Friday, June 20, 2014

A Pseudo-Pemi 6/19/14

Working title: Long miles and bushwhack blunderings

Peaks: Bondcliff (4265'), Mt. Bond (4698'), West Bond (4540'), South Twin (4902'), Garfield Ridge - East Peak (3590'), Garfield Ridge - West Peak (3667')

Trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Bondcliff Trail, West Bond Spur, Guyot Shelter Spur, Twinway, Frost Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, bushwhacks, Franconia Brook Trail, Franconia Falls Trail

Mileage/time: ~30 miles, ~7300' of gain, book time of 18:35, actual time of 13:19

New red-lining miles: 2.9

Sometimes, I get an idea in my head, and I can't shake it. Last June's "failed" Pemi Loop attempt left the three Bonds, I had some small sections of un-redlined trail out in the wilderness, and a couple of un-climbed peaks on a list I wasn't quite sure I was working on. Might as well go for a three-in-one!

A very early (see: 12:30AM) wake up, left me donning my shoes in a very dark Lincoln Woods parking lot, and starting across the bridge at 3:41AM. There was faint light on the horizon, and as I did last time, I set the camera on the bridge railing, and got a shot.

Morning blur

My headlamp cut through the dark woods, and I cruised, fighting voracious mosquitoes, who were out for blood. Across the bridge, and into the wilderness, I was soon able to take off the headlamp. Birds began to sing, greeting the coming day. I love being deep in the woods early in the morning, there's a peace about it that I can't describe with words.

Railroad ties on lower Bondcliff Trail

Soon making the turn off the railroad grade, I started the climb to Bondcliff. The easy grades, cool temperatures, and not wanting to donate more blood, kept me moving quickly. The sun rose, though any pictures I took on my way up were of questionable quality, so I trashed them. Before I knew it, I reached what I call the "Hillary Step", near the top of Bondcliff.

The Hillary Step

Above treeline, the wind was whipping. Clouds streamed by, and some of the summits were shrouded. Blue skies dominated above, and when the sun shone, it warmed the bones. I ran into a solo backpacker who had stayed at Guyot on the summit, heading out to Lincoln Woods, and chatted with him for a minute or two. The views were far reaching, and dramatic... and it was only 7AM!

Bondcliff and the ridge of Mt. Bond

West Bond and Hellgate Ravine

Looking east toward Carrigain


The slides of West Bond

Moving along the ridge, views kept coming, the summits ahead of me starting to clear. The wind in the col was moving well, keeping me moving due to its briskness. The climb up Bond was dispatched quickly, and the peak-crushing continued!


Looking southeast from the col toward the Hancocks


Washington peeking out

Bondcliff from Bond

West Bond from Bond

Leaving the summit, I startled two foreign ladies (I think they were German) as I came around a corner, they had been staying at Guyot as well. The West Bond Spur appeared, and I booked down it, then up it, to the top. Three peaks down, all before most people start work for the day!

Bondcliff Trail


South Twin over the twin lobes of Redrock Ravine

Bondcliff from West Bond

Looking up the Franconia Brook Valley

Carrigain and the Hancocks

Back to the Bondcliff Trail briefly, I had another stop to make, the Guyot Shelter. Many times I have passed the spur trail, and now I was determined to go down it, plus it's on my red-lining list. So, I hiked 12 miles, to hike a 0.2 mile spur trail... such is the life of a red-liner.

At the junction, there were two folks off in the woods, dropping packs. When I greeted them, the girl turned around... lo and behold, it was my friend Allison! I hadn't seen her since April last year, when we did a very memorable Franconia Ridge Traverse. Her and her companion Clint were out doing a backpack, having hit Hale and Zealand the day before, and were going the Bonds before heading out via the Twins. I wished them luck, and set off.

By the way, Allison's blog, Trail to Summit: Peak Bagging in New England, can be found HERE.

Down the Guyot spur, I chatted with the caretaker for a moment, then made my way through a large group from New York, over to the shelter. One of the leaders came over and talked with me while I had a break. I heard one of the kids say, "jeez, we're just making breakfast, and he's already taking a break!". Wishing the group well on their next two days, I set off for South Twin.

Steeply back up the spur, I soldiered on to the south summit of Guyot (the true summit lies to the east just off the Twinway).

Bondcliff Trail

The (you're a) Nancy Range, and Carrigain

Scar Ridge through the Bond/West Bond col

Slides in Redrock Ravine

Now on the Twinway, I ran into a few more backpackers, likely coming from the hut. The clouds that had been flirting with South Twin's summit all morning, continued to do so, and I questioned whether or not there would be views when I got there. Thankfully, when I arrived, the peak was in the clear. This is the first time I've been on South Twin alone, every other time I was either with someone, or there were others around. This is one spot in the mountains that certainly doesn't suck.


