Friday, November 1, 2013

Blueberry Mountain and Speckled Mountain 10/30/13

Working title: Beast-mode in Evans Notch

Peaks: Blueberry Mountain, Speckled Mountain

Trails: Bickford Brook Trail, Blueberry Ridge Trail, Blueberry Mountain Loop

Mileage/time: ~9 miles, ~2954 feet of gain, book time of 6:00, actual time of 3:38

The weather was the determining factor for this hike, rather the forecast for my usual hiking days was looking terrible. So the WSDS (Wednesday Sleep Deprivation Special) went into effect. I got out of work at 6 am, packed my things, and had breakfast with my buddy Wendell at the Bayou Kitchen in Portland. I then took off, and made slow progress into the mountains, where I arrived at a deserted trailhead lot. I wouldn't see another soul during my hike.

It was chilly, and partly cloudy as I started up, in a long sleeve base layer, with an orange t-shirt over it, just for safety. My start time was 9:41. Now I've driven past Brickett Place on ME 113 so many times it's not even funny, and after a decade or more, I was finally hiking out of it. In contrast to other areas of the Whites, there was still some foliage to be had on the lower portion of Bickford Brook Trail, and a deep cover of downed leaves covered the trail. It starts out moderately steep in the first few tenths, and then moderates as it turns right onto an old jeep road that enters from the left. This old road climbs all the way to within a stones throw of the summit of Speckled Mountain, and used to service the fire tower that once stood on it.

Soon, I crossed into the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness, and the junction with the Blueberry Ridge Trail. Already sweating, I stowed my hat and gloves, before I commenced my ascent. I decided against redlining out the Bickford Slides Loop, saving it for another day. Sometimes it pays to save small sections, sometimes it doesn't... like the case of the Guyot Shelter Spur. Crossing just above the Lower Slide, Blueberry Ridge Trail got a bit steep in spots, and there was some ice on the rocks, all avoidable. Some excellent views started to open up to the west, and the lenticular clouds I'd seen forming on my drive in, were still stacking up. I sure know how to pick 'em!

I passed the junction with the White Cairn Trail, and soon was at the Blueberry Mountain Loop (signed alternately as the Lookout Loop, and Outlook Loop), which I took for great effect.

Reaching the other end of the loop, I backtracked about 0.1 miles to redline out the missed section of Blueberry Ridge Trail... no stragglers! Climbing back up, I continued along, up and down, through really pretty sections of woods, alternating with open ledges, which had commanding views for their height. The lenticulars continued to build over the Royces and over the Wild River Wilderness.

Pretty quickly, I reached the upper junction with Bickford Brook Trail, and had a mere 0.5 miles to the summit of Speckled. The trail passes through a fairly flat, open area on the ridge, before diving back into the woods and climbing to the highpoint. Concrete footings are all that remains of the fire tower that once stood on the summit, and the views are far reaching. The whole of the Baldface/Royce Range, the Carter/Moriah Range, the Mahoosucs, and beyond were visible. The Presidentials remained in the clouds, but I could see white on their lower slopes. Temperatures on the summit were easily in the 20's, and though the wind wasn't strong, it was biting.

I descended slightly to the junction with Red Rock and Cold Brook trails, again leaving no straggling sections, and after making a call to Mike, to see if he was around that afternoon, I began my descent, apparently in earnest. I jogged occasionally, enjoying the wintery temperatures, the dusting of snow up higher, and the leafy bits down low.

I must have been flying, because before I knew it, I was back at my car. The time was 1:19. All that, on no sleep, and having worked the night before. Here I was wanting to be done in 5 hours! As I headed towards Conway, my phone got a signal and Mike called. He was around, so I stopped in and chilled out with him for a while, before heading home.

Looking forward to more solo beast-mode action on Saturday!


Working title: Exactly what I wanted to avoid

The backlog continues. While my vacation was relaxing, I lost sight of some of the things I'd hoped to accomplish, catching up here being one of them. So, with much trepidation, I'm going to compress down three trips, with little commentary, and some pictures. Then do a proper report for my last hike, and hopefully keep up with it this time!

10/15/13: Mt. Eisenhower (only)

Peak: Mt. Eisenhower

Trails: Edmands Path, Crawford Path, Eisenhower Loop

Mileage/time: 7.1 miles, 3054 feet of gain, book time of 5:05, actual time of 4:13

I waffled a lot this day. On my drive to the mountains, I originally was going to hit Eisenhower, drop into the Dry River valley to redline out some trails, then return the way I came. I drove up to the Edmands Path trailhead, thought about doing a loop up Ammonoosuc Ravine and down Edmands... then changed my mind, drove over to Zealand trailhead, and geared up. While in the lot, the waffling continued, I restarted the car and drove back to Edmands Path trailhead. Decision-making is becoming difficult. Whilst I was waffling, another vehicle had arrived in the previously empty lot.

