In keeping with my recent nomadic tendencies, I got out of work on Wednesday, prepared some things, and went to the mountains. The sub-par weather as of late hasn't dampened my spirits, as much as it's dampened my gear, and I've grown accustomed to being precipitated on. I can't wait to be able to legitimately call the White Mountains home, though I've felt at home here for a long time. While I adore winter and all its charms (seriously, not sarcastically), spring and a move can't come soon enough. Until then, long drives for winter fun will continue to be the norm. Worth it.
Wednesday 10/29: Franconia Notch recreation
Trails: Pemi Trail, Franconia Notch Recreation Path
Mileage/gain: 12.8 miles, 993' gain
New redlining miles: 10.9
All trails are different. They may possess similar characteristics, scenery, or destinations, but they are all unique in one way or another. One of these trails is NOT like the other. I understand the inclusion of the Franconia Notch Recreation Path (bike path/multi-use trail) in the White Mountain Guide, as a connecting path between the many trailheads up and down Franconia Notch. The affront is that it's paved. As with anything, you take the good with the bad.
With all preparations done, Mike and I spotted his truck at the end of the bike path, and drove south to the Old Man viewing site and the start of the Pemi Trail. In a fine drizzle, typical as of late, we hiked south. Clouds clung to the walls of the notch as we hiked, and it rained off and on, a gray day to be sure. The northern sections of the Pemi Trail are quite nice, crossing the bike path several times, though the sound of the highway diminishes its appeal. Beyond the Basin, the trail became very muddy, and we (see: me) had a difficult crossing of Cascade Brook near the southern end of the trail. Passing under the highway, it was time for almost 8 miles of rain on pavement, slippery wooden bridges, and highway underpasses. I almost forgot to mention, we started this hike at 1:30pm, like smart guys. Arriving at Mike's truck well after dark (sometime just after 7 if I recall), we picked up my car and secured a spot at Lafayette Place Campground ($20 a night in the off-season... steep), for a rather loud night in our tents.
|Eagle Cliff over Profile Lake|
|Leaf littered Pemi Trail|
|Mike shredding the bike path, on foot|
Thursday 10/30: Stragglers to the west of the Kinsmans
I set an alarm for early, so we would wake up in time to meet Ashley in the Lonesome Lake parking lot, and we got ourselves breakfasted and over there. Since we were doing out and backs, we took my car and headed south for the first of four hikes.
Hike #1: Not quite Cobble Hill
Trail: Cobble Hill Trail
Mileage/gain: 4.2 miles, 854' of gain
The Cobble Hill Trail starts out from a tiny parking area on NH 112 in Landaff, and follows old logging roads for its entire length, up to the WMNF boundary at a height of land between Cobble Hill and Moody Ledge. This made for easy walking the whole way, and I daresay that it's probably skiable in winter. There are no views along the trail, though I'll likely come back to check out the area further, especially the abandoned South Landaff Road (which forks left from the trail at 0.7 miles). Since Mike and I were hiking, Ashley had to suffer the consequences, and we were rained on for our descent.
|A joke cairn|
|I feel it|
|The continuation on private land|
Hike #2: Cooley Hill
Peak: Cooley Hill (2485')
Trail: Jericho Road Trail
Mileage/gain: 6.4 miles, 1427' of gain
Cooley Hill, Cobble Hill... we got them confused more than once. This trail was definitely a joy, following old roads for the most part, through nice stretches of woods. Not really a views trail if that's what you're looking for, but it had a magic all its own. The sun even came out for a bit, but was quickly put away by the clouds. We putted around the summit area, hitting what we thought to be the highpoint, and checked out the fire tower remnants. There's a short path just down from the tower that leads out to a restricted view of the Kinsmans, which were socked in, where we took a break. It ended up being a very pleasant stroll back down to the car.
|Kinsman Ridge socked in|
|The path out|
Hike #3: Bridal Veil Falls
Trail: Coppermine Trail
Mileage/gain: 5 miles, 982' of gain
Though I'd last been up to the shelter and falls in August, I didn't want my friends to miss out on getting the trail while we were in the area. Besides, I wanted to look for the memorial left for Arthur Farnsworth by Bette Davis, that lies in Coppermine Brook. We never did find it, but saw some other neat things while we were looking. Took a break at the shelter after checking out the falls, and headed down. I plan to come back this winter, perhaps to spend a night, and do some skiing.
|The bottom of the old Coppermine Ski Trail|
|Small plunge below the falls|
|Bridal Veil Falls|
|Smooth and turbulent|
|Chain in a tree|
Hike #4: Kilburn Crags
Trail: Kilburn Crags Trail
Mileage/gain: 1.8 miles, 400' of gain
For the finale to our day, we had a bit of a car ride to undertake, up 93 a ways into Littleton. The sun came out on our ride, and was in our faces as we tried to find the trailhead. There is a large sign at the start, and parking for a couple of cars off the shoulder of Rt. 18... and I'm blind. Starting up past a house and field, the trail soon enters the woods and follows a good road all the way up. There are two benches along the trail, which we were too busy to stop at, and a picnic table at the top. The view didn't disappoint, though the higher summits were cloud capped. I'm sure on a clear day they must be spectacular, from the Mahoosucs to Moosilauke. It's too bad the viewpoint faces east, as the sunset looked like it was great. The good thing about sunsets is, if you miss one, there will be another.
|A stately tree at the beginning|
|A look toward Franconia Notch|
|East view over Littleton toward the Presidentials|
On the way back to the car, Mike suggested getting dinner and beer in Littleton, which Ashley and I gladly agreed to. Afterward we headed back to the notch, where Mike took off for home, and Ashley and I settled in for the evening. Following some further imbibing, we got snug in our sleeping bags, another early day was soon to be upon us.
