Saturday, October 31, 2015

Havarti on the Hancocks. October 27, 2015

Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, Hancock Loop Trail.
9.8 miles with 2650 feet of elevation gain.

We have three full rounds and three-to-five partial rounds left of the NH48 to accomplish the Grid (hiking all 48 of NH's highest mountains in all twelve months of the year).  We enjoy hiking for hiking's sake, but we also enjoy eating once we're on a peak.  Combine the two likes and you get food themed rounds.  We are already casually pursuing a Desserts on the 48 round.  We are now adding a round for cheese, a round specifically for pies, and a round specifically for cakes.  Which means yes, I will have to haul a cake up each mountain and hope the icing doesn't get smushed.  I also have to figure out how to carry a pie in my backpack without breaking the crust.  No matter -- it all adds to the fun.

For this hike of the Hancocks, we chose to bring a cheese.  Havarti, to be exact.

Here we are, gearing up.  This time of year is awkward, since you never know what you are going to find on the summits.  We wore our trail runners but carried our microspikes, and we had all our winter layers with us.

The Hancocks is a mellow hike.  Yes, it's close to ten miles and you do summit two peaks, but most of the approach is flat, or close to flat.

We were at the first intersection (1.8 miles from the car) in about 20 minutes.  It's amazing how the trail flies by when the terrain is easy!

Moving on for the 0.7 miles of Cedar Brook Trail...

I remember this trail as having a long herd path between two of the water crossings.  Now, it looks as though that herd path has become the actual trail, with fresh paint blazes and everything.  Looks nice -- whoever did this deserves a hearty kudos.

Even with the herd path/new improved path, there are a lot of crossings on this hike.  We had no issues...the water was low and ran calmly.

We reached the junction with the Hancock Loop Trail.  1.1 miles to go until we begin our real ascent.

At the last junction before climbing a steep half mile to one of the summits.  We sat and ate a quick snack here, then debated which peak we should tackle first.  This was our seventh time on the Hancocks, and had never gone counter-clockwise around the loop...therefore, I asked the girls if we could go counter-clockwise just this once.  They acquiesced, and up we went to the South peak.

Up...the trail becomes incredibly steep -- my photos don't capture the grade well at all.

South Hancock!

Time to break out the cheese.

Sage contemplates the taste.

Alex decides she likes it.

The sun was out and it felt quite warm for late October.  We didn't linger long, however.  Both girls have science exams coming up, so they needed to put in some time for studying that afternoon.  Across the ridge we therefore went after enjoying the cheese for about ten minutes.

We reached the main peak of Hancock in good spirits.

We ate more cheese at the viewpoint near the summit.

Right as we were getting ready to head down, a dog appeared and stared at us.  The dog kept a respectable distance away.  A few moments later, the owner caught up (along with another dog) and we exchanged pleasantries.  I was so impressed by this dog owner and the way he had obviously trained his dogs not to run at people or jump.  I enjoy seeing dogs when I hike, but unfortunately many of the dogs I see have not been trained for the trail.  The dogs jump on you, or get right in your space and beg while you are trying to eat, or run at you while the owner is nowhere in sight, etc. My own dog will jump on people regardless of the amount of training (it's a border terrier thing), therefore he is always on a leash (retractable).  Anyway, it was nice to meet those two dogs and their friendly owner.

On the way down the steep bit of Hancock, we passed several groups on their way up (one group had a very friendly and cute black dog...not sure of the breed).  The girls and I were surprised to see so many people on the trail on a Wednesday, and after Columbus Day at that.  It was fun to say hi to folks, though.

Hope everyone is enjoying the Halloween season!  Stay safe and warm out there.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Moosilauke. October 21, 2015

Gorge Brook Trail.
7.4 miles roundtrip with 2550 feet of elevation gain.

This'll be our last Moosilauke hike for a while. Like Tecumseh, we've visited it many, many times, and we now want to ascend some of the 4Ks we haven't seen in a few years.  Each of the 48 Four Thousand Footers is wonderful in its own way, so we certainly aren't complaining about having hiked Moosilauke last Wednesday!  We just miss peaks that we haven't seen in a while, like Moriah, Garfield, Cabot, etc.  We even kind of miss Owls Head, lol.

Back to Moosilauke -- we began at about 7:25.  There was a momentary bit of confusion when I pulled up the car to Moosilauke Ravine Lodge...the parking area is undergoing construction so you need to park a tiny bit away from the usual area...but I figured it out easily enough and we were on our hiking way.

The register could use a spiral notebook or two...

