April Snowers

I’m usually one to urge folks to get out there, but today is a good day to be inside. Soon…

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!

Vasque Boot Box Review Published at Trailspace

Follow the link via the picture or the text below to check out a very special review published today at Trailspace. After a series of snow camping adventures this Winter where I put this box through its paces I felt ready to write the definitive review of this modern yet retro bit of gear. Check out the review for all the details, but suffice to say, this box rox!!

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/vasque/boot-box/?review=38669

Mountain Equipment Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee Review Posted on Trailspace

Spoiler alert: This thing and I became best friends this Winter. Check out the full review at Trailspace linked via the picture above or the text below.

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/mountain-equipment/eclipse-hooded-zip-tee/?review=38645

Look for another very special review coming out this Sunday! Well and a Spring Pemi snow trip report and then a snowshoe review, but you’ll definitely want to check out the one on Sunday 🙂

Two Nights on West Baldpate – March 2018

Two Nights on West Baldpate – March 2018

“It’s been a while, but lets see how this goes.” is a good theme for this trip and this post. Obligations at home and a Winter that seemed to have fears about commitment had left me unable to sneak away for more than a few hours at a time for quite a while. When things at home were conducive the weather would warm up to ruin the snow and bring rain. Finally given the chance to get out into actual snow I loaded up my sled and headed up one of my favorite mountains!

DSC02926aI didn’t have much time to work with so the plan was to set up camp for two nights near the MATC lean to on Friday in hopes of a clear summit at some point on Saturday. This was my first real world test of my sled. There were some issues to be found dragging gear up a mountain that didn’t occur during tests dragging my daughter around the golf course 🙂 Modifications have since been made and I look forward to more real world testing soon.DSC02928aFriday was definitely not the day to be on top of the mountain. Having been here many times before I knew which direction to point the camera for this shot. If not I would have had no clue there was a mountain there at all.DSC02929aI checked the tiny stream behind the lean to and while I could hear water way down below it was unreachable. Well at least by me, as I noticed the squirrels had kept little tunnels open so they could get to it. That is how I knew I was looking at about a foot of ice and then another foot or more of air before I’d reach that tiny trickle I could hear down there somewhere. That meant melting snow for water so rather than enjoying the afternoon quiet I got to work so I could have dinner before dark with all my bottles filled with warm water to get through the night.DSC02932aThe low was around 20°f with a few snow squalls during the night. I was using my big tarp configured for snow and wind. That let me enjoy the sounds of the weather out there while snuggled warm in my hammock.DSC02933aUsing the sled meant I could bring way too much crap and have a place out of the snow to keep it. After years of winter camping in a two man tent this is very different, but I am learning how to make it work for me. Not sure I’d enjoy it as much without the sled.DSC02934aThe climb to the summit after breakfast was treacherous with lots of hard ice flows buried under varying amounts of snow. The steeper sections were a bit gnarly but I was testing out some back country snow shoes with pretty aggressive toe traction so didn’t switch to spikes.DSC02938aI was pretty happy to be done climbing because it meant I could take off my pack and start taking pictures. I’d been trying to get up to this spot to take some winter pictures for the last several years but kept getting chased off by rain on my summit day every time. Lots of good camping but no summit pics.

I’ll just shut up for a while now and let you enjoy the pretty pictures. I shot about 100 pics while I was up there. The sun kept fighting through the clouds more and more changing the scene around me. I was pretty dang happy about it all!DSC02940aDSC02943aDSC02944aDSC02946aDSC02948aDSC02953aDSC02956aDSC02959aDSC02962aDSC02965aDSC02972aDSC02973aDSC02974aDSC02977aDSC02978aDSC02988aDSC02990aBy camping on the mountain and hitting the summit early I had it all to myself for quite a while. Once I started down shortly after noon I soon began to meet folks on their way up. After more than 24 hours of solitude it was nice to share the beauty with other folks but nicer to move on and return to the peace of being alone in the snow.DSC03012aThere was a lot of ice lurking under the recent snow. The warm melts combined with rain can create some beautiful but dangerous works of art.DSC03015aDSC03017aDSC03019aThese sort of works of art are a lot less dangerous. Well so long as you stop to enjoy the view rather than trying to stare at them too hard while falling off an ice cliff heh.DSC03022aSpeaking of stopping to enjoy the view…I was taking a much wider shot of some trees when I noticed this little bit of valley view hiding back there. I ended up liking this zoomed in shot more than the one I’d taken the camera out for.DSC03027aBack in camp the mountain was much easier to see now. It really isn’t far, but the climb is pretty steep so going up takes a lot longer than coming down.DSC03028aI was happy to be back in camp. I’d set up in the trees far enough away from the LT that the shelter mice didn’t seem to find me out there. Having camped here before I know there are some fearless rodents under that thing.DSC03032aI may have scared a few of them off by drying my feet and socks in the afternoon sun. It didn’t seem to bother the squirrels which were numerous and seemed to think I was in their house.DSC03033aA cup of potato soup is perfect in camp on a winter afternoon. To be honest though, I’m a fan of this soup and think it is pretty darn good for a summer trail lunch too!DSC03037aDSC03038aSunday morning dawned as my last day here usually does with the best weather of the trip. Suddenly the mountain could be seen clearly. Definitely the day to be going up and as usual, I was going down heh.Speaking of which there definitely was some going down on the descent. Seems my snowshoe testing is so thorough that I’ve discovered an issue no one else appears to have ever reported. If you’ve had a similar experience I’d love to hear about it in detail including specifics of the snowshoe, boot and conditions. When descending a slope with the sled and maneuvering around a tree on the right I managed to slip the tail of my left shoe through the toe of my right shoe. One time is a fluke, but I did this multiple times coming down this mountain.

