Two weeks after completing our three year section hike of the John Muir Trail, Jeff headed to northern New Hampshire to thruhike the Cohos Trail, a relatively unheard of long trail from the Canadian border to the White Mountains National Forest. Initially I was going to thruhike it with him, but was feeling exhausted from the JMT, and was battling some chronic ankle and calf pain. Instead, I joined him for the middle of his hike, and to help with car spotting.
On the first day of my hike, I met Jeff at a trailhead on Nash Stream Road. We left my car there and drove up to where he left off the Cohos Trail, at Young’s Store. This day mostly consisted of hiking ATV trails, overgrown snowmobile trails, and backroads. There were some highlights, like lunch on the shore of Lake Francis, and curious cows greeting us along fields in the middle of nowhere. But it was mostly a grind. At th end of the day we lucked out and found an empty campsite at Coleman State Park.
Spotted car at Cohos Trail parking, 0.5 miles beyond Trio Ponds Road on Nash Stream Road in Groveton, NH
Parked at Young’s Store in Pittsburg, NH
Hiked south on ATV trails to McKeages Camp Trail
Right on McKeages Camp Trail to Cedar Stream Road
Right on Cedar Stream Road to Deadwater Loop Road
Left on Deadwater Loop Road to ATC trails
Right on ATV trails to Haynes Road
Left on Haynes Road to Creampoke Road/McAllister Road
Left on Creampoke Road/McAllister Road to Bear Rock Road
Left on Bear Rock Road to Heath Road
Left on Heath Road to Diamond Pond Road
Left on Diamond Pond Road to Coleman State Park
Date: 25 August 2019 Distance: 24.0 miles Elevation Gain: 1952′
The second day of my Cohos Trail hike started at Coleman State Park and was much better than the previous day’s slog. We were on singletrack for most of the day, had some views, and ate lunch on the roof of a leanto. The afternoon was highlighted by Dixville Notch and the amazing views from Table Rock. We ended the day at Baldhead Shelter, but we were low on water and could not find a source near the shelter.
Hiked south on Cohos Trail to Sanguinary Mountain
Right on Sanguinary Ridge Trail to Dixville Notch
Straight on Huntington Cascade Trail to Three Brothers Trail
Left on Three Brothers Trail to Table Rock
Left on Cohos Trail to Baldhead Shelter
Date: 26 August 2019 Distance: 18.4 miles Elevation Gain: 3876′
On the third day of my segment of the Cohos Trail we woke up in Baldhead Shelter and hiked until we found some water a short bushwhack off the trail. We hiked out to Nash Stream Road where my exhaustion and sore ankle got the best of me, and I hiked the road back to my car while Jeff continued along the Cohos Trail. That would be the end of my adventure. We spotted his car at the end of the Cohos Trail, got some dinner, and camped in the relative luxury of Dry River Campground. Jeff would finish his thruhike of the Cohos Trail over the next couple of days.
Hikes south on Cohos Trail to Nash Stream Road
Left on Nash Stream Road to parked car
Date: 27 August 2019 Distance: 11.5 miles Elevation Gain: 1089′
The John Muir Trail is one of those bucket list hikes that I always dreamed about but didn’t think I’d get the opportunity to do. The trail is over 200 miles long and goes from Yosemite National Park to Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. It goes past Half Dome in Yosemite, by the most beautiful alpine lakes in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, through the massive canyons carved out by the San Joaquin River in Kings Canyon National Park, and meanders through the land of 14,000′ giants in Sequoia National Park. Some say it’s the most beautiful and scenic land in the country, it would be hard to argue otherwise.
My journey began when Jeff entered the lottery for a permit to hike the John Muir Trail and climb Half Dome. Despite only a 2% chance of being awarded a permit (at that time), we got permits for our requested days within a two days of the lottery opening. Since Jeff, Michael, and I couldn’t take the time off work to hike the entire trail at a single go, we decided to break it up into three trips. The hardest permits to acquire were entering the trail from Yosemite and exiting the trail from Mount Whitney. We got the first one, we’d figure out the rest as we got there. For our first year on the JMT we decided to hike from Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley to Reds Meadow, and exit via Mammoth Lakes area.
