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!

White Ledge - August 6, 2011

We were camping at White Ledge campground and this trail conveniently started about 200 feet from our campsite.  This is a 4.2 mile loop hike up and over an open ledge with some views.  We didn't start out until 10:00 or so and headed up the trail.

Trail head

 As usual with Ethan on my back the trail started out pretty flat and crossed a brook after a short while.  Alex is still in Star Wars mode and found many light sabers along the trail and was constantly battling the evil Sith who were hiding behind every tree.  Knowing that we were safe from the enemies, we were able to continue on the very moderate grade path.

The Sith has been vanquished from this trio of trees

Now that the way is clear, young padawan Ethan checks them out

After about 3/4 of a mile everyone (except me) were having a tough time.  Ethan up until this point had walked a good portion on his own trying to keep up with Alex.  But neither Alex nor Denise really wanted to continue so we turned around and headed back to camp.
Please pick me up daddy!

 We got back to the campsite pretty quickly and had lunch.  I ended up falling asleep in the chair and took a nap.  But I still had my hiking itch which hadn't been scratched yet.  I considered hiking up Chocura which also has a trail heading out right from the campground, but now that it was closing in on 1pm, while I probably could have made it before dark no sense in risking it or pushing myself.  So I grabbed my pack and headed back up the White Ledge trail myself.
The trail passes below the cliffs, descends a little, and then turns back and heads up to the cliffs never that steep.  Up on the ledges themselves views to Moat Mt. to the north and views east.
Up the ledges

Moat Mt

From ledges

Another view from ledges

The ascent up the ledges continues for a while until they begin to descend back to the south where a fine view of Chocorua.
Mt Chocorua

For some reason I was way too tired for this short hike, but some days your legs are just not with you.  Maybe I didn't sleep well the night before so I sat down and grabbed a snack, then laid down and just about fell asleep again in the shade of a pine tree, resting on some moss on the ledge.  Had I let myself fall asleep, I would have been out like a light for a while I think.  It was extremely quiet, saw no people, heard nothing except the songs of birds, grasshoppers, and the wind through the trees.

Someone left this sign up there: I agree
 So I spashed some cold water on my face, woke myself back up and continues back down the trail without issue.  It was a quick jaunt back to the campsite where Alex, Ethan and Denise were busy doing something.  I don't remember what, but I know what they missed!

Shortly after I got back, I took the training wheels off Alex's bike and he road it fine w/o first time.  I knew he could, I just couldn't get him to ride it w/o training wheels until know.  Especially since he got his scooter!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tripyramids - July 30, 2011 - #15, #16

I have been wanting to hike the Tripyramids for a while, particular the slides since I had read how steep they were.  I am also planning a 15 or 20 mile loop along Franconia Ridge the end of the month and wanted to find something around 15 miles to see how I would do.  Since the traditional loop including the slides was short on mileage I mapped out a longer loop that included some other interesting locations.  Due to the large network of trails in Waterville Valley it is pretty easy to add lots of trails if you just wander around them all.

So the plan was to head up Greeley Ponds Trail to Flume Brook Trail up to the Flume (not THE Flume, but a flume) then back to Old Skidder Trail to Livermore, then around the Mt. Tripyramid Trail then Livermore, Kettles Path to the Scaur, Scuar Trail back to Greeley Ponds and back to parking lot.

I got to Waterville Valley around 7:30 and it took a while to find the parking lot.  I had been there before checking it out after hiking the Osceolas but the map and GPS showed a way to get there from the maze of condos in the village.  Apparently you can not!!!  So back to Tripoli road and then I quickly found the trail head.  I started out at 8:00 with the trail to myself.

Livermore Trailhead sign
I can't call the Livermore Trail a trail, it is a road or rather a highway relatively speaking!  But it allowed for a nice early morning stroll and an easy warm up as I knew things would not stay so level later on!

Livermore Highway

After a short distance the highway crosses a stream where apparently the mischievous beavers have been for I saw this box thing that I believe is placed to stop the beavers from building dams at the culvert and causing flooding problems.  There were a few of these and one of them had so many leaves and sticks pushed up against the fencing that the water behind was a good foot higher than that below causing exactly what it was intended to prevent!  I think sometimes these things are built shaped like a 'V' with the point heading upstream.  Then again, this may have nothing to do with beavers at all...

Anti Beaver Contraption
The highway continues on so I felt it deserved another photo.  The river could be heard off to the right which I would soon cross later on a well constructed bridge.

The highway

Looking upstream from the bridge
Eventually I arrived at the junction with the Flume Brook Trail which headed off to the right.  I took that and followed it up to the Flume.  The trail started to rise more steadily and resembled an actual hiking trail as opposed to the highway I had been on.  There were several blowdowns on this trail as it is obviously not as actively hiked as other trails but none required any creativity in passing by.  One however looked extremely recent, coming down just days before judging by the condition of the leaves which hadn't at all begun to wilt.

The trail follows to the south of the stream along its length and at one point I spotted a nice campsite down next to the river.  After a bit the sound of the rushing water grew in intensity and I was in the Flume.  As in THE Flume, you pretty much have the same geological features: a cascade of water rushing through a gorge, the walls of which had to be well over 50 feet high (though could have been 100 - I can't judge heights)

The trail turned into a herd path, which then turned into a bushwack and the steep cliffs on either side vanished so I figured I had reached the top.  I explored around a while and stopped for a quick snack and snapped a bunch of photos.

