Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A drizzly day after days of rain 10/24/14

Working title: How to cope with hiking in the wet

To say that the weather hasn't been on our side lately would be a grievous understatement. You won't hear any complaints from me, as I think we've had a pretty unbelievable warm season here in New England. It was all bound to change. The leaves are now almost universally on the ground, the nights flirt with freezing, and the days have become noticeably shorter. I, for one, welcome this change with open arms. What I don't welcome is the waking up at "it's still going to be dark for hours", to get where I need to be for a hike. Sacrifices have been, and will continue to be made in this regard.

Hike #1: The Direttissma

Trails: The Direttissma, Glen Boulder Trail

Mileage/gain: 1.4 miles, 406' of gain

New redlining miles: 1

Waking up on Mike's couch, I felt like hell. I hadn't slept well at all, and my lungs were not happy with me for whatever reason. My only hope was that this wouldn't be a repeat of the sickness this past winter, which took my lung capacity for almost a month! We got breakfast at the Sunrise Shack and headed up to Pinkham, spotting a car for our first little hike of the day. The Direttissma has long been a thorn in my side, just sitting there, so accessible, yet not hiked. Now I had a reason to. Someone had described this trail to me as "pretty flat", what we found was not flat beyond the first 0.1 miles or so. The rains had swollen drainages, and they ran as a brook would, ephemeral waterfalls were everywhere. There were some steep sections, wet with rain and slick with leaves, especially on our descent to our spotted vehicle. Not a bad section of trail, and one I would gladly use again.

Ascending

Steep bit

Looking south down Pinkham Notch

Hike #2: PRRT and some falls

Trails: Presidential Range Rail Trail, Brookbank

Mileage/gain: 5.4 miles, ~450' of gain

New redlining miles: 4.7

Shuttling up to the north of the notches, where we'd spend the rest of the day, we spotted Mike's truck at Randolph East, and headed over to Bowman. Long flats awaited us. In a fine drizzle we donned rain gear and started east. The former Boston and Maine Railroad grade, who's tracks and ties were removed in 1997, runs for 18 miles between Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge and Gorham. There are remnants of rail bridges, poles off in the woods that used to carry power and communication lines, occasionally topped with glass insulators, and long straight stretches. We planned a bit of a side trip up some trails out of Appalachia, but due to high water and my bringing the incorrect map (the one I brought had insufficient detail), we ended up just doing an up and back on Brookbank. Snyder Brook was running high, Gordon and Tama falls were fantastic, Salroc Fall (upper and lower) were less impressive due to down trees, and Mike spied another cascade above Tama Fall that was probably the best of them all. Back down, the flats continued all the way to Mike's truck, along with the drizzle.

Presidential Range Rail Trail

An old glass insulator

Rain enhanced drainage

Gordon Fall

Snyder Brook

Flow

Brookbank

Tama Fall

Unnamed cascade above Tama Fall

Hike #3: More rails and some Cherry Ponds

Trails: Pondicherry Rail Trail, Waumbek Link, Shore Path, Little Cherry Pond Trail, Rampart Path

Mileage/gain: ~5.2 miles, ~100' of gain

New redlining miles: 1.8

Dropping Mike's truck at Bowman, we headed to Whitefield and the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge. The weather was decidedly worse than the last time I was here in May, and the clouds hung low, though the drizzle let up as we hiked. Here we encountered more flats, and more long (really long) straight sections of trail. Beavers have successfully flooded a section of the grade, there are plenty of herd paths and drag marks in the area as further evidence of their work, as if all the water wasn't enough. Mike managed to get across with dry feet, mine were already damp so I just walked through, We checked out the short paths around the main pond, then the Little Cherry Pond Trail (which is the only other trail in the area that counts for redlining, the rail trail being the other), before heading back the way we came. This was a MUCH better way to access this area than the last approach I took, which was via the Colonel Whipple Trail (a link in the Cohos Trail), a swampy mess masquerading as a trail. Don't let the Colonel Whipple Trail fool you like it did me!

Pondicherry Rail Trail

Reflect

Larches on the shore of Cherry Pond

Rail in the woods

Socked in ridgeline

Little Cherry Pond Trail

Little Cherry Pond

Reach

Supposedly active rails

Hike #4: Mud Pond

Trail: Mud Pond Trail

Mileage/gain: 1.2 miles, ~70' of gain

New redlining miles: 0.6

This short trail was the surprise of the day. Not only was it flat, but the trail is also handicapped accessible, wide with a crushed gravel tread. The treat was the boardwalk that snakes (literally) through boggy woods, the last couple of tenths to the observation platform on the shore of the pond. It came complete with an open area in the railings, signed as a "wildlife crossing"! The drizzle even stopped completely for this hike, good stuff all around!

Mud Pond Trail

Slick!

Curves

Vibrant lichen

Out to the deck

Mud Pond

Hike #5: Boundary Line

Trails: Boundary Line Trail, Jewell Trail

Mileage/gain: 1.2 miles, 124' of gain

New redlining miles: 0.8

Our final quarry of the day involved another car spot, so we went and retrieved Mike's truck. Up and over Jefferson Notch Road we drove, where we encountered thick fog at elevation, and fading light. We definitely cut it too close with this one, as it was fully dark by the time we got done. From what I did see of the trail, it seems very lightly used, very mossy, and in the dim and fog it was downright magical. The one crossing on the trail was running fast, I walked through, and Mike managed a running crossing, only getting slightly damp feet. Back at my car we retrieved Mike's truck, and headed into Gorham for our second trip to the Dynasty Buffet in as many weeks. It's like it's good or something.

