Hike: Cabot Loop

Trail Report

I got up early on a Sunday morning in November in order to hike Mount Cabot in the northern White Mountain National Forest. I normally like to leave home early enough to arrive at the trailhead at sunrise. But the trailheads for Mount Cabot were located beyond the Berlin Fish Hatchery, which had a gate. I found information about the gate’s hours but most of it was a few years old. Not wanting to risk sitting around waiting for the gate to be opened, I left so I would arrive at 8:00 am, when the gate was supposed to open.

I got to the hatchery at 8:00 am as planned and the gate was open. I drove around York Pond and parked at the lot for the Unknown Pond Trail. There was one other car in the lot, and the weather was cold and breezy. Although the sky was mostly clear, there were clouds sitting on top of Mount Cabot. I hiked down the road to the start of the York Pond Trail. York Pond Trail and Bunnell Notch Trail were very flat for a while but with some mud, ice and water crossings over the Ammonoosuc Brook. As the trail started to climb beside the brook, I stopped to put on my microspikes.

Continue reading

Hike: Mount Washington

Trail Report

One Sunday in November my friend John and I headed north to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with the goal of climbing Mount Washington. The forecast was favorable temperature- and precipitation-wise, but it was calling for hurricane-force winds on the summit.

We got to the parking lot at the Pinkham Notch visitor’s center at 8:00 am. There was some activity center, but it was hard to tell if people were headed up to the summit or not. We gathered our gear and headed up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail.

Continue reading

Bike & Hike: Sandwich Range Traverse

Trail Report

When I purchased my commuter bike this year, one of the reasons I chose a touring bike over a cross bike was so I could do some bike camping. As September rolled around I took a week off from work to do some hiking which was the perfect opportunity to try out a bike and hike. I had been eyeing the 4000 Footers in the Sandwich Range and knew I wanted to complete them as traverse.

After some bike route and trail planning, I put together what I thought would be a great bike and hike. I would bike from Gorham, ME to the Kancamagus, drop my bike off at the Oliverian Brook trailhead, walk along the Kancamagus to the Sabbaday Brook Trail, spend three days hiking along the Sandwhich Range, and then bike back to Gorham.

Continue reading

Night Hike: Mount Adams

Trail Report

One of my goals for 2015 was to do a Moonlight Presidential Traverse. Back in December when I started looking into moonlight traverses the two full moons that landed on the weekends were in July and August. I chose August because it was later in the summer (and I knew I would be moving in early summer), and because it was a supermoon.

My plans for a full traverse of the Presidential Range fell apart when I couldn’t get a second person to commit to the hike. Two cars are pretty much a requirement when doing a traverse as big as the Presidential Range. It also wouldn’t be too smart to do my first all night hike alone.

In the end I convinced my friend John to join the hike when I scaled it down to a loop of the northern Presidentials with the possibility of tacking on Washington if we felt up for it.

Continue reading

Hike: Kinsmans-Cannon Loop

Date hiked: 1 October 2014

For some time I’ve planned on taking two days to hike a loop around Lonesome Lake in Franconia Notch State Park to do North and South Kinsman as well as Cannon Mountain. As my last mid-week-vacation-hiking-day for the year approached I found that I would be able to camp out the night before. So, I scratched my plans of doing Mount Moriah and decided to attempt this hike in one day. I would camp out at Lafayette Place Campground the night before, get up before dawn and complete the hike in time to make a reasonable boat back to the island.

Kinsmans and Cannon from Franconia Ridge

Kinsmans and Cannon from Franconia Ridge

I woke at 4:45am, unable to sleep. As always I was as excited as a 5-year-old on Christmas morning. I quickly packed my tent and moved my car from the campground to the parking lot, grabbing a prime spot next to the Lonesome Lake Trail.

My plan of attack was to take Lonesome Lake Trail up to Lonesome Lake, hop on Fishin’ Jimmy Trail and follow it to Kinsman Ridge Trail. I would follow the Kinsman Ridge Trail south to the peaks of North and South Kinsman and then double back to the junction with Fishin’ Jimmy where I would stay north on the Kinsman Ridge Trail and follow it to Cannon Mountain. After Cannon I would follow Kinsman Ridge Trail a little south and take Hi-Cannon Trail down to Lonesome Lake Trail, following it back to the parking lot.

