Four Days on the Cohos Trail

35 pics and some excited babbling from a four day section hike of the Cohos from the Canadian border to Coleman State Park. Had hoped this would be a thru hike but concerns about my sleep insulation sent me home to swap out some gear. I’m heading back to do another section in a few days heh.
No passport required.ย 
I’d made arrangements to park the scoot at the Stark Village Inn and for a ride to the border. It was after 1pm by the time I put my pack on and headed into the no man’s land between US and Canadian customs booths. The CT starts with a lollipop loop around Fourth Connecticut Lake that starts and ends with a walk literally along the border.
The lake loop was soon completed and I was headed back to where I’d started. I’d seen the sign for my next bit of trail on the way in and despite the late start felt good about having dinner on time.
Kayaks on the Third Connecticut Lake shore.
The trail from the border towards Deer Mountain was not heavily used, but easily followed. I passed by Third Connecticut Lake where I found a few kayaks parked. Never saw the owners though. The lightly used trail joined up with a snowmobile trail that eventually became more of a road. Being interested in getting to camp I passed by the trail up to Deer Mtn withoutย  notice, though I’d already decided I wasn’t going to make the effort.
I’d made a reservation at the state park not because I thought it would be full, but because I wanted a spot that would work for my hammock. My guess was correct that site 17 had what I was looking for heh.
Dinner was served, neighbor was chatted and sunset enjoyed. The next day was going to be a race against the weather, trying to reach a shelter about 8 miles away before the expected rain hit. Early to bed…
Day two started out with a wide open road that became grassy and eventually well grown over. Somewhere along the way I missed the turn to Upper Blackcat and ended up on the highway. I followed that from the East Inlet intersection down to the West Inlet intersection where I was easily able to pick up the trail properly. This was the only time I actually lost the trail for the whole section though there were a few doubts at times heh.
Second Connecticut Lake
When I reached the dam at the bottom of Second Connecticut Lake the water level had been brought way down. The sky was what I was watching though and it was a great motivator.
I followed the Falls in the River Trail south from the dam and with the gate open there was a nice noisy flow. I ran into a few day hikers around the falls, but didn’t stay long to chat.
The CT passes through private lands in many areas and that means running into sections that have had trees harvested at various times in the past. This section was cut a year or two ago and trail maintainers have artfully painted a series of blazes to get you through. Challenging at times, but totally doable thanks to their efforts. That is my last picture from day two because feeling the rain getting closer was keeping my focus on speed. Once I cleared the cut area and was back on trail I flew through Moose Alley and on towards the Bog Board section. I was on the boards when the rain started and I was almost running the last mile or two to reach Tillotson Hut. Once there I did a quick recon of the possible local water source to find a few puddles but no flowing water. As the rain picked up I thought I might just collect from the shelter roof. When I looked again after a few hours there was a nice stream to collect from in the gully. Near dark I thought I was hearing strange sounds in the forest and at one point felt something thump the shelter. I was curled up under my quilt keeping warm when suddenly a man in a raincoat walked past the open front of the shelter. I didn’t get his name because I was so surprised, but he’d come out in the rain to tend to the latrine! The Cohos may not be famous yet, but they really do try hard to take care of their hikers ๐Ÿ™‚
Day three was also expected to rain on me so I hit the trail early to get in some miles. The top of Covell Mtn had a bit of a view, but the giant blow down was hard to stop looking at. Amazing how that tree stood there for so long with so little dirt to work with.
The rains were kind enough to hold off for a while. I eventually broke out of the forest onto an old road that led towards the highway again. This crossing held the joys of the Happy Corner Cafe and Young’s Store. Despite my protests at being too dirty and smelly the folks at the cafe let me sit at a table and eat heh. I had lunch and ordered a second meal wrapped up to go for dinner.
This signboard outside Young’s Store was the start of a section that had few if any blazes for the most part. Some corners were marked, but long stretches of road or snowmobile trail were unblazed.
