Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hope everyone is enjoying the winter weather!  My foot is finally feeling more or less back to normal.  We'll return to the trails next week, after Alex and Sage finish their midterm exams (we homeschool, but each girl takes accredited classes through various online and in-person institutions).  We'll probably hike twice during the Christmas holidays, then the girls will concentrate on skiing for a month or so.  In mid-February, assuming I remain uninjured, we'll get back to hiking once a week.

In the meantime, I'm almost finished documenting our John Muir Trail adventure (click here).

Many have asked if we're thru-hiking anything next year.  As of now, we plan to hike all the trails on our Terrifying 25 list, then head to Idaho to take on highpoint #45, Borah Peak.  We also have travel plans for the summer which are not hiking related.  We therefore probably won't be able to thru-hike a long-distance trail during 2015...there won't be enough time to fit everything in...though we will continue our fundraising-for-charities tradition using the Terrifying 25.  Stay tuned for more details.

I'll be back with a trip report next week.  Stay warm, folks!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adams 5 -- Alex's Final Hike of Trailwrights 72 - November 11, 2014

First, I want to say how grateful I am to the Trailwrights 72 Summits Club for the creation of the Trailwrights list -- and for the requirement of trailwork.  This hike marked the end of Alex's quest for the 72 peaks, but she won't be an official part of Trailwrights until she completes her 72 hours of water bar clearing, stone step building, brushing, and/or other trail maintenance tasks.  Sage will join her sister for that trail work, and Sage will probably finish the Trailwrights list herself over the next few years (she accompanied me and Alex on so many of these hikes that she now has only 16 peaks to go).

We loved this list.  LOVED it.  We learned so much during our bushwhacks, and we saw so many beautiful summits and vistas during all four of New Hampshire's wild seasons.  It's been six years and five months since Alex first set foot on her first NH4K summit...Tecumseh in 2008...which, though we didn't know it at the time, also became her first Trailwrights peak.  She's now eleven, which means she's been hiking this list for over half her life.

Second, I want to thank Sage for coming with us on most of these hikes.  She and Alex have long since surpassed me in speed and strength, and there will all too soon come a day when they will hit the trails on their own, without their old, slow mom.  It hasn't been "Trish and Alex" or "Trish and Sage" for at least a year...instead, it's been "Alex and Sage...with their mom trailing behind."

Third, I want to thank Hugh for understanding that we needed to grab this peak without him.  This was the first time he did not accompany us for a list finish.  He understood we needed to get this peak when we had a good weather window, and on a day the girls didn't have any classes or extracurricular activities.  Last Tuesday was warm for this time of year, and the trails weren't yet filled with snow, and the wind speeds were manageable...and the girls didn't have set-in-stone classes...so we grabbed the opportunity.  Unfortunately, Hugh was in Las Vegas.  He will celebrate with us tomorrow night, though, with a nice dinner at one of the kids' favorite restaurants.  Hugh also trusted me enough to know that I would turn back if I didn't think my foot could handle the excursion.  As always, I am grateful for his faith in me when it comes to all things concerning the girls.

Last but not least, I'm grateful my foot was healthy enough to manage this hike.  I stepped in a leaf-covered hole coming down Sam Adams last month and have had difficulty walking on my right foot ever since.  Nothing is fractured or torn, it's all just plain sore.  For this hike, I wrapped that foot six ways to Sunday and wedged it into a Sorel.  The girls and I carried overnight gear and deliberately took a route that led us past two shelters, just in case.  I also had a way to contact Hugh, and I know some locals who would have swooped in and retrieved the girls if necessary.  However, I hiked just fine...slowly, at a pace of a mile an hour...but fine.  Now that the hike is over, I'm going to stay off my feet as much as possible until everything is 100% recovered.

Now -- on to the report --

Lowe's Path, Randolph Path, Israel Ridge Trail, Gulfside, rockwhack.
Around ten miles out-and-back with about 3800 feet of elevation gain (note, will double-check that elevation gain tomorrow, on Friday).

We arrived at Lowe's Store off Route 2 at 5:45 am.  No one was there, so I stuck a rolled-up note with parking payment inside the door.  The girls and I crossed the road and reached the trailhead at 6:00 am.

There was just enough light to render headlamps useless, so we saved our batteries and headed into the dim woods.

I was pleased to find that walking on dirt and uneven ground was easier for me than walking on flat pavement.  I had told Hugh that I'd know within the first two miles whether or not I would be able to make it to the summit and back.  The hike was going much easier than I had anticipated, though I had to move more slowly than usual.  I was also happy to see that the trail was relatively snow-free all the way to Log Cabin.

We stopped at Log Cabin so I could do an honest assessment of my foot.  It wasn't hurting, but I still took it extremely slowly and cautiously.  Up we went, turning onto Randolph Path 0.3 miles from Log Cabin.

