Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Equipment Part II: Conditioning and Waterproofing Your Hiking Boots!

I grew up in a military family. My Dad was in the Army for thirty-six years. That being the case, there was always an abundance of boots kicking around the house (no pun intended). When I was pretty young, my Dad was more than willing to teach me how to treat and maintain boots. Let's just say from that point on, I did my fair share of polishing and conditioning his combat boots. For some strange reason, I thought it was a lot of fun at the time. Whether it was his standard issue combat boots, work boots or hunting boots, he pretty much taught me to treat them all with the same care. Today, I still apply his boot conditioning lessons to my everyday work boots and after ten years, they still look like they are brand new. Now that I've taken up hiking, I think it only makes sense to condition my hiking boots (which are my Asolo TPS 520 GV's that I purchased this past June) in the same manner. I thought it would be nice to share with you, how I go about this!

What you will need!!!

Before I begin, I should probably mention that this will only work on leather boots. The sealer I use, which is primarily beeswax, will not work on synthetic materials. Also, I should mention that it will discolor a boot to some degree. It will certainly not hurt any leathers, but any lighter colored leather (or suede for that matter) will not look the same when you are done...but it will waterproof and condition regardless of the discoloring!

Notice the abuse the White Mountains have put my little boots through this season!!!

To start out, make sure you have all the essential tools. You'll need a soft buffing brush to clean the boots. To apply your sealer, you'll need a clean cotton rag. What I feel works best is an old undershirt. You'll definitely need a heating element of some kind to open the pores of the leather. I like to use Jill's hairdryer because it has a lot of different settings which allows you to control how hot the leather gets. Finally, you'll need your boots and the beeswax sealer of choice. Oh, I almost forgot...you should also have a good brew, preferably served in an old mason jar to quench your thirst during this task. Today, I've chosen Blue Moon Ale, since it is what is left over from our Christmas Eve gathering!

First, remove your shoelaces and make sure your boot's leather is somewhat clean and free of foreign debris. Take the brush and use it to buff off all dirt and grime. Dirt and dust typically builds up in the crevices between the tongue and the boot lip. If there is a dirt and grime in there, make sure you get it all out.

Shoelaces removed and dirt buffed off!

Once the leather is adequately cleaned, use the hairdryer on setting "hot", but with a "low" fan, to heat up small sections of the leather. Make sure not to leave the hairdryer concentrated in one spot too long. You want to move it around quickly (back-and-forth or in circular motion) as to not overheat the leather. Once it's warm to the touch (not too hot!!!), apply the beeswax with the clean rag in a circular motion. Right away, you should be able to see the beeswax melt and absorb into the leather. This is good! You'll want to continue applying the beeswax until it is no longer being absorbed. Once you feel there is a good amount of beeswax at that section, continue onto the next small section of the boot until the entire leather surface has been covered. Please note that sections of the leather that are more worn (such as the toe) will accept more beeswax than sections that are not as worn (such as the ankle).

Visual Comparison: the boot on the left is untouched, the boot on the right is conditioned

When working your way around the boot's leather surfaces, be sure to pay extra attention to the stitching and seams of the boot, as well as where the sole is joined to the leather uppers. You will want to use a liberal amount of beeswax in these areas and make sure it is rubbed in well. These are typically your first failure points, especially during full foot submersion in water. So, be sure to use plenty of beeswax reduce the risk of leaking.

Use a generous amount of beeswax in the stitching and seams

Make sure to get a generous amount of beeswax in the sole-to-leather joint

Once you've finished applying the beeswax, the boot will most likely be a bit darker, will have a shiny appearance and the surface will be a bit tacky. This tackiness will wear off quickly after the first or second use. When I'm done waxing, I like to put my boots next to the furnace register overnight to try to dry any excess beeswax. I'm not sure if this really does any good or not. The first time you use the boots after conditioning, you may observe some white cracking on the bend points of the leather due to your foot's motion. This is totally fine. It is just the dried beeswax on the surface of the leather cracking. It's okay because this isn't what is protecting your boot. The beeswax that was absorbed into the leather is what is protecting your boot!

