I’m usually one to urge folks to get out there, but today is a good day to be inside. Soon…
32 pics and more than a wee bit of babbling from three days of blue sky and snow on one of my favorite mountains!
I’d had my eye on the weather for these three days. With a recent foot of fresh snow I was really hoping that someone would break out the trail over the weekend. Saturday was blown out but sure enough, some nice folks stomped me a trail on Sunday.
The buried signs at the side of the road were an early indicator that the snow was deep. Many blazes were between knee and ankle height along the way.
The weather totally came through for me. Cold, in the 20s at the parking lot, but lots of sunshine. Gusts of wind at time, but not the steady sort that makes you wear a lot of clothes.
Down low the trail was really well stomped. The route up to the viewpoint at the cliff is very popular. The folks over the weekend had to break trail from where the AT extends beyond the short loop.
This would have been a lot more work if I was breaking trail. As is, it was a bit of a sweaty climb given my load and lack of any real climbing in months.
I didn’t use my normal winter pack on this trip because I’m doing some testing with a different one. It was interesting paring down my winter kit to fit the reduced capacity. With three different sized thermos bottles of water and the big bottle of stove gas it came in at right around 40lbs. I did add some donuts on the drive in. They are tucked into the stove bag behind the shovel in this pic.
The shelter was well buried, but the wind had swept the front cleaner than other years. The snow over all was deeper than I was used to, but the wall in front wasn’t there. That blue sky was amazing. I recall worrying that I was missing the good day.
I had things to attend to though, so the summit would have to wait. First I wanted to get the hammock up and try out the new tarp. This one has doors on the ends and may become the distance shelter. That blowout on the Cohos last Fall made me see the benefits of doors heh.
Then there were evening chores to attend to. At this time of year there is no access to running water at this site. That means spending a lot of time melting and boiling snow. I started filling my thermos bottles, then got dinner soaking while I finished the bottles. With the temp dropping fast it was easy to get into the hammock before dark. With a good dinner and a chocolate donut in my belly it was easy to fall asleep before dark too heh.
There were some great stars during the night, but the blue skies were already returning by the time I rolled out of bed in the morning. I always love the feeling of coming out from under the quilts in the morning light and feeling the sting of the air. It feels like survival heh.
This is why I carry a cheapo refrigerator thermometer on all my trips. It is easy to read without glasses and the decimal comes in handy during wild temperature swings. I was glad to have the warning that morning on the Cohos when the flash freeze hit.
Time to melt some breakfast snow while I waited for the sun to do its thing. Coffee and a bag of breakfast slurry warmed the belly nicely. It had been a while since I’d been able to get out, but everything seemed vaguely familiar.
I stashed what I didn’t need for the climb at my camp. While I was there I grabbed one of the quilts and stuffed it in my pack…just in case heh. Then it was up up and up, into the trees. The snow was so deep that much of the climb was a wrestling match with branches that are normally well over head while walking on the ground.
On the way up I heard some footsteps in the distance below me. Thankfully I’d noticed him and stopped singing before he knew I was there heh. We chatted briefly as I let him pass by. He moving faster as he was dressed to sweat inside a shell. I was going for the cooler approach with thin wool layers and taking lots of breaks on the way up. It is hard for me to not attack a hill, but I kept making myself take slow steps. It didn’t work heh. I was still a little damp when I reached the top.
We took turns taking pics for one another and chatted a bit before he had to head down. Company is always appreciated more when you haven’t seen anyone for a while.
He was wearing some Baffin boots he was very pleased with. If you are out there man, I’d love to see a review on Trailspace 🙂
After he left I had to take my own pics. It was a lot of work so I treated myself to cheese and sausage because I’m worth it. OK, I’ll shut up and let you look at the pretty pics for a while…
Even with dark sunglasses I was pretty much blinded after a few hours up there. I knew I had a very steep descent and a few trees in my way so had to say good bye long before I wanted to.
