Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mt. Avalon, New Hampshire

Mt. Avalon (3,442') via Avalon Trail, November 16, 2013.

Mileage:  3.6 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  1,569'

Trailhead:  Trailhead is located at Crawford Depot on Route 302, Bretton Woods (next to AMC Highland Center).  Parking is available year-round at the Depot.  The Depot (and bathroom facilities) are open June through mid-October.

Hiked with Rich.  We were volunteering at the trail information desk at Highland Center and decided to revisit Mt. Avalon on our afternoon break (we'd hiked it once before).

Mt. Avalon is on the 52 with a View list (a list I am not working on but you may be!).  This is the perfect adventure for those wanting a relatively short hike with a bit of a challenge and a fabulous view!

We started on the trail at 12:30 (the trail information desk quiets down in the afternoon).  It was a beautifully warm day with no wind - not a lick of breeze as we crossed the field to Crawford Depot.

We crossed the tracks and entered the woods. Immediately the temperature dropped. 

The trailhead sign beyond the tracks.
The well marked trail ascends gradually; we passed the Beecher -Pearl Cascade loop (nice falls).  A weak blanket of wet snow clung to the ground and the three water crossings were just a bit slippery (at this point we weren't wearing traction). 

What a busy trail!  Everyone was out to enjoy the sunshine and mild temps.

Snowy terrain was more evident as we ascended, with about 2-4 inches of velvety snow draping rocks, fallen trees.

At the junction of the A-Z trail we chatted with a group of high school students staying at the Center; some had never been to the Whites.  I stopped, had a drink and put on my Microspikes. 

Just .5 miles to the summit!
The Avalon trail continues left, and up.  Things got steeper and many boots had turned the snow into a slippery slush (which turned to an icy smear further up).  There are a few switchbacks on this section of trail. 

This last half-mile is a workout, which was what we wanted. The rocky brook-like terrain was mushy and slippery but no problem for the Microspikes. 

More than a few hikers without traction turned around here.

Up and up until we got to the junction of the Avalon Spur. 

An exciting 100 yards! 

Did we think it was steep before?  We headed to the fun (short) scramble up to the toothy rocks of the summit. 

Rich on the short scramble.

These jagged rocks are the summit of Mt. Avalon.

Amazing views of Mt. Washington, the Highland Center and the Notch!  

Highland Center, Saco Lake and Mt. Washington.

We marveled at the view, drank, took photos and headed back way too soon.  But our break ended at 4 and we didn't want to be late.  Moreover, the sun sets VERY quickly in the Notch, bringing the cold and the dark.

Conditions on the trail we'd just walked up had deteriorated. 

Didn't take long for the lower sections to turn to mud.
We were down by 3:30, showered and back at the Information Desk by 4, feeling like we make the most of our break. 

I highly recommend Mt. Avalon for the best of half-day hikes.  Perfect for the visitor wanting to eek out one more hike in the Whites before heading back home. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

#44 Owl's Head Mountain, New Hampshire

#44 Owl's Head Mountain (4,025') via Lincoln Woods, Franconia Brook and Lincoln Brook trails, and Owl's Head Path, July 31, 2010.

Mileage:  18 miles (RT) 

Elevation gain:  2,850'

Lincoln Woods trailhead on Rt 112, the Kancamagus Highway (Latitude :44.063906 Longitude : -71.588274). Parking area is approx 5 miles east of I-93 on the left just after crossing the Pemigewasset River. A WMNF parking pass is needed, sold at the ranger station. There are bathroom facilities.
Lesson learned: Weeks of research pays off.

Hiked with Rich, Sandy, Joe and Jen. We hiked the traditional route without bushwhacks: Lincoln Woods Trail to Franconia Brook Trail to Lincoln Brook Trail across both Franconia and Lincoln Brooks, and then Owl's Head Path to the summit and back.  18.4 miles round trip (to the true summit,which is north of the old summit). 
Weeks of planning went into this hike to determine how to find Owl's Head Path to the summit, and if the bushwhacks were the way to go (and if so, how to find them). Sandy and I tried to get friends who'd hike it to go with us but no takers.  We had so many questions and wanted so much detail - we thank those who helped us out (particularly Bob J who gave us detailed directions to the start of the unmaintained trail).  

