Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mt. Willard July 24, 2011

We spent the weekend camping in Twin Mountain and visited Santa's Village on Saturday.  We wanted to do something on Sunday on the way home and after a late checkout around 11:30 and a blueberry pancake breakfast (with fresh blueberries picked at our campsite) Mt. Willard was the target.

Billed as one of the best views for the effort required this relatively short hike was perfect to kill a few hours with the family.  We arrived at Crawford Notch around noon and started up the trail.  This is an extremely popular hike for families and given this was a weekend day with nice weather, it certainly was busy.  I don't think 5 minutes ever went by w/o running into other hikers: mostly families with young kids.

Near the start
 We stopped often on the way up as Alex kept wanting to take breaks and eat snacks so we did whenever he wanted to.  I always took Ethan out and let him run around during the breaks and when we would start off he of course runs after his big brother and tries to keep up.  Which is nice for me since an empty pack weighs far less than a pack with another person inside it!  Ethan hiked on his own a fair amount on this trip as the trail is very wide and not that steep.
Ethan trying to keep up with Alex who looks on
 Ethan loves to throw rocks and he spent more time doing that than hiking, I kept trying to get him to stop as I don't want him to get into a habit of throwing rocks while hiking and he did eventually seem to get it.
Throwing rocks!
 Before to long we reached Centenial Pool which is just off the trail on the right.  There were 2 other families already here who were on their way down.  Typically I would continue on and leave the pool to them, but knowing how crowded this trail was today I figured it would never be empty so we stopped and checked out the pool and short falls. 
Ethan at Centenial Pool
 There are 2 geocaches along this trail and I had them both downloaded into the GPS which beeped when we were at the pool so I sent Alex off looking for the cache.  He invited the kids from the other families to look for it and suddenly there were a bunch of kids running through the woods looking for a little box with trinkets in it!  We eventually found the cache and dropped off a trackable we had and Alex grabbed a pack of silly bands in exchange.
Alex, Denise and Ethan at the Pool
 After a break we headed back up the trail, more of the same - this trail is like a mini highway that tunnels through the trees.
 Alex was getting hot so he took off his camelback, then eventually took of his shirt and was hiking w/o a shirt.  Whatever floats his boat.  Up up up we went until eventually we rounded a corner and literally saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  A very unique approach to the summit as the photo below shows:
Light at the end of the tunnel!
 And as described the views looking down Crawford Notch were certainly great.  Ranging from Willey to our right and Webster Cliffs on the left and Mts. Webster, Jackson and Pierce and even Washington peaking out over its smaller neighbors.
Ethan at summit

Ethan with Webster Cliffs in the background

Jackson and Webster

Crawford Notch

302 and railroad trestle

Family photo at summit!
 We found a quiet place on the summit and ate lunch and rested up.  There was another geocache up here closer to the true summit where the trail headed further along the cliffs into the woods.  So I handed Alex the GPS and he led us down the trail and a short bushwack through the woods to the 2nd cache.  There was a little dog toy in there that Ethan wanted so we left some of the sillybands gathered from the 1st cache and Alex grabbed some colored chalk and Ethan the dog.
Ethan and Alex at Mt. Willard sign

Running along the cliffs (got away from mom)
 On the way back down Alex was in super charged speed mode and practically ran down.  He was trying to stay in front of me and Ethan as if we caught him we were going to give him a great big kiss, so he booked it to stay ahead.  I had Ethan on my back the whole way and he wouldn't stop laughing saying "Alex funny! Alex funny! Alex funny!" all the way down.  Alex kept running around making a fool of himself planting tree bombs on the trail that we would step on to slow us down.  This game did the trick as boy did he move, I was going as fast as could while still keeping safe with Ethan on my back and was barely keeping up.  We even passed a group of adults which is the first time Alex has ever passed anyone on a hike I think.

