Sunday, June 30, 2013

Carter Dome and Mt. Hight June 22, 2013

Carter Dome (4833') and Mt. Hight (4675') via Nineteen Mile Brook, Carter-Moriah, Zeta Pass and Carter Dome Trails, June 22, 2013. 

Distance: 10.2 miles (lollipop loop)

Elevation gain: 3,600'

Trailhead:  The Nineteen Mile Brook trailhead is located on Route 16 several miles north of Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.  $3. to park. 

Carter Dome is a New Hampshire 4k and I was looking forward to revisiting that summit (see previous post).  None of us had done Mt. Hight however, so we were looking forward to the adventure.  Mt. Hight is on the Trailwrights list (a list I am not working on but you may be!).

We stayed in North Conway the night before and got a late start (still room at trailhead parking though).  Thunderstorms were predicted but for us this was a "no pressure" conditioning hike; we would modify our plans if need be to stay safe.  All we really wanted to do was condition our legs and get out in the woods.

After some discussion, we decided to do the "lollipop" loop counter-clockwise, taking a left at the Carter-Moriah trail junction, climbing steeply up to the summit of Carter Dome, hopping on Zeta Pass to the summit of Mt. Hight (if weather allows), and then proceeding down Carter Dome trail back to Nineteen Mile Brook trail.

Trail is very mellow to the junction of Carter-Moriah trail.

Not much to write about the hike up to the Carter-Moriah trail junction. We met other hikers and saw that someone had made camp at the junction (we'd meet those ladies later that day).  We turned on to the Carter-Moriah trail, descending immediately to the pond below (one of the two ponds called the "Carter Lakes").

AMC's Carter Notch hut is just beyond the pond. 

Around the pond we walked and then up the steepest part of our hike.  The last time we hiked Carter Dome we descended this part of the trail, which I recall being steep and exposed but going in the opposite direction? .... not so much.

Steep, but not as exposed as I remembered.

Beautiful views of Wildcat on this side of the trail.

Sandy standing at the edge, Carter Notch hut is waaay down there!

We were wet with sweat from exertion when we arrived at the cairn just before the summit of Carter Dome. It started drizzling.  People were milling around on the summit, resting on the base of the fire tower.  We had a leisurely lunch and proceeded down the Carter Dome trail toward Zeta Pass. 

On the way down I turned on my cell phone and checked in on the website, quite a thrill to get a boarding pass at 4,500' in the middle of nowhere!  Cell service has improved in the area over the years.  I can remember hearing that you should never consider your cell phone for communication in the Whites because you won't find service.  Last year, our WFA instructor suggested bringing a cell phone as one form of communication on hikes in the White Mountains (though I would suggest you shut it off while hiking to preserve the battery).   

Zeta Pass came up quickly and we hopped on this mellow trail.  I don't remember much in the way of ascending and before we knew it we were on a rocky top with 360° views.  The rain had stopped.

We would remember this as the "Hight" of our trip.
Our views to the east.
Clouds coming in.
When it came time to head down we scouted around to find the right direction. 

Look toward the east and you'll see this rock with the AT blaze.
 We were quite surprised to find such a steep descent back to Carter Dome trail (so much for reading about the trail ahead of time).  No problem, even though the rain had started back up, we were able to descend in good time. 

That's Pinkham Notch Rt 16, 3.5 miles, not 163.5!
 The rain became more steady when we reach Carter Dome trail.  Things got wet and we stopped to put on raincoats and pack covers.  I'd been on this trail several times but never noticed how lush and beautiful it is.  It was just that kind of a day, no pressure - it's all good!

In the background is a beautiful waterfall- surreal!
Heat and humidity increased as we descended. Things got wetter before they got better but the sun poked through during our last mile, ribbons of light as mist rose up from the raging brook.  We got back to the car, changed out of our wet boots and headed to Moat Mountain for a draft beer. 

What a great day!  The simple act of walking through the woods, up and then down, enjoying the lush of the ferns and the sound of our footfalls made us all very happy. Draft beer helped too. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mt. Marcy, New York (State Highpoint #12)

Mt. Marcy  (5,344') via Van Hoevenberg Trail,  August 23, 2009.