The snow cover increased, but the depth was never more than an inch and a half or so.  The day was warm, so the snow was soft and offered grip -- we carried microspikes, but never felt the need to wear them.

By the time we neared The Perch (which you can see in an enlarged version of the photo below, center right), my foot was feeling normal and, for the first time, I felt like we were going to make the summit (the girls were mentally prepared to bail, since I had repeatedly told them I'd probably turn us around before treeline).

Up we continued, on Randolph Path, toward treeline.

Taking an eggnog break...

Up up up...

The wind was fierce, but the temperatures were warm and the girls were prepared to crawl if needed.  We layered up and made our way toward Israel Ridge Trail.  Crawling never became necessary, though we did have to lean in quite a bit and grip the sides of boulders from time to time.

Quick photo while taking shelter behind a large cairn.

After we rounded the corner and started heading up Israel Ridge Trail, the wind significantly died down.  It still made its presence known now and then, but we had no trouble walking normally or communicating with one another.

Looking toward Jefferson's Castles...

...and toward Jefferson's summit.

The girls take a break and wait for their mom....

Nearing the intersection with Gulfside, Adams in the background and the side of Sam Adams ahead and to our left.

There are a couple of bumps off Gulfside, and we're not sure which is the official summit of Adams 5 (both have cairns on the top) -- so here's Alex on the northern-most bump.

We climbed the short distance down, then walked along Gulfside to the bump nearest Edmands Col.

This bump seems higher than the other bump, and the cairn is larger, and the views are better...so this is where we officially celebrated and ate Alex's summit cake.  I'm not sure which is the official summit though, so if you are working on Trailwrights, then you may as well climb both bumps for good measure.

Looking at Jefferson...

...and Washington...

We lounged for a while, enjoying the sun and the views, and then, at 11:45am, I insisted we descend.  I knew it would probably take me a while to get down, since I wanted to be extra-careful with my foot.  We said adios to the gorgeous peaks and headed for the trees.

The girls were so patient with me!  I went soooo slowly, taking great care.  Everything was fine and dandy until we reached Log Cabin, and then my foot began letting me know it had not appreciated our adventure.  I rested a bit at the shelter, then I picked myself up and we continued, the girls cheering me on.  We made it back to the trailhead at 3pm.

It was a wonderful finish to a wonderful list.

Mt foot, though it hurt like mad that evening, felt 98% better the next morning.  [I never would have attempted this summit had I fractured something or torn a ligament on the Sam Adams hike -- I had X-rays and MRIs last week...my doc told me I'd just banged up the tissue a bit and that I could hike with the foot wrapped...so hike I did.]  Today, I'm walking without much of a limp.  Still, we'll wait another few weeks before our next hike.

Good times.  Love these mountains, love these trails, love these two girls for putting up with me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alex's Last Trailwrights Peak...

...will have to wait another couple of weeks.

During the descent of our Sam Adams/Adams 5 hike, I stepped in a leaf-covered hole about a mile from the parking lot.  I kept walking before my brain registered my misstep and -- snap! -- I tore something (I think) between my toes and my metatarsals.  The injury hurt like mad at the time, but I didn't think too much of it because, as a hiker, I'm always getting bumps and bruises.  The pain was bearable as we hiked out.  In the immediate days that followed, the girls and I lived our lives as usual.  We did trail work with the Trailwrights organization, I ran the kids to and from their activities, and I acted as though the pain in my foot was a minor issue that would quickly clear up.

Unfortunately, the pain got worse.  Last week, I could barely walk at all.  X-rays show no fractures, and I'm now waiting for my MRI appointment.  The doctors predict it's simply a sprain of some kind, and that I'll be back on the trails in two or three weeks.  The issue is the joint between the 3rd phalanx and the 3rd metatarsal...the center of my foot at that specific point feels like someone's whacking it with a hammer.  The only immediate solution is to stay off it as much as possible.  Still, the doctors are optimistic I'll be fine and ready for the mountains after a few weeks of rest.

So...Alex and I have only one more Trailwrights peak to go.  It'll be either Sam Adams or Adams 5 -- since we got both of them on our last hike, we can choose which one we'd like to revisit for the final summit.  Alex prefers to reascend Adams 5, but, now that winter is soon here, weather, wind speed, and trail conditions will determine our final peak.  We're no stranger to cold weather/icy hiking, but we'll go whichever route is safest on whatever particular day we're able to next get out there.

In the meantime, I'm slowly but surely publishing entries on our JMT blog.  The girls' academic schedule is keeping us insanely busy, so the entries aren't getting posted as often as I'd like...but they are getting posted, one or two a week.

