Mount Pemigewasset

As I mentioned in our previous outing to Lonesome Lake, Katy and I decided to start tackling the NH 52 With A View list and bring Toby along for the ride. This past weekend, we embarked on our first of hopefully many hiking trips on this list by climbing Mount Pemigewasset.

Mount Pemigewasset is a small peak at the southern end of Franconia Notch that looks like a little nub that you can see when driving by on Interstate 93. It’s an appealing hike for a small outing because of its relative driving proximity, the moderate 3 mile round trip climb, and the open ledges at the top. I’ve mentioned it as an option several times in the past when we’ve been considering a small hiking trip, but we’ve always opted for another alternative instead. Katy tells me that it was because she always associates the word Pemigewasset with bears because of an article we once saw about a bear encounter in the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

We got up on Sunday morning with our usual routine, still not 100% committed to making the trip. After having breakfast and getting Toby up and ready, we decided to go for it and began to get organized. It was another perfect fall day that was just not to be passed up. We were all ready to go around mid morning and headed out the door. It took a few false starts to get going though, as I think Katy and I each had to go back into the house once or twice to get something (diaper bag? sweatshirt? I don’t even remember). We finally were situated though and were off. We made a stop on the way up to feed ourselves and Toby lunch, before continuing on and arriving at the large parking area for the Flume Gorge Visitor Center around 1:00PM.

There was plenty of activity at the visitor center as we got organized for the hike. Toby was excited to go in the carrier once again and we started heading up the trail. NH 52 With A View hike #1 had begun! But wait, 100 yards in and another false start. I had forgotten to put my long sleeve shirt in the pack so we had to go back to the car to get it. We recovered and were quickly back on the trail. The trail to the summit is fairly straightforward, with moderate elevation gain and is well maintained. We passed by a number of groups on the way up, and I think just about all of them had something to say to Toby or about Toby. He has a way of making friends quickly that kid! We even stopped once on the way up to take him out of the pack, and let him hike on his own with some help. We arrived at the summit ledges in just over an hour and stopped for a bit to take in the views over the notch as advertised.

We headed back down the way we came with little trouble and then spent a few minutes at the visitor center before heading home. The hike was a success and a great time was had by all of us. Looking forward to the next one!

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Jefferson and Adams

For a long time now, my brother Brian and I would periodically have this conversation: (O or B): “We should do a hike sometime.” (B or O): “Yes we should.” End of conversation. With both of us having young children now, weekends are busy and it’s easy to either have a conflict or just not get around to planning these things out. Well, we finally decided it was time. After bouncing around a few ideas, we settled on a loop over Mount Jefferson and Mount Adams via the Castle Trail on the way up and Lowes Path on the way down. It seemed like a good choice with a long stretch of above treeline hiking and neither of us had been on the Castle Trail before. The plan was set for two Sundays ago with perfect weather in the works.

With a hefty day ahead of us, we made plans to meet at the Park and Ride lot in Nashua at 5:30AM. We both pulled into the lot at nearly the exact same time, and Brian jumped in my car to continue the ride up together. We stopped at a Dunkin Donuts on the way (I skipped the pre-hike donut but Brian couldn’t resist) and were at the trailhead and on the trail at about 8:00AM. It was cool but comfortable and clear, with the higher summits forecast predicting excellent above treeline conditions in the 40′s with moderate winds. The first mile or so of the trail was an easy warmup, with the trail in good shape and minimal elevation gain. Then we began to climb.

The middle third of the ascent was a steady upward trek and we eventually popped out above treeline under clear skies. It was here that we hit the “castles” portion of the trail which is a good section of large rocky towers that required some fun scrambling to get over. We continued up along the ridge line and eventually made it to the summit at 11:00AM. It wasn’t until we were nearly at the top of Jefferson that we ran into the first group of other hikers that we’d seen. From a distance, it looked like a man hiking with a young kid. As we got closer, we noticed he was carrying a second child in a front carrier. Impressive! As we got even closer, though, we realized that not only was he carrying a child on his front, he was also carrying another child on his back! Nice!

We ate a snack on top of Jefferson and then continued on to the summit of Adams. The hike along the ridge was much higher traffic with many other hikers hitting the high peaks on this day. We made our way up the bouldery summit cone of Adams and took another break at the top. Of all the Presidentials, Adams is definitely the meanest in terms of jagged boulder hopping and tricky footing. The winds were whipping at the peak and we spent some more time up there before heading back down. The descent down Lowes Path was excellent with a very long stretch still above treeline overlooking the valley. The lower portion of the trail seemed to go on forever, though, with a bit of a death march grind back to the road and an extra mile of flat walking to complete the loop. We completed the hike just before 4:00PM coming in under 8 hours.

Overall, it was a great day and I’m glad we finally got out there. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting some more hikes in again soon.

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Lonesome Lake

It’s been nearly two years since Katy and I triumphantly completed our 48th New Hampshire 4000 footer. Since then, this blog has remained mostly idle, but our lives certainly have not. Our humble accomplishment of conquering all of those peaks was thrilling, challenging, and rewarding; but on May 26, 2013, we embarked on a new adventure that magnifies all of those adjectives and then some. We became parents. Our son Toby is a 1 year old toddler now and is just a smart, happy, goofy, fun loving kid. We’ve been loving every minute of our time with him and have enjoyed seeing him grow.

Katy mentioned in her 4000 footer application that “We plan to introduce our child to the White Mountains once s/he is old enough to walk.” Well, Toby can now walk! Last week we had some time off and decided it was time to do just that. We planned a relatively short hike out and back to Lonesome Lake Hut from Lafayette Campground – a little over 3 miles round trip and a moderate elevation gain. I have to say that this is not Toby’s first time hiking with us. We took him up Mt. Kearsarge when he was only 2 months old and also hiked with him in the rain forest at 9 months old when we vacationed in Puerto Rico a while back. We had a few other small outings too but none of these previous hikes were more then a mile. This hike was definitely the longest hike we’ve ever done with him and also, staying true to form, the first hike in the White Mountains.

