Trip Report: Camel’s Hump

A fine day for a short hike! 

Camel’s Hump Mountain, 4083 feet. Huntington, VT. With a side trip to the B-24 bomber wreckage.

75 dF at trailhead, approx 80 dF at summit. Sunny skies and 30 miles visibility. Breezy at summit — approximately 5-10 MPH.

Via Burrow’s, Alpine, and Long trail.

Trailhead: 1100; Summit, 1215. B-24 wreckage: 1245. Car: 1500. Approximately 6 miles.

On the one hand, not having the 48 hanging over my head is a bit liberating. It’s one thing I’m not thinking about any more. (OK, I’m thinking about it, but much differently, being on the other side of the list now.) On the other hand, without the insane impetus to get outside, it’s easier to procrastinate. And yet, not getting outside drives me up the wall. Amongst other things, I like writing about things I’ve seen on the trail. Maybe people benefit in planning their own hikes, which is cool. (And I hear that happens.) This blog is in part a reaction to finding a dearth of that kind of knowledge on the web.

So… Camel’s Hump. Just over 4,000 feet. Relatively easy, and so it was a nice, easy day out.  I was nursing an injury, so easy was fine by me.

To be clear, I’m madly in love with the Whites. Vermont feels different, and that’s OK. The distance from trailhead to summit is merciful, making up for the hours-long drive to get there. (And passing through farmland on that drive is sublime. Please don’t get me wrong on that. Oh wow, is it sublime, driving through cow country. Miles and miles of verdant, becalming scenery that just makes you want to slow down. You can’t put a price on that.) One thing I’ve noticed is that the view from the top takes in that farmland, which stands in stark contrast to the view from, say, Bondcliff, Garfield, Isolation, or Carter Dome, where you look across miles of wilderness. Vermont owns its farms, and makes no bones about it. Which is cool!

My VT parks season pass went unused today — the mountain extracts no user fees from either human or iron ranger. (Just know that parking is first come, first served.) And yet, at the trailhead, there were still complimentary maps, and in abundance, no less. The trail was muddy in a couple of small sections, but overall, this wasn’t “Ver-mud.” Until near the summit, I didn’t do a lot of rock hopping, which was also refreshing. And unlike many hikes in the Whites, the trail is amply blazed, and pretty much clean and clear the whole way up. Apart from quirks of geology, the trail was quite well maintained throughout, and this was evident from the number of small kiddos I saw everywhere — all of whom were having a blast on such an epic day.

One thing I noticed was that the alpine herbaceous plants weren’t even nearly as abundant as I’ve seen on other hikes. So don’t go for the flowers. However, the green tunnel was in effect, so even though it wasn’t as floral, my work-a-day stresses sloughed off my back about ten feet from the trailhead. It’s a popular mountain on the weekends, but today, it wasn’t busy. I did see a lot of ferns, and this continues to intrigue me — plants that were likely kicking around about the time the dinosaurs were taking their last curtain call. If the mountains don’t get you thinking on a different time scale, the plants can still fix that deficiency. Wow!

I stopped to see the wreckage of the ill-fated B-24 that crashed on the side of the mountain back in 1944. It’s around 1/4 mile from the summit, and worth the small bit of effort. Take the Alpine Trail and when you see the two yellow blazes, go to the right for about a dozen more yards. It’ll be right in front of you. The hike back to the summit, should you want to take Burrow’s Trail back to the trailhead, isn’t tough. Just know that the short bit of trail does include a roughly 5 foot section of trail that wraps around a cliff-face, and while it’s not a huge deal, you will feel a bit exposed. But it’s exhilarating.

And you can’t beat the view.

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A distinctive profile
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Obligatory summit selfie
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Looking out to Mansfield
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Yes, that’s the trail
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B-24 wreckage
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What time is it? Geologic time!
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White Throated Sparrow
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Wood Sorrel

Trip Report: Mt Mansfield

And so it begins again…

Mt Mansfield Chin, 4,395 feet. Underhill, VT. With a hike along the ridge to the Forehead.

82 dF at trailhead, approx 88 dF at summit. Hazy to start, giving way to mostly sunny skies and 20 miles visibility. Breezy at summit — approximately 10-15 MPH.

Via Eagle Cut trail, CCC road, Sunset Ridge trail, Long Trail, and Halfway House trail.

Trailhead: 1020, The Chin: 1300, Forehead: 1430. Car: 1630. Approximately 8 miles.

