"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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jackson Wildquack Duck River Festival 2015

This Memorial Day, we headed up to Jackson for a couple nights along with a few of our friends and attended the Jackson Wildquack Duck Festival! It was a great time for the kids with a bouncy castle, slot car racing, fire truck tours and of course, a Wildquack Duck Race down the Wildcat River! I highly recommend checking it out if you have kids and even if you don't. We had four ducks race, but unfortunately...they didn't win. We had a great time anyway!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

First Time at Mount Agamenticus

In September of last year, Jill and I took a day off from work to go on a hike, just the two of us. It was some much needed time away from work and spending it on the trail seemed like the most logically way to unwind and relax. We were looking for something close to home to avoid a long drive but also wanted to try something new that we hadn't hiked or explored previously. For that reason, we chose Mount Agamenticus (Mount A) in York, Maine. It's very accessible from the seacoast region of NH and everyone I know that has hiked the Mount A trails has great things to say about it.

When doing my pre-hike research, I found they had a great website! They also had a PDF pamphlet that could be downloaded which contained an extremely clear and detailed map.

Kiosk at trailhead

Ring Trail


Detailed trail signage regarding wildlife

We decided to park at the first trailhead off from Mountain Road which Ring Trail (also part of "Turtle Loop") which loops around the base of the mountain. The trail was wide and had a lot of roots. We noticed right away that there were signs that displayed photos of the wildlife in the area with a detailed description. We came to a split in the trail pretty quickly and headed to the left.

Blueberry Bluff Trail

The trail then passed over the auto road, which ascends to the summit, and curved to the left. After passing the auto road, we soon came to a junction where the Blueberry Bluff Trail went up to the summit on the right. This trail was more like a hiking trails we are used to, ascending over ledge and slabs. It wasn't super steep, but we definitely gained some elevation pretty quickly. It wasn't long before the views opened up and we were on the top of the mountain.

Pawtuckaway Mountains to the west

Cell tower on summit

Welcome sign on summit

Learning Lodge on summit

Fire tower on summit

Mount A has large summit area. It has a Learning Lodge, barn, fire tower, multiple radio towers and observation deck and more. You could see 360 degrees off the mountain to the White Mountains and to the ocean. It was pretty impressive!

The observation deck was a very cool as it had you look toward the Whites. It had a really cool viewing chart of the skyline so that you could find notable mountains including Mount Chocorua and Mount Washington.

 Observation deck

 Skyline legend

 Mount Chocorua on the skyline

Mount Washington in the "hazy" distance!

Once Jill and I were done taking in the views and relaxing a bit, we headed down the northeast side of the mountain via the Witch Hazel Trail. One cool thing about this trail is that it was part of an old ski slope/return that was in service on Mount A in the 1960's and 1970's. We saw a lot of old equipment including a snow packer and many ski lift structures. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love seeing these historical structures preserved in the woods.

Old ski machinery and snow packer

Old ski lift equipment

 Ski machinery in a forest

 Ski machinery in a forest

Garter Snake on the trail

At the bottom of the Witch Hazel Trail, we took a right onto the Ring Trail. We continued on that and it brought us back to the original trailhead we started at. I believe in all, we only hiked 1.5 miles but it was a great time. From this point on, Mount A will be on the list of local mountains we'll visit often!

Us on Mount A!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

NH Fire Tower Quest #4 - Pack Monadnock Mountain

Every year at my work, we do something called Wellness Week where we try to do activities each day to promote a healthy lifestyle for our employees. Each year, I'm given the privilege of planning out a hike for everyone to go on that takes a few hours in the middle of the day. In 2014, I chose Pack Monadnock Mountain as it's not far from Manchester, NH, it's a pretty gentle ascent, and I had never had the chance to hike it before.

On September 9th, 2014, a few of us from work, as well as some of our children, set out for Miller State Park which is located in Peterborough, NH. It's probably worth noting that like most state parks, there is a fee of $4 for adults and $2 for children (ages 6-11) that is collected upon entering the parking area. Our chosen route to summit was a counterclockwise loop, ascending the Wapack Trail and descending the Marion Davis Trail. The length of each trail is approximately 1.4 miles making the loop about 2.8 miles.

Lylah came with me so that we could check off fire tower number 4 for her NH Fire Tower Quest Patch. That being the case, most of the guys headed up in front of us and we took on the rear of the party as her legs were the shortest in the group. 

The Wapack Trail started off pretty rocky and steep and quickly opened up to some great views to the west, of the popular Mount Monadnock. The ledge and rock soon turned into forest and the ascent became more gentle. Throughout hiking, you could hear cars passing up and down the auto road which is just to the east of the Wapack Trail. With a lot of breaks and some carrying of my daughter, we did finally make it to the top of the mountain.

Kiosk at trailhead

Wapack Trail Sign

My buddy, Rob, on a scary rock overhanging a very high ledge!

First outlook to the west of Mount Monadnock

At the summit, there was a parking area for cars, the fire tower, a radio tower and some picnic tables. We ate lunch at the picnic tables and then headed up the fire tower for a 360 degree lookout containing Mount Monadnock, the Boston skyline and some other close by mountains.

 Mount Monadnock to the west.

 Close up of Mount Monadnock

 Boston Skyline

 North Pack Monadnock to the right, Crotched Mountain to the left, and Mount Kearsarge and Mount Cardigan beyond Crotched Mountain (harder to see).

USGS Bench Mark!

