Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Tuesday Trip Report: Passaconaway and Whiteface (winter 4Ks #33 and #34). Jan. 28, 2012

Dicey's Mill Trail and Rollins Trail.  About 14.4 miles, out-and-back.

We began the day not knowing what to expect.  Snow, sleet, ice pellets, and freezing rain had recently pummeled the White Mountains, so we assumed we'd be pushing our way through at least a couple inches of heavy, wet snow.

We arrived at the trailhead just after sunrise and were surprised at how warm it was outside.  We'd gotten used to frigid temperatures; the 25 degrees felt downright balmy.

The Ferncroft parking area looked lovely in the morning light.

Alex played in the ice/slush as I finished gearing up.

Traditional trailhead shot...

The beginning of Dicey's Mill cuts through private property.  It was nice to see this sign...

The trail was packed, but covered by an icy crust.  We barebooted the first 3.7 miles, leaving footprints but not postholes.

The snow depth increased with elevation; I donned my snowshoes at the intersection with Rollins Trail.

Alex made pictures in the snow while I chugged some water.

Onward, to the top of Passaconaway!  Breaking trail wasn't difficult, the new snow was never more than three inches deep.

On the viewpoint by the summit...

Finding the summit itself...

Mt. Passaconaway, winter 4K #33!

We returned to the viewpoint, admired the scenery, then  descended to the intersection with Rollins Trail.

Rollins leads to the summit of Whiteface.  Normally, we'd have ascended Blueberry Ledge Trail to Whiteface, then taken Rollins Trail toward Passaconaway.  However, the ledges on Blueberry Trail are covered with ice in the winter, and I didn't want to risk a fall.  Hence our decision to tag Passaconaway first, then do an out-and-back on Rollins for Whiteface.

I don't have any pictures of Rollins because I was too busy struggling.  I'd never gone west on this trail before...I was not mentally prepared for the uphill slog.  The highlight of this section was running into VFTT's "Pepper and Me."  We enjoyed speaking to them and were sad when they departed...both of us wished we could have turned around right there and gone (downhill!) with them.

Eventually, we made it to Whiteface.  Unfortunately, I dropped my camera in the snow and couldn't properly dry out the lens for quite some time.

Here's a blurry Alex by the summit cairn...

...and a blurry, unofficial summit sign.

From here, it was 6.1 miles to the car...but most of that trek was downhill, so Alex and I picked up speed and made it back to the trailhead earlier than I'd expected.  I thought we'd be in headlamps for most of the descent down Dicey's Mill, but we only needed the lights for the last mile and a half.  The only slightly problematic issue was my ankle, which twisted the wrong way before we'd finished with Rollins.  Luckily, there was no pain with this twist, only numbness.  I didn't feel my ankle for the rest of the hike, and even now (four days later) there isn't much sensation in that joint.  I can walk just fine, though, so hopefully all will be well for the next outing.

Here we are, back at the trailhead.  If you look closely, you can see Alex in the middle of the picture below (I must learn how to take photographs in the dark!). 

'Twas a good, albeit tiring, hike.  14 more mountains, 7 hikes to go before March 20.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Monday Muse: UP...and a Quick Who's Who

It's just starting to hit me that, in just over two months, Up: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure will hit the shelves (and Kindles and Nooks and so forth).

Of course, I've known this was coming since I signed with Broadway Books/Crown over a year ago.  However, the publishing process takes a while.  There's a lot that must happen before a manuscript becomes a book.  Editing, copyediting, photograph placement, author bio, marketing and publicity campaigns, jacket design, etc. etc. -- all of this takes months.  In the meantime, I'm still a mom, I'm still homeschooling my kids, we're still hiking, I'm still working on another manuscript, we still have our classes and playdates and normal routines.