After finishing the NH 48, I turned my eyes west, to the Green Mountain state. There’s a new Maine Mountain Guide that’s just been released by the AMC, and my copy is still in the mail. So, logistics…

The Green Mountain Club is super concentrated on the Long Trail. As such, the bounty of AMC offerings as far as books and maps aren’t present in Vermont. Hikers, beware. That’s not saying “here be dragons”, but it is saying that there’s not the one-stop shopping like you get with the AMC in the Whites. However, on arriving at Underhill State Park, I was greeted by very friendly staff, one of whom handed me a decent map and was able to offer great advice about trails. It’s worth also noting that the summits were similarly staffed by caretakers.

By their advice, I avoided the Laura Cowles trail. The recent rains have made the trail a virtual stream, and being mindful of trail erosion, I didn’t want that. I went up Sunset Ridge trail, and even though it was still fairly hazy on the ridge, I did get some nice views. It’s a good trail going up, with sure footing throughout.

Below tree line, the green tunnel is very much in effect, and as you ascend, the species change in line with elevation in the expected way. I was happy when I got higher and the breeze was able to penetrate the canopy a bit, taking the edge off the otherwise oppressive heat. Yeah, it was hot out, even in the mountains.

True to the state’s reputation of “Vermud”, the trail was quite wet in a lot of places, but for the most part, there are either stepping stones or roots. It’s only in a few places where you’ve got no choice but to plow through a mud puddle.

More-or-less halfway, there’s a short, 0.2 mile spur to the NW that leads to Cantilever Rock. This is a spectacle to see. A large (around 30 feet or so) slender “obelisk” of rock cleaved off the mountain, and cantilevered itself such that it juts out into space. If you look carefully, you can see the way it cleaved off, and you could imagine how it got where it is. The spur is pretty easy going, with a few small bits of rock-hopping near the end. Make 10 minutes to see this one. It’s worth it.

Above tree line, the caretakers have laid out string denoting the edges of the trail. Beyond lie Vermont’s alpine tundra, and it’s only on Mansfield, Camel’s Hump, and Abraham that this stuff exists. I saw a few people here and there oblivious to the fact that a footstep can kill this stuff, which was concerning.

The haze cleared considerably by the time I got to the summit, and I had a better view, though still not the kind you’d get in February or March. Regardless, I was on a mountain, which is all that counts. And so I turned to the south, and hiked along the Long Trail to the Forehead. Wow, what a view! The haze reduced the mountains to simple shapes, softening edges.

Heading back, I stopped on the other side of the nose, and hiked down the auto road for a bit. A couple switchbacks down is a small spring, and I needed water. Did I mention the sun, the heat, and the humidity? Keep your eyes to the right and you’ll see a small frog pond with the kind of water you don’t even want to wade in. But just after that, you’ll hear the sound of trickling water, and there’s a plastic pipe with spring water issuing forth. It’s clean (I DID, though, sterilize it first, which everyone should do as a matter of principle) and tasty, and most of all, very cold and refreshing.

I returned via the Halfway House trail, which had a couple slightly steep bits and one ladder section. Not bad going down, but you do need to be thoughtful in places. On the lower half, it flattens out a fair bit. On the CCC road, I had smooth sailing, and not long after, was back at the car.

After the rush to finish the 48 by the end of Springtime, I needed a few days to recover and catch up on things around the house. But I was feeling the ever-present call the whole time. Bagging Vermont’s highest peak was just what the doctor ordered.

20180702-Mansfield-Profile
The mountain, from a few miles out.
20180702-Mansfield-Metamorphisis
Metamorphic schist.
20180702-Mansfield-Cantilever-Rock
Cantilever Rock.
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Diapensia.
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Summit USGS benchmark.
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Heading south on the Long Trail.
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Looking south from the Forehead.
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Looking north from the Forehead.
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Cliffs on the east side of the Nose.
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Alpine Bluets.
20180702-Mansfield-Mtn-Strawberry
Not sure, but likely Mountain Strawberry.
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Cotton Sedge.
20180702-Mansfield-Orange-Hawkweed
Orange Hawkweed.
20180702-Mansfield-Bluebead-Lily
Bluebead Lily.

White Mountain Guide Online shutting down

The AMC is discontinuing the WMG Online site as of the end of September. Currently, they’re no longer accepting new subscriptions. If you have saved routes, they’ll continue to be accessible until the end of September, but expect them to be gone after that. Similarly, if you were thinking about a trip, time to start drawing up and exporting maps.