Both Asolo hiking boots, fully conditioned with beeswax

The beeswax I use is an Atsko product called Sno-Seal™. I'm sure there are other beeswax products on the market that probably work just as well, but I use Sno-Seal™ because that is what my father always used and I have adopted it from him. I try to apply Sno-Seal™ once a year and it typically seems to fall around this time of year (first snow fall) because that is when I'm most concerned about waterproofing and keeping my feet dry. From what I have read, beeswax is an ideal product for Gor-Tex® lined boots because it is organic and will not react negatively with the Gor-Tex® membrane. Also, it will not clog the natural pores of the boot, allowing the Gor-Tex® to vent properly, keeping your feet free of sweat!

My finished Asolo hiking boots next to the furnace register

Please understand that I am not a boot expert and how I condition my boots, may not be the best practice for yours. Please do your research before applying anything to your footwear to ensure that you are not harming them, but are instead maintaining and protecting them for whatever activities they are used for. I hope sharing my boot maintenance tips with you was helpful and most of all, I hope it helps extend your boot's life and keeps your feet dry :) !


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Jill and I (and of course, Hank and Lily) hope everyone out there has a very Merry Christmas and a great New Year! Hope you find some time to hit the trails on your time off this weekend!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guest Blogger Postings on LFAHNH

As we near the beginning of 2011, I fear that my schedule will fill up to the point where I won't be able to post as much as I do now. As many of you know, Jill and I are having a baby. I foresee this alone taking up a bulk of my time. I'm excited to create a nursery and start collecting all the furniture and toys that our new little bambino (or bambina) will need. Along with this, we have many doctor's appointments and classes that we will need to attend. I see all of these tasks being fun, but time consuming nonetheless.

Another activity that will be taking up a bulk of my time is graduate school. It's that time of year when I start to actively pursue my graduate degree again. I only take a few courses each year due to the amount of funding that my company allows for my education. However, Jill and I have both decided that it's time to just finish it up. So, I will be taking two classes starting in the beginning of January. Now, to be honest, class is not one of my favorite things. So two graduate courses will certainly take up a lot of my time in more ways than one.

Aside from the new peanut (that's what we call the baby, because the first ultrasound pictures looked like a peanut) and the course work, everyday life is busy in general. Work is always crazy and there always seems to be something to do around the house. I feel this schedule will certainly leave little time for hiking and writing in this blog. So, I thought it would be a perfect time to run a series of Guest Blogger Posts. It is something that I've been wanting to do for quite a while now, because I'm sure people get sick of reading my garbled articles.

In the following months, I'll be posting articles by individuals who share the same passion for hiking that Jill and I have. The topics and pictures will be purely up to the authors. I'm very excited for this and I hope you are too. Keep an eye on your inbox, because I may be calling on you to share some of your thoughts on Live Free and Hike New Hampshire!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cold Day Around Echo Lake State Park!

Jill and I took this past Friday off from work and decided to head north to find some snow in the White Mountains. We planned on a nice, scenic hike in the Crawford Notch behind the AMC Highland Center. It would be a trek around the Ammonoosuc Lake, on the Around-the-Lake Trail. When we finally made it into the notch, we found exactly what we were looking for...lots of snow!!! Along with the snow was some frigid cold temperatures and wind that cut right through you!

Cathedral Ledge seen over Echo Lake

Since we knew that this was a very well traveled trail, we assumed the snow coverage would be packed down due to foot traffic. For this reason, we never tossed the snowshoes in the car, which was a big mistake. When we finally made our way to the trailhead, we were surprisingly disappointed to see one to two feet of freshly drifted snow on the trail. We pushed forward anyway, hiking about 0.2 miles before giving up and retreating. Unfortunately for us, trudging through deep snow, over unknown terrain, was not the type of hike we were looking for.