Katy and I got up early, 5:45 AM, and packed our things. Not only were we hiking but we were also spending some time at Lake Winnipesaukee afterwards so we had to prep for an overnight trip. After we got organized, we woke Toby up, had breakfast, and all piled into the car for the trip north. We were on our way by 7:30 AM. It was fun to make that drive early in the morning like we had done so many times before in years’ past. We arrived at Lafayette Campground before 10:00 AM and then … changed and fed the baby? Oh how life has changed. Toby enjoyed exploring the picnic area as we fed him his morning snack and organized our gear, you know – water, snacks, diapers, and wipes.

Once we put Toby in the back carrier, he didn’t want to be anywhere else. He laughed and played the whole way up and pointed at and identified everything he saw – “Wa Wa (Water)”, “Mama”, “Dada”, “Ra (Rock)”, “Up”, “Rara (Rabbit)”, among others. The hike to the hut is not a difficult hike but it was hard work carrying Toby on my back. We got there in less then an hour and enjoyed the views, the lake, and the perfect weather. Toby loved the inside of the hut and also talking to the ducks down by the lake. We had a snack and before long, were heading back down.

On the way down Katy and I discussed possibly tackling the 52 With-A-View list of smaller hikes with nice views in New Hampshire. It’s a nice list because most of the hikes are small enough that Toby can handle already (as long as we carry him most of the way!) so he can come with us. It’s a tentative plan, and one I hope to keep up blogging about as we progress. For now, though, enjoy some photos of our recent trip to Lonesome Lake.

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On Hiking All 48 White Mountain 4000 Footers

After a couple month delay, Katy and I finally filled out the AMC 4000 Footer Club Application. It’s sitting on the desk next to me right now, waiting to be mailed. A completed application consists of a full list of dates of each ascent as well as a personal account of your final peak (or any other peak if you choose). Naturally I thought it would be suitable to include a copy of my Mount Carrigain blog post to satisfy this requirement for my application. However, Katy has also written her own reflections on our 4000 footer journey to go along with her application. She suggested that I might post it to this blog and so without further ado, a guest post from my wonderful wife:

December 16, 2012

Appalachian Mountain Club
Attn: Four Thousand Footer Committee
P.O. Box 444
Exeter, NH 03833

Dear Sir or Madam:

Thank you so very much for reviewing my application for the Four Thousand Footer Club of the White Mountains. I am writing to provide a brief account of the ascent of our final peak and to perhaps share a few other musings of my adventures in the Whites.

Let me begin by telling you that I am no “wilderness woman.” My husband, Owen Kellett, and I climbed our first 4,000-footer on October 4, 2009. At the time, Owen and I were not married – we were not pregnant. He already had a dozen or so 4,000 footers under his belt, whereas my mountaineering skills were virtually non-existent. He invited me to climb all 48 of the 4,000-footers out of the blue one evening at home. He told me that if we finished them, we would attend a pizza party and receive a patch and a scroll. Since I am not one to turn down a good adventure (or pizza and an award), I was “all in.”

I recall climbing Mts. Lafayette and Lincoln, our first hike, and thinking to myself that I wanted to gnaw off both legs and die on a rock. I enjoyed the hike overall and my time with Owen, but I found that I was not mentally or physically fit for the challenge. I anticipated that the climb would be a struggle, but I had recently finished the Boston Marathon, so how hard could it possibly be in comparison!? Well, it was much harder than predicted. Despite the challenges of our first climb, we decided to persevere.

Owen and I climbed all of the 4,000-footers together. We became moderately obsessed with hiking! We were married on June 12, 2010, and we hiked the Na Pali Coast in Hawaii on our honeymoon. We returned from our honeymoon and hiked some more. Then, I started law school. Hiking became our outlet. We hiked during my semester break and every long weekend. We bought snowshoes and hiked during the winter. We vacationed in Acadia and hiked there. Summer weekends consisted of waking up at 5:00 a.m. and driving up north to complete our day hikes. Then, our hikes got longer! We became much faster and could handle five peaks in a single day. I thought to myself, “Presidential Traverse, here we come!”

We never did complete all of the Presidentials in a single day, but we finished our last 4,000-footer, Mt. Carrigain, on October 13, 2012. Sawyer River Road opened and we jumped at the opportunity to cross our last mountain off the list. We bundled up when we arrived at the trailhead because it was much nippier than any of our recent summer hikes. Owen’s sister joined us on the trail, but we secretly had another tag-a-long with us as well, because I was more than two months pregnant! We cautiously climbed Mt. Carrigain at a much slower pace than usual – I could not get enough peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I craved icy cold milk. We had previously climbed Mt. Zealand and the Bonds in approximately eleven hours, yet it took us eight or so hours to climb Mt. Carrigain alone. Crossing the ridge and climbing the fire tower at the summit of Mt. Carrigain gave me such a bubbly feeling because well, there were dozens of other hikers celebrating their final peak with champagne, but also because I realized just how far we had come since climbing Mt. Lafayette. I reminisced with Owen on the descent back to the car and realized that, even though Mt. Carrigan was our last 4,000-footer in the White Mountains, this was only the beginning.

Owen and I are looking forward to climbing the New England 4,000 footers, but our next adventure will be a journey into parenthood. We plan to introduce our child to the White Mountains once s/he is old enough to walk – and we hope that s/he has similar hiking adventures in the future. The White Mountains gave us tranquility and the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of Boston city-life. I suppose I am a “wilderness woman” after all.