Blurry attempt to capture the low light scene

All in all, another successful redlining day, ever closer to the goal!

Totals: 

Miles: ~14.4
Gain: ~1150'
New miles: 8.9

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Waterville Whatnot 10/18/14

Working title: I'll never learn

After being beaten on by the weather the last couple of weeks, mainly the rain, I figured the important gear was dry (or dry enough) to get out. The problem being, I didn't check the forecast going into the day... I merely recalled seeing that Saturday was supposed to be nicer, and that was on Tuesday. Mistakes were made. I guess the old saying rings true, "when it rains, it pours". Since my usual camera lens of choice was sitting in rice, I pressed an old favorite into service, a 35mm Leica Summaron. I hope you enjoy what it was able to capture.

Hike #1: Short paths around Waterville Valley

Peak: The Scaur (2230')

Trails: Cascade Path, Elephant Rock Trail, Greeley Ledge Trail, Cascade Path West, Norway Rapids Trail, Livermore Road, Kettles Path, Scaur Trail, new trail section, Big Pines Path, Boulder Path

Mileage/time: ~10.1, ~2200' of gain, book time of 6:10, actual time of 4:22

New redlining miles: 5.1

A cursory glance at the redlining spreadsheet reveals holes, and the trail system in Waterville Valley is one. My original plan called for a bigger day, though not only the weather, but some human factors caused me to shorten it significantly. Once I found the parking lot for Cascade Path, I started up through a condo complex, before ducking into the woods on a cross country ski trail. It was a comfortable temperature, and made for a quick pace. Climbing easily with crunchy leaves underfoot, I reached one of many side trips, up Elephant Rock Trail to Greeley Ledges Trail... leave no stragglers. I never did find the eponymous rock, and did find the Greeley Ledges to be massively grown in. Good thing there's a view from the top of the Snow's Mountain ski lift!

Cascade Path, no cascades yet...

Elephant Rock Trail

Leafy staircase on Greeley Ledge Trail

Blocky

Tecumseh and Waterville Valley from Snow's Mountain ski lift

Dropping back down to Cascade Path, I kept on keeping on, as it hadn't rained yet and the sun even made a brief appearance. Hitting Norway Rapids Trail, I continued straight on the west end of Cascade Path, and finally some cascades! Collectively this set of falls is referred to as the Waterville Cascades, or more commonly as just The Cascades. None have individual names, but as a whole they were a sight to behold in good flow.

Not a rolling stone

Cascade Path

Dappled color





The end of Cascade Path intersects the cross country ski trail network, so I returned the way I came, crossing Cascade Brook on a wide bridge. Easy hiking got me to the crossing of Avalanche Brook at Norway Rapids. I worked out onto the slick ledge at the crossing, and inched along as ankle deep water rushed by me. Not a dry crossing on this day! On familiar ground now, I rolled down Livermore Road/Trail until I hit the Kettles Path, which is where things turned.

Norway Rapids Trail

Some of the Norway Rapids

Livermore Road, now with more leafy goodness

Up Kettles Path, I had my first real dose of decent elevation gain, it also started to rain. I never did find the Kettles, so I'll have to come back and explore here. To the junction of Scaur Trail, I received a surprise. The lower 0.4 miles of Scaur Trail has been closed due to erosion and a dangerous water crossing, and there has been work on a new trail connecting to the Flume on the other side of the Scaur. This isn't information I had while on the hike, so what I did was climb up to the Scaur itself, then continued along the new trail to the point where it started to drop steeply, where I found a pile of gear and rock bars under a tarp on the trail. The new trail should be nice when it's all finished, but was soft and muddy in the rain. Not quite sure what it's going to be named either!

Kettles Path

Moody view from The Scaur

More moodiness from The Scaur

The signage is a lie!

Back down Kettles Path in the rain, the leaves slick. Keeping on the downward trend I checked out Big Pines Path, which sports three big pine trees at the end! Scrapping further efforts in the area thanks to the rain, I turned up Boulder Path, waded across Cascade Brook in fast knee deep water, and got out to my car in short order. Of course once I got close, the rain stopped. All class mother nature, all class.

Big Pines indeed

Splash

Giant boulder in Cascade Brook

Drama upon returning to my car

Hike #2: Fletcher's Cascade

Peak: None

Trails: Drakes Brook Trail, Fletcher's Cascade Trail

Mileage/time: 3.2 miles, 1006' of gain, book time of 2:07, actual time of 1:21

New redlining miles: 1.2

Sitting in the car, I consulted my technology which showed more rain moving in. Thinking I might be able to beat it, and snag another section of trail, so I took off for the Sandwich Mountain trailhead. I was half-right. A lot of jogging and fast hiking got me to Fletcher's Cascade in short order, but upon taking a few steps down the trail, a downpour ensued, continuing all the way to the car. The trail itself was beautiful, with some great stone steps, and even dipped into the Sandwich Range Wilderness... making me hungry. Fletcher's Cascade was fantastic, with three distinct drops, enhanced by the rain.

Fletcher's Cascade Trail

Great steps

Lower cascade

Middle cascade

Upper cascade



Beer was in order, so once back at the car, I pointed it to Mad River Tavern, and got some well deserved deliciousness... and food. On the ride home, the skies continued moody, but rays of sunlight broke through as I headed east on the Kanc. A fitting end to another in a series of fickle days in the mountains.