Tuesday, February 19, 2019

the White Ledge trail again

Today's hike: 4.3 mi | 3.5 h | 1.2 mph

We snowshoed around the White Ledge Loop again, this morning. It was a fabulous, blue-sky day. We'd had some light snow yesterday, and didn't expect to see any broken trail. In fact, it looked like one or two people had been around the entire loop, either yesterday or today.
White Ledge Trail sign submerged in snow
I like to break trail, so it was a little disappointing. However, on a day like today, you can't stay grumpy for long.
Trail on the approach to the lookout. Animal tracks accompanied us most of the way.
We went counter-clockwise. Once you pass the lookout, you get to the really fun section, where there's wide open space, and you can pretty much make your own trail. It's a moderate downhill walk, and you're basically floating on deep snow. Super fun!
Make your own trail!
Nice hike! I hope the snow keeps coming so we can do this a few more times before the season ends.
narrow trail on the way back

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Boulder Loop Trail after the snow

We got some nice snow on Tuesday of last week. So we went back to check out the Boulder Loop Trail.

The parking lot has been completely plowed, now, so there's plenty of parking, once again. Thank you, government workers!

Driving in, we noted a team of perhaps eight people hauling 3-4 sledges. We thought maybe they were going ice-climbing.

Ever optimistic, we left our snowshoes in the car, taking only our Microspikes, and headed in. We passed the people with sledges, and asked what they were doing. Their plan was to go cook a meal, somewhere up on the trail where there's a view. It was quite an undertaking: they were carrying several heavy-duty pots and pans, and even a set of metal folding chairs!

After passing them and taking off on the left branch of the loop, the snow covering the trail began to get just a little choppy. We weren't post-holing, because the trail had been packed down pretty well by snowshoers over the last week. But our feet were slipping, creating divots in the snow, and the going wasn't easy. There were a few windswept areas where the snow deepened, too.

We got to the first lookout, then turned around and came back. In good weather, this would take us less than 30 minutes, but it took us about an hour. We encountered the intrepid team of winter chefs on the way down, struggling upwards with their sledges. I wonder what they made?
windswept Boulder Loop Trail

Friday, January 25, 2019

Boulder Loop Trail after the snow and rain

Today's hike: 2.8 mi | 2.5 h | 1.1 mph

I hiked around the Boulder Loop Trail with Maggie's boy this morning.

We got about a foot of snow here last Sunday. Then, yesterday, the temperature got up to nearly 40 F, and it rained and rained. So we brought both snowshoes and microspikes, not sure what to expect.

We had come here early in January, only to be turned back because the parking lot wasn't plowed, presumably due to the government shutdown (this parking lot is located in the White Mountains National Forest). Today, we saw that the short entrance to the parking lot had been plowed out and was now covered with a thick sheet of ice. I suspect this was due to "a guy with a plow who wanted to go ice climbing." In any case, I'm sending out a big "thank you" to whoever it was. This mini parking lot would probably hold about 5 cars, and there's some room for parking on the side of the Kanc too, if you don't mind risking your car that way.

"parking lot"

After hiking in for a few minutes, it appeared that the trail had been broken by a few people with snowshoes. We decided that microspikes were the way to go, and put them on.

We reached the initial "T" where the end of the loop meets the beginning of it. The snow covering the trail was broken going up left, clockwise, but the trail was unbroken on the return. It was clear that whoever had gone up before us had come back the same way. We decided to go clockwise too, and to try to get to the first lookout, and decide whether to continue from there.

We didn't hike far - just up to the big 30-foot sheer wall of rock - when we saw that the trail was no longer broken. We exchanged microspikes for snowshoes and went on.

pine needle carpet
Although the trail wasn't broken, it was fairly easy to follow. The rain from yesterday carried a lot of detritus to the trail. In places it was filled with dead, brown leaves from autumn. In others, the path was covered in a carpet of pine needles.

