2017 National Parks Tour

One of the best perks of my job is what we call PGL: Personal Growth Leave. Starting during our 10th year and every following 5 years we must take a mandatory month off with pay (4 consecutive weeks). This is something I’ve been looking forward to since I started at my job. My first PGL starts now.

My wife was also able to get the month off and in another 5 years my older son may be off to college and starting his own life. So, my family decided that this was our opportunity to take the trip of a lifetime to see some of the most beautiful locations in our country. We are taking the whole month of July and driving around the country to visit national parks, cities and other choice locations.

map

  1. Wanderlust Headquarters
  2. Niagara Falls
  3. Denver, CO
  4. Moab, UT & mountain biking, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park
  5. Bryce Canyon National Park
  6. Zion National Park
  7. Grand Canyon National Park (north rim)
  8. Death Valley National Park
  9. Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park
  10. Yosemite National Park
  11. Lassen Volcanic National Park
  12. Crater National Park
  13. Portland, OR
  14. Seattle, WA
  15. Glacier National Park
  16. Yellowstone National Park & white water rafting, Grand Tetons National Park & horseback riding
  17. Mount Rushmore
  18. Badlands National Park
  19. Madison, WI
  20. Chicago, IL
  21. Cuyahoga National Park

It’ll be a mad dash and by the end I suspect we’ll be more tired than we started. But hopefully we’ll be making memories that will last our lifetimes. Stories that we’ll tell when we gather for the holidays. Adventures that our kids can recreate with their kids.

Eventually there will be a slew of blog posts from the trip, but until then stay tuned to my social media locations for photos, updates and more.

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Hike: Blackstrap Hill Preserve

Trail Report

This weekend I was on call for work so I couldn’t retreat to the mountains to replenish my soul. Instead, I grabbed the boys and headed to Falmouth, Maine, to explore Blackstrap Hill Preserve. I only really knew of it’s existence from planning my route when I biked around Sebago Lake.

We parked at the southern access on Blackstrap Road shortly after the I-95 overpass. The trail started across private property then dipped down to a crushed rock path into the preserve. The hike was mostly flat and pleasant through some hardwood and evergreen forests. Once we got to the intersection of the white-blazed trail and the red-blazed trail we decided to go all the way to the overlook.

The overlook was a rocky knob standing proud in a treeless swath around power lines. If it wasn’t for the power lines and the distant highway it would have been a very pleasant view (though it would probably be forested, so take what you can get).

We returned the way we came except that we completed the white-blazed loop prior to returning to our car. It was quiet in the woods; we only saw a couple walking their dog and one mountain biker. The best part was the signs of spring; bright green leave pushing up the dead leaves and a few flashes of color from flowers.

Video

Video of Blackstrap Hill Preserve hikeVideo of Blackstrap Hill Preserve hike
Music from Free Music Archive: “Add And” by Broke for Free
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A Look Back on 2014

I think it was in 2010 when I hit my highest body weight to date that I decided I had to stop fooling around with my life and focus on my health, both physically and mentally. I started training for a half marathon and dabbled in Buddhism. That year I teamed up with my wife to run the Vermont City Marathon relay (we both ran 13.1 miles of it). That started the ball rolling for more and more extreme activities in which I could partake to motivate my daily exercise.

In 2012 I ran my first full marathon (the Sugarloaf Marathon), completed a Tough Mudder mud run and (due to my increased appetite in hiking) attempted my first Presidential Traverse.

2012 Tough Mudder, Mt. Snow, Vermont

2012 Tough Mudder, Mt. Snow, Vermont

In 2013 things shifted more towards hiking as I completed the Pemigewasset Loop and the Presidential Traverse and started to seriously take on the New England 4000 Footers.

2013 Pemi Loop, Bondcliff

2013 Pemi Loop, Bondcliff

As this year winds down, I wanted to take a minute to reminisce on all that I have accomplished in 2014. One thing that I’ve taken away from starting this blog is that I appreciate all of the adventures that I’ve taken this year. I think by writing them down I’ve ingrained the activity in my memory and it affords me the opportunity of reliving the experience whenever I like. I highly suggest that everyone does the same, whether it is done publicly or privately.

