Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Franconia Ridge Traverse. December 26, 2015

Peaks: Lafayette, North Lincoln, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, and Flume
Trails: Old Bridle Path, Greenleaf Trail, Franconia Ridge Trail, Osseo Trail, Lincoln Woods Trail.
15.6 miles with around 5300 feet of elevation gain.

There are two sections of the Whites that make me very nervous during winter: Greenleaf Trail through Franconia Ridge Trail (summit cone of Lafayette, plus Lafayette to Little Haystack) and the northern Presidentials (from Madison Springs Hut to Washington).  December 26 had a forecast of bright sun, warm temps (for the season), and still no snow, so it seemed appropriate to get one of those two sketchy sections of the Whites out of the way for Sage's winter 4K list.  The extremely unusual lack of snow and ice would make our hike much safer than it usually is during calendar winter.  Of course, we're now chasing the Grid, so we'll have to get those two sketchy sections during the other winter months as well (not just late December)..but I'm choosing to worry about all that one month at a time.

We chose the Franconia Ridge Traverse.  This way, Sage could get Lafayette through Flume for her winter 4Ks, plus another Trailwrights 72 peak, and John could get Lafayette and Lincoln for his winter 48.  Sage needs the northern Presidentials for winter as well...but they'll have to wait.

We spotted a car at Lincoln Woods and had boots on trail for Old Bridle Path around 7:20am.

Up we went.  We even had our dog with us (he usually doesn't hike during the winter since he doesn't like hiking in the snow).

We made quick time to the viewpoint just below the Agonies.  The temps were so comfortable below treeline that I ended up hiking in my tank top.

Looking back toward the valley

Lafayette in the clouds
Up we went, over the three Agonies.

This Agony is my favorite.  Smooth and steep, and it looks like a sculpture.

We encountered frosty trees near (closed for the season) Greenleaf Hut.

The sun finally breaking through the clouds
We layered up -- the wind was biting! -- and headed up the summit cone of Lafayette.  Every once in a while, we'd turn back and enjoy the gorgeous views.

Looking down on Greenleaf Hut with Cannon and the Kinsmans right behind it.

The ridge and Lincoln

This was the coldest part of our day.  The windchill must have been close to zero.  Up we went, over frosty rocks (but they were not nearly as frosty/icy as they usually are this time of year!)


The girls posed for a quick photo before they dove for cover to put on their windproof pants.

Looking at Owls Head and the Bonds...

The girls hunkered down and got on their windproof pants while I took this photo of Cannon, the Kinsmans, and the Moose...

Looking ahead to our destinations -- the ridge all the way to Mt. Flume.

After quickly eating a snack and chugging some light eggnog, we got moving again.  It was too cold on Lafayette to linger.

On the way down Lafayette, heading toward North Lincoln.  Sage is realizing she needs her balaclava.

Almost on North Lincoln...

Sage on North Lincoln!  Another Trailwrights peak down -- she's almost finished!

Alex says hello while on North Lincoln...

On North Lincoln, looking toward Lincoln.

On Lincoln, eating Feta on Franconia Ridge.   :)

On Lincoln, looking toward our next destinations, Liberty and Flume.

The girls and me on Mt. Lincoln.

We headed toward Little Haystack, where we passed out some of our excess Christmas candy to hikers coming up Falling Waters Trail, then we headed down into the trees and over to Liberty, where it felt like summer.

I hadn't done this stretch of trail (between Little Haystack and Liberty) in years, and I was pleasantly surprised at how mellow it is.  It never gets all that steep, and the footing is generally good.

On Liberty, with Cannon in the background.

Views from Liberty...

Looking toward Flume from Liberty.  I love how that peak looks from afar.  Depending on which peak you're on, Flume either looks very pointy or very cliff-y.

There were a lot of people enjoying the warm weather on Liberty.  I took out my bag of Christmas candy, made a general announcement, and put it down for folks to come and take from it whatever they wanted.

I also met quite a few familiar Facebook faces, and I re-met Joe, who had been on Moosilauke when then-six-year-old Alex finished her first round of the NH48 in August 2009.  It was really nice meeting everyone!

The trek from Liberty to Flume isn't very steep either.  This traverse was nothing like our Kinsman Ridge experience, which had felt like a never-ending series of steep PUDS (Pointless Ups and Downs).

The girls on Flume...

Me and the girls on Flume...

Views south from Flume, including the little cliff-walk that takes you down via Osseo Trail.

We took a final look at what we had accomplished before we headed down into the trees.  From left to right, there's Liberty, Little Haystack, Liberty, and Lafayette.

Down we went, via Osseo Trail and all its (mellow) ladders.

It was a great day, and we enjoyed our time on the trail with our friend John.  We always enjoy his company when he's able to hike with us!

Also -- I got to finally meet White Mountain legend Sue "Stinkyfeet."  We ran into her between Liberty and Little Haystack.  "Stinkyfeet" has either been the first woman or the fastest woman to do pretty much every hiking accomplishment in the Whites.  I enjoyed telling Alex and Sage about her after we crossed paths.

