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.