Snack Break in Baxter Park, 2014

Snack Break in Baxter Park, 2014

I hiked 59 different peaks in four different states in 2014. I climbed 25 different peaks of the New England 4000 Footers, 15 of which were for the first time. Below is a list of the hikes and activities that stand out the most to me:

2014 has been an incredible year for me in many regards. I’ve had no shortage of adventures and as a result I’ve been a happier person on a day-to-day basis. I look forward to repeating the same in 2015 and possibly adding a few over-the-top adventures to test myself and share with you.

Nostalgia is a necessary thing, I believe, and a way for all of us to find peace in that which we have accomplished, or even failed to accomplish.
—R.A. Salvatore

References:
Pemigewasset Loop FAQ.” davidalbeck.com. David Albeck. Web. 18 December 2014.
Presidential Traverse.” earthlink.net. EarthLink. Web. 18 December 2014.
Sugarloaf Marathon.” sugarloaf,com. Sugarloaf Mountain Resort. Web. 18 December 2014.
Tough Mudder.” toughmudder.com. Tough Mudder, Inc. Web. 18 December 2014.
Vermont City Marathon.” vermontcitymarathon.org. RunVermont. Web. 18 December 2014.

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Hike: Baxter Peak

Hike Date: 21 June 2014

My family has a goal of reaching the high point in every state in the U.S. So far we’ve only done Mount Mansfield in Vermont (and we hiked from the visitor center, so we’ll have to do it again). This summer’s goal was to do our home state, Maine. Baxter Peak is the highest point in Maine, the 22nd highest state high point and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. It sits in one of my favorite parks, Baxter State Park, which is the largest state park in New England and 4th largest in the country. The park was established with a goal of preserving the land in a natural state, so the trails are minimally maintained and there is a daily limit to the number of vehicles allowed in the park.

We arrived Friday afternoon and camped at a site we reserved at Roaring Brook Campground. This was the best way to guarantee getting into the park and having enough daylight to hike the mountain, which can easily take a seasoned hiker 8 hours so we knew we would need plenty of daylight. It also helped that we were hiking on the summer solstice. While checking in I heard other hikers discussing the snow that had fallen on the summit that day.

Always be prepared for winter-like weather when hiking above tree-line, no matter the time of year.

We had dinner and turned in early, so that we could wake up and get going early. The next morning I was up before the rest of the family so I got firewood and had a morning fire by which to stay warm.

Morning camp fire

Morning camp fire

We packed up camp and moved our vehicle to the day-use area. We started our big hike heading up Chimney Pond Trail. The trail was a moderate hike to Chimney Pond, a small pond that formed in the center of the horseshoe-shaped ridge of Mount Katahdin. About halfway up the trail there was a spur trail that led to a nice vista of the mountain.

Chimney Pond Trail vista

Chimney Pond Trail vista

We continued up the trail at a decent pace and took our next break at Middle Basin Pond. From the pond we had our first view of the saddle between Baxter Peak and Hamlin Peak, where the Saddle Trail exited the treeline and the ridge climbing up to Baxter Peak. After some trail mix and water we continued on.

First sight of Baxter Peak and the saddle from Middle Basin Pond

First sight of Baxter Peak and the saddle from Middle Basin Pond

We concluded the hike up to Chimney Pond and took a break in the day shelter. After the short rest we headed down to the pond for a view of it and Mount Katahdin. Chimney Pond is one of my favorite secluded locations. The pond is wrapped in an embrace by the mountain and across the pond you can see a small flat field (it is probably marsh). It would be the ultimate location for a log cabin (if not for being in the middle of a state park and visited by dozens of people a day). Unfortunately, panorama photos have a way of taking away the feeling of being surrounded and presenting the view at a distance. It is a must see in person.

Chimney Pond

Chimney Pond

We signed in at the ranger station and then began our slog up Saddle Trail. About a mile from the upper terminus of Saddle Trail we hit the Saddle slide. Saddle Trail is the easiest route up to Baxter Peak, but it is by no means easy. The slide is a mass of boulders with loose gravel between. Earlier that year a refrigerator-sized boulder slid loose on the Abol slide, closing the Abol Trail on its approach to Baxter for at least the rest of 2014. You could easily see the same thing happening on Saddle Trail. After many breaks and a whole bunch of sweat we made it to the top of Saddle trail.