Following the map and guidebook instructions kept me headed in the right direction, but attention was required to maintain confidence. As the sky darkened with the approaching storm I admit I checked my GPS once to be certain that I was where I thought I was along the Lake Francis Trail. I made camp for the night near the lake with my tarp set at what I hoped was the right angle to take on the storm. The first big blast hit just before dark. The windward side of the tarp was perfect, but the lee side barely survived as the foot end caught too much air. When it seemed to have passed I messaged my wife that all was well and dozed off…only to be awoken around 9pm by another huge blast of wind moving through heh. It popped one of the lee stakes and then another as I held on to the tarp looking for the first one. After managing to get both back in the ground securely I took the end of my whoopie sling and tied it to the corner of the tarp. That took some of the load off of that stake when the gusts hit and I was able to ride out the rest of the storm in my sleep.
After a night of wind and waves the morning was shockingly quiet. Noise had become the norm at some point and now it seemed strangely absent. I had cold french fries and a cheese stick for breakfast, laughing about it being the hiking man’s poutine, but it actually was pretty good.
Then it was time to take on the 20+ miles of road walk to reach Coleman State Park. A new route that heads more directly through the forest is planned and may be blazed next year, but for now, this is the route. It was almost all forest roads and ATV trail with only a few paved sections.
A big highlight of the day was the snack bar at Grandview. If they had been open it would have been nice I’m sure, but being alone there with the view was fine by me. I broke out the cheese and sausage for a late lunch.
A couple on ATVs did pull in for a few minutes, take some pics and then head back the way they’d come from. It must be very different during the season with a bunch of those things ripping around. I did encounter a few ATV trains during the day, but they were easy to hear coming so I had plenty of time to get out of the way. Thankfully none caught me in areas with giant mud puddles ๐Ÿ™‚
Then the trail branched off onto a farm path and the next few miles were very peaceful indeed.
After two days of rain it was wonderful to be soaking up the sun. Walking through farmland was reminiscent of my youth, but we didn’t have mountains on the horizon like this.
A horse…some cows….
Even some people! I ran into these two nice ladies working on a NOBO section hike that would complete their hike of the entire trail. After walking all day without seeing any footprints I’d been starting to think the road walk was a cruel joke I’d fallen for. Seeing them doing it too made me feel better heh.
Someone had piped this water along the road, but I couldn’t tell if it was just a gravity feed from the ditch or an actual spring. Given the rubbish scattered about I took the time to filter it, but appreciated the easy way of filling my water bag. From here I ground out the final miles to Coleman State Park where I threw myself in the shower before making either camp or dinner. I wanted some time to get dried off before it got dark and was glad I’d kept moving all day. I’d made it from Lake Francis to Coleman in about 9 hours including breaks. A good dinner in my belly and I was ready for bed. Well some chocolate and then some snacks too, but then bed. Seems the Hunger was starting to appear after four days ๐Ÿ™‚
The night was an odd one…first the neighbor’s camper seemed to be configured to kick on the generator every few hours which is not only against the rules, but really annoying! Then it started to rain unexpectedly, at least to me. Each time the generator woke me up I was surprised to hear it still raining. In the morning I checked the forecast via satellite and the numbers worried me. I’d been borderline cold at night several times on this trip and something about being cold and wet in the mountains made me nervous. Something clicked and I decided to pull the plug here rather than keep going.
Looking back now I’m not sure why that seemed like such a clear choice, but I had to respect the feeling. I knew if I was dying later I’d feel pretty silly for not listening to this hunch heh. So I wentย  home, took the girls to the fair, road the Ferris wheel and bumper cars with my daughter and will head back to Coleman to pick up the trail in a few days. Maybe something bad was going to happen out there, maybe I was just meant to go to the fair and have fun with my family, but no matter what any fortune cookie says, I think I did what I was supposed to do even if I don’t know why.
Actual fortune received at dinner the night I came home. I laughed, I cried, I made my plan to get back out there!
So far my time on the Cohos has been amazing. The trail has a wonderful feel to it and the bright yellow blazes and signage have become familiar and friendly. The folks I met along the way, hikers and locals, were also notably friendly. I have some video I shot on this first section that I’ll be putting together later, but hopefully the pics have given you some idea of how pretty the far northern reaches of New Hampshire can be. Honestly though, I think a person has to walk through these forests to really appreciate the peace and beauty found there. I know I can’t wait to get back!

