Saturday, July 31, 2010

Champney Falls - July 31, 2010

After our North Pack Monadnock hike a couple weeks ago the desire to hike more and more has only grown.  We made another trip to EMS and even Denise got the bug a little bit and bought a new pair of hiking boots and socks.  We picked up some better hiking clothes (non-cotton), a small camelback for Alex which he was very excited about and 2 hydration pack bladders.  One for my daypack and one for the child carrier.  I also picked up a compass for Alex and taught him how to use it.  Which as usual, he understood immediately.  So at least we looked the part now!

We headed up to the White Mountains on Friday with a plan to find a campsite on the Kanc for Friday and return Monday.  Even though we arrived at 3pm, every single campsite was full and we had no idea where we were going to stay.  Called up a half dozen private campgrounds and finally found a site at Cove Camping Area on Conway Lake which we had been to several times.  Although with this short notice we had probably the worst site there right next to the road, store/rec house, and bathroom.  But a bad night of camping is better than a good day at home!

I had mapped out several possible trip options including some easy hikes for Sat. and a long hike for Sunday.  We decided to do a Champney Falls and arrived to find the trail head parking lot overflowing.  Unfortunately as we were double checking the gear we had forgotten to bring any diapers for Ethan.  The campsite was a half hour drive back and it was already noon and we did not have time to go back and get some.  I debated to find a bunch of Moose Maple leaves but decided against it.  So Denise left Alex and I to hike the trial while she headed back to camp and planned on picking us back up in 2.5 hours which was the book time for the trip.

Alex and I headed up the trail and only saw 687 people for the first 50 feet or so.  Alex asked every dog owner, "Is he friendly?".   And would then pet them if they were, which I think all but one was.   Alex of course made friends with not only the first 687 people we encountered on the trial, but the other 5,698 we met that day as well.  Saw one guy playing a harmonica and Alex wanted to take out his whistle to show the guy how that sounded.

This time, my plan was to let Alex control the pace completely and stop as often and long as he wanted.  Weather forecast was for perfect weather and even though we had a late start I knew we were going to have plenty of time to complete the hike if Alex was willing.  We were still extremely slow getting up, not arriving to the top of the falls until around 2:30.  (unknown to me at the time Denise had already been waiting for a half hour at the parking lot).  We were slow not because Alex was tired and hungry but more so because he had to climb every rock, look at every tree, play with every frog, talk to every person, etc. etc.  Which was all great - if even a little annoying at times as I was watching the clock tick tick tick away.    The falls this time of year were as impressive if we had done the hike in the spring I am sure, but still pretty neat.

We had our sandwiches sitting on a rock at the top of the falls with a great view north.  We saw an interesting peak and I took out our map and showed Alex how to orient it to figure out what peak it was.  Turned out to be Mt Willey and Alex almost remembered how to orient the map himself from when I first showed him several days earlier.  During the trip he would take out his compass and tell me, "we are going 160" - which means our heading was 160 degrees.  And he was always right on!

After exploring the falls we headed back down and Alex never stopped chatting the entire way.  I have no idea what he was talking about, but "everything" pretty much sums it up.  About 2/3 of the way down he tripped and scraped his knee.  After quite a few tears, a little blood, and some band aids he was good to go.  Within a few minutes we had this conversation:

Alex, "Daddy?"
Me, "Yes Alex?"
Alex, "What is the tallest mountain the world?"
Me, "That would be Mount Everest."
Alex, "I want to hike that mountain next!"

So I guess the scraped knee was long in the forgotten past!  While I don't think I am up for Mount Everest in the near future, I told him we need to work up to it and tomorrow we were going on a bigger hike.  I told him we could hike Hedgehog or Potash.  As expected, "Hedgehog" is what he chose - based on the name only.

We got to the truck around 4:30 and found out Denise had been waiting for 2.5 hours!  Alex and I had a great time and he was psyched up for our next hike!

Now I must explain a new term I made up on that hike.  And that is the "Flip Flopper".  A Flip Flopper is one who hikes a trail who is seriously unprepared and completely out of their element.  While they wear flip flops very often, not always.  Designer jeans are a good clue as are glitzy purses. Absolutely no pack much less any evidence of a water bottle are also common.  When I see these people I want to smack them around, what are they doing?!?!  Sometimes I think people should need to a license to hike.  I think it is great for people to get outdoors and experience what the outdoors has to offer.  But you must be prepared and understand and respect the environment you get yourself into.  I don't know how many times I hear about a lost hiker being rescued on New Hampshire mountains due to quite frankly: idiocy.  The worst Flip Flopper I saw on this trip was a young family - or at least a man and woman who were in their early 20s although the "man" looked maybe 15.  They had 2 young kids around age 1 and 3.   I think the woman had a pack, but what really got me was he was carrying nothing except a stroller.  Yes a STROLLER and we ran into them about a half mile up the trail.  The older girl was walking and the lady was carrying the younger one on her hip.  Huh?  A stroller?  Now what in the heck is a stroller going to do for you on a hiking trail up the side up a 3500 foot mountain??  Maybe I should have stopped and told them what they were getting into and encourage them to turn around.  But it was non of my business and I just shook my head and continued on down.