Why such a fuss over finding Owl's Head Path?  It's an unmaintained trail which means the US Forest Service routinely removes cairns and signs in the Pemi Wilderness in an effort to maintain the.. ah...wilderness.  Reports indicate a cairn, and a sign, and then no cairn - we were not about to leave anything to chance 8 miles in! 

After talking with hiking buddies Pam and Norm, our group decided not to bushwhack but to take on the two extra miles in favor of a smooth path. It was a good move, particularly since we were in the middle of a dry weather pattern. 

We had a nice day, sunny with some clouds by the summit.  The weather was mid 70s and dry, unlike the hot humid weather Pam had the weekend before.  I think this made a big difference for us.

We got to the Lincoln Woods trailhead around 6:15 (waking around 3:00 and heading out the door by 4 that morning!). We started up the wide path (old road) toward Franconia Brook trail.  I'd brought water purifying pills and an extra pair of shoes, just in case. We all brought our headlamps and some extra batteries (which we now carry on all our hikes). 

Quite simply we didn't know what to expect on such a long hike.  We'd never gone this distance.  

Turn here.

We had water shoes for the crossings but only needed them on the first one. We could see where the first bushwhack meets the trail just after this crossing.

The trails to and from the Owlshead slide path (8 miles each way) were flat and for all but about two miles, rootless and rockless. (When was the last time you hiked a path like that?)

It was a wonderful walk - like those pictures of old carriage roads, straight and flat so you can see way down them, with the green droopy trees on either side meeting in the middle like a canopy over the trail.

Some mud here and there but relatively dry ground – very few bugs. One of the big water crossings was a rock hop; the other we used our flip flops (mid calf in the deepest parts). It felt good to be in the water, especially on the way back.

Finding the Owl's Head Path.  We were fortunate that Bob J and Pam had done this hike the weekend before.  He was able to give a very good description and good thing too - no cairn or sign at the junction on this day.  Bob wrote:

"Just before you reach the slide you will pass the last stream crossing and the trail will take on the appearance of small broken up gravel for about fifty to sixty feet (around 8 miles in). Keep looking to your right and you will see the path up marked by two parallel logs about four feet apart. There is also a crudely blazed arrow carved into a small tree trunk and a rock cairn. (We found it without a problem.)

The trail up the slide is a free-for-all but once you get closer to the top it becomes a regular trail. You will reach the original summit first but if you continue on you'll drop down a little and then back up to a higher 'new summit'".
And that's just what we did. 

The slide.  This was a fun and challenging hike up, a bit unnerving at times because of the scree. There were a few ledges and it was steep and exposed but not too bad.  Rich did well both up and down – but it took time for all of us as it was steep.  Nice views, though.

Hiking up the slide.

The hike down, in my view, was quite treacherous but since I never knew of anyone being injured or having to be rescued from the slide I figured we would get down okay.  To turn, twist, break, wrench, pull, or sprain anything there would have been trouble – we had a long hike back.
I used every muscle in my body to get down – I hiked up and down close to the side of the slide, grabbing trees like Pam had advised but still it was all arm strength keeping me from going down farther than I wanted to with each step. 

I am assuming this part of the hike is easier in winter as most take the Brutus Bushwhack and not this route.  (Going down the slide is really the only iffy part of the hike.) 
 The rest of the trail after the slide was muddy and rooty, quite inhospitable. We got to the old summit (well marked) and used the GPS, heading north, to get to the new summit (both summits qualify for the AMC Four Thousand Footer Club).   
At the top of the slide is the old summit, with an arrow sending you north.
The new (true) summit is located at the end of a gnarly, rooty path; Rich used the GPS to find it. On top we celebrated Sandy’s #48 peak!
Not convinced we were there 'til I looked waay up in this tree!
At the cairn on the summit.
Since this was Sandy’s 48th we celebrated a little longer than we should have up there. We had lots of company too, many hikers out yesterday. 
Headed down the slide about 1:30  and then out to the maintained trails – got back to our cars at 6:59.  18.4 miles  2895’ 12 hours and 23 minutes.  We were not fast, not slow – and we stopped a lot, actually went for a swimming in Franconia Brook!.  Flat trails make a big difference!
Glad it is done. #44 for me; 38 for Rich (who is icing his knee but otherwise is fine). I brought back a rock from the slide. The only other time I have done that is on Mt. Washington with the Mommas. 