Notes From the Field or Existential Crisis Averted Day 4

DSC04105a

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 eatingโ€ฝ

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…

 

Revenge of the Mama – Mt Mansfield + Bonus Lake Carmi

Revenge of the Mama – Mt Mansfield + Bonus Lake Carmi

48 pics and the story of The Mama’s triumphant return to Mt Mansfield and this year’s annual “marinara in the wilderness” location: Lake Carmi State ParkDSC03916aLast year’s failed attempt to climb this mountain inspired us all to come back stronger next time. Diets were changed. Winter exercise increased. Then of course real life got in the way and it all fell apart the last month or so before the trip ๐Ÿ™‚ We didn’t let that or the weather daunt us. There had been some heavy rain the day we arrived and our day to climb started out feeling steamy, but thankfully cooler than the 90s of the days before.DSC03918aDSC03919aWe were stopping early and often per our plan of taking care of everyone’s needs before they became problems. No shortage of places to sit on this part of the trail, but the little one was ready to go.DSC03923aDSC03925aDSC03928aDSC03929aDSC03930aWe were definitely having a lot more fun this time! There were a few challenging bits for those with shorter legs, but we were moving right along.DSC03932aDefinitely looking much happier than the last time we were on this spot. I got a lot of great pics of The Mama with epic clouds behind her.DSC03934aDSC03935aDSC03936aStill a bit more to go. Just over this hump is where we ate lunch and turned around last year. Soon we’d be on unexplored trail which is always a bit more exciting.DSC03939aThen we hit the somewhat crowded summit where we tried to look cool about the whole being on top of mountain thing ๐Ÿ™‚ Pretty sure if there was no one else there itย  would have been a lot louder heh. We try to be good neighbors!DSC03941aDSC03943aDSC03946aThat happy face might be because she’s got her shoes off or maybe she is just glad we’ve finally reached this spot. Cheese and sausage might have something to do with it too.DSC03947aFrom the summit we could look down on the spot where we stopped last time and it seemed so close. The trail winds around the side to the left rather than coming straight up the cliff so the walk is much longer. Having done it I’m all the more sure that turning them around last time was a really good idea. Coming this much more would have made for a lot of suffering before we got back to camp.DSC03951aDSC03953aDSC03954aDSC03957aNot much suffering to be found this time around other than a healthy cloud of blackflies on the summit. A lot of people since it isn’t a long walk from the top of the toll road, but that motivated us to start our long walk back down.DSC03960aDSC03963aWe enjoyed the lean to quite a bit on this trip as it was far removed from the other campsites and the parking lot. Work to carry everything down to the camp, but worth it. We ate well and then made a fire mainly to make s’mores as it certainly wasn’t chilly. I invited Ranger Ira to come join us when his shift ended, more as a joke than anything since I assumed he’d want his dinner. We’d just wrapped up our toasting party and were about to put everything away when he wandered up. He decided that he’d have his dessert first that night and we had a blast swapping stories with him for a bit. Not sure we want to climb Mansfield again anytime soon, but we really enjoyed our two nights at Underhill again this year. It helped that they timed the downpours to happen when we were in camp!DSC03969aThen we were off to Lake Carmi State Park, almost to the Canadian border. This is a bustling campground with lots of people and lots of noise. Not our usual thing, but we wanted some place to chill out after the mountain climbing thing and if you ignored all the noise this was a beautiful spot. The LT was wet inside from the previous night’s storm so I put a tarp out front in case another came through. They positioned it for the view, not protection ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03971aDSC03978aThis place was definitely about the views! DSC03984aAnd the ducks!! No really, there were ducks everywhere. They’d wander through camp looking for scraps or handouts. There were signs saying not to feed them, but of course people do.DSC03994aDSC04003aDSC04009aYup, views and ducks pretty much all the way down.DSC04027aDSC04032aDSC04036aThe next day we headed out to explore the hiking trails near the park gate. We saw no one else out there and I think the gate ranger was a bit surprised when Frau Stranger asked about the trails. We covered most all of them except for a few short cut offs. First there was a huge meadow area that used to be a farm. Lots of birds and flowers. The trail was just a mown path that wound around the perimeter. DSC04039aThis old stone wall gave the trail its name, but not much of it remained. Guess it got tired of waiting around to fall ๐Ÿ˜‰DSC04042aNot sure if this is a snowmobile trail or what, but the mowing stopped here so we did too.DSC04043aDSC04044aDSC04047aDSC04049aDSC04051aAlmost back to the car I spotted the other trail option hiding behind a tree. We were glad we looked for it because it took us through the forest and down along the shore of the lake.DSC04052aDSC04056aDSC04061aThat fuzzy thing in the middle is a very large bird which appeared to be an eagle. It launched from a tree right over our heads as we came through and made a wonderful whooshing sound with its wings. It appeared to be fishing when I tried to take this shot, but autofocus thought I wanted a picture of the tree heh.DSC04063aThen the trail headed back away from the shore and through a fern filled glade.DSC04066aNo really, it was filled! With the sun coming through the trees it was really neat there. I’m used to seeing ferns like this early in the Summer, but not in August. DSC04068aAfter all of that walking there was some swimming and some relaxing. Just because we weren’t sleeping in the hammocks doesn’t mean we couldn’t hang them up.DSC04069aAnd of course there were more ducks. Lots more ducks!DSC04071aFinally it was time for the annual “marinara in the wilderness” which has been going on for a decade now. The pasta changes from year to year, this time I went with spinach and cheese tortellini. The sauce is always cooked fresh with shrimp carefully planned to survive in the cooler until the big event. We had a full grocery store just miles away this time so that part was easy this year compared to some.