Many thanks,

Katy Kellett

Enclosure

Mount Carrigain Finale!

We’ve done it. On Saturday, Katy and I hiked Mount Carrigain to complete our goal of hiking all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers! Our original plan for the finale was to hike on Columbus day weekend, but with scheduling conflicts and sub-optimal weather, we decided to push it out one more week. The result of this move had several positive side effects. First, Sawyer River Road, the access road from 302 to the Signal Ridge Trailhead, has been closed to vehicle traffic since it was damaged during Tropical Storm Irene over a year ago. Hiking the road turns the normally 10 mile out and back hike into a 14 mile slog which is something we were fully expecting and prepared to do. However, to our pleasant surprise, the road opened just this past week! We didn’t do anything and we were already four miles closer to our goal. Second, the weather on Columbus Day weekend was ok, but plagued with clouds and showers. Saturday, on the other hand, turned out to be a perfectly clear day, and an early preview of winter with crisp temperatures and snow on the summits. You couldn’t have ordered up a better New England blend of the seasons if you tried. Finally, with our original schedule, our most frequent hiking participant would have been unable to make it. With the delay, however, my sister Mo was now available to join us for “The Final Thing!” Like we’ve done in the past, we coordinated an early meeting time of 6:00AM at the Park-And-Ride lot in Nashua on Saturday morning. We met Mo there in the dark of the pre-dawn hour and continued north to begin the last adventure of this hiking chapter!

At the trailhead of our final NH 4000 footer!

Plus Mo!

The early going was easy, flat, and in autumn conditions.

Photo bomb!

It wasn't long before we saw the first signs of snow.

What are they looking at?

Still not looking at the camera!

Don't worry Mo, only 3.3 miles to go.

We arrived at the trailhead at the end of Sawyer River Road before 9:00AM to a mostly full lot. It looks like we weren’t the only ones glad that the road was open! The skies were clear but the temperature was a brisk 28 degrees. After gearing up, we took a few photos and then were off to tackle the five mile trail to the summit. The first two miles or so of the Signal Ridge Trail are easy and mostly flat. I had read that the first quarter mile of the trail had been rerouted very recently to bypass a difficult river crossing. This first section of trail was clearly in its infancy but in good shape and easy to follow. After following it we quickly joined up with the much wider and more pronounced original trail and continued at a leisurely place through the fallen leaves. There was one fairly straightforward river crossing about a mile and half in which we navigated without issue before reaching the only trail junction on this route at 1.7 miles. We continued on, at this point starting to see some signs of snow on the trail.

Katy just wanted a picture of me pointing. I wasn't pointing at anything.

Owen and Katy plus Mo.

Snow on the trail! Time for a snack.

First views from the semi-exposed ridge line.

Snow covered Presidentials in the distance on this blue bird day.

After pushing past the trail junction, we started climbing. The grades on this trail were easy, with moderate steepness the rest of the way. It wasn’t long before the trail was mostly covered in snow. There was less than an inch for the most part and not really a need or use for microspikes, but there was just enough to make the trail a bit slick and icy in spots. We carefully continued on, and began to bump into a few other hiking groups on the trail. It was at this point that an interesting phenomena began to happen. Now, we’ve definitely had conversations with other hikers in the past about the 4000 footers, how couldn’t you? Certainly not everyone you see hiking these trails is a peakbagger, nor has everyone even heard of the 4000 footer club, but when you hike all 48 of them, you’re bound to have a conversation here and there with someone who has this common goal. Up to this point, though, we haven’t bumped into anyone (that we know of) that was finishing their list on that very hike. When we reached the semi-exposed ridgeline about a half mile from the summit, two girls were coming down who had just finished their 48 list that day! Congrats! we say, and we’re finishing too! We were nearly there and the celebration was on.

The top! Summit photo on the lookout tower.

Double ninja!

Katy doing pure barre moves on the summit.

"Best views in the Whites" as proclaimed by a man we spoke with at the base of the tower.

The views were magnificent but it was windy! Katy and Mo keeping warm.

The trail sign at the summit. An early taste of winter!

Mo at the summit tower.

When we reached the summit, there was a crowd of over a dozen people there. Katy and I high fived and then began to ascend the summit lookout tower to take in some of “the best views in the Whites.” As we started up the stairs, we heard the cork of a champagne bottle pop. Another group finishing their 48 at the same moment as us! I knew that Carrigain was a popular peak to finish on, but this was quite the coincidence. Maybe everyone was just holding out until Sawyer River Road opened up? Whatever the case, it was quite the party atmosphere at the summit despite the snow, the cold, and the wind. We went up to the top of the lookout tower for the panoramic views and for the summit photos on the 48th. It’s no joke about the views, they are definitely some of the best and we braved the icy wind chills for as long as we could before seeking shelter down below. Also, for those who have been following along you may have noticed that Katy is likely the first person to do a “ninja jump” at the top of all 48 4000 foot peaks. While I can’t claim the same, I did promise Katy that I would do a ninja jump with her on our final peak. Now you’ve seen the proof!

Time to head down. It's not official until we reach the bottom.

The ridge walk on the descent.

One last look at the summit of our 48th.

At the bottom. It's official! Meet two new members of the AMC 4000 footer club.