After almost an entire day flying across the country, spotting a rental car in Mammoth, public transporting to Yosemite, and picking up our permits, we awoke at the hiker’s campground in Yosemite Valley and headed to Happy Isles trailhead. I cannot describe the excitement and anticipation of starting the hike. It was one of the few instances in my life where the reality of doing the thing exceeded the daydreaming and the planning of the thing. It was a perfect morning, we were surrounded beautiful scenery, and we were giddy for the hiking and camping ahead of us. It was the perfect introduction to the trail, with sprawling vistas and massive waterfalls, and all the while Half Dome loomed overhead. We set up camp at Little Yosemite Valley (where our permits dictated we needed to camp the first night) and hiked to the approach of Half Dome. We planned to hike it on the first day since we could do it with lighter packs after setting up camp. But, as we neared The Cables a thunderstorm rolled in and we bailed. Back at Little Yosemite Valley we met our camping neighbors, Keith and his sister-in-law, and had a campfire to cap off the day.
Drive from Portland, ME to Boston, MA
Airplane from Boston, MA to San Francisco, CA
Car rental from San Francisco to Horseshoe Lake parking lot in Mammoth Lakes
Mammoth Lakes Basin Trolley from Horseshoe Lake to Mammoth Village
YARTS bus from Mammoth to Tuolumne Meadows
Permit pickup in Tuolumne Meadows
Tuolumne Meadows Shuttle from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley
Camp at hiker’s campground in Yosemite Valley
Hiked John Muir Trail from Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley
Left on John Muir Trail from Little Yosemite Valley to intersection with Half Dome Trail
Left on Half Dome Trail to above tree line and back
Right on John Muir Trail to Little Yosemite Valley
Camped at Little Yosemite Valley
Date: 16 August 2017 Distance: 10.4 miles Elevation Gain: 4700′
Our second day on the JMT started by re-hiking the approach to Half Dome. At the intersection of the John Muir Trail and Half Dome Trail we ditched a lot of our gear (even though it is not suggested), except for our food so that animals wouldn’t get into it. The Cables were nerve-wracking, I’m glad I didn’t have the full weight of my pack on my back. Since we started at Little Yosemite Valley, we got to Half Dome before the crowds. We grabbed some gloves from a pile (this was pre-covid so it was okay to share, though I guess you needed to be wary of rattlesnakes) and started up the steep pitch. The ascent was not for the meek, the granite was slick on a dry day and all you have to assist you are two cables held up by an occasional metal pole, and wood treads every several feet (see image below get the idea). As we started up what seemed like a vertical pitch, Jeff headed back down in a moment of uncertainty. Michael and I continued up, and I for one took my first full breath as we got to the top. The views were amazing, despite the smoke from forest fires obscuring the valley, but I think I was too worried about the descent to truly appreciate it. After taking some photos and avoiding the shit-ravens (I guess the climb made people shit themselves and the ravens clearly liked to snack on it) we headed back to The Cables. But as we got there Jeff was just finishing the climb. In the end he overcame his fear and we got to experience the shitty splendor of Half Dome together.
After descending Half Dome we continued up the John Muir trail, heading northeast toward Tuolumne Meadows. After filtering some water near the Clouds Rest Trail intersection (I still loved my Sawyer Squeeze at this time), we entered a section of trail that weaved through an remnants of a forest fire. It was a shocking contrast to the beauty we witnessed up to that point. All of the trees were charred, and there was no shade. After getting through that arid section we capped off the day with a slog up Sunrise Pass. We found a hardened area off the trail on which to camp with views of the ragged Cathedral Range to the north.
