Best Gear Purchase of 2015

At the end of 2014 I hiked Mount Moriah and my fingers nearly froze off on the summit. I knew I needed to purchase suitable hand protection in order to hike through the winter.

I decided I wanted mittens and glove liners. Mittens were the logical choice as they keep fingers warmer than gloves, but I also wanted the option of taking them off for short periods of time to get into my pack, unfold a map, take photos, etc. Glove liners would give me the dexterity of my fingers without leaving my hands exposed to the elements.

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Cycling: Long Haul Trucking

Recently, my wife got a job off the island. This means that both of us need to commute and unfortunately our places of employment are 40 minutes apart by motorized vehicle on the highway. Our options for commuting were: using our one vehicle to transport us to both, buying a second vehicle or for me to buy a bike. I’ve been wanting to buy a bike for quite a while and this was my opportunity.

I did a bunch of online investigating and talking to friends who bike. I was looking for a good commuting bike, but also one that I could take bike camping in the summer and possibly some longer touring in the future. I narrowed it down to a few options: VeloORANGE Campeur, Jamis Auroroa, Kona Sutra, Novara Rondonee, Surly Long Haul Trucker or Surly Cross-Check. I went to Craigslist and Ebay looking for a used bike, but didn’t find much and I was unsure what size frame to get. I wanted to talk to someone about the options and get properly fitted, and only Surly had a dealer in Portland.

So, I went into Gorham Bike and Ski to talk about buying a Long Haul Trucker or a Cross-Check. They were really knowledgeable and reiterated a lot of the information I had found online about comparing the two bikes. You can’t go wrong with either of them. The Cross-Check is lighter and quicker. The Long Haul Trucker rides smooth even with a heavy load. The Long Haul Trucker has more braze-ons for fenders, racks and panniers. This year’s Cross-Check model comes in orange! After visiting I was still unsure which bike I wanted, but I walked away with what I really needed: a rough price including the accessories I wanted.

I thought about it overnight (as well as prowling more cycling forums), and returned to Gorham Bike and Ski the next day to make my purchase. What it came down to was that I wanted a bike with which I could tour and the Long Haul Trucker was better set up for that. Yes, the Cross-Check may have been the better choice for a commuter bike, but trust me, I wasn’t worried about getting to work quickly. It also helped that I saw many comments stating that if they could only own one bike it would be a Long Haul Trucker.

Bike leaning against fence

My new ride: Surly Long Haul Trucker (from Instagram)

The folks at Gorham Bike and Ski fitted me (56cm frame) and we moved on to the purchase and accessories. I had some choices to make, I went with:

  • Cakipants color over Blacktacular as it was more appealing to me
  • Long Haul Trucker over Disc Trucker to save some money on the frame
  • 700c tires over 26″ for less fatigue and better performance over potholes, even though 26″ are more common and sturdier
  • Default saddle, but I will probably upgrade in the future
  • Default drop-bars even though many do not like the bar-end shifters, having not cycled in a very long time I had no preference and didn’t think I’d mind the shifters even though I would occasionally hit them
  • Added fenders for rainy days as I was planning on commuting every day I could regardless of weather
  • Started with just a back rack and one pannier bag, a Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tote as it was waterproof
  • Some mid-line blinking LED lights, I didn’t go with the best choice as I was not planning on cycling at night
  • RaceRocket pump
  • Mid-line Specialized bike helmet which was better ventilated than the low-end helmet
  • Bike lock
  • Basic platform pedals
  • A couple of basic water bottles and cages
  • A spare 700c tube

A week later my wife called me at work to let me know that my bike was ready. I left work early to swing by the bike shop once more and pick up my bike. After some small adjustments and purchasing a protection plan the bike was mine. I parked my car and spun around the parking lot a few times to get used to my bike and then walked it down to the boat. I was far too unfamiliar with the bike and unsure of traffic to ride through Portland. Thus began my weekend-long trepidation for my first day of commuting. But, after spending the weekend route planning, researching bicycle safety and signaling and reading my state laws I felt much more confident hitting the street.

I must say that I love my Long Haul Trucker and don’t suffer any buyer’s remorse. I have done some calculations and assuming an average price of $3.00 per gallon of gasoline, I will pay off my bike in 288 commutes (or roughly a year) based on the car mileage saved. Assuming I would have have purchased a used Toyota Tacoma from a local dealership I trust and assuming the same $3.00 gas price, it would have taken 2750 commutes (or 10.5 years) for it to pay itself off, not considering registration, parking, and maintenance.