The snow was covered in a thick, supportive crust, no doubt formed after yesterday's rain. Our snowshoes tended to stay on top of the snow and not actually break through it most of the time. Overall, the hiking wasn't too difficult, so we decided to carry on to the top and complete the loop.

Perhaps this was a mistake. Getting to the top was easy enough. However, the second half of the loop was pretty difficult - actually, it was exhausting! Usually, I find the uphill going most tiring. However, we constantly post-holed through the snow on this side of the trail. There was a thick crust of ice over powdery snow, but it wasn't solid enough to hold our weight. I've never had such bad conditions snowshoeing before. I'd take a step forward, land on the crust, and then as I put my full weight onto that snowshoe, I'd break through the crust to fall another few inches or even get buried down to my knees in snow. Over and over again. Not easy!

Be warned: The trail will no doubt be a complete mess until a few more snowshoers come through and pack it down.

Although this was not a super-fun hike, it was just wonderful to get outside, for a change. We both have had cabin fever with the last few weeks of bad weather. It was a mostly cloudy day, but the sun broke through after we hit the first lookout, and we got some sun and blue skies for a big part of the hike.

Friday, January 04, 2019

another go at White Ledge

Today's hike: 4.3 mi | 3.0 h | 1.4 mph

I went snowshoeing around the White Ledge Loop with Maggie's boy today. We went clockwise today, too. It was another fantastic day! It snowed earlier this week, and no one had been out on the trail yet, so we got to break trail around the whole loop. It was about as good as it gets for snowshoeing, with about 5 inches of light, fluffy snow on most of the trail, with a thicker crust of crunchy snow underneath. The snow was thick enough to cover up the ice that was visible on my last trip here, which meant there was almost no risk of slipping and no need to go off-trail to avoid ice.

on the way up
on the way down
As we were leaving, we met a fellow heading in on snowshoes. A wise choice!

Note that with the current government shutdown, the driveway up to the gate has not been cleared. I was able to park on the shoulder of the road without any problem, fortunately.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

I'm dreaming of a White Ledge Loop Trail Christmas

Today's hike: 4.3 mi | 2.9 h | 1.5 mph

Merry Christmas! It was a beautiful day for a hike in the Whites! I decided on the White Ledge Loop Trail, since I was feeling like a longer hike.

mixed conditions on the White Ledge Loop trail
I decided to go clockwise. Usually, I prefer going counterclockwise on this trail, because the first section in that direction is kind of boring, and it's better to get it out of the way first. However, I wasn't sure if the trail conditions would let me get to the view if I went that way today. So clockwise it was.

Since I wasn't sure what the trail would be like, I brought both my microspikes and my snowshoes. I started with snowshoes because the trail seemed a little soft. At about 30 minutes in, I thought "who am I kidding?" and switched to microspikes. The snowshoes probably helped with the two initial stream crossings; I could use them to bridge the streams without getting my shoes very wet. However, the snow was pretty well packed, and the snowshoes were so much useless decoration.

Trail conditions are rather peculiar. As I got higher, gaps appeared in the snowy trail, revealing a layer of dead oak leaves. There were sections of the trail where it appeared that running water must have cut through the snow, leaving it completely bare of snow or ice.
running water has cut a path through the snow
As I approached the peak, I found that microspikes were overkill: the trail was just bare. So I removed them. Shortly after that, of course, the trail became snowy again, and I put them back on. I counted: This happened about eight times over the course of the hike.

Chocorua in the distance
obligatory view from the top
It turns out that descending the peak clockwise is a bit of a nuisance. On the north side of the peak, apparently, there's just enough sunlight to melt the snow into sheets of ice, but not enough to heat it so it runs off and lets the dry ground show through. I was careful going downhill over several sections of thick slabby ice. Microspikes work pretty well, but they are not crampons. There were two places where I just moved off the steep, icy path, and descended over the easier snow to one side.
icy slab

more ice slab
river of ice

On the way down, I met a couple ascending the peak counterclockwise. That was a surprise! I didn't expect to see anyone out today. I guess the good weather was just too tempting for some other people, as well!