I began up the trail with my headlamp in the pre-dawn dark. The trail started off pretty tame but soon climbed steeply toward the lake. As the sun began to rise I hit a thick patch of fog which limited my visibility and I flashed back to the night before, driving up the Kancamangus Highway.

To say the least, the drive through the Kancamangus Pass was eerie. There was construction on the highway and the new pavement didn’t have the reflective lane dividers or the solid lines on the shoulder. The only guidance was the reflective tape of intermittent traffic cones on either side of the road. Parallel lines of hovering dashes cutting through the forest beyond my high beams lead the way. As I approached the height of land a car caught up to me and rode my bumper. Clearly it was a local who was not pleased that I was driving at a conservative pace. Suddenly, I hit a bank of fog and my visibility dropped to under 50 feet. I slowed despite the car on my tail. The highway swerved through the fog, hit its high point and started back down.

When I finally broke out of the fog I pulled over at the first vista to let the local pass. I was about to start down the highway but took a look at the view, shut off my engine and stepped out of the car. A slivered moon sat starkly among the stars. It barely illuminating the peaks of Mount Kancamangus, the Osceolas and more beyond. A blanket of clouds draped across their peaks and drifted up and faded away as they flowed down their slopes. Far below I saw the headlights of cars skiing through the trees, making their way toward Lincoln.

I made my way up to Lonesome Lake faster than I thought I would. One minute I was chugging up the slope, navigating large boulders, the next the path flattened out and I could see the grey waters of the lake through the trees. The sun had not yet risen, but it was light enough out to put away my headlamp.

Pre-dawn at Lonesome Lake

Pre-dawn at Lonesome Lake

I made my way clockwise around Lonesome Lake. I had hiked this path once before with my brother on our first hiking brocation. Both times I have thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly suggest it to anyone looking for a challenging little hike. It is supposed to be exceptionally nice on a clear day when you can see Fanconia Ridge rising above the lake.

Voices and lights emanated from the Lonesome Lake Hut as I passed it by and took up Fishin’ Jimmy Trail. The Fishin’ Jimmy Trail was named after a caretaker of Lonesome Lake Hut who was employed after the original owners had passed away. He was a character in a story named Fishin’ Jimmy by Annie Trumbull Slosson, one of the original owners’ sister-in-law. The original owners of the hut had stocked the lake with trout and built cabins on the far end of the lake, making it a popular fishing retreat.

Shortly after the sign saying that I was leaving protected forest (areas within a 1/4 mile radius of established shelters in the White Mountains are protected) I saw a great stealth camping site with a young couple breaking down camp. They were the only people I saw all day until I was within easy walking distance of the Cannon Mountain aerial tramway. The lower half of Fishin’ Jimmy was a series of PUDs (pointless ups and downs) and the upper half was an interesting climb up slick rocks.

I got to the junction with the Kinsman Ridge Trail and Kinsman Pond Trail well ahead of schedule. On the trail sign in the junction was a paper note written (presumably) by an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. It said something along the lines of: “NOBOs: 0.1 miles to Kinsmans Pond, view worth the distance.” The note was for other NOrth BOund thru-hikers but I took the advice as well.

As I made my way toward the pond the sun peaked out for the only time that day. I had to stop to capture a shot of it illuminating the moss on the side of the trail.

Sun trying to come out near Kinsman Pond

Sun trying to come out near Kinsman Pond

I approached Kinsman Pond Campsite and it was clear that no one was there. It was a nice location with tent platforms scattered through the thin forest and a shelter within a hundred feet of the pond. The tarn was the color of over-steeped tea, and North and South Kinsman peaks loomed overhead through the gathering clouds. It was definitely worth the side trip and luckily I was ahead of schedule and got to see the view before the clouds fully rolled in.

Kinsman Pond

Kinsman Pond

I made my way back to the Kinsman Ridge Trail and started south up the trail to North Kinsman. I made my way careful over the slick rocks toward the peak, the whole way worrying about my climb back down. I was once again wearing my trail shoes which did not perform well on slick surfaces. For a brief moment the clouds parted and Franconia Ridge appeared to the east.

