"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn." ~ John Muir

Monday, August 24, 2015

My Daughter's First Earned Hiking Patch! NH Fire Lookout Tower Quest Program

The Division of Forest and Lands in New Hampshire has a program that is aimed toward, "increasing the public's recognition of, and appreciation for, the critical roles that our fire towers play in the protection, stewardship and sustainable use of New Hampshire's forests." [1] So, in order to do this, they encourage people to visit the 16 active Fire Lookout Towers in New Hampshire (15 run by the Division of Forest and Lands and 1 run by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust). As an incentive, if you visit 5 of the 15 run by the Division of Forest and Lands, they will send you a Certificate of Acknowledgement and a cool patch for your backpack! All you need to do is print out their form and record the towers you visited with the respective dates.

The following towers are on the list and count toward earning the patch:

  • Belknap Mountain in Gilford
  • Blue Job Mountain in Farmington
  • Cardigan Mountain in Orange
  • Croydon Mountain in Croydon
  • Federal Hill in Milford
  • Green Mountain in Effingham
  • Kearsarge Mountain (South) in Wilmot/Warner
  • Magollaway Mountain in Pittsburg
  • Milan Hill in Milan
  • Pack Monadnock in Peterborough
  • Oak Hill in Loudon
  • Pawtuckaway Mountain (South) in Nottingham
  • Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard
  • Mount Prospect in Lancaster
  • Red Hill in Moultonborough
  • Warner Hill in Derry
My daughter and I started her quest to hit five towers last summer. This summer, she accomplished her goal and visited five of the active Fire Lookout Towers in New Hampshire! I am so proud of her. The towers she visited were:

#1 Blue Job Mountain on July 26th, 2014


#2 Warner Hill on August 2nd, 2014


#3 Pawtuckaway Mountain (South) on August 31st, 2014


#4 Pack Monadnock on September 9th, 2014


#5 Mount Kearsarge (South) on June 6th, 2015


After hiking all five mountains, we filled out the pdf form which can be found on the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands website, and sent in for Lylah's patch. A few weeks later, we received her patch and Certificate of Acknowledgement in the mail!



I can't express how proud I am of my daughter for completing her first hiking list. Watching her enjoy the trail as I do and being able to spend quality time in the woods with her has made me so happy! I hope the miles we've spent on the trail crossing off fire towers is only the beginning of many miles we'll spend together in the New Hampshire wilderness!


Some other great information and history on NH Fire Towers can be found here: http://www.firelookout.org/lookouts/nh/nh.htm

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mount Jefferson and Caps Ridge Trail!!!

One trail that has always interested me is the Ridge of Caps Trail (more well known as the Caps Ridge Trail) which leads to the summit of Mount Jefferson, the 3rd highest 4,000 footer in New Hampshire at approximately 5,712 feet. The Caps Ridge Trail is the highest trailhead location in the State that leaves from a public road starting at about 3,000 feet in elevation. It’s 2.5 miles long and climbs approximately 2,700 feet to the summit. However, the more interesting allure to this trail is the terrain. It’s known to be a great rock scramble trail, featuring giant Caps that protrude from the mountain side creating a ridge. The rock climbing and scrambles that these Caps create on the trail have even awarded itself a place on the Terrifying 25 list for New Hampshire!



The decision to hike this trail actually stemmed from my buddy, Pat, who was vacationing at the Mount Washington Resort in the Crawford Notch back in February. While having a beer at the bar, he was staring out at the Presidentials and texted me that he’d like to climb one of those mountains. Since I'll never turn down an invitation to hike, I took the text as a request to plan out an epic trek. We set the date for 6 months later and I chose this trail due to the interest I had for it and the challenge! We also recruited by buddy, Sean, who I hiked Potash with (see previous report) a few years prior.


We met at the trailhead around 9:15 or so and for a Friday, there were still quite a few cars there. It was about 80 degrees and sunny at the trailhead, but there were clouds circling Mount Washington, which in turn, encompassed Mount Jefferson’s summit as well.

The first mile of the trail is in the woods. You first travel over some log platforms setup for wetter conditions and then the trail heads up somewhat steeply. The trail is well maintained and it’s easy to keep your footing on the hike up. I would say, after about ¾ of a mile, the steepness dissipated and the trail flattened out. The trees also got smaller and wind was more prevalent. It wasn’t long before we came to a view point at the 1 mile mark that had some granite slabs on the right of the trail.

First section with log bridges over the wet portions

View of the caps near the first view point

The granite slabs had very large potholes in them which were remnants of glacial activity many, many years ago. From this viewpoint, we had an awesome view to the south of the Southern Prezis (as well as Mt. Clay) and up to Jefferson's peak. You could make out the rest of the trail route over the Caps and up to the very cone-shaped, pointed summit. The Caps looked extremely intimidating from this standpoint, but we were ready to move on and tackle them.

 Up toward Clay at first viewpoint

 Potholes in granite slabs at first viewpoint

Up toward the Mount Jefferson Summit at first viewpoint.