Jill and I hopped in the car with frowns on our face and continued southeast on Route 302. By the time we made our way out of the Crawford Notch, there was barely any snow, anywhere. It was hard to believe we had just been knee deep on the trail. As we headed into North Conway, we decided to hit up Echo Lake State Park. Apparently, we were the only people that day that wanted to walk around the lake, since there were no other cars.

Echo Lake Trail (wide and smooth)

As we walked to the trailhead, it didn't take long to realize it was just as cold at Echo Lake, as it was in the Crawford Notch. From the beach area on the lake, we received fabulous views of both White Horse Ledge and Cathedral Ledge. At some points on the loop, we saw the Moat Mountains poking over the trees. The Echo Lake Trail was very wide, flat and easy on the legs. It was only 0.9 miles long, but seemed a bit longer, since it was so cold and there was no elevation gain to warm our chilled muscles.
Fungi on a log near the trail

This hike wasn't exactly what we were planning on, but it was fun anyway. I can honestly say, that hiking on trails in the winter months, that are not snow covered, make for my least favorite hikes. All the flowers have passed, the leaves have fallen, the mushrooms are dead...and there's no snow to make a pretty landscape! Regardless, I enjoy being out in the woods more than I enjoy sitting inside, so I will always choose hiking.

White Horse Ledge over Echo Lake

The Moat Mountains poking over the trees

I think my favorite part of the day was driving through this wonderful State of New Hampshire. By the time we found ourselves back at home, we had made a complete, five hour loop around the state. We had driven north past Moosilauke and the beautiful, snow covered Franconia Ridge. Heading into Twin Mountain, the white Presidentials came into view, with Mount Washington towering over everything on the horizon. We continued west, through the Crawford Notch, enjoying the a snow covered Webster, Willard and Willey. Finally, heading home on Route 16, we passed the legendary Mount Chocorua, with a crisp, white peak. Man, I love New Hampshire!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Walking Around Wagon Hill Farm in Durham, NH!

Last weekend, Jill and I were dying to get out and do a bit of hiking. We decided to stay close to home, again, as we had planned to get a Christmas Tree later that day and wanted to ensure ample time to prepare the house and get the tree up. So, we headed over to nearby Durham, NH and our destination was Wagon Hill Farm. Since UNH is where I attended school, I had passed by this farm many times but never actually investigated it. I did a little research online prior to our visit and I was shocked to find that there are a fair amount of trails that pass through meadows, forest areas and along the shore lines...all on the Wagon Hill Farm property. For a trail map of Wagon Hill Farm, click here.

Signature wagon at the top of Wagon Hill Farm

Entrance Sign to Wagon Hill Farm on Route 4 in Durham NH

The parking area is located a couple hundred feet up the farmhouse driveway. As soon as I got out of my truck, I noticed an old tractor off to the side, next to the field. I recognized this tractor as an old Model A tractor. Model A tractors were homemade pieces of equipment and were typically constructed during the great depression, when farmers didn't have enough money for new tractors. Instead, they would take old Ford Model A cars and trucks (cheap vehicles, manufactured from 1928-1931) and cut them down into tractors. They were also called Doodlebugs. I spent a few minutes looking it over for a few reasons. First, I love historical artifacts like this...especially in this environment. You can only wonder if it was placed there as decoration or if it was actually used on the farm at one time. Second, I used to have an Model A tractor that my Dad and I used in the woods. So, I have a strong interest in them. This particular Jitterbug was certainly in rough shape.

Old Model A Tractor (Doodlebug) in Rough Shape

View of the pastures, heading down the gravel road path

Jill and I headed south on a nice, gravel road which brought us through a meadow and then a very short forest area. The shoreline came into view quickly as the landscape opened up. It turned from a forest area to a very large picnic area. To the left, was an extremely old cemetery. Again, history on the trail is something I love. I took some time and looked over the headstones. One, in the front row, was a veteran and was marked with a flag. The headstone noted that the individual was a colonel, however, it was not clear when he passed away because I could not read the date. A few other headstones on the right side of the small cemetery didn't even have markings. Some were literally just stones from the earth and were not carved into a headstone shape of any kind. I can only imagine how old these were.

