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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Winter Hike: Return to Chocorua

Trail Report

As the last weeks of winter rolled around I considered a winter ascent of Mount Washington. Unfortunately, there were a lot of icy trail reports that dissuaded me from attempting Washington. Instead, I decided to return to Mount Chocorua as I really enjoyed the summit and I was hoping that the lower elevation would mean less ice. Plus, in a few months the weather would be nice and undoubtedly the crowds would return to the mountains and I wouldn’t be hiking Chocorua then.

I chose Piper Trail as the starting point of the hike and would go up Nickerson Ledge Trail, Carter Ledge Trail and Middle Sister Trail to make the hike into a lollipop loop. I got to the parking lot at 8:00 am, and there were no cars in the lot. It was pretty windy (the final icing on the no-go-Washington cake) and partly cloudy. The forecast was calling for a significant drop in wind speed and a clearing of the clouds.

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Winter Bushwhack: Owl’s Head

Trail Report

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.

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Winter Hike: Willey Range

Trail Report

I’d been wanting to do a snowshoe of the Willey Range for quite some time. It seemed like the perfect place for a day-long snowshoe: it’s on the eastern side of the range (the weather infamously comes from the northwest in the winter), it’s almost entirely protected by forest, it includes three 4000 Footers and it affords some great views of the Presidential Range and down into Crawford Notch. Two friends and I attempted the Willey Traverse back in March but when one of us became sick we bailed after Mount Tom.

So on the morning of Christmas Eve I headed up to the mountains. My plan was to get an early start so that I could be back home in early afternoon to spend Christmas Eve with the family. I got up at 4:00 am, brewed some coffee and packed up the car. I’ve done the drive from Gorham, Maine to North Conway, New Hampshire about a hundred times, so it didn’t matter that it was pitch dark. I could have driven it with my eyes closed.

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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: Mount Tecumseh

Trail Report

On Black Friday I followed suit with REI and opted outside rather than flocking to the mall like a normal American person. Although I have a weakness for hiking gear, books and electronics, I try to follow a minimalist approach to my life; gathering experiences rather than stuff. When I heard that REI was closing their doors on Black Friday so all their employees could spend the day outside, it aligned with my ideals and I joined them.

Tecumseh sits at the bottom of the New England 4000 Footer list at 4003′ feet and is the peak looming over Waterville Valley Ski Resort. I had been putting the hike off for those reasons as well as the drive to it took me across the lowlands of Maine and New Hampshire rather than through the White Mountains. But, with the number of peaks remaining on my 4000 Footer list dwindling and the fact that it was going to be cloudy, it seemed like a good day to final hike it.

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Hike: Mount Waumbek

Trail Report

Keeping the theme of hiking the northern New Hampshire 4000 Footers, I drove to Jefferson, New Hampshire on an early Sunday morning in late November to climb Mount Waumbek. The previous weekend I had climbed its neighboring 4000 footer Mount Cabot and figured I should round off the northern White Mountain ranges.

I found the trail parking for the Starr King Trail off of Route 2 and arrived at 8:00 am. There were two other cars in the parking lot and the weather was cool, mostly cloudy with a slight breeze. The trail started off easy, following an old logging road next to a brook. I passed a moss-covered stone well that was close to six feet in diameter. Soon the trail left the brook and started to climb more steeply toward Mount Starr King. The trail leveled off as it left hardwood forest and skirted the summit of Starr King to the west to make its approach from the north.

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