I was very happy with my choice to go to Gorham Bike and Ski (no affiliation). They were knowledgeable and not a bit intimidating (I walked in a total cycling noob). They also offered 10% off all accessories when purchasing a new bike and a free 30-day checkup (where accessories are once again 10% off).

I look forward expanding my wandering possibilities by leveraging my Long Haul Trucker and sharing those experience on this blog. I have already dreamed up plans to bike down The Eastern Trail, bike camp in the White Mountains, bike to Burlington, VT, and a Portland to Portland cross-country trip (in ascending ridiculousness order).

References:
Gorham Bike & Ski.” gorhambike.com. Gorham Bike & Ski. Web. 11 April 2015.
Long Haul Trucker.” surlybikes.com. Surly. Web. 11 April 2015.
RaceRocket.” topeak.com. Topeak, Inc. Web. 11 April 2015.
Specialized Bicycled Helmets.” specialized.com. Specialized Bicycle Company. 11 April 2015.
Surly Long Haul Trucker or Cross-Check.” google.com. Google, Inc. Web. 11 April 2015.
Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tote.” thule.com. Thule Group. Web. 11 April 2015.
Top 100 Touring Bicycles.” bicycletouringpro.com. Bicycle Touring Pro. Web. 11 April 2015.

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Best Gear Purchase of 2014

As I mentioned in my post where I detailed out the contents of my daypack, I’m not your typical Gearhead. I like going light (who doesn’t?), but I wouldn’t consider myself ultralight. Comfort and functionality are very important to me, but I can’t afford to dump a paycheck into a new piece of gear. I like the balance between quality and affordability.

With those parameters in mind, my favorite gear purchase of the year was an EMS Drool Pillow.

EMS Drool Pillow

EMS Drool Pillow

This pillow weighs 8oz, so an ultralight might not consider carrying it, but for me it is worth its weight. Before purchasing this pillow I would use the dry sack holding my clothes as a pillow. While this technically worked, it was not much better than sleeping on my arm or a medium-sized rock. Once I started carrying this pillow with me on overnight trips I began getting more hours of sleep, which provided the necessary boost to carry the extra weight on my back.

The pillow comes with a stuff sack which allows it to be packed down to a much smaller size, this is as important as weight to me. My favorite feature with this pillow is the pocket on the back side of the pillow, into which clothing can be stuffed in order to increase the pillow’s size while keeping the loft against my head.

For the budget-minded, this pillow goes from good to great. When I purchased the pillow in the spring it cost a little over $6. I now see it online for $12, but that is still pretty inexpensive.

If you find it difficult to sleep on the ground and have already tried a few different pads, I’d suggest trying out this pillow or another like it. It definitely made a difference in my multi-day hiking trips.

References:
EMS Drool Pillow.” ems.com. Eastern Mountain Sports, Inc. Web. 23 December 2014.

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My Daypack

There are many hiking gear review blogs out there (I’m partial toward Stick’s Blog) and I don’t intend stepping into that arena. I’m a huge fan of the phrase “hike your own hike,” and I extend it to the gear I wear and carry on my hikes. On that note, I thought I’d share an overview of my daypack for those that hike a similar hike and are curious what I deem worthy of being carried for many miles.

“My hike” tends to be on the light and minimal side, yet I have a family waiting for me at home so I carry emergency items for precautions.

My Daypack

My Daypack

PACK

Camelbak Zephyr—This is the only daypack that I have owned. It was a gift and has suited my needs perfectly. It has three pockets (one which holds the 70oz resevoir), a hip belt and sternum strap and a few compression straps. Its tall and narrow design keeps it out of my way while burning up the trail and has more than enough capacity for all of my gear. I don’t think that Camelbak makes this model anymore. If I had to guess, the Rim Runner 22 model seems to be the closest (though it has a larger capacity and reservoir it is the smallest model with a decent lumbar strap). I know quite a few people who have bought Platypus reservoirs (I have a 1 liter one instead of a water bottle) and who have ended up with wet gear when it fails. I’ve had this same reservoir for years without any issues.