Top of Saddle Trail

Top of Saddle Trail

So far the boys had done well. My older son led the charge and was often sitting on a rock waiting for us to catch up. My younger son was slow climbing over the rocks twice his size, but he had not complained yet and seemed determined to make it to the top (a huge improvement from last year when we climbed 3000′ Mount Blue and he said it was the worst day of his life). I was pretty tired but also determined to see my boys make it to the top of Baxter Peak. Unfortunately, my wife was exhausted and was feeling light-headed, so she stopped her hike near the Saddle Trail junction. She insisted that we continue to the peak, so I left her with her jacket, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and water.

We set up the one mile hike to the top of Baxter Peak. The trail was very rugged and continued over many false peaks before we got our view of the summit. Along the way people coming down from the peak congratulated me on bringing my sons all the way to the peak and even took pictures of my 7-year-old, amazed that he hiked all the way up himself. One large group even clapped and patted me on the back as we passed them.

We reached the chilly and breezy top and had our photo taken by the famous Katahdin sign.

Baxter Peak

Baxter Peak

We spent a few minutes taking in the view spread out around us, like the ragged ridge line of The Knife Edge:

Knife's Edge

The Knife Edge

And the expansive and water strewn Allagash Wilderness to the north:

Allagash Wilderness

Allagash Wilderness

We were soon chilly and found some shelter below large boulders and ate our lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. While we were eating we saw a young man complete his hike of the Appalachian Trail. Being only June he was very early. He said that he started in March. I didn’t ask, but considering that it was the Summer Solstice, I had the feeling that had began on the Vernal Equinox. 2180 miles in 3 months, that is fast.

Once we finished our lunch we headed down to meet back up with my wife. This began the slowest slog of the hike; waiting for my 7-year-old to navigate the tough terrain from the summit to the bottom of the Saddle slide. My older son went ahead to reach his mom at his own pace and I took in the view of the Baxter tableau.

Baxter Tableau

Baxter saddle

We reached my wife and stopped for a break before descending Saddle slide. My younger son had worked very hard to hike down the mile of rugged trail from the peak without a break, so we figured he deserved one.

Getting ready to descend Saddle

Getting ready to descend Saddle

For me, descending the Saddle slide was the most nerve-wracking part of the hike. I basically hiked down it backwards with my arms out, waiting for my younger son to stumble. If we hadn’t spent so much time climbing the rocks on the back shore of our island and I hadn’t known how well he climbed rocks, we probably would have waited a few more years to do this hike.

Descending

Descending

The hike back to Roaring Brook Campground was long and uneventful. We stopped once again at Chimney Pond for our final snack and then made good time the rest of the way down. We got back to our car in just under 12 hours with plenty of daylight to drive out to another campground and set up camp. It was a long and arduous but total worth it. I could not have been more proud of my whole family and I look forward to more state high points in the future.

The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.
—George Santayana

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Elevation: 5267′
Elevation Gain: 3778′
Distance: 11 miles
Book Time: 7:25
Actual Time: 11:45
Temperature: 50°s
Wind: 10mph NW
Weather: Partly Sunny

References:
About the Trail.” appalachiantrail.org. Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Web. 30 July 2014.
Facts About Mount Katahdin.” about.com. About.com. Web. 25 July 2014.
Hiking Katahdin.” baxterstateparkauthority.com. Baxter State Park Authority. Web. 31 July 2014.

Hike: Mount Madison

Hiked: 15 June 2014

So far, my favorite peaks in the White Mountains are Carrigain, Bondcliff and Madison. When my son chose Madison to be his first 4000 Footer I was excited, even though I’d be doing a traverse of the Presidentials two weeks later. Saturday evening we drove to White Birches Camping Park, and RV park (which I typically and vocally rebel against), but the tent sites in the back of the camping park were actually secluded and quite nice.

We woke at 4:30am in order to get to Appalachia parking lot by 5:30am. Not knowing how my son would perform on his first serious hike I wanted to leave 5 hours for each ascent and descent and an hour for breaks and still be back to Portland to catch the early evening boat. We arrived to find plenty of space at the parking lot and headed up Valley Way toward Madison Spring Hut.