Well, maybe just a few minutes more. I try to remember that there are no guarantees in life and every mountain may be my last. Sure hope not, but this was a darn good one to go out on!
On the way down there were some really steep drops. At the top of some of them were amazing views. It was important to view and drop separately hehe. With the soggy afternoon snow traction was entertaining enough that focus was important. Like I always tell my daughter about climbing mountains; You can look or you can walk, but don’t do both at the same time.
Nice views of the Whites on the other side of the border in NH. Spring is eating into the snow and the wind has helped in that regard. Won’t be long and there will be plenty of mud, at least down low.
With two solid days of blue sky it was hard not to hear the old ELO song in my head…”Mister blue, you did it right.”
“But soon comes mister night, creeping over, now his hand is on your shoulder”
“Never mind, I’ll remember you this, I’ll remember you this way.”
The second night was a bit warmer, but seemed very long. I was ready to get up and get moving. With the temp around 26°f it was easier to swap camp clothes for hiking clothes than the previous morning. Thankfully I managed to get everything loaded back up and I was on my way.
It was going to be another fabulous day. The light in the forest was amazing and I had to keep stopping to look at it. I recognized the terrain from some of the video I shot snowshoeing in deep powder here on a previous trip and was again pretty happy to be there.
Rather than complain about all the times I wasn’t there this Winter I was thinking about how happy I was at the moment. Good times heh.
Lower down I began to meet people day hiking. Maybe time to stop singing…or not heh. Spring definitely was waking up after a few days of strong sunshine. Up top it will take a while to eat through that deep snow. Even here it may be a while unless there is a warm rain. Soon though…soon.
If you’ve read my posts and seen the videos you may have noticed that I fell in love with the Cohos Trail last year. The two section hikes I did of the hundred miles or so from Canada to Stark were cold, wet and some of the best days of my life! Plans were already in the works to head back to the border and try for a thru hike this year when I heard they were looking for someone to adopt a few miles of trail. When no one else stepped up after a few weeks I decided to take the job myself.
This line isn’t very accurate, but it gives the basic gist of the trail. Leaving from Coleman State Park on the left it follows a snowmobile trail for a short distance before climbing through a recently forested area towards the summit. From there it heads down a short ways to connect with another trail on the way towards the Panorama Shelter. Just a few miles, but its all mine and will make a great excuse to head up to visit it for “work” heh.
Having hiked it last year I’m hopeful it won’t really be too much trouble. Grass will need to be whacked on the snowmobile trail and berry vines whacked in the recently forested section, but there are few areas where blow downs or encroaching branches will need to be cut…I hope. I did scare up a good sized bear on my way through. He flew down the mountain away from me so fast I felt sort of sorry for him. We’ve decided that he is our bear now and I have named him Scooter. We’ll try not to become close friends.
Hope you’ve been getting out or will be soon. If not its time to start making some plans!!
The first thing to be done with a new “ultralight” tarp is to make it lighter 😉
Video and pics from the section running from Coleman State Park to Stark.
Video and pics from the section running from the Canadian border to Coleman State Park.
61 pics and random babbling from another amazing Cohos section: Coleman SP to Stark. This time I came armed with better insulation except for one important omission and of course not nearly enough socks!
The folks at the Stark Village Inn weren’t available for a shuttle on the day I started, so I made arrangements for parking the scoot at Coleman State Park and getting a ride back when I finished. I hit the trail around 1pm after making a tour of the campground because I missed the trail the first time heh. That was about as lost as I got the rest of the trip, so glad I got it out of the way early.
The Tumbledick Trail passed through a few areas that had been forested but were in various stages of growing back. In one of these spots I scared a bear out from a pile of slash pretty close to the trail. He must have been napping to not hear me coming sooner. I felt bad about how scared he was, but after the bear that wasn’t scared I was glad to see his butt tearing off down hill away from me heh.
The trail had been pretty squishy throughout, but sometimes all the water was put to good use. There was a sign reading Allison Falls here and it seemed a lovely place to be on a warmer and dryer day. I didn’t stay long…this time.