Distance: 14.8 miles

Elevation gain: 3,600'

Trailhead:  Parking is at the Adirondack Loj, I-87 exit 30 to Route 73 toward Lake Placid, 26 miles.  Left on Adirondack Loj Road, 4.6 miles to end.   There is a parking fee. 

Hiked with the Mountain Mommas (Norm, Rich, Charlotte, Eileen, Art, Marie, David). After the long ride to the Lake Placid area and a big meal, the group sat around discussing the hike.

Mt. Marcy is New York's state highpoint and Rich and I were determined to bag this peak.

The group expressed concerns about the weather.  Several of our friends indicated they would not hike in the rain.  We dissected the forecast and discussed waiting a day (showers were a possibility). 

And, we were concerned about the length of the trip; none of us had hiked over 14 miles and some were unsure they'd be able to summit. 

Finally a plan was devised; break the trip into 3 parts.  The group would hike together to Marcy Dam. Those not able to go on would picnic there and head down to the car when ready.  Remaining hikers would hike to Indian Falls and those who wished to could turn back at that point.  Those who continued from that point would shoot for the summit, about three miles from the Falls.

We awoke to cloudy skies.  The group got to the trailhead early to guarantee those wanting to complete the hike could do so in daylight.

Trail sign
View of the summit early on.

Marcy Dam came up quickly and no one was interested in turning around.  We headed toward the falls.

Marcy Dam

Indian Falls is lovely and we lingered a bit, enjoying the view and playing on the rocks.  No turn-arounds.

Charlotte stopped to take a photo (Alpine Cranberry?).

We ascended into the clouds and lost all hope of a view. Still, we were all together continuing on as the trail got steeper and more challenging. 

Heading up toward the summit
Eileen in the mist at the top.

The summit is rocky and bare, and quite busy. We stopped for a few photos before heading back.
Plaque at the summit.

Group photo - we all made it.

Rich and I headed down the mountain with Eileen and Art. Art's knee was injured and going was slow but we got back before sunset.

This is my first Adirondack summit, 12th on my list of state high points. I didn't know it at the time but it would be the start of my quest to complete the Northeast 111

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Baldfaces June 9, 2013

South Baldface (3547’) and North Baldface (3,606') via Baldface Circle and Bicknell Ridge Trails, June 9, 2013.

Mileage:  10 miles (loop)

Elevation gain: 3,600'

Trailhead: From Conway NH, head east on 302/113 to Fryeburg ME, where 113 North takes a sharp left. Take route 113 north about twenty miles. The small parking lot  - plowed in winter- is on the right shortly after a huge brown sign. The trail is a short distance further north on the opposite side of the road.

Lesson learned:  The best way to improve is to challenge your weaknesses!

Hiked with Norm, Charlie, Becky and Mark. This hike is on the 52 with a View list and is listed on the Terrifying 25 (lists I am not working on but you may be!). It was important to me that Norm be on this hike; I knew he'd help me on the ledges and I needed to get over my squeamishness on exposed rocks.  Affectionately called "goat boy" by his friends Norm seems to defy gravity by standing on very angled ledges without effort or the slightest bit of worry. 

I chose this hike today to help me:

    1.  be more confident on scrambles and angled, slippery rock slabs; and
    2.  be certain that my new hiking boots were keepers (I am so picky).

We planned this particular hike as a good prep for next month's Katahdin trip. Norm led the Mountain Mommas up the Baldfaces in 2006 in prep for that group's Katahdin trip. I remember then looking at the cliffs, looking at Norm and saying, "I can't do this." But I did do it and it prepared me for the Hunt trail's boulders and cliffs. I wondered if I'd feel as intimidated this time around. 

Rain delayed the hike until Sunday; scrambling up wet rock was out of the question.  We met at Hannaford's in Conway and carpooled another 35+ minutes to the trailhead in Maine. 

Trailhead  parking is across the street.
My legs felt heavy from the first step and it seemed to take forever to get to the shelter (just two miles) but once there we all looked forward to the challenge of the ledges. 

A break at the shelter helped to renew our energy and enthusiasm.
The slabs start just above the shelter, still wet in places.

At first I was very cautious.  Had to get my "c" (cliff) legs!

