Shortish video shot on a three day Pemi visit. Sun, snow and a bit of cold.
Spent a few days in the less populated eastern side of the wilderness before hitting the popular high ridges of the traditional loop. Perfect weather made for some great views!
A few pics from a fun little adventure that turned into a bit more excitement than anyone could have imagined 🙂Frau 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!We stopped to admire the new fence along the Eastside Trail and the views on the other side.The river has undermined this whole bank for quite a distance now. It goes where it wants and the trail will have to move eventually.This 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.This 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.Just 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.I 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 🙂Our 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!
No music this time. Just the natural sounds of… ummmmm… Nature!
A 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.I 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.With 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.Can’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.The 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.I 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.The 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.The 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 🙂Hiding 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.Now 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.I 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.I 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 🙂Morning 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!Slowly 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.I 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.Oh 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.Then 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.Totally 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 😉Just 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.A 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.I’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!
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.
The 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.The 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.Overgrowth 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.Looking 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.Some 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.Breaking 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.Of 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!Of 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.Plenty of time to worry about that later. Looking back the other way seemed less ominous and darn pretty as well.It 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. Then 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.The 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.There 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.From 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.Today’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.The 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.The sunset view from my site was partially blocked by trees, but the color coming through was great.I 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.I 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.Not sure what this pole was doing here, but if anyone needed a spare they were in luck.Looking back where I’d come from I could see yesterday’s peaks below me now. You can also spot an early season black fly 🙂Squeezing 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.Breaking 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.Mt 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.This 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.The 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.I 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.Once 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.Despite 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.Of 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.Soon 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.Then 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.Down 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.The 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.Just 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!After 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.This 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.Thankfully 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.With 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.The Franconia Brook was flowing much stronger than on my last trip where I’d sat in the middle of the mostly dry river bed.I 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. They soon did and I spent a leisurely afternoon in my hammock listening to the rain on my tarp.The 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.In 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.I 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!There 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.The ponds were looking much better too though I think they need another year to really get back to normal.The biggest one looked less scummy than last year but I think it could use another foot or so of water in there.It 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.All 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!
Put this together from stuff I shot on the late April Pemi trip. No music on this one, just the natural sound of water. Turn up the sound and enjoy!