Small, very old cemetery near the shoreline

As we made our way down to the shoreline, there was a very small pavilion that had one little picnic table under it. We used this (and my glove) to prop the camera up to take a timed picture of us. Since it was cold, we continued on quickly and headed to the west. Unlike the gravel road that led us down to the shoreline, this path was more like a hiking trail. It hugged the shore of what I believe is Oyster River. It soon bared right and we were then heading north.

Shoreline, near the pavilion

Shoreline, on the forest trail heading north

The trail wasn't necessarily "well beaten", but there were some yellow blazes that helped to navigate. Along this path, when looking across the river, there were some beautiful houses, which were fun to look at. Soon, we came to a small spur trail that brought you down, onto a peninsula. I've heard that this peninsula is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. Also, across from this spur path is a real spooky, dead tree...that was pretty neat.

Fungi on a tree

Spooky old tree (you can't miss it on this trail)

From the peninsula, the trail headed back east away from the river, and dumped us back onto the first gravel road we started on. Jill and I headed back to the parking area and decided to continue past it, up to the main field, which is where the signature wagon located. This green wagon stands tall on top of Wagon Hill and is visible from Route 4 when you drive by. It is in relatively good shape and has a memorial stone at the foot of it.

Old farm equipment with brush growing up around it

For a cold day in December, this was a nice little walk close to home. I think the next time we visit Wagon Hill Farm, though, Jill and I will go at dusk and try to coincide with the sun setting in the west. After the walking around the farm, we went and purchased our New Hampshire grown, Fraser Fir Christmas Tree and followed it up by our annual trip to the Christmas Dove in Barrington, NH. Another great Saturday in New Hampshire!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

I Finally Put My Hiking Stickers On My New Truck!

One thing I love to do is advertise my hobbies and interests. I suppose that is obvious since I have a blog where I share all of that stuff with you. Well, a few months back, I wrote about replacing my Jeep with a new truck. Since I got the truck back in September, I have been searching for the "perfect" stickers to display these hobbies and interests on my vehicle.

For a hiking sticker, I went with what I had on my Jeep, which was a hiker's silhouette on a black oval. I originally found this sticker (for my Jeep) in a gift shop in North Conway, NH. When I went back to get a new one for my truck, the gift shop didn't seem to carry this sticker anymore. So, I found them online at Maine Made Products for a very reasonable price. (I know...I know...it's made in Maine, not New Hampshire...but no one can really tell :) )

To show my love for New Hampshire, I went with a sticker from Cafe Press, which again, is oval and displays a large "NH" with the Old Man's profile on the left side of the "N". Of course, I had to go with the one that had the "Live Free or Die" slogan, as they are words that I live by each and everyday. I also purchased my American Flag sticker at Cafe Press as well.

Finally, the Mount Washington Observatory sticker can't be purchased as a standalone. In order to receive one of these, you must be a proud member of the Mount Washington Observatory, which I am.

Jill helped me with the actual layout of the stickers on the window, and I'm pretty happy with it! What do you think?

Click on the picture to make it larger so you can see the details!!!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Hiker In The Searl Family!!!

As I've mentioned in a few of my more recent posts, I've found it difficult to find time to make my way up north, due a lot of house projects, etc. Well, the driving force behind many of these house projects is a new addition to the Searl family. That's right, Jill and I are having a baby! It's very exciting and I can't wait. I look forward to the day when I can buy my child his or her first pair of hiking boots! For now, though, I suppose it's time to start looking at those baby backpacks so I can bring him or her up to the Whites sooner than that :)


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Ones We'd Like To Forget...

The Outdoor Blogger Network is a network that I visit on a daily basis. It has only been up and running for a few months to date and I've enjoyed the tips, features and gear giveaways they have had so far. The creators put in a lot of work to keep it up-to-date and share a lot of helpful tips. I'm happy to be a part of it.

