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.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

JMT Training Peak, 18 of 21: Northwest Hancock. July 20, 2014

Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, bushwhack.  Around 11 or 11.4 miles total.

We got Northwest Hancock today for the Trailwrights 72 list.  I don't have time to write the report tonight, and tomorrow the girls have camp (and we might hike another peak), so the narrative and photos will have to wait until Wednesday or Thursday.  In the meantime, here are a few summit shots.

EDIT -- 7/22/2014 -- Trip report!

Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Loop Trail, bushwhack.  Somewhere around 11 or 11.4 miles roundtrip with roughly 2900 feet of total elevation gain.

We first tried this peak a couple of weeks ago from the summit of Hancock.  I dropped us down too far to the north, and we spent a total of six hours bushwhacking back to where we'd started.  That was humbling...this time around, we decided to go straight up the peak from Cedar Brook Trail.  This would mean a longer, steeper 'whack, but at least we'd know we were going in the right direction.

We left at dawn, since I am only comfortable doing bushwhacks if we have a ton of daylight hours in which to make mistakes.

At the parking lot...

Into the woods!

I won't show pictures of Hancock Notch Trail, since there are a gazillion other blogs that can show photos of the typical Hancocks loop hike.  You can see that traditional hike on this blog too if you use the search function or click on the Four Thousand Footer tab at the top.  For this post, however, I'll concentrate on the route we specifically took for Northwest Hancock.

Start the hike as though you're going to do the traditional Hancocks loop.  Then, instead of taking a right at the Hancock Loop Trail, continue straight on Cedar Brook Trail.

Enter the Pemigewasset Wilderness...

...and continue along Cedar Brook Trail...

...up to the height of land, then down again...follow the path as it takes a sharp right and heads directly toward the ridge...

...then follow the path as it turns abruptly left and stretches alongside the ridge, heading northwest.  You will reach a brook crossing right before the trail turns west-northwest (at that turn, there is a teeny stream...I'm talking about the more obvious brook just before that stream).  

Here is where we began our bushwhack.  

Steve Smith told me there is a slide at the end of this brook, and I have read Philip Werner's account of the slide.  Our first intention was to follow this brook to the slide, climb the slide, and then 'whack northeast to the ridge.  We ended up doing something a bit different.  We followed the brook until it forked...we took the left fork, then we followed it (east-northeast) as far as we could before the constant blowdowns became a huge irritation.  We then left the brook and began 'whacking in a general northeast direction.

Not long after we left the brook, we came upon a dry stream.  This stream, we found out later (and probably could have guessed), used to feed into the brook.  We followed this for a while, still heading uphill and northeast, until old beaver dams and fallen logs became too much of a hassle.  We then stepped off the dry stream bed and plunged into the woods.

Our 'whack to the ridge was 50% relatively open woods...

...and 50% horrible thick fir waves and massive blowdowns.  I don't have pictures of the thick and crappy parts, since I was busy hauling myself up, over, and through rotting logs and sharp branches.  Numerous times, the girls and I balance-beamed our way through the thick fir waves by walking along trunks that had long-since fallen over.  I always went first, since many of the logs were rotting and I wanted to be sure they'd hold our weight.  The logs were often on top of each other, so a slip meant a foot plunging into a hole and an ankle possibly twisting.  We were very, very careful, and we often used neighboring, live trees for support...we could reach out and grab branches to steady ourselves as we balance-beamed it.  Of course, those live branches were covered with pointy needles...the girls did a good job at sucking it up, holding onto the sharp, thorn-like branches, and plowing through.  Thankfully, the nasty bits were regularly interspersed with open bits, so the sufferfests never lasted too terribly long.  Sage and I ended up with scratches all over our hands and arms.  Miraculously, Alex only got one tiny scratch and one itsy-bitsy bruise.

We kept heading northeast, then north-northeast, until we could see a bit of blue peeking over the trees ahead of us...

We popped up onto the ridge at its narrowest point, immediately to the right of one of the little false summits.

We turned left and headed up a fading herd path.

Not the summit...but once you're here,
you've only got a tenth of a mile or so to go, and it's relatively clear.
The herd path disappeared and reappeared, but it was there, under the numerous blowdowns.

There are a couple of little ups and downs...keep going until you reach -- the summit!  It's marked with a canister.

A happy and proud Alex reaches the summit of Northwest Hancock.

The canister is on the opposite side of your approach...

First, you'll see this (minus the Beanie Boo) -- the canister is on the other side.

Sage took a photo of her Beanie Boo by the canister...

Speaking of canisters...there's one like this on West Osceola.  When we did West Osceola a few weeks ago, I spent a minute trying to figure out how to open the canister, then I gave up and had a snack with the girls on Peggy's Perch.  I forgot about giving it another try after we ate, so we never signed that register.  This time around, I was determined to open the thing.  Turns out it's easy -- just unscrew the bottom black section.  Don't over-think it like I first did, become distracted by the screws, and try to loosen the bolt/washer.  Just unscrew the bottom black section.

We signed the register.

It had rained on us a bit coming up -- we hadn't minded, it had felt rather refreshing.  Now, however, after ten minutes of sitting and eating, we began to feel chilled.  Since we didn't want to risk shredding our raincoats, we needed to start moving in order to bring back our warmth.  We had fleece, etc. with us, but we preferred to stay warm by moving (there are only so many articles of clothing I'm willing to ruin on a bushwhack).

We 'whacked west-southwest directly from the summit.  Fortunately, we were able to find a line that was a bit less jumbled than the path we took coming up, but, for the most part, we descended the way we had ascended.  We ended up right back on that dry stream bed and followed it down to the brook.

The brook has its beautiful moments...

We were happy and proud to return to Cedar Brook Trail, exactly where we had left it.

The 'whack took us almost exactly two hours on the way up and two hours on the return trip.

We flew across the trail (trail feels so easy after hours of bushwhacking!) and reached the intersection with Hancock Loop Trail.  We then turned and said goodbye to the Hancocks...I'm not sure we'll be back.  Both girls have the Hancocks for everything they'd "need" (winter 4Ks, regular 4Ks, Desserts on the 48, and Trailwrights).  We are interested in exploring the many other mountains and trails New Hampshire has to offer, so it's possible I'll/we'll never hike these particular mountains again (the girls might come back, of course, as adults).  We waved goodbye to the peaks and the ridge, then we walked the rest of the way back to the car in fine spirits.

Congratulations, Alex -- only four more Trailwrights peaks to go.