After some time at the summit, we ducked a little ways down the trail under the shelter of some trees away from the wind to eat some lunch. At this point another group of hikers came that also had some 48 finishers among them! Somebody on the trail tallied it up and by his count there were at least 15 individuals who finished their list of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers on that very day. Incredible! All of this summit celebration was very exciting, but there was still one important piece of administrivia to take care of — getting down. It’s important to note that we weren’t actually finished until we reached the bottom under our own power and were safely back at the trailhead. After our lunch we continued on, taking care on the snowy, and still slippery upper section of the trail. We continued through the seasons and gradually made it back into the autumn conditions with the snow gone, fallen leaves on the ground, and slightly warmer fall air. After a bit of a slog through the last couple miles, we finally “emerged victorious” at the trailhead as the newest members of the AMC 4000 footer club! (Well, until about 2 minutes later when one of the other finishers on that day came off the trail right behind us!)

It’s been just over three years on this journey and I couldn’t have picked a better teammate to tackle this goal (Love you Katy!). Looking back over a constant thread like this makes you realize how quickly time can go by and how much things can change in such a seemingly short period of time. It’s not just the mountains that have been the constant, though, it’s the friends, the family, and the loved ones that have joined us, laughed at our stories, followed our progress, and cheered us on. Special thanks, of course, goes to Mo, Brian, Anne, Tim, Kate, and UP on coming with us, some for just a few miles, others for many many more. A lot lies ahead for me and Katy, and there will still be hiking with the 67 New England 4000 footers as a potential long term goal. For now, though, here’s a look back at our adventure.

Mount Lafayette 2009.10.04
Mount Lincoln 2009.10.04
Cannon Mountain 2009.11.15
Mount Tecumseh 2010.04.24
Mount Moriah 2010.07.24
North Kinsman 2010.09.05 Mo, Anne
South Kinsman 2010.09.05 Mo, Anne
Mount Tom 2010.10.10 Mo
Mount Field 2010.10.10 Mo
Mount Willey 2010.10.10 Mo
Mount Hancock 2011.05.28 Mo, Brian
South Hancock 2011.05.28 Mo, Brian
Wildcat D 2011.07.02 Mo, Brian, Kate, UP
Wildcat 2011.07.02 Mo
Carter Dome 2011.07.02 Mo
South Carter Mountain 2011.07.02 Mo
Middle Carter Mountain 2011.07.02 Mo
Mount Osceola 2011.07.12
East Osceola 2011.07.12
Mount Whiteface 2011.07.23 Mo
Mount Passaconaway 2011.07.23 Mo
Mount Flume 2011.07.31
Mount Liberty 2011.07.31
Mount Hale 2011.08.06
Mount Pierce 2011.09.04
Mount Eisenhower 2011.09.04
Mount Waumbek 2012.01.01
Mount Jackson 2012.01.29
North Tripyramid 2012.02.19
Middle Tripyramid 2012.02.19
Mount Garfield 2012.04.07
Mount Isolation 2012.05.12
North Twin Mountain 2012.05.26
South Twin Mountain 2012.05.26
Galehead Mountain 2012.05.26
Mount Jefferson 2012.06.16 Anne, Tim
Mount Moosilauke 2012.06.23 Brian
Mount Adams 2012.06.30 Brian
Mount Madison 2012.06.30 Brian
Mount Monroe 2012.07.21 Mo
Mount Washington 2012.07.21 Mo
Mount Cabot 2012.07.28
Mount Zealand 2012.08.04
West Bond 2012.08.04
Mount Bond 2012.08.04
Bondcliff 2012.08.04
Owl’s Head 2012.09.02
Mount Carrigain 2012.10.13 Mo

Owl’s Head

Yesterday Katy and I embarked on another long hike, about 19 miles in total, to reach the peak of Owl’s Head. It was the 47th 4000 footer for us on our quest to hike all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers and leaves just Mount Carrigain between us and eternal glory! Owl’s Head is one of those peaks that requires maximum effort for minimal reward and is rarely collected early on a peakbagger’s list. The trail is long and monotonous with tricky river crossings and very few views. In addition, there is no officially maintained trail that goes all the way to the summit, with the final mile or so of the hike following an unmaintained herd path up an old rock slide. Despite these challenges, we were ready to make this hike a good one, and arrived early at the trailhead at Lincoln Woods yesterday at 7:30AM. We had been tracking the forecast all week long and the weather looked perfect with sunny skies predicted and a 0% chance of rain. As we geared up for the hike, though, it was overcast with rain showers spitting at us. Oops!

An early morning start to another long hike.

The first river crossing has a suspension bridge. If only they all did!

I guess she still likes me. Even after all these 20 milers.

A cloudy start with a couple of showers. The day eventually turned sunny.

Katy loves seeing giant CAUTION signs right at the start of a hike! Irene's presence is still felt more than a year later.

An old railroad bed, the Lincoln Woods Trail is wide, flat, and long.

We began our journey down the Lincoln Woods Trail and settled in for a long, flat walk. Fortunately, the rain showers ended quickly, and the tree canopy pretty much kept us dry in the meantime. The Lincoln Woods Trail is about 3 miles in length, is very wide, and is almost completely flat as it follows a former logging road. As an access point to the Pemigewasset Wilderness, you’ll find more than just Owl’s Head goers on it. Early in the morning we saw some trail runners go by, we saw some backpackers hiking out, and we saw a couple bicycles pass us as well. We cruised along and made good time down the trail. As the monotony pounded on our feet, I began to feel my plantar fasciitis start to flare up. A few years back I battled plantar fasciitis off and on for a long time but had discovered an effective strategy to manage it by using tape to support my arches. This allowed me to continue playing ultimate without degeneratively aggravating my heals and arches in the process. Well, after a pain free year, I think my summer league ultimate frisbee tournament from a couple weeks ago put my heals over the edge and I’ve had minor plantar issues since. I’ve been back to taping my feet before ultimate games and this time decided to stop and tape up my feet for the remainder of the hike. Katy makes fun of me and my self prescribed injury management “programs” but hey, they do work! I taped up my feet and while I still had some discomfort, it helped a lot with arch support the rest of the hike.