Today, there was a new posting regarding pictures that you never want other people to see because they're embarrassing or shamefully funny in someway, as it relates to your blog of course. The posting challenged the OBN members to post these pictures on their blogs for fun. At first, I said to myself, "I definitely don't have any photos that fall into this category". As the day progressed, I decided to review some of my photo albums at lunch and again thought, "yup, I don't have anything that I could post", proud of myself that I haven't had an embarrassing moment on the trail, caught as a JPEG, that is. Just then, I came across this photo.

You see, when I step foot on the trail, I try to forget all the stress in my life. The time is about being with my wife and enjoying nature in all of its beauty. However, on this one particular day, on the trek up Mount Jackson in the White Mountains, my Blackberry buzzed...and it was within reaching distance. I decided to look at the email that I had just received and realized it was business critical. So, I decided to reply on the trail at about 3000 feet. As I hit send, I heard a giggle and looked over at Jill snapping a picture of me. She said, "wait until I post this one!" and of course, I never let her. But now it is posted...and yes, I'm ashamed.

So here it is Outdoor Blogger Network, the one I'd like to forget! :)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ten hikes I'm thankful for in 2010: Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

# 10: I'm thankful for our (Jill and I, that is) first ever "winter hike" up around Boulder Loop, which was also Valentine's Day. The wind was very strong that day, as it always is in the White Mountains during the winter months. We rucked our snowshoes up and around which made us feel like "true, hardcore" hikers. Hanging out on the ledges was cold, but sharing the moment up there, snuggled together, warmed us both up. It was a great hike and memorable day!

#10 Clouded views off the cold ledges at the top of Boulder Loop

# 9: I'm thankful for my hike with my good friend Alex, up to the beautiful summit of Mount Moosilauke. It was an early May hike and I didn't know what to expect. It was my first 4000 footer for the year and the plan was to use this hike to gauge where I was (fitness wise) for the upcoming hiking season. I've never experienced winds like we experienced from the west, that day. It was blowing so hard, it literally knocked us off our feet. It was also the first time I have ever experienced rime ice, which was very cool. I truly felt like I accomplished something amazing that day and I will never forget this trek.

#9 View up to the summit of Mount Moosilauke from the Old Carriage Road

# 8: I'm thankful that I got to accompany my good friend Sean, up to his first summit bid, to the peak of Mount Potash. Climbing a mountain for the first time is a special thing. On this hike, Sean got to experience high winds, high brook crossings, ledges, great views, different forest landscapes...you name it. I hope he had as great of a time as I did.

#8 Great views from Mount Potash's northwestern ledges

# 7: I'm thankful for my hike up Mount Kearsarge (South) with Jill earlier in the season. It was a beautiful day and we took some great pictures of wildflowers. I was particularly intrigued by a rock wall on the southern side of the summit which had a lot of carvings on it. A particular symbol of a square and compass caught my eye, since I am a Freemason. I love masonic symbolism and history, so it should be no surprise that I think of this rock carving on a frequent basis and wonder who chipped away at it and when.

#7 A weathered square and compass carved into the summit of Mount Kearsarge. A Freemason was here at one time or another!

# 6: I'm thankful that Jill and I were able to take an early morning hike in Acadia National Park while vacationing in Bar Harbor. This vacation was very important to us, as I recall us being very stressed at this point in the summer. We needed to relax and unwind, so what better way than to climb the dreaded Beehive. I was so proud of Jill, as she conquered her fears and made her way up the almost vertical trail and stood on the top of the world (well, what seemed to be the top of the world for us, at the time)!

#6 Jill, climbing the vertical slopes of The Beehive!

# 5: I'm thankful for the day I spent with my wife on October 10th. We hiked the small mountain, Mount Katherine in the height of the foliage colors. We relaxed on the summit, all by ourselves and took in the beauty of the area. We then took a ride up Route 16 and experienced true "leaf peepers" from all over...which was very amusing. Finally, we drove around Jackson, our future retirement location, and had a great time checking out the pumpkin people. A small mountain and some autumn colors made up one of my favorite days this year with my wonderful wife.