It was a short day ending at the Panorama shelter after about 3 hours from Coleman. As the cloud bounced up and down off the ridge the air would go from wet to wetter. I grabbed a bag of water from the flow just a bit south on the trail that passed right in front of the shelter. Looking at how dense and wet the forest was I opted to stay in the shelter. That is when I realized that I’d forgotten to add a sleep pad for just such an occasion.
In between rain splatters I caught this picture of the panorama heh. Then it was dinner and curling up on the boards on top of my underquilt and sit pad. The air inside the shelter was full of cloud in the light from my headlamp. Better than outside, but definitely cloudy for inside a shelter.
The morning temperature was 38°f and the clouds had parted a bit. There was coffee and my new high speed breakfast concoction. Actually it is the same old blend of two packs of Cream of Wheat plus one pack of full fat cocoa. Recently I discovered by accident that if you add too much water you can chug the whole thing in a couple of minutes. Much faster without chewing and no spoon to clean up heh.
That left more time to appreciate the changing view, but it was chilly and despite the happy looking sky I was expecting sadness later in the day. Best to get rolling and watch some of those beautiful yellow blazes go by.
Well, OK, maybe just one more minute. That was so pretty I had to soak it in a bit more. Totally breaking the rule of thirds on this shot, but that cloud pattern was amazing!
Even up on the ridge the trail was squishy. No point in worrying about it after the first ten times you hit a wet spot so you learn to laugh about it. The cool air was great for my pace. The sense that the clouds were coming for me was a good motivator too.
I felt bad for NOBO hikers having to pass by this sign on their way up from Dixville. There was a sign to the right advertising the Panorama shelter ahead via the yellow blazes though. Good placement!
While taking some pics before descending I found my boots slipping on this rock at the edge of the void. Sorry I don’t have better pictures, but I wasn’t going out there heh. I was in a hurry, but that isn’t how I wanted to descend.
I had to avoid a few cars crossing the highway, but saw no people wandering around in the wetness. On my way back on Sunday there were people all over the area. Glad I missed the crowds.
Starting the climb up the other side there was a big surprise…water! No, this part may have been squishy, I don’t recall, but it was very pretty. They list an upper and lower falls, but there was a steady cascade for quite a while.
As I climbed up the other side of the notch I could feel the moisture in the air building. The cloud was coming for me! Given the slippery rock on the other side and the increasing moisture I opted to skip the Table Rock selfie experience. I know that is wrong and bad, but there was a cloud out there looking for me!
The cloud was definitely on my trail as I passed through the open areas of the ski runs. Thankfully I had a good footpath to follow and just enough blazing to navigate without wasting any time. It was exciting to be hunted, but I was getting the sense that the cloud was going to find me before I found the Baldhead shelter.
Of course the freaky noise the wind was making as it blew through this tower didn’t help much heh. I’d hate to be up there alone on a dark day with weather closing in, except I was and it was sort of neat 🙂
This is the last pic I took on this second day of the section. The cold and rain was enough to make me put on my raincoat, which is a rarity while hiking. After descending this road there was a short section of lesser road where I refilled my water bottles at the bridge before starting the climb. The Baldhead shelter is “dry” so I filtered an extra 3L bag as well. Then began a long, wet hike up a mountain that really tested my patience.
Sweating from the climb inside my raincoat kept me from freezing to death in the increasingly cold wetness. As much as I was tempted to take it off I had a feeling it was safer this way. That extra heat comes in handy when making camp and getting dry. That poor raincoat doesn’t smell very nice any more though 😦
There seemed to be quite a few more false summits than necessary before reaching the shelter location. Each time I saw sky above the next steep pitch my hopes went up and then so did the trail heh. I lost count of how many, six maybe? Then I reached the hut to once again find nothing but dense forest around. I considered trying to hang across the trail to the latrine, assuming no one else would be dumb enough to come up there that night. Then the rain started coming down seriously and I hid inside the shelter like a wet puppy heh.