That's it for 2015.  We've done a lot -- tons of 4Ks, the Great Wall of China, and Idaho's Borah Peak.  in 2016, we'll do a ton more 4Ks, MAYBE another highpoint, and hopefully a fun trek through Iceland.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Habanero Jack on Hale. December 21, 2015

Road walk of 2.6 miles each way, plus 2.2 miles of Hale Brook Trail each way.  About 9.6 miles roundtrip, with 2600 feet of elevation gain.

It's Christmas Eve as I write this.  Wait -- no --  now it's Christmas.  The girls are in bed, I've taken care of all parental Christmas Eve duties, and the dog's gone out one last time for the night.  I have a rare bit of quiet so, even though I know I will be woken in perhaps six hours time, I thought I'd take a few minutes and reflect.

It's been a year of massive changes.  I sold our large country house and moved the girls and I into a nice-sized condo.  I made the move to simplify our lives.  I could have afforded to stay in the house, but, after the girls go to college, I want a low maintenance life of thru-hiking and simplicity.  It is more important to me to be able to travel, and to show the girls what I can of the world over the next five to eight years, and to allow us to thru-hike for charity, than to keep up a huge house.  The girls like where we live now -- they each have their own large bedroom and bathroom -- but the move was a change, and there was some sadness involved.  On my part, I was happy to move, as I prefer the more relaxed lifestyle a condo affords...I'm not the type who wants to always deal with roofs/driveways/mowing/raking/shoveling/landscaping/etc.

Both girls have also taken on a ton of schoolwork, far more than they did last year.  Their extracurriculars are taking up a lot of time, too.  We always make room for hiking, for that is where/when we clear our heads, invigorate our bodies, and spend excellent time discussing life in general.  However, it's been hectic...I'm always trying to make sure we get back home in time for them to accomplish all their academic assignments and/or make a scout meeting/karate lesson/class/get-together.

I don't expect the pace of our lives will change much over the next five years.  The girls are growing quickly, and they are becoming more and more independent and separate from me -- as they should.  I am grateful they each still love to hike, and I treasure every moment we share on the trails.  One day, and that day will come faster than I'd like, they will both be gone to college, and it will just be me all the time out there, on my own.  I predict I will throw myself onto the Appalachian Trail for six months to deal with my empty nest syndrome (assuming all our pets have died of old age by then).  Until that happens, however, I will live in the moment as best I can, and I will be there for my girls as they need me...while I simultaneously let them go, bit by bit, so they can use their wings when they're ready.

Wow -- it really is late.  The girls will probably be up in four or five hours.  On with the Hale show.

We haven't had much snow for this time of year, but Zealand Road is now closed anyway.  This means Hale is 9.6 miles round trip instead of 4.4, since you have to walk all the way up the road just to get to the trailhead.

Walking along the snowmobile track by Route 302 in order to get to Zealand Road.

The Zealand Road road walk

The trailhead for Hale Brook Trail.

Sage is excited to get going (even though we've been going...along the closed road...for 2.6 miles),

Once at the trailhead, you've half your mileage - but almost all of your elevation gain - to go.  The girls were now happy, as they felt like the real, authentic hike (woods instead of road) was about to begin.

About to begin the official trail
Up we went.  It might have been all muddy and gray by our home, but it was snowy and beautiful on the trail.

Pretty snow scene.  The snow was never deep enough or slippery enough for snowshoes or microspikes.

The girls always enjoy picking up huge chunks of ice out of the water crossings.

One of the great things about our boots (Sorel) is that they're waterproof.  I kept reminding Alex to avoid the ice and just step directly into the water.

Snow always creates natural art to admire.  Here, the girls check out the way the wind has blown bits of snow against a tree trunk.

Up into the white.

Sage took this photo -- she thought it looked as though the tree was covered in icing.

We arrived at the familiar summit -- only two or three more ascents of this peak before we've finished it for the Grid.

We ate Habanero Jack cheese for our Cheese on the 48 quest.

Though we were warm on the way up due to constant aerobic exercise, we became cold on the summit; our lack of movement on the peak brought the chill into our bodies fairly quickly.  We only stayed for an ounce or so of the Habanero, then we quickly chugged some light eggnog and headed down the mountain.

We warmed within five minutes of moving, and by the time we returned to the road walk portion of the hike, we were hot again.  The girls spent some time choosing icicles from the boulders/vegetation by the side of the road...they proceeded to battle it out here and there as we made our way back to the car.

It was a great hike -- and we meant to hike the very next day, my birthday, December 22.  However, rain arrived...cold, steady rain...and we canceled our plans.  I enjoy hiking in the rain during the summer, but we try to stay clear of downpours if the temperature is below 45 degrees.  Too much of a hypothermia risk.

Tomorrow, we hope to do the entire Franconia Ridge.  I imagine that, since it's now calendar winter, and since tomorrow is a Saturday, AND since there is currently little to no snow on a ridge that is usually quite dangerous this time of year, that we will see roughly two million people out there, all chasing their winter 4K/Grid hiking lists.  :)  If you happen to be one of those folks, then please nod and say hello if you see us.  We'll likely give you a bunch of candy; Santa brought us way too much this year.

Peace and Joy, no matter what holiday (if any) you celebrate this time of year,