Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mt. Jackson. July 23, 2015

We wanted to get in a hike this week -- our only option was an afternoon hike after the girls' time at our local summer camp.  We opted for Mt. Jackson, since we can do it quickly and it's not too terribly far from home.  Both girls have now visited this peak seven or eight times, but it's a lovely trek and the summit sports a nice view of the southern Presidentials (and, when it's not in the clouds, Mt. Washington).

We arrived at the trailhead around 2pm.  It was a cool day, so luckily we didn't have to deal with the typical afternoon summer heat.

Jackson is a moderate hike with only a few steep bits.  The trail is full of rocks and roots, which is typical for the Whites.

We made short work of the 1.3 miles to the intersection...

...and we happily covered the remaining 1.2 miles to the summit.

Our favorite part of this hike is, of course, the ledgy scrambles and walk-ups at treeline.

Cairn on top of Jackson (yet not at true summit) --


There was a nice breeze blowing up top, as there usually is on the Presidentials.  We sat and ate homemade Congo bars until we felt like heading back down.

This was a nice, quick hike for us -- we've done Jackson so often this past year that it now feels as familiar to us as the Mt. Tecumseh Trail.

Since we began so late in the day, we saw a lot of people.  Typically, we hike first thing in the morning and are usually off the mountain(s) before the crowds start heading up.  This time around, we were heading up while all the people were coming down.  Everyone we met seemed nice, happy, and like they were having a great time.

We hope to get out there at least twice next week.  If the weather is decent, we will tackle Huntington Ravine Trail.  The girls didn't get to do it as planned last week because of the weather, and they're excited to give it a go.

Happy hiking, and see you on the trails.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wildcats A-D for Seek the Peak 2015 (TW72). July 18, 2015

We had planned a daring ascent of Huntington Ravine Trail, the "most difficult trail in the Whites" according to the White Mountain Guide.  Samantha Brady and I did Huntington on our own a couple of weeks ago, and I felt sure the girls could handle it -- if the slabs were dry and the weather cooperated.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate at all.  The night before our planned hike, the skies dumped water all over the Presidentials (and the rest of the Whites).  Thunderstorms were predicted for Saturday our crew decided to ascend Wildcat A instead of Mt. Washington and, if the clouds looked like they might behave themselves, we'd head over and also get Wildcat D.

Our crew consisted of Samantha and her boyfriend Josh, John Myers, Jeremy Ward, the girls, and Hugh.  The morning of our hike, Samantha texted me to let me know she and Josh would not be coming after all -- they had to run their cat to the emergency vet.  The two of them would catch up with us at the after-party at the base of the Auto Road.

The rest of us met at the 19 Mile Brook Trailhead.  I had never met Jeremy before -- I knew him from Facebook and have always enjoyed his posts.  It was a pleasure getting a chance to hike with him..and, of course, it is always a joy to hike with John.

It rained all over our heads at the beginning...

...but we hiked on.  19 Mile Brook Trail has an easy to moderate grade throughout and the footing is decent (for the Whites).

After 1.9 miles, we took a break (at the intersection with Carter Dome Trail).  The rain had petered out by now and we were left with fairly cool, wet conditions.  I'll take that over hot and humid any day.

Jeremy and John
We then headed another 1.7 miles to Wildcat Ridge Trail.  From there, it was a steep 0.7 miles up to the summit of Wildcat A.

Sage stands on the small slide...
this area can be treacherous during winter.

Alex at the slide.

View from the slide (Cloud!).


Alex, Sage, and Hugh on Wildcat A.

Alex at the viewpoint (Cloud!).

Hanging out, eating food.
I had completely forgotten about our Desserts on the 48 quest while planning this hike; I therefore didn't have any "W" desserts with us.  Jeremy, whose last name is Ward, stepped in and offered us some of his homemade chocolate Oreo truffles.  So we did indeed have a dessert for Wildcat A - Ward's Truffles.  :)  They were soooo good!

Ward's Truffles

Hugh decided to head back to the car -- the rest of us wanted to get Wildcat D (and C, for Sage's Trailwrights list).  Hugh was fine about heading back on his own, and I felt it was safe for him to do so.  19 Mile Brook Trail is well traveled, and there is an AMC hut at one end of it.  He would not be alone in his travels, even if he was not with us.  He offered to drive to the ski area and pick us up after we came down from Wildcat D, so I gave him the car key and we bade him a temporary farewell.

On we went, up and down lots of bumps and, somewhere in there, over the summits of Wildcats B and C.

The summit of Wildcat C?  I have pictures of Sage
on every high bump between A and D,
so I know she got it at some point!

Heading up to Wildcat D.

Happy hiker.

Up up up!

Summit of Wildcat D.

Jeremy on Wildcat D

John on Wildcat D
The sun began battling its way through the clouds as we sat on the summit platform.  On the way down the ski trails, we saw peeks of nearby slopes and summits.