Current subscribers will get prorated refunds as appropriate.

Right now, the only substitute I know of is CalTopo. (https://caltopo.com/) It’s not a perfect substitute. You won’t be able to draw routes automatically by trail head, huts, and so on. But it’s not bad. If anyone knows of a good resource, feel free to chime in.

I think this is a bummer. On the one hand, yes, it was an imperfect resource. But at the same time, I found it to have a lot of utility in planning my hikes up the 48. If anyone from the AMC is reading this, please bring back the WMG Online with better functionality soon.

Training Hike: Pack Monadnock

27 June, 2018.

Via the Marion Davis and Wapack trails.

The unexpected consequence of finishing the 48 was that I felt more than a bit disjointed. I had a sense that something like this would happen — anyone who’s done something big and long-term like this (maybe a wedding, or school, or an all-consuming project at work) knows that often, you just need to sit on the sofa for a bit and gather your thoughts as the dust settles. And so it came to pass. Compounding this is the AMC’s request for a short essay on my experience. While I know that I could just submit my last trip report, I’ve been told by people over time that my blog has been both enjoyable and informative reading, so in the spirit of that, I should probably do something a little better. (And really, shouldn’t we all push ourselves to do something a little better, just as a matter of principle?) So that landed on the pile, as well.

But I had to get outside, even just for a couple hours. Indecision coupled with proximity made the choice: Pack Monadnock is a short drive and a short mountain. And if you just look down, it’s still got things to look at that are plenty interesting. Flowers, ferns, a toad… the secrets that hide in plain sight are just waiting to be found by the observant.

It’s summertime, so a report on trail conditions is silly. Suffice it to say that bugs in the mid-afternoon were minimal, and although it was fairly hazy out, the views from the fire tower were still rewarding. A couple happy pups on the trail, smiles around, and a general sense of “all’s fair and good in the world” pervaded.

I’m making plans to move onto the 67, starting with Vermont. Regrettably, there’s not a whole lot as far as AMC-level guidebooks, but that doesn’t mean there’s no information out there — it just needs to be gathered and digested. Also, I have it on good authority that the AMC is planning on a new edition of the Maine Mountain Guide in a few short weeks, so I’m eagerly anticipating that. But yeah, the next big peaks are just around the corner.

More soon…

Trip Report: North and South Kinsman, Cannon Mountain

And then, there were none! 

North and South Kinsman Mountain (4,293 and 4,658 feet, respectively), Cannon Mountain (4,100 feet). Franconia, NH. With a crossing over the Cannonballs.

60 dF at trailhead, approx 70 dF at summits. Cloudy to start, giving way to mostly sunny skies and 20-30 miles visibility. Very windy at Cannon summit — approximately 25-30 MPH.

Via Lonesome Lake, Fishin’ Jimmy, Kinsman Ridge, and Hi-Cannon trails.

Trailhead: 0745. North Kinsman summit: 1145. South Kinsman summit: 1215. (Crossed North Kinsman again at 1245.) Cannon Mountain summit: 1545. Car: 1730.

I got to say the one thing that every hiker, who is working on the 48, longs to say. “I have one left. That one.” There was a celebratory atmosphere on the trail, and that’s what has made the magic for me all along. The mountains have been half of it. The people have been the other half. Oh, the people I’ve met.

I got out the door earlier than usual, and so had a bright and early start to the day. Heading out on the Lonesome Lake trail, the clouds were low. I was hopeful the forecast would become reality, and that the sun would come out, but it felt like it took forever. Philosophically, I’m OK with a view like the inside of a ping pong ball, but for my last peak, it would have been a bit of a downer.

I got to Fishin’ Jimmy trail, and things were a little weird. The trail itself was very wet — a lot of bogs, huge puddles, and basically, I was just following a stream bed. My shoes got muddy, and then a few minutes later, they got rinsed off. Hooray for Gore-Tex! Next thing I knew, I was at the Kinsman Pond campsite. The site manager popped into view, and we chatted for a bit. Our college backgrounds were similar, and so once again, a magical moment. We ended up chatting for a very long time, and I got yet another “need to come back to this” entry in my mind. If there’s been a constant in the Whites, this has been it. So much to come back to.

Turning back to the trail, I got to the top of North Kinsman, and sure enough, the view was all of about 200 yards — the clouds were thick and heavy. Worse, I just couldn’t warm up, and so I crossed the summit wearing a fleece vest and gloves. In June. Two days before the official start of summer. Wow. At least when I traversed the snow on Jefferson, I was pretty warm in shorts and a tee shirt.

