Sunday, June 28, 2015

Galehead Mountain (4,024') via Gale River, Garfield Ridge and Frost trails 6/27/15

Mileage: 9.9 (RT)

Elevation gain: 2,617'

Trailhead: I-93 north to Route 3 (Twin Mountain exit  - north of Franconia Notch). The Gale River trailhead is located on Gale River Loop Road off Route 3. The turn is directly across from Trudeau Road. Follow the Gale River Loop Road for about 1.6 miles to the trailhead (bearing right at the fork). Road is closed in the winter.

Hiked with Rich.  We chose Galehead for no other reason than it's been while since we'd done it and we needed to get out and up.

We hiked Galehead as part of our NH 48 four thousand footers back in 2009 (see previous report). Things had changed a bit since that report. Specifically, water crossings.

Two significant water crossings have been eliminated.  The trip up to Galehead hut now involves several small crossings and a few bridges.  Since 2011 one mile of the trail has been rerouted away from the river.

Trail's pretty flat in the beginning.

Windy stairs mark the start of the reroute.

The reroute's not pretty: overturned trees, blowdowns and a muddy path await you, but the change is better for hikers and for the river.

Water crossing. No biggie.

The trail is mellow at first and as we chatted, our elevation increased (subtly).  

As we knew would happen, things steepen considerably about 2+ miles in, until just below the Garfield Ridge trail junction.

Trail does steepen.
From here it's less steep to the hut, but rocky.

View from the hut - breathtaking!

After lunch we tagged the summit of Galehead, much as we remembered.

Frost trail leads you to the summit

View from the overlook -  just below the summit (that's the hut down there).


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

White Cap (#96) and North Kennebago Divide (#97), June 20, 2015

White Cap (3,856') and North Kennebago Divide (3,775'), ME via logging roads, herd paths and bushwack, 6/20/15

Mileage: 5.1

Elevation gain: 1,763'

Trailhead: (Allow over an hour for this drive)

- From Route 27 Stratton, ME take Tim Pond Road (a left turn, 2.9 miles north of Cathedral Pines Campground - has a sign) for 17.3 miles. Road is graded but rough.
- Turn right on Kennebago River Road (which is opposite Kennebago Kamp) and proceed for 3.1 miles to the first major left.
- Go left and over the bridge and bear right onto Bear Brook Road (also a rough road). 
- Travel 3.8 miles on Bear Brook Road to the parking area on left (your vehicle will not be able to drive further due to logging debris). 

Special thanks to Matt's Hikes and Damselfly for providing the most useful information in preparation for this trip, and to Sarah who'd done this hike before but came anyway (doesn't get better than that).

Hiked with Sarah, Denise, Marielle, Frank, Matt, Dennis, Dolly, Danielle and Katie on the sunniest of days.  Temps were in the 70s and bugs were at a minimum. 

The plan was to hike the roads/paths up to the summit of White Cap, descend (backtrack) to the col and bushwhack over to the summit of North Kennebago Divide.

The group met at the campground and caravanned to the parking area that marks the start of the hike. Taking Kennebago River Road instead of Wiggle Brook Road was quicker, simpler and easier on our cars.  Bear Brook Road is rough, with parts of it covered in logging slash but our vehicles made it no problem (3 SUVs and one truck).

Crossing the bridge.
Bear Brook Road is RIGHT THERE, after the bridge.
Parking area.

The grassy road described in reports isn't visible from the parking area due to recent logging activity. Deep ruts, churned earth and three feet deep debris/slash accurately describes the portion of Bear Brook Road that's beyond the parking area.  

We trudged up that messy road trying to stay upright over the massive tangle of roots, branches and dead tree trunks until we found that grassy road, on the right a little further up.  

This mess of debris was hiding that pretty road.

The grassy road was muddy at first but the surface improved and we had a nice walk.

Take this road.

As we walked I remembered Damselfly reporting that she'd found a path coming in on the left at about 3,200' that leads up to the summit of North Kennebago Divide.  

Danielle and Katie were up front looking for it. 

Sure enough it was there marked with a small cairn. I set a waypoint (just in case) and we resumed our hike up the grassy road to White Cap. 

At 3,450' we saw a small cairn and went right.

Danielle adding to that small cairn.

At 3,700' we saw a bigger cairn and to our left, the log with the small cairn. This is the start of the path that leads to the summit of White Cap. Go left.

Larger cairn that marks the path.

Small cairn on log.

The path is easy to follow with a rough spot or two near the top.  We stopped at the summit canister to sign in and take a few photos before turning around. 

The path is easy to follow.
Dolly and Dennis at the canister.