The real fun started just above the slabs and rock "stacks."  Going got very slow from this point as we picked our route.   Expect to climb the ledges for at least an hour.  Oh, and the top of the ledges is not the summit of South Baldface, just the trail junction (still a welcome sight though).

Up we went.

Becky's photo gives you an idea of the steeps.

The frame in my pack pressed against my neck, hindering my ability to look directly up for hand holds (so annoying) so Norm loosened my straps, lowering my pack.  Several times Mark helped me and my short legs up to the next rock. Sometimes I found my three points of contact, other times that third point was out of my reach.  I welcomed his lift.

Mark sat above and helped the short ones up!
There are about five areas of steep rock that took extra time to negotiate.  This incredibly angled slab with no hand-holds shown below was the most daunting for me.  A slip would send me off a cliff with a significant drop.  Norm walked it with me.  My boots were great (my old boots would not have given me that level of confidence).

Me on that slab; scarier than it looks I promise! No trees to keep
you from falling off the cliff should you lose your footing.
The steepness eased and we walked on angled slabs to the trail junction. A gray cloud loomed directly above us though we saw blue skies beyond the peaks.  We ate half our lunch at the junction then headed up to the summit of South Baldface. 

Quite the view on the way up!

Trail junction.
We were tired when we hit the junction and rough terrain still lay ahead of us.  Scrambling up the ledges gave me confidence though and I breezed up and down angled slab where normally I would have stepped cautiously.

Looking back at the trail junction. 
The views were breathtaking as we walked the top.  This hike is exposed for the most part though you're never far from the woods if a storm pops up.

Mark enjoying the shelter of the woods.

The North Baldface's rocky summit loomed ahead of us, getting just a leetle closer after each scramble.  Reaching this summit took longer than we thought and we needed food so we picked a spot on the open ridge and ate the rest of our lunch.

Finally, the North Baldface summit- that gray cloud still following us. 

It was windy on the top of North Baldface and we didn't linger (hey, we'd already eaten). We were so over scrambling but still had more to go.  From the summit of North Baldface the trail leads off to the right (behind) the cairn; dropping steeply down and into the woods. 

Where we were. The ledges are waaay left!

It took another 30 minutes of in-and-out of the woods and on-and-off slabs before we reached the last "knob" just before Eagle Crag.  We didn't want to go to Eagle Crag and decided to head down Bicknell Ridge trail. We'd never done Bicknell Ridge trail and knew nothing about it but a hiker we met on the knob assured us it was a mellow trail. 

It was.  Soon we were walking on roots and dirt on a trail that very much resembled our first two miles.  We welcomed the pleasant terrain and Becky and I picked up the pace, making tracks toward the car (leaving the guys in the dust).

Becky (cliffs we'd done hours before are in background).

We left that gray cloud on the summits (it never rained).  Before reaching the trailhead we took a detour to see the Emerald Pool, a lovely, sparkling body of water - bright green (if you take this detour, keep walking the little path - pool is not right off the trail [you'll know it when you see it]).

I highly recommend this hike to anyone looking for beautiful views and a bit of a workout. The Baldfaces are on the "52 with a view" list, btw (a list I am not working on but you may be). 

I love my new hiking boots  - they've proven to be sticky at the right times (they're La Sportivas).  I feel ready for next month's hiking challenges. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Harney Peak, South Dakota (High Point #18 ) September 19, 2010.

Harney Peak, South Dakota  (7,242') via Harney Peak-Sylvan Lake Trail,  September 19, 2010.

Distance: 7 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 1,100'

Trailhead:  For the Sylvan Lake approach, take U.S. route 16 west for about 30 miles to Hill City, SD. Drive through Hill City on 16, and about 3.2 miles out of town turn east onto S.D. route 87. follow this for 6.1 miles to Sylvan Lake recreation area on the north side of the road. Trail starts at the northwest corner of the day use loop road.

Lesson learned:  Steps get you up the steepest part.

Hiked with Rich. I was traveling to Rapid City for work and figured this would be a good time to hike the high point of South Dakota.  Harney Peak has the distinction of being the highest summit east of the Rockies. 
We got to the trailhead around 9 a.m., parked by the lake and headed on a wide path with good footing.

We could see the peak from the distance and wondered how we would get there. It's steep and looks like one would need climbing gear to get to the summit.  But all the information I had on the hike indicates it to be an easy one so we forged on.