The rest of the trip was uneventful. The eastern side of the loop is a little bit boring because it's fairly flat. But on a beautiful day like today, that hardly matters!
a beautiful day in the Whites!
ice art

Monday, September 03, 2018

wildcat a

Today's hike: 8.5 mi | 6.5 h | 1.3 mph

I hiked up to Wildcat A with Maggie's boy today. This was my 24th 4000-footer, so I'm halfway done!

I decided to be clever. We would take two cars, and do an end-to-end hike, starting at the Glen Ellis Falls trailhead and ending at the Nineteen Mile Brook trailhead. We'd bag the two peaks, A and D, and not have to retrace our steps.

This was to be another "fasting hike", which seems to suit me pretty well. We both had coffee when we got up.  We had purchased four Vermont Smoke & Cure "meat sticks" which went in my backpack, and that was all the food we took along with us. I had a quart of water, and the boy carried a couple quarts (he gets more thirsty than I do).

The parking lot at Pinkham Notch was looking pretty full when we arrived before 8 AM. That's Labor Day for you! However, we were parking one vehicle at Nineteen Mile Brook trailhead, and there were plenty of spots there. Then we drove back down about a mile south of Pinkham Notch to the Glen Ellis Falls trailhead.

At the trailhead, I was distracted by someone asking for change for a ten-dollar bill (the parking fee at most areas in the Whites is five dollars if you don't have a season sticker - which I do). I want to say that this distraction is the reason that I made a crucial mistake at this point. I'll come to that at the end of my story.

Crossing the Glen Ellis River was doable, but dicey. I don't know how much rain they've been getting in Pinkham Notch. I expected the river to be shallow enough to cross easily, but I was wrong! In the end, rather than spending a lot of time searching for the right way to rock-hop across, we both removed our boots and crossed barefoot through the water. Then we spent just a little bit of time drying off our feet. I think this was probably the most efficient way to cross. You do have to be careful: cross where the water is below your knees, and move so you don't fall on the slippery stuff that grows on rocks under the water!

The hike up to Wildcat D was uneventful. Conditions were similar to those of last week at Wildcat D. Not much wind, and a bit too humid, but more overcast. Despite that, it was a fine day, and the sky cleared as we approached the top of the Wildcat Ski Area. This is where we sat down to break our fast by eating one of our meat sticks. It was here that we discovered we'd purchased "turkey pepperoni" sticks, much to our dismay. They had the right amount of salt, but lacked the grease which we had been eagerly awaiting. To add insult to injury, one of the tourists who had been ferried up on the gondola was strolling about with a lit cigarette. The fumes wafted our way constantly. Nothing to do but get up and move on.

We were now entering unknown territory, since I'd only gotten this far last week. It turns out that the hike between Wildcat D and A is a series of up-and-down hill hikes. The trail is similar to the approach to Wildcat D - pretty rocky, but never as steep. It was a surprise when we reached Wildcat A; the hike took less time than expected. Someone was just leaving the summit as we approached, and we had the small outlook all to ourselves and the juncos as we ate our second pseudo-pepperoni sticks. We had a beautiful view of Carter Notch to the north. I think we were looking at Carter Dome to the east, and we could see a small number of buildings which must be where Carter Notch hut is located, below us.
Carter Notch

Carter Notch hut and Carter Dome in the distance (I think)
After enjoying the view and our far-too-dry snacks, we hiked on. The trail goes down steeply for about 0.7 miles, where it becomes more gradual and finally meets the intersection of the Carter-Moriah trail and the Nineteen Mile Brook trail. The Nineteen Mile Brook trail is not very exciting. It goes downhill at a very gentle grade, crossing little trickles of water that may give you more trouble at the beginning of the season, but were easily crossed now. The trickles of water did get wider as we got further down the trail, and eventually became so big that the trail maintainers felt they merited a footbridge.
first footbridge along the Nineteen Mile Brook trail
beautiful slabby brook with a cascade
The brook becomes pretty active and wide, to your left, once you pass the first footbridge. It's dotted with interesting slabby and blocky features.