Now, however, the excitement begins.  The publication date is only nine short weeks away, and the process is picking up speed.  Media outlets all over the country have galley copies of Up.  Some heavy hitters have expressed interest in publicizing Up during launch week -- there are never any guarantees, but the responses thus far have been encouraging.  Bloggers receive galleys next month; hopefully, we'll receive the same kind of positive feedback from them that we've received from the traditional media markets.  Soon, I'll have news to report every week, if not every day, on the forthcoming publication of Up.

And now...this is long overdue, and it won't be the last time I write this out...the following is a list of New Hampshire hikers/climbers who are connected with Up:

MadRiver -- featured in a few chapters
LRiz -- featured in one chapter
DaveBear -- featured in one chapter
Happyhiker -- mentioned in one chapter
Tim C -- mentioned in one chapter
Steve Smith -- I refer to his books
Mike Dickerman -- I refer to his book
Gene Daniells -- I refer to his book
Jim Surette -- filmed footage for my forthcoming book trailer, is also editing the trailer
Drewski -- the stick Alex is holding in her hand on the front cover is a custom-made, Drewski stick
Clay Dingman -- took the author photo featured on the back jacket.
Mark Tuckerman -- took one of the photos included in the book.
David Metsky -- his website is listed as a resource
Mohamed Ellozy -- his website is listed as a resource
Appalachian Mountain Club hut croo
Hugh, Alex and Sage (obviously)
quite a few unnamed hikers you may or may not recognize

I also mention the AMC Four Thousand Footer Club (of course), VFTT, Rocks on Top, Hike-NH, and the Mt. Washington Observatory Forum.

That's it for now.  Tomorrow, our trip report of Whiteface and Passaconaway (Alex's winter 4Ks #33 and #34).

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Friday Wrap

The past week was filled with homeschooling and other domestic duties.  The girls and I didn't hike on Thursday, though the day was perfect for an above-treeline adventure.  The scheduled arrival of a new piano (hooray!) kept us home.  Alex and I hope to hike tomorrow; the trail conditions will be interesting, though, since a mixture of snow and sleet have pelted the mountains nonstop since early yesterday evening.  We'll see what we can do.

UP: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure will hit the shelves on April 3, just over two months from now.  We've had a lot of major media outlets express interest, so hopefully we'll have a fair amount of publicity during late March and early April. 

The girls and I are tossing around ideas for a new long-term hiking goal.  Whatever it turns out to be, we want to do it as a way to help raise money for the Global Fund for Women.  We're still trying to figure out what kind of adventure would be the best fit for us.  The girls want to do something "big," but they don't want to be away from home for too many consecutive months.  There is one idea that keeps coming back as a real possibility...after another week or so of ironing out the details, we should be able to make an announcement.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday Things: Public Hearing (#87)

This week's Thursday Thing was #87: Attend a public hearing about something that potentially affects our community.

Tonight, the girls and I attended a public hearing concerning a land owner who, according to the manager of our local real estate organization, failed to uphold his end of a signed property covenant. The girls and I talked about both sides of the issue before the meeting, and we each sat quietly and listened during the hearing as adults on both sides of the fence came forward and presented their opinions. The meeting adjourned after an hour of arguments, and the girls and I resumed our discussion of the matter when we returned home.

This was a wonderful learning opportunity. Granted, it was a bit boring at times, especially when someone didn't speak loudly enough or the lawyers went on and on. At one point, Sage whispered in my ear, "Lawyers talk a lot, don't they?" Overall, however, the girls were interested in this grown-up proceeding and they appreciated my interest in their opinions.


As for this week's movies...

We saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit (#19) and Mary Poppins (#4).

Alex enjoyed Who Framed Roger Rabbit more than Mary Poppins. Both movies receive 2 1/2 thumbs...Alex gives the half thumb for Mary Poppins and I give the half thumb for Roger Rabbit. I think the latter's okay, but I found it difficult to understand the general plotline. Much of the exposition is given in rapid-fire speech; I had to occasionally pause the movie to figure out what was going on.  Sage enjoyed both films and didn't favor one over the other.