This only happened under very specific circumstances for me and so far my research is coming up with nothing in terms of other folks having something like this happen with these or any other shoe. Post comments here or email lonestranger@lesstraveledby.net please and thanks if you have any experience with something like this. I’d like to hear if anyone else has ever seen this sort of thing under any circumstances.DSC03041aDSC03042aOther than a few tumbles caused by that odd snowshoe hook up issue it was a great day to be coming down the mountain. Lots of sunshine on the snow and the day hikers were getting a late start. In the parking lot I ran into enough folks to make it a crowd but not enough to take any fun out of the day. The day hikers seemed confused by my sled or perhaps concerned I had a body on there.DSC03043aDefinitely great to be out there for a few days. It has been a few weeks now and I’m ready for more. This is my sort of anger management!! Hope you are getting out where and when you can!

Spring Camping Weather

weekendforecast

The calendar may say the seasons have changed, but Nature follows a schedule of its own. I’ve talked before about how camping weather means different things to different people. Some only go when fair weather is forecast while others revel in the thought of heading out into a storm. I tend to go whenever I can and try to be prepared for whatever Nature has a mind to throw at me.

This weekend I’m taking another stab at a two night stay on the side of West Baldpate with a casual summit day in between. I tried this back in February and had to abort when the forecast changed mid-trip to include cold rain the third day for the hike back to the car. Rather than risk the traction issues or hypothermia it seemed a good idea to head home early though I did hate to be going down instead of up on such a pretty day.

This forecast actually looks more promising as it has shifted over the last few days from a sleet and freezing rain event on Friday to just snow. I’ll go prepared for both and hope it stays cold. Then after the front moves through and it gets cold I’ll start hoping it warms up.

Still debating what shelter to bring on this trip. Last time I went with the double walled winter tent which is huge, but great for camping in the snow. The mice at the Baldpate Shelter are quite active even in the cold so I opted  not to sleep in there. Listening to them scamper over my tent during the night I was glad I’d closed the screens on the vents. This time I’m thinking about going with a lighter pack and setting up my 1P tent inside the shelter to keep the mice off. Pretty sure there won’t be anyone else camping there given the forecast and I can set up the Hubba in the snow if I needed to in an emergency.

This will probably be my last chance to get out before Mud Season is upon us. Hopefully the weather allows for some nice summit views on one or both Baldpates and it clears up enough to see across the notch to Speck and Sunday River Whitecap, but I will be happy with what I get. With the wind it won’t likely be as quiet up there as last time. Still if the mice give me some peace it should be a great chance to celebrate Spring in the snow. Hope you are getting a chance to get out and celebrate in whatever weather the season is bringing you. Go prepared for worse and enjoy what comes!

February Baldpate Overnight

February Baldpate Overnight

25 pictures and a bit of babbling about a quick and fabulous winter adventure. It was supposed to be a two night trip with a lot more climbing, but changing weather forecast turned it into a short and relaxing trip instead.DSC00716a