EXTRA CLOTHING

Marmot Southridge—This shell is lightweight, wind-proof, “water-proof,” and inexpensive for a Marmot. When it rains you’re going to get wet eventually. Old or water-resistant jackets will soak through and seriously waterproofed jackets will lead to excessive moisture from sweating. For me, the point is to carry something light that will extend your protection from the environment and make the hike more enjoyable in bad weather.

Under Armor Tactical Hood—This balaclava-style face mask is lightweight and can be thrown on if the weather takes a turns for the worse. It’s important to have a hat and gloves when hiking in high altitudes, even in the middle of summer.

Gloves—My current gloves are just a cheap pair of work gloves from Home Depot. The idea is just to add some warmth if the weather is bad.

GEAR

LEKI Corklite Trekking Poles—I purchased these for my 3-day hike on the Long Trail this year. I tend to only use one trekking pole at a time, so these poles should last a long time. I chose them because they are light (under 10z per pole), the SpeedLock system is easy to use and the composite cork handles are supposed to improve with time rather than degrade. I feel that descents are much easier on my knees than they used to be.

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp—I have an older version of the spot headlamp. It takes 3 AAA batteries and last for a long time. It has a bright spot light, a dimmer spread light and a red light. Both of the non-red settings can be dimmed as well. I don’t foresee needing a different headlamp unless this one breaks.

Bear Grylls Survival Series Scout—This relatively inexpensive and reliable knife suits my needs, which are typically cutting paracord and sharpening marshmallow sticks. I always carry this knife in my pocket on hikes. As Aron Ralston, from Between a Rock and a Hard Place, can testify: a sharp knife is one of the most important pieces of equipment to have at hand.

Paracord 550 Utility Cord—I always carry 50′ of paracord with me when hiking. It’s a habit from multi-day hiking trips where I might need to hang a bear bag or tie off my tent on a platform. Just like a knife, compass and map it is one of those things I never hike without.

Suunto Compass—This is a simple and sturdy compass. I always carry a compass with me, though I only have very basic knowledge on its use from orienteering sections of adventure racing in the past. Look for a future post on how I learned more about compasses.

Maps—My bible and tome is the AMC White Mountains Guide. I do a majority of my planning using this guide and I carry the appropriate maps on my hike (in a ziplock bag). When I’m hiking outside of the White Mountains I print out a map from AllTrails.com, which has partnered with National Geographic. I have a Pro account so all of Nat Geo’s Trail Illustrated maps are available as well as US and world TOPO maps.

Emergency Shelter—No matter how much gear I’m carrying, this shelter can fit into my pack and adds very little weight. There is literally no reason not to carry it. Since I do a lot of solo hiking it is important that I carry a shelter with me at all times. I can only find this shelter on Ebay now but SOL has an emergency bivvy that looks even better.

First Aid Kit (not in photo)—I carry Adventure Medical Kit’s Ultralight 1-2 person first aid kit as it is light and waterproof and contains the essentials. I leave this kit in my car when I’m not hiking so it doubles as my car’s first aid kit.

Miscellaneous—I carry a bunch of other miscellaneous gear regularly. These include some of the essentials like toilet paper, batteries and matches. I also carry a pen and weatherproof notepad so that I can log my hikes, which makes it easier to keep things straight for my blog posts. I use Rite in the Rain notepads, but I really think they missed the mark when they didn’t name their company Write As Rain.

FOOD/WATER

Water—As mentioned above, I carry a 70oz Camelbak reservoir. If I’m going on a shorter hike I will carry a 1 liter Platypus soft bottle. Typically I consume a lot of water so I will go with the reservoir instead of the bottle. I also have a thermal kit for my reservoir. On a recent hike my water tube slushed up. Without the thermal kit it probably would have been frozen solid and I would have been out of luck. It also help if you take sips often in below freezing temperatures.

Aquamira Water Treatment—These drops are the best water purification method that I’ve tried as far as flavor goes, and that’s why I use them. The down side to is that you have to mix the drops for 5 minutes before adding to your water, so you can’t use them on the move.

Nuun—I started using Nuun tablets after my brother starting using them to prevent leg cramps while hiking. I add a couple to my reservoir and they add electrolytes and potassium as well as some flavor which can hide the minimal off-flavor from the Aquamira water treatment.

GORP—The tried and true method for energy while hiking. I prefer Second Nature because all of their flavors are vegan. Wholesome Medley is my go-to flavor, though Dark Chocolate Medley is good as well.