I continued to South Kinsman. Along the way, I met some AT thru hikers who gave me the 411 on just how crazy the previous night’s storm really was. At home, I saw torrential rain and 40 MPH winds. Up where they were, it was much the same… except I was inside,  warm and dry. They were in a shelter. Wow.

At the summit, the sun was pushing hard to make an appearance, and there were long pauses in the cloud cover that restored my optimism. I had brief views! Stowing my fleece, I turned back north.

The tenor of the trail rapidly changed. The col between the two Kinsmans felt fairly shallow, and the way going wasn’t too bad. The rains from the previous night had left their mark, but that was about it. But heading toward the Cannonballs, the trail became soupy. Bog bridges were old and more peat than wood. Muddy stretches could have a solid foundation underneath, or they could swallow my shoe. And worse, the cols were deep and rocky, making for very slow going. But I would not be denied my prize.

After the northernmost Cannonball, the trail went well and truly up. As the crow flies, the mileage is short — about half what the book says. Trust the book. And when it says this is a trail better taken up and avoided down, trust the book. There were quite a few sections where I thought a fall would be particularly nasty. When I do Cannon again, it’ll be by a different, friendlier route.

Approaching the top, the trail began to relax a little, and more and more, it became apparent that the end of my quest was near: in mere minutes, I’d be standing on the top of my 48th peak. I’d been reflecting on past trips throughout the day, but now, it really started ramping up. Dinner with the Croo at Zealand hut. Sliding down the Old Bridle Path on Lafayette. A stellar day on the Scaur Ridge trail. Nearly being blown off the mountain on Bondcliff. Hiking up Moriah with a geology professor. The enchantment of seeing hoar frost on Garfield. A birch glade on Isolation. Wading across ice-cold water on Owl’s Head. And meeting a couple from Warwick, RI doing their 26th peak, while I was on my first, on Tecumseh, four short months ago.

At last, the summit building and its observation deck came into view. I climbed to the top, and was greeted by a howling wind and mostly blue skies. And the view! Franconia Notch was laid out in front of me in glorious tableau. The sky was a deep azure, with fluffy clouds floating past, painting their shadows over the landscape.

I turned back down, and walked a steep path back to the trailhead. Along the way, I was treated to views of Lonesome Lake, which was stellar. Before long, I was back at the campground. I met up with a couple hikers I saw earlier in the day, and they were very congratulatory; being themselves in the middle of their lists, the celebration was mutual. As happy as I am to be done, I kinda miss being in the middle of it.

But I am still in the middle of it — there’s the 67, the 100, and, y’know, you don’t really need a list to put your boots on and go tramping around in the woods.

To that end, there’s this AT thing that I’ve been hearing about…

…maybe one day.

20180619-AMC-Lonesome-Lake-Hut

Lonesome Lake hut.

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Waterfall on Fishin’ Jimmy trail. The word of the day was “wet.”

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Mossy bog on Fishin’ Jimmy.

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More bog bridge…

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Steps on an otherwise treacherous slab.

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South Kinsman.

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Benchmark that was fairly far removed from the summit of North Kinsman.

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A very wet Kinsman Ridge trail.

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Looking toward Cannon, with a view of Franconia Ridge.

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Cannon getting closer, with the summit building more visible.

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Stairs going up a trail have a universal meaning: the way going is steep!

20180619-Franconia-Ridge

 

Franconia Ridge from the observation deck.

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Lonesome Lake, from Hi-Cannon trail

20180619-Hi-Cannon-Ladder

Ladder on Hi-Cannon trail.

Trip report: Mt Moosilauke

Short, hard, but sweet! (Yet hazy!)

Mt Moosilauke. Approx 9 miles. 4,802 feet.

60 dF at trailhead, approx 60 dF at summits, 30 MPH winds above tree line. Sunny throughout, with a hazy overcast sky. Visibility approx 10 miles, max. Very windy at the summit — approximately 25-30 MPH.

Trailhead: 0900. Summit: 1115. Car: 1330.

This couldn’t have been more straightforward. Hike Glencliff trail up and down. It’s not “hard” in a technical sense, but it was strenuous. The trail goes through a short meadow that’s very picturesque and motivating, but after that, there’s a lot of up. It’s not a hard trail in terms of rock hopping, though there is a fair bit of that. Just a lot of up.

