Winter Bushwhack: Mount Isolation

Trail Report

What do you do on the final full day of winter? Get in your last Winter New Hampshire 4000 Footer of the season of course. Since the weather was going to be mild, a couple of friends and I decided to bushwhack to Mount Isolation. It was a Winter 4000 Footer that none of us had, and since we had done the other difficult Winter bushwhack of Owls Head, we figured we would round out the season.

The night before, one of my friends and I camped out at Barne’s Field Group Campground. As drove through Pinkham Notch it started to snow, but it was not supposed to accumulate to anything. We were surprised to find many of the campsites were being used, it must have been due to the favorable forecast. We did dinner over a fire and hit the sack early.

We met our other friend at 8:00am at the Rocky Branch Trail parking. There were about 10 cars in the lot and the weather was sunny, in the 20°s and breezy. We were somewhat surprised that there was no snow on the ground, the forest floor looked more like May than March. The plan was to hike Rocky Branch Trail to the top of Engine Hill and then do Engine Hill Bushwhack to bypass all of the water crossings on Isolation Trail. We would then hike Isolation Trail after doing a single water crossing and finally Davis Path and Isolation Spur to the summit.

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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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Night Hike: Jackson Sunrise

Trail Report

We moved off the island in July and one of the things I was looking forward to in living on the mainland was having more flexibility for going on hikes. On a mild and clear December day I decided to go on a sunrise hike of Mount Jackson. I got up at 1:30 am, made some coffee and hit the road.

I got to the parking lot across from Elephant Head Rock at 4:10 am. It was clear, there was a slight breeze and the temperature was in the high teens/low twenties. I brought my larger pack with me as I was unsure of the snow conditions up top, though I suspected that only microspikes would be needed. I also carried my camera’s tripod and many layers as I knew I would be stationary for a while taking photos on the exposed summit.

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Hike: Hale and Zealand

Trail Report

A couple of friends and I took a day off work just before Thanksgiving to do a loop of two New England 4000 Footers in New Hampshire. The mountains of Hale and Zealand can be accessed by trailheads off Zealand Road, which is found just north of Crawford Notch. Two days prior I hiked Mount Waumbek and afterward drove up Zealand Road to confirm it was still open. There is a road status page online, but I’ve been burned by out of date government pages before.

We drove up early Tuesday morning, found the road still open and arrived at the Hale Brook Trail parking at 7:45 am. The weather was cold and cloudy and it was spitting snow. The Hale Brook Trail was a consistent, moderately steep hike up to the summit of Mount Hale, though it switchbacked through the steeper grade to alleviate the climb.

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Side of the Road: Chihuahua Desert

I’ve decided to add a new category of post: Side of the Road. These posts will be for those micro-adventures that can often be found right off the beaten path; the interesting structure or a trail you hadn’t noticed before, a sign that points you down a road you would normally bypass. We wanderlusts like to find adventure where ever we can, and when we can’t afford to drive or fly somewhere, we find things to explore right down the road.

Of course, this Side of the Road is a pretty epic one, but there has to be some kind of catalyst for spawning a new category of post.

A couple of my friends and I were attended a conference in Austin, Texas and took a few vacation days after to do some hiking in Texas. We hiked Guadalupe Peak, El Capitan and Devil’s Hall in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. While driving west on route 180 just after the Guadalupe Mountains we crossed the the Chihuahua Desert. We pulled over to the side of the road so we could check out the salt flats and nab some photos of ourselves in the desert. The salt flats are all that remains of a giant lake that once stood at the same location 1.8 billion years ago, it it was definitely worth a stopping to check it out.

Me in the Chihuahua salt flats

Me in the Chihuahua salt flats, Guadalupe Peak and El Capitan in the background

Surprisingly, the flats were mud just under the salt crust and we had to walk gingerly as to not slip. We were just starting to head back to the highway, a few hundred feet away, when we heard the sound of an airplane approaching. I looked to the east and saw a single prop plane that appeared to be coming in for a landing directly at me. I ran to catch up with the others and get out of the plane’s path. When I felt I was a safe distance away I pulled out my phone and caught some video of the plane. Rather than land, it pulled up as it passed us, not 20 feet above the desert, and dipped its wing. I didn’t catch it, but apparently the pilot was smiling and flashing the peace sign as he passed.

video-icon Video of plane

We assumed that the highway was patrolled by police in airplanes and upon seeing us out in the desert they flew close to investigate. My heartbeat raced for a few minutes afterward, but in all it was a fun experience. When I got back to Maine, 22 hours later, I still had mud and salt stuck to my shoes and the cuffs of my pants. I made sure to scrape some off into my yard.

Water, water, water… There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount…
—Edward Abbey

References:
El Paso Salt War.” nps.gov. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Web. 19 April 2014.