Before we knew it we were back to the pool and mom was nowhere in sight.  So we took off our shoes and dipped our feet in the very cold water which was very refreshing!
Alex getting his feet wet
 After about 10 minutes mom showed up, but wouldn't take her shoes off :(  Didn't know what she was missing!
Ethan getting his feet wet!
 After dyring off and putting socks and boots back on it was a quick walk back to the trailhead.
Look out for trains!

End of hike photo at trail sign
Perfect way to spend an afternoon after a weekend of camping! 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Morgan Percival Loop July 16, 2011

I was looking for a hike with an interesting and unique feature as opposed to just a summit for the sake of a summit, which is what we were doing much of last summer, and chose Mts. Morgan and Percival due to their "caves" up near the respective summits.  I last hiked these mountains maybe 10 years ago and thought Alex would enjoy them.  Weather was perfect, a bit hot, but hot is better than wet.

We got a late start and didn't start hiking until almost 11:00 but this is a short hike so I wasn't worried about time.  We were doing the loop clockwise as I figured it would be easier ascending the ladders on Mt. Morgan rather than descending.  There were some hiking sticks at the trailhead that someone left there and Alex wanted one so he grabbed one, made me grabbed one and then pretended he was a jedi all the way up the trail.  He has had a recent interest in Star Wars to put it mildly! 

Alex at the trail head.
The trail starts out pretty flat and easy and continues that way just about all the way up.  Trail was very dry and in good shape.  Quite a bit of work has been done recently I would say clearing some VERY loarge blowdowns.  Could see the sawdust from the chainsaws.  Many trees a good 1-2 feet in diameter had fallen and had to be cut up to clear the way.  The trail does get steeper near the summit, but certainly a relaxing change from some of the higher peaks north!
Alex heading up the trail with his "light saber"

We thought this looked like a pig's head

Taking a break

Back side of one of the blowdowns, Alex thought it was neat and snapped this picture of the web of roots.

A litter steeper now, lots of rock steps.

Alex was having a tough time for the first bit, and almost wanted to turn around several times.  We were very very slow going, ended up eating most of the snacks and lunch long before we got to the base of the ladders.  He was getting real tired and I didn't think we were going to make it.  But we kept chugging as I promised him the caves would be cool and he'd be very glad he finished.  So we kept on (and I was hoping I remembered things correctly from last time I went this way!)

Well we made it to the base of the ladders and boy was Alex excited when he saw them!  We met a group coming down with a couple dogs and had to wait a while for them to get down. 

Alex at the base of the ladders

Alex wanted a movie of him climbing the ladders so here ya go.

 At the top of the 2nd ladder, Alex couldn't continue by himself.
Uh oh, "Daddy, help!"
 So I had to climb up and past and them pick him up to the 3rd, and off he scurried up that one and into the short cave.

Looking straight down from the top of the ladders
Inside the cave

Inside the cave
 Alex wanted another video of him climbing out of the cave and up so again, here ya go:

After climbing the ladders and going through the cave you climb out on top of some cliffs and get your first good view.
Looking west along the ridge to Mt. Webster (not the other Mt Webster I had to explain to Alex)

Alex sitting just outside the cave
 After taking in the first view we continued up and around to the top of the cliffs.  This is probably the first place Alex and I have hiked together where a fall would NOT have turned out to well.  But I never felt we were in too much danger, I always made sure I had better than good footing and waited until he got up the 'difficult' parts and had a place to sit down before I came up after.  So the pictures had to wait until after we got to the top, camera in the pocket!  The last place I was at like this was at the ledges on Whiteface on Blueberry Ledge trail.  I did those w/o Alex on very wet rocks and as I mentioned in that trip report, had I gotten there with Alex, we would NOT have gone up due to the wet rocks.  These today were bone dry.

After climbing to the top we were rewarded with outstanding views of Squam Lake and mountains south.  I am not sure of exactly which are what, but am pretty sure I picked out the Uncanoonucs near home (where I have been hiking several times a week on my way home from work for exercise) and to their west Joe English, so that puts our house in that general area.  Pretty sure I spotted Mt. Monadnock as well.

