My first big, multi-day hike was a three day Pemigewasset Loop in July 2013 with a great group of friends. I decided that I wanted to push myself a little and attempt the Pemi Loop in a single day. Or, since I started in the evening, in a 24-hour period. I would be doing the hike solo, and with just a hammock and emergency bivy if I was forced to stop.
Since I had hiked Franconia Ridge plenty, I decided to set out clockwise from Lincoln Woods. That way I would do Franconia Ridge at night and the Bonds during daylight. I also decided to stick just to the Loop, no side hikes to Galehead or West Bond (or the further but attainable North Twin and Zealand).
With all that was separating me from the mountains was a few hours of state highways, I had no excuse not to leave for a hike when I would normally be getting ready for bed. Knowing that Crocker Cirque Campsite was just a short hike in the woods, it was a non-decision to pack up and head out for a hike in the middle of the night. Normal people would call this behavior crazy, but that’s okay, I’ve never pretended to be normal.
I arrived at the hiker’s parking lot on the Caribou Pond Road just after 12:00 am. With it being a clear and cool Friday night I was not surprised to see three other cars in the lot. I threw my gear on and headed up the road on foot to where it crossed the Appalachian Trail. I headed north on the AT and after about an hour of hiking by headlamp I started to keep an eye out for the side trail to the Crocker Cirque Campsite.
I knew when I hiked Mount Abraham in May I would want to return to explore the alpine area more thoroughly. It boasted the second largest alpine area in Maine by square acreage after Mount Katahdin. What I didn’t was that it would be less than two weeks later when I returned.
A friend and I drove up to Mount Abraham after work on a Friday evening. We got to the trail head clearing at 8:35 pm as daylight was fading. The temperature was mild and the sky mostly clear as we started up the Fire Warden’s Trail by headlamp. We made the mostly easy hike to the Abraham tent site by 10:35 pm. After setting up camp we ate dinner by a campfire and retired for the night at midnight. I remembered drifting to sleep as my hammock slowly swayed below the glittering stars.
A couple of friends and I took advantage of mild winter conditions to bag one of the more difficult winter 4000 Footers, a bushwhack to the Peak above Owls Head. The Peak above Owls Head is considered one of the more difficult hikes for several reasons: it is one of the more isolated peaks, by trail it is a 19 mile round-trip hike, there is no official trail to the summit of the peak and there are many water crossings which can be dangerous when the waters are high. To top this off, the best way to get to the peak in the winter is to do two bushwhacks known as the Black Pond Bushwhack and the Brutus Bushwhack.
Three of us drove up to the mountains Friday evening after work and camped at Hancock Campground, which was open year-round and across the street from the start of the hike. On the drive over Kancamagus Pass we pulled over to watch a moose munching leaves on the side of the road. Once at the campsite and after some food by the fire we turned in for an early morning start.
My hiking friends and I had plans for doing a multi-day hiking trip traversing the Great Range in the Adirondacks, but after some difficulty with the coordination of the hike we cancelled the trip. Instead we made plans to hike from Saddleback to Sugarloaf over three days. A trip that would have included Saddleback, The Horn, Abraham, Spaulding and Sugarloaf, some of the premier mountains in Maine.
As we closed in on the first weekend in October I was unsure if I would be able to do such a hike. On my previous hike traversing the Sandwich Range in New Hampshire I had hurt my ankle. After some discussion with my friends Michael and Jeff we decided to base camp at Cathedral Pines Campground in Eustis and do dayhikes around the Carrabasset Valley instead. That way if my ankle hurt too much I could take a zero day without ruining everyone’s trip.
When I purchased my commuter bike this year, one of the reasons I chose a touring bike over a cross bike was so I could do some bike camping. As September rolled around I took a week off from work to do some hiking which was the perfect opportunity to try out a bike and hike. I had been eyeing the 4000 Footers in the Sandwich Range and knew I wanted to complete them as traverse.
After some bike route and trail planning, I put together what I thought would be a great bike and hike. I would bike from Gorham, ME to the Kancamagus, drop my bike off at the Oliverian Brook trailhead, walk along the Kancamagus to the Sabbaday Brook Trail, spend three days hiking along the Sandwhich Range, and then bike back to Gorham.
Much like in 2014 when we hiked Guadalupe Peak and El Capitan, my coworkers and good friends John and Michael made plans to explore the wilderness away from our normal haunts by tacking a vacation onto a work-related trip. This time we chose a lesser known wilderness area within the Stanislaus National Forest called the Emigrant Wilderness. The Emigrant Wilderness is noted for its granite and volcanic terrain and beautiful alpine lakes. It became our target because it was only a 3 hour drive from San Francisco, relatively low in the Sierra Nevadas (it was April after all), it was easy to obtain a backcountry camping permit, it was below the 9000′ restriction on campfires and bear cans were not required.
As the date of our trip approached the forecast made it clear that we would not be experiencing the typical Californian climate. Though the weeks before and after our trip were sunny and in the 70s, the forecast for our week was in the 40s with threatening thunderstorms. On the day that our conferences ended the forecast still wasn’t great but it looked like the precipitation was going to be low even if the thunderstorms did manage to roll in. At the worst, the highest elevation forecast that was available predicted less than an inch of snow with temperatures in the mid to high 30s.
As we drove to REI and Whole Foods in Berkeley to get supplies we were still discussing whether to ditch the mountain plans and spend four days exploring Point Reyes, on the Pacific coast where the forecast was favorable. In the end it came down to the fact that we had planned our trip for months and flown from Maine to California in order to experience the Sierra Nevadas. The worst possible forecast would be a mild New England spring storm. So we headed to the mountains.