I woke up around 11pm and my thermometer said it was 38°f. Doing some simple math told me that I was going to be a popsicle laying on those cold boards for another 7 hours. Thankfully I come prepared for just such emergencies and was able to quickly locate a hand warmer. Tucked into an interior abdominal pocket it kept my core temperature up until dawn. People talk about fire building being a life saver, but those pocket warmers are worth carrying year round.
Dawn showed hints of a sunny day to come. I knew it wouldn’t be warm, but at this point I was looking forward to warmer at least. It was 33°f as I got busy making a bag of hot chocolate gruel and a cup of coffee.
Then as the sun began to climb higher in the sky I saw something scary; The digital thermometer showed the temperature plummet 4 more degrees in a few minutes. Suddenly the grass in front of the shelter all frosted over and turned white. Not knowing how far it would go I was happy when it held at 29.1°f for a while before climbing back up towards 30 again.
The grass wasn’t the only thing that turned white during the sudden freeze over. My boots and wet clothes all went solid as well. I opted to swap out the clothes for dry, but only had the one pair of boots. On a cold morning you can tell how hardy a hiker is by how they deal with latrine seats and boots. This morning the boots were much worse than the seat.
Time to get stomping!
It was good to be moving to generate some heat, but I kept stopping to pull out my camera. Maybe it was the not freezing to death thing, but everywhere I looked was beautiful.
These trees were catching the morning sun and sending up clouds of steam as they warmed up. I spent a few minutes taking pics and video, but also just staring at it, soaking up the moment. It was still very cold, but life was very good on the Cohos that morning!
The Gadwah Notch Trail worked its way down towards Nash Stream gently. Eventually it began to follow an old woods road with meadows from time to time.
I came upon a tree with a yellow blaze that had fallen across the trail. Taking it as a sign and a nice place to sit, I opted for a serious lunch break since the clouds weren’t after me at this point. Please note the sock you see next to my food is actually my phone protector and not a used sock. My phone pairs with my inReach to let me pull up my location on a map. When I did a spot check to verify my location I was pleased to see that I was closer to the stream than expected.
That break was a great motivator and I hauled butt through the short walk along the road just after the headwaters of Nash Stream. I saw a person outside of a camp and we waved from a distance. 48 hours and that was my first contact heh.
The rolling section bypassing the Nash Bog flew by and even the hike up the Sugarloaf Arm was soon finished. Finally a camp with some open forest! First I hung up all of my clothes. Then I thankfully got my hammock up so I knew I’d be sleeping in comfort.
The Old Hermit Shelter is amazing! It has been there since ’12 if I recall and it looks brand new. No ugly graffiti, but also no stains on the floor. It has an unusual design, to me at least. That opening at the rear gives it really good ventilation I’d guess. The whole thing was held together with big wooden pins rather than metal hardware. Beautiful craftsmanship!
Being able to spend a few hours in camp was a great way to end a really great day on the trail. My clothes weren’t really going to dry, but I was out of the wet stuff and enjoying my camp clothes.
I loved the way the pegs that hold the shelter together were left long and sticking out. There are many places to hang things under that roof and some of the stuff I left in there over night actually did dry a bit.
Day four started with some great sunshine. Again I had to resist the urge to keep pulling out the camera. The weather wasn’t expected to last and I had plans for the day despite only needing to get to the Percy tent site.
There was my plan! Lunch on top of North Percy was my goal, though I giggled a bit when I first spotted it from this vantage point. I put my chances at a solid maybe as I recall.
Nash Stream from the snowmobile bridge was looking pretty, but I could see the clouds gathering. Really appreciated the bridge as the stream was wide and I’m guessing cold heh.
As I stopped to take these pics of the falls along Pond Brook a man passed by on the trail above. We waved, but again from a distance.
Then I came upon the high water warning sign and began to wonder if this was high water. I wandered back down to the road and met the man I’d seen earlier, so about 70 hours in I had my first conversation. He said not to worry about the water crossing and I headed back up.