Squam Lake and points south

Since Alex was having a hard time on the way up and wanted to turn back a few times I let him decide if he wanted to turn back and head down or continue over to Mt. Percival and check out the caves over there.  Well it was an easy and quick decision and off to Percival we went!  This stretch went really fast as after experiencing the ladders, caves, and cliffs on Morgan Alex was off to the races!

We quickly took the spur to the true summit and saw some views north, Tecumseh I imagine.  Along the way we heard a noise in the woods and Alex spotted a 2 foot long snake!  Snapped some pictures and left him be.

 Before long we came to the summit of Mt. Percival with pretty much the same views as Morgan. 
Percival view

Alex on Percival

Alex wanted to snap a picture of the 2 of us
 Hmmm, pictures are a little out of order.  Oh well.

Alex heading down trail between Morgan and Percival

Scramble up to Percival

Not a tall mountain as far as elevation, but elevation isn't all that always matters!

Alex on Percival cairn
 We didn't linger long on Percival, Alex was pshyced to get into the "spooky" cave.  There were several trails leaving the summit and no signs but the trail guide described which was which so I went off memory and picked the one to the right (when looking south) and sure enough, that was the route through the caves.  There were lots of blueberry bushes, just full of them!  They got Alex's attention and he sat there for a while picking and eating blueberries.  Earlier in the day I pulled up a fern and showed Alex the "Maine Bananas" that you can eat.  I don't know what they are really called, but being from Maine, I was told they were "Maine Bananas". At the base of ferns if you pull them up you can fine a dozen or so one inch long things that are kind of shaped like a Banana.  And if you eat them, they kinda taste like wood...  Maybe they are not meant to be edible and it was some trick someone played on me when I was a kid!  But hey, we ate some anyway.  So anyway, here Alex was picking blueberries and said that if we were lost in the woods without food we could eat these.  Absolutely! I told him.  Then he said we could make blueberry muffins with them.  I asked where we would get the mix out there in the wilderness while lost.  "In our backpacks of course!" was the answer!

So after the blueberries, we headed into the spooky cave.  So why was it "spooky"?  in preparation of the hike I found pictures online of the caves to show Alex and he thought the Percival cave was spooky.

Picking blueberries

Cliffs just above the cave

Entrance to the cave, yes the trail goes in there as you can see from the yellow blazes

The entrace was so small I had to send Alex in first, take off my backpack and hand it to him.  Then I had to go down backwards and scrape my back on the rock above, and my belly below!  Kind of like navigating some of the Lost River caves.
Alex inside the cave.

Alex behind the first rock, stand up inside.

I made it in, looking back up and out
 The exit is also small, large inside but entrance and exit were small.  I had to pass my backpack out again and climb out before putting it back on.
Tiny exit as well!  note the yellow arrows pointing the way
 After the caves the trail down is much more rocky and seemed more steep than Morgan.  But Alex was screaming down.  In fact, the complete opposite as how the trip started.  He was going so fast that I was just about going at my typical solo pace and the only thing that slowed us down is when Alex would find something interesting (a rock, a mushroom, a frog) and stopped to investigate. 
Alex coming down the trail

We took the side trail back to the Mt. Morgan trailhead and along the way came to a bridge that is in need of some repair!  The railing is gone and one of the beams has broken and fallen.  Alex wanted to go across anyway so using his balance he did.  The stream had no trickle so the broken bridge over the dry stream wasn't really needed.
Broken bridge, dry brook
We finished about 5.5 hours after we started and after some tough goings at first we got to explore some ladders, caves, cliffs and rock scrambles, saw a snake a toad and other critters, took in some great views and had a great day.  We finished up with Pizza in Ashland and on the way home through Weare we found a fair.  I have no idea what the fair was for but we stopped and partook int he festivities.  Then some ice cream at Dodges just before they closed, petted the animals and made i home 12 hours after we left (oh and at least an hour+ after bedtime)