Sunday, October 5, 2014

Moosilauke/Kinsman Redline Backpacking 9/24-9/26/14

Working title: Photographic experimentation

Hot on the heels of the excessive(?) vacation redlining extravaganza, I was still feeling the pull of the trail. In my weakness, I gave in. This is one of the rare cases where weakness isn't a bad thing.

Wednesday 9/24: Beaver Brook to Moosilauke, overnight at Beaver Brook Shelter

Peak: Mt. Moosilauke (4802')

Trails: Beaver Brook Trail, Benton Trail

Mileage/etc.: 6.2 miles, 3303' of gain, started at 2:45, down to the shelter at 7:15

New redlining miles: 1.5

Plan hatchery being my specialty, it was a foregone conclusion that I would have something figured out before my work "week" was over. Though I was on Moosilauke back in July, I couldn't help but feel its magnetism, when looking at it from Cube the week before. The lower part of Beaver Brook Trail was still on my to-do list, so I cobbled together a route. Throwing together my pack, shockingly not forgetting anything (!!!), I headed north for a visit with Mike, purchasing food-stuffs on the way. He would have joined me, but had other commitments one of my planned days, so was going on a smaller trip of his own. Glad to see he's finally embraced the spirit of redlining!

A bit of fall color on Bear Notch Road

Pulling into the Beaver Brook lot, I set about getting ready. For this trip, I decided to dust off a couple of old lenses (of late 1940's/early 1950's vintage), and see how they played with my current camera. Due to their age, the optical limitations of the time (serious lack of close focusing), and the general peculiarities of the lenses themselves, it proved interesting to get the shots I was looking for. I hope the images show that I was trying!

I took the Frankenshoes out of retirement, because my "new" ones have been causing some heel pain, and are starting to fall apart, with less than 200 miles on them since 8/15. This would prove to be a limited time engagement. Heading out from the parking lot, the trail passes close by Beaver Pond, before starting up. I knew it was going to be steep, and prepared myself for that eventuality. The trail lived up to its reputation for steepness, and for beauty, passing by cascade after cascade. Even with a heavy pack, sweating it out, this was a most enjoyable ascent.

I arrived at the shelter after passing one descending day hiker, and a group of five NOBO thru-hikers, who I would see again. Dropping my pack, I set up my space in the shelter, then unfurled my daypack from the packs depths, and put in some water, layers and dinner supplies, before heading up the mountain. Running into a SOBO thru-hiker just as I hit the trail again, we chatted as he followed me, until my pace became too much for him. The upper Beaver Brook Trail and Benton Trail were just fantastic in the late afternoon light.

Breaking treeline, there wasn't much wind, but the temperature was noticeably cooler. Another reason to love the autumn! Through alpine lawns, I arrived at the summit, not a soul in sight. This is the first time I've had the summit of Moosilauke to myself, and what a sight it was. In short order, the SOBO showed up (I hate to admit that I forgot his name!), and chatted for a while, blown away as well by the scene before him. He soon took off, headed for Jeffers Brook Shelter for the night, and I got to preparing my dinner (boiling water), and eating in solitude.


North view

The Kinsmans and Franconias

The Sandwich Range et al

South down the Carriage Road

Being punctual and arriving early is usually a good trait, however, after I finished my dinner, I realized I might have been too early. Clouds started to form over the peak, partially obscuring the sun, and the temperature started to plummet. Instead of being cold and perhaps not getting a sunset, I packed up and headed down. I nearly made it to the shelter spur without needing my headlamp, but in the end, I had to pull it out for the last few tenths.

Down at the shelter, I had company, a SOBO thru-hiker named Tomahawk. We chatted for quite a while, and watched the stars. I'm not sure I've ever seen them twinkle so much as they did that evening. Eventually, I got to sleep, and slept well through the cold night.

Thursday 9/25: Beaver Brook Shelter to Eliza Brook Shelter

Peak: Mt. Wolf (3480')

Trails: Beaver Brook Trail, Kinsman Ridge Trail, herd path

Mileage/etc.: 9.1 miles, 2745' of gain, started at 9:35, reached Eliza Brook at 3:45

New redlining miles: 6.5

Waking at a decent time, I got to the business of preparing breakfast (boiling water), and waking up. After a leisurely breakfast, and packing session, I wished Tomahawk luck with his hike, and headed down Beaver Brook. The Frankenshoes didn't do me wrong, but they were very loosey-goosey, the uppers had finally given up the ghost. I didn't slip, but definitely felt my foot moving around a lot inside the shoe, not exactly trustworthy in the footing department. I got down to my car in one piece, and took a break, changing into the Bushidos, for the remainder of the trip.

Little Haystack and Liberty over Kinsman Ridge

It's a bit of steep descent

Crossing the road, the Kinsman Ridge Trail doesn't muck about, and sends you up the other side of the notch. Many sections of rock staircase, in varying forms, from rough to polished, accompanied the ascent. This would be a running theme on Kinsman Ridge Trail. The first 0.6 miles felt like they went on forever, a rather relentless climb. Almost at the top of it, I met a SOBO section hiker, who did the same section Mike and I did the week before, but started a day after us... small world!