I explained to my son that this was his hike, if at any point he wanted to turn around we would and to remember that at any point the hike was only half over, to save enough energy to get back down. With that I asked him to take the lead so that he could set the pace, which he did the entire hike.

Valley Way was a nice trail, it weaved between conifers and following the brook for a while. Later on it grew rocky and steep. I recognized a few places that I remembered from doing a Presidential Traverse attempt two years previous. The spot where my brother and I stopped to drink some of the Heady Topper he brought because it was too heavy. The boulder-strewn climb just below Valley Way Tentsite that we stumbled over in the dark, hoping that the spur trail to the tentsite would soon appear.

Valley Way

Valley Way

We met just a few people coming down from the peak. They were noticeably wet and mentioned how windy it was. This was disheartening as I was hoping that the clouds would burn away by the time we attempted the summit.

We arrived at the Madison Spring Hut and went inside to rest for half an hour and hope that the weather would break. I stepped into the hut in my t-shirt to quizzical looks and questions about the weather down Valley Way. I let those huddling around waiting for clearer weather know that it was not too bad, and even quite warm a half a mile down the trail. My son was excited to see the hut, but was expecting something like the rest areas that you see on the side of highways, with vending machines and all.

After a couple of Clif Bars we decided that the weather wasn’t likely to break before our legs started to cool down and possibly cramp up (well, more of my concern, not the sprite youngin’s). We added a few layers and headed out into the clouds surrounding the hut.

As soon as we got above the krummholz and onto the bouldery cone of Madison the wind picked up. My son started dashing between cairns while I relished the severe weather. I imagined the contrast between the hot and sunny valley below and cold and windy dampness of the giant’s shoulder. Only those who truly loved the mountains would be undeterred by such weather. And my son was enjoying himself.

I also stopped to take some photos of the Diaspensia and Alpine Azaleas which were in bloom.

Dispensia

Diapensia and alpine azaleas

We climbed up to the summit, greeting a few people as we went. These were people so in love with mountains that the weather could not turn them around. People that refused to huddle within a hut, staring out the window wishing for better weather. We snapped out our pics, stared into the clouds and then decided to head back down to the hut for some PB&Js.

Madison summit

Madison summit

On the way back down to the Madison Spring Hut the sun tried its hardest to pierce through the clouds. There were brief moments where we could see some grayish-blue contrasted by fast moving white.

Sun trying to come out

Sun trying to come out

As we approached the hut there were brief, intermittent patches of clear-ish sky where we could get a glimpse of Mount Quincy Adams.

Madison Spring Hut

Madison Spring Hut

We had our sandwiches and headed back down the Valley Way trail. We briefly considered climbing Mount Adams but decided that even though we had the time do so, chances were we would only see more clouds. My son had climbed Mount Madison so vigorously that we were two hours ahead of my worst-case schedule.

On the way down Valley Way I enthusiastically greeted someone named Carl and his wife. I only knew his name because everyone else greeted him by name and I followed suit, then let him know we didn’t know each other. The Rosenthals turned out to be pretty legendary AMC members and lovers of the White Mountains. I later talked to the group who greeted them and found out a bit of their history, including that his wife, Jadwiga, is one of the few people who have “red-lined” the White Mountains, or hiked every trail listed in the AMC White Mountains Guide. I was in awe and decided I would have a new goal once completing the New England 4000 Footers.

At Lower Bruin Trail we left Valley Way and made our way down to Brookside Trail. We did not see any other people for the rest of the hike and started to see a bit more of the local fauna.

A toad

A toad

Brookside Trail was a nice hike with a narrower trail and some interesting terrain and views of cascades. We stopped at one of the last brook crossings to eat some more sandwiches and my son took a nasty spill on the slippery rocks. He shook it off and was able to hike out despite a bruised knee. We got the the parking lot far earlier than I expected and were able to make an earlier boat back to the island.

I was utterly impressed by my son’s first 4000 Footer hike. He lead the entire way, was not stifled by the cloudy and cold summit and kept up a pace that even challenged me at times. Most importantly, we got to spend an evening and day together and he enjoyed himself.