The distance of the this hike is easily doable if the weather is good and water crossings low. The only complaint I had was that we had to leave the house at 4 a.m. to get to the trailhead. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

#85 Pico Peak, Vermont

Pico Peak, VT (3,957') via Sherburne Pass and Pico Link Trails October 26, 2013

Mileage:  5.8 miles (RT) - took us just over four hours

Elevation gain:  

Trailhead:  Trail begins at height of land at Sherburne Pass, across the
street from the Inn at Long Trail, 709 Route 4, Killington, VT (past Killington Road and before Pico Mountain Ski Resort).

Lesson learned:   Don't lock yourself in the cabin!

Hiked with Rich today.  Pico Peak is not the smallest peak on the New England Hundred Highest list but it just may be the easiest with just over 2,000' gain on a mild 2.9 mile route. 

This was my last "listed" peak bag for the calendar year; #85 seemed like a good stopping point. We arrived at the parking lot around 10:30, surprised and delighted to see other cars in the lot (always nice to meet others on the trail).   

Parking lot is well marked, can't miss it!

The Inn at Long Trail across the street.

To the right of the Inn is the entrance for the Long Trail northbound.  At one time the Sherburne Pass trail was the Long Trail southbound but now hikers must travel .8 miles west on Route 4 and cross the road to pick up the trail (which at the time of the reroute must have really been depressing for the owners of the Inn!).

Most hikers we saw today were wearing orange - lots of it. Since New Hampshire's hunting season doesn't get rolling until the first of November we weren't too worried about it and half-heartedly brought an orange hat and red jacket.  Good thing we did.  We found out later that this was Vermont's opening weekend for hunting. 

Pico ski resort has a webcam which we viewed the day before so we knew there'd be some snow. We headed up the blue blazed trail.

First half of the trail is quite mellow.

The snow cover thickened as we traveled.

The trail is well established and ascent gradual; we barely broke a sweat. Trail maintenance crews were out (in orange vests) digging run-off channels. One asked if we saw the sinkholes; limestone has been washing away for years in one area by the trail called Sink Hole Brook - at 1.1 miles. We would check this out on the way back 

At about 2 miles we came to the ski slope with the beautiful views.

One moment we're in the woods, the next we're on a ski slope!

Some hikers go no further, enjoying the view from here.
After a few photos we walked the few hundred feet up the slope where the hiking trail re-enters the woods - on the same side (the trail does not cross the ski slope).  
Up the ski slope.

Duck back in (same side).

Some people avoid this next section of trail, opting to go straight up the slope toward the summit which cuts .4 mile from the trip.  We decided to continue on via the hiking trail which I can only describe as uninspiring. The path follows the contour of the mountain (no up, slight down) and it's rough and rooty most of the way to Pico Camp.

This ho-hum section of trail does have some cute "spruce-let" fields!

Cabin sleeps about 10.
Several people were already in the cabin when we reached Pico Camp. We stepped inside for lunch out of the cold wind and started a conversation with three hikers from Germany (they were touring New England). We shut the sticky door hard when they left which apparently locked it FROM THE OUTSIDE (the hook was in just the right position and engaged when the door shut).  Once we realized we were locked in, we became two crazy people yelling, "help! get us out of here!" from inside the cabin. 
The nice couple hiking down the mountain who opened the door for us must've wondered how we got locked in! 
Once outside - and feeling pretty foolish - we made our way to the summit. Directly behind the cabin is the Pico Link trail. Thinking this trail is really steep I put on my microspikes and I was getting cold too so I put on my ski mittens.

The trail does steepen and pops out onto a maintenance road and it's clear where the trail crosses the road and ducks back into the woods.  Soon it pops out again, this time on the Forty-niner ski trail.  As recommended in Day Hiker's Guide to Vermont we noted where we came out of the woods to find our way back easily. 

A short hike up a windy slope brought us to the lift and the "Information" building.

The "Information" building. Not as cold and windy as anticipated.

Reports indicate the summit marker is a blue blaze on a rock several yards behind the information building. We climbed the stairs and started looking for it but with the snow cover we couldn't see rocks or a blue blaze.  I walked all around the summit, settling on a pile of rocks near a water pipe that appears to be on the height of land.

