Two More Nights on West Baldpate – March 2019

Two More Nights on West Baldpate – March 2019

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.

Backyard Visitor

Found this beauty getting the morning sun behind the house today. Seemed a bit wet from the weather overnight and in need of some drying out.

I know this already went live, but I’m adding a couple more I just took. It seems to have dried out now. Definitely keeping the yard squirrel free today!

Grafton Loop East Side – Half a Loop is Better Than None

A few pics and a short video from a couple of nights spent on my old friend the GLT. I went with the intent of doing a three  night complete loop, but my other old friend, the weather surprise showed up with some tropical heat. By the morning of Day 3 it was too hot to be fun so I headed home.

First views headed up Puzzle Mountain
Working up onto the first slabs. There were a series punctuated by short tree covered sections.
Still working on the puzzle, but getting close to the top now.
Finally the summit! Then the real puzzle started…trying to find the trail down the other side heh.
The trail down the back side was fantastic! Soft dirt path through a pine and birch forest.

The afternoon continued to heat up and get steamier. I pushed on past the Town Corner site due to the water there looking pretty grim. Should have stayed there because it got dark before I could make it to the Lane site.

The water was much nicer there though!
Classic GLT ladders show up just when you need them.
Almost to the East Baldpate summit and the views start to really open up.
I was surprised to find a small spring running near the trail. Cold, but a lot of pine tannin.
On top looking across the col at the West Baldpate summit. You can make out the trail in spots.
We’ll end here on a high note 🙂 

I was trying out a different camera on this trip, a GoPro which is much smaller and lighter than my usual Sony. Trying to decide if the quality is good enough to save the weight. Also trying out a new editor, Davinci Resolve, to put together my videos. There may be some learning curve on both accounts, but I hope this works for you 🙂

(Don’t turn up the volume too loud or the waterfall will blow your ears out when it shows up.)

Notes From the Field or Existential Crisis Averted Day 4

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Trail journals are a personal thing by nature. Just as hikers hike in their own way, they journal in their own way too. Some folks spend a great deal of time during the day on trail and in camp, focused on filling pages with notes about their experience or something. Not sure as I haven’t ever been rude enough to ask what all the scribbling was about heh. Other folks carry a journal that they never remember to write anything in at all and the rest either fall in between or don’t even think about it in the first place.

I tend to fall into the group that carries a journal, but rarely remember it is there when I’m on an adventure. Partially that is due to my focus on what I’m doing at the time rather than thinking about documenting it. Partially it is because of the way my memory allows me to retrieve the experience later negating the need to write it down at the time. The rest of the explanation likely has to do with my love of cheese and sausage. Why spend time writing when I could be eating‽

My journals tend to come along for several trips before anything gets written down. By then the paper has soaked up humidity and dried out again numerous times. Combined with the friction of the pages rubbing against each other while riding hundreds of miles in my pack that gives the paper an odd feel; Sort of spongy and porous so neither ink nor pencil produce sharp lines. I find that fitting for the notes I tend to leave myself in my journals as they are often just a few hazy words giving a slight indication of what was on my mind. Just enough to remind me of what I was thinking when I made the note with no effort made to convey complete thoughts. These notes can be amusing when seen later at home with a head full of coffee and a roof over my head.

The note in the picture above is a great example of that. “Existential crisis averted Day 4” has few details, yet conveys enough of a message to fill pages of notes as I look back on that moment now. This is from a week long, solo trip I took to Baxter State Park in early June of this year. It was my first chance to get out on trail for over two months and over the first few days of the trip my brain was a mess. There seemed to be a lot of questions about who I was and what I was doing wandering around the forest by myself. Should I be home being a husband or daddy? Should I be working or saving the world? It seemed that I had only questions and answers with no clue which were important in either category. Who was I supposed to be?

So I wandered through the forest for a few days, going through the actions of making water, camps and meals with all of this turmoil in my head. Then on the fourth morning, as I relaxed in camp before loading up for the day, I realized that the noise had stopped. Questions and answers had stopped swirling and I could see what was important…the answer to who I was supposed to be.

I was just a guy, sitting in the woods, happy. There could be no more clear answer than that. While I remain husband and daddy wherever I roam and those callings come first, I am at heart a man who is happy in the wilderness. Alone or with others, being out there is time well spent and accepting that fact empowers a person with the conviction to go and do and be.

If you’re the sort who doesn’t carry a journal or remember to make any notes, maybe give it a shot sometimes. Just enough to jog your memory later and bring back a moment. If you’re the sort who fills pages of notes in one of those big books every day on trail, maybe ease up and experience the ride a bit more without letting the notes take all your focus.

