Fall 2015 hiking roundup

Posted on December 9, 2015 by Chris Lumens in , , .

I keep meaning to write in depth about all the hiking I’ve been doing this fall, but two things stopped me. First, I wanted to be able to link to pictures but I want to set up my new photo browser (which means setting up a new server) first. Second, after a couple went by without a writeup the backlog really got big and it became much harder to get the motivation. So instead of doing anything deep here, I’m just going to give real quick recaps of what I have been up to. There’s a lot more planned for the winter so I need to knock out the reports of these to make way for more exciting posts soon.

October 15 - Lots of short hikes on the Kanc

I’d been wanting to get out hiking with Sarah again for a while, plus I wanted to make some progress on my 50% redlining goal. So I decided a great fall idea would be to drive down the Kancamagus and do a bunch of the short trails off there. First up was the Forest Discovery Trail, a short graded path near Lincoln Woods that highlights various forest management techniques. We did this 1.5 mile hike pretty quickly and enjoyed both the changing colors on the leaves and the fighter planes practicing maneuvers overhead. We also decided this would make a great cross country ski trail in the winter.

Next up was the Rail ’n River Trail, right behind an historic homestead. We looked at that for a few minutes and learned a couple more things, then spent a few minutes trying to find the trail, and then finally got started. This was another quick 0.5 mile graded path that went along the river (which was the most interesting part) and wandered through the woods. I thought the woods part of the Forest Discovery Trail was much more interesting.

We then tried for the Church Pond Trail but the immediate river crossing was too high (nevermind the river crossing farther in) and we decided we didn’t care that much. So we drove a little ways further and hiked the one mile Lovequist Loop instead. This started out by immediately crossing a little gorge on a bridge (where we spent some time taking pictures), then climbed to Falls Pond, then looped around the pond. The part around the pond was occassionally muddy and occassionally rooty, and much more like a real trail than anything else we’d done today. It was definitely worth doing.

After that I’d wanted to do the Boulder Loop, but we were both starving due to my planning. So we hit the Yankee Smokehouse in Ossipee and then drove down to Squam Lake. We hiked the seldom-traveled Undercut Trail to bypass the summit then took the seemingly endless Five Finger Point Trail out to the point. Parts of this trail were surprisingly rugged, which was especially weird when you could see houses at the same time. By the time we got out to the point, it was starting to get late. I decided I’d run the loop real quick while Sarah hung out at the junction. This was too bad because the loop was the best part of the hike, especially when it went out onto the rocky peninsulas into the lake. For the way back, we decided to do the road walk.

October 24 - Liberty and trail maintainence

I’m the maintainer of the lower half of the Liberty Springs Trail (which is a part of the AT). Due to injury, I hadn’t been able to get up and do maintainence on it recently. So I decided the best thing to do would be combine trail work with a hike to the summit. All I wanted to do for maintainence was trim branches to make sure the trail was clear for winter anyway.

For a change, I also parked at the signed parking lot (recently I’ve been parking at the Basin and hiked south) and took the Whitehorse trail north to my section. I don’t really like that trail, but this time it passed especially quickly. I then took my clippers out and did an extremely slow 1.5 miles while I looked up and down the trail to make sure the trail corridor was wide enough. Once I got to the sharp left turn that marks the end of my trail, I put the clippers away and started moving more quickly to the summit. I was also planning on meeting Kaitlyn somewhere along this hike. I took a long break at the campsite and then another long break at the summit, which is where she caught up to me. It was a very sunny day and there wasn’t much wind, though it got a little cold when I stopped for a while. There was also only a very little frost on the trees along the ridge.

We hiked down together until the cutoff. Then she took that to go back to the Basin parking, and I followed my trail the rest of the way back to my car. We then met at Woodstock Inn for snacks and beers before I went home.

November 5 - Black Mountain

Sarah had to go way up to Benton, NH for work so I decided to take the day off to keep her company on the drive and also hike something I’d never considered before. With her driving, I also realized I could do a hike that started and ended in totally different places. So, the Black Mountain Trail to Chippewah Trail over Black Mountain (the one in Benton, not any of the others in the state) would be it. I also put in an alert that I would be doing a SOTA activation.

