Sunday, November 5, 2017

Zealand's First Backpacking Adventure

On Friday evening we set off for Evan’s Notch which is the most eastern section of the White Mountain National Forest, and is located on the Maine-NH border.  This area offers mountains in the 2000’-3000’ range, many of which, have open summits that afford views of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains of NH.

We left from the parking area for the Caribou and Muddy Brook Trailheads.  The plan was to hike on the Caribou Trail which follows a river for the first two miles and look for a place to camp.  We were expecting a clear night, with a good forecast for Saturday which would allow us to make the most of the open ledges and clear summit of Caribou Mountain.  This would also break up the 7 mile loop for our puppy Zealand who is still developing the skills and strength for hiking in the White Mountains.

The Caribou trail is easy to follow and after about 20 minutes of walking we had an exciting river crossing due to some heavy rains that fell earlier in the week.  From that point the trail follows the river with a moderate increase in elevation that makes for a pleasant walk.  

We found an open area nestled between the trail and river that looked large enough for our “3 person” backpacking tent. We quickly set up the tent and make a cup of tea.  Night fell as we cooked dinner and we ate by the light of the stars, moonlight and a light-weight solar lantern.

We retired to the tent at 8pm and snuggled down for the evening. Zealand did great and seemed relaxed and happy in his sleeping bag.  The clear night meant for cold temperatures and in hind-sight the winter sleeping bags would have been a good idea!  Bruno and Sheri managed to stay warm by sleeping in all the clothes in their packs, including their down coats.

Saturday morning dawned clear and crisp, but soon warmed as the sun began to come up.  We broke camp, ate a hearty oatmeal breakfast and set off up Caribou Trail.   We continued to follow the river and eventually reached Kees Falls, which were impressive thanks the heavy rains only days before.  From this point the trail turned away from the river towards the col between Caribou and Gammon Mts. At the col we took the Muddy Brook Trail to the summit of Mt Caribou.

Just below the summit open granite ledges revealed views to the south and east. With clear, bright-blue skies the views into Maine were fantastic.  At the summit of Caribou the views were spectacular in all directions.  We could see Mt Moriah which we hiked about a month ago and further in the distance the Presidential Range, Kearsarge North to the south close to the chalet, the Carter Moriah range, and Waumbek and Cabot to the north of Gorham, NH.

We enjoyed lunch and the views and Zealand took a short nap.  We continued along the broad summit and with some effort, managed to find the Muddy Book Trail which descended steeply for about a mile. Gradually the grade became less steep and the remaining 2 miles was a very pleasant and gentle walk back to the car. 

Both trails were fantastic, the summit offered great vistas and the weather was superb.   While many of the leaves have come down, we we appreciated the partial views and ability to see the river which otherwise would be hidden behind the summer canopy.  This is a hike we will repeat!  And, we are looking forward to more overnight backcountry trips with young Zealand.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Overnight backpacking trip to Stairs Mountain

We were lucky enough to squeeze in an end-of-season backpacking trip last weekend. In summer-like weather we hiked 7.6 miles each way to the summits of Crawford, Resolution and Stairs mountains, along the ridge that connects them together. Our campsite was on the summit of Stairs Mountain and it afforded us spectacular views of the fall colors in the White Mountains.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"52 With A View" - An Ascent of the Royces

Sunday was a spectacular day in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, so we couldn't rest on our laurels and we just had to get out into the mountains.  We decided to tackle an easier peak with great views, so we chose to hike the Royces (East & West) which can be easily accessed from the Evans Notch Road.  This was just 20 minutes form our campsite near Gorham.

East Royce is in Maine and West Royce is in New Hampshire, but they are easy to hike together (and there is no border crossing to be concerned with!).  We saw quite a few people on the east summit, but we had the west summit to ourselves.  Apart from being attacked by a territorial grouse on the way up the hiking was uneventful, but steep.  Our knees were very happy once we'd made it back to the parking lot!

At the summit of East Royce

Near the scene of the grouse attack

A lovely rocky trail

Mike & Denise enjoying the view from West Royce

The end of one list, and the start of another....

There are forty-eight peaks over 4000-ft in New Hampshire and over the past few years we have been  gradually tackling them whenever the the summits of the high peaks were clear.  Sometimes this was in the winter, sometimes in the summer, and sometimes at other times of year.

By the middle of September this year we had just one remaining peak to go.  We had in fact managed to catch up to our friend Denise who had been at 47 for almost a year (did she wait for us?).  So, we planned a camping trip last weekend to celebrate and to tackle our last remaining peak, Mt Moriah near Gorham, NH.  We were accompanied by our friends Denise, Mike, Bill and Kim.

We chose to ascend the peak via the Stony Brook trail which gives great views of many other peaks including Mount Washington, Pine Mountain, the Carters, the Wildcat range, the Wild River Wildernesss, the Royces (East & West), and the Baldfaces.  Once on the ridge to the summit we relaxed and enjoyed the hiking and each other's company.

To celebrate our achievement we had a picnic lunch at the summit of Mt Moriah, washed down with "bubbly" and tequila.  We took lots of photos and lingered to enjoy the moment.

Our descent took us over the open peak of Shelburne-Moria and then onto the Shelburne Trail.  We hiked about 13-miles in total and finished the day by hiking down an old logging road in the dark.  It was great feeling to have completed this group of high peaks, and now we are trying to decide what list we will tackle next...


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Watch Hill and the end of summer

Today the weather was perfect (just like summer) and we both spent the day in the garden. To finish a wonderful day we enjoyed an end of season trip to the beach for a swim and dinner outside at the Olympia Tea Room. With all the tourists gone for the season it was quiet and relaxed for everyone!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Mt Tom in the Willey Range

To "clean up" our last few unclimbed 4000' peaks in New Hampshire we hiked to the top of Mount Tom earlier this week. It was a short distance (about 5 miles) out-and-back trail with minimal views along the way. We did have the summit to ourselves for over an hour which was a nice surprise since we saw plenty of other hikers on the way up and the way down (via the A-to-Z Trail). Just one more NH 4000' peak to go now....

Our hike to Mt Carrigain

Earlier this week we hiked to the top of Mount Carrigain in New Hampshire via the Signal Ridge Trail. This was one of the last remaining 4000' peaks that we haven't yet hiked. We had spectacular weather and enjoyed fabulous view from the fire tower at the summit. This hike was too long for Zealand (just over 10 miles), but we took him for a well deserved walk at Thorne Pond when we got home.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mt Willey via Kedron Flume

We combined the Terrifying 25 and NH 48 4000' lists to map an adventurous route to Mt Willey. The approach to Willey from the south via the Kedron flume which connects to the Willey Range Trail with a short distance on the AZ trail.

The Kedron flume offers a beautiful water feature and a bit of a scramble. Near the flume autumn color was starting to show with some red and yellows.

The Avalon-Zealand or "AZ" trail is the Appalachian trail. We met a very lively couple from Wisconsin on the AT and then a gregarious through hiker. It is always fun to meet the through hikers this time of year. The Nobos (northbounders) are in striking distance to Katahdin and are energized and very happy for an apple or fresh food.

After linking to Wiley Ridge Trail there is a steep climb to the summit of Mt Willey. In one steep section there are ladders, which gives this trail the "terrifying" status. We found the ladders fun and a nice change from climbing over rocks.

While the summit is tree covered, there are nice views on two ledges, one to the south and one to the north of the summit. We enjoyed lunch at the south vista with views of Webster Cliffs and Mts Webster and Jackson.