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.
—Alfred Wainwright

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Elevation: 5367′
Elevation Gain: 4100′
Distance: 8.4 miles
Book Time: 6:15
Actual Time: 7:00
Temperature: 48°
Wind: NW 35-50 mph
Weather: cloudy

References:
Appalachian Mountain Club Nature Notes.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 18 June 2014.
Dedicated Hikers Red-Line the Entire White Mountains Guide.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 18 June 2014.
Madison Spring Hut at Mt. Adams, NH.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 16 June 2014.
“White Birches Camping Park.” whitebirchescampingpark.com. Friend Communications, Inc. Web. 16 June 2014.

Backyard Adventure: The Freedom Trail

Date Hiked: 25 May 2014

The Freedom Trail may not be in my backyard, but it is certainly in someone’s backyard. I lived in the Boston area for a few years so I’ve happened across it several times. My family was in Boston for the weekend to attend a 3-day music festival (an awesome 12th birthday present for my oldest son) and decided to hike the entire Freedom Trail the morning before Sunday’s performances began.

We decided to head SOBO on the trail even though it is traditionally walked NOBO as the southern terminus was at Boston Common, which was just a few blocks from City Hall Plaza, where the concert was held. We took the red line to Park Street and then hopped onto the orange line to ride it to North Station. It was just a short walk across the Charlestown Bridge to City Square Park where we started our hike. We started toward the USS Constitution, or Old Ironsides, the oldest commissioned warship in the world. We did the self-guided tour after going through security. Old Ironsides won battles in the Quasi War with France, the Barbary War and the War of 1812, earning her nickname due to her resilience.

USS Constitution

USS Constitution

After the USS Constitution we crossed under the Tobin Bridge to a quaint part of Charlestown and headed uphill to Bunker Hill. We went into the Bunker Hill Museum across the street from the monument and got free passes to climb the monument. We climbed up the hill to where either Israel Putnam or William Prescott famously said “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” The 1775 battle was a loss for the newly formed colonial army against the British, though they pushed back the British two times and ended up with half the casualties. It was the point where both the colonists and the British realized that the rebellion was serious.

Bunker Hill

Bunker Hill

The monument was 212′ tall and had 294 steps that led up a cramped spiraling staircase to a small observation room that overlooked Boston and the harbor. In the middle of the room was a shaft that aided in air circulation. It was pretty cool to stand on the grate over the shaft and look 200 feet down to the foundation of the monument.

By that time I had already fallen in love with my brand new shoes, Brooks Cascadia 8s. It’s not every shoe that you can wear for the first time while walking around a city for 6 hours and then stand at a concert for another 5 hours and still come away with comfortable feet. It wasn’t until later that I realized their traction on wet surfaces was terrible.

Step 294

Step 294

After exiting the Bunker Hill monument we found the official endpoint of the Freedom Trail and took a photo of standing around it.

End of the Freedom Trail

End of the Freedom Trail

We made our way out of Charlestown and back across the Charlestown Bridge to Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. Copp’s Hill was in Boston’s North End and was Boston’s largest colonial burying ground.

From Copp’s Hill we made our way down the street to the Old North Church. It was at this church that in 1775 Robert Newman and Captain John Pullman held two lanterns in the steeple to warn that the British were moving to Lexington and Concord via the sea, not over land, and kicked off the American Revolution.

Old North Church and statue of Paul Revere

Old North Church and statue of Paul Revere

We walked through Boston’s North End until we came to the Paul Revere house. The house was, of course, Paul Revere’s and is today the oldest standing structure in Boston. We paid the small fee in order to take a self-guided tour through four of the house’s rooms.

Paul Revere's house

Paul Revere’s house

Before leaving Boston’s North End we grabbed some lunch at an Irish pub and some cannolis at Mike’s Pastry. All morning we saw people carrying white boxes with blue letters tied closed with string. As the density of boxes per person increased we knew we were near their source. The line was crazy long but my wife stood patiently in it to see what the hype was all about. We carried the box for the rest of the hike so they could be enjoyed at the end.