Hiked John Muir Trail to intersection with Half Dome Trail
Left on Half Dome Trail to summit of Half Dome and back
Left on John Muir Trail to Sunrise Pass
Camped off trail below Sunrise Pass
Date: 17 August 2017 Distance: 11.6 miles Elevation Gain: 5600′
Our third day was a mostly gradual descent from Sunrise Pass to Tuolumne Meadows. We hiked along iconic fields surrounded by wild flowers and the shark-teeth-like peaks of Columbia Finger, Tresidder Peak, and the impressive Cathedral Peak. We stopped by Cathedral Lake for lunch on the rocks while Jeff scoped out the fish situation. The descent from Cathedral Peak to Tuolumne Meadows was cruizer for us, but we passed family after miserable family climbing up in the heat. In several cases the children were crying and the parents were fuming with frustration. Having been on a month-long whirlwind tour of the national parks only a month earlier, I could relate. After arriving at the hiker’s campground in Tuolumne Meadows, we stopped at the post office to grab our resupply and get some lunch. Sadly, we were already halfway through our adventure. We bumped into Keith again, and met his new trail partner Cat. Keith had way over estimated how much food he needed in his resupply, so we feasted on his extra jerky and Fritos. We invited them to camp with us and spent the evening becoming fast friends and sharing stories over a campfire.
Hiked John Muir Trail to Cathedral Lake
Continued on John Muir Trail to Tuolumne Meadows
Camped at Tuolumne Meadows hiker’s campground
Date: 18 August 2017 Distance: 9.6 miles Elevation Gain: 1100′
After grabbing the most amazing breakfast sandwiches in Tuolumne Meadows, we left Keith and Cat and got an early start on the trail, hoping that we would meet up again that evening. The day was one of the more mellow ones as we followed Lyell Canyon toward Donahue Pass. We stopped occasionally to peer at fish in the river, and Jeff got to fly fish a little as we took breaks (see video below). The day drew to an end as we started the climb up to Donahue Pass. We stopped at Green Tarn, a small mountain lake feed from glacier runoff and made camp. I jumped in the tarn to wash off several days’ worth of grit and we caught a beautiful sunset. We left a sign on the trail that we were camping nearby (a mosaic of Maine made from small rocks, and a twig arrow) but we did not see Keith and Cat that evening. Michael and I cowboy camped outside our tents and stared at the stars overhead. But I moved into my tent as the temperature dropped.
Hiked John Muir Trail to intersection with Pacific Crest Trail
Right on Pacific Crest Trail to Green Tarn
Camped at Green Tarn
Date: 19 August 2017 Distance: 11.9 miles Elevation Gain: 2100′
We started our fifth day on the JMT by wading across the freezing runoff from Green Tarn and climbing up and over Donahue Pass. The pass was be our highest elevation for this section of the trip at 11,066′ and was the border between Yosemite National Park and the Ansel Adams Wilderness. I was looking forward to the Ansel Adams Wilderness, but was still struck by its beauty. The day was filled with wildflowers, hopping over trickling brooks and surrounded by snow-covered mountain peaks. Midday was marked by pack llamas on Island Pass and heading toward some of the most amazing alpine lakes. Thousand Island Lake and Garnet Lake were majestic bodies of water towered over by Banner Peak and Mount Ritter. Banner Peak stood front and center above the lakes, and over its shoulder, Mount Ritter was the highest mountain we would see this trip at over 13,000′. The climb down from Island Pass was very exposed to the sun and I was feeling a bit dehydrated. We stopped at Thousand Island Lake for lunch and to put our feet in the water. We had planned to camp along one of the lakes, but they were relatively crowded and a ranger who stopped us to check our permits said there was a nuisance bear bother campers the last few nights. So we continued through a climb after Garnet Lake and found a hardened spot with a view and a fire ring to camp at. It wasn’t the nicest campsite, but at least we were back to low enough elevation to have a campfire.