Franconia Ridge beckons to the left, but we go right.

How many paces in 200 feet? We found out that "Katy paces" are not the same length as "Owen paces". Who knew?

Another bridge? This is easy!

Expert self photography.

There were four significant crossings of this river.

The unofficial Owl's Head path is well marked.

Once we reached the end of the Lincoln Woods Trail, we took a left turn onto the much less heavily traveled Lincoln Brook Trail. After summitting 47 4000 footers, Katy explained that she finally made the connection that if a trail name has “Brook”, “Stream”, “River”, or “Falls” in it, then you should probably expect to do some river crossing. True! We made our way down about 3.5 miles of this trail which brought us back and forth over Lincoln Brook 4 different times. The water levels were not significantly high but they were still a challenge to keep your boots dry. Fortunately, I wasn’t too concerned about that and kind of just blasted right through the rivers. Katy did her best to rock hop and kept her feet mostly dry on the way in. After the final stream crossing that put the river on our left, we kept an eye out for the trail junction with Owl’s Head Path. Since this is an unofficial trail, there would be no sign. It was obvious when we reached it, though; there was a large cairn built up in the middle of the trail with logs marking the route to our right.

All of the elevation gain on this hike was on the slide. It was steep!

Still going up.

A view! The only views of the hike were of the backside of Franconia Ridge from the slide.

We found it! #47 done after navigating the maze of herd paths at the top.

After over 8 miles of long, flat trail, we had reached the steeps! While not an official trail, the path up the slide was well beaten with mini cairns built as trail markers along the way. It was a bit of a free for all, though, as the path often diverged into multiple routes which rejoined each other later down the trail. This was especially true once up past the slide and navigating the ridge line. Since no real trail maintenance work is done, it seems as though rather than clear blow downs people naturally just beat out more herd paths. Nevertheless, we did finally manage to find the summit and found a crowd of 7 or 8 people already there! For such a remote, viewless peak, it was a popular destination yesterday as we saw at least a couple dozen more people heading up once we were on our way down.

Ninja #47

It was a long walk back to the car.

With number 47 in the bag, we began the long trek back out the way we came. There were tired muscles, achy joints, and sore feet by the time we were down but that made it that much more rewarding when we ate everything off the menu at the Common Man post-hike. And then there was one! Mount Carrigain, we’ll see you soon!

Mount Zealand and The Bonds

The Bonds! Ever since we started peakbagging and hiking all of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers, “The Bonds” have been looming as the most difficult peaks to conquer. The Bonds are actually a collection of three different peaks, Mount Bond, West Bond, and Bondcliff, all nestled deep in the middle of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Since they are all near eachother, they are often bagged together on one single trip, but all of the options are at least 20 miles in length. Should we do it as a backpacking trip camping at Guyot Campsite? Should we make use of the Galehead or Zealand Falls AMC Huts which are nearby? These were open questions for a while but as we continued to hike and continued to bag peaks, we decided that we could take on the Bonds in a single day. The next question was what will our route be? A traverse from Zealand Road to Lincoln Woods is the shortest route and has the least amount of elevation gain. The only drawback is that it requires two cars and a fairly long car spot. An out-and-back from Zealand Road is about the same distance but with 1000 feet more of elevation gain. We invited a few different people to come along on the hike with us and potentially help with a car spot, but we had no takers (I wonder why?). In the end it was settled that Katy and I would be on our own on an out-and-back from Zealand Road: 20 miles in length and 5000 feet of elevation gain to bag The Bonds and a bonus Mount Zealand along the way!

It's an early start on our hike to The Bonds!

The camera flash is deceiving, it wasn't really that dark.

The hike to the Zealand Falls Hut was flat with many boardwalk sections.

It was a bustle of activity at the hut with early risers milling about.

In order to simplify things for ourselves, we decided to check in to the Above the Notch Motor Inn down the road from the Zealand trailhead on Friday night. I estimated it would take us about 12 hours to complete the hike, but an early start on the trail would be much easier if we don’t have a three hour drive in the morning first. We woke up early yesterday morning and were at the trailhead at 5:30AM. Surprisingly, the parking lot at the end of Zealand Road was already about half full with cars. No doubt many of these were of people staying overnight at the Zealand Falls Hut, an easy two and a half mile hike from the trailhead. We snapped some photos and headed off right as the morning sun was rising. The first section of the trail was mostly flat and easy, and although possibly sleepwalking at times, we made it to the hut in about an hour.

Trail junction between Zealand Hut and Zealand Mountain

The hike up to Zealand was the steepest part of the hike

Summit of Zealand! #43 for us.

Zealand Ninja.

We didn’t stop long at the hut, maybe a minute or two, but wanted to push on as it was still early and we had only been on flat trail so far. It was about three miles from the hut to our first peak of the day, Mount Zealand, and once we left the hut, we started to climb. I’m not sure what it was, maybe the early hours, or maybe this section really was pretty steep, but this early part of the hike seemed tough. We quickly settled into a groove where we were concentrating on climbing and the conversation died down for a bit. After a couple miles of climbing up, the trail finally began to level off and we both settled enjoyed the reprieve from the steeps. Before long, we were at the spur trail to Mount Zealand and hiked the 0.1 miles in from there to bag the viewless summit. Number 43 done!

Overlooking Guyot.

At the junction of Bondcliff Trail.

A couple year's back we read a story of a bear encounter in the Pemi Wilderness. Ever since there, Pemigewasset = Bears!

