Monday, July 25, 2011

Mt. Jefferson via Caps Ridge July 24, 2011

Mt. Jefferson (5,712') via Ridge of the Caps July 24 2011  

Mileage:  5 miles RT
Elevation gain: 2,700'
Trailhead: The trail starts at the high point of Jefferson Notch Road. Take the Marshfield Road towards the Cog Railroad base station and turn left on the Jefferson Notch Road. The opposite side of the road comes out on Rt 2 near the Bowman trailhead. A WMNF Parking Pass is required. 
Lesson learned:  I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about hiking this trail and now that I have, I can liken the rock scrambling to the Baldfaces or the spur of the Hunt trail on Mt. Katahdin.  I learned that rock scrambling takes momentum, something that takes a while to get back into if you haven't done it in a while.

Hiked with Rich, Sandy, Joe and Norm.  This hike is listed on the Terrifying 25 (a list I am not working on but you may be!).

The day was beautiful, with a few gray whisps at the summit drifting away as the day progressed.

The Caps Ridge trailhead is the highest trailhead in New Hampshire (at 3009') and the mileage to the summit and back is a mere 5 but don't let that fool you.  It took about 3 hours to get up to the summit and another 2 1/2 to get down. 

I expect your time will be better though. This peak was Rich's 48th NH 4k and because Rich is height and exposure averse, he chose this trail as his test of tolerance.  The first mile was delightful, steady ascending in woods. We reached lookout rock in about 40 minutes, a relaxing pace. 

As we continued, it did not take long for the trees to fall away, allowing us to enjoy a beautiful blue sky, mild breeze and intermittent sun.  The Caps are a series of rock bumps on the hike up, steeper than the Castles to their left (another trail to the summit) but not as rolly, i.e. the Castles have more up and down as you travel toward the rocky summit of Jefferson. 
  The first Cap was a playful challenge; the second had foothold issues for us and we had to wait until someone who was literally frozen in fear to the rock, was able to climb up it.  Rich was just glad it wasn't him!

Sandy was still recovering from her twisted ankle and Rich was clearly out of his comfort zone in a few spots but we were moving forward.  Once the Caps were conquered, we had the task of climbing the rocky cone summit of Mt. Jefferson.  The day was so clear you could see for at least 60 miles. 
The summit cone seemed to take forever to rock hop up (they always do on the Presis), but we eventually got to the top and Rich ceremoniously touched the summit pin.  We cheered for Rich's victory, his completion of the NH 4ks, and then sat down for lunch (which is not easy to do on that craggy summit). 
The summit was very crowded. The day was beautiful and everyone seemed to have the same idea: hike Jefferson when it is dry and warm with no threat of thunderstorms.  There was a group there that called themselves the "Four Seasons Group" (a meet-up group).  Ironically, on the summit I met the woman who is coordinating the "Flags on the 48" for Mt. Whiteface, which is the mountain we signed up for too.
When it was time to head down, we considered heading down via Gulfside to Jewell rather than try to descend the Caps. But having no real reason to deviate from our plan, we headed back the way we came. 
As is typically the case, going down was not as hard as we thought, though there was one spot that was steep without good footholds.  I took my pack off and was able to make it down without incident.  As we descended, the sun beat down and wind diminshed. This made the going hot and sweaty, inviting bugs to take a stab at us!
At lookout rock I decided to leave the group and get down to the car as fast as I could to be ready to celebrate Rich's achievement. 
Going up to lookout rock may have taken us 40 minutes; but going down took me less than 20. Out of our cooler I grabbed the bottle of champagne I saved for this occasion (very cold as it had been on ice) and waited for the group to arrive.  I met them at the trailhead with 5 glasses of chilled champagne. We toasted Rich's achievement.
Check out Rich's extra fingers!

#54 Killington Peak, VT July 10, 2012

#54 Killington Peak, VT (4,235') via Bucklin, Long, and Killington Spur Trails - July 10, 2011. 