Quite the dramatic view of Killington from Pico (Cell tower to the right). 

After traipsing around the summit, taking a few photos and giving up on the fruitless attempt to find that blue blaze, we started back down by way of the Forty-niner trail.

You can also head down the 49er to Summit Glade & pick up the Sherburne .4 mile down.

Where you come off of 49er trail (if taking the Sherburne Pass trail down).

Where you cross the maintenance road in to the woods.

Frankly I'm amazed Rich went back into that cabin on our way back. We made sure we didn't shut the door this time! He changed his shirt, had a snack and met me outside to continue the hike down.

Back on that short walk on the ski slope, duck in by the red sign.

The trip back was uneventful; we stopped for a bit where the hiking trail meets the ski slope (views are breathtaking).

Fairly close to the trailhead parking, we heard laughter and passed several people playing in Sink Hole Brook. There we spotted the second sink hole nearby (hard to miss, not sure how we did on the way up).  

In no time we were back at the car, taking off our muddy boots and heading east to the Long Trail Brewing Company for a beer sampler.  Our waiter kept bringing over glasses of different varieties for us to try.  What  friendly place and great ending to this mellow hike. (Can't wait to continue my NEHH list next year!)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Big Slide, NY (ADK 2/46) 9/28/13

Big Slide Mountain, NY (4,240') via the Brothers, Slide Brook and Phelps Trails September 28, 2013

Trails 15 (Big Slide), 13 (Slide Brook) and 1 (Phelps) in the ADK Mountain Club High Peaks Trails Guide.

Mileage:  9.5 miles (loop)

Elevation gain: 

Trailhead:  Trail begins at a popular parking area called The Garden, 1.6 miles west of the village of Keene Valley.  Route 73 to Keene Valley and heading east you'll see signs shortly after passing Marcy Field, take a right and follow the road to the end.  The Garden parking area is small and fills up quickly (sometimes by 6 a.m.).  Hikers park at Marcy Field, a well marked overflow parking area on Route 73, taking the shuttle bus up to the Garden (a few miles' distance).  Parking is free at Marcy Field (there is a fee at the Garden of $7); shuttle fee is $5.

Lesson learned: Remember to pick up the other car before driving all the way home!  

Hiked with a reluctant Rich. Rich was not reluctant to hike, or to try someplace new, or even to get away for the weekend.  Rich dreaded the 5 hour drive that preceded this hike, a complaint you'll see in previous hiking reports.  But Lake Placid was actually only four hours from where we worked and I convinced him if we left directly from work, it'd be an easier ride.

So Rich picked me up at work and we headed up to the Adirondacks, fully intending to pick up my car on our way back on Sunday.

If there's an easy way to get from New Hampshire to the Keene Valley/Lake Placid area I'd like to hear about it.  Once we left I-89 we were on smaller roads dealing with slow cars and even a few mountain notches.  After a long work day and four hour drive, the beer at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery was most welcome!

The plan was to hike Big Slide via the Brothers on day 1, and Cascade and Porter on day 2; a good start to my ADK list, and the last leg to completing my Northeast 111 (actually 115 peaks).

The Garden parking lot

It was a beautifully clear and slightly cool when we got to The Garden around 8:00.  The lot was full (no surprise).  We drove back down to Marcy Field and took the very timely shuttle up to the Garden and the trailhead.  

We registered at the kiosk and then headed right, up the trail.

The trail begins with easy grades; plastic disks nailed to trees lead the way.   Sometimes I wished there were more of these disks particularly in several areas with herd paths.  Being used to blazed trails (a shock of paint on a tree), looking for the disks took some getting used to.

The trail was very crowded, not surprising - the forecast for this fall weekend was warm, windless and clear and foliage was peaking.  The trail steepens -we hopped up and around a few slabs. Wasn't long before we were partially out of the trees and seeing amazing views, particularly of Giant Mountain. 

One of the views on the Brothers.  

The terrain changes to what I would call easy rock scrambling.  Many hikers of all ages were out and we seemed to be somewhere in the middle when it came to pace.  We envied the slender Quebecois, dressed in black who blew up the slabs with ease; we politely passed those in sneakers and a few well respected old timers with their "46er" patches.
Never did know exactly when we were on each of the three Brothers.  I looked for some sign, a cairn or something and after a while I just assumed each viewpoint or bump was one of them.