'Til tomorrow...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday Shout-Out: American Discovery Trail Society

I've been dreaming about hiking the ADT for months, ever since I first stumbled across the American Discovery Trail Society's webpage last spring.

The ADT is, as is stated on the above website, "the nation's first coast-to-coast, non-motorized recreation trail."  Stretching over 6800 continuous miles, it runs from Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware, to Pt. Reyes National Seashore, California.  See this directory for details.

If the girls said they wanted to walk this, then we'd be on our way to Delaware tomorrow.  As of now, however, they feel they'd miss our cats and their friends too much to embark on what would be, for us, a nonstop, year+ long hike.  Therefore, I'll assume I'll be backpacking this on my own once the kids leave for college. 

That being said, the girls have repeatedly said they might like to bike the ADT...stay tuned, that could be a real possibility in a couple of years...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Trip Report: Mt. Carrigain (winter 4K #32). January 19, 2012

Sawyer River Road, Signal Ridge Trail.  14 miles roundtrip.

Sage chose the peak for this hike; Alex and I like to give her control over what we ascend on the days she comes with us.  Sage has a particular fondness for Mt. Carrigain and she wanted to see it again.  The forecast looked good and the skies were clear, so off we went.

We arrived at the parking lot just after daybreak...

...walked the two miles of closed Sawyer River Road...

...and took a quick break at the trailhead.

After chugging some water, we hit the trail.

The first couple of miles went by quickly; the trail meanders through flat sections of forest.

Soon after the above crossing, the trail angled upward.  There were some twists and turns, one mile of straight and uninteresting plodding, a few switchbacks, and a couple of steep bits.

After much huffing and puffing (on my part), we reached treeline.

From here, it was a quick jaunt to the summit.

Up the stairs we went...

...where we appreciated some very fine views.

We hung out for about ten minutes on the summit before descending.  I snapped a few pictures of the girls on Signal Ridge while heading down.

Once back in the trees, the girls sled down most of the mountain.  It was a quick descent.

This was a lovely day -- perfect weather, perfect company.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Monday Muse: More Answers (to FAQ)

Continuing the theme of last week's Muse...

More Answers (to FAQ):

Do the girls have a favorite mountain?

Both adore little Bald Mountain in Franconia Notch (NH).  Easy hike, great views, wonderful picnic spot, blueberries, bears, ledges...great stuff.  We've been there a zillion times, it's a great place to clear your head and it takes all of ten minutes to scamper up.

As for the "real" mountains -- the girls like anything with a view.  Of the NH48, they have no single favorite, though they do like some peaks better than others.  Same goes for highpoints.

Sage says she particularly enjoys Carrigain, and she had a blast on Jefferson.  She also loved Owls Head -- not for the (viewless and wooded) summit, but for the great time we had while hiking it.  We did those 18 miles in one day, and she's proud of that.  She remembers our tromping through the water crossings in the dark, not caring if we got soaked because it was a warm evening, and she remembers we hiked out in headlamps.  That was all very exciting for her.  So, though she's not enthusiastic about doing those 18 miles over again anytime soon, that particular hike stands out in her mind as one of her favorites because it was anything but mundane.

Alex enjoys hikes with lots of above-treeline exposure, though she doesn't mind wooded peaks as long as they're interesting (for example, she likes Mt. Hale's huge summit cairn).  She doesn't have any one favorite 4K. 

Sage has two least favorite 4Ks: Isolation and Cannon.  Alex doesn't like Isolation either.  Also, neither girl sees the point of East Osceola.  Sage doesn't see the point of hiking anything if it doesn't have a view, actually, and that attitude extends to the weather...she doesn't want to hike if the summit's going to be socked in.  Alex and I are different -- we enjoy the thrill of cairn-to-cairn, compass hiking (though we don't hike in white-out conditions...mist is okay, but blowing snow is not).  Sage doesn't want to go unless she's going to see something for her efforts.