Mt. Willey and the talus fields on Zealand from the Twinway

Mt. Garfield and Garfield Ridge from South Twin

Franconia Ridge

Now came the steepness, as I headed down to Galehead Hut. This section of trail is a killer, gaining more than 1100' in 0.8 miles... I was happy to be going down it! Galehead was quiet, one croo member in the kitchen, the other leafing through a plant field guide. Filling up my water, I took off my still dry shoes, and had a break on the porch before setting off.

South Twin from Galehead Hut

Not a bad view from just outside the hut

For some extra fun, I'd planned on hitting both peaks on Garfield Ridge, as they're both on the New Hampshire 100 Highest list, and last week reminded me that I liked bushwhacking! Up the Garfield Ridge Trail I went, well rather down, then up, then down... rinse and repeat. I didn't trust a very faint path I saw near the height-of-land near the peak, so I went a bit further, and made my way up to the canister through fairly open woods. The canister comes complete with a sign that says PAM, though the peak is officially unnamed, and generally is referred to as Garfield Ridge - East Peak. It was nice to see some familiar names in the register, including my friends Mike and Wayne, along with several others in the hiking community, the last entry was dated 2/8/14. The views were pretty astounding.

I'm always compelled to take a picture of this AT marker

Garfield Ridge Trail

Garfield Ridge - East Peak (aka Mt. Pam)

Looking down the flanks of Owl's Head to Scar Ridge and the Osceolas

Unique view up to Franconia Ridge and Garfield

Soaking in the views, I then followed a faint path downward, and soon popped out on trail, at the same faint path I had mistrusted earlier. Oops! Looking at the map, I started toward the west peak, which is a couple of 1/10th's off trail. Nearing where I should have jumped off trail, the woods were somewhat thick, so I dropped down the west side and found more open woods. You would think I'd have learned from the last peak. Taking a visual bearing with my compass, I set off.

What started out as open woods, soon became the stuff of nightmares. Thick, jailbar evergreens, with plenty of old, rotten blowdowns. The ground under me was soft, but that was due to the aforementioned down trees and moss covered roots. I floundered, managing to slowly make my way upward. Then I came to a cliff-band. I sure as hell wasn't going back down, and off to the sides was a nearly impenetrable, blowdown wracked hell, with a super steep drop off to my right. Creatively, using some trees, I got up and over the cliff. At the top of it, I did get a nice surprise view of Garfield, looming large, and 1000' higher.

Garfield close-by

Some more thickness, with some bloodletting, and the summit appeared. I searched around a bit for the canister, and found it... a glass jar with a rusty lid, tied to a door pull. All class. Some of the same names graced this register, the last group being here in February. Pointing my compass north to intersect the trail, I followed the path of least resistance, and guess where I popped out... right where I should have started in the first place! Looks like I added a few 1/10th's and some elevation gain, unnecessarily. Lessons learned.

Garfield Ridge - West Peak canister

Dropping back down, I turned onto the Franconia Brook Trail, the second section of new trail for me today. It was somewhat muddy, and had a stream running in it for a while, but was quite pretty and in good shape for a wilderness trail. I soon found myself at 13 Falls, and checked out a couple of them before heading out to the railroad grade for my valley walk back toward civilization.

Mossy alongside the trail

Franconia Brook

Slabs near 13 Falls

Some more slabs near 13 Falls

Now for the flatness. Franconia Brook Trail rounds the north end of Owl's Head and parallels it southward, following railroad grades for nearly its entire length. Of interest, I found the old rail grade leading up into Redrock Ravine, which I will be venturing to soon. All the crossings were manageable, and I kept my feet dry... there was the distinct possibility of a completely dry hike! For whatever reason, the bugs weren't really an issue, where did they go since this morning?! The ~5 miles to the bridge at the wilderness boundary went quickly, and I only saw one guy and his dog. Solitude is good.

Green tunnel


Owl's Head from just off trail

I had one more destination, and one more new section of trail, out to Franconia Falls. The trail was well graded, with wood cribbing in spots, but strangely enough, some nuisance blowdowns! There were about a dozen people hanging around on the rocks, making use of the natural waterslide, and just generally lazing around. I followed the trail up past the falls, an elderly gentleman in front of me carrying toilet paper. I'm going to call this one red-lined (I'll be back to explore further upstream), but I turned around after about the fourth dirty look... when you gotta go, you gotta go!

Dual drops at Franconia Falls

Franconia Falls

Slide at Franconia Falls

Back to Lincoln Woods Trail, I put my head down, and walked, my feet feeling the effects of the previous ~27 miles. It was a nice day not hearing any motorcycles, during bike week, though that spell was broken about a half mile from the road. Reaching the bridge at 5PM on the dot, my feet were still mercifully dry. Driving back was rough having been up so long, but it helped that it was still daylight. Back at home, I cleaned up, then managed to walk in town for some delicious Thai curry, and a beer.