Energy Bars—I basically always go with Clif Bars if they are available. They have a ton of flavors, all of which are vegan. A few of the flavors also contain caffeine (using green tea extract) and I’ll grab those for particularly long hikes.

Beer—Occasionally I carry a canned beer with me for celebratory moments. I prefer Sixpoint Resin because of the small cans, but have been known to bring a 16oz Heady Topper or Bissell Brothers along for the trip. Beer also makes the return trip easier as it provides a boost of carbohydrates and is a mild pain reliever. Be smart, make sure the trip back to the trailhead is safe as well as the drive home.

WHAT’S MISSING?

Some equipment that others may carry which I’m missing is a repair kit, sun protection and bug juice. My knife and paracord as well as the duct tape in my first aid kit doubles as a repair kit. I do carry sunscreen in my car and if it is particularly sunny day I’ll throw some on before hitting the trail. Occasionally I’ll wear sunglasses and/or a hat as well, though they tend to bother me. Lastly, I never wear bug spray. I’m very conscious about everything I put on my body, going with products with all natural ingredients when I have to and going without when it’s not necessary, like bug goop.

SUMMARY

My pack comes to a total weight of 11lbs. That includes some gear which I carry in my hands (trekking pole) or in my clothes (knife, map, notepad and pen) and food and water. That weight might be excessive for some, but for me it is worth the peace of mind and at this point I don’t even notice it.

REFERENCES

Pack:
Camelbak Rim Runner 22.” camelbak.com. Camelbak Products LLC. Web. 2 November 2014.

Clothing:
Firm Grip Utility Glove.” homedepot.com. Homer TLC, Inc. Web. 6 November 2014.
Marmot Southridge Jacket.” marmot.com. Marmot Mountain LLC. Web. 2 November 2o14.
Under Armor Tactical Hood.” underarmor.com. Under Armor INC. Web. 4 November 2014.

Gear:
Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight.” rei.com. Recreational Equipment, Inc. Web. 15 November 2014.
AllTrails.” alltrails.com. AllTrails, Inc. Web. 15 November 2014.
AMC White Mountain Guide.” rei.com. Recreational Equipment, Inc. Web. 15 November 2014.
Bear Grylls Survival Series Scout.” gerbergear.com. Fiskars Outdoor. Web. 12 November 2014.
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp.” blackdiamondequipment.com. Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd. Web. 12 November 2014.
Corklite – Shop – LEKI.” shop.leki.com. LEKI Lenhart GmbH. Web. 11 November 2014.
Emergency Shelter Outdoor Essentials.” ebay.com. eBay, Inc. Web. 15 November 2014.
Rite in the Rain Polydura.” riteintherain.com. JL Darling, LLC. Web. 15 November 2014.
SOL Emergency Bivvy.” rei.com. Recreational Equipment, Inc. Web. 15 November 2014.
Suunto M-3D Leader Compass.” rei.com. Recreational Equipment, Inc. Web. 13 November 2014.
Ultimate Survival Technologies Paracord.” rei.com. Recreational Equipment, Inc. Web. 13 November 2014.

Food/Water:
Alchemist.” alchemistbeer.com. Alchemist Brewery. Web. 15 November 2014.
Aquamira Water Treatment.” ems.com. Eastern Mountain Sports, Inc. Web. 15 November 2014.
Beers – Bissell Brothers.” bissellbrothers.com. Bissell Brothers. Web. 15 November 2014.
CamelBak Antidote Reservoir.” camelbak.com. Camelbak Products LLC. Web. 2 November 2014.
CamelBak Antidote Thermal Kit.” camelbak.com. Camelbak Products LLC. Web. 2 November 2014.
Clif Bar.” clifbar.com. Clif Bar & Company. Web. 15 November 2014.
Nuun.” nuun.com. Nuun. Web. 15 November 2014.
Platypus SoftBottle.” cascadedesigns.com. Cascade Designs, Inc. Web. 15 November 2014.
Resin Now in Six-packs.” sixpoint.com. Sixpoint Brewery. Web. 15 November 2014.
Wholesome Medley.” secondnaturesnacks.com. Second Nature. Web. 15 November 2014.

Other:
Between a Rock and a Hard Place.” amazon.com. Amazon.com, Inc. Web. 12 November 2014.
Stick’s Blog.” sticksblog.com. Stick’s Blog. Web. 2 November 2014.
The Ten Essentials.” rei.com. Recreational Equipment, Inc. Web. 15 November 2014.