After what felt like an eternity, I made the vicinity of the south summit — there is a spur that goes south by about 0.1 miles to reach this, and on the way back, this is a fine thing to do. The views, on a clear day, are there to be had, and there’s only modest elevation gain for a lot of reward.

The ridge is gentle to the very summit, in terms of rise, and the trail itself is very clean and almost paved. Much speed will be made here. Summit itself was bald, but as noted above, not much to see today. Oh well. I did see an old foundation of an abandoned summit house.

On the macro level, a lot of flowers. Nice. I’d like to think I’ll have these identified shortly, but readers are welcome to chime in.

Hiking back down, I met a couple AT through hikers, and then a bit later on, a solo hiker. As always, they add to my trip; just the idea of walking up from Georgia is mind blowing and inspiring.

Moosilauke is a bit out of the way, in the same manner of Cabot, without feeling as “out of the way” as Cabot. If you have time, and it’s a Saturday, the town of Warren has a historical society museum with free admission. If it’s not a Saturday, there’s still a Redstone rocket out in front. Worth checking out to add to the day. New Hampshire’s beloved hero Alan Shepherd gets a mention.

Yellow-Flower-20180618White-Flower-20180618ThreeToothedCinquefoil-20180618

I believe this is a species of cinquefoil.

Purple-Flower-20180618Mountain-Avens20180618Sweaty-Rock-20180618

Interestingly, the darker rock was “sweating.” On further inspection, it was buried enough that the ground was helping the rock retain its cold, more so than the lighter, more raised rock.

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Approaching the summit.

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Looking back; the nearly “paved” trail.

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South summit.

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Probably the worst the trail threw at me today.

Trip Report: Jefferson, Adams, Madison

It was a long, hard day.

Mt Jefferson, Mt Adams, Mt Madison. 2018-06-16 (Saturday.) Via the Sylvan Way, Amphibrach, Randolph Path, Jefferson Loop, Gulfslide Trail, and Valley Way. Approx 14 miles.

Jefferson 5,716 ft, Adams 5,799 ft, Madison 5,366 ft.

60 dF at trailhead, approx 60 dF at summits, 30 MPH winds above tree line. Sunny throughout, with a bit of hazy overcast sky.

Trailhead: 0930. Jefferson summit: 1415. Adams summit: 1610. Madison hut: 1700. Madison summit: 1730. Car: 2000.

Looking back, if I could have broken this one up into two hikes, I’d have enjoyed it more. There’s a lot of scrambling over loose rock from about halfway up until about halfway down. It didn’t matter the mountain: the day was defined by loose rock and hopping across boulders on less than perfect footing.

Except the snow at Edmands col. Which was awesome.

Overall, it was a good day out, and as time passes, I’m sure the effort will turn in my mind from “what was I thinking!?” to “wow, that was hard, but fun!” I kept wishing for a couple feet of snow on the trail, because with snowshoes, it would have been a lot easier going. It was an ambitious hike, with long distance and more than 6,200 feet of elevation gain. Unlike other ranges, the cols are deep, so it’s not as if you get the big climbing out of the way early, and just bag peak after peak. No, the big climbing just keeps coming at you, and the uneven terrain eats up any energy you thought you had. Of all the peaks I’ve done so far, these three easily rank as the hardest. No question. Adams and Madison make a natural pair, as the distance was shorter and the climb up Madison felt slightly easier (from hut to peak was half an hour) but really, by that point, I was pretty cooked just the same.

Maybe my biggest feeling of being let down is that the three peaks don’t really have a summit area, and they’re pretty barren. So apart from a fantastic view over yonder, there’s not much there. Again, further reflection might change my feelings on this, but that’s my initial reaction.

The decision to go up Amphibrach was a good last minute change. Of all the trails, this was by far easiest on the joints, and very scenic. I highly recommend it.

I think for this one, the pictures will tell the story better than I could, so I’m going to let them do that now.

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A waterfall early on the trail.
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Soft trail, but a hint of what was to come.
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Blowdowns near Edmands col.
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Looking down over the valley below.
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Adams, with some June snow in the foreground.
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Washington!
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Madison summit.
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Diapensia.

Trip Report: North and South Twin Mountain, Mt Guyot, and West Bond Mountain

A trio with twins?

North and South Twin Mountain, Guyot, and West Bond Mountain. 2018-06-14 (Thursday.) Via the North Twin trail, North Twin spur, Twinway, Bondcliff trail, and West Bond spur. Approx 18 miles.

North Twin, 4761 ft; South Twin, 4902 ft; Guyot, 4580 ft; West Bond, 4540 ft.