More long days will be in store as the summer progresses, a Mahoosuc Traverse is in the works!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hiking the Sweater 6/17/14

Working title: Synonyms are fun!

Peaks: Mt. Cardigan (3155'), Firescrew (3064')

Trails: Holt Trail, Mowglis Trail, Manning Trail

Mileage/time: ~5.5 miles, ~1950' of gain, book time of 3:45, actual time of 3:25

Long story short, work got the better of me this week, and I decided to take a mental health day. A decent forecast was on tap, and I wanted to get out... that had all the hallmarks of an uncommon occurrence, of the TUESDAY Sleep Deprivation Special!

Out of work at 6am, gear gathered, breakfasting done, on the road! I had forgotten it was bike week, as there were a ton of bikers on the road, and my route took me perilously close to Laconia. Thankfully I never needed to go that far, as I soon turned off the main roads, and wound my way up to the AMC Cardigan Lodge. Only a few vehicles were in the lot, as I threw on my shoes, and started up.

The Holt Trail starts off innocuous enough, on an old road, passing beside campsites, at easy grades. Even still, the day had warmed into the 70's down low, and it wasn't long before I was sweating profusely. Passing the Manning Trail junction, the Holt Trail draws close to Bailey Brook, crossing it on a bridge as it nears Grand Junction. I ran into a solo gentleman, and talked to him a bit about the trails. I'm not sure if he worked at the lodge or not, but was headed up to High Cabin to see some work that had been done.

Above Grand Junction (rather the point of no return), the trail narrowed, and steepened a bit, staying close to the dwindling brook. The signage indicated that it was 0.8 miles to the summit from the junction, but what it doesn't tell you is that the last 0.4 gains 1000'!!! Still in the woods, the first scramble is reached, a cleft in a steep ledge on the trail.

Lower Holt Trail

Holt Trail past Grand Junction

The first scramble

Beyond the first scramble, the steepness continues, but mostly on rocks of varying sizes. Then came some tougher scrambles, requiring a bit of creativity, as views started to open up to the north and east. This is not a trail that I would do if it were wet or icy, and unsurprisingly, it's signed as such!

Steepness on Holt Trail

View north to the east ridge of Firescrew


Looking west toward the summit

Ducking in and out of the scrub, with scrambles interspersed, made for a super fun climb. There were even some highbush blueberries in bloom, and some three-toothed cinquefoil. The steepness didn't really let up until I crested the broad summit, where I ran into a couple of small groups, and far reaching, but hazy views all around.

Three-toothed Cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata)

Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

Looking through the Cardigan/Firescrew col

West view from Cardigan

South view from Cardigan

Looking down the West Ridge Trail


Firescrew from Cardigan, hazy New Hampshire high peaks on the horizon


I chatted briefly with five Dartmouth students, and took some pictures for them, before setting myself up in the open for lunch. A short hike to a great spot deserved something more, and out of my pack, I procured a bottle of White Birch Brewing Co's Berliner Weisse. Nothing like a great beer on a mountaintop!

Yup, this happened...

After finishing my sandwich, I wandered around the summit area, drinking my beer. I struck up a conversation (after taking some pictures for them) with a couple from Saratoga Springs, NY, and their three dogs. All in all, there were probably a dozen people on and around the summit area during my stay. Not bad for a late spring weekday afternoon!

I soon packed back up, and headed steeply down the Mowglis Trail on open ledges. Firescrew was so named due to the fires that ravaged these peaks in 1855, leaving their tops bare to this day. White blazes and some small cairns marked the way, and some great clouds passed by, along with views back to Cardigan. Reaching the signed junction with Manning Trail, I started down, ducking into scrub every once and a while, but mostly staying in the open.

Cardigan from the col

Manning Trail

Cardigan from near Firescrew

The steep east face that Holt Trail ascends 

Passing some boggy areas among the ledges, I had one parting view of Cardigan before dropping steeply back into the woods. Easy grades soon resumed, and before long, I was back on the lower Holt Trail. Back to the car just before 2, I changed, and started for home. In the future, when coming to this area, I'll be planning more than just one hike (if they're going to be short ones), because it's a long (2.5+ hours) drive for me. Sleep deprived as I was, I hadn't really done my homework. So it goes.


Manning Trail

One last view of the Sweater

Once back home, I tried to write this up, and promptly (inadvertently) took a nap. This peak "counts" for two lists I'm working on, the 52 With A View (#38), and the New England 50 Finest (#16). Hooray for progress!

Big day on tap for tomorrow, stay tuned for the next post!