This was a very successful trip on many levels. The mountain was climbed, marshmallows were toasted and shared, ducks were seen and shrimp eaten. Plans for another trip after this fell through so I’m especially glad we got a chance to enjoy this one so much. Alone or with others, I hope you’re getting out there because Summer is almost gone. Time for family trips is over which is sad, but Fall brings thoughts of solo adventures…

Daddy Daughter Pemi Trip or The One With the Giant Bear

A few pics from a fun little adventure that turned into a bit more excitement than anyone could have imagined ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03888aFrau 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!DSC03891aWe stopped to admire the new fence along the Eastside Trail and the views on the other side.DSC03892aThe river has undermined this whole bank for quite a distance now. It goes where it wants and the trail will have to move eventually.DSC03894aThis 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess it was the idea of camping in the woods as opposed to a defined campsite that made it different.DSC03896aThis 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.DSC03900aJust 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.DSC03902aI will admit we left a little bit of a trace ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03907aOur 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 headingย  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!

Bonds – South Twin – 13 Falls Loop July 2018

Bonds – South Twin – 13 Falls Loop July 2018

45 pics and some random thoughts from a New Hampshire trip last month. Random was the operative word on this one as I had no plan and stuck to it well.DSC03730aAs you can see from the mandatory picture while crossing the bridge over the East Branch of the Pemi there was water flowing better than the last couple of years, but still not a lot.DSC03731aSome beautiful greens to be found in the forest with Summer in its prime. The blend of birch and pine on the way up looked great in the sun.DSC03734aDSC03739aI found a spot below the cliffs where I could hang for the night out of sight of the trail. There had been talk of a front coming through but it seemed like a beautiful afternoon. Thankfully I noted the gathering clouds towards sunset and put up my tarp just in case. The downpour started around midnight and lasted for hours heh. I had to use my hiking pole to reach out and push collected water pockets a few times. I set up for a shower, not a downpour ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03745aMorning came a bit early considering I’d slept with one eye on the tarp for half the night. It was pretty though and I was soon on my way up.DSC03747aA quick hop up this fun little face and the rewards for all the effort start pouring in.DSC03749aDSC03752aDSC03758aDSC03760aDSC03761aDSC03766aDSC03767aDSC03770aDSC03772aJust before heading up to Bond Summit I met this guy out for a run. Turns out he was the AMC caretaker for Guyot site that night. He probably needed a break heh.DSC03773aDSC03778aDSC03787aUp at the summit you get a neat perspective on the cliffs. Beautiful on a nice day, but deadly in bad weather with all of that exposure.DSC03789aDSC03791aDSC03792aDSC03794aI played summit ambassador for a couple of hours as others passed through in a hurry. Most were working on completing the well known traverse that loops the Bonds with Franconia Ridge. I also met two nice ladies who were grabbing a few peaks for their