#5 Fall colors at the trailhead parking area for Mount Katherine

# 4: I'm thankful that Jill and I made it to the top of Mount Cardigan and survived the dreaded upper portion of the Holt Trail in icy and snowy conditions (which I should add, we had no business being on). We didn't expect this trail to be as difficult as it was, especially in its current state. By the time we realized we were in over our heads, it was too late to turn back. We did push through and did make it to the summit, however, we were extremely worried while on the trail. By the time we got back to the Jeep, we reflected on the scary experience and were very proud of ourselves for persevering. We smiled, turned up the radio, started singing Chicken Fried with the Zac Brown Band, and watched the trailhead get smaller in the rear view mirror. It was a great day!

#4 Jill, on her descent from the Mount Cardigan summit via the Clark Trail

# 3: I'm thankful that Jill and I were able to summit Mount Jackson and Mount Webster after a failed attempt due to weather. The day we finally made it was August 7th, my birthday. Jill and I saw breathtaking views of the Presedentials we hadn't experienced before from other peaks and had gray jays eating from our hands. It was another perfect day with my baby!

#3 Our view of the Southern Presidentials, as the gray jays tried to steal our lunch!

# 2: I'm thankful to my good friend, Matt, for hiking Mount Flume and Mount Liberty with me via the intimidating Flume Slide Trail. Matt is the most experienced hiker I know, and if it wasn't for him guiding me, I don't think I would have made it up without having a heart attack. I also found a new favorite peak. I was amazed at how beautiful Mount Liberty's summit was. Most of all, though, I enjoyed the time I spent with my buddy on the trail. It was a lot of fun and reminded me of hiking around the college campus as we did many years ago.

#2 Me and my Asolo's, resting at the peak of Mount Liberty, gazing into the Pemi

# 1: Finally, I'm thankful for my Franconia Ridge hike with Jill, which took us over the summits of Little Haystack Mountain, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Lafayette. You see, the day of this hike was our third anniversary. It really didn't matter what Jill and I did that day, as long as we were together. Of course, the Franconia Ridge was a wonderful way to spend it. Although, most people may be surprised that my favorite part of the hike wasn't the beautiful views from the Ridge. But instead, it was sitting on the back porch of the Greenleaf Hut, taking a break from our descent from Mount Lafayette. We were utterly exhausted and quiet, sipping on some water and munching on some trail mix. Gazing up at the peak of Mount Lafayette made the moment very peaceful and I was happy to share it with the one I love. It was the best anniversary yet!

#1 Jill and I on the Franconia Ridge

Looking back at these hikes, one thing is common amongst them. The hikes and mountains are great. I cherish them and would climb them each and everyday if I could. However, sharing the hikes with my good friends and most of all, my best friend, Jill, is really what I'm thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Monday, November 22, 2010

New Blog Badge for Live Free and Hike New Hampshire

I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis. I find it enjoyable to log in to Live Free and Hike New Hampshire and check my "Blogs I Read" section, to see who has written for their readers recently. If it shows that there are updates on one of the blogs, I can't wait to click on the link to see what the author wanted to share with their readers (which certainly includes me!!!). While surfing through these blogs, I can't help but notice the great badges that people have displayed. They seem to be very unique to their blog and add a lot of character to the site. While admiring these badges, I always wonder if the creators of the blog designed them, themselves. I figure, in most instances, that must be the case. So, the other day, I decided to sit down, open the simple little application "Microsoft Paint" and create a badge for my blog.

Behold...the Live Free and Hike New Hampshire Badge!!!!

I hope my readers out there like it! Thanks for reading, following and stopping by Live Free and Hike New Hampshire, everyone!