We crossed Atlantic Avenue and as we passed Haymarket we saw some bronze art in the crosswalks. This was the result of a 1976 project by Mags Harries called Asaroton, which was named after a Greek floor mosaic which created the illusion of trash on the floor. The art was reminiscent of the daily clutter on the ground after the closing of the outdoor market. After being removed for the Big Dig and re-installed in 2006 it was updated with modern debris.

Asarton near Haymarket

Asarton near Haymarket

We made our way into Government Center and passed by Faneuil Hall which was a meeting hall where many revolutionaries, like Samuel Adams, spoke. On the hall’s weathervane was a grasshopper. It was said that questioning what was on the Faneuil Hall weathervane was a way to tell whether or not the person was a spy during the War of 1812.

Down the street from Faneuil Hall was the Old State House, which was the political center for Boston. The Declaration of Independence was first publicly read in Massachusetts from its balcony.

Old State House

Old State House

Right below the Old State House balcony was the site of the Boston Massacre. At that site in 1770 five colonists were killed by British regulars; a display that the tensions between the colonists and British were beginning to culminate to a boiling point.

Site of the Boston Massacre

Site of the Boston Massacre

The density of historical sites grew as we approached the ending at Boston Commons. We stopped at the Old South Meeting House so my wife could take the self-guided tour (I was enjoying a coffee outside, which couldn’t go into the museum). The Old South Meeting House was a key location for speeches and protests leading up to the Revolutionary War. It was at that site which the Boston Massacre and the tea tax were protested.

Across the street from the Old South Meeting Hall was the Old Corner Bookstore. The Old Corner Bookstore is the oldest commerce building in Boston and was where many famous books were first published including Scarlet Letter and Walden. Today it is a Chipotle.

Old Corner Bookstore

Old Corner Bookstore

Just up the street from the Old Corner Bookstore was the site of the first public school in the nation, Boston Latin School, dating back to 1635. Many people of note attended the school including Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Today there is an interesting mosaic in the sidewalk in the shape of a hopscotch game surrounded by the alphabet.

First public school site

First public school site

Right next to the Boston Latin School site was King’s Chapel and Burying Ground. The burying ground is the oldest in Boston and was the resting place of many early colonists including Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower. The King’s Chapel was built on a corner of the Burying Ground which was seized by England as no one was interested in selling land to England for the purpose of building a church.

Down the street from King’s Chapel was the Granary Burying Ground. The Granary Burying Ground is the third oldest burying ground in Boston and was the resting place for several of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and others such as Benajmin Franklin’s family, Paul Revere and even Mother Goose.

Mother Goose's grave

Mother Goose’s grave

Finally, down the street and around the corner from the Granary Burying Ground was the State House and Boston Common. The State House was once owned by Massachusetts’s first elected governer, John Hancock, and was of course where state political business took place.

Boston Common was the oldest park in the country and was originally used to herd cattle. Over time it became the location for public hangings and during the Revolutionary War the British troops were camped there.

Boston Commons

Boston Commons

After completing the Freedom Trail we walked over to the Make Way For Ducklings statues in the Public Gardens and enjoyed our cannolis from Mike’s Pastry in the shade of a tree (I watched, as they were not vegan). We then made our way over to City Hall Plaza for the concert.

I have never been much of a history buff (though my wife certainly is), but it was pretty awe-inspiring to stand at so many locations that were key in our country’s revolution and to think about the people that put aside their lives and livelihoods in order to lead that battle.