Just that one faded, scribbled line in a rumpled notebook was enough to take me to that moment and bring it back in full detail. I can see the camp at Long Pond in the morning light, hear the red-wing blackbird and woodpeckers, and know what it feels like to be where I’m supposed to be. Soon…

 

Family Baxter Trip – Late June 2018

Just a few pics from the first family outing of the Summer. We had to change our plans due to the broken backpack and there were a few bugs, but we had a blast.DSC03638aThe Daddy Pack was light by Daddy Pack standards, but a bit bulky. Think it was around 55 lbs wet, carrying food for just two nights at a time since we’d be stopping back at the car mid trip. What I did have was three hammocks, three tarps and a three man tent. DSC03640aWell there were a few other things in there too 🙂 Since the tiny frying pan worked out so well on my solo trip I decided to bring a larger pan for family cooking. We fried up the hash browns with peppers and onions, then rolled it all into tortillas with fire roasted salsa. DSC03642aHere is a good view of our hammock village at the Long Pond Pines site. It rained hard for about 10 hours starting just before dark and continuing till a bit past dawn. In the night I shone my headlamp out and could see a big puddle where the tent is usually set up. DSC03646aDSC03650aDSC03654aDSC03662aDSC03666aDSC03674aThe second morning started off great with another fantastic breakfast. Then after the pack incident we changed our back country adventure into a car camping escapade. There was ice cream at Matagamon Camps, swimming at South Branch and more bugs. Not a lot of pics though. I was too busy having fun with the girls and the camera never seemed to be handy. DSC03689aDid get a few nice sunset pictures though. Would have been more but I was busy swatting bugs heh. June in Baxter is not for the timid, but we did have a great trip all the same. Once the bugs die down the crowds get thick and people are worse than bugs because you aren’t allowed to swat them 😉DSC03693aIt was neat to hang out in some of the same spots again so soon, but with family instead of solo. Either way is nice and has good points and bad. I appreciate getting out there whatever form it takes. Certainly less road walking when you take the car and more opportunities for ice cream!

Field Repair

Field Repair

That terrible moment when a piece of vital equipment fails is something you can’t really practice for. Still, it can happen at any time so you’d better be prepared to deal with it.  Your assets may include all the stuff in your pack, but your wits are the biggest thing you’ve got going for you. Depending on just how vital the equipment is or the circumstances which caused the failure there may be some adrenaline or emotional stress to deal with first. Cuss, cry or meditate as you think best, but taking a few minutes to get your head together can be a good idea before using it to figure out what to do next. First do no harm applies here. You don’t want to make the problem worse.

That fractured aluminum tube in the picture is the base of the frame from my backpack. After tearing down camp on the morning of day 3 of a family Baxter trip we were ready to get an early start heading to our next site. Throwing my pack on was the final thing to be done and when I tossed it up onto my back there was an odd snapping sound and I could feel the pack lose its shape, slumping off my shoulders. Can’t recall if there was any cussing, but there definitely was some adrenaline.  We were only about 3 miles from the nearest trailhead, but the Daddy Pack is key to moving the majority of the weight and a large part of the volume as far as the entire family gear load.

Thinking fast I implemented that all important step; mellow out. Rather than rush into some ill guided, frantic effort, I told the girls to take off their packs because I didn’t know how long we’d be. Then I sat down by the fire ring and did some pondering. Once I started I was surprised at how fast I went from freaking out to finding solutions. Needing a strut to stabilize the bottom of the pack I considered dismantling one of my hiking poles and using the bottom section. One look told me that it was too large to work very well so I was glad I didn’t rush into tearing apart the pole. Then I had another idea…

With the guyline attached this tarp stake made a darn fine splint. Using first aid skills I set the bone, err I mean I set the frame so it was lined up properly and then laid the stake across the two pieces. By wrapping the guyline around and around while looping it through the loops from the pack I was able to get a pretty solid connection despite the break being at such a difficult spot.Rather than hope the line would hold for the hike out I opted to keep going. Belt and suspenders can be a good idea sometimes 🙂 I didn’t want to risk the jagged frame cutting through the guyline if the fracture opened up on trail. I’ve carried this nice cloth tape for blister treatment and other first aid for years without using it once. Now I was glad I had it along because it made for a strong addition to my repair.

I was happy to feel the pack remain intact as I tossed it onto my back to test it out. Before I fully hooked it up I asked Frau Stranger to scope things out from behind and see if I was going to stab myself with the stake if I stood up.  She said things looked good back there and I figured she was talking about the pack so gave it a go. That repair may not look like much, but it held up just fine to get back to the car. The pictures were actually taken after we got home a few days later so it held up very well I’d say. We changed our plan to camp  closer to the car for the last few nights rather than risk heading into the back country, but I think it may have held up on trail for quite a while if necessary.

Like I said at the start, you can’t really practice for repairs because you never know what might break or how. What you can do is start thinking about what you carry that can be used for other purposes in an emergency. A repair kit that includes a needle and thread and some duct tape or other strong, waterproof tape can come in handy. Zip ties and spare pack buckles are also common additions. I don’t actually carry a dedicated repair kit, but my first aid kit includes scissors, needle, thread and tape. Like most things on trail, repairs are just another puzzle to be solved. That is why the best thing to have in your repair kit is your wits. Should you hear an ominous snap or tear on your next trip, and I really hope you don’t, remember to get your wits out first 🙂