lists. DSC03799aDSC03804aI headed down to find a spot at Guyot for the night and was overwhelmed by the crowd. Expecting a zoo I was still blown away by how noisy everyone seemed to be. While I’ve had some nice visits there in the past I need to remember to stay away during the busy season ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03805aAnother beauty of a day started with crossing the open slopes below the Guyot summit before heading over to South Twin.DSC03807aDSC03811aZoomed in view of Ethan Pond from the top of South Twin. A nice stretch of flat trail there, but you’ve got to cross a lot of rocky ground to get there from here.DSC03814aDSC03815aThis nice couple was from Spain as I recall. They were out doing a two week hike, just seeing how far they could get. Since they seemed nice I shared info on some camping spots they might enjoy later in the day.DSC03818aThese folks seemed like they needed attention so I stayed far away. The Whites in Summer have become a bit like a Fellini movie over the last few years; Entertaining or disquieting depending on the moment’s mood. DSC03820aDSC03823aEventually I decided to stop playing summit ambassador and head down the Twinway towards the AMC hut below. Previous trips have always gone the other direction and this “short” climb is one of my least favorite bits of trail. I was curious to see how going down worked out for me.DSC03825aDSC03828aDSC03830aDSC03833aThe boulders get bigger as you descend, but the entire section of trail is just a pile of rocks. Definitely a workout to keep gravity from taking over, but a lot easier going this way than going up.

I stopped at the hut to soak up water and rest on the porch for a while. Listening to stories from the thru hikers and chatting with some folks out day hiking was a nice way to pass the hottest part of the day. Then I headed down to 13 Falls to see about a site there. Upon finding out that they expected a large group to arrive I opted not to stay and headed down the Franconia Brook Trail to get out of the campsites protected area.DSC03835aDSC03837aAlong the way I met this woman of the forest who allowed me to take her picture. She laughed when I told her I wanted it because otherwise no one would believe me. Turns out she was the caretaker at 13 Falls and was transplanting some small trees to the site.DSC03838aDSC03841aI found this nice spot to hang for the night by chance. Watching the terrain I noticed where an old road branched off of the trailbed into the forest and followed it a ways. After a night at a busy campsite this was just what I needed. So peaceful!DSC03843aDSC03845aOnce more I had a beautiful morning for walking. I prefer to get my miles in early before things warm up on Summer trips. The flat trail sections just flew by. I’d packed light from the start and with the food mostly gone I had maybe 20lbs total which is like nothing by my standards heh.DSC03856aDSC03862aIt was nice to see the ponds were filling back up somewhat. Trips through here the last couple of years had me noticing they were drying up and plants were moving in. We’ve had a lot more rain since so I guess they’ll be fine ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03865aRather than spoil this lovely trip report I’ll save the story of an encounter I had on the trail out for another day because other than that this was indeed a lovely trip. I need to remember to avoid those campsites during prime season, but the woods certainly are a great place to be this time of year. Hope you’re getting out somewhere too!