Mileage:  7.2 miles RT

Elevation gain: 2,500'

Trailhead: Wheelerville Road off Route 4 in Mendon, Vermont (at Brewers Corner).  The road was closed due to a bridge out so we took the back way to the trailhead, continuing on Route 4 heading north, taking a left at the Best Western Inn and Suites Rutland-Killington (which is Town Line Rd), continuing on to Notch Road  - which will get you to Wheelerville Road and Brewers Corner.  (Note 2014 - bridge has been repaired and road is in good shape.)

Lesson learned:   Not all trails in New England are rocky, rooty and arduous!

On this weekend, a group of us stayed at the Black Bear Inn in Bolton Valley, VT, which is nowhere near the Bucklin trailhead so we decided to hike this peak on Sunday on the way back home to New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey (we had a very inter-state group of hikers!).  Most of us hiked Mt. Abraham and Mt. Ellen the day before.

In actuality, Mendon, VT is not on the way home but 30 minutes west from I-89 got us to the trailhead, not without some problems.  We got to where the car GPS and GoogleMaps said Wheelerville Road was and it simply was not there! Asked a neighbor and he indicated it was actually the next road down. Got to that road and yes it was Wheelerville Road but it was closed about 1.7 miles in, 2.2 miles from the trailhead.   Thanks to Dana, we got back on Route 4, turned left at the Best Western, found Notch Road which lead us to the other side of Wheelerville Road. 

The trail is wonderful with easy grades, a babbling brook and sweet tall grasses until the start of mile 3, where it became steep but at no time did I feel it was tough terrain.  

When we got to the Long Trail junction we headed up the Long Trail to the Killington Spur, a very steep scramble that provided excellent views.  As often is the case, we tried to take a photo of how steep it was and it just did not do it justice. 

The top of Killington Peak provided the most magnificent of views. It was quite crowded at the top, being an excellent day for hiking and sight-seeing and mountain biking (the Killington chairlift nearby was running, bringing guests and cyclist up to the peak). 

Not to be missed, this is definitely a hike I would do again.

#52 and #53 Mts. Abraham and Ellen, Vermont

#52 Mt. Abraham (4,016') and #53 Mt. Ellen (4,083'), Vermont via Monroe Skyline (Lincoln Gap) and Jerusalem trail - July 9, 2011. 

Mileage: About 10 miles (traverse)

Elevation gain: 2500'ish

Trailhead: Jerusalem Trailhead (leave a car there): Taken from  
From I-89 North, take exit 9 towards US-2/Middlesex/Moretown/VT-100. Drive 0.2 miles and turn left onto Center Road. Drive 0.1 miles and turn left onto US-2 East. Drive 0.6 miles and turn right onto Vermont 100B South. Drive 7.9 miles and continue straight on VT-100 S/Main Street. Continue to follow VT-100 South for 5.4 miles and take a slight right onto VT-17 West. Drive 12.2 miles and turn left onto Jerusalem Road. Drive 0.7 miles and turn left onto Jim Dwire Road. The parking lot will be roughly a half mile on the right side of the road

To get to the Lincoln Gap Road parking lot from the Jim Dwire Road parking lot: From Jim Dwire Road, turn left onto Jerusalem Road. Drive 0.8 miles and continue on Downingville Road. Drive 3.6 miles and turn left onto Quaker Street. Drive 0.9 miles and take the third left onto E River Road. Drive 1.1 miles and continue onto Lincoln Gap Road. Drive roughly 3.5 miles to the Lincoln Gap parking lot which will be on the right side of the road. 

We spent the weekend at the Black Bear Inn to complete our last three VT 4ks.  Vermont has 5 4000 footers on the New England Four Thousand Footer list. (We'd already completed Mt. Mansfield and Camel's Hump in 2008 - see previous reports on Camel's Hump and Mt. Mansfield). 

Black Bear Inn is in Bolton Valley, one hour from the trailheads but Eileen's nephew raved about the place so we decided to try it out. The upside was that the Inn is located close to Waterbury for those who wanted to join us for a fun weekend but did not want to hike both days.  It is a very nice place and the Innkeeper made arrangements for those hiking early in morning to have breakfast before heading out.
By Friday, our group had grown to 9 people, with 7 hiking the traverse.  We left a car at the Jerusalem trailhead and drove two others to Lincoln Gap on a steep and windy road that crested at the trailhead (road is closed in the winter).  Skies were overcast when we started out on the rolling trail that eventually steepened.    Found an interesting outhouse.