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Hike: Carter Loop

Date Hiked: 31 May 2014

The planned route was to hike up Nineteen Mile Brook Trail to Carter Notch, take the Carter-Moriah Trail over Carter Dome, Mount Hight, South Carter, Mount Lethe and Middle Carter, descend North Carter Trail to Imp Trail, take the south end of Imp Trail to where is bends right near Cowboy Brook and then bushwhack back to Nineteen Mile Brook Trail and follow it out. Worse case scenario I would wimp out of the bushwhack and hoof it out via Imp Trail and then yellow blaze it back to the parking lot or possibly follow Cowboy Brook to Camp Dodge and yellow blaze from there.

It was the last day of May and I was finally ready to hike my first New England 4000 Footer of the year. I camped overnight at one of the Brook Loop sites at Dolly Copp Campground, just up Route 16 from the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail parking lot, in Pinkham Notch. It was a short drive and nothing was preventing me from starting early. But, the weather was supposed to be overcast until the afternoon, so I wanted to start late to take advantage of the weather. I love the tent sites at Dolly Copp on the Brook Loop. They are set back in the woods and the Culhane Brook runs right behind them. Despite their allure and even though I didn’t want to start hiking until 10am, by 8:30am I had had enough sitting around my campsite and headed for the trail.

I arrived at the parking lot along Route 16 to find it containing a dozen cars. I saw a lady with a dog heading up the highway, presumably to Imp Trail to follow the same loop of the Carters I was planning, but in the opposite direction. I recently listened to a backlog episode of Dirtbag Diaries where they discussed the different types of people you’ll find at trailhead parking lots. There’s the person who can’t decided what gear to bring, the one who wants to tailgate and brag. I happen to be the type who prepared before driving to the parking lot and takes off for the trail as soon as the car is locked. That was what I did.

I hiked Nineteen Mile Brook Trail three different times over the weekend, luckily it was a beautiful trail with an easy to moderate grade. It followed the north side of the Nineteen Mile Brook for about two miles and (at least that time of year) was festooned with slick river rocks and copious amounts of mud and wet leaves. The brook was running hard and I stopped to scramble over some rocks to take a photo. That’s when I discovered that my new Brooks Cascadia 8 trail running shoes that I love so much have absolutely terrible traction on wet surfaces. Both of my feet slipped out from underneath me, I twisted and landed hard on my right hip and started to slide toward the brook. Luckily, I was able to create enough traction with my hands to prevent a cold dip in the brook. I gingerly stood up and took my photo.

Nineteen Mile Brook running hard

Nineteen Mile Brook running hard

1.9 miles up the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail I came to the junction with the Carter Dome Trail. My plan was to continue on the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail to Carter Notch and take the Carter-Moriah Trail to Carter Dome. Standing there at the trail sign it occurred to me that if I took the Carter Dome Trail to Zeta Pass and then on to Carter Dome that I would reduce the amount of trail I would repeat the next day. I could also take the Carter-Moriah Trail via Mount Hight back to Zeta Pass, doing a small loop and preventing repeating trail on the ridge as well.

The only downsides that I could think of were if I got hurt I would be off my planned route, and I hadn’t read any trail reports or descriptions on the Carter Dome trail to know whether or not there were difficult water crossings. I decided that the pros outweighed the cons and headed up Carter Dome Trail.

The Carter Dome Trail turned out to be a pretty moderate jaunt up to Zeta Pass. There were a few water crossings, but like the ones on the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail, they were easily crossed. I really enjoyed one section where the brook split into several tributaries and then came together again. The trail crossed where they separated and re-joined, making its way between several different subsections of the brook.

At Zeta Pass the trail hooked right and climbed easily to Carter Dome. The weather was still overcast, which was a shame because I passed the one location where I would have had a clear view of the northern Presidentials all weekend. Just below the summit of Carter Dome I came across some snow and ice in the trail, but it was of no concern. It was easy to walk over without traction.

Still some snow near Carter Dome

Still some snow near Carter Dome

There were three men at the Carter Dome summit when I got there, the first people I saw since the lady in the parking lot. I greeted them but sat apart as they had stopped talking when I approached and didn’t seem very welcoming. I sat on a rock for a few minutes, eating a Clif Bar and wondering what the deal was with all of the broken Plexiglas on the ground. While sitting there the three men descended toward Carter Notch.