Shout out to my LaSportiva's - you guys were very sticky on the steeps!

More slab walking, a few scrambles.

Turns out each bump was the Brothers and we reached the trail junction with tired legs.  That's where the fun begins.
Johns Brooks Lodge is actually left, away from Big Slide.

The pushed up the cone ("final very steep clamor" as 100 Classic Hikes of the Northeast calls it) enjoying each little challenge.  There are small scrambles and a few diversions (small paths that lead to a view of the slide). One spot where we headed left by a large rock turned out to be a viewpoint.  When you get to this spot (seems the natural pathway) head right - unless you want to view the slide (a steep rock face). There are stairs too, not quite ladders in my book, let's call them hybrids.
There are two hybrid stairs; one new and one not.

The top was C-R-O-W-D-E-D! We met a mom and her teenage daughter and between bites of our sandwiches we talked about making this trip a loop, going down Slide Brook and Phelps trail (our original plan was to go up and back the Brothers - it's shorter mileage-wise and the views going down are to die for!).  

Crowded summit on this beaut of a day!

We were loving this hike!

Although over a mile longer, the Slide Brook trail is a tad more mellow than the Big Slide trail and we found the mellow part more appealing than going back over the Brothers.

So we returned via the Slide Brook and Phelps trails, making a 9.5 mile loop. This trail is very mellow with a not-so-steep descent at first, breaking into a very moderate pitch.  There are at least six water crossings on this trail (all the same brook!).  This area is tricky.  

Keep an eye out for cairns, footprints, survey tape and obvious paths.

We saw some disks indicating where the trail continues over the crossing.

The path seems to melt into the brook and we searched around for the trail. Some of the trail is the brook (the side of it) and in some spots our only clues were wet boot prints and worn earth. There are disks on trees in this area but it took some looking to find where the path went and one area had a cairn and surveyor tape where I felt a disk should be. A walk about 100' down that path confirmed we were on the right track. 

The Phelps trail is flat for the most part and we zipped along toward The Garden, skipping a visit to the John Brooks Lodge. We got back mid-afternoon, took the shuttle to the car and went back to the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery for a beer.  

Rich wasn't feeling up to hiking the next day (we were out of shape!) so instead we canoed Lake Placid, had lunch at the Noon Mark Diner and headed home.

Yes I was disappointed we didn't hike Cascade/Porter but who doesn't love a good paddling!

Our trip home was leisurely - we took our time, had ice cream, bought apples, went to dinner.  A bit too leisurely - we realized when we arrived home and opened the garage door that we'd left my car at my place of work! We weren't about to drive the 50 minutes back; I was able to catch a ride with a friend the next day.  

Big Slide via the Brothers was an excellent choice to start my Adirondacks. The hike gave us a workout with fun scrambles and lots of view-reward.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

#84 Dorset Peak, Vermont 9/1/13

#84 Dorset Peak (3835’) via logging, ATV roads and foot paths September 1, 2013

Mileage:  6.7 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  2,206'

Trailhead: Trailhead is located at the end of Tower Road in Dorset, VT. 
Take Route 30 in Brattleboro to Route 11/30 through Manchester to Dorset. Turn right on Dorset Hollow Road, turning right at the first junction (.8 mi).  Continue on Lower Hollow Road which becomes Tower Road.  Drive to the end of the houses and as far in as you dare; some parking is available about 100 feet beyond on the right - we parked on the side of the road.

The parking area 100' in (Tower Road on the left).

The hike to the peak starts on the Tower Road (which quickly becomes impassable for vehicles). 

Lesson learned:  It pays to get the most recent trail reports!

Hiked with Rich who has been very understanding of my desire to bag the Vermont peaks on the New England Hundred Highest list (a list I am working on).  His chief complaint: distance from our house on the New Hampshire seacoast to the trailheads.  We stayed in Keene this weekend to attend a wedding and made the most of our close proximity to Vermont by driving to Dorset the next day to hike Dorset Peak.

Actually we were going to hike Mt. Equinox but the weekend brought unsettled weather and socked-in summit conditions.  No matter. One of the joys of still having a bunch of peaks left to bag is that you have options. We'll save Equinox for a nicer day.