Heading back down from the summit of White Cap we discussed where we'd start the trek up to North Kennebago Divide.  Previous reports indicate bushwhacking over from the White Cap summit is tough, with nasty spruce traps.  Many hikers descend and start their 'whacking from the cairn at 3,450' (where we turned right).

When we got down to that location we decided instead to try out Damselfly's herd path. We were desperate to avoid those pesky spruce traps!

So we continued to descend - all the way to Damselfly's herd path at 3,200' and immediately jumped on it.

Area where the 3200' herd path starts.

But, like all good plans, the key to success is actually paying attention to what you're doing and where you're going!

Not five minutes on the path (GPS showed us at an elevation of 3,257') we took a right at a small cairn which took us off the path and into open woods.

We should have taken a left (but didn't know it at the time). We searched the immediate area for the path. Try as we might, none of us could find it so we simply headed up the slope in a southerly direction, checking the GPS and our compasses regularly. 

Bushwhacking through the stick forest.

Bushwhacking continued with us braving the stick forest looking for that path. We were heading through the woods up the spine to the summit.  The path reappeared late in the game at 3,495' and with several cairns on the way to reassure us, we arrived at the summit in no time.  

On our way up we could see White Cap off in the distance.

The summit area is a small "bump" with a glass jar attached to a tree.  We signed in, had lunch, took photos and headed back down that same path.

The "canister."

The group resting before heading down.

As others have reported, the path down is easy to follow (down the spine), and toward the end we made sure we took a hard right where we'd made our mistake at that first (now last) small cairn.

Back at the grassy road, Danielle and Katie bolted ahead to the parking area as they planned to also hike Cupsuptic Snow.  The rest of us took our time getting back to the cars.

The herd path at 3,200' has a few tricky spots going up and we fell victim to them but the woods are open in this area and our ability to advance toward the top was rarely hampered.  We were able to avoid spruce and unpleasant terrain.  Many paths have small cairns and we added to them but since ATVs and snowmobiles may use the area in winter, there's no assurance these cairns will remain in place. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

South Baldface via Baldface Circle, Baldface Knob and Slippery Brook Trails, June 6, 2015

South Baldface (3,547') via Baldface Circle, Baldface Knob and Slippery Brook Trails, 6/6/15.

Mileage: 8.4 (lollipop loop)

Elevation gain: 3,194'

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.

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!).

Hiked with Norm, Becky, Mark, Sandy, Joe and Rich.  I do this hike every few years (see previous reports) and when I feel I need a crash course in slab confidence.  The scrambles up the exfoliating granite "face" of South Baldface mountain are good practice for negotiationg iffy ledges and steeply angled slabs.  

This year I opted to tag the summit of South Baldface and head back via Baldface Knob and Slippery Brook trails, making for a shorter hike with less elevation gain - in consideration of my healing knee. I had reservations about doing this hike at all given the demands of the ledge scrambles but opted to go for it (and yes, my knee was sore for a few days afterwards).

Heights and exposure make me uneasy, which is why I invited several friends to join me. Heights are also out of my husband Rich's comfort zone and I'm very glad he decided to do this hike.

The morning was cool and clouds were starting to dissipate from the summits as we pulled into the parking lot (this lot can fill up fast). It would be a clear day, perfect for those 360° ridge views.

We crossed the street and walked about 50 yards (north) to the trailhead.  

The wide path has easy grades.  When we came to the lower end of Slippery Brook trail I made a mental note of the area.
From here the Circle trail steepens.

Junction of Slippery Brook trail. We would come out here.

We took a break at the Baldface shelter, put our poles away and headed up the steep slabs, which turn into a series of rock scrambles.

The shelter.

Slabs start out steep but quite doable.

Friends assisting with the scrambles
That very nasty angled slab wasn't so hard this year!

Negotiating the "face" takes about an hour.  The adrenaline rush and uneasiness subsided as I tackled each scramble  - and I looked forward to the next challenge.  

A "hole" in the rocks (where you can climb over or duck in and up through) marks the end of the scrambling. 

Took my pack off and crawled through the "hole" and up to the ledge.

After the scrambles I found walking up steep slabs no big deal. We march up toward the trail junction which is marked by a cairn (and is by no means the summit of South Baldface).

With the scrambling over we enjoyed the view as we caught our breaths.

A new challenge faced us: wind.  With our poles in our packs (along with our jackets), and without the protection of the ledges we had a full force wind to deal with.  Twice I was knocked to my knees (one knee was already unhappy with the scrambling). Making our way crouched - sometimes stopping that way until it subsided  - we got to the junction, hiding behind the cairn for protection.  

