Friday, August 1, 2014

John Muir Trail!

If you haven't done so already, please donate to Feeding America!  We are so close to reaching our goal!

We are now off to California!  From now until September, we will post on our JMT blog and my Facebook page.

Please note that most of the updates between now and September will be posted on the Facebook page.  A detailed, day-by-day account of our adventures on the John Muir Trail will be posted on our JMT blog when we return from California.  Due to the relative lack of internet connection on the JMT, I will not be able to post an update each and every day as I was able to do last year on the Camino.  I do promise a thorough account of our John Muir Trail travels, but it will have to be told in September, after we're back in New Hampshire.

Have a wonderful August!

JMT Training: Peaks 21, 22, and 23 of 21: South Twin, Southwest Twin (Trailwrights!), and Galehead

Hooray!  We were able to get Southwest Twin!

Gale River Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, Twinway, bushwhack.  About 15 miles with around 4000 feet of elevation gain.

I don't have photos of our trip up Gale River Trail.  This report focuses on Southwest Twin -- for photos of the standard trip to Galehead and/or South Twin via Gale River Trail, Garfield Trail, and Twinway, please click hereor do a quick google search for other folks' reports.  Except for our "start photo" (below), our pictures begin near the summit of South Twin.

We woke at 3:50 am and were on the trail at 5:30am.

We quickly hiked up to Galehead Hut.  We arrived at 7:40 and didn't linger.  After filling our water bottles and using the bathroom, we tackled the steep climb to South Twin.

Near the summit of South Twin, we looked back down toward Galehead Hut, Mt. Galehead, Mt. Garfield, and Franconia Ridge.

We took a break on South Twin's summit and ate our Desserts on the 48 snack -- Strawberry Twizzlers.

We'd hiked fairly quickly with barely any breakfast in us, so we took some time to hydrate and fuel.  The girls admired the views while eating almonds and, of course, Twizzlers.

The morning was clear and the views spectacular --

From the summit of South Twin, we could see our target peak...and the two bumps to avoid.  In the photo below, there are three bumps in a row, just over the close-up vegetation.  Southwest Twin is the summit on the right.  The middle bump and the left bump are between a portion of the  Twinway and Southwest Twin.  Philip Werner's October 2013 trip report and Bernie C.'s October 2012 trail conditions report advise staying on the Twinway until you're beyond those two bumps (the Twinway curves).  You then follow the southeast edge of the ridge toward Southwest Twin.  This route skirts those bumps and leads you through mostly open woods.

The girls and I managed to do exactly that on our 'whack to Southwest Twin's summit.  We followed the Twinway south from South Twin and entered the woods after the second bog bridge (we're standing at the edge of that bog bridge in the photo below...bog bridges #3 and #4 are ahead of us).

There's a herd path right after bog bridge #2 -- it leads to a stealth camp site.

We entered the woods here, then hugged the southeast portion of the ridge while 'whacking in a general southwest direction.  Most of the time, our 'whack looked like this --

--or this.

The woods were pleasant to walk through and we found ourselves in the col, right in front of Southwest Twin, sooner than we expected.  We had only one batch of fir trees to push our way through before entering the summit area.

After we made it through the thick bits, I turned and took a photo of Sage and the view toward South Twin.

On the other side of me, Alex was ready to enter the woods and reach the summit (which is a short distance from the spot where she's standing).

Alex hiked ahead of us...

...and I heard her excitedly shout, "There it is!" She had found the summit register (and the summit!).

 Sage joined Alex...

...and took a few pictures of her own.

We signed the register (no one else had signed it since October 2013!)...

...and sat down for a bit.  It was a lovely experience sitting there, eating Snickers, happy to have made it.

It had taken us only two hours to reach the summit from the Twinway.  I wish I could say it took us only two hours to navigate back.