I'll post another entry on this blog once the MRI results are back and I can say, definitively, how long it will be before we can resume hiking.  Alex, of course, can finish the list anytime she wants by going with someone else.  I've told her I wouldn't mind if she wanted to go on and get it done.  She doesn't have to wait for me.  However, she and Sage insist we will do this as a team, together.  That's sweet of them and honorable of Alex...Alex is aware she'll probably be the youngest person to ever finish this list -- though that kind of thing is never the motivation for anything we do, Alex does enjoy the status when it occurs organically, as it is with this list and as it did for the winter 4Ks.  Having only one more to go makes her a bit antsy, but she insists on waiting for me.

I'll post again after I've had the MRI.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Trail work with Trailwrights. Artists Bluff/Bald Mountain Loop. Oct. 18, 2014

The girls are old enough now to do serious trail work.  They've always been old enough to help clear water bars, but I haven't signed them up for anything formal before this year because I wanted them to be old enough and strong enough to help put in rock steps, saw large trunks, etc.

Now, they're both capable of doing almost all the things adults can do when it comes to maintaining a trail.  We therefore joined Trailwrights for their annual fall clean-up day on the Bald Mountain/Artists' Bluff Loop.

We thought we were going to do some rock work, but the trail needed water bar work more than anything else.  The entire crew therefore took to clearing out leaves and creating better trenches.

It was a fun few hours.  We enjoyed talking to Hal and Peggy, the two creators of the Trailwrights 72 Club, and we loved sharing time and conversing with everyone else.  We look forward to continuing trail work with Trailwrights in the spring.  Good times.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sam Adams (TW72) and Adams 5 (TW72). October 14, 2014

The girls have been swamped with schoolwork and extracurricular activities ever since we got back from the John Muir Trail.  Today, however, we could hike!!

Alex visited both the peaks she needed to finish the Trailwrights 72 list, since the two peaks were only a few tenths of a mile apart.  Of course, she can only count one of them for today's hike, since the TW72 requires you only count one peak per hike.  She's choosing to count Samuel Adams for today.  We'll finish on Adams 5 before the end of the month (weather and schoolwork permitting!).

We went up The Link, Amphibrach, and Spur Trail, then we "rockwhacked" up to Sam Adams.  We rock-hopped from there to Gulfside Trail, then we went over and got Adams 5 (and its neighboring bump).  We descended via Israel Ridge Path, Gray Knob Path, Hincks Trail, Amphibrach, and Link.  All of this put together was about 11.5 miles with around 4200 feet of elevation gain.

Appalachia, around 7:15am.

Starting on The Link...

Hmmm...a set-up for sap collecting..?

Memorial Bridge...

I have no photos of Amphibrach...it was a mellow walk in the woods, with easy to moderate grades.

Reaching Spur Trail...

Chandler Fall...

Heading toward Crag Camp...

Viewpoint by Lower Crag...

Up, nearing Crag Camp...

View from Crag Camp...

I took this photo with my cell phone.
Continuing on Spur Trail, past Crag Camp and toward treeline.

Stopping by Knight's Castle...

On Knight's Castle, looking down at Crag Camp

Sage on Knight's Castle

The girls on Knight's Castle

Onward and upward...

Mt Madison in the distance, with JQ Adams peaking up to the right of it

Mt. Madison on the left, JQ Adams in the center

We stopped at the intersection with Lowe's Path and admired the views.

The summit of Sam Adams from the intersection
of Spur Trail and Lowe's Path
Looking down toward Mt. Abigail Adams

From the intersection, we rock-hopped to the summit of Sam Adams.

Mt. Washington can be seen as you near the top of Sam Adams.

Turning back to look northeast

Reaching the summit of Sam Adams, looking at
Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson

Alex and Sage on the summit of Sam Adams

Looking north, toward Mt. Abigail Adams

Summit pin

Alex taking a photo of the steel pin

Mt. Washington from the summit of Sam Adams

Alex and I have one more Trailwrights peak to hike -- Adams 5.  Though we can only count one peak per hike, we wanted to go stand on Adams 5 today anyway.  This way, when we come back and officially do it for the finish, we'll know exactly where it is (it's not marked on the maps).

We're pretty sure one of those two bumps in the photo below is the summit of Adams 5.  We rock-hopped along the southwest parts of Sam Adams until we reached the Israel Ridge Path/Gulfside Trail intersection (we were careful not to step on the fragile alpine vegetation).  We then made our way up both bumps.

The day was gorgeous and we had plenty of time, so we sat for a while and examined the map. One of the many good things about hiking the northern Presidentials is that there are plenty of trail options.  We had a few possibilities for descent -- the trails intersect each other on the north side of the range, so we could descend from where we were and still make it back to Appalachia.  We therefore decided to go down the new-to-us Israel Ridge Trail, then take the Gray Knob Trail and Hincks Trail to put us back on the Spur Trail.

We had a nice view of Jefferson's Castles as we descended the upper portion of Israel Ridge Trail.

Gray Knob Trail...

We made it down in good time.  What a gorgeous day -- and congrats to Alex, who has only one more Trailwrights peak to go!