And thus was born the term, "Flip Flopper" - other than Mt Monadnock I dont think I have ever seen that many Flip Floppers in one place at one time.   They might as well put up a neon sign at the trail head that says, "Attention all Flip Floppers and Pink Hats - please put your life at risk so our tax payers can pay to come save your buts!"   Even the trailhead sign said, "a 2.5 hour walk".  "Walk?"  "Walk?"  It is a hike up over roots and rocks with moderate to steep elevation gains.  A "walk" implies something you can bring a stroller on!  Shame on the WMNF for not making it clear to these morons to first take a trip to an outdoors store and get prepared before entering the area.  Enough said, I think I will keep a Flip Flopper count on all future hikes.

(had no camera so no photos)

Friday, July 16, 2010

North Pack Monadnock July 16, 2010

After my trip up Moosilauke the week before I decided to plan another trip this weekend up a local mountain.  This time however the entire family would come.  North Pack is only 15 miles from our home and I had been meaning to hike it for a while knowing it was a relatively short hike.  We had driven up Pack Monadnock many times and I felt foolish driving up a mountain when there were perfectly good hiking trails around.  But until now - my previously mentioned fat ass told me to take the car...

While Ethan was only 6 weeks old on his first camping trip, I thought his first hike at 14 months  may be a bit too early for him to do on his own.  So a trip to EMS with Alex in tow and we bought a child carrier and some hiking shoes for Alex.  His feet are too small for the children's hiking boots, but they had some rugged waterproof sneakers which we picked up (key word: waterproof) and some wool socks for him.
At the trail head!

Plan was to start at the northern end of the Wapack Trail off Old Mountain Road and ascend North Pack Monadnock.  Pending on how we all felt we may continue on to do the Cliff Trail loop, either all of us or Alex and I while Denise waits with Ethan at the summit.  After much time adjusting the child carrier the night before to a very uncooperative 1 year old we had out gear ready and up we went.  We got going much later than I wanted.  We wanted to eat lunch at the summit and stuck to that plan but Alex was getting hungry and cranky all the way up and going slower and slower.  We stopped for snacks but kept pushing to eat lunch on the summit.  That turned out to be a mistake, we should have stopped for lunch as soon as he got hungry.  Not sure why we didn't.  But we reached the summit after some very slow going and enjoyed the views.  However I was a little disappointed though at the summit views, the one from the lower ledge was better I felt.  Given the slow going there was no way we were going to do the Cliff Trail Loop so back down we headed.  But before we left Alex cleaned up on the blueberries which were all over the summit.

Now the childcarrier actually worked great.  Ethan got cranky a few times and we would stop and let him walk around the trail, grab some water, a snack, then strap him back in and head on.  He spent most of the time hanging out enjoying whatever view he could see - as well as drumming to some made up tune on the back of my head.  But hey - whatever keeps him happy.  I certainly noticed the extra weight over my day-pack though!
Showing Alex how to use compass
Short scramble nearing summit, probably steepest part of trail.

With the snacks eaten, blueberries cleaned out, sandwiches downed we headed down the mountain.  Alex was tearing it up.  While he was dead tired when we summited he was too cranky to eat.  I explained he was that way because he needed food and energy and if he ate he would get the energy to hike back down.  That seemed to make sense to him and it worked.  I actually had to work a few times to keep up with him!  We were around double the time to reach the top, but made the advertised time on the descent. 
Alex at the summit cairn
Eating lunch & snacks at summit
Another good hike, Alex wanted to go hiking again so next time we'll make sure to stop more and whenever he wants and most importantly eat lunch when our stomachs require.

Summit views:

Looking south to Pack Monadnock along the Wapack Trail

Mount Monadnock to the west in the distance
From some ledges before the summit, looking northeast into New Boston and towards Manchester.  Joe English hill is in the distance and our home is on the left behind those hills.
Ethan exploring the summit

Distance: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: TBD
Summit Elevation: TBD

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mt Moosilauke - July 6, 2010 - #1

During a week camping trip at Moosehillock Campground in Warren, NH for the week I decided to head up the road a bit and head up Mt. Moosilauke.  This was the first real hike I had done in probably 10 years.  And it turned out to be the catalyst for a greatly rejuvenated passion for hiking.  But before I chronicle that trip, let me take a tangent on what got me into that situation.