This is my first trip to South Dakota and I worried about snakes on the trail but didn't see any. 

How do we get up there?
The landscape is extraordinary with rock jutting up like loaves of French bread.  We couldn't get enough of the views! 
When we got to the really steep area near the summit, we found steps!  Up we went to the lookout tower.
Steps!  These would be great in the Whites!
 The lookout tower was first built in the 1920s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It well build of stone and still in relatively good shape. 

Inside of the building.
We hung out at the top for a while and had lunch, but then kept on the move as the summit is inundated with squirrels!  After exploring the area around the summit building for a bit, we headed back down and spent the rest of the week as tourists. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

#81 Scar Ridge June 2, 2013

Scar Ridge (3774’) via Loon Mountain Ski Trails, Herd Path, Bushwhack June 2, 2013.

Mileage:  8.5 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 2,600'ish

Hiking time: 8 hours

Trailhead: Hike starts at Loon Mountain Ski Resort, Route 112 east of I 93 (exit 32) on the Kancamagus Highway in Lincoln. 

Lesson learned: Stay on the westerly side of the ridge.

If you plan to complete the New England Hundred Highest list you will at some point come face-to-face with the Scar Ridge bushwhack.  Known for being the “hardest bushwhack" on the list, just the mention of the peak can cause bruises, scratches and bug bites to appear.  

My husband would not accompany me to the canister, stating “one bushwhack in my lifetime is enough.” He loaded his GPS with two borrowed Scar Ridge tracks and presented it to me for the trip - to use as a guide should I become disoriented (me - disoriented in the woods?).

None of my seasoned bushwhacker friends would join me; those working on the list had already bagged it (“never again” one said) and those not did not see the value in 'whacking to this homely bump.  Thankfully my friend Gary needed it to complete the list and was willing to do it with me.  In fact, he was hot to “get this one over with” and rejected my last minute suggestion to hike Vose Spur instead.

So it would be Gary and me. We had planned to hike this late last year but cancelled due to weather.  Severe thunderstorms were predicted this time and Gary left it up to me to decide whether or not we go. With the exception of our time on the ski runs the entire trip would be in the woods partially protected from bad weather. And since the forecast called for "isolated" storms, I chose to go for it.

Besides, I’d been studying trip reports and felt we might as well do it now. 

I met Gary in the parking lot of Loon Mountain Ski Resort under blue skies; not a cloud in sight. I was hoping for some cloud cover as I wasn’t about to wear my good sunglasses bulling through the woods.  The Brookway ski trail is located on the far left of the runs.  The trail starts out as a maintenance road. Keep left when the road splits. 

Brookway is a maintenance road off season.

Usually there's an area on ski runs devoid of grass, where facility vehicles travel off season.  Some ski runs even have defined hiking trails (like Saddleback, ME). Not these runs.  We trudged on what resembled plowed earth in semi-tall grass (with an overabundance of ticks).  

Camp III Lodge comes in to view on your right and the climbing effort begins with Lower and then Upper Walking Boss trails. 

Gets very steep above this lodge.
The sun was beating down, the runs are steep and the bugs were fierce both in and out of the sun (particularly those greenheads). 

It's steep but the views are breathtaking. Still not much for clouds.

Huffing and puffing we ascended and none too soon we arrived at the quad chair. It took us about an hour and twenty to get to this spot, longer than we'd expected.  It's a lot of elevation gain!

The top of the run. Finally!
A back country ski trail left of the quad is the path we take and it's plainly marked with a cairn.  We ducked in and made our way down the back country ski cut (rougher than I’d thought it would be). 

Looky there!  A cairn marking the herd path!

About ten minutes in I set a waypoint on the GPS so we could make our way back to the back country ski trail.

Herd path/back country ski cut.

Twenty minutes in the path curves slightly to the left.  Seemed as good a place as any to duck into the woods. Beyond this point it looks like the path deteriorates as it heads north. We started our bushwhack here.

It was a good choice. We headed southeast and started to climb.  Woods are thick but somewhat open.  Our hike was close to the GPS tracks and we were heading up. It was hot and our long pants and shirts were drenched. I was sucking wind, sweating as we climbed through the trees, periodically checking our elevation on the GPS. 