Why can't we pee in it?!

It was misty, cold and windy when we reached the clear rocky summit of Mt. Abraham (adorned with two USGS markers on top - one declaring it Potato Hill). That mist managed to stay with us for the trip, at least at the higher elevation.

Shortly after summitting we headed down into the woods, toward Mt. Ellen.  On the left, we took a small detour to see the Cessna plane wreck, which was cool (no one was hurt in that crash). 

Don't miss a visit to the crash area.
Before reaching Mt. Ellen we managed to hit 3 other summits: Lincoln Peak, Nancy Hanks Peak and Cutts Peak.

We were on the Monroe Skyline, which was mostly treed, with peeks here and there of the Vermont landscape below.  We would have seen more with clearer skies.

There is some navigating through ski slopes. So long as we stayed to our left we found the trail. Some temporary cairns were built to show us the way.  When we got to Mt. Ellen, the "Mt. Ellen" sign we saw in some online photos was gone and there was an interesting cairn in the middle of the trail.  We met a dozen people here, each asking "is this Mt. Ellen?" when they got to the cairn.  I actually took photos to compare it with the ones I found online to make sure we were at the right place.

After lunch we headed down to the junction of Jerusalem trail.  The trail had a few big rocks but eventually turned into a gentle path that was easy on our feet.  

Mt. Adams - again - July 5, 2011 Mt. Madison - again- July 6, 2011

Mt. Adams via Airline Trail, 7/5/2011

Mileage: 10 miles RT

Elevation gain: 5,000

Trailhead: Appalachia, located on Route 2 in Randolph, NH  

Lesson learned:  Choose your bunk wisely! A heavier pack makes a difference in your hike; a little bit of luck from the weather gods does too!

Hiked with Rich, Joe and Sandy.  The Airline trail is listed on the Terrifying 25 (a list I am not working on but you may be!).

Though I summitted both Adams and Madison two years ago with Eileen and Norm, I was happy to accompany Rich on this hike (his 46th NH 4k).  He's getting so close to completing all 48.

Sandy was still recovering from the Moats (twisted ankle) but bravely hiked the Airline trail with us to the hut cutoff and then enjoyed socializing in the hut.

It was muggy and warm up the somewhat steep airline trail but as soon as we hit the ridge it was cool and windy.  I had forgotten how exposed that ridge was, and how close the trail is to the edge of the vertical rock of Kings Ravine.  Dirty puffy mist wisped in and out, making it look more like the Moors than a beautiful summer day in NH. Dramatic, scary, awe inspiring, daunting.

Rich was spent by the time we got to Madison hut for lunch (which is a climb DOWN from the Airline trail, which means we will have to climb back up to bag Mt. Adams). 

At the hut, Rich checked the forecast - T-storms predicted and watches were out for the area.  The hut master said we will need to plan on 3 hours to summit Mt. Adams (2 mile RT) and if we hear thunder, we need to turn around and head for shelter.

We unloaded a lot of the extras from our packs at the hut (bedsheet, clothes, toiletries), picked our beds and headed back up to the airline trail. We took the risk and we watched the skies carefully, hoping we would not have to turn back to the hut.  

It was hard. I have forgotten how tough hiking those rocks are but kept in my mind that Mt. Adams has positive energy (one of 19 holy mountains of the world and hoped that would get us up to the top.

We did summit, and found lots of weird bugs so we took photos quickly and then headed down. The view made the effort worth it. And, Sandy's ankle miraculously felt great that night so we attribute this and the fine weather to the healing powers of Mt. Adams.  When we returned to the hut we all had wine in celebration and became sleepy.

That night Rich and I bunked under a guy with serious sleep apnea. The noise was so loud that people in the other room remarked on it the next morning. Took a whole Ambien and got 2 whole hours of sleep. Sounds so loud and unlike anything I have ever heard came from that man's throat. Rich kicked the bed above him once and shone his headlamp at the guy to try to get him to stop. 

The next day, I woke up feeling like I hadn't yet gone to sleep. Mt. Madison was bagged around 10 a.m., a bit easier that Adams, and we headed down Valley Way.  We were very tired and ready to get into the shower! 