Onward, upward.  Gorge Brook is probably the easiest way up the Moose, so our hike felt relaxed.  We enjoyed the beauty of autumn as we ascended.

Halfway point...


A teeny bit of ice, left over from the previous days' cold spell...

Cloud covered the summit from the moment we hit the trail until we were about halfway down the mountain, so our views today were all the same...

It was a good hike nonetheless.

Close to treeline...

Treeline.  The summit is perhaps a tenth of a mile ahead, but Cloud is covering it.

Summit sign...


Views of Cloud...

Action shot as we hunker down to get out of the wind...

Max waits for his food...

We eat...

It wasn't too terribly windy, but the temperatures were cool and the air and ground felt damp.  We therefore didn't linger.  A few handfuls of trail mix later, we were on our way back down the mountain.

The sun came out as we descended.  There were a few groups of people going up as we came down, so I hope they were treated to better views than we had.

Next week is busier than normal, so I am unsure if we'll get out there for another 4K.  I hope to, but we'll have to see.

Stay warm and happy hiking, everyone.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Presidential Traverse. October 11, 2015

19.8 miles with about 8500 feet of elevation gain.

Our first Presi Traverse!

I was fairly certain the girls could handle this, and I was excited to try this feat myself, so I had been looking forward to this traverse for weeks.  We set a date with our friend John, who planned to hike with us, and we checked the weather forecast daily in the half-week that preceded our hiking day.  The wind speed looked like it might give us some trouble on the northern summits, but the girls and I have hiked in high winds before, and we knew that hiking would be more manageable once we were off the actual summits and down on the ridge itself (while between summits).  The night before our hike arrived...the forecast looked decent...still high winds, but dry and mostly sunny.  The girls and I went to bed at 8pm and I set my alarm for 1:30am.

1:30 rolled around...I got up and got ready, then got the girls up and out the door.  We had packed the night before and the girls were sleeping in their hiking clothes, so all they had to do at this point was transfer themselves to the car and go right back to sleep...which they did.

I met John near the parking lot for Jackson at 3am.  We left his car there and drove to Appalachia, arriving at the trailhead for Valley Way just before 4am.

I woke the girls; we all geared up and hit the trail.

Later, both Alex and Sage said this was the most difficult part of the entire day.  They were not really awake, and they were in headlamps, and all their bodies wanted to do was go back to sleep.

The girls hiked nearly all of the 3.8 miles to Madison Springs Hut (closed for the season) in silence...they were snooze-hiking.

Alex developed a stomach ache close to treeline.  It was pretty bad, and I wondered if she was getting ill.  She insisted she would be fine, so I decided to continue for now.  If she wasn't fine by the time we were off Madison, then we could bail right back down Valley Way.

Near treeline, we saw the first signs of snow.  The snow and ice would be here-and-there until Monroe, but never at an amount significant enough to make us regret our footwear choice of trail runners.

Almost at's the "Turn Back or Die" sign.

The sun will soon rise...

Dawn broke just as we reached the hut.  We dropped our packs and donned our hats (Alex got her balaclava too).

The wind was howling as we made our way up Madison's summit cone.  From halfway up onward, we had to use our hands as well as our feet.  Sage and I each got blown over more than once, and it was impossible to communicate with each other without screaming.  The wind was cold, but the air temperature was too warm for frostbite.  Sage's hat blew off her head at one point; she quickly caught it but did not put it back on for fear of losing it again.

We made our way to the summit and immediately hunkered down between some rocks.

Hands on summit, with Washington in the background.

Views from the summit.  I could not stand to take photos, as the wind was blowing my hand and camera, so the photos from Madison are not as clear as I'd like them to be.

The way down (and toward Adams)...

View of Washington...

We fought the wind and headed back down to the hut.  Once there, we ate a snack and the girls donned their rain/wind-proof pants.  Sage also grabbed her balaclava.  Alex's stomachache had vanished; she said it had gone away when the sun came up.  I therefore felt comfortable heading toward Adams once we were sated and warm.

Here's Sage on the way up Adams, with Madison in the background -

View as we headed up Adams...

Adams!  The wind situation was the same as it was on Madison.  I have no idea how John managed to stand in the photo below -- I couldn't stay on two feet without being blown into the rocks and, as you can see in the picture, the girls needed to stay wedged in the rocks while we were on the summit.

Washington from Adams...

Eating, wedged between rocks on Adams...

Jefferson, our next peak.

The rock hop down Adams' summit cone was made especially interesting by the forceful winds...but we eventually got down and traversed to Jefferson on slightly easier terrain.

