Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!


Our John Muir Trail journal is now complete.

The girls and I have hiked a bit since we did Monroe on the 22nd, but we've kept to low and flat trails so we could include our dog.  Our border terrier doesn't like deep snow or frigid temperatures, so any canine winter hiking must be done on trails in the valleys.

Ski lessons will dominate our free time during the next six weeks, so the girls probably won't ascend another mountain on foot until late February.  I personally will continue hiking mountains, since I usually hike solo once a week, but I almost never post trip reports when it's just me.  When I go off into the woods on my own, I don't like to take many photos.  Documenting hikes with the girls is a pleasure.  Documenting my solo hikes (beyond posting a New England Trail Conditions report) feels like work.

I am not yet sure if we are hiking a long-distance trail this summer.  We will use our Terrifying 25 list to prepare for Idaho's Borah Peak, and we have a non-hiking trip planned, so I don't know if we are going to have the time or the funds to fit in a thru-hike.  We shall see.  I should know what we're doing by the end of this winter.  We have ideas....we just need to see if we can make those ideas work in terms of time and money (we pay for all our trips 100% out-of-pocket...the charity money we raise goes directly to the charity, not us).

If I don't post again until mid-February, then I hope you all have a wonderful start to the New Year.  Happy hiking, and be safe.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mt. Monroe, December 22, 2014

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail and Monroe Loop.  5.6 miles roundtrip with about 2872 feet of elevation gain.

Happy birthday to me!  And, happy almost-healed-foot to me!  The foot thing has been frustrating, because nothing serious was technically wrong with it.  Soft tissue damage or some such thing.  No broken bones and no ripped tendons...if my foot is going to hurt enough to keep me off the trails for over a month, then I want serious drama and nasty x-rays to make it worth my while.  Anyway, the wussy soft tissue thing seems to be 99% cleared up, so we were able to get out.

Monroe was our objective.  We arrived at the lower parking lot by the Cog around 7:00 am.  Only one vehicle was there before us -- it was owned by Rob, a fellow we'd later meet on the trail.

Walking to the trailhead from the winter parking lot .
Alex pauses to inspect her crampon.
The trail was packed solid from the weekend traffic.  My snowshoes got a free ride on my back all day long.  The girls and I made relatively short work of the relatively flat 1.3 miles to Gem Pool...though my body felt relatively heavy and relatively out of shape.

Gem Pool

On the way to Gem Pool, we passed Rob...we saw him again after we stopped to delayer and take a quick rest.  He was headed to Mt. Washington.  We set out ahead of him from Gem Pool and didn't see him the rest of the day -- it was nice to meet him and I hope he had an excellent hike.

Up, up, up....up we went.  The girls were glad they wore their Hillsound Pro crampons.  I wore microspikes...which worked well enough if I kick-stepped into the trail and angled my feet sideways.

Looking down after we've ascended a bit.

Views on the way up

Our only view of Washington all day long.  Clouds soon enveloped the mountain;
 the rest of our time on Monroe was in fog.

Time to layer up.

Sage heads into the White.

There's the hut -- no really, it's there.  See it?

Sign by the hut.  Good thing we know where we're going!

The main entrance to the Lakes of the Clouds hut, which is closed during the winter, is underneath all that snow.  The girls happily climbed to the roof and admired more view of Fog.

The way to Mt. Monroe from the hut...I am familiar with this trail, and with the mountain...otherwise, I would have been nervous.  We checked our compass frequently, just to be extra safe.

The half mile went quickly...the steep bits up the summit cone were snowy, not icy, so traction was never an issue.  We sat on the summit in the midst of Cloud.

Our Desserts on the 48 tradition continued with Mallomars on Monroe.

We didn't linger for long.  The temps weren't bad and the wind chills weren't unbearable...but all this White made me nervous, and I wouldn't feel 100% fine until we were back at the hut.

In between the real summit and the false one, I took a photo of the girls and their snow-hair.

Here's me and my own snow-hair...and snow hat...

Just before descending the summit cone, the sky cleared just a smidge and we could see the top of Jefferson in the distance.  We seemed to be right at the edge of what the folks on Mt. Washington would see as an undercast.  We were just below the top of cloud layer, so we saw mostly fog/cloud...with just a hint of view every now and then,

We stood and watched as the flank of Mt. Washington appeared..then disappeared...

The show was quickly over.  Cloud returned, so we descended.

The icy trail sign at the base of Monroe's summit cone...

Our view from the sign toward the hut.  Like I said, I was glad we knew the trail and the terrain.  We also knew which direction we should be heading...and the tracks from other hikers didn't hurt.