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰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.ย  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.ย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.ย  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 campย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

7 Day Late Spring Solo Baxter Trip – June 2018

7 Day Late Spring Solo Baxter Trip – June 2018

78 pics and some random babbling from what turned out to be a pretty random toddle around parts of the northern end of Baxter State Park.DSC03236aI parked the scoot at Matagamon Wilderness Camps as usual. They keep the animals from chewing off my tires or nesting in my helmet, plus it gives me an excuse to have an ice cream cone at the end of the trip.

Weather was looking a bit gloomy but I didn’t get rained on during the ride or my walk to camp. Light shower hit just as I was pulling my tarp out and I was sheltered for the small random showers that passed during the afternoon and evening.DSC03240aThere was a pretty solid breeze blowing into the Long Pond Pines site as is often the case. It really helps knock the bugs back some. Being early June the black flies were thick, but recent warm rains had the mosquitoes well represented too. With the wind blowing it was possible to eat dinner without a net. Calmer nights on this trip found me eating carefully inside my hammock or tent to escape the onslaught.DSC03243aMy friend the beaver stopped by while making his rounds. There is a large mound on the far shore they call home, but they think of the entire pond as belonging to them. I was given a few tail slaps to let me know I was on notice before he moved on.

I actually fell asleep for a bit listening to light rain on the tarp. Thankfully I woke up and had dinner before night fell. It was breezy all night, but I slept pretty well. Woke up confused as heck in the morning as it seemed someone was shining a bright light under my tarp…it was dawn ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve had this happen before and it makes me go from fearful I’m under attack to laughing like a mad man in just a few seconds.DSC03245aIt was actually a very peaceful morning and I was in no hurry. My big plans for a 100 mile loop were crushed by heavy snow at Chimney Pond preventing the area from being open yet. Instead I had a week of relaxing days with short miles and pretty camps. Such suffering!DSC03247aThere was one of these to be dealt with though. Thankfully it didn’t growl or spit flames so I just said hi and took a few pics.DSC03256aThis one also seemed friendly enough. Considering they love to eat mosquitoes I definitely think of these guys as friends!!DSC03258aI had a few miles to my next camp, mostly through denser forests. These are some of the pines that give the camp site its name. The walk up this hill is always something I do slowly and take time to appreciate the trees and the views from higher up onto the esker. DSC03262aOnce I reached my new camp at the Middle Fowler South site I soon noticed my neighbors from across the pond out fishing in a canoe. Given the strong winds that blew relentlessly I’m guessing the fishing was not good.DSC03264aI’d never camped at this spot before though I had walked through it on a few other trips. It was more sheltered from the current winds so the bugs were thicker. Definitely a night for eating under a net or food would go flying with all the bug swatting heh.