At this point the only other people we had seen on the trail were at the Zealand Hut. After coming back out from Zealand’s summit we finally bumped into another hiker on the trail. Civilization! We continued on towards Guyot, now on a section of the Appalachian Trail and bumped into a few more hikers on the way. One such hiker greeted us with a cheerful good morning and then:

  • “Hey I just want to double check, am I still on the AT?”
  • “Yes you are!”
  • “Oh good I wasn’t sure since I haven’t seen any white blazes in a while”
  • “Where are you coming from?”
  • “Georgia, happy to still be alive!”

A through-hiker! We’ve seen a few through-hikers before but this guy was definitely the most cheerful and least ragged looking. Good luck to him the rest of the way! We continued on the rolling trail towards the summit of Guyot, not an official 4000 foot peak but one with expansive views and a grand destination all by itself. We were seven miles into our hike and it wasn’t even 10 in the morning! We hit the trail junction of Bondcliff Trail near Guyot, took a left turn, now off the AT, and pressed on towards the Bonds.

West Bond, #44!

Obligatory Ninja on West Bond

Overlooking Bondcliff from West Bond, what a day!

The slope from Mount Bond down to Bondcliff. That climb back up from Bondcliff was looming

Looking out at the Twins from West Bond

It was a great day out, but the temperature really began to heat up at this point. The forecast for the valley was for a humid day close to 90 degrees, and even at elevation it likely made it nearly to this level. We quickly made it to the spur trail to go up West Bond and then made the half mile ascent to the summit. The trail up to West Bond is wooded but has a fantastic exposed summit with great views all around.

The summit of Mount Bond

The view of Bondcliff from Bond

Bond Ninja!

Almost caught Katy pointing at something in the distance. Her pastime is to catch me doing the same.

Sorry Katy, I don't think it's going anywhere.

After stopping for a while on West Bond for some snacks and a break, we made the half mile descent back out to the main trail, and were only another half mile from the summit of Mount Bond at that point. We quickly made it up to Mount Bond where we were treated with more fantastic panoramic views. We met another couple of hikers on this summit who were on a backpacking trip starting from the Kancamagus Highway. We saw very few people on Bondcliff trail on this fine day, and even fewer who were on just a single day journey. We soaked in some more views and then pushed on towards Bondcliff.

Heading off to Bondcliff.

Gaining on it.

The famous Bondcliff picture spot! I told Katy to go and stand out on that rock and I would snap a picture of her from the other side. She didn't realize how much of a cliff it was until she came around to the other side herself.

Me on the Bond Cliff.

No friends picture. The summit of Bondcliff was deserted while we were there.

Bondcliff Ninja

Mount Washington in the distance.

We arrived at the peak of Bondcliff at around 11:30AM. Six hours into our hike and we were over halfway done. Now just time to turn around and go back! We hung out at Bondcliff for a while, ate some lunch, and rested up for the return trip. The hike back up Bond was a bit of a challenge as we were already 11 miles into our hike and faced a nice uphill climb in front of us. Katy was also developing a pounding headache at this point likely from the hot sun and maybe a bit of dehydration. We found some shade to stop, she took in some extra water, gatorade, and ibuprofen, and continued on. Fortunately that seemed to help and her headache eventually went away. Once we re-bagged the summit of Mount Bond, we coasted back to Guyot, past Zealand, and down to the Zealand Falls Hut. On the way back we passed a group of two hikers, one of whom was blind! We were also hoping to pass Ryan who was attempting the NH 48 speed record and whose itinerary appeared to bring him right by us on our hike out. We never saw anyone who looked like he was about 150 miles into a three day trip and alas it appears as though the trip was aborted before the Pemi traverse was attempted. In any case, when we reached the hut, there was a bustle of activity with kids and families arriving and the croo starting to prepare dinner for that evening’s meal. We stopped to refill our water and eat some more snacks before continuing on.

Time to head back!

Back at the hut. 17+ miles in and still smiling!

One more trail junction shot.

Done! 46 in the bag!

We arrived back at the trailhead on Zealand Road at about 4:30PM, 11 hours after we had started so early in the morning. Our legs were tired, some joints were sore, a few blisters had formed, but really I would say we were both feeling pretty good. On paper the Bonds may look daunting, but get out there on a beautiful day and they are mostly just rewarding. Granted Katy and I have been working our way up to this trek with our summer hiking blitz, but for any peakbaggers wondering how they’re going to tackle the Bonds, fear not. There are many options, and with the fairly tame elevation gain, a single day trip is easier than it looks. With the Bonds done we are now at 46 out of 48 NH 4k footers complete!

Mount Cabot (plus Bulge and Horn)

After our trip up Mount Washington last weekend, Katy and I had been planning all week long to finish off our vacation by hiking Owl’s Head and checking off one of the most elusive peaks on the NH 4000 footer list. Which day we would go would all depend on the most agreeable weather forecast of the latter half of the week. Unfortunately, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday all had similar forecasts — cloudy, showers, thunderstorms, unsettled weather. After some debate, we finally decided we would modify our plans and hike Mount Cabot on Saturday. Mount Cabot is the northernmost 4000 footer in New Hampshire, and is off the beaten path of the typical hiking crowds in the Presidentials and Franconia Ridge. As we made the drive up early yesterday morning, the skies were cloudy but clearing, and I was anticipating this would be a simple, pleasant hike. The route we were taking was a loop hike over the top of Mount Cabot and also two lesser peaks, Bulge and Horn, which are not 4000 footers but are on the New England Hundred Highest list. I mistakenly thought that this route was about 10 miles in length, but upon closer inspection I later realized that it was about 11.5 miles instead. Given the scale and size of recent hikes that we’ve done, though, this miscalculation seemed to make little difference.