Franconia Ridge poking out for a second

Franconia Ridge poking out for a second

By the time I made it to the summit of North Kinsman the clouds had completely swamped it in. There was a great overlook just below the peak, but all I could see were clouds which occasionally parted to show more clouds.

It was a quick two mile jaunt to South Kinsman and back with more cloudy views at the top. The elevation change between the two peaks was not terrible and the trail was more of the same slick boulders. I definitely felt isolated in between the mountains with the distance to any road so great, the lack of people and the clouds weighing heavily on the tree tops.

When I got back to North Kinsman at 9am I ate half of my lunch, a soggy, all veggies sub from Subway. I then made my way carefully back down to the junction with Fishin’ Jimmy. I continued north on the Kinsman Ridge Trail toward The Cannon Balls and it quickly became clear that that section of the trail was not often hiked. The trail had become narrow and overgrown with moss and fallen trees.

Overgrown Kinsman Ridge Trail approaching The Cannon Balls

Overgrown Kinsman Ridge Trail approaching The Cannon Balls

Many parts of the trail were dark and gloomy, but occasionally there was a potential view (where I saw more clouds). As soon as I summited The Cannon Balls, a Hundred Highest, the trail became deep and wide again. It seemed like most people going for the Hundred Highest must take the Lonesome Lake trail all the way up to the Kinsman Ridge Trail and then follow it the short distance south to the peak of The Cannon Balls.

The Kinsman Ridge Trail between Lonesome Lake Trail and Hi-Cannon Trail was a very steep climb over car-sized boulders. I really enjoyed the climb but had to stop often to catch my breath. I came across my first fellow hikers 6 hours into my hike as I closed in on the junction with Hi-Cannon Trail. They were two men who I had a hard time communicating with as they only spoke French and I only speak English. I believe they asked if the trail was harder down below and I tried to communicate that it was hard, but I didn’t know what was ahead to say whether it was easier or harder. As it turned out, it was much harder below as the trail soon leveled out.

The distance from Hi-Cannon Trail junction to the Cannon summit was very flat. I made quick time but got behind a big group of people on the approach to the observatory tower. So, instead of going to the peak I followed Kinsman Ridge Trail a bit further beyond to a spot that overlooked Franconia Notch. The view was mostly of clouds, but breaks in the clouds hinted at more to see.

After a few minutes I headed up to the observatory tower and got to it as the group was heading back to the aerial tramway. For a short time (between tram-loads of leaf-peepers) I had the observatory to myself. The clouds were starting to break up enough to see into Franconia Notch, with an occasional view of the towering ridge line above.

View from Cannon Observatory Tower

View from Cannon Observatory Tower

When the next group of people hit the observatory I headed back down to the overlook to meditate and eat the second half of my lunch. I had begun to eat my Subway sandwich when another crowd showed up. Several people commented that “they have a Subway up here?” I pretended to chuckle at their wittiness while devouring the soggy mess.

After eating my sandwich and a bit more of staring at the view of Franconia Notch I started off for the trailhead. I Didn’t know what to expect from Hi-Cannon but the top half was amazing. It was not as steep or rocky as the Kinsman Ridge Trail, it was more like the Old Bridle Path on the other side of Franconia Notch.

The awesome Hi-Cannon Trail

The awesome Hi-Cannon Trail

About a third of the way down I came to a few amazing ledge vistas that overlooked Lonesome Lake and Franconia Notch. The foliage from that vantage point turned the notch into a flaming orange cauldron.

Vista from Hi-Cannon Trail

Vista from Hi-Cannon Trail

After the vista the Hi-Cannon trail scrambled down a cliff face and dropped into the forest below. After the mid-point at Dodge Cutoff the trail became steep and gravely, with no rocks but an occasional root. It made for a great, quick descent. I was soon back to my car and ready to drive back to Portland.

The drive back through the Kancamangus Highway was slow due to leaf-peepers. I had to stay aware as they constantly slammed on their break and pulled over to the shoulder to take photographs. But, the colors were truly amazing.