60 dF at trailhead, approx 50 dF at summits, 30-35 MPH winds, mediated by consistent tree cover on the trails. Mt Guyot traverse was essentially a wind tunnel. Very wet throughout. If not rain, then heavy mist that condensed on everything and was blown everywhere, lasting for most of the day.

Trailhead: 0800. North Twin summit: 1045. South Twin summit: 1130. W. Bond spur: 1315. West Bond summit: 1330. Car: 1800.

Today’s views could best be described as what you’d expect if you were trapped in a ping-pong ball. And yet, sometimes, we do it anyway. It was firmly Type 2 fun. The green tunnel was in full effect, and up on high, if being soaked to the bone wasn’t enough cause for thought, the mosses gave me a “forest bathing” moment. So at least I could lean on those two to lift my mood when the clouds were trying to put a damper on things.

I started out dry, but that was dealt with before I even got to North Twin. This wasn’t going to be a day of epic views, but rather one of challenge. And honestly, I hadn’t been tried by the weather in a few weeks, so one could argue this was coming.

In sharp contrast to the glorious botanical bounty I enjoyed in the north just the other day, things were more in line with ferns and that sort of thing — no botanical fireworks. And then there were three tedious water crossings. Topping it out, blow-downs were everywhere. I usually like to address any that are problematic on the way back, because I’m heading downhill, and so am less averse to burning energy and time. But one in particular completely blocked the way forward, and I think it may have fallen very recently. My saw made quick work of it, and I was back on track, but there was a lot of bumbling over, under, and around other blow-downs on the trail.

NB: There’s a section of North Twin trail, about 2 miles in, that’s entirely blocked by a massive group of blow-downs. A goat path has materialized around it, but be careful about erosion. Also, the first two water crossings can be skipped by following a thin path along the east side. The last crossing is, by far, the easiest; of course, utmost care should always be taken. The water is deeper than you think, cold, and fast moving. A potentially deadly combination, and not the way you’d want to end up on the evening news.

Nearer the North Twin summit, I bumped into Ozzie, a retiree who is NOBO-ing a section hike of the AT that he started a few years ago. We joined forces and kept each other company for the next few miles — at the Twinway, he headed out for Zealand Falls hut. Coming from the plains states, he was hoping to stand on Katahdin in a few weeks. Good luck, Ozzie. May the wind be ever at your back, your pack light on your shoulders, and may the sun shine warmly on your face.

After that, I passed Guyot summit, aiming for my ultimate destination of West Bond. Having been three months to bag that trio, and more than a little tired of having that millstone around my neck, I was eager to check that box off the list. It’s a nifty little summit, and even in the persistent pea-soup fog, it felt like this was a summit worth revisiting.

West Bond’s northern slope did have a lot of blow-downs from last year’s storm. As I passed through, I couldn’t help but feel upset at the massive carnage. But then, on further inspection, I saw a huge number of smaller trees in the understory. These little fellas suddenly had all the light they could possibly want, and a lot less competition for nutrients in the soil. They looked very healthy, and the summer will likely see them growing like crazy. So hope springs eternal, as always. The cycle of life continues.

I turned for home and tried to make time. Feeling like a drowned rat for most of the day was getting old fast, and so I put some extra spring in my step. Passing over Guyot, I felt less chilled by the insane winds, and made quick work of the rock field. On the other side of the Twins, the wet finally abated as I descended into the deciduous forest. And then I was back at my car.

This was one of those hikes I probably wouldn’t have considered last year, owing to being drenched and perhaps a little colder than I should have been. On the other hand, as tough as it was, I had a good time overall. The trail was far from perfect approaching North Twin, but I don’t go into the woods expecting a yellow brick road to the summit. Any adherent to eastern philosophy will tell you that beauty lies in imperfection, so on that score, this was a beautiful outing. And though I was cold, wet, and miserable at times,  I’m not inclined to disagree.

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Fording the Little River.
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Arguably the most interesting rock I’ve seen in a long time.
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Trail near North Twin summit.
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Mossy forest bathing.
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This is probably the best maintained, most improved bit of trail I’ve seen.
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Heading to Guyot’s summit.
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Blow downs on West Bond
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West Bond cairn.

Trip Report: Mt Cabot, Mt Waumbek

Dynamic Duo! Oh wow, yeah, dynamic.