We arrived at the trailhead at the end of York Pond Road in Berlin, NH at about 8:15AM. The gate to the hatchery was wide open (even though the sign said it opens at 8:30AM). I had read recent reports that the gate was being left open 24 hours for the time being, but that was not too relevant for us since we would easily finish before the posted 4:00PM closing time. We geared up and headed off up the Bunnell Notch Trail under partly sunny skies with no real signs of rain. It was at this point that we quickly encountered the weeds. The first mile or so of Bunnell Notch Trail was very narrow and overgrown with three to five foot tall weeds on either side. It appeared to follow some type of old logging road that has been overtaken by the vegetation in the area. Somebody with a free afternoon and a machete could do wonders to this part of the trail. The bugs were also swarming something fierce even after we doused ourselves in bug spray. My anticipation of a simple and pleasant hike appeared to be dashed! We moved along at a quick pace until we finally reached a reprieve where the trail makes a left turn off the old logging road and into a nicely maintained trail in the woods.

At this point the trail began to really climb. We were so happy to be out of the weeds, though, that we didn’t really notice. The upper sections of this trail were a much nicer walk in the woods and we made good time to the Cabot Cabin and then past it to the summit at around 10:40AM. The clouds were a little darker at this point, but still no rain. We took the requisite summit photos on the wooded peak and then continued on towards the Bulge. We seemed to reach the cairn marking the summit of the Bulge in no time at all and then pressed on to the trail junction of the spur path to the peak of the Horn where we took a right to climb this peak as well. The hike up Horn was quick but required a very tricky scramble up the final boulder to the official summit. Of all the views we got all day, the views on the Horn were definitely the best albeit under some now darker clouds in the sky. In addition, we finally encountered another hiking group on this peak who we talked to for a few minutes. They were on the same loop as us except coming from the other direction. We told them of the overgrown sections of Bunnell Notch Trail and they seemed to suggest that the lower elevations of the other side on the Unknown Pond Trail were not that bad. Hopeful news! We headed back down eager to complete the loop.

The hike down the rest of the Kilkenny Ridge Trail to the Unknown Pond was fairly uneventful. We took a right turn at the Unknown Pond to trek the final 3.3 miles back to the car. As we descended, we began to encounter short sections of overgrown trail similar to the way we started the day. I don’t believe any of these sections were as bad as the first part of the Bunnell Notch Trail but the final two miles or so of the trail was definitely a walk in the weeds which made things a bit less pleasant. To make matters worse, Katy twisted her ankle in a fall and was concerned that she had sprained it. Fortunately, though, she was able to walk it off and appears to have escaped without a serious injury. We powered through this final section of the loop and actually were surprised when we arrived back at the car at 2:20PM, about 20 minutes earlier than I was estimating. We packed up and headed home, with Mount Cabot complete and in our rear view mirrors.

Most of our hikes in this 4000 footer journey have been fun adventures. I don’t think that Mount Cabot left an impression on either of us as one of our favorites. It wasn’t particularly strenuous, and even offered some good views and vistas; I guess it just wasn’t our day. We both noted that a winter ascent may have been really nice, with some wide trail corridors (the weeds packed down by snow of course), gradual grades, and sheltered trails. Alas, though, we made it up the peak on this day and took solace in the fact that not 10 minutes after we got off the trail and began the ride home it started raining. And not only did it rain, but it rained buckets all the way home. It’s probably a good thing that we decided to forego the much longer Owl’s Head in favor of Mount Cabot for number 42 out of 48!

Washington and Monroe

It’s been almost a month since I last reported additional progress on our 4000 footer goal. In that month, though, a lot has happened. First, in early July, Katy and I decided to plan a “hiking free weekend” for ourselves and take a trip up to Acadia National Park in Maine. We hiked up Dorr Mountain while we were there (oops!). The following weekend, my sister Megan got married to her long time boyfriend/fiance Chris, and we partied hard to celebrate their day (and a great day it was!). Finally, this past week my family took their annual trip up to Suissevale at Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Just like last year, we targeted this Suissevale trip as an opportunity to get not only some beach-going and relaxation in, but also to continue tackling the 4000 footers. With the weather looking good for last Saturday, the 21st, we decided it was finally time to have a go at the daddy of them all — Mount Washington. We were also super excited about this hike because for the first time in about a year, my sister Mo had decided to join us. The rag-tag team of Owen and Katy “plus Mo” was reunited and with our plan to hike up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail and looping back down the Jewell Trail, we would be bagging the summits of Washington “plus Monroe.”

I had not realized until the night before that last Saturday was actually the annual Seek the Peak event on Mount Washington. For Seek the Peak, volunteers raise money for the Mount Washington Observatory and then all hike up Mount Washington on this single day. It appeared as though the main festivities kicked off from the Pinkham Notch side of the mountain, but Mount Washington is always busy on summer weekends, so clearly there would be high traffic on all trails leading to the top on this day. I suggested that we try and get there as early as possible, and since we were all heading over to Lake Winnepesaukee after our hike, we decided to meet Mo way up at the Park-And-Ride lot off 93 in New Hampton, NH at 7:00AM. After a quick pit stop at Dunkin Donuts and the gas station, we all continued on together to the Ammonoosuc Ravine trailhead near the cog base station and arrived to a nearly full parking lot before 8:30AM. The sun was out, the temperature was comfortable and warming, and the summit forecast called for partly sunny skies with temperatures rising into the 50′s and nearly calm conditions — an ideal day. We geared up and headed up.