Unfortunately, on the return trip, I took us a bit too far north instead of northeast.  We ended up in a nasty mess of thick trees and fir waves.  A half hour after we left Southwest Twin's summit, I lost my map.  We backtracked a bit, but we couldn't find it.  Though I felt bad for accidentally littering the peak, I was not concerned -- we knew we would eventually pop out on the Twinway if we continued in a north or northeast direction.  We therefore continued onward, crawling, pushing, pulling ourselves forward, swimming through, around, and under branches thickly forearms are shredded and Sage now sports a nice cut across her forehead.  Eventually, we realized we were close to the summit of that left bump in the photo I previously posted (view from South Twin).  We were so close to that bump's top...we figured we may as well climb/crawl our way up and tag it.  We did...not much there, just more fallen-over trees and thickly intertwined branches...we now refer to this particular summit as Mt. Crappybump.  We could, however, see South Twin's summit (and hear the people on it!) from the top of this jumbled mess.  We crawled/climbed down the other side and headed in a north-north-east direction.  Three and a half hours after leaving Southwest Twin's summit, we popped onto the Twinway at the bottom of the initial descent from South Twin.

From here, we practically ran up South Twin (it's amazing how easy normal trail feels when you first come off a bushwhack!).  The girls wanted to sit for a while at the top, so we did...but we couldn't stay as long as they wanted because I was worried I'd never get back up again.  All my muscles were sore and I risked turning into the Tin Man if I didn't keep moving.  We therefore spent only ten minutes on South Twin before heading down to Galehead Hut.

Once at the hut, we refreshed ourselves with muffins and lemonade.  We then left our packs and headed up the half mile to the summit of Galehead...where we ate Gummies (Lifesavers version).

The hike out was one of the most difficult I've ever experienced.  The girls were fine -- they walked ahead of me at a brisk pace, talking the whole time.  I had to repeatedly tell them to wait for me, because I could not move quickly at all.  My entire body was fatigued.  I stopped a lot and drank a ton of water, and the girls were patient with my slow progress.  We made it back to the trail around 7:30pm.

Alex is happy and proud to have gotten this peak, as she should be.  Sage is happy and proud too -- turns out that after Alex finishes this list, Sage will have only 16 Trailwrights peaks to go.  She's accompanied Alex and me on so many of these peaks that she's not too far from finishing the list herself.  She and I will ascend her remaining peaks on a relaxed basis during the next two or three years.

Alex's remaining Trailwrights peaks are: West Bond, Adams 5, and Sam Adams.  We'll get those (and Sage's remaining 52WAV peaks) in September and/or October, after we return from the JMT.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

JMT Training, Peak 20 of 21: Mt. Tecumseh

This was supposed to be a Bonds traverse...or a bushwhack to Southwest Twin...or a nice trip up Shelburne Moriah...but, well, weather happens.

With a 90% chance of pouring rain and a significant chance of thunderstorms all across the Whites for basically the entire day, none of the above hikes were attempted.  We kept checking the forecast yesterday, hoping the weather would shift, and I woke up at 4:30 this morning and checked and rechecked the forecast...but nope, none of our remaining Trailwrights or 52WAV peaks were going to work out.

What did work out, however, was trusty Tecumseh.  The trailhead is fifteen minutes away from our front door, and we can get up and down that mountain in about three hours.  We've all done Tecumseh multiple times...this was Sage's fourth visit, Alex's fifth, and my...well, I've lost count...I've been up that peak at least two dozen times (Tecumseh is my go-to mountain when I want a quick 4K workout).  We therefore felt confident we could do a fast hike of "Good Ole T" before the storm clouds arrived.

Tecumseh Trail, 5 miles roundtrip, 2200 feet of elevation gain.

There are four parts to Tecumseh.  The first part is an easy to moderate walk through the woods.

This one-mile section ends at a viewpoint overlooking the adjacent ski slopes.

Part Two is a one-mile, straight-up slog over rocks, roots, and boulders.  This is the "stairmaster" section.  The photo below does not accurately capture the steep grade of this never-ending bit.

After about a million years, you reach the ridge between the top of the ski area and the summit proper (Part Three).

A couple tenths of a mile and a brief summit push later, you reach the summit (Part Four).

The sun was out for most of our hike; it was a lovely morning.  We returned to our car before the drops fell and were home before the thunder began.

We have time for only one more hike before we leave for California.  That hike will likely happen on Wednesday, so I'll probably write again on Thursday.  After that...we're off!  Assuming the fire in Yosemite is contained, we'll be on the John Muir Trail in less than two weeks.