Sarah dropped me off at the Black Mountain trailhead, which is really just the end of a road near a house. The trail started out following an old road with tons of No Trespassing signs on either side, then passed through what looked like an old parking lot and down an even less maintained road with slightly fewer signs. Finally about halfway to the summit I passed more road signs in a spot that you couldn’t really drive to and started the climb. The climb passed quickly and was a bit of a grind. On my way up, I passed two big school groups that were coming down from the summit and they assured me I’d have it to myself.

The Black Mountain trail ended right below the summit in the trees.. After that, it was a quick 20’ scramble up some rocks and I very suddenly emerged on the summit with a clear view of Moosilauke, Franconia Ridge, and out into Vermont. It was very dramatic. I sat around for a while, set up my radio, and started calling for contacts. I got five people to respond so it was an official contact. None of them were especially far away but it was still impressive how far an HT can get you. After that fifth contact, it started to look like rain so I packed up and headed down.

The Chippewah trail was much more interesting - it first passed over some open slabs with views back to the summit and out to the valley, and then very steeply dropped down the mountain. After that I took some more old woods roads and then passed through a wet area that had been flooded by beavers. Right at the end, the trail steeply climbed up some stairs to the parking lot. I turned around here to look back up at the summit but heard a car coming - it was Sarah, getting to the lot at exactly the same time as me. So I ran up the stairs to meet her and we headed home.

November 7 - Old Speck

I’d been wanting to get back up into Maine to knock out a 4k, but it just hadn’t worked out at all this year. I finally got up the motivation and was able to convince Rik to go along with me. In addition to being a 4k, Old Speck is also a Maine county high point, is a ten-point summit for SOTA, and is just barely in the White Mountain Guide so it counts for my redlining goal too. It was clearly a hike that’d give me a lot of bang for the buck.

Unfortunately, “the buck” came in the form of a 3.5 hour drive from my house in Merrimack, NH. You basically drive all the way to Gorham, NH and then drive about another hour farther, going past Sunday River on your way. So despite getting an early start on the road, it was almost 10 when we finally started hiking. It was cold, windy, and overcast but the clouds were pretty high up so we could see a ways.

We took the Eyebrow Trail out of the parking lot in Grafton Notch, which started out climbing moderately under the cliffs but then turned to face them and got very steep. There’s some steel cables and rungs to hold on to but I didn’t think they were necessary. The one really tricky part was traversing across a wet slab. All too quickly, though, the trail levelled out and got to the overlook on top of the Eyebrow. We could see south through Grafton Notch to all sorts of peaks I couldn’t identify.

After the Eyebrow, the trail dropped a fair bit and then met up with the Appalachian Trail at a weird intersection where we had to take a right away from Old Speck to start traveling to it. I could see how this could be confusing. The next several miles to the summit were really pretty boring. The trail stayed in the trees except for two brief spots - one where it popped out onto a ledge where we could see into New Hampshire, and then at a very steep spot right before the ridge where we could see north and east into Maine.

At the ridge, Rik and I decided to go for maximum SOTA points. He ran off to the summit while I waited around and got my radio out. When he got to the top, he contacted me so I got the chaser points for talking to someone who was on top of Old Speck. I then packed up and got moving to the summit. It was a pretty quick couple tenths through more woods, though there was one spot where I could see Mount Washington. While lots more people arrived at the summit, we did a pretty good activation. We made contacts with KB1RJC and KB1RJD in Madison, NH and also with a couple people about 70 miles east of us. This was a great first activation for Rik, and my hands were starting to freeze. So we did the reverse operation - he ran back down to where I’d been waiting and when he got there, he got a chaser contact with me.

The hike down was uneventful, with the one exception that we took the AT all the way down instead of the Eyebrow Trail. The AT was also very steep but passed through some interesting woods and along a nice waterfall. On the way home, we stopped at the Sunday River Brewing Company for snacks and samplers of all their beers. Many, many hours later, I got home.