This pool looked VERY inviting!

 After enjoying this great location all to myself I headed back down to the junction with the Old Skidder Trail. 
This trail is certainly not used much at all as I had to frequently look around to stay on the path, though I never had any serious problems staying on trail.  It was a pleasant walk though a nice section of forest where the only sounds were birdsong.  This section had many many signs of moose as they must use this trail as well (lots of droppings every 100 feet or so).

Skidder Trail overgrown with ferns
Skidder Trail

Level pleasant walk along Skidder Trail
At one point I got the first view of the day:
The Skidder Trail meets back up with the Livermore Highway which I then headed back down to the junction with the Tripyramid Trail.  This was downhill and went very fast as I found myself jogging along for quit a bit.  When I reached the junction with the Tripyramid trail I saw the first people of the day who headed up the trail just before I got there.  I passed the first group immediately but managed to pretty much hike alongside the other group all the way until I stopped for lunch at the top of the south slide.

More of the Livermore Highway
As soon as the Tripyramid trail starts it begins to climb much more steeply than anything I had done yet.  But I knew this was nothing compared to the actual slide which after a bit came into view.
Looking up the slide
And yes, it was steep!  I was a bit worried that the rocks may be slippery as it rained the night before and much of the underbrush I had passed through earlier along the Flume and Skidder trails had actually gotten me rather wet.  But it was late enough in the morning that the rocks had dried and the footing was fine.
Looking back down the slide

And up up, more up to go!
Navigating the slide was not all that hard, just need to make sure to have good footing.  Many places require handholds to pull oneself up.  The main difference between this and other places I have hiked is that instead of navigating this scramble for 20-30 feet, this "scramble" went on and on and on and on and on and on.  Views were also great as at each short rest break I turned around to take in the views.
Up the North Slide

Near top of slide looking straight down

This is how steep it is

 I reached the top of the slide which meant I deserved a break so I grabbed a snack, and started snapping photos.  I found a setting on my camera to take panorama photos so I took some.  I never read instructions and didn't know what they would do.  But when I uploaded the photos to the computer and ran the software that came with the photo I was able to stitch them together:

View from North Slide

I then headed off into the woods along the trail and to the summit of North Tri, then middle and eventually south.  This section was not all that exciting, some obstructed views here and there and it went pretty quickly.  Just below the summit of south Tri, I saw more moose droppings.  Way up here! Wow, I wonder how many moose have completed the 4k list?

At the top of the South Slide I found a perfect flat rock that asked me to sit upon it, enjoy the view, and eat some lunch.  So not wanting to upset the rock any I took off my boots, took out my lunch and took in the views.  I'm not sure how long I sat here, but it was a while and worth every minute!

View from South Slide

At top of south slide looking down.

Not only are there 4k Moose Peakbaggers, Toads are working on the list as well!
Descending the south slide required careful footing as you could slip on the gravel, but I made it down w/o incident.
Looking back up the s. slide

View along south slide
The trail entered the woods and steadily lost elevation following some more streams.  I had seen some people at the top of south Tri, but from there on I hadn't seen another hiker.

Photos below sum up this section of the trail:

OK, is my math wrong?  What is wrong with this photo?  2.5 + 2.2 = 4.9????
I came to a trail junction to Norway Rapids, so why not?  I have never been to Norway before and it sounded interesting so I headed down the .1 mile distance to "Norway Rapids"  After passing a glacial eratic on the right you come to the rapids which is an interesting cascade.
Norway Rapids
I turned around and headed back to the Livermore trail and continued back down.  A few mountain bikers went screaming past me, good thing I was on the edge of the trail!

I came to another trail: Kettles.  This would take me up to the Scaur and not knowing what a Kettle was, off I went.  I never found a Kettle, or maybe I did find a Kettle and didn't know what I was looking at?  But I did find a very confused Maple. 
OK, it is just way too early for a RED leaf!

This very large birch giant has fallen, backpack for size perspective.  Did this tree make a sound when it fell in the woods when nobody was around?

I was starting to get a bit tired at this point, and a little dehydrated.  I had 4 liters of water with me when I started so I took a short break and drank half a liter.  But after what I had done up to this point, even the trail up to the Scaur seemed very steep and difficult - my pace slowwwwed for sure.

When I got to the top of the Scaur I was beat so I took my pack off and layed down on the rocks.  There was a great view here for the level of effort (that is if you come straight here first!)  I ate my extra sandwhich which I guess was a 2nd lunch.  Does having a 2nd lunch make me a hobbit?
Approaching top of the Scaur
View from the Scaur
After another lengthy rest I headed back down straight for the parking lot.  Just before the trail met back up with the Greely Ponds trail it crossed the brook.  I had to get one foot wet as there was no way across.  In the spring this much be a difficult crossing!  I considered bushwacking down to the Big Pines path to see just how big those Pines were but my feet were killing me so will have to check out the big pines next time.  
Final stream crossing on Scaur trail
I got back to the truck about 9 hours after I started which isn't bad.  Somewhere between 13.5 and 14 miles with around 4300 feet of elevation gain depending on if you believe the WMGonline numbers, the GPS numbers, or the numbers computed from Garmin Basecamp vs. Google Earth.

In any case, who cares about the numbers.  This hike had it all, nice quiet easy flat strolls along wide paths, walks through forests, a flume, cascades, views, steeps, and a missing kettle.

Just what is a Kettle?