This was my first cold weather trip to the Grafton Notch area. I’ve come up here many times over the last few years, but never with snow on the ground. The state park lot was sort of plowed and I parked along the edge imitating how others had parked. It was chilly but not cold, upper 30s-lower 40s I’d guess, so I loaded up and moved out to the highway crossing quickly so I could hit the trail.DSC00718aMercifully the trail was well broken out with only one set of postholes marring the way. I wasn’t sure what I’d find up there and wasn’t looking forward to wayfinding if I had to break trail. White blazes in the snow can pose a challenge and I know this section isn’t heavily blazed to begin with.DSC00722aInstead I was able to focus on enjoying the climb. It was a warm day for this time of year so I kept my pace leisurely to avoid getting too sweaty. That gave me plenty of time to take pics and marvel at the light on the snow filled birch stands.DSC00724aI did have to break out majority of the short trail up to the Baldpate Shelter as no one had made the effort recently. There was several feet of fluffy powder so it was good fun, but I’m glad I didn’t have to do the whole trail like that.DSC00729aWhile the Winter had been somewhat mild with rain and melting at times there had been a recent dump of snow a week or so prior to this trip. This campsite looked better to me covered in snow than it had on previous trips. It sees a lot of use during the other seasons but with a white blanket it looked pristine.DSC00731aThere are other reasons they build latrines up on high platforms, but making them stick out of the deep snow is a benefit. I had my shovel along if I needed to dig it out but the door opened easily enough.DSC00734aThe brook that acts as water source for the shelter was totally buried. No idea if there was flowing water or just ice down below but rather than dig to find out I opted to melt snow. Of course with the sunshine there was melt coming off the metal roof of the shelter so I collected what I could during the afternoon. I put my kettle in a spot catching two drips and my as yet clean garbage bag in a spot catching three. Managed to get over a liter this way which cut down on how much snow I had to melt.DSC00739aI had several hours of wonderful sunshine in the snow to enjoy with a dead calm the entire time. Weather like that made me wish my wife had been able to come along. I’d hate to put her through some of the stuff I endure, but this was pure pleasure.DSC00742aWith the sun dipping low the melt on the roof slowed quite a bit. Time to start melting some snow! The shelter clearing had a nice blanket of clean snow from the big storm. Often what looks clean is really layers of debris once you dig into it, but as I peeled off layers with my shovel I found almost nothing but snow. With the warm weather I had a canister stove and kettle instead of the usual white gas Whisperlite and a bigger pot. It worked well enough and since the trip was cut short the next day I didn’t have to worry about running out of fuel. With the warm weather I opted to run the final product through my filter rather than do an extended boil to purify it.DSC00754aStill not a puff of wind as the sun dipped into the trees. The quiet was overwhelming whenever I stopped to notice it. As night fell I heard what sounded like a coyote sound off twice and then again a bit later. After dark as I lay reading in my tent I heard a tree crash somewhere. With the quiet it was hard to tell just how far off it was, but it was probably a lot louder up close!

The best part of the night were the times I needed to step out of the tent. The first time I stood up I almost fell over when I saw the star filled sky. At elevation in the cold the sky is beyond anything you can imagine if you’ve never seen it. I seem to recall the words “Holy $%^#% @#^^&!” coming out of my mouth unbidden. The other times I got up it was still amazing, but even now I can remember just how blown away I was that first time.DSC00758aMorning dawned mostly clear which might seem good, but worried me because that was not the forecast. I’d expected some clouds with rain late in the afternoon. Seemed like a good time to fire up the inReach and get a new forecast. Sure enough things had changed. Today was going to be nicer, but the following day they expected rain early and often. Part of me kept staring at the mountain wanting to hit the peaks, but the smarter part kept pointing out that would mean going down in the rain the next day.DSC00761aIt really would have been a great morning to hit one or both summits and even when I left camp I wasn’t sure the less smart part of me would turn left instead of right when I got back to the AT.DSC00765aSince plans had changed I now was in no hurry to leave camp. It was still very calm where I was, but the clouds up above were flying past at a good clip. I spent some time making movie clips which went into the video I posted a few weeks back.DSC00770aThe morning light up there was amazing. Another good excuse to take too many pics. The total for the two day trip was 101 shots 🙂 Having grown up on film cameras I love the ability in the digital age to shoot without worrying about expense. Now that memory has gotten so cheap I don’t worry about storage space either.DSC00772aDSC00773aDSC00775aDSC00776aIt was a great morning for sunlight on trees. The pictures do little to capture what I could see. Perhaps more skilled photographers could bring it out better, but these are good enough to at least remind me of how beautiful these two days in the snow were.DSC00780aI did manage to turn left and started my descent back to the highway on the AT. On the way up I did my best to clean up the postholes of the guy I was following up. Now on the way down I worked on his descending postholes. Near the road I met a guy going up in just spikes and realized that my efforts were probably pointless. DSC00790aNo time to be grumpy about postholes when you’ve got a sunny morning to enjoy. Sun on birches is always nice, but in the snow with good morning light you can’t help but feel happy to be there.DSC00792aSun through the pines is pretty darn nice too! It was such a great day I was a bit bummed I wasn’t hitting the peaks, but it was too nice to be grumpy about it.DSC00795aWhen the leaves are on the trees this route has very few views until you get to the top. This time of year there were chances to glimpse peaks in various directions at times.DSC00799aPretty certain I stop and take pictures of Hedgehog Hill every time I pass through this spot. I know I did in both directions this time. Just something about the perspective looking through the stand of dead birch trees.DSC00806aBit of the Mahoosucs poking through the trees. Think that is Old Speck on the left side but hard to tell with those pretty birches in the way.DSC00809aI was totally overheating by this point even though I was going downhill. I was down to my lightest base layer, but should have been in a tank top heh. Warm weather in Winter is really hard to adjust to after you’ve gotten used to really cold stuff. Once I got back to the car I stripped down and put on dry stuff. Then I broke out the sausage and cheese for a lunch feast before heading home.

Hope you folks enjoyed the pics. Sadly there have not been many trips in the snow this year. With the little one starting kindergarten and my wife very busy with her work I’ve been needed at home a bit more. If you aren’t getting your Nature fix from my posts perhaps you’ll be more motivated to get out there and see it for yourself! Things should pick up for me once the snow melts and I can get the scoot back on the road. Also starting to hear rumbles from a buddy about tag teaming the LT this Fall so it will be time for me to start riding that merry-go-round again soon 🙂