November 15 - Appalachia wandering

The plan for this hike was to finish up my 50% redlining goal in the White Mountains. I had only seven or eight more miles to go, but in order to make sure I didn’t come up just a little short I planned on getting nine new miles. In order to do that, I looked for areas that I’d never hiked in before and the closest one I could think of was the very dense trail network on the north side of US 2, just across the street from the Appalachia parking lot. Tons of people park there to go south to the northern Presidentials, but I doubt very make make the trip across the street.

I first went south to go back and forth on some of the lower elevation connecting trails. There’s an absolute ton of trails on the lower slopes of the Presidentials and while a lot go to interesting rocks or waterfalls or overlooks, a bunch others are just connecting trails. I took the Fallsway along all the waterfalls of Snyder Brook, then shot down the Beechwood Way through a nice maple forest (complete with hoses for sugaring) to Cold Brook Fall, then east on the entire length of the Sylvan Way, down Howker Ridge through a very scenic logged spot where I could see out to the Crescent Ridge, then back west along the rail trail to the parking lot, and then back up the Maple Way and back to the car.

Along the way I took a ton of pictures, mostly of trail signs to show just how dense the trail network is. Conditions were basically a very thin layer of snow on all the trails though some sunnier spots were bare. All the falls I passed by are pretty small individually but seeing a whole bunch of them in a day was very nice. The most impressive ones were basically the entirety of the Fallsway and the Coosauk Falls along Howker Ridge.

I got back to the car where I’d left my lunch and an extra water bottle, ate, and looked at the map to figure out the best route for the north side of the road. Having figured it out, I got a move on. From here it was entirely new trail.

I ran across US 2, took the trail around Durand Lake (which has a nice lookout to Moriah), and then crossed Durand Road into truly new territory. The Ledge Trail started out steeply but bare of snow. That didn’t last too long though. By the time I’d gotten to its junction with the Notchway, the snow had appeared and increased to about a half inch. It’d stay that way for the next several hours. From there I climbed up to Lookout Ledge. This had by far the best view of the day, straight across to the northern Presidentials. Especially impressive were the ravines. The summits were moving in and out of the clouds and I was happy to not be up there.

After a short break where I looked around at the top of the cliff for climbing anchors, I got moving on the Crescent Ridge Trail. I had been meaning to go up to Mt. Randolph at least but the snow was a little deeper and no tracks were going that way. I was also just wearing summer boots so I thought better of it. I instead took the Four Soldiers Path fairly steeply down off the ridge, bending a trekking pole in the process. It was getting greyer and later in the day so I moved quickly on through this whole section and on to the Pasture Path. This trail had very nice footing - flat, straight, free of snow, and grassy - even though it got boring. I took it all the way to its end including through a pretty confusing section where it ran along a road and through a neighborhood, before finally turning back to the car on the Diagonal and Bee Line.

So overall this was a great hike. The waterfalls were very nice on the south side of the road, and the trail network on the north side is also dense and goes to lots of interesting places. If you’re ever sick of the crowds on the Presidentials, I recommend just going across the street and walking until you’re tired.

November 21 - Jay and Big Jay

I wanted to set up an end to the county highpoint goal by knocking out this two-pack of highpoints. They also happen to be on the New England Hundred Highest list. I’m not strictly working on it, but I’m at least keeping track. Big Jay is a county highpoint even though its summit is only about 100’ into its county. But that still counts!

This one also kept up the trend of very long drives for hikes. Instead of driving three or four hours into Maine, we drove three or four hours into Vermont. We were only about ten trail miles away from the Canadian border on this one. Rik and I also intended to do a SOTA activation from the summit of Jay, where there’s also buildings supporting the ski area. I had been in touch with three other people who were going to be out on summits and wanted to make contact - two guys were going to be on a peak south of Mansfield in Vermont and another guy was going to be on Lafayette. We were hoping to do summit-to-summit contacts with them if the timing worked out.