NH DOT Bench Mark

Fire Tower

Radio Tower

We descended the Marion Davis Trail, again trailing the pack of hikers. The descent was pretty gentle and did go by pretty fast. Once we got back to the parking area, we packed up and headed back to the office to try to get some productive work in before the end of the day. I would say it's probably the best way to spend a day in the office (but not really "in" the office).

After this mountain, we only need to hit one more active fire tower for Lylah to earn her Quest Patch. I'm pretty sure we're going to try Kearsarge (south) next, but I'll keep you posted!


Daddy-Daughter Hike #5, NH Fire Tower Quest #3 - Pawtuckaway Mountain, South

For the 3rd NH fire tower visit for Lylah's Quest Patch, I thought Pawtuckaway Mountain (South) would be a good candidate. I knew from past experience that the trail had pretty easy terrain and the fire tower was frequented daily so no dangerous wasp situations would occur as did on our previous visit to Warner Hill. We also invited my nephew, Jacob, along with us.

To summit, we parked at the south end of Tower Road, walked in and took a right onto the Mountain Trail for a short distance, until we hit the South Ridge Trail. We then ascended the South Ridge Trail to the summit where the Fire Tower is. For the most part, the terrain brings you through pine forest. The trail is pretty wide but has lots of exposed roots. There is one really nice lookout area where we stopped and had a snack before proceeding to the top where the fire tower is.

The kids, excited to hike!

 Tower Road

 Typical trail conditions on this hike.

 Jacob, showing off his climbing skills.

 View to the west from the tower, Pawtuckaway Middle and Pawtuckaway North in view.

 View to the east from the tower, Pawtuckaway Lake.

 The three of us at the base of the fire tower.

An older image of the tower, as I forgot to snap one of it that day...no clue how I forgot that!!!


Monday, May 18, 2015

Daddy-Daughter Hike #4, NH Fire Tower Quest #2 - A Scary Experience on Warner Hill

I noticed on the NH Fire Tower Quest Program pamphlet, 1 of the 16 active fire towers in New Hampshire was in Derry on top of Warner Hill. I'm not familiar with the hill or the Derry area, but it isn't a far drive from our house so I thought it might be a good one for Lylah and I  to check off quickly. I couldn't find much info on the tower or if there was actually a hike or not, so we decided to wing it. 

I found the inlet to the hill which was simply an old access road that climbed steeply up the hill. I backed the truck up to a gated portion near the top. I noticed immediately that the area was rather sketchy, but decided to see if we could find the tower anyway. We continued the rest of the way up the hill and saw the fire tower and radio tower off to the left once the hill plateaued. There was also a lot of garbage everywhere and I noticed the surroundings of the tower hadn't been maintained well (high grass, brush, etc.) even though the site was considered active. 

We started climbing the tower which seemed structurally sound. We got to third platform up when something went terribly wrong. Out of no where, we were swarmed by aggressive wasps that came at us from under the stairs. My three year old daughter got stung 4 times and I got stung 2 times. In an absolute panic, I tried to swat them away and get her down the tower. In doing so, we both fell down a few flights and got pretty bruised up. Not knowing if she was allergic (being the first time she was stung), it was a very scary situation. I got her back to the truck and headed toward civilization as quickly as I could to ensure I could monitor her condition with as much safety as possible.

The next day (8-4-14), I called the NH Division of Forest and Lands to report the incident and ensure someone was going to go up there to take care of the wasp nest that swarmed us so that no one else, especially children, would get hurt or worse. The person that took my call guaranteed me that the message would go to the correct person and someone would call me back. I left my number, but no one ever called me back. To me, this situation was very serious. It was pretty traumatizing to my daughter, and probably one of the scariest moments I've had as a parent. The fact that the NH Division of Forest and Lands never even called me back to let me know the message got to the correct person was extremely disappointing to me and I felt demonstrated a lack of responsibility.

As a warning to all that may want to visit the Warner Hill Fire Tower in Derry, please note that it seems this tower is not well maintained or frequented by the maintainers. Be extremely careful when climbing the tower because when you get swarmed a few flights up, getting down is very difficult and the situation can become dangerous quickly, as it did for us.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Daddy-Daughter Hike #3, NH Fire Tower Quest #1 - Blue Job Mountain

I think it's official. I am the worst blogger ever!!! 

I haven't been hiking lately and not even that active outdoors except some running here and there. Although, I do have some trip reports from later in the season, last year, that I'd still like to share. Even though they're not going to help with current conditions, etc. bear with me and hopefully you'll find them enjoyable!

As I mentioned the last couple times I blogged, my daughter and I started Daddy-Daughter Hikes which were a blast for me and I felt, were a great way to introduce her to hiking. After the first couple, she really took an interest to Fire Towers. So we started the NH Fire Tower Quest Program which is setup to raise awareness about NH Fire Towers and their history. There are currently 16 fire towers active under the NH Division of Forests and Lands and if you visit 5 of them, log the dates, they will send you a patch for the accomplishment. 

Our first one on the list was Blue Job Mountain, which is located in Farmington, NH, but we accessed through a trailhead in Strafford, NH. It's about a 1 mile loop up to the summit with one great lookout area on the way up. The trails bring you through hardwood and pine forests. There is also some great blueberry picking if you pick the right time to go!

My munchkin ready to go!

There's not many maps of Blue Job out there. Feel free to take this one as an image when you go. We always do the loop in a counter clockwise fashion.

Orange/Redish Blazes

Trail on the way up through some hardwood.

Radio tower at lookout area on way up

Lookout Views!

Little cave near some blueberry bushes

My little Blueberry Picker!

 Upper portion of trail with some older asphalt, near the top.

 Active Blue Job Fire Tower