Southern Presidentials

Crawford Notch with the Mount Washington Resort in the valley

The trail continued on flat and it wasn’t long before we came to a junction where The Link Trail entered from the left which leads to the Castle Trail. We remained to the right as we wanted to continue on The Caps Ridge Trail. Soon after this junction, we came to the famous Caps!

The trail went from flat earth to large boulders that you needed to climb over using your hands, feet and knees! It was a lot of fun and seemed pretty safe as trees still surrounded an obvious route up. However, as we got higher, the Caps became more exposed and instead of boulder filled, slide like trail; we were facing what seemed like small cliffs!!!


 
Trail just prior to the Caps

Looking down at one of the first scrambles

View back from the trail

View back from the trail 

More scrambling

The intimidation of the climbing and rock scrambles disappeared pretty quickly as we were having a ton of fun! Trying to negotiate the best way to tackle the rock faces was a blast. Every time we got over a challenging one, and even more challenging one surfaced and we started over again. As we got to the upper most Cap, the intimidation came back…but it was with regards to how were going to make our way back down them during the decent! Oh well, we figured we’d cross that bridge when we were headed down.

Pat tackling one of the Caps

Sean negotiating a Cap

Glabrous Sandwort on the Caps

Looking back on the Caps

After the Caps, the trail turned into less of an actual trail and more of a craggy rock pile, similar to the upper portion of Mount Washington. We passed the junction where The Cornice Trail crossed and continued up at 2.1 miles. Now, completely exposed above tree line, the wind hit us hard from the west and the clouds rolled in thick and heavy. For a short few seconds, there was a break in the fast moving clouds and we caught a glimpse of the Mount Washington summit.

Peak of Jefferson at the The Cornice Trail junction

Signage

Cog in the distance from the junction

Mount Washington making an appearance from behind the clouds for a short minute

 Stake at summit...no Benchmark!!!

Eerie!

At the summit

The Great Gulf

Memorial on the summit

We pushed on to the Mount Jefferson summit which was small and craggy, but very cool. The clouds and the wind made it a very eerie visit. It was also 48 degrees by my thermometer...and colder with the windchill. I was very disappointed to find that the USGS Benchmark is no longer there and only a metal stake remains. I assume someone stole it as I’ve seen pictures of it from past trip reports. Sean, Pat and I hung out on the summit for about 30 minutes, hoping the skies would clear but they did not. So we snapped a few pics and headed down.


The trip down was pretty fast and the hardest part was the craggy rock at the top as most were potential ankle twisters! The Caps were not that difficult to negotiate going down as long as you took your time. However, your butt was needed for sliding in a few spots. Back at the trailhead, we set up a few chairs and relaxed with some beverages. I can honestly say I miss being able to hike as much as I used to as life has gotten hectic…but just getting out once in a while with some great friends on an epic journey like the Caps Ridge Trail definitely helps make up for it!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mountain Biking on the Londonderry Rail Trails!

It should be clear to the followers of this blog that my number one outdoor passion is hiking. It doesn't get better than that when spending time in the great outdoors. However, since I started hiking many years ago, it has opened my interest to many other activities as well. One of those activities is mountain biking. Last year, a few colleagues from my work would go biking one day a week at lunch and it appealed to me. So, I went out and bought a pretty cheap, low end bike to give a it a trial run last summer. As I imagined I would, I loved it! 

This year, I sold the cheaper bike and purchased what I consider to be a beginner's intermediate bike at DG Cycle Sports in Epping, NH. It's a Giant Talon with 27.5 tires and features hydraulic disc brakes, a fork with hydraulic lockout and 24 speeds.  The color is pretty snazzy too, blue and orange. I chose this color scheme because my daughter informs me that they're my favorite colors on a regular basis...and I honestly have no idea why she thinks that...true story!



This summer, a few of the guys at work and I have decided to make our bike ride a weekly event. So far this year, we've been exploring the Londonderry Rail Trail. This trail has a few different terrains and can accommodate all skill level riders, walkers and runners. We typically try to park in a restaurant parking lot in Londonderry, on Auburn Road which is adjacent to Route 28. From that point, we can head southeast on trail that is a bit rough and gets rougher as you go which we like. If we want to take it easy, we head northwest toward the airport where it's completely paved.

I highly recommend checking it out if you have a chance to. The town has done a great job updating these trails for recreational use. You can visit the Londonderry Trailways page here.






 End of the pavement and start of the dirt.




 One part of the dirt rail trail. Pretty flat and easy to manuever.




Memorial bench on the trail



 Swampy area off to the side.




Old spike on the trail...history of what used to be here.



After you cross 28 at a point, the trail is rougher and more grown in.




Overpass on the trail. There's a lot of garbage here.



Steep hill looking down



Brook crossing the trail with a rope swing



 Pond that the brook flows in or out of. 




 One of my buddies heading into a drain pipe that goes under the road.


It doesn't look that bad until you get inside and then it gets dark quick.


 Packing up after a fun ride!





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