made a point of doing it in daylight rather than relying on my headlamp. My foot broke through at one point, falling through a good six inches of air before hitting water below. Luckily I was going slow enough that my leg didn’t snap off or anything, but it did underscore the dangers involved in something as simple as getting a pot of water.dsc00601aThere is just something about the site of the Whisperlite set up in the snow that makes me feel happy. Winter camping is usually devoid of people and filled with quiet time to appreciate being in such a magical place. Even mundane chores like making dinner take on a different feeling. dsc00606aWaking up to a bright, cold morning I found breaking camp a much faster process. Already the routines were easy to follow with one step leading to the next until it was time for breakfast. Boiling water to purify it is different that the usual, three season, dinner boil. You need to keep a rolling boil going for at least a few minutes, more like ten if you want to be safe. Melting snow is even more work so I’m happy if I can find open water to draw from.dsc00608aThere was a snow storm of some size expected to hit later in the day so I decided to start moving back closer towards the road. Starting out I had the advantage of following my own steps from the previous day. With a heavy snowfall expected I didn’t bother with evening out the trail. The next person through would be breaking a new trail of their own with no sign of my steps left.dsc00611aAs forecast, the storm delivered some snow! It was amazingly quiet with no wind here in the valley. Just lots of snow and it began to pile up rapidly. My footprints from the day before began to fill in more and more as I went showing just how much snow was actually falling.dsc00613aSo neat to be in this place as the weather closed in and feeling no sense of urgency to leave. Everything I needed was in my pack and where ever I chose to ride out the storm would be home for the night. I stopped and took off my pack to have a snack, crunching on peanuts and semi-frozen raisins until the snow started to pile up on me too much. Then I headed a bit more down the trail and found a spot to get set up before the storm really hit. I knew the snow was the start, but that there would be some wind behind it and I wanted to be ready when it showed up.

This video sort of captures the difference between the first part of the storm and the second. If you turn up the volume you’ll start out hearing gently falling snow and then hear roaring wind, though this doesn’t begin to compare to what it sounds like in person.

dsc00618aBy morning about 18″ of snow had fallen and while I probably should have gotten up to shovel off some snow during the night the tent held up pretty well. I’d punched the roof a few times to keep the roof vents open, but eventually there was no where for the snow to go. Digging out and packing up was interesting in this much snow. It was good that I’d be heading home because the tent would need to dry out after being buried like this.dsc00620aWhat a great way to end the first cold weather trip of the season. It is fun to camp in the snow, but always much more fun to camp in a snowstorm. The more snow the better and the roaring winds can be fun too so long as nothing falls on you. Overnight the sound was constant, though louder at times which was especially unsettling. Along with that constant roar there was the thudding of snow bombs falling from the trees. Most of them were soft plopping noises, but the ones that hit the tent would thunder and shake the walls. Sleeping becomes an adventure on a night like that!dsc00623aOh but to wake up in the mountains while the storm is still blowing is always a fantastic feeling. The wind was peaking it seemed as trees were shedding limbs all around me, mostly small though a few of good size. I kept moving so as to give them a harder target to hit, but did have to stop and gaze in wonder at the peaks a few times. Couldn’t help but think how happy I was to be down where I was rather than up there. Between the howling winds and the clouds wrapped around the high ridges I knew it would not be happy times up there that morning.dsc00628aI on the other hand was pushing through deep powder on my way back to the road. My timing was perfect as I arrived just as the crew was starting to plow the lot. By the time I finished getting my gear stowed and the ton of snow wiped off the roof of the car I only had a few feet of snow to shovel in front of the wheels to get out. Everyone seemed to be rushing to get out to play in the snow which I found funny after spending four days out there alone. I guess fresh powder will do that though!

Not sure when I’ll be able to get out there again. Winter trips are harder to come by now that my daughter has started school. Hopefully there are a few more to come. It is such a different world out there this time of year. Hopefully you are getting out when you can too, even if you can’t find a blizzard to camp in.