Both girls prefer rock scrambles to plain walking, both enjoy fall weather to summer heat, and neither is fond of blackflies or bushwhacks. 

Of our highpoints thus far, both loved Mt. Rogers in VA (wild ponies!!), both enjoyed North Dakota's White Butte for the sheer madness of that particular morning (thunder and lightning and rattlesnakes, oh my!) and both had great fun on Texas' Guadalupe Peak.

Do you do much backpacking? If so, what is their favorite site (do they prefer huts, shelters, lean-tos and which one/where)?

We don't do all that much backpacking -- maybe a total of 10-14 nights each year.  We've stayed in a handful of shelters and we've slept in all the AMC huts except for Mizpah.  The girls LOVE staying in the huts.  They like the antics of the croo, they love the food, they like talking to and playing card games with other hikers, and they enjoy sleeping in the bunk beds.  In short, they love the whole hut experience.  We plan to do a hut-to-hut traverse this summer or fall, and the girls are already talking about it.

What about winter camping?

We haven't done it yet.  Though I carry everything we need to winter camp on each and every winter hike, we have never stayed out overnight intentionally or unintentionally during the winter.  The girls love coming home and curling up in front of the fireplace after a cold dayhike -- that's the main reason.  Also, we like waking up in a warm house.  One of these days, though, we'll get around to winter camping.

Do you do a lot of camping during the summer?

Yes.  We camp most nights during highpointing trips.  Frankly, I couldn't afford these trips if we didn't camp most nights.  We've had a great time pitching our tent in a multitude of landscapes; I'm grateful to live in such a beautiful country.

What advice do you have for introducing hiking to children?

Have a destination in mind and keep the mileage short in the beginning.  Does your child like ponds?  Rivers?  Big boulders?  If you live in the city, is there a playground that's a bit farther away than you'd usually walk?  Pick something you think your child will find interesting, and try to get there on your own two feet.  Do it on his or her terms, though...if you end up stopping and spending half an hour examining a fallen leaf, so be it.  If the child wants to stomp in puddles along the way -- let her (just pack a change of clothes/shoes).  Enjoy the journey!  Increase the difficulty of the goals as the weeks go by. 

I write this thinking of Sage.  Alex did 4Ks right off the bat, she took to it immediately like a fish takes to water.  I did nothing to prepare her, she just went for it at the age of five and never looked back.  With Sage, however, things were different.  She was three when Alex hiked her first few dozen 4Ks, and she wanted to get out there but she wasn't yet ready for the big peaks.  I took her on smaller hikes with lower summits, things like Black Cap in North Conway and Willard in Crawford Notch.  We hiked slowly and we sometimes took all day to go a mile and a half, but I never rushed her and I always tried to make sure we had fun.  There was only one rule -- and I think this is important -- I would never carry her.  However, if she asked to turn around, we would, without question.  If she wanted to sit and rest, we would.  If she wanted a snack or a drink, no problem.  All she had to do was ask for what she wanted in a normal voice (no whining) and we'd turn around, sit, eat, drink, whatever, without any fuss.  Since I kept those beginning hikes short and we went for things she wanted to see (views, boulders, sometimes waterfalls), she almost never asked to turn around.  The few times she did ask to turn around, we did so.  I think that since I immediately complied with whatever she asked (as long as she didn't whine, but used a normal tone of voice), she learned that she could trust me, and that it was up to her to set her own physical limits.  She knew I wouldn't carry her, so she could figure out for herself how long and how far she wanted to go.

This brings me to the issue of trust.  It's essential.  Be honest with your kid.  If they ask how far away the summit/waterfall/whatever is, tell them the truth.  If you tell a kid, "we're almost there" when you know full well you're not, then you'll end up with a kid who doesn't trust you.  You don't want that to happen.  Trust is absolutely essential, the kid needs to feel that you're going to look out for him or her without fail.