Passing the junction with Dilly Trail (from Lost River Reservation), the trail gains the main ridge, and starts to run north along it. Descents were met with ascents, though the walking was generally pleasant (oh, there were more rock staircases), and I made good time to Gordon Pond Trail, where I took a break.

An outlook to the lower Franconia Ridge

Next up was the real workout for the day, the ~850' climb up Mt. Wolf. It wasn't as bad as I thought it might be, and there were (wait for it...) many more section of rock staircase, to ease the ascent. Mt. Wolf was formerly on the 52 With A View list, but was de-listed in 2010 in favor of Mt. Roberts. I can now see why. When I reached the high point of the trail, I noticed a very faint path to my left, where the land still sloped upward. Following the path a short distance brought me to a definite high point, and a summit canister (last entry was from 9/4).

A limited view on the way

Looking up to the actual summit

The top

Dropping off the summit, I went out to the outlook spur, where the trees allow you a view over them to Franconia Ridge, and more obscurely the Kinsman Ridge ahead. Further descent, through some steep sections and mud holes, somewhat cursing that I'd have to come back through all this tomorrow. My cursing was interrupted briefly by a nice little boggy pond to the side of the trail.

Somewhat restricted Franconia Ridge

Quite obscured Kinsman Ridge

I do love unnamed ponds

Not far from the junction with Reel Brook Trail, I caught up with another hiker, a NOBO thru-hiker name Chayah (had to pull the spelling from her logbook entry). We ended up hiking together to Eliza Brook, chatting about her hike and future plans. Much to our surprise, there were others at Eliza Brook, the five NOBO's I had run into previously! Securing a spot in the shelter, and bidding farewell to Chayah (who was continuing on to Kinsman Pond), I proceeded to get to know the group a bit. Their names were Sticks, Pocketfire, Sweet Tea, Wild Child, and Soul Money. Sticks was a chemist before hitting the trail, Wild Child came from Florida, and Pocketfire was a towering red-headed (and bearded) German dude. They had a fire going, and relaxing by it was quite nice. Later, I lamented the fact that I didn't load up my daypack and head over to South Kinsman for sunset... because more than 2 hours of daylight was left when I stopped. Would I change it? Not a chance.

My evening view at Eliza Brook

Everyone seemed to start getting to bed as the light faded, so I followed suit. A warm nights sleep was had, in preparation for my exit.

Friday 9/26: Eliza Brook to Gordon Pond trailhead and walk on Rt. 112

Peak: None

Trails: Kinsman Ridge Trail, Gordon Pond Trail, roadwalk

Mileage/etc.: 9.2 miles, ~2300' of gain, started at 8:00, at Beaver Brook trailhead at 2:04

New redlining miles: 5 miles

The thru-hikers were up early, and those of us who stayed in the shelter seemed to wake up all at the same time, and got ready to roll. They all headed north, and I wished them well, before setting off to the south at 8:00. The section I'd been over the day before wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, a bit steep in spots, but the elevation gain was more spread out. Before I knew it, I was back at the Gordon Pond Trail junction.

Crossing the power line again

Old AMC signage

At the junction, I started down. The upper section was in good shape, with soft footing. At an appropriately placed blowdown, a herd path branched left, and I took it down to the shore of Gordon Pond. Moose sign and hoofprints were everywhere, and the view from the pond was fantastic. I dropped my pack, and sat for a while in the sun.

Mt. Wolf from Gordon Pond

Break over, I got myself back to the trail, and started toward Gordon Falls. I encountered a lot of wet areas, and some very muddy sections through here, but it was overshadowed by the generally soft walking of the rest of the trail. Fall colors were starting to pop out, brilliant yellows and reds. I didn't do the best research before this trip, and thought there was a spur to Gordon Falls... instead the trail passes right over the top of it! I didn't bother trying to get to the bottom, as the flow was pretty meager.

The top of Gordon Falls

On the other side of the falls, after passing some logging artifacts right on the trail, it starts a rollicking descent. It's hard to believe that a logging railroad ran up here in the early 1900's! Reaching the head of a ravine, that Gordon Pond Brook descends through, the trail crosses and mellows out. Crossing onto the power line again, the trail follows the clearing for a while... I even saw a truck parked ON the trail! Ducking back into the woods, the trail is decently marked, but is mostly marked for snowmobiles it seems.

Turning back into the woods, the last junction is reached, going left and uphill. Occasional blue blazes lead the way, though I wasn't always sure I was on the trail. I popped out of the woods on a road in between two houses. Across 112 is a former restaurant, where I've heard it is alright to park. There is NO signage on 112 to say there's even a trail here, what a shame.

Last junction

Now on the road, I walked the shoulder. Early on, I stuck my thumb out when I heard cars coming up on me, but I had no luck. I was soon relegated to just putting my head down and hoofing it, there are worse things than walking a road on a brilliant early fall day. Just before Lost River Reservation, an SUV pulled over in front of me, and asked if I wanted a ride. Thanking them, I got in, and was greeted by a lady and her three sub-3 year old granddaughters. She had done a thru-hike, and felt bad for me walking on the pavement. Dropping me at my car, I thanked her profusely and said goodbye to her granddaughters in the back.

Another good trip was in the books, and another with great weather to boot! This puts me over 70% complete with the White Mountain Guide, a milestone to be sure. Here's to more miles before the year is over!

New redlining miles: 13.0

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