I saw my first bit of blue sky while walking down the Carter-Moriah Trail toward Mount Hight.

Hight, South and Middle Carter peaking out of clouds

Hight, South and Middle Carter peaking out of clouds

Mount Hight was one of the many mountains that were over 4000 feet, but not considered 4000 Footers because of their prominence over surrounding peaks. Basically, if you found the low point below two peaks and there wasn’t a 200 foot climb to the next peak, then it was considered a sub-peak of the other and didn’t qualify for the 4000 Footer list. While Mount Hight wasn’t marked with a red triangle on my map, it was the highlight of the hike.

Mount Hight stood high to the east of the Carter ridge line, towering over the Wild River Wilderness, one of glorious areas in the White Mountains that was highly protected due to its importance as a watershed. The Carter ridge was blocking the encroaching clouds, allowing a clear view into the Wild River Wilderness and the distant mountains to the east and south.

Wild River Wilderness from Mount Hight

Wild River Wilderness from Mount Hight

It was closing on lunch time, so I took the opportunity of a great view and scattered sunshine to take a break from hiking. I switched out my upper layers and laid the wet ones out on rocks to dry. I took off my shoes and socks to allow them to dry as well. I quickly boiled some water with my JetBoil and set some soup to re-hydrate. I sat facing the Wild River and meditated. The only sounds that I could hear were the river a few thousand feet below and the occasional bird tweet. I sat for 40 minutes and enjoyed my lunch and the view, truly appreciating the lack of noise and deadlines, and basked in the solitude. It was one of the many reasons that I hike every opportunity that I get.

Eventually dark clouds started to roll over South Carter and head toward Mount Hight. I re-shoed and dressed and headed down the the Carter-Moriah Trail toward South Carter.

For those that find themselves on the Mount Hight summit, be aware that the trail heads back toward Zeta Pass on the Carter Dome side of it, it doesn’t head directly toward the pass or South Carter, even though it looks like a trail leads in that direction. Luckily I left before the clouds rolled in and was aware of the direction of the trail from my White Mountains guide book.

Soon after I descended Mount Hight it began to rain. I started seeing groups of people on the trail, including the lady I saw leaving the parking lot in the morning. At first her dog scared the crap out of me. I looked up to see a dog standing in front of me with a muzzle on, but for a split second I saw a bear.

She asked if I had a dog, as her dog was not good with other dogs but was fine with humans.

I replied that I did not, held my hand out for the dog to sniff (I imagine it sensed my sudden apprehension at imagining a bear and I wanted it to know I was cool with it) and I asked her if she came up via Imp Trail, mentioning I had seen her as I pulled in to the parking lot. The dog apparently approved of me and started to excitedly rub up against my legs, a behavior I recognized as a request to have its rump scratched.

The lady confirmed that she was hiking the same loop as I and said she hiked in that direction as she was afraid she wouldn’t find that cut-over trail from Imp to Camp Dodge, but it was in fact very hard to miss.

I told her that I was planning on going that way and internally made a note that I wouldn’t have to bushwhack to Nineteen Mile Brook Trail or Camp Dodge as there was apparently a trail.

I continued on to South Carter and Middle Carter. Both were 4000 Footers, but both were also forested summits. On the summit of Middle Carter there was a partial view toward the Wild River Wilderness. There I met a guy from the Boston area who was trying to wrap up his New Hampshire 48 before moving back to California in two weeks. He was on number 43. He had come up Carter Dome Trail like I had, but had headed to South and Middle Carter first. He was heading to Carter Dome and then down to Carter Notch Hut for the night and getting Wildcat A in the morning. Like myself, he had attempted the Wildcats before but had only gotten Wildcat D.

Shortly after Middle Carter was a small peak called Mount Lethe. Its summit was also forested but just beyond it, toward North Carter, it had a view of Mount Madison across Pinkham Notch. The clouds were still clearing, but I still got a sense of the size of Madison and could see Barnes Field campground sitting low on its shoulder and creases in the forest south of the field which were Dolly Copp’s roads and sites.

Madison shaking off the clouds

Madison in the clouds with Barnes Field and Dolly Copp campgrounds below

In the col between Lethe and North Carter was the junction with the North Carter Trail. Since I was all the way up on the ridge and had plenty of daylight I continued on the 0.25 miles to North Carter. It was yet another forested summit, but I got a glimpse of the Presidentials through the trees and saw that the clouds were completely gone. I lectured myself for not taking a break at the view on Mount Lethe and headed down to the North Carter Trail.