Monday, July 21, 2014

JMT Training, Peak 19 of 21: Mt. Paugus (52WAV). July 21, 2014

We hiked Mt. Paugus (and smaller Mt. Mexico) this afternoon.  I am BEAT from today and yesterday, so I will post a summit photo for now and catch up with writing the two trip reports during the next three days.

Due to various social commitments, we will not hike again until Sunday.

We've only one or two more hikes here in the Whites before we're on a plane to California!

On the ledges of Mt. Paugus
EDIT 7/23/2014: Trip Report

Cabin Trail, Lawrence Trail, Old Paugus Trail, Big Rock Cave Trail.  8.2 miles (loop) with around 2700 feet of elevation gain.

The day before this hike (Sunday), we swam our way up a Trailwrights 72 peak through wave after wave of tightly woven firs.  Then, first thing the next morning (Monday), the girls had camp.  When I picked up the girls at noon, none of us really wanted to hike another mountain...Sage and I were still nursing bushwhacking cuts and all of us were sore sore sore (bushwhacking is an intense, full-body, painful workout!).  However, the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday called for horrible heat and humidity, plus thunderstorms.  Thursday and Friday looked good, but we already had firm plans for those afternoons.  Therefore, Monday afternoon it was, even though we were still aching from our hike up Northwest Hancock.

We drove to the trailhead for Cabin Trail, parked across the street off Route 113A, and began the blessedly flat approach toward Mt. Paugus.

The first 0.3 of a mile consists of private driveways.

Shortly after turning into the woods, one comes across this fork.  We took the left path for Cabin Trail, then, later, returned from Paugus via Big Rock Cave Trail (on the right).

Cabin Trail was so mellow that it felt flat for most of the way up.  That was fine with us.  Given the previous day's hike, we needed something relatively tame.  The grade increased to moderate after we entered the Sandwich Wilderness.

We were warmed up and feeling back to normal by the time we reached the intersection with Whitin Brook Trail.

The final half mile of Cabin Trail was overgrown in places.

We followed the trail as it wrapped around the edge of a minor ridge.  We could see the ledges of Paugus across from us, through the trees, on the opposite side of Whitin Brook.

Upon reaching Lawrence Trail, we turned right and, after a short descent, began a moderate-to-steep climb toward the southern knob of Mt. Paugus.

The last half a mile or so contains a few steep switchbacks.  My knees were just beginning to remind me of my middle-age status when, happily, we reached our destination.

Sage on Paugus
About fifty yards from the highest spot, there's a nice ledge with an unobstructed view toward the west.  Standing where Sage is above, look west and you'll see this --

Go to those boulders in the center-left of the photo above (behind the tree).

Straight ahead is the entrance to a teeny path through some scrub.  You'll soon reach the open ledge.

View toward Passaconaway

We took a thirty minute break to eat, rest, and enjoy life.  Eventually, we made our way back up the short distance to the main ledge.  Here, Sage tried to get a photo of Max looking directly at the camera. It didn't work...

It was soon time to descend.  We wanted to be sure we had plenty of daylight left to check out Big Rock Cave.

The intersection with Old Paugus Trail
Old Paugus Trail was STEEP in the upper portions and the footing wasn't always the best.

There were times when the trail wove peacefully through the forest.

There were also viewpoints every so often...

...there are a few excellent opportunities to look at Mt. Chocorua, but, unfortunately, my photos of Chocorua did not turn out.

Down, down, down along Old Paugus Trail...

Badly eroded section

...through a section that must have experienced a microburst...(kudos to the trail maintainers for making the trail passable after what must have been a huge wind event -- the following photo does not do the scene justice)...

...past a huge, big 'ole boulder... the intersection with Big Rock Cave Trail.

We crossed the brook, climbed a steep tenth of a mile, and checked out the Big Rock Caves.

Here's the top of one Big Rock Cave...

The girls spent a bit of time exploring, then we headed up a couple tenths of a mile to Mt. Mexico's unremarkable summit area.

The trip down to the car was uneventful.  Big Rock Cave Trail has a moderate grade with good footing.

We arrived back at the first intersection...

...and quickly hiked the 0.3 flat miles to the parking area.

Congrats to Sage, who has only three more 52 With a View hikes to go.  We may or may not get one more in before we head to California.  Regardless, she'll likely finish the list in September or October.