They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
—Ben Franklin

Stats:
Distance: 2.5 miles
Actual Time: 6:00

References:
Asaroton, 1976.” harriesheder.com. mags harries & lajos heder. Web. 9 July 2014.
Boston Common.” cityofboston.gov. City of Boston. Web. 17 July 2014.
Boston Massacre Historical Society.” bostonmassacre.net. Boston Massacre Historical Society. Web. 10 July 2014.
Bunker Hill Monument.” nps.gov. National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Web. 12 June 2014.
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.” freedomtrail.org. The Freedom Trail Foundation. Web. 13 June 2014.
Faneuil Hall.” cityofboston.gov. City of Boston. Web. 9 July 2014.
First Public School Site and Ben Franklin Statue.” cityofboston.gov. City of Boston. Web. 11 July 2014.
Former Site of the Old Corner Bookstore.” cityofboston.gov. City of Boston. Web. 11 July 2014.
Granary Burying Ground.” cityofboston.gov. City of Boston. Web. 16 July 2014.
Historic Site.” oldnorth.com. Old North Church. Web. 13 June 2014.
King’s Chapel and Burying Ground.” cityofboston.gov. City of Boston. Web. 16 July 2014.
Make Way for Ducklings Statues.” boston-discovery-guide.com. Boston Discovery Guide. Web. 17 July 2014.
Massachusetts State House.” cityofboston.gov. City of Boston. Web. 16 July 2014.
Old South Meeting Hall.” cityofboston.gov. City of Boston. Web. 11 July 2014.
Old State House.” cityofboston.gov. City of Boston. Web. 10 July 2014.
Paul Revere’s Home.” paulreverehouse.org. Paul Revere Memorial Association. Web. 13 June 2014.
USS Constitution History.” http://www.history.navy.mil. US Navy. Web. 12 June 2014.
Welcome to Mike’s Pastry.” mikespastry.com. Crosstown Art. Web. 17 July 2014.

Hike: Dickey and Welch Mountain Loop

Hike date: 3 May 2014

Last year for Mother’s Day I took the boys camping and gave my wife a nice quiet house for the weekend. I know, it sounds selfish, but she loved it and we loved it, so I planned to do it again this year. As it turned out, she had classes the weekend of Mother’s Day, so I wouldn’t have a vehicle to take the boys camping. We went a week early instead.

The boys, my friend John and I went camping at my favorite spot, Hancock Campground on the Kancamangus Highway, which happens to be open year-round. I have camped at site 12 on the Pemigewasset River at least 5 times, and we camped there again. We left after work and we got to the campground as it was getting dark, but that didn’t diminish our moods. The boys were excited for the campfire and sleeping in the tent, and we got to see a moose shortly before the Kancamangus Pass.

After the boys had dinner, s’mores and went to bed, John and I stayed up drinking beer by the fire and gazing at the stars. John had forgotten one of his tent poles, but the weather was mild, the stars were out and it was far too early for bugs, so he settled out under the stars. As I headed into the tent I decided that there weren’t too many opportunities to sleep under the stars these days, so I dragged out my pad and bag and joined him. As I fell asleep staring at the stars, I thought of what Neil DeGrasse Tyson had said about man and stars:

Man is the only creature comfortable sleeping on his back. If you lay on your back and look up, what do you see? You see the cosmos.

In the morning I got up and meditated on a large rock in the river and then brewed up some coffee as everyone else rolled out of their sleeping bags. I underestimated how long it would take to pack up camp and we left for our hike a bit late. By the time we got to the trailhead my other friend Mike was waiting for us with his two boys. The parking lot was filling up and there was a large group just hitting the trail. We hesitated in the parking lot so we wouldn’t be right on their tails and then headed up the trail.

Pemigewasset River, looking up to Lincoln Woods

Pemigewasset River, looking up to Lincoln Woods

We hiked toward Welch Mountain first, approaching the loop counter-clock-wise. The climb was easy, which was good for the boys. At one point John said: “Oh, snake,” and reached into the brush to pull out a snake by its neck and tail. Mike and I looked at each other and decided that it was good that we hadn’t seen any rattlesnakes on adventures in Texas. John showed the boys how to handle a snake and then released it back into the woods.

Fun with snakes

Fun with snakes

Soon after, we broke out of the woods and onto a large, rounded ledge that sat below the hump of Welch Mountain. We had a clear view to the east of Sandwich Mountain and to the northeast we could see the peaks of the Tripyramids. We checked out the scenery with John’s binoculars and our different photo-taking devices and watched people hike where the ledges poked out of the trees further up Welch’s peak.

Looking up at Welch

Looking up at Welch

When it started to get crowded on the ledge we packed up and continued to hike up Welch. The hike grew more interesting the higher we got. It picked its way across bald ledge among the sparse trees. There was quite a bit of friction climbing and in a few places were we had to hand-over-hand up large rocks. The views of the surrounding mountains jumped out between trees everywhere.