I laughed when I got to the dangerous crossing. No one had mentioned a bridge. It was a bit wobbly on one side though, so a bit scary. 🙂
Then it was up the Trio Trail towards Percy. This climb was so gentle and even had a few views along the way. By the end I was sort of tired of winding around and ready to just climb straight up, but taking the longer, easier way was nice for a change.
The rolling hills thing was a great way to work the way up towards the ridge. Some parts were steeper than others, but all just a nice forest walk.
Can you spot the skinny moose in this picture? It won’t be easy because he kept his tail to me as he looked over his shoulder.
I did what I could in post production to give you a better view. There just isn’t much moose there to work with.
I stopped at the Percy tent site and quickly set up camp. Then with only my food bag and rain gear in my pack I headed up towards North Percy. I grabbed this pic on the way up the slabs near the top because I wasn’t sure how long the weather would hold off.
Almost there! I could hear voices ahead and sure enough there were some day hikers at the summit. It was interesting but strange to see people in such numbers. There were at least five or six heh. It seemed very crowded after being alone for days.
Soon they had to head down and I had the place to myself for a bit. Pictures were taken, cheese and sausage were eaten. It was nice!
On the way back down I was struck by just how steep that slab was. Going up was much faster as I had to carefully make my way down. Glad I didn’t have a full pack on for that!
I was sitting on the tent platform pondering an early dinner ahead of the rain when I heard the first drops hit. I started sprinting back and forth, ferrying everything from platform to tarp. After hanging out for a bit it was clear the rain wasn’t going anywhere so I arranged things to allow me to make dinner. Of course being Day Four my friend the Hunger showed up. Much chocolate was eaten and I think some Doritos too if I recall heh.
It rained all night. In the morning it was still raining. I decided to go with my secret weapon, no cook breakfast. It is a special mix of chocolate, nuts and espresso beans. Too much sugar to use on a regular basis, but super fat content to go with the caffeine. Great for a hard, fast burn without stopping to make coffee or anything in the morning. Perfect for hiking out on the last day of a trip!
The hike out was going to be wet even though the rain stopped as I was breaking camp. I opted to save my better pants for the shuttle ride so put on what can only be described as my worse pants that morning. It really didn’t matter much at that point.
With some rain on four of the five days I wasn’t pretty and I didn’t smell good, but I was laughing my way down the mountain.
The early parts of the descent were a bit ugly. Some very large boulder drops that could use some steps or at least a smaller boulder to break up the distance. Those giant steps down are murder on old joints. Looking at them from below I’m not sure how I’d get up them going the other way.
The lower sections rolled along quickly and I soon passed the turn off for the Devils Rest shelter. My map shows another connection from the other side, but if it exists I walked past without noticing.
Eventually the trail rose up and joined the Bald Mountain Notch Trail to descend towards Percy Road and Stark. It was on this section that I ran into the famous Bonnie of the CT and her owner as they were headed up. I was not only recognized by name, but she placed a call to Nancy at the Stark Village Inn to come pick me up for my ride back to Coleman. You just don’t get service like this on most trails 😉
I really can’t say enough about how nice the Cohos Trail is for someone like me who enjoys a remote, wilderness feel to their hike. Camping alone and seeing no humans for days on this section is definitely my sort of hike. With so little traffic the footpath is not always well defined, especially now with leaves falling. The blazing is sporadic at times, but generally always there when you need it. I’m sure that on weekends and especially during the summer months there are more people out there so I can’t promise you solitude. Still, this is definitely a path less traveled, so if you’re heading out pack your self reliance…and your sleep pad!
With the leaves falling I am going to leave the southern half of the CT for another time. Not sure I’d want to try to follow the footpath with a heavy leaf carpet. I have a few weeks of duty at home anyway. Then we’ll see what the weather looks like I guess before deciding what is next. The legs were feeling pretty perky out there for an old fat guy 😉