Mt Cabot and Mt Waumbek. 2018-06-12 (Tuesday.) Via the York Pond trail, Bunnell Notch trail, Killkenny Ridge trail, also the Starr-King trail. Approx 17 miles.

Cabot, 4170; Waumbek, 4006 feet.

60 dF at Cabot trailhead, low 70s at the summits. Sunny, becoming partly cloudy in the afternoon. 25 MPH winds, mediated by consistent tree cover.

Cabot trailhead: 0900. Cabot Summit: 1135. Car: 1330. Waumbek trailhead: 1430. Starr King summit: 1555. Waumbek summit: 1620. Car: 1740.

It was an audacious plan: do the two north country summits in a day, with a traverse by car in between. It obviously worked. I wished I’d gotten out the door sooner, so I could have avoided rushing, but there it is. We don’t always get what we want, but sometimes, we get what we need.

I’d been putting these two off for the latter end of things. Mostly, this was borne out of a sense of “you can use them as filler.” And to a degree, that was true. In hindsight, do these mountains stand on their own? I can attest that, at least in the warmer months, an emphatic yes is in order.

Looking back, the chilly months do indeed tug at my heartstrings. There is something I find lyrically beautiful about the sky in winter — so deep blue that I have to dial it back, mainly because no-one will believe it was almost purple. And set against the pure white snow, it’s amazing. But the North Country in late spring, when all the flowers are in bloom made me feel like a kid again, tramping around in the woods where I grew up.

The trail to Cabot is overgrown. You’ll find it for sure, because it’s not that overgrown, but it certainly encroaches. (Pro tip: ferns can manipulate your fitness tracker screens!) For all that, the wildflowers were glorious. If I had only one peak on the agenda, I’d have taken hours to summit, examining each one. The bother was the wind, as it made taking pictures non-trivial. The flowers couldn’t stop dancing around. But who can blame them? It was a beautiful day, and I’d dance, too.

For those wondering, Cabot is “out of the way.” I remember talking with Steve Smith, and he sighed as he said “it’s more than an hour from my shop”. You get to Twin Mountain, and you’re still a long way from the trailhead. It’s there, and it’s worth it. Also, the Berlin Fish Hatchery folks are keeping the gate open 24/7, but check with them just in case.

I met a group of septuagenarians, who were having a fantastic day out. For at least one, this was her 9th time doing the 48. And proof that the mountains keep you young. They were lovely company and I’m glad to have met them.

The trail is fairly low-key for the first half, ascending quickly in the second. You make good time for all that, and before long, the Cabot Cabin is in view. Then, the summit. Look carefully, because there are outlooks, and their views are magnificent.

I raced down, and drove around to Starr-King’s trailhead. Due to outside commitments, I had to keep a schedule, so the traverse wasn’t in the cards this day. (But a 25 mile hike was cut down to 17.) At Starr-King trailhead, I set forth. The info from the septuagenarians did indeed come in helpful. The trails were in fine shape. Waumbek has a straightforward approach. It’s a grade all the way, with a minor, but distinct “pop” near the top. I raced up, with secure footing all the way. There was evidence of trail maintenance in the form of blow-down management, and that’s another “Thank-you!” to the trail crews.

At the top of Starr-King, I found a weird fireplace in the middle of a clearing. Turning down a RMC-signed “Path”, I made quick time to Waumbek. There’s an outlook off the summit, but the day was hazy, so the view was good, but not epic. (See my love for winter, above.) That said, I’m at peace on the trail, so view or not, the mountain was working its magic.

These two north country peaks are in stark contrast to the rest of the Whites. Instead of the usual “hardwood, fir, krummholtz” forests, I was thrown back to the time I was a kid, walking through forests that felt very familiar, very comforting. Yeah, they’re out of the way, and far less traveled than the “lower” mountains. But wow, what a treat they were, and a sight for sore eyes. I can’t wait to visit them in the colder months.

Sidenote: If a tree falls in the forest, can it land on a hiker? I came uncomfortably close to answering this question on Starr-King. The day was consistently windy, so the trees were certainly feeling it. And so it came to pass that, on my way down, a bough from a dead tree decided to fall as I passed by, landing at my feet. No kidding, if I had my arms outstretched, something nasty would have happened. So be careful out there.

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Waumbek’s USGS benchmark. If you’re not looking for it, you could walk past it.

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The bough that nearly hit me.

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Bunchberry.

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Cabot Hut. Very minimally maintained.

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Either a well or a cistern, not sure which. Near the trailhead of Waumbek.

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Starr-King’s fireplace. Come in, and set a spell.