Hiking can get difficult no matter the age, size, shape, physical condition, what helps make hiking fresh & fun for you?

Variety.  Different trails, different peaks, different destinations.  Changing landscapes, traveling, meeting other hikers.  We're also careful to take breaks when we want them and I try to make certain the girls never feel pressured to do anything in terms of hiking.  If it's not fun for them, then I don't see the point.  Also, hiking's not the only activity the girls like to do.  They take karate, they have classes with other homeschoolers, they have playdates, etc. -- all these things are important.  Balance is essential.  I think the girls would burn-out if all they did was hike.

Will you and the girls ever hike for charity?

Yes.  We're participating in Seek the Peak this year.  Also, we're planning a specific hike/series of hikes for the late summer or fall -- we'd like to raise money for Global Fund for Women.  We haven't ironed out the details yet...I have to make sure the girls are set on every aspect before announcing anything.

What do you eat on hikes?

Mixed nuts, energy bars, cheese, pepperoni, tons of water, eggnog and hot chocolate (during winter), Goldfish crackers, trail mix....and chocolate.  There have been hikes when the girls and I ate nothing but chocolate and Goldfish crackers the entire day (the 18 mile Owl's Head was one of them).  Since we eat fresh, organic food on non-hiking days, I figure the candy, etc. is fine for hikes.  The girls are in great shape; the occasional chocolate-and-cracker day won't kill them.  Sometimes that's all they want out there.  I respect their choices.

Can you tell me more about your dog?

A brief summary of Max, our border terrier: he likes to hike but he hates the cold (no winter peaks for him), he has to stay on a leash because border terriers are notorious for their lack of recall, he likes to eat pine needles, he gets angry with me when I don't allow him to jump on every person he meets, he wants nothing more than to lick our faces all day long, and he wishes our cats would play with him.  And he clearly loves Sage more than he loves me and Alex (we don't mind).  Oh -- and last winter, when he was still a puppy, he ate one of my very expensive hiking gloves. 

That's it for this week's Muse.  I'll post our trip report for Mount Carrigain tomorrow evening.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Thursday Things/Friday Wrap: A Wonderful Endorsement

The girls and I hiked Mount Carrigain yesterday (trip report to follow on 1/24) ; when we returned, I was too fatigued to post the weekly Thursday Things.  Hence today's merge of posts.

I'll do this backwards and start with the Friday Wrap.

My forthcoming book, UP: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure, received a glowing endorsement from mountaineering icon and prolific author David Roberts.  Roberts writes,

"As someone who has struggled to keep up with Alex on a pair of New Hampshire 4,000ers in winter, I can testify first- hand to what a remarkable hiker and person she is. Patricia Ellis Herr's charming memoir distills the lessons she learned on the trail with her precocious daughter. UP offers a welcome corrective to the Tiger Mother syndrome."

We are thrilled about Roberts' endorsement and are extremely happy he liked our book!

David Roberts' most recent book is Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer.  I highly encourage you to read it if you haven't done so already.  As with all of Roberts' books, it's an engaging and enjoyable read.

As mentioned above, the girls and I hiked 14 mile Mount Carrigain yesterday and had a wonderful time.  Alex now has 16 more mountains to ascend within the next two months.  Those 16 peaks can be consolidated into 8 hikes, so as long as we keep getting out there once a week, Alex should be able to finish the winter 4K list before spring officially begins on March 20.

As for Thursday Things --

We watched a few movies during the past week -- How The Grinch Stole Christmas (all three of us loved it), the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (loved it -- Gene Wilder is perfect, the movie is a wonderful adaptation of Dahl's book), and Pinocchio.