DSC03265aThere were more showers during the night, but nothing of any consequence. I had the tarp low on one side to block the wind, but propped up in porch mode on the lee. That gave me this nice view without having to get out of bed.DSC03268aDSC03272aOne last look over Middle Fowler before heading back to Long Pond. Barrel Ridge is a possible target for a day hike on a family trip we have planned once school gets out. I’ve been most of the way up there but never all the way to the top.DSC03278aNot sure if this is the same guy I saw the first day, but he looks familiar. Still not growling ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03279aI brought along this 3P tent I am testing for two reasons: 1) It makes a great place to hide from the bugs 2) It is really light so can be carried as a second shelter without much effort. A great place to eat dinner when other things are trying to dine on you!DSC03283aThis woodpecker seemed to come and go regularly.ย  He never stopped on any one tree for long so it was a challenge to get him in pics.DSC03287aDSC03292aI made myself try a few casts even though I was pretty sure it was too windy. It was heh. DSC03293aThe loons didn’t seem to mind too much. They do their fishing under water so it doesn’t bother them. They put on a great show sometime in the middle of the night. I woke to the sound of big splashes right near my hammock. It was fish jumping out of the water to feed on bugs. Then the loons went off for about ten minutes straight. Hard to be mad at the fish after that.DSC03299aMorning was again an unrushed affair and I could get used to that sort of thing. Two cups of coffee and my first chance to try out the tiny frying pan. No eggs I’m sorry to say, but hash browns with red peppers came out pretty well. Going to need a larger pan for family trips though. Takes too long to make three single portions, but this worked well for a solo treat.DSC03301aThe beaver mound across the pond. Where I grew up beaver never seemed to build on shore but I see this frequently in ME and NH. Maybe different predators, not sure of the why.DSC03308aDSC03309aSome ducks came flying out of this wet area as I headed around Troutbrook Mountain towards the campground on the other side.DSC03312aDSC03314aThese were gone a few days later when I came back this way and there didn’t seem to be feathers all over so I’m hoping they fledged and headed up into the trees safely.DSC03315aI had this walk in lean to site right on the brook all to myself for my fourth night out. The bugs were terrible here as the area is more sheltered. The LT was also full of rodent poop which didn’t excite me much. Noticing a huge dead tree looming right over the site convinced me to take a chance on offending any wandering rangers and setting up my hammock.DSC03317aI found an amazing spot above the brook.I was setting up there when I realized I’d destroy a patch of wild flowers just barely hanging on to the hill if I camped in that spot so moved to a less pretty one. Figured I’d sleep better that way, but….DSC03321aThis spot really was sheltered. I guess that is why they put the big campground there. Something about the mountains or the lake, I dunno, but it was the only spot that didn’t have strong winds the entire week. Maybe breaking out my kite to give it a try was what killed the wind there, heh.DSC03327aIt was plenty warm, but the bugs drove me to light a smokey fire. It was really dry for the time of year so I kept it very small.DSC03330aDSC03339aI’m wearing all of those clothes to keep the bugs off, not because I am cold. So long as I was just hanging out I’d wear both of my insulating layers in camp with the hoods up. Nice not to have to wear the head net all the time.DSC03345aThen it was time for the six miles or so of Freezeout Trail that would lead me to my next camp. Lots of backed up dead water areas even with the dry Spring, though some that are usually wet were totally empty.DSC03350aThis big flat rock formation has trees that try to grow there. Once they get a little bigger the inability to put down deep roots dooms them to fall over.DSC03351aMakes a great spot for other stuff to grow though. Several types of mosses were doing their part to break the tree down.DSC03354aDSC03356aDSC03361aThe giant saw dust pile is hard to wrap the brain around. Many years ago there was a sawmill here that processed logs into lumber before floating the finished product off to market. The mill is long gone, but the saw dust fades more slowly. DSC03362aIt isย  hard to describe how strange this spot feels. The saw dust is spongy under foot and a person walks gently by instinct, making certain each step is supported before trusting it fully. Check out the video below to get another perspective on this spot.