Personally I’ve hiked up Mount Washington at least three times in the past and have been up Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail, Lion’s Head Trail, and the Jewell Trail. However, I had never hiked the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. The trail starts out quite easy with smooth grades and is predictably well maintained. With our faster than average pace we quickly started encountering trail traffic with some large groups and some undoubtedly seek-the-peakers. After an easy mile or two we finally reached the base of the headwall of the ravine and begin climbing. There are some decent scrambling sections on this trail but it was very dry and so we didn’t have much trouble navigating at all. The irony, though, is that just as we were discussing how nice and dry the trail was, Mo slipped on one of the few wet rocks and scraped her knee! A minor mishap, though, and so we continued on. We went right past the Lake of the Clouds Hut on our ascent in order to head over and bag Mount Monroe before returning back to the hut for a break. Monroe is a stone’s throw away from the hut and offered neat views of the southern Presi’s and Mount Washington from its perch. After a snack at the hut, we motored up the Crawford Path, passing several groups of hikers on the way to the summit of Mount Washington. The Crawford Path is a really nicely maintained trail and is like a paved sidewalk in comparison to some of the other bouldery trails that you will encounter at the summit cones of the other Presidentials. When we reached the top, we joined the swarms of other hikers, seek-the-peakers, cog rail go-ers, auto road drivers, and observatory staff that were up there.

We were very surprised to discover that the high volume of people on the mountain meant we had to wait in line to get to the true top and get our summit picture! We waited for probably about 10 minutes to get to the top and then another friendly hiker in line snapped a few photos of the three of us at the top. We then wandered around the summit sites for a while, stopped in at the Observatory building and ate our snacks, and just generally took in the views. It’s always busy on the top of Mount Washington, but the beautiful day and the Seek the Peak event made it a real zoo up there. After we finally decided we’d had our fill, we began the trek back down towards the Jewell Trail. Hiking down the Gulfside Trail and then the Jewell Trail was a real treat. We were treated to clear views of the northern Presidentials for the first mile or two and also hiked over and alongside the Cog Railroad tracks for ways as well. Continuing down the Jewell Trail we could see into the valley with the Mount Washington Hotel and the Cog Base Station far below. On a clear, calm, warm day, it was great to be above treeline for so long. We finally dipped back down into the trees and continued the several miles to complete the loop and arrive back at the car.

Mount Washington is the clear king of the Whites and the summit that gets all of the attention. I’ve hiked it from several angles, and it’s a challenge from all sides. As far as hikes go, though, it’s not the toughest mountain to bag. Our previous hike up Madison and Adams was more grueling and had more elevation gain; peaks like the Bonds, Owls Head, and Isolation are more elusive; but you’ve got to respect the lure and might of the tallest. We checked this one off which sits at the top of our list — 41 out of 48 now complete!

Madison and Adams

After the last minute change of plans on last week’s hike, Katy and I were itching to reload and conquer Madison and Adams in short order. Mount Moosilauke was a great hike, but it felt like just a teaser compared to some of the other hikes we have left on our 4000 footer quest. Brian really enjoyed the trip up Moosilauke as well, and with his schedule clear for the summer months, he was up for coming with us again this week. With the weather forecast for today looking perfect, we made plans that were identical to last week’s: Meet at the Park-And-Ride in Nashua at 6AM, and continue on together to hike Mount Madison and Mount Adams. We met as scheduled where Brian parked in the same parking spot as last week, we stopped at the same Dunkin Donuts, and we filled up our gas tank at the same gas station. It was deja vu, with just a lower chance of death by lightning. We made it to the overflowing Appalachia trailhead before 8:30AM with the skies clear, the temperature warm and rising, and the Presidential peaks looming above.

We began our ascent up the Air Line Trail with the goal of reaching Mount Adams’ summit first. This trail was in good shape, but right from the start was relentless in it’s steep grades. There’s no free lunch when going up Mount Adams – every route requires at least 4500 feet of elevation gain to reach the top. We powered through this first section, though, and made it to the Alpine Zone in good time. The Air Line Trail is a fantastic route to take on clear days as there is a prolonged section above treeline with unbelievable views. Today was one of those days, with just a few fair weather clouds floating by and visibility for miles. We continued on up the “mini knife’s edge” and soon could see the Madison Hut nearby to our left. The last mile or so of the final ascent up Adams’ summit cone was probably the most difficult with the trail sporting large, jagged boulders that required careful footing and scrambling. In addition, the winds were whipping all day long above treeline, with the prediction of 35-50 mph winds appearing to be just about right. With care and concentration we tackled the boulders and eventually reached the top at about 11:30AM. The views from Adams are pretty cool, with Mount Washington dominating the southern landscape. We stopped for some pictures and some lunch before heading back down.

In order to get over to the summit of Madison, we had to backtrack for about a half mile before heading over to the Madison Hut. We stopped for another break to fuel up and just generally enjoy the day. It was nice to be sheltered from the wind for a bit before heading back out to tackle Madison. Just 0.4 miles from the hut, the summit of Mount Madison is about 400 feet shorter in elevation than Mount Adams, and is an easier ascent. The boulders were smaller and less jagged, the trail was smoother, and we navigated our way to the top without too much difficulty. Again we spent a fair amount of time at the peak, soaking in the views and the sun. A few snacks and ninja jumps later, we were backtracking our way back to the hut to begin our route back to the car.

We took Valley Way down from the Madison Hut, a generally smooth, sheltered, and well maintained trail. It was at this point that knees started to ache and joints started to stiffen, but we remained in good spirits through the “death march zone”. I’m not sure I could say the same about the three croo members that we passed hauling supplies up to the Madison Hut, though. One guy and two girls, each with large wooden frames on their backs carrying probably about 50 lbs worth of gear passed us as we were going down. Thanks to them, hikers filling the hut tonight will be enjoying a complete turkey dinner! In any case, we arrived back at the car just after 4:00PM with a magnificent day on the Presidentials behind us. That’s now 39 out of 48!