North Carter and the southern end of Imp Trail were very wet, in places the trail might as well have been a brook. On North Carter my new shoes’ treads once again failed me. While descending I planted my right foot on a damp rock and the tread failed to hold the pressure from my weight. My leg shot forward and I came down hard, my left knee slammed against the rock I had attempted to step on and I rolled off the trail.

I lay there for a moment in a pile of frustration, pain and cuss words. I slowly stood to assess my knee. My new Columbia pants were torn and blood was starting to seep through the pant leg. It was just an abrasion but my patella felt badly bruised. I said screw it and continued down the trail.

The North Carter intersected with the Imp Trail and I followed it to the left. I eventually got to where I could hear Route 16 ahead and Cowboy Brook to my left. I started to wonder just how obvious the cut-over trail to Camp Dodge was. Assessing my map I decided that a button-hook turn in the trail just ahead was the closest point to Camp Dodge. If I didn’t see the trail there I would pick up the pace and follow the Imp Trail out. Alas, the very obvious side trail appeared, following an old logging road. As the lady said, it was hard to miss.

Along that trail I saw some very fresh moose tracks, but I did not see any other sign of the beast.

Fresh moose tracks

Fresh moose tracks

I finished my hike by walking down the dirt road at Camp Dodge to Route 16 and then yellow blazing it back to the parking lot. I got back to my car at 4:45pm with plenty of daylight remaining. My original plan was to leave at 10am and return by 8:30pm to maximize the clear weather prior to sundown. I didn’t have many views, but I ended up having plenty of time to start a campfire back at Dolly Copp before it got dark.

In all, I enjoyed the hike despite the overcast weather. I didn’t realize that the Carters had so many forested views, but Nineteen Mile Brook Trail was a real nice hike and the Carter-Moriah Trail was interesting with its many ups and down and couple of nice views to the east. Mount Hight was definitely the highlight of the hike for me and would have been even if I had clear views across Pinkham Notch from the other summits. My only disappointment was the traction on my new shoes. I guess in the end it forced me to slow down and be more mindful of my foot placement, which is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately off the trail. Slowing down and being more mindful.

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.
—Thích Nhất Hạnh

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Elevation: 4832′
Elevation Gain: 3900′
Distance: 15.0 miles
Book Time: 8:15
Actual Time: 7:15
Temperature: 54° F
Wind: 2 mph E
Weather: overcast, showers, scattered sunshine

References:
Appalachian Mountain Club. White Mountain Guide: 28th Edition. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2007. Print.
Brooks Cascadia 8.” brooksrunning.com. Brooks Sports Inc. Web. 05 June 2014.
Camp Dodge Volunteer Center.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 06 June 2014.
Dolly Copp Campground.” http://www.fs.usda.gov. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Web. 04 June 2014.
The Shorts–Parking Lot Players.” dirtbagdiaries.com. The Dirtbag Diaries. Web. 04 June 2014

Backyard Adventure: First Adventure of 2014

Backyard Adventures are small adventures that I set upon to soothe my wanderlust when I cannot afford (with time or money) to take on larger adventures. Some will be done with my sons (under the guise of “just playing with the boys”), and some will just be flat out crazy to the normal (read sheltered) human and I’ll have no real excuse for my behavior except that I wanted to see what it was like. This was one of the latter. 

It’s the dead of winter and you don’t have the gear for camping overnight, what do you do? Me, I camp out overnight anyway.

I have a L.L. Bean Microlight FS tent, an EMS Mountain Light 20° sleeping bag and a Big Agnes Air Core sleeping pad. Great, 3-season, light gear. But, I have dreams of hiking my first winter 4000 footer. Unfortunately, since I live on an island off the coast of Portland, Maine, it requires an overnight camp to have enough daylight to hike a 4000 footer. My goal this winter is to find the perfect weekend where it’s not snowing on a Friday or Saturday night so I can drive up to the White Mountains, where the temperature doesn’t drop below 20°F at night (okay, I could take low teens) and the weather on the following day is below freezing but sunny and with as little wind as possible.

I know, impossible, right?