Moats Traverse, South to North June 19, 2011

South Moat (2,770'), Middle Moat (2,805')and North Moat (3,196') - Traverse via Moat Mountain Trail, Jun 18, 2011.

Mileage: 9.2 miles traverse

Elevation gain: 3,200'

Trailhead: Start at the Moat Mountain trailhead: In Conway Village turn north onto Washington Street, bearing left on West Side Road, and left again onto Still Road.  Road ends after .6 miles, turn left onto Passaconaway  Road which becomes Dugway Road. Parking is 2.2 miles on the Passaconaway/Dugway road. 

EndThis hike ends at Diana’s Baths, which is located on West Side Road, North Conway (you will see the sign for Diana’s Baths parking lot on the left hand side of the road).
North and South Moat are on the 52 with a View list (a list I'm not working on but you may be!).

Living just a two hour drive from the White Mountains allows for spur-of-the-moment-let's-get-out-there-and-hike days.  However, planning a group hike with busy friends still commands a plan-ahead strategy.  My friend, Eileen, planned a South-to-North Moats traverse for June. After several emails to invited parties, a date was decided on -  a month in advance.  The route, car spots, time, and meeting place all needed coordinating.  And, then there's the weather to consider! 

Eileen is a fabulous hike leader. She copies maps of the routes, notifies her invitees of weather conditions and gives advice on gear and dress, organizes drivers, and the after-dinner celebration.  In the past, the weather gods have not smiled on her (she has the distinction of leading the hike voted "worst weather" in our group). 

On this day, however, she has lucked out.  After a carspot at Diana's Baths, we got to the trailhead (just off of West Side Road in Conway) around 8:30 on a warm but misty morning.  There were 8 of us.  Within 30 minutes it started to pour - so much that we got out our pack covers and raincoats. But WAIT, it does get better, so keep reading.....

It seems as soon as we put the rain gear on, the rain tapered off and by the time we reached the summit of South Moat, billows of mist were breaking up and the blue sky was showing. 

Shout out to Pioneer Valley Hiking Club in Western Mass, a group of enthusiastic hikers who leap-frogged us for the entire 9.2  miles.

We descended South Moat, into the wet forest and very soon after, summitted Middle Moat.  The top here was hard to determine, the rock slabs pitched up but there were several large ones in different areas of the summit that may have been the actual top.  At this point the weather breaks its mood and blue skies and warm temps reign!  We had some trouble finding the goldenrod colored blazes that lead us back into the woods toward North Moat.  We walked along the slabs toward North Moat, which we could see in the distance, and at the end of the rock slabs and height of land, we could see the trail on the left, down in the trees.

The trail from Middle Moat to North Moat was webby and had that narrow, overgrown unused characteristic.  It wasn't long before we found ourselves scrambling up to the top of North Moat a beautiful rocky top with 360° views.

After a wonderful lunch and spirited chat with the Pio Valley Club, we headed down toward the car, which was miles away.  We thought the hard part was over. It was not.  The rock slabs were mossy and wet, the result of weeks of wet weather in the region. We all fell at some point and descending was slow.  This was especially true of North Moat toward Diana's Baths.

Add to the preoccupation with foot placement the horrific bugs who blanketed our exposed skin.  Eyes, ears, mouths - we were bloody and welted.  And nothing would discourage them.  They appeared to EAT the creams and lotions we applied and reapplied.  It wasn't until one of our Pio Valley friends doused us with a spray (that practically ate the hair off your arms) that we had any relief. 

When the trail turned to dirt and roots and the grade mellowed, our spirits returned.  Diana's Baths were beautiful and a bit crowded for a mid-June day. We used the opportunity to wash the blood from our bodies, remnants of the more aggressive bug bites, and spent just a little time competing for the Nastiest Bug Bite award.  Then, a short walk to the car and off for an ice cold beer.

This beautiful scenic hike is a perfect day hike and training hike for the bigger peaks. Make no mistake, it is not an easy trek, but the views and Diana's Baths make it very rewarding and definitely a repeat hike in my book. There is a fair amount of rock scrambling and the many steep slabs make descending from either direction treacherous in wet conditions.