DSC03363aThe turn off for the trail that leads to Frost Pond. That is actually the trail on the left, but you’d never guess that without the signs. Unfortunately those are the only signs at this intersection and it has been this way for years. There are no indicators for the other two directions so you’re on your own as far as navigation.DSC03364aThis is what the intersection looks like if you are headed in the other direction along the Freezeout Trail. Unless you happen to look over and notice the back of those signs poking out from behind that tree you’d never notice. The footpath provides no indication of the intersection at all. I know from experience that this can be a problem because we totally missed this turn on a previous trip.DSC03374aAhhh time to relax. I had a long afternoon to try some fishing on Webster Brook but again the winds were strong and the fish timid. I caught one good sized trout but opted to let him live. These “ducks” kept quacking at me so I was disappointed to come home and have Frau Stranger tell me that they are not ducks. She labeled them as Common Mergansers, but they seemed pretty special to me ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03382aDSC03388aDSC03392aDSC03397aDSC03405aDSC03413aDSC03414aIt was a very relaxing afternoon and evening. Along with many birds in the trees and on the water a beaver came swimming up stream near sunset.DSC03415aSince I had firewood collected in case I caught fish I decided to put it to good use. Baking some muffins is both relaxing and rewarding. The only hard part is trying not to lift the lid. DSC03416aToo early for fresh blueberries yet, but the ones in the mix smelled good enough I was worried I might start pulling in bears. Such a nice treat to have baked goods on day 5 of a trip.DSC03423aDay 6 started out cold. It was tempting to sleep in, but instead I jumped out and got a fire going. I almost never light fires, but I burned up my entire stash of fuel that morning. There was a bucket in the outhouse so I doused it well before I left you can be sure.DSC03427aFirst though it was time for another test of the tiny pan. Today it was pancakes with maple syrup.DSC03434aThe silicon muffin mold made a pretty good pancake plate. Just a squeeze of syrup and two quick bites. I had half a dozen or more that morning along with several cups of coffee. Living the dream!DSC03441aDSC03447aThen I moved a whopping half a mile to the NW Cove tent site. I’d walked through this spot many times on my way out to camps farther out. Just for the fun of it I booked a night here to see how it slept. On closer inspection it wasn’t much of a site.DSC03448aDSC03449aThis must be a very old outhouse as I haven’t seen this design in any other parts of the park. The roof was entirely covered in moss.DSC03451aLooks like the instructions weren’t specific enough for the last user. I’m guessing the paper was supposed to go inside the box, maybe?DSC03455aLooking back at where Webster Brook flows out into the lake. My previous camp was just around that far point to the left.DSC03458aDSC03459aDSC03462aDSC03463aDSC03469aI’d seen this eagle fly close overhead while I was in the trees the day before. When I saw him coming I raced to get my camera out and fired up but this was the only shot I was able to get off before he got out of view.DSC03483aDSC03495aDefinitely nice to have some place to get away from the bugs. I rigged the roof in case the weather changed but spent the entire night in bug house mode enjoying the views. DSC03523aDSC03527aThen I decided to start playing around with my camera. A few long exposures before bed, a few more in the middle of the night and then a couple more at dawn.DSC03528aDSC03529aDSC03556aDSC03564aDSC03571aDSC03573aDSC03589aDSC03597aDSC03607aThen it was time to fly. I burned through the first six miles in under two hours. Then another two hours had me back at the scoot eating ice cream. There was time for a few more pics along the way though.DSC03615aDSC03621aBefore I wrap this up I have to give a shout out to Mother Nature for all of the wildlife I saw on this trip. Yes there were lots of bugs, but so many other amazing sights. On day one I startled a snoozing moose on the Five Ponds Trail between Billfish and Long Ponds.ย  We were too close to think about a camera and I focused on keeping trees between us while it figured out what I was. That night’s camp had beaver, loons, gulls, woodpeckers, red winged blackbirds as did most of my camps throughout the week. Day 5 included a bear sighting on the Freezeout Trail and the bald eagle that flew over very low plus the Mergansers and some pretty but very fast tweety birds that I could only get blurry pictures of.

Oh and last but not least, there was one more animal out there. On the fourth night there was something stomping around breaking sticks that woke me up. I made noises to scare it off and that seemed to freak it out. There was rapid running and stomping which made me make more noise in defense. Then whatever it was ran right at and under me in my hammock with big stomping feet! I haven’t been scared like that in maybe ever and was thinking it might be time to start worrying. Then I finally managed to get a light on the great beast….a bunny! I laughed and fell instantly asleep so if it wasn’t just the bunny I saw I don’t want to know.

I had such fun on this trip that as soon as I got home I talked to the girls about our planned trip to NH when school gets out. It has been replaced with four nights at Baxter hehe. It is just such a beautiful place that lets you reserve privacy rather than hope for the best. I just need to find a bigger frying pan ๐Ÿ™‚