Climbing up to Welch summit

Climbing up to Welch summit

As we closed in on the summit we came to a narrow crack in the rock where we had to squeeze our pack through and then climb up on top of the rock to continue. A hiker behind us told his friend that it was The Bottleneck, like on Everest (I think he meant K2).

Squeezing through the bottleneck

Squeezing through the bottleneck

We got to the summit of Welch a few hours after setting off, right about noon-time. There were a few other people on the summit, but we settled down in a bowl cut into the peak of the summit where the kids could keep out of the breeze. It had clouded up and was cool, so Mike and I pulled out our stoves. He heated up some hot chocolate for his boys, and I cooked some mac and cheese for my boys and vegan Pad Thai for myself. As we ate our lunch we gazed out at the scenery. To the northeast were the Tripyramids again and to the northwest stood the large dome of Moosilauke.

Tripyramids from Welch

Tripyramids from Welch

Moosilauke from Welch

Moosilauke from Welch

Once we had cleaned up our lunch and packed up (and I picked up some trash I saw another person throw into nearby trees), we started on our way to Dickey Mountain. The trail dropped down some ledges and into a col between the two mountains. At the low point was a six or seven foot cairn standing over a great view to the east.

Cairn in Welch and Dickey col

Cairn in Welch and Dickey col

The hike up to Dickey from the col was short. Occasionally we had a view back of Welch Mountain. I particularly liked one view I had while my youngest was using the little boy’s room. Welch Mountain was standing over the dense pine trees and the trail could be seen meandering down the slope of the mountain and again coming out of cavernous gap in the forest.

The path to Welch

The path to Welch

We reached Dickey summit but did not stay long as it was apparent that the weather was taking a turn for the worse. The rain was supposed to hold off until 4:00pm, and it was only 1:30pm, but we could see it rolling in from the west.

Rain starting to roll in

Rain starting to roll in

We headed down the trail from Dickey summit and had a view to the north of Cannon Mountain and Franconia Ridge. The arrangement of the mountains had me boggled while we were hiking. I guess I had been so enamored by Moosilauke that I had pictured us to the west of Franconia. I could definitely pick out the Cannon Balls and the cliffs of Cannon, so I couldn’t figure out why Franconia Ridge looked closer than Cannon and why Lincoln looked taller than Lafayette. Somehow it hadn’t donned on me that we were to the east of I-93 which runs down the center of Franconia Notch, even considering we arrived at the trailhead by heading east from the I-93 exit.

Cannon and Franconia ridge from Dickey

Cannon and Franconia ridge from Dickey

As we made our way down the ledges on the Dickey side of the loop it began to rain. It never rained hard, but the rocks below our feet quickly grew slick. We slowed down our pace and made sure the kids were leading by the safest route. At one point it was pretty sketchy, the top of the rounded ledge was only a few feet wide and to our left the ledge sloped down at a steep angle before dropping off a cliff. The boys didn’t seem to notice, they continued to walk and talk as we pointed them to the far right side of the ledge, but I must admit I held my breath. It would have been a non-issue in good weather but my imagination took off with the worse possible scenario in the rain.

Descending Dickey ledges in the rain

Descending Dickey ledges in the rain

Soon after the ledges the trail entered the forest and climbed easily down to the parking lot.

It was one of my favorite day hikes in the White Mountains, even considering the low elevation and high crowds. The views were amazing for 2000 footers and the variable terrain kept it interesting. More importantly, I was glad to give my wife a nice quiet weekend and the boys had a blast in the outdoors. If I pass anything on to them, I hope it is the love and respect that I have for nature.

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.
—E.B. White

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Elevation: 2734′
Elevation Gain: 1650′
Distance: 4.4 miles
Book Time: 3:00
Actual Time: 5:00
Temperature: 54° F
Wind: 2 mph N
Weather: mostly cloudy, scattered showers

References:
Hancock Campground.” http://www.fs.usda.gov. United States Department of Agriculture: Forest Service. Web. 8 May 2014.
K2: The Killing Peak.” mensjournal.com. Men’s Journal LLC. Web. 13 May 2014.
Welch Mountain and Dickey Mountain Loop.” hikenewengland.com. Hike-NewEngland.com. Web. 4 May 2014.

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