We met a fellow named Justin as we returned to the hut.  He was on his way toward Monroe -- he was a nice guy and it was a pleasure speaking with him.

Once at the hut, we prepared to gleefully butt-slide down much of Ammonoosuc.  We secured everything inside our packs and took a few more gulps of water.  Just before we began the descent, we met two young men with accents (German?) who were heading toward Washington.  We exchanged pleasantries, then we went on our way.

We walked down most of the above-treeline bits of Ammo...didn't want anyone to accidentally slide off into the ravine.  Just before entering the trees, we met Emerel, a fellow who posts on New England Trail Conditions.  We spoke with him for five minutes or so.  Nice fellow -- I'd love to share a hike with him sometime.  He too was headed toward Washington (and then Monroe).  We eventually parted ways -- I hope he had a fine time of it up there.

The descent below treeline was quick...we walked as much as we could and butt-slid down the extremely steep parts...which, if you've ever hiked Ammo, is most of the upper mile of the trail.  For this reason alone, I recommend all who hike Ammo bring crampons.  Lots of people butt-slide down this's part of the fun of winter be prepared and bring the serious traction for your ascent.

The girls chased each other down most of the lower mile (after Gem Pool).  They paused at the trailhead long enough for me to get this photo...

...then they chased and playfully shoved each other all the way back to the car.  I think their goal was to fall into the snow as often as possible.

We'll likely get out again between Christmas and New Year's.  Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hope everyone is enjoying the winter weather!  My foot is finally feeling more or less back to normal.  We'll return to the trails next week, after Alex and Sage finish their midterm exams (we homeschool, but each girl takes accredited classes through various online and in-person institutions).  We'll probably hike twice during the Christmas holidays, then the girls will concentrate on skiing for a month or so.  In mid-February, assuming I remain uninjured, we'll get back to hiking once a week.

In the meantime, I'm almost finished documenting our John Muir Trail adventure (click here).

Many have asked if we're thru-hiking anything next year.  As of now, we plan to hike all the trails on our Terrifying 25 list, then head to Idaho to take on highpoint #45, Borah Peak.  We also have travel plans for the summer which are not hiking related.  We therefore probably won't be able to thru-hike a long-distance trail during 2015...there won't be enough time to fit everything in...though we will continue our fundraising-for-charities tradition using the Terrifying 25.  Stay tuned for more details.

I'll be back with a trip report next week.  Stay warm, folks!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adams 5 -- Alex's Final Hike of Trailwrights 72 - November 11, 2014

First, I want to say how grateful I am to the Trailwrights 72 Summits Club for the creation of the Trailwrights list -- and for the requirement of trailwork.  This hike marked the end of Alex's quest for the 72 peaks, but she won't be an official part of Trailwrights until she completes her 72 hours of water bar clearing, stone step building, brushing, and/or other trail maintenance tasks.  Sage will join her sister for that trail work, and Sage will probably finish the Trailwrights list herself over the next few years (she accompanied me and Alex on so many of these hikes that she now has only 16 peaks to go).

We loved this list.  LOVED it.  We learned so much during our bushwhacks, and we saw so many beautiful summits and vistas during all four of New Hampshire's wild seasons.  It's been six years and five months since Alex first set foot on her first NH4K summit...Tecumseh in 2008...which, though we didn't know it at the time, also became her first Trailwrights peak.  She's now eleven, which means she's been hiking this list for over half her life.

Second, I want to thank Sage for coming with us on most of these hikes.  She and Alex have long since surpassed me in speed and strength, and there will all too soon come a day when they will hit the trails on their own, without their old, slow mom.  It hasn't been "Trish and Alex" or "Trish and Sage" for at least a year...instead, it's been "Alex and Sage...with their mom trailing behind."

Third, I want to thank Hugh for understanding that we needed to grab this peak without him.  This was the first time he did not accompany us for a list finish.  He understood we needed to get this peak when we had a good weather window, and on a day the girls didn't have any classes or extracurricular activities.  Last Tuesday was warm for this time of year, and the trails weren't yet filled with snow, and the wind speeds were manageable...and the girls didn't have set-in-stone we grabbed the opportunity.  Unfortunately, Hugh was in Las Vegas.  He will celebrate with us tomorrow night, though, with a nice dinner at one of the kids' favorite restaurants.  Hugh also trusted me enough to know that I would turn back if I didn't think my foot could handle the excursion.  As always, I am grateful for his faith in me when it comes to all things concerning the girls.