The Dorset Peak hike is detailed on page 49 of the Green Mountain Club's Day Hiker's Guide  to Vermont.   Note: the trail description is pre-Tropical Storm Irene and indicates bearing right at all forks or turns for the first three miles. There's a washout about .9 miles in, however that requires a diversion via a herd path on the left.  This is not indicated in the Guide.  I'd also read trip reports from Views from the Top, Franklinsites, and It's Not About the HikeI brought these reports and the Guide with me. 

We got a late start and wound up at the trailhead at 11:00 (not a fan of late starts particularly when heading to an officially "trail less" peak).

Much of this hike is on roads and ATV trails; wide and gravelly.  Our walk parallels a brook. The road has easy grades - though deteriorated in places. 

We walked through wildflowers.

About 9/10 of a mile in the road ends abruptly, crumbling into a massive washout.  The Guide simply states that we follow the wooded road, staying right at all forks.  To our right was a jumble of blow downs, clearly no path.  I fished the trip reports out of my pack and sure enough found reference to this washout and to a herd path to the left. We descended into the washout and crossed over to a clearly defined herd path.

The herd path starts across the washout.

I guess you could call the path a "reroute" but there are other small paths shooting off from this one and we became confused. As long as we kept an eye on the washed out area we figured we would find the road again - and we did.

Back on the road only a minute and we came upon the hunting cabin which for me was reassurance we were on the right path.

Hunting cabin coming into view.

The path gets steep. You'd think an old dirt road would make for a pleasant stroll in the woods but this one's steep and gravelly for an unrelenting solid mile.  The humidity drenched us as we continued up, hiking parallel to a ravine.

We saw this cairn near a stream but couldn't figure out why it was there.

The trail levels out and the road intercepts another wooded road. 

Note the small cairn at this "T" intersection. Turn right.

We turned right and headed up (easier grades here) until we reached a fork in the road.  An ATV road heads up to the right and the Guide states we are to go right (there was no cairn).  We headed up the ATV road until we saw a small cairn and a rough footpath heading right, up into the woods. This is the turnoff to the south peak.  I wanted to visit the north peak first (my destination) so we kept walking straight ahead and found ourselves at Dorknob Junction.

I'd seen the pictures and heard so much about the tree with the doorknobs but was surprised at how subtle the knobs are, so brown and low on the tree.  And, the junction feels so remote.  Here we are standing at a four corners with trails on all sides up in God-knows-where. We hadn't seen a soul on the entire trip.  The tired old trees are covered with moss and lichen. The mist creeping in gave such a hush to our surroundings.
Wonder if I would've found the doorknobs had I not been looking.
Plastic sign kinda says it all.
We headed left at the junction through ferns and around mossy rocks.  I kept looking up for some sign of a bump, a height of land that was the north peak. 
We reach another junction, a crossroads of two trails, incredible that such well defined trails crisscross so deep in the woods. 
Old signs at the 2nd junction indicate 2/10 of a mile to the summit.

The path is quite muddy in spots but a small ascent takes us out of that and on to an emerald carpet and finally to the peak.
Thick green moss everywhere.  Has to be the north peak!
We reached the Dorset sign, remains of an old cabin, the pitcher and a pail.  The summit canister is easy to open and we signed the register.  I flipped through the pages while eating lunch. 
'Sup with that summit sign?
The clouds rolled in on us as we packed up and headed back to the junction.  At the junction we went straight to south peak (which is about a half mile from north peak).  As the plastic sign indicates, there are the remains of an old tower in a clearing, with a cool metal ladder on a tree.
South peak. Nothing to write home about.
After a few photos we took that rough footpath down to the ATV road.  There's a big tree in the path that's a fairly recent blow down, no signs of a walk around.   
The blow down in the mist on the path to the south peak.
The trip down was quick, though footing on the steeper gravelly sections was tricky at times.  We passed the hunting cabin and had no problem following the path around the washout, continuing on it until we could see where it crossed over. 

Rich crossing the washout.

We got down around 3:30, jumped in the car and headed to Manchester to shop and eat.  Although the wooded road and predictable terrain are a bit boring, the junctions are cool and paths in good condition. It was fun.