I remember the last was with some Clarkson friends over in VT on a section of the Long Trail on a several day backpacking trip that included Mt Abraham.  I was sucking wind big time, was holding up the entire party and at one point emptied my pack and distributed everything between the others.  Then we reached a road and a lean-to on the slope up Abraham with one more night and day of hiking left.  I decided to give up, stop there and have the others continue on and pick me up the next day.  So that is what we did and that was the last real hike I went on.  I couldn't keep up and could not hike to the level that I could just a few years prior.  I suppose 50 lbs since High School will do that to you.  And it only got worse from there, another 25 lbs and there was no chance. 

But the last couple years I started taking Alex on short nature walks and working up to longer and longer hikes.  We hiked to Big Rock Cave last year as well as Crotched Mountain and several trips to Purgatory FAlls and while I had no problems finishing those hikes I certainly felt the burn.  I felt like I had just completed a 12 mile hike with a full pack, not a short 3 mile jaunt through the woods!  If I was going to keep hiking with Alex and now Ethan and introduce them to hiking I had to lose some weight.  So I did and am now back down to what I weighed in college.  While still out of shape, losing 50 lbs certainly must still make the hiking easier.

So I pulled out my AMC White Mountain Guide and looked for the easiest trip up Moosilauke (even if I was not sure how to pronounce it!)  Gorge Brook and Snapper loop seemed the most viable, with an optional spur to South Peak.  So I grabbed what gear I happened to have at camp, had a small backpack although not one I would recommend as a day pack, made a quick first aid kit out of the camper kit, 2 litres of water, some extra clothes, made a lunch and a extra sandwich and snack and off I went having no idea how I would manage.  Now hiking 8.2 miles and 2700 feet of elevation gain probably should not have been my first test.  But I figured I would take it real easy, go extra slow and take more frequent breaks than what I actually felt I needed.  Being July 6 there was plenty of daylight and the temps at the campground were in the mid 90s.   My plan was to head up slowly and see how I felt and decide to turn back if I was getting really tired.  But if I reached the summit, then I may as well come back down Snapper since the distance is the same as Gorge Brook and I always prefer loops if I can find them.

I parked my truck at 10am and explored the lodge for probably 15 minutes, made use of the facilities and headed up the trail in the hot hot heat.  There was a good wind in the trees that was nice, but at the bottom the wind actually felt hot.  Not a great sign - hiking in that heat was going to be a killer and I was wearing all cotton so not a good combination.  However it did not take long to get high enough in elevation to cool off *a bit* and the wind turned from warm to cool.  Stopped often and rested long at each break.  Kept drinking water and eating snacks and testing my endurance.  And before I knew it I came to a clearing and could see the Ravine Lodge way below me, first time you can really see how far you have come.  And at that point, I had not even broken much of a sweat and felt great.  Shortly after that the trees were getting shorter and shorter and I knew was nearing treeline and was going to make it.  And it was just at the treeline before I saw any other hikers, a family coming down from the summit.  I reached the summit in only 3 hours which was just about book time and felt great.

I hung around the summit taking shelter from the what seemed like a sustained 40mph winds in the stone remains of the inn that use to be up there.  While it was rather hazy the views were still great.  Ate a sandwich and chatted with another hiker who came by.   After 20 minutes or so I headed to South Peak and saw the 3rd (and last) hiker of the day.  Seeing as I felt great I took the short spur to South Peak and headed down Snapper.  Reached my car at around 4pm for 6 hours of total time.  Considering that included hanging around the ravine lodge before starting, and the summit for a while, as well as what I considered very frequent and very long rests along the way I was actually shocked I completed the hike that fast.  And the best part, I felt I could have gone on for a few more miles with no issue.  Guess it was that 50 pounds of my fat ass I wasn't lugging around the mountain that made the difference!

Total miles: 7.8
Elevation gain: 2700

All in all an absolute great day of hiking and I could not wait to get back out.

Start of hike, from lodge looking at summit
Ravine Lodge
Bridge across brook near start of hike
Trail junction, took Gorge Brook up and Snapper back down
View of trail

View part way up
Looking back down to Ravine Lodge in distance
Nearing summit, notice shorter trees and these flowers along trail edge - don't know what kind of flowers these are but they nice enough to line the path all the way up and show the way.
Ooops, I guess I was not near the summit
Very close to summit, not sure what this poured concrete foundation is doing up here.
Approaching summit, more of these little white flowers.  They were like Munchkins that kept popping up out of the rocks showing me which way to follow the grey brick road to summit.

South Peak on the right (the way down)
Eastern view, might be se
 360 degree video at summit - amid heavy winds which you can hear...

Summit signpost
At the summit, looking into heavy winds
Looking back at the summit on way to South Peak along the AT
View of summit from South Peak - can make out the trail in the trees trail (part of AT)
View from South Peak
Another from south peak
Path went through these rocks on the descent
One of the many brook crossings