Monday, August 22, 2011

Hancocks - August 20, 2011 - #17, #18

This weekend we were camping at Covered Bridge campground and the Hancocks were the closest 4k, I had not hiked them so that was as good a reason as any.  The loop is a relatively short hike and I wanted to get back to camp to spend as much time with the family as I could so I got up around 5:30, grabbed a quick breakfast and jumped in the truck and head out.

Sunrise on the Kanc
There were already 4-5 cars at the trailhead despite the time of day and I saw another hiker heading into the woods as I was getting my boots on.  The morning sun was lighting up the Osceolas which you can see from the viewpoint (the hairpin turn on the Kanc) so I grabbed a picture here.

Early morning shot of the Osceloas

Hancock Notch trail I believe is an old railroad bed, if not it shares the same characteristics of one: flat, wide, and straight.

Hancock Notch Trail
I made great time along this part of the trail as it was very flat.

Sun rays through the trees along Hancock Notch Trail
After a very quick 1.8 miles the Cedar Brook trail leaves to the left which still remained a very easy walk.  There are many many stream crossings, I can't imagine what it must be like hiking this trail in high water.  This time of year the crossings are a non-issue, but there were many herd paths all over the place following the edge of the stream that it looks like the way people go during high water.  I couldn't tell which was the main trail and which were herd paths but it doesn't matter as they all wind back and forth and follow the stream.
Along the stream
Before long the Hancock Loop Trail and then the rate of ascent started to gradually increase.  I got to the spit and decided to hike clockwise and summit North Hancock first.  I had no reason why other than that is the way clocks go so that is the way I would go.  Part way up you get the first limited view of the slide on North Hancock.  Up until now the trails are completely in the woods.
Slide on North Hancock
The trail then began to climb steeply but the footing was fine.  Just below the summit I ran into the first person of the day.  He was descending and had done the loop counterclockwise.  We chatted for a bit and he had started the hike about a half hour before I did and was also working on his 4k list.  I ran into another group of 3 just after I we parted and hit the summit a few minutes after that.

The actual summit is wooded and marked only by a sign which directs you one way for South Hancock and another to the view.  So I headed out to the view to check it out and have a quick snack.
North Hancock Summit
North Hancock View
I stayed only long enough to snap a few pictuers and get a cliff bar out and ate it while I continued on to South Hancock.  The trail between the peaks is very easy and uneventful and went very quickly as before I expected it I hit the summit of South Hancock.  Another wooded summit with a sign pointing to a view.
South Hancock Summit Sign

South Hancock Summit
The view was to the east and restricted, nothing much to see here so a quick photo and I headed back down the trail.

View from South Hancock
The descent from South Hancock was steep and lots of loose gravel.  I lost my footing a couple times and went down to one hand but nothing significant.  Had I to do it over I would have ascended South first as it would have been easier to go up this section than down but even then this was nothing compared to other trails in the Whites.  I ran into a party at the trail junction and they asked which way was better to ascend.  I recommended counter-clockwise, they said half of the people they saw that day said one way the other the other way.  Either way, I don't think it makes a huge difference.

The trip back to the car was quick and easy.  Saw a few more parties heading up but not many.  And as expected when I got back to the car the lot was FULL.  I grabbed a quick geocache hidden there, ate my PB&J sandwich I packed for lunch then headed back to camp in time for lunch. 

2 4k summits all before lunch, not a bad morning.  Though of all the 4ks I have done, these were probably the least exciting.  Not bad, just forgettable.  I'll have to come back and read this trip report to remember!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Crotched Mountain - August 14, 2011

I organized a Cub Scout camping trip to Greenfield State Park for the weekend and figured we could also hike up Crotched on Sunday afternoon.  Only one other family joined us for the hike but that's OK, a small group hike is better anyway.

Alex and I last did this mountain a few years ago when he was 4.  This was before they built the new wheelchair accessible trails, parking lot, and pavilion on the knoll.  As well as before the massive clearcutting which they say they did so blueberry bushes could grow.  They also tore down the lean-tos which were part way up.

Alex wearing my socks - couldn't find his - quite the fashion statement
At the new parking lot and just up they have cleared away some trees opening up a nice view of the mountain which you could not see from here before.

The new Gregg Trail replaces the 1st half of the original Shannon trail and is quite a bit longer as it has many switchbacks to keep the grade to a minimum.  It is also wide, flat, and made of gravel.  The trail 1st opens out into a meadow.  Last time we were here this meadow was absolutley full of wildflowers of every color imaginable.  Probably the highest density of flowers over such a large area that I have seen and the aroma was just full in the air.  Now, the entire meadow is mowed :(  The trail winds its way through the meadow instead of going straight up.
Mowed meadow along Gregg trail
After many many many switchbacks the trail opens up on the knoll where it meets back up with the gravel road (gated at the parking lot).  Here they have built a very nice pavilion and have cleared more trees opening up the views.  There is also a map/photo on the pavilion that identifies the mountains to the south including the Wapack Range and Grand Monadnock as well as others to the west.  These views were not nearly as good before.
Alex approaching end of Gregg Trail

Crotched Mountain from knoll

Partial view from the pavilion
We took a short snack break there and found the original Shannon's trail easily and followed it into the woods.  Though these woods are apparently just a buffer just small enough to hide the massive clear cut that lies beyond them. Last time we were here if I remember correctly this was a nice walk through a mostly pine forest.  Now it is completely open and completely full of some very large blueberries.  The trail was still pretty easy to follow to the opposite side of the clearing where it re-entered the woods.
The clear-cut

Just some of the blueberries Alex picked - these ones were big

After entering the woods the trail meets up with the Bennington trail, turns right and ascends up the mountain.  Just before this there are several glacial eratics that are scattered around the woods.
One of the smaller boulders, but it was just perched here - should have had Alex stand next to it for perspective, its probably 10 feet tall.
Kids were getting a little tired so we turned around as soon as the trail opened up to the first outlook which was probably 5 minutes below the better views above.  But it was high enough and we made quick time back down.

I had my GPS with me and had downloaded several geocaches which were along the trail.  Each kid took a turn navigating to the caches as we found 2 of the 3 we were looking for.  The one we didn't find was where the lean-tos used to be and apparently that cache has since been moved - I didn't read the logs enough before we started looking for it.

The forecast called for rain but it held off and we were able to check out the new trails and just about complete a short walk through the woods up a local mountain.  Not a bad day at all!