I started up, and soon got into a comfortable rhythm. Edmands Path is a joy, and a credit to its builder, with easy to moderate grades all the way, and superior footing. More than 100 years after it was built, it's still in fine shape. As I rose along with the trail, I ran into the driver of the other car, a guy named Chris. He asked if he could accompany me to the summit, and I said sure. I kept a pace that he could keep up with, and we chatted at length, all the way to the junction with Crawford Path. Here, I took the "scenic route", around the summit cone on Crawford Path, to redline out this final section, and met back up with Chris on the summit. Views were clear to the west and north, with some undercast to the north, and obscured by clouds to the east and south. Nothing like the undercast views everyone and their grandmother had over the past weekend. Chris joined me for the descent, which proved to be fairly quick. In the lot, I congratulated him on his 8th 4000-footer, and then found out that he is a priest! He is only able to get out a few times a year due to this, doing four last year, and four this year. Good on him!

Here are a couple of pictures from the day:

10/17-10/18/13: Backpacking the Kinsmans

Peaks: North Kinsman, South Kinsman

Trails: Whitehouse Trail, Cascade Brook Trail, Kinsman Pond Trail, Kinsman Ridge Trail, Eliza Brook Shelter Spur, Reel Brook Trail

Mileage/time: 13.1 miles, 3799 feet of gain, book time of 8:25, actual time of 2 days

During my Pemi Loop in September, I met up with someone from one of the Facebook hiking groups, and made a new friend. Her name is Zahrra (Arabic for flower, blossom, or beauty... how fitting), and after corresponding at length, she got over being intimidated by me (I can't see why!), and decided to come hiking with me. We decided to hit the Kinsmans, with an overnight at Kinsman Pond Shelter. The government shutdown ended the day before our trip, and we met up in Lincoln before noontime. Some misdirection, leading to me asking a local resident, brought us to the Reel Brook trailhead, where we left my car. Driving around, we geared up, shouldered our packs, and set out for the shelter. The trails were all in good shape, and we saw no one else after we turned off of Cascade Brook Trail, though the upper portion of Kinsman Pond Trail was slick and rough. We made the pond and shelter in just about 4 hours, inclusive of breaks, and settled in for the late afternoon and evening. I packed in wine and a crazy concoction of a meal, and there was much rejoicing. We hung out on the rocks next to the pond for quite a while, the skies clear, the moon rising at our backs, illuminating the bulk of North Kinsman. The Big Dipper was prominent to the north, and we even saw a shooting star. Pretty awesome.

The next morning dawned gray and damp. It had rained during the night, and the cloud deck hung low, the winds blustery. Breakfast was had, things were packed, and we made our way towards the peaks. The rocks were all pretty slick from the rain, and we took our time, topping out on North and South Kinsman, wrapped in clouds, with gusty northwest winds. The section from South Kinsman to Harrington Pond really slowed us up, with steep rock section after steep rock section. Pretty impressive, though I'm not sure which is better, going up or down! Harrington Pond was a sweet little spot, though the trail through here is pretty waterlogged, and we were still in the clouds. Dropping down further, we came alongside Eliza Brook, and countless unnamed cascades and drops, really a beautiful section of trail.

We took a break at Eliza Brook Shelter, and carried on. Reel Brook Trail was nice, passing through attractive woods, and cutting across the power lines, where we had an interesting encounter. A group of people (probably 7 or 8 of them) were standing on the trail in the power line cut, and when we started talking to them, they said they were out talking about Northern Pass, and the impact of it. A few New Hampshire state legislators were there, and we were asked if we'd like to see the current 40 foot wooden towers, or 100 foot tall steel towers. If they have to be there, I said I preferred the current towers.

Continuing on, we soon reached the car, and not a single fall between the two of us! Zahrra said she fell, but all I saw was her trying to re-tie her boot in the middle of a stream. We zoomed around and picked up her car, then had some pizza at Fresolone's in Woodstock before parting ways. Congratulations on numbers 17 and 18! Consequently, her 17th was my 170th (Grid) peak... I can see now why she was intimidated. Thanks for a fantastic trip!

Some pictures:

Panorama of the Osceolas from the Kanc

Can you pick out the Big Dipper?

No views and still smiling

10/24/13: The Hancocks

Peaks: North Hancock, South Hancock

Trails: Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, Hancock Loop

Mileage/time: 9.8 miles, 2940 feet of gain, book time of 6:21, actual time of ???

Having done the Hancocks back in August, I don't have too much to say about them! I hiked with Zahrra, and her friends Rusty, Amanda, and Alan (I'm pretty sure that was his name!). It was a chilly day, with winter in the air, and somewhat cloudy. We were fairly sheltered until we hit the ridge, and then the wind took hold, and brought the temperatures down. We were harangued by Gray Jays (I say that, but those buggers are cute!) on our ascent and on North Hancock. Summit beers were had at the outlook off North Hancock, and then we sallied forth to South Hancock. I tried to find some different views off of South Hancock, but my bushwhacking proved to be fairly in vain. It started to snow during our summit stay, and we shortly took off down the south end of the loop. The exit went fairly quickly, with it snowing off and on. Thanks you guys for a good day in the woods!

There, consider me caught up! I now return you to my regularly scheduled trip reports.