Hugh was waiting for us in the parking lot.  He had enjoyed a safe descent from Wildcat A.

Our group parted ways -- Jeremy and John took advantage of our early afternoon finish and headed home, while Hugh, the girls, and I went to Seek the Peak's after party and met up with Samantha and Jeremy.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in Seek the Peak -- over $230,000 was raised for the Observatory.  Here's the link to Mt. Washington OBS's report.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Miscellaneous notes about our Great Wall Trek

We are all back in New Hampshire now.  Good memories were made in China, and I'm glad we took the trip.

Here are a few notes I did not include in the other posts.

1) Beijing is hot, humid, and polluted.  It was difficult for me to breathe there -- I didn't walk around gasping, but I could feel the air thick in my chest and lungs.  Our day exploring Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City was precious and I am so glad we visited -- but one full day walking around Beijing was enough for me.  The city has many beautiful and historic sites, but the air quality and heat make it difficult to play tourist.

2) There is no patiently waiting in line in Beijing.  From the airport to restaurants to tourist attractions, the Chinese pushed ahead and paid no attention to who was there first.  Do not take this personally if you visit.  I believe this is the culture -- they are not trying to be rude, it's just the way things are done.  You walk up and make your voice heard, you don't stand there being meek and polite.

3) Knowing how to say please, thank you, and no in any foreign language can take you a long way.  Speak as much Mandarin as you're able, even if it's just a word or two.  The attempt will be appreciated.

4) I felt safe in Beijing.  Police were everywhere.

5) I loved seeing the original, non-touristy Wall.  Jinshanling was nice too...not all that crowded, not all THAT many people.  I've been told the Wall right at/near Beijing can be a zoo.

6)  Hugh and I highly recommend World Expeditions.  Neither of us use guide services as a general rule...we prefer to get wherever we're going and then figure it out for ourselves.  That's not so easy in a country you've never before visited, where English is barely spoken, and where the culture can be so very different from your own.  We reluctantly hired a guide service -- and now we are so glad we did.  World Expeditions was fantastic.  Allie, the lady who arranged the reservation for us, was informative, easy to work with, and personable.  Their local tour association in China, China Adventure Tours, was wonderful.  Our personal guide, Jimmy, could not have been better.  He was truly perfect.  He made everything go smoothly, he got us the top meals, seats, spaces, etc. for everything,  Not only was he a top-notch guide, but he was friendly, intelligent, and fun to talk with.  We trusted him completely with everything, and we had a wonderful experience.  I am so glad we went through World Expeditions.

7) World Expeditions' Great Wall of China Trek is not usually for children.  When I asked Allie if their managers/doctors would look at this blog and assess my kids' hiking ability, they did.  After they saw we had done the John Muir Trail and El Camino de Santiago, and that the girls can hike 20 miles a day over tough terrain for days, they agreed to allow Alex and Sage on the trip.  They requested we book as a private family party instead of going with a group that included strangers.  We agreed, and I understand their request since they didn't know us personally.  It all worked out perfectly.  However, I echo their sentiment that this trek is not for the beginning hiker, and it's not for kids who don't love to hike.  Alex and Sage hike like adults, and they've both been hiking mountains since they can remember, so this trip was well within their capabilities.  I wouldn't book this with kids who don't already hike on a regular basis, though.

In sum, the adventure was enjoyable and memorable.  World Expeditions is great.  The girls, Hugh, and I are grateful we were able to have this experience.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Great Wall Trek, Day Seven: Wang Jing Tower. June 27, 2015

6.24 kilometers with 539 meters of elevation gain.

Our last day on the Wall!  Today's trek took us to Wang Jing Tower, the watch tower that looks toward Beijing City.  We drove up a windy, narrow mountain road and parked by a private house (the owner allows our tour guide access).  The trail was steep, and it was HOT and humid (90 degrees+).  Thankfully, it only took an hour or so for us to hoof it up.  We are used to steep, but we aren't used to hot.

This part of the Wall looks like something out of a fairy tale...

Almost there!

Wang Jing is too crumbly to safely go inside, so we sat in the sun and took in the views.

The view of the nearby tower.

The girls with Wang Jing Tower behind them.

Jimmy, Alex, me, Sage, Hugh, and Mr. Lee...

Alex posing for Sage...

Mr. Lee....

Sage (trying to pose in direct sunlight)...

Heading down...

Looking back at the Tower...

Sage lifting up a rock so we can sit in the shade...

Almost down...

Happy hikers...

Lunch at the guest house...

It was back to the city after we ate.  The girls and Hugh left the next morning and headed to Hong Kong; I came back to New Hampshire.  Alex and Sage will be back in the States tonight -- can't wait to see them.

I will post some notes on various details of the weather, culture, and other matters in my next entry.  I should have that up by Sunday evening.