Eventually, you come to a mysterious dam (who put the dam here, and why?), which creates a deep pool of water. The water is crystal clear, and on a day like today, it was tempting to take a dip. But we didn't have time. Around this point, a lightbulb went off over my head. I asked Maggie's boy: "Where are the keys to your car?" and he responded, "They're in your car, of course!" (he's in the habit of throwing the keys to the car in the cupholder). Oops!

I gave him my keys and urged him to hustle down the trail in the hopes of meeting the AMC shuttle. I was in no shape to hustle, as my right knee was bothering me, but he still felt fine. The Nineteen Mile Brook trailhead is a stop for the shuttle, but we had no idea what the schedule was. Foolishly, I had hopes that a bus pulled up every 30 minutes or so. It turned out that the shuttle stops at this trailhead 4 times a day... and he arrived at the trailhead about 20 minutes after the last stop, which happens to be 2:55 PM.

While he waited for me to arrive at the trailhead, he asked a couple of people in their cars for a lift to Pinkham Notch and was met with lukewarm refusals. No one was going that way, or they claimed they didn't know where Pinkham Notch was (it's about 5 miles down the road). If a strange man approached you for a ride, would you let them in your car? No! But when I arrived, seeing that he wasn't just a lone kook but was accompanied by a woman hiker, one driver relented, and Maggie's boy got a lift back to Pinkham Notch. For reasons that remain obscure, he felt he couldn't ask for a lift to Glen Ellis Falls, which is only one mile further. He ran down to Glen Ellis Falls, and then drove the car back to me, where our adventure ended.

Let this be a warning to you, people. If you are doing an end-to-end hike, do something to remind yourself to keep that second car key on your person. Literally attach it to your pack with a sling, if that's what it takes!

Monday, August 27, 2018

wildcat d

Today's hike: 5.8 mi | 5.5 h | 1.1 mph

The parking lot at Pinkham Notch was filling up when I arrived shortly after 8:00 am. I chose to hike in to the Wildcat Ridge Trail via the Lost Pond Trail. It adds about one hour to the hike, but it's easy, and it gives you an extended view of the scenic, clear Ellis River.

Wildcat Ridge Trail starts out steep and rocky, and stays that way for most of its length. There are rock scrambles like this one (not really as steep as it looks):
climbing up the Wildcat Ridge Trail
Your reward is a view like this:
Wildcat Ridge Trail view of Mt Washington
and this:
another view
The trail is well maintained. This is the first time in New Hampshire that I've seen wooden "stairs" set into the slabby rock to help you up.
wooden steps on the Wildcat Ridge Trail
Once you get up high enough, the trail becomes more moderate. At this point, I had some trouble deciding whether I'd reached the summit. I think that I hit "E" peak and wondered whether I was there. I didn't plan this trek very well, so I checked my map. The peak is supposed to be pretty close to where Wildcat ski area's gondola tops out, and I hadn't seen that yet, so I kept hiking... until I suddenly popped out into a clearing and saw this!
Wildcat gondola
The nerve of those people, taking a shortcut to the top! Actually, it turns out that this is not the top; you have to keep hiking for a short while, past these signs (familiar to me from my winter skiing adventures at Wildcat)...
Upper Polecat
... and on up into the woods for just a few minutes. Then you come to a raised platform which is at the real peak of the mountain.

I had a plan to possibly hike on to Wildcat A, but I was worried about the time required. I hadn't brought any food other than a single Vermont Smoke & Cure meat stick (which turned out to be yum!). I probably would have made it, but it seemed risky.

This is my 23rd 4000-footer! I'm getting closer to the halfway mark. It was another beautiful day in the Whites! It doesn't get much better than this.

PS: I really wouldn't want to do this one in the rain! The potential for slipping on wet rock would be bad.