Last but not least, I'm grateful my foot was healthy enough to manage this hike.  I stepped in a leaf-covered hole coming down Sam Adams last month and have had difficulty walking on my right foot ever since.  Nothing is fractured or torn, it's all just plain sore.  For this hike, I wrapped that foot six ways to Sunday and wedged it into a Sorel.  The girls and I carried overnight gear and deliberately took a route that led us past two shelters, just in case.  I also had a way to contact Hugh, and I know some locals who would have swooped in and retrieved the girls if necessary.  However, I hiked just fine...slowly, at a pace of a mile an hour...but fine.  Now that the hike is over, I'm going to stay off my feet as much as possible until everything is 100% recovered.

Now -- on to the report --

Lowe's Path, Randolph Path, Israel Ridge Trail, Gulfside, rockwhack.
Around ten miles out-and-back with about 3800 feet of elevation gain (note, will double-check that elevation gain tomorrow, on Friday).

We arrived at Lowe's Store off Route 2 at 5:45 am.  No one was there, so I stuck a rolled-up note with parking payment inside the door.  The girls and I crossed the road and reached the trailhead at 6:00 am.

There was just enough light to render headlamps useless, so we saved our batteries and headed into the dim woods.

I was pleased to find that walking on dirt and uneven ground was easier for me than walking on flat pavement.  I had told Hugh that I'd know within the first two miles whether or not I would be able to make it to the summit and back.  The hike was going much easier than I had anticipated, though I had to move more slowly than usual.  I was also happy to see that the trail was relatively snow-free all the way to Log Cabin.

We stopped at Log Cabin so I could do an honest assessment of my foot.  It wasn't hurting, but I still took it extremely slowly and cautiously.  Up we went, turning onto Randolph Path 0.3 miles from Log Cabin.

The snow cover increased, but the depth was never more than an inch and a half or so.  The day was warm, so the snow was soft and offered grip -- we carried microspikes, but never felt the need to wear them.

By the time we neared The Perch (which you can see in an enlarged version of the photo below, center right), my foot was feeling normal and, for the first time, I felt like we were going to make the summit (the girls were mentally prepared to bail, since I had repeatedly told them I'd probably turn us around before treeline).

Up we continued, on Randolph Path, toward treeline.

Taking an eggnog break...

Up up up...

The wind was fierce, but the temperatures were warm and the girls were prepared to crawl if needed.  We layered up and made our way toward Israel Ridge Trail.  Crawling never became necessary, though we did have to lean in quite a bit and grip the sides of boulders from time to time.

Quick photo while taking shelter behind a large cairn.

After we rounded the corner and started heading up Israel Ridge Trail, the wind significantly died down.  It still made its presence known now and then, but we had no trouble walking normally or communicating with one another.

Looking toward Jefferson's Castles...

...and toward Jefferson's summit.

The girls take a break and wait for their mom....

Nearing the intersection with Gulfside, Adams in the background and the side of Sam Adams ahead and to our left.

There are a couple of bumps off Gulfside, and we're not sure which is the official summit of Adams 5 (both have cairns on the top) -- so here's Alex on the northern-most bump.

We climbed the short distance down, then walked along Gulfside to the bump nearest Edmands Col.

This bump seems higher than the other bump, and the cairn is larger, and the views are this is where we officially celebrated and ate Alex's summit cake.  I'm not sure which is the official summit though, so if you are working on Trailwrights, then you may as well climb both bumps for good measure.

Looking at Jefferson...

...and Washington...

We lounged for a while, enjoying the sun and the views, and then, at 11:45am, I insisted we descend.  I knew it would probably take me a while to get down, since I wanted to be extra-careful with my foot.  We said adios to the gorgeous peaks and headed for the trees.

The girls were so patient with me!  I went soooo slowly, taking great care.  Everything was fine and dandy until we reached Log Cabin, and then my foot began letting me know it had not appreciated our adventure.  I rested a bit at the shelter, then I picked myself up and we continued, the girls cheering me on.  We made it back to the trailhead at 3pm.

It was a wonderful finish to a wonderful list.

Mt foot, though it hurt like mad that evening, felt 98% better the next morning.  [I never would have attempted this summit had I fractured something or torn a ligament on the Sam Adams hike -- I had X-rays and MRIs last doc told me I'd just banged up the tissue a bit and that I could hike with the foot hike I did.]  Today, I'm walking without much of a limp.  Still, we'll wait another few weeks before our next hike.

Good times.  Love these mountains, love these trails, love these two girls for putting up with me.