Disney's Pinocchio.  Oh dear.  The girls and I have read Carlo Collodi's 1883 masterpiece, Pinocchio, three times, and the book is wonderful.  It's dark, it's violent, it's filled with wicked humor, and the "be good or else" lesson is hammered into the reader's head over and over again.  It's over-the-top, it's audacious, it's something you shouldn't read to your young child unless that young child has a very dark sense of humor and isn't easily bothered by any kind of fictional violence.  My daughters love it.  Alex and Sage are both very sweet kids and they do not want to see any real person experience pain.  However, they don't mind fictional violence and have always preferred the original fairy tales and classic children's stories to the watered-down and sanitized versions.

Disney's Pinocchio bears almost no resemblance to Collodi's book.  An example -- you know that loveable cricket, Jiminy?  In the book, he's referred to as The Talking Cricket and is immediately killed by Pinocchio the very first time he tries to give the wooden imp a piece of advice.

We did not like this movie.  Alex and Sage both said that this Disney movie was not the real story of Pinocchio...so why did they call it Pinocchio?  If you're going to adapt a book into a movie, then the movie should bear at least some resemblance to the book.  I would love to see a real adaptation of this classic story -- Quentin Tarantino, are you out there?  You should give this a read, it's right up your alley.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday Things...

...will be posted tomorrow.  The girls and I just came back from a wonderful hike up Mount Carrigain and now it's time for bed.  :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday Shout-Out: Repeat -- Global Fund for Women

Last week, I couldn't link my Shout-Out to certain social networking sites due to a glitch that has since been fixed.  Therefore, this week's Shout-Out is the same as last week's -- please click here to read my January 11 post about the Global Fund for Women. 

The Tuesday Trip Report: Mt. Hale (winter 4K #31). January 14, 2012

The Higher Summits Forecast for this weekend was bad -- very bad.  As in, negative-50-degree-windchills, frostbite-in-less-than-five-minutes, don't-go-above-treeline-unless-you're-a-penguin bad.  There are hikers who brave the alpine zone regardless of such conditions, but I'm not one of them.  On days like today, Alex and I stay below treeline and don't go much above 4000 feet.

Mt. Hale, therefore, was the perfect pick for today's hike.  All the trails to the top are situated within the trees, and the giant summit cairn stands in a large clearing surrounded by nice-sized pines.  Granted, the temperatures would still be cold (negative 5 to 0), but as long as we kept moving, we'd be okay.

In the summer, Hale is a short, 4.4 mile hike.  In the winter, Zealand Road, the road to the trailhead, is closed and one must therefore walk 2.5 miles to the trailhead before starting the actual ascent; the total winter mileage of Hale is 9.4 roundtrip miles.  (There is another way up the mountain using an abandoned fire warden's trail, but I'm not yet familiar with that route).

We arrived at Zealand Road's winter parking lot about an hour after daybreak and began the short trek to the beginning of the road.

Then came the 2.5 mile road walk.  We had a few inches of fresh powder to push through...

The trailhead!  We were now more than halfway finished our one-way mileage...even though we hadn't yet started our ascent.

Alex forged ahead...

...up a very snowy trail.

Larisa (LRiz in my forthcoming memoir, UP: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure) and Tim C. overtook us near the summit.  They were here as part of Larisa's 48-in-one-winter Stop Northern Pass project.

Here, Tim approaches the summit.

On the top of Mt. Hale!

Larisa asked if we'd help hold her banner; we happily agreed. 

We didn't linger on the summit, as the frigid temps necessitated constant movement.  Tim and Larisa began their descent while I packed Alex's snowshoes and adjusted some odds and ends.

We got down Hale Brook Trail quickly (though not as fast as Larisa and Tim).  For the first time this winter, Alex was able to use her sled.

Back at the trailhead!

From here, it was a fairly easy 2.5 miles back to the car.  A lot of folks had been on Zealand Road while we had been on Hale Brook Trail; we were therefore able to walk out on a nicely packed snow-sidewalk.

From here, it was a short walk to the parking lot.

31 down, 17 to go.  Those remaining 17 can be consolidated into 9 hikes, so we're still on track to finish this season.