Making their way through the wind to the trail junction.

The group layered up, ate lunch and headed over to South Baldface. 
Some of the trail is in the trees and out of the wind. 

But mostly in the wind.

View of the trail to South Baldface from the junction cairn.

We didn't linger on South Baldface, just took a few photos and said our goodbyes.  Here is where Mark, Norm and I turned around and headed toward Baldface Knob and Slippery Brook trails. 

Sandy, Becky, Joe and Rich continued on the Circle trail.

Summit of South Baldface.
The guys on the summit.

We backtracked to the junction and took Baldface Knob trail, which dipped down out of the wind.

On our way back from South Baldface.
Headed to the Slippery Brook trail via Baldface Knob trail.
Following an overgrown, scrubby path, we briefly ducked into the trees. Soon we popped out onto Baldface Knob, which has a small wind shelter. We continued on further to get completely out of the wind before we stopped to finish our lunch.  

The summit of Bald Knob. Nice views.

Down we went - a steep trail (for a short time) that mellowed into a peaceful green wood.   This path is an easy and quick walk to the junction of Slippery Brook trail.

Bald Knob/Slippery Brook trail junction.

One sweet, mellow trail!

We took our time going down this trail (that never got very steep).  It was wide and clean - it was great.  We met a trail crew sawing a fallen tree.

Things changed as we closed in on the end of the Slippery Brook trail, however.  It's muddy and messy, with the occasional old road or path and downed tree. We got confused in a few areas, not sure if the tree lying in the path was down, or placed there so we wouldn't go that way.  

Thankfully there are a lot of blazes in this area. The trail turns right and then makes a series of turns. All blazes are bright yellow and frequent, and double blazes alert to these turns. Soon we were back at the junction of the Circle trail, making our way to the car and the Moat for a beer.

The others completed the circle and instead headed to Ebenezers to sample the large selection of brews.
Stopped off for a beer....

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Mt. Eisenhower via Edmands Path, May 30, 2015

Mt. Eisenhower (4,780') via Edmands Path, 5/30/15 (Revised 7/1/19)

Mileage: 6.6 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 2,750'

Trailhead: Edmands Path trailhead is located on Mt. Clinton Road (closed in winter), Bretton Woods, 2.3 miles from Route 302 - near AMC Highland Center. 2019 update:  Mt. Clinton Road is closed beyond the Edmands Path trailhead due to storm damage. 

Road is not passable beyond the trailhead.

Hiked with Rich, Sandy, Joe and Claire.  This is my third time to the summit of Mt. Eisenhower - all via Edmands Path - (see previous reports), but today's hike is my first post-knee-surgery four thousand footer peak.  It had been 80 days since the removal of 25% of the meniscus on my right knee. I wondered how it would hold up.

We started out in the cool of the morning, parking on the side of Mt. Clinton Road as the trailhead lot was already full. There were hiking groups, solo trekkers with dogs, and several mountain bikers hell-bent on hiking up and riding down.

Heading up the mellow trail.

The trail starts out mellow with a few small water crossings. Eventually it steepens, but never drastically. Nursing a cold I breathed heavily as I ascended.  The knee was in a neoprene brace (only as an added precaution) and showed no signs of a struggle.

2019 update: About two miles from the trailhead we passed through an area of destroyed trees, most likely damage from the Halloween 2017 storm (see related article). Trees large and small are leaning at a near 45° angle; sad and ugly.

Trail crews cleared the path after the 2017 storm.

Wet slabs of varying size and steepness. 

As we went higher the trees shortened with partial views to our left. This part of the trail is cut into the side of the mountain.

Looking left and down for views of the Mt. Washington Hotel and the Cog.

The trail rose above the trees as we walked toward the ridge.

We got to the junction of the Mt. Eisenhower Loop trail and headed that way.  This was an up and back for us, no loop today.

From the sign, the trail goes right and up the rocky summit cone - via easy switchbacks - to get to the summit.

Looking down at the trail from the top of the switchbacks.

Trail system on the ridge.

We could clearly see the summits of Mts. Monroe and Washington and points behind them, though there was some haze further out.  A gentle breeze cooled us but didn't keep the bugs away unfortunately.  They were fierce!

Summit shot.

The summit cairn was a welcome sight. We had lunch and headed down, dodging the fierce black flies.

We made it down to the car quickly (swarms of bugs will do that to you!). As we descended the heat and humidity increased.  I iced my knee when I got to the car simply as a preventative measure - it was fine (been a long time since I've had a painfree hike!).  We went to the Moat for a beer.