I had been looking forward to this loop for a long time, and even though it was cloudy it did not disappoint. I finally got the solitude I was looking for, at least until the Cannon Mountain observatory tower. I definitely can’t wait to do Cannon again on a clear day, even if it is the second most frequented peak in the White Mountains.

Now Autumn’s fire burns slowly along the woods and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt.
—William Allingham

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Highest Elevation: 4358′
Elevation Gain: 4700′
Distance: 12.5 miles
Book Time: 8:35
Actual Time: 7:00
Temperature: 50°s
Weather: cloudy
Wind: E 5mph

Completed Red-Lining Trails:
Hi-Cannon Trail
Fishin’ Jimmy Trail

References:
Fishin’ Jimmy by Annie Trumbull Slosson.” gutenburg.org. Project Gutenburg. Web. 23 November 2014.
History of Lonesome Lake Hut.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 23 November 2014.
Lonesome Lake Hut at Cannon Mountain.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 23 November 2014.
Ride the Aerial Tramway to the Summit of Cannon Mountain.” cannonmt.com. State of NH Department of Resources and Economic Development. Web. 23 November 2014.

Hike: Mount Isolation

Date Hiked: 10 September 2014

Mount Isolation is one of the more difficult 4000 Footers to reach, not because of its elevation but because it is far from access points and there are no real direct trails to it. Hence its name. From my research I found there were two common routes to Isolation, via Rocky Branch Trail or via Glen Boulder Trail and Davis Path. Rocky Branch was the easier route but was longer and didn’t afford views. Glen Boulder had exquisite views but reaching Isolation that way meant climbing the shoulder of Mount Washington twice. Since I decided to camp at Dolly Copp Campground the night before attempting Isolation, I thought I’d step it up a notch. I would take Boott Spur Trail (higher up on Mount Washington’s shoulder and further from Isolation) and Davis Path to Isolation, and return via Davis Path, Glen Boulder Trail and The Direttissima.

I got up at 4am in order to get to the trail by 5am. I had to start in the dark but it afforded plenty of daylight for the massive hike. I got to Pinkham Notch soon after 5am and headed into the section of the lodge that was open 24 hours. I signed into the log book but could not find a place to pay for parking. Knowing that I would be heading back to Pinkham Notch via The Direttissma, I had parked on the far southern end of the parking lot and decided to start the hike without paying. I would straighten things out when I got back if I had to.

I started up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail with my headlamp, almost tripping over the tent of someone camped in the trail. Soon, the Boott Spur Trail diverged left and started to climb through the forest and over boulders. As I got to the first vista the sky had lightened enough to put away my headlamp. I was stunned by the view of the Mount Washington’s massif. I got my first good glimpse of Huntington Ravine, the moon was just starting to set over the top of Boott Spur and morning mists shrouded Mount Washington Observatory from view.

Moonset and morning mists on Washington

Moonset and morning mists on Washington

Further up the Boott Spur Trail I had a view of the Carters across the notch just as the sun rose above their peaks.

Sunrise over Carters

Sunrise over Carters

I came to a spur trail that lead to an amazing vista over both Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines. It was an incredible view of the ravines that I really hadn’t witnessed before. I had done most of my hiking of the Presidential Range from north to south, passing Mount Washington on the west. It had been cloudy when I climbed Wildcat D, and the Carters and Wildcat A hadn’t had a view of Washington. I stood for several minutes just staring at the baffling scenery.

Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

As Boott Spur Trail climbed, it got on top of the ridge and opened up views to the south. I could see Glen Boulder perched on the next ridge and beyond it to the valley where North Conway sat. I came upon Split Rock and climbed through it even though the trail stayed to the right.

Split Rock

Split Rock

After Split Rock, the trail turned into a series of steep climbs and plateaus, creating many false summits but providing momentary breaks from the elevation gain. The view back down the trail was spectacular.

Looking back at Boott Spur Trail

Looking back at Boott Spur Trail

At the top of the trail, with Davis Path’s cairns in sight, I rock-hopped off the trail to the top of Boott Spur. To the north I got a crazy view of Tuckerman’s Ravine, Mount Washington and Alpine Garden.