Trip Report: Mt Hancock, North and South

Simple, Sublime, Satisfying. Short and sweet.

Mt Hancock and South Hancock. 2018-06-07 (Thursday.) Via the Hancock Notch trail, Cedar Brook trail, Hancock Loop trail.. Approx 10 miles.

North Hancock, 4420; South Hancock, 4319 feet.

65 dF at trailhead, cooler at the summit. Cloudy, becoming partly cloudy in the afternoon.

Trailhead: 1200. North Hancock Summit: 1450. South Hancock Summit: 1540. Car: 1730.

It was an inauspicious start. I’d slept through my alarm clock. Duh. So, being intent on making delicious lemonade out of that basket of lemons, I switched gears from hiking the northern presidentials, to knocking off the Hancocks. I’d been saving them for this kind of thing, anyway.

Everything about the mountains felt easy. The trailhead is right in the middle of the hairpin turn on the Kancamagus Highway. Which itself is right off of 93, and a good bit south of Franconia Notch. And it’s short — ten miles round trip, and about 4 of those miles are nearly flat. (Another 1 1/2, going between the two peaks, isn’t that hard, either, with a fair bit of bog board smoothing the way.) Water crossings were short and shallow, and the trail was well maintained and adequately blazed.

There were two exceptions to that: both mountains are very steep, once you get to them. I don’t think there was a difference in terms of whether it was better to go up one and down the other, because while North was steeper, South had a lot more loose rock on the trail. I’m glad the trail was mostly dry, because in the rain, it would have been comical.

Make no mistake, however, those trails will give you a run for your money in terms of altitude for distance. “Everything about the mountains felt easy” was over and done with at the end of the approach. When the contour lines on the map start getting tighter, your legs start screaming for mercy. The saving grace is that the punishment is relatively quick. These mountains aren’t on the shorter end, but they’re also not on the higher end of the list. (I’ll compare it, roughly, to what the goat path on Owl’s Head felt like.)

Clouds overhead felt like they really wanted to dump some rain. Here and there, I’d feel a few drops, but never more than half a dozen or so — just enough to start wondering “is it raining?” Thankfully, the weather held, and as I got back to my car, the sun had finally come out, and was bathing the valley below in its warmth and glow.

Several happy faces on the trail, and one dog having a wonderful time. Also, a grey jay as I went between the peaks. (And wow, that section was almost deafening with birdsong.) The green tunnel was in effect throughout: both summits were tree covered, but everyone said the outlooks offer fine views, even with the cloud cover. And yes, for the most part, this was true. It would have been better on a clear day, as a few nearby peaks had their upper elevations shrouded, but it was still worthwhile to stand and gaze for a spell.

Coming back down, I didn’t have the same urgency to make time, and so looked to the sides a lot more. I really have to do this more often, because certainly in the lower elevations, the wildflowers are starting to get out of control. This is A Very Good Thing, and I hope it only gets more extravagant as the warmer weather continues to take hold. A lot of rhodos, a lot of painted trillium, a bit of bog laurel. And the mosses… wow, that stuff softens the landscape and makes it magical. Forest bathing at its finest.

Side bar: “A rolling stone gathers no moss” has the opposite meaning in Japan than in the west. I blame Erasmus for introducing this erroneous interpretation. Moss is beneficial and desirable. It is the experience we gain from stopping and looking around. The roughness and imperfection of nature is its beauty. And moss softens the edges, as our experiences soften the lumps and bumps of our daily existence.

This was the first “real” hike with the new trail runners. The book time for this hike was 6:20, and I got it done in 5:30, stopping for a lot of pictures along the way. So that’s a ringing endorsement. I hope it’s not an anomaly.

For those keeping count with me, this outing was #35 and #36. 12 peaks left. I’m planning on doing everything west of 93 last, finishing on Cannon, hopefully in the next week or so. I can’t wait to visit Moosilauke, Dartmouth Outing Club’s spiritual home.

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If your feet are wet, obviously you took the wrong trail.
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Looking to the south peak.
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Friendly fella.
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Looking to the north peak. I was convinced that slide was part of the trail. Thankfully, it wasn’t.
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Mt Carrigain, and you can barely make out the tower on the right side of the peak.
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Sometimes the trail is wet…
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…And sometimes it’s dry.
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Victory!
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I (heart) the White Mountains!
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Bog Laurel
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Rhodos. (https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/rhododendron_canadense.shtml)
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Not sure what these yellow guys are.