Hiked Pacific Crest Trail over Donahue Pass to Thousand Island Lake and intersection with John Muir Trail
Right on John Muir Trail to campsite above Shadow Lake
Date: 20 August 2017 Distance: 12.3 miles Elevation Gain: 2500′
Day six marked the day we’d be exiting the John Muir Trail, but on a lighter note there would also be a nearly total solar eclipse. We continued along the JMT past some more alpine lakes. While we were at the high point between Rosalie and Gladys Lake we came across some people observing the total eclipse. It was a partially cloudy morning, but they let us borrow a piece of welder’s glass they were carrying to check out the eclipse. While not as impressive as the last week’s worth of scenery, it was a moment that marked that place in time for me. It was a pretty mellow hike beyond that point, and soon after lunch we got to Devils Postpile National Monument, where we exited the JMT. The rocks in Devils Postpile were known for their hexagonal pillar shape, but it was otherwise unimpressive. We continued on to Reds Meadow where we grabbed a campsite (the cheaper hiker’s campsite was too crowded for our wilderness-induced minds) and headed to Reds Meadow Resort to get some burgers and milkshakes. Later that afternoon Keith and Cat found us and took the campsite next to us. Another hiker we met in Lyell Canyon a few days earlier added his tent to our site. We spent the evening catching up and talking about the JMT. I know Jeff, Michael and I were sad to have to exit the trail the next morning, and not continue south with our new trail family.
Hiked John Muir Trail to intersection with Devils Postpile Trail
Left on Devils Postpile Trail to Reds Meadow
Camped at Reds Meadow Campground
Date: 21 August 2017 Distance: 10.7 miles Elevation Gain: 1500′
On our last day of our 2017 John Muir Trail adventure we headed out of the wilderness by climbing through Mammoth Pass to our car parked at Horsehoe Lake. The morning did start with some excitement when we spotted a black bear stalking us through the less traveled trails. At the trailhead I left my trusty hiking stick which had travelled with me from Lyell Canyon, and on which I had carved #mainewanderlust. The rest of the day was the drive back to San Francisco to catch our flight. We grabbed some dinner at Whole Foods and enjoy it by the Pacific Ocean during sunset, so it wasn’t a complete bummer to return to reality.
Hiked Old John Muir Trail to intersection with Mammoth Pass Trail
Left on Mammoth Pass Trail to Horseshoe Lake parking
Date: 22 August 2017 Distance: 4.2 miles Elevation Gain: 1900′
Date: 16 – 22 August 2017 Distance: 70.7 miles Elevation Gain: 19,400′
Each fall a couple of friends and I try to take a long weekend to do some backcountry hiking and camping. In 2016 we planned a multi-day hike in the Great Range in the Adirondacks in New York. For me, this was the start of a new peak list. Having recently finished the New England 4000 Footers, I was looking forward to the Adirondacks 46 High Peaks. So, we took a Thursday and Friday off and headed to New York.
For this hike we parked at Garden, hiked up to The Brothers, Big Slide Mountain and Yard Mountain, hiked down to Johns Brooks Lodge and then halfway up to the Wolfjaws to camp at Wolf Jaw campsite. On Friday we hiked up to the Great Range and traversed Lower Wolfjaw, Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong Mountain, The Gothics, Saddleback Mountain, and Basin Mountain and then hiked down to Slant Rock campsite. On Saturday we hiked up to Little Haystack and Mount Haystack before heading back to Garden Parking, following the valley out. The hike was over 24 miles and included 10,000 feet of elevation gain.
It was a five hour drive from where we lived to Keene Valley, New York, so we started in the dark on Thursday morning. We needed to rent a bear canisters so we stopped at The Mountaineer, an outdoors equipment shop, for the canister and some other supplies. I spilled my coffee down the front of my shirt on the drive, so I picked up a new shirt so I wouldn’t smell like food in bear country.
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.
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.
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.
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.