Mount Washington from the peak of Boott Spur

Mount Washington from the peak of Boott Spur

To the south I had another marvelous view: the Southern Presidentials marching down to Crawford Notch.

Southern Presidentials from the peak of Boott Spur

Southern Presidentials from the peak of Boott Spur

I made my way back to Boott Spur Trail and finished off the last hundred feet or so. I turned left down Davis Path and made good time descending toward the Dry River Wilderness. The trail was the typical, amazing Presidential alpine trail; a narrow rocky gash through surrounding scrub on top of an unprotected ridge. I came to the edge of the Dry River Wilderness and then dropped down into the forested mountains below.

Dry River Wilderness

Dry River Wilderness

Davis Path continued on through the forest, where there were many signs of the damage done by tropical storm Irene in August 2011. The trail was narrow and overgrown, showing that not many people travel the route, and in many places I had to duck under pine trees that were leaning over the path. When I came to the intersection with the west branch of the Isolation Trail there was a notice that it was closed from the damaged done by Irene. When I got to the intersection with the east branch of the Isolation Trail there was another warning that the Rocky Branch Trail south of Rocky Branch Shelter #2 was also closed.

It appears that at the end of September 2014 the Dry River Trail and the Isolation Trail have been reopened but are more rugged and harder to follow than previously. I have found no evidence that the Rocky Branch Trail has been reopened at the time of this writing.

A mile after the intersection with the east branch of the Isolation Trail, I came to the spur trail to the summit of Mount Isolation. It was a short climb to the summit and luckily I had an army soldier to point me in the right direction.

Pointing the way to Isolation

Pointing the way to Isolation

Isolation had a clear, ledge-topped summit with an open view of the southern Presidentials. Unfortunately, on that mid-week, early-September day the mountain did not live up to its name. There was a family camping in the trees just beyond the summit. I found Isolation not so isolated. The family had a young boy, 8 years of age I would guess, who followed me around and kept stating: “fine day for a hike, isn’t it?” Indeed it was. We talked for a few minutes before his mother called him back. It turned out that Isolation was his 47th New Hampshire 4000 Footer and his favorite. I didn’t get the chance to ask him which mountain was remaining. I would guess it was Owl’s Head, the other out-of-the-way summit.

View from Mount Isolation

View from Mount Isolation

As the family was packing up their gear, I decided to hit the trail ahead of them. I could have waited for them to leave and have the summit to myself, but it might have turned out to be a long wait. The hike back through the woods went by quickly and I soon found myself climbing up Mount Washington’s shoulder again. I toughed it out and took a break at the intersection with the Glen Boulder Trail.

The upper part of the Glen Boulder Trail would have been inspiring if not for being overshadowed by my hike up Boott Spur Trail that morning. It had some great views but dove into the trees much sooner than Boott Spur. As I headed down the trail I started to run into the day hikers who began their hikes at a normal times. I would start my hike in the dark any day just to beat the crowds to the trail.

I eventually got to Glen Boulder sitting precariously on the edge of the trail. Someone had comically wedged some three-inch-long twigs into the crack between the boulder and the ground, as if they were the only reason it was resting in place.

Glen Boulder

Glen Boulder

I remembered back to my first visit to Glen Boulder. It must have been back in 2000, the year that my wife and I got married. We took a trip up to the White mountains, drove up Pinkham Notch, climbed to Glen Boulder and back, and then looped around the Presidentials, making our way back to Route 302 and back to Maine. It had been the first time in recent memory that I had hiked above treeline. As I stood with my wife next to Glen Boulder and looked at the highway far below I realized that I loved hiking. It was a good decade before that feeling matured into the drive that possesses me to continuously hit the trail today, but on that day it was birthed.

The rest of the hike was a typical White Mountains descent: big, knee-busting steps down boulder-strewn trail. Once Route 16 was in ear-shot I found the junction with The Direttissma. The trail was a narrow one full of pointless ups and downs that followed the highway north for a mile until a parking lot on the south side of the New River, just below the Pinkham Notch parking. I crossed the bridge over to my car, wishing I had known The Direttissma had its own parking lot so I hadn’t worried about parking all day. With that thought I made my way through the buses of camp children and senior citizens to the Visitor Center where I bought a year pass to the White Mountains. I wouldn’t have to worry about parking for a while.