The bugs were unrelenting.  I'm thinking I should've had a bigger breakfast; we should’ve taken more breaks.  We were trying to stay ahead of the storms and keep the bugs from eating us alive.

Things leveled out and our ascent slowed as we reach what was clearly an area of higher ground.  The sun gave way to thickening clouds.  We saw the canister. 


Never saw a herd path until we got here - missed the rock and baby cairn.  

Try as we might we could not get that canister open.  We tapped it with Gary’s Leatherman, wiggled it, moved it up and down but the cover wouldn't budge.  The bugs were crazy biting, impervious to the quart of DEET I slathered on. It was too unpleasant to linger. Before heading back down we took some photos and I quickly ate half of my lunch.  

The woods on the ridge.
Gary took a compass reading and we headed down the summit herd path for a short distance before turning off into the woods. 

That was not a good choice. The next hour was spent wrestling with spruce, sometimes using all our weight to push through.  Spruce are a tight knit group of conifers - literally.  Tree branches seem to "knit together" with branches of neighboring trees forming a dense wall of torture. 

When battling the spruce traps on Scar Ridge I thought of my friend Marie's description of a tough hike.  She'd say, “The bowels of hell opened up and they put a trail there.”  Today, the spruce traps were the bowels of hell. I couldn't see Gary in front of me just several yards ahead. It was like swimming in spongecake (really should've eaten more on this trip!).

We could hear the occasional rumble of thunder. Within half a mile of the back country ski trail we passed a stream.  I cleaned my bloody face and neck.  We eventually closed in on the GPS waypoint which was the back country ski trail.  Once on the trail it would be smooth sailing to Loon, down the runs and to a well deserved beer. Couldn't wait.

But I would have to wait.  The GPS indicated the waypoint was reached but no herd path was in sight. GPS tracking is not that accurate; both the waypoint I set and navigation to it could be off by 20 feet.  We had no idea how close we were to that path. I imagined us walking in circles until way after dark looking for a path that was just a few feet away. I thought of the "Find My I-phone" app on the cell phone in my backpack and wondered, just for a moment, if I could text my husband and get him to locate where we were.  If he could see on the map exactly where the phone was in relation to the quad chair we could simply head in that direction. 

But just then Gary took the lead and we headed north – stumbling onto the trail in less than 3 minutes (I knew we would all along..... sheesh).

Back on the ski runs we stripped down to short sleeves (to hell with the bugs!) and blew down those runs (to hell with our knees!).  A dark cloud appeared.  When we reached Camp III Lodge a storm was upon us.  I ducked into the woods for ten minutes while Gary braved the bolts, enjoying the cool rain.  We continued on. 

The storm passed and all was calm.  A Loon Mountain facility worker came up to us on an ATV, wanting to give us a ride down to safety but we were almost at the bottom.  A little late, guy - the storm had passed (or had it?).

When I rounded the corner I realized why he'd offered.  Past the trees was a midnight black sky - a swirling, angry, boiling purple mess of storm.  I broke into a run and dove into a building as lightning was crashing around me, deck furniture and branches taking flight outside, Gary right behind me.

My filthy sweaty bug-bitten-bloody self had landed in the resort's indoor pool area!  I timidly asked a group of about 10 women in bathing suits if we could ride out the storm there - if we stood on the welcome mat.  They came over to us with towels, wanted to hear all about our adventure and insisted we go in to the locker rooms to clean up.  In the meantime they sat with their drinks by the windows and cheered every time a bolt of lightning crashed nearby.  A warm reception for two really cruddy, smelly strangers.

Overall I was very glad that:

1. I didn’t run out of water on this very hot day (had about 5 tablespoons left in my Camelback).
2. I remembered how to set waypoints on the GPS and head for them.
3. We didn’t get lost (not for long, anyway).
4. The horrendous t-storm arrived when just as we reached the lodging facilities.


Storm over, view of Loon from Common Man (mmmm, beer).

Looking back at our GPS route, it was clear we descended too far to the east.  Spruce traps were abundant; we had no view of Loon Mountain to get a visual bearing. The compass and sun helped us out, and of course the GPS was a good reference.   

Looking back at other trip reports, it appears the "spruce route" down happens to many who venture out to check this off their lists. We are in good company!