New redlining miles: 6.2
Friday 10/31: Franconia region finish and Wonalancet bits
Maybe it was because Mike wasn't with us, but the cloudy skies of the morning yielded no precipitation... and the ones in the afternoon when I was alone didn't either! Coincidence?
Hike #1: Zeacliff
Peak: Zeacliff (3756')
Trails: Zealand Trail, Ethan Pond Trail, Zeacliff Trail, Twinway
Mileage/gain: 9.2 miles, 2397' of gain
Both of us set alarms, woke up independently of each other, and started breaking down our tents. Ashley was severely affected by lack of coffee, but there wasn't exactly a Dunkin Donuts in striking distance... a better friend would have figured something out. Notwithstanding coffee, we reconvened at Hale Brook trailhead, as our original plan called for Zeacliff and Hale. Judging by the time, Ashley thought better of trying to tack on Hale, especially since she had to be back at work for the afternoon. The loop we did ended up being the highlight of the trip!
The clouds of the early morning started to show some blue, but it appeared to be a lie until we reached the boardwalk, where we had great blue sky views up to the Zealand Ridge reflected in the pond. While it was still cold as we popped out on the talus slope at the base of Whitewall Mountain, it was rejuvenating to feel the sun on my face, even for a moment. This would be the last section of trail for me in the Pemigewasset Wilderness, and I found it fitting that it was one of the more challenging ones. Down from the junction, the trail loses about 250 feet of elevation in a hurry, as it heads to cross Whitewall Brook at the bottom of the notch. On the other side, of course, we climb steeply! If I'm not mistaken, there might well be some skiing opportunities in the birch glades that exist on the eastern and southern aspects of Zeacliff. Tantalizing at the very least, and probably worth further scouting. Finishing off the trail, we stopped before we got to the viewpoint. Dead silence. It's not something that happens often in the mountains, and I'm glad Ashley picked up on it. The views from Zeacliff didn't disappoint (and Ashley finally got to see them!), and we hung out for a bit before heading down to the hut and on out to our cars. Ashley took off to get ready for work, and I had a little bit of unfinished business to attend to before I decided what to do next.
|Zealand Ridge reflection|
|Ethan Pond Trail|
|Damp blue sky reflection|
|Mt. Hale as viewed from Zealand Notch|
|The classic Zeacliff view|
Hike #2: Franconia region finish
Trails: Sugarloaf Trail, Trestle Trail
Mileage/gain: 1 mile, 160' of gain
When I did the Sugarloaf Trail on a sultry July morning last year, I tried to knock off the Trestle Trail too. Not realizing while I was there that I could have closed the loop from the parking lot (on what's marked as a cross country ski trail), I left the segment that rolls through Sugarloaf II campground, as I couldn't cross the river on that day. This day was far better, and the sun shone for most of my 20 or so minute ramble on the banks of the Zealand River. That's not to say the crossing was easy, but that's what I get for saving this little segment for last. The Franconia region is done!
|Zealand River still a relative torrent, but crossable|
Hike #3: Wonalancet paths
Peak: Mt. Katherine (1380')
Trails: Red Path, Pasture Path, Tilton Spring Path, McCrillis Path, Blueberry Ledges Trail
Mileage/gain: 4.5 miles, 616' of gain
Ashley and I had gotten to discussing areas where we were particularly deficient in the redlining department, and Wonalancet came up. The moment it was mentioned, an image of their blue lettered signage popped into my head, and I knew where I needed to go for the afternoon. Once I found the start of Red Path (it starts as a private road), I began my walk. All these trails were exceedingly pleasant, with generally good footing throughout, and little mud. Downed leaves made up the bulk of the obstacles. Little Mt. Katherine sports a fine framed view of Mt. Chocorua in the distance, and was an easy out and back from the three-way junction with Tilton Spring Path, Red Path, and Pasture Path. Tilton Spring was a great connecting trail, and even dipped into the (mmm) Sandwich Range Wilderness, though the appropriate signage was missing. Looping back around on McCrillis Path (which still needs to be done), Blueberry Ledges Trail, and the other half of Pasture Path, I got out of the woods before the light was out of the sky.
|Milkweed in action|
|Framed vista from Mt. Katherine|
|Tilton Spring, dribbling on this day|
|Tilton Spring Path|
|I can only hope the rest of McCrillis Path is this nice|
Getting a look at the forecast for the next day pretty much nixed any plans I might have had. Snow at elevation means rain down low this time of year, so I headed home. Another successful trip to the Whites, and one week closer to my calling it home.
New redlining miles: 4.7
New miles: 21.8