The goal of this hike was three fold: to push myself and see how big of a hike I could do solo; to get one of the more difficult 4000 Footers out of the way; and to get some solitude. All goals were achieved even though I found Isolation to be occupied. Boott Spur Trail ended up being one of my favorite day hikes. The weather was perfect, I didn’t see another soul on the trail and the vistas were phenomenal.

Isolation offered its own form of companionship
—Jhumpa Lahiri

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Highest Elevation: 5500′
Elevation Gain: 5850′
Distance: 13.4 miles
Book Time: 9:35
Actual Time: 7:30
Temperature: 50°s
Weather: sunny
Wind: none

Completed Red-Lining Trails:
Boott Spur Trail
Glen Boulder Trail
The Direttissma

Related posts:
Winter Bushwhack: Mount Isolation – 19 March 2016

References:
2 trials damamged by tropical storm Irene reopen.” seacoastonline.com. Local Media Group, Inc. Web. 5 October 2014.
Hiking Mount Isolation, NH.” home.earthlink.net. EarthLink.net. Web. 29 September 2014.
Hurricane Irene Hammers the Northeast.” weather.com. The Weather Channel, LLC. Web. 5 October 2014.
Recreation Pass Overview.” fs.usda.gov. Forest Service: US Department of Agriculture. Web. 5 October 2014.

2014 Presi Traverse

Date hiked: 30 June 2014

One of this year’s big hikes for me was a one day attempt at the Presidential Traverse, a hike across the Presidential Range in the White Mountains National Forest. The hike typically consists of summiting all of the peaks that are named after presidents, though there are other variations which include the other peaks along the range.

A friend from work and my brother joined me on this hike. We decided to tackle the traverse from north to south to get the big and strenuous mountains out of the way and to just do the classic version of the traverse: Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce. We arrived at Appalachia parking lot at 5:00am as the sun was rising.

Starting off early

Starting off early

We chose to summit Madison via Airline Trail rather than the more typical Valley Way as I had hiked it just two weeks before when I climbed Mount Madison with my son. Airline did not seem more difficult than Valley Way, though it was definitely more exposed. Where Valley Way climbed gradually into its steep elevation gain and became more difficult near the top of its trail, Airline got the elevation out of the way earlier and once it climbed out of the trees and onto the ridge it leveled off some.

Airline Trail just above treeline

Airline Trail just above treeline

I was also excited to take Valley Way as I heard that from the Knife Edge, a section of narrow trail on the ridge, you could see one of the best examples of the difference between a glaciated valley and a valley carved by running water. The ravine had steeper walls and a bowl shape at the bottom and the valley was v-shaped with more gradual slopes.

Glaciated Valley vs. Stream Valley

Glaciated Valley vs. Stream Valley

After enjoying the spectacular views at the top of Airline we stopped at Madison Spring Hut where my brother rested while we climbed Madison. Even though I had recently climbed it, I still enjoyed the rocky climb up to Madison’s peak. As apposed to two weeks ago, the weather was clear and the view of Adams, Washington, the Wildcats and Carters was magnificent.

View from Madison

View from Madison

After climbing down Madison we headed up Adams. I’ve always enjoyed climbing Adams, though it and Jefferson always seem to burn me out. The talus of Adams was spectacular but I could already feel my energy waning.

Mount Adams panorama

Mount Adams panorama

We continued on past Thunderstorm Junction and the bizarre terrain between Adams and Jefferson. We stopped for a break at Edmands Col so that a large group of hikers could get far enough ahead of us that we wouldn’t have to pass them on the steep climb to Jefferson’s peak.

Edmands Col

Edmands Col

Like Adams and Madison, Jefferson was a strenuous hike up rocky terrain. Jefferson was always my least favorite of those behemoths due to its many false peaks when climbing it from the north. We took a short break on the summit and then pushed on ahead of the large group that had climbed up before us.

Looking ahead from Mount Jefferson

Looking ahead from Mount Jefferson

At Sphinx Col we stopped and were greeted by a United States Forest Service volunteer wielding a large GPS unit. He said they were collecting data on hikers and asked us where we had started hiking and where we were going. We asked him how high the climb to Clay was and he said about 700 feet, roughly the same as the climb down from Jefferson.