Anyway, we just took the Long Trail straight up to the summit of Jay. The first mile or so up to the ridge was pretty wet and not especially exciting due to being in the trees. At the ridge, there’s a side path where you can walk over and look out onto a ski trail. We did that just to have a view of something. From there, the trail turned more steeply uphill and also became rockier and icier. When we got nearer to the summit, we did the same trick where I ran ahead and Rik stayed behind so we could get the points for it. This was also the most interesting part of the trail - it climbed over pipes for snow making, crossed a very steep ski trail, and then climbed over some ledges to the summit. I made pretty quick work of it.

The view from the summit was fantastic. You could see the Adirondaks, Mansfield, Franconia Ridge, the Presidentials, and lots of stuff in Quebec that I couldn’t identify. I made contact with Rik and one of the guys near Mansfield and then sat down to wait. When Rik got to the top we tried to make some more contacts, but all the other towers on the summit were interfering with us. We were eventually able to make contact with both the guys near Mansfield, but the guy going to Lafayette was still on his way up. That counted for us, but wasn’t the summit-to-summit contact we were hoping for.

Then we headed down the Long Trail on the other side towards Big Jay. The Long Trail headed down a ski slope which was pretty slippery in places you couldn’t see and then through a fence and into the woods. Shortly after that, we left the Long Trail and took the herd path a mile across the ridge to Big Jay. There’s no official trail that goes that way, but so many people have done it that it’s worn into an unofficial trail. Route finding wasn’t an issue at all. Mud and ice were an issue, though.

It seemed like it took a long time for us to finish descending before we could start ascending towards the peak. There were a couple interesting scrambles and some restricted views along the way but overall it wasn’t too exciting. The summit was completely treed in though there was a big sled hanging up in a tree. Strangely, we also ran into two people who walked out of the woods. I have no idea where they came from.

The hike back over was uneventful. On the way down Jay we were able to bypass the summit on a ski trail. From there down to where we first got onto the ridge, however, it was slow going due to lots of ice. I guess in the several hours since we’d gone up, it had gotten colder and a lot of the water had frozen. We all took a spill or two.

November 26 - Gillespie Peak

Sarah typically has to work on Thanksgiving, so I typically go for a hike. This year I decided that I’d finish up my 50% county highpointing goal by summiting Gillespie Peak, on the Long Trail in Vermont. In addition to being a county high point, it’s also eligible for Summits on the Air and had never been activated, so I packed up the radio and supplies needed for that.

It was a cold, windy, grey Thanksgiving day and the trail started out the same way most Long Trail hikes do - with a climb straight up out of the valley. I wasn’t really feeling it for hiking this morning (look back through this post to see how busy I’ve been if you want to know why) so it was pretty slow going pretty much all the way to Gillespie. First, however, I had to knock out that initial very steep mile up to the cliffs of Mt. Horrid. The view from the cliffs was nice, but it was very windy so I couldn’t stay long without my eyes tearing up.

Beyond there, it was really kind of a boring hike. I’d done at least half of the climbing for the entire day so I just kept hiking as the trail rolled over the summit of Mt. Horrid, then Cape Lookout Mountain, then started the last climb up to Gillespie. That last climb was also pretty strenuous - switchbacking up stone staircases to a false summit. I wasn’t fooled and moved another several tenths until I was at the real summit, where there’s a piece of rebar driven into the ground as a marker. There was a light dusting of snow at the very top and it was extremely windy though being in the trees helped mitigate that a little bit.

After an extremely brief celebration of hitting the highest points in 34 of New England’s 67 counties, I quickly got the radio out and put my Arrow antenna together. I knew I’d get cold in a hurry from that wind and the fact that I wasn’t dressed extremely warmly. I was able to contact KB1RJC and KB1RJD again, from much farther away this time, almost immediately. After that it took me another 20 minutes to get the two more contacts I needed to make it an official activation.

The hike back was very quick as I was in a much better mood, having met another goal for the year and having made the first activation of a summit. I did eventually remember to stop and eat lunch at some point, but besides that I just quickly hiked back to the car. I meant to stop somewhere for a celebratory beer on the way home, but it was Thanksgiving so not many places were open.