In order to prepare for the camping-overnight-bit of my dream weekend, I decided to try camping out overnight on the island in the middle of January.  I didn’t want to find myself out in the middle of the White Mountains in some of the “worst weather in the world” without knowing my gear’s capabilities. When a weekend came around where I wasn’t doing anything and the weather was looking optimal for my test scenario (low wind, temperature in the 20s) I decided to take my gear for a test run.

Yes, my wife told me I was nuts as well.

bya-first-2014-tent

Settled down for a cozy night

I packed up my gear and headed out into the forest near my house. I brought my headlamp with me but found it wonderous to wander the forest by moonlight. It transformed the woods that I grew up exploring into an unknown landscape. I made my way generally toward the middle of the woods, hoping to find a location that was far enough from houses and streets as to not hear any cars or see any lights.

I found a spot sheltered by a small copse of pine trees but with a clear view of the stars overhead. I stamped out a flat area with my snowshoes and set up my tent. I realized I didn’t know how to stake out my tent in snow, which I needed to do in order to properly utilize the fly, so I hoped that the wind wouldn’t pick up overnight. I fired up my new Jetboil Flash, cooked some dinner and cracked open a Maine Beer Co. Lunch. I spent a little while enjoying some hot food, great beer and staring at the stars, but it was time to get to business. The reason I was here was to test out my gear, so I hit the sack.

bya-first-2014-temp

I later discovered that the temperature dropped a lot lower than forecasted

I spent the night trying to keep warm. The weak point in my protection from the cold was my air pad. Any part of my body touching the pad slowly had the heat sapped out of it. After a while I would wake up and need to turn over to warm that side of my body. My feet were also cold, but not cold enough to interrupt my sleep. Several times I considered packing up and snowshoeing back home, but I did not relish crawling out of my warm(ish) sleeping bag into the frigid winter night.

After enough time had passed that I deemed it not insane to get up (4:30am), I quickly made my way out of my sleeping bag and into my clothes. My boots were ice-cold and my toes were soon numb. I fired up my Jetboil to make some coffee. I was lucky that I had the Jetboil running because my tent poles turned my fingers instantly into ice and I was able to warm them over the flame. I found that many of the tent pole sections were frozen together and I had hold them between my fingers until my body heat thawed them. Shortly I had my camp broken down and I enjoyed my coffee by the flame of the Jetboil.

I headed home in the early morning darkness, following the same meandering route I took into the forest. By the time I made it home the eastern sky had begun to lighten, so I dropped my pack and made my way to the south shore of the island. I ended my backyard adventure snapping some shots of ice and sunrise.

bya-first-2014-sunrise

Sunrise and icicles

My takeaway from this experience was that I didn’t have the gear for single digit temperatures, but I think I could have made it through a night in the high teens and twenties. I’m pretty sure that wind would make even the twenties hard to bear as there was space between the ground and the bottom of the fly. Possibly I could have figured out how to stake out or tie down my fly and then pile up snow around it to prevent wind from entering the tent.

Sounds like something to test out on another cold and windy night this winter.

A few tips and realizations I’ve discovered since that night:

  • I have a fleece sleeping bag liner
  • I could try placing my old foam pad under my air pad for added insulation
  • I can heat water and put it in water bottles. Placing these bottles in the bottom of my sleeping bag and in my boots keep them from freezing over night and I would have water that wasn’t frozen in the morning as a bonus
  • I should have a towel ready for when I open my sleeping bag. Body heat escaping will thaw the frost built up on the inside of the tent, wiping it off will prevent the tent from getting wet

A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.
—Marilyn Monroe

References:
Big Agnes Air Core Sleeping Pad.” backcountry.com. Backcountry.com. Web. 23 February 2014.
White, Carol Stone. Peak Experiences: Danger, Death, and Daring in the Mountains of the Northeast. UPNE, 2012. Print.
EMS Mountain Light 15° Sleeping Bag, Long.” ems.com. Eastern Mountain Sports, inc. Web. 23 February 2014.
It’s Official—Australia has the Worst Weather in the World.” theaposition.com. The A Position. Web. 17 March 2014.
Jetboil Flash Cooking System.” rei.com. Recreational Equipment, Inc. Web. 16 March 2014.
Lunch.” mainebeercompany.com. Maine Beer Company. Web. 16 March 2014.
Microlight FS 1-Person Tent.” llbean.com. L.L. Bean, inc. Web. 23 February 2014.

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