Just below Jefferson's summit cone (north side, coming from Adams).

Another snack before tackling another summit.

The approach up Jefferson's summit cone from the Adams side is much easier than the approach up the summit cone from the south or west -- there is less rock-hopping, in my opinion, which makes the feet happy.  It was a steep climb, but short, and we were there in ten minutes. The wind, while present, wasn't nearly as forceful as it had been on Madison and Adams. We could kneel and stand without worrying about getting blown over.

On Jefferson
 View toward Washington from Jefferson...

View into the valley from Jefferson.

On we went, toward Washington.

The climb up Washington felt rough after having already done all the other northern Presidentials.  That last few tenths of a mile felt awful on my knees, and my left leg began cramping.  John and the girls were patient with me, and we eventually got to the summit.  The wind speeds were strong on Washington (they usually are), but still not as bad as the wind speed on Adams and Madison.

There was a line of tourists (both the Auto Road and the Cog Railroad were open) at the summit sign.  We docilely waited our turn, and one of the friendly Auto Road people took our picture.

After we clambered down the summit sign area, we went into the cafe/museum building and...holy cow!  People people everywhere.  Since it was Columbus Day Weekend, everyone in New England and beyond had apparently decided to ride up the Auto Road or Cog and spend the day inside this particular building.  There was nowhere to sit until we lucked out and a couple of hikers moved off the bench the girls are sitting on in the photo below...we grabbed it and prepared to eat our Desserts on the 48 for Washington..Whitman's chocolates.

We devoured the entire box in about ten minutes.

Once fed and a teeny tiny bit rested, we headed back out the door, into the wind, and down the trail toward Monroe et al.

The footing south of Washington is so much better than that of the northern Presis!  We were at (closed for the season) Lakes of the Clouds hut, and then up Monroe, in what felt like no time.

On Monroe, with Washington in the background...

Views from Monroe...

We headed down Monroe and toward Franklin/Ike/Pierce.  The walk to Eisenhower from Monroe is one of my favorite stretches of trail in the Presidentials.  The footing is kind, the path is relatively flat (compared with every other section of trail up there), and the views are stunning.

Eisenhower, which had looked so small and cute while we were coming down Washington, now loomed before us looking impossibly tall.  Normally, this climb wouldn't be a big deal...but my legs were starting to get REALLY tired.

There it is again, we're closer now...I had to give a minor pep talk to my knees.

The climb up actually didn't feel all that bad.  It was mainly psychological after having already hiked so many miles and experienced so much elevation gain.  We got to the top and relaxed for a few minutes.  The wind here was minimal.

The clouds were interesting and funky.

On Eisenhower, we decided our last summit for the day would be Pierce.  Originally, we had planned on going over to Jackson after Pierce, but we realized on Ike that we felt close to being done.  The standard Presi Traverse ends with Pierce, and trying to get Jackson after such a long and happy day might be pushing it.  On Eisenhower, we felt like the day had been challenging, but awesome.  We didn't want to venture into the this-is-too-much-and-now-I-hate-life zone.

Moving onward, to Pierce...

A little less than two miles later, we were on Pierce.  The last summit of the Presi Traverse -- woo-hoo!

We sat down for about ten minutes and ate, then we headed down.  We figured we'd get at least halfway down before needing to pull out the headlamps, and we were right.  We made it perhaps half a mile past the intersection that leads to Mizpah before we were overcome by darkness and forced to dig out our light sources.

The last mile was the second-most-challenging part of the day (the first most challenging was the hike up Valley Way, when we all felt mostly asleep).  The girls kept their spirits up by talking...for a while...and then they fell silent.  We all did -- thoughts of hamburgers and milkshakes and getting out of my hiking shoes filled my head.  Down down down we went...until we finally saw the road.

From here, it was a quick road walk to John's car...and we were done!  Our total time was 15 hours and 15 minutes, which includes the time we spent on Washington wading through all the tourists.  Not bad for our first Presidential Traverse!

The next day, both girls agreed that the Traverse was not nearly as difficult as they had imaged -- except for the very first part of the day and the very last part of the day.  Basically, the dark parts of the day were hard, mainly because their bodies were telling them they should be in bed, asleep.  Alex thinks her early-morning stomach cramps were due to sleep-deprivation and nothing else, since they disappeared as soon as the sun rose.

Our next few weeks will be filled with normal 4K dayhikes.  Perhaps next month, we can squeeze in a Bonds Traverse (it would be our second, since we did one right after coming back from the JMT last year).

Happy hiking, everyone . Be safe out there!