The night prior to the hike we had agreed that we would bypass Clay as we had all done it before and it was not an official 4000 Footer. Halfway around Clay we started discussing the pros and cons of bypassing Washington as well. It was already past noon and we hadn’t hit our halfway mark and none of us were thrilled to make the push to the summit and be greeted with buses and crowds. My only reluctance was that I was depending on the cafeteria on the summit to provide my big meal for the day. All I had left for the day were two Clif bars and two small packets of peanut butter. But, since the others would be able to get food at Lakes of the Cloud, they could spare me their Clif bars if needed.

Looking back from near Mount Clay

Looking back from near Mount Clay

Once we got around Clay and started the hike toward Washington we took Westside Trail under the cog railway and around Washington. Westside Trail was enjoyable as I had never hiked it before. We had good views down into Ammonoosuc Ravine and had a different perspective of Lakes of the Cloud. I started to bonk on the descent to Lake of the Clouds and the southern Presidentials, but one of my packets of peanut butter got me to the huts. Along the way we passed another US Forest Service volunteer counting people hiking between Washington and Lakes of the Cloud.

We took a short break at Lakes of the Cloud. I ate my other peanut butter packet and a Clif bar and refilled my water. We had hit the crowds again, it had been quiet since we bypassed Clay and now people were milling about everywhere. There were boy scouts running through the alpine grasses and a tired man with his son and dog trying to convince the hut croo to let him stay in the Dungeon, the hut’s basement. He didn’t think they could hike back down before dark and there were afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast. There was also a young family with several kids, the dad was hiking with one of the kids in a Cadillac-sized carrier on his back. Rugged.

We picked up as the tired father and son got permission to stay in the Dungeon and pushed toward Monroe. Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce were new mountains for my brother. When we attempted the Presi Traverse in 2012 we got trapped in a thunderstorm. When it had a cleared a bit we bypassed Monroe and took Edmands Path to Pierce road.

I enjoyed the climb up to Monroe, the headwall on the north side is a fun little scramble and the view looking back toward Washington is amazing.

Lakes of the Cloud and Mount Washington from Mount Monroe

Lakes of the Cloud and Mount Washington from Mount Monroe

We descended Monroe and enjoyed the long flat hike between Monroe and Eisenhower. We passed the Mount Franklin spur path and continued on toward Eisenhower, not wanting to add any unneeded climbs. Clouds were starting to roll in pretty heavily once we got to Eisenhower, but we were below their altitude at that point. On top of Eisenhower the clouds formed a perfect crown just above its summit.

Mount Eisenhower summit

Mount Eisenhower summit

After Eisenhower we made the trek to Pierce, popping in and out of the treeline. This was usually an enjoyable section of the trail, but I was so worn out at this point that each time we went above the trees it felt like we were no closer to Pierce. We finally hit the junction with Webster Cliff Trail and dropped our packs. The hike up to Pierce was easy and short. We stopped for a few minutes, my brother and I drank celebratory beers we had carried the whole way but the black flies kept us from resting for long.

The hike down Crawford Path was like most descents after a big hike: long and arduous. We hit the parking lot at Pierce Road at 8:30pm, about fifteen and a half hours after we started. We had bypassed Washington, but all agreed that it was a successful hike. At the time I had said I was done with the Presidentials for a while, especially the northern peaks. But now I want to attempt the hike again, including Washington. I guess it will have to wait until next year as the days are getting short.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
—Edmund Hillary

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Highest Elevation: 5799′
Elevation Gain: 7750′
Distance: 18.6 miles
Book Time: 13:30
Actual Time: 15:30
Temperature: 60°
Weather: partly sunny

References:
A glacier carves a U-shaped valley.” nature.nps.gov. National Park Service, et al. Web. 15 August 2014.
Great Hikes: A Presidential Traverse.” sectionhiker.com. Fells Press LLC. Web. 14 August 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.

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

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.

Follow me:
www.facebook.com/MaineWanderlust
www.twitter.com/MaineWanderlust
www.instagram.com/MaineWanderlust