Friday, November 19, 2010

My Equipment Part 1: White Mountain National Forest Maps

It's been a while now since I've hit the trail. I'd say about two or three weeks and it's killing me. I haven't got out because there's a lot going on in the Searl house these days. I've been extremely busy running errands and working on house projects. Almost as much as I miss getting out and hiking, I miss writing in this blog. With me, the two seem to go hand-in-hand. I usually go on a hike and then I enjoy writing about it here. Well, since I know the days that I will be able to find time to hike will come less frequently than in the summer months, I really don't want that to hinder my writing in this blog. So what will I write about? Who knows!!! But, I guarantee it will be related to the trail in some way. This week, I'd like to start an ongoing series regarding my hiking equipment. Some people may think it's a boring topic...but I LOVE my equipment. So, I'm share what I carry into the woods (and my opinions of it) with you.

Maps are one of my favorite pieces of equipment and something that I consider a necessity for anyone entering the woods. I pick up new maps whenever I can, and for all different regions that I may find myself at a trailhead. If I find a good hiking map online, I print it out. If I see a new map in EMS that features characteristics that I don't currently have, I purchase it. I even have my father buying me historical USGS maps of New Hampshire in antique stores.

Some of my map collection

When hiking the Whites, I make sure I have two maps with me at all times. The first is Map Adventures White Mountains Waterproof Map (4th Ed.). This is a great map and has a lot of useful characteristics. The colors that make up the map are great. It uses lighter colors for the landscape and background, while the trails are highlighted in a very bright red. The color scheme really makes mapping out a hiking route easy. Another great trait of this map is the fact that all of the White Mountain peaks are on one of two sides. This makes it ideal when I'm on the summit and want to identify the peaks surrounding me. As we all know, on a clear day, you can see straight across the State. With this map, you can easily name every peak in view.

My Map Adventures map. The new 4th Ed. just came out!

Another set of maps I like to carry with me is the Appalachian Mountain Club's White Mountain Map Kit. This kit is made up of four individual maps (back and front), which focus on different regions within the Whites. One of my buddies, Curt, suggested I pick these maps up for the main reason that they are pretty indestructible. Being made of Tyvek, they are completely waterproof and tear resistant. Recently, I've also come to the conclusion that the AMC White Mountain maps have great trail detail. Every little turn, brook crossing and switchback are highlighted. I certainly haven't found this to be true of all maps.

My AMC White Mountain Map Kit

Comparison (see below), AMC Map Detail of Falling Waters Trail - Very Detailed

Comparison (see above), Map Adventures Map Detail of Falling Waters Trail - Less Detailed

So, when it comes to mapping out my routes and identifying peaks on the summit, I turn to my Map Adventures map. However, when trying to figure out where I actually am on the trail, I always reach for the more durable and detailed AMC map. Carrying two maps may seem redundant, but one extra map certainly doesn't add that much weight to my pack.


Friday, November 5, 2010

A Stroll Around Stratham Hill Park

This past weekend, Jill and I had a lot to do around the house, so we wanted to stick close to home. This of course, did not halt our desire to get out and absorb some fresh air. So, on Sunday morning, we got up early and headed over to Stratham Hill Park, which is only 20 minutes or so away from our house.

Veterans Memorial at the Parking Area on NH Route 33

We've been to Stratham Hill a bunch of times. It's a small hill, climbing to an elevation of 292 feet and is surrounded by all types of trails. At the peak is an old, steel fire tower that gets you up another 53 feet. The fire tower has been standing since 1931, but has been inactive since 1973. The trails in the area range from small forest paths to wide, smooth roads that a truck could drive up. Recently, trail signs have been added to help hikers guide themselves.

Fungi, found on the Tuck Trail

At the foot of the hill, near the parking area, are many things. The one thing that catches my eye each time I go there is the veterans memorial which surrounds the flag pole and lists names of those who have served and given their lives. Also on the park grounds are baseball fields and a function hall building.

View of the fire tower as we approach the summit from the Lincoln Trail

View of Great Bay, with Blue Job Mountain behind, from the top of the fire tower

We started up the Tuck Trail which is located just behind the function hall. This trail climbs steadily for a short distance and soon meets up with the Lincoln Trail at a historical boulder. This boulder is the place where Robert Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln's son) read the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1860. There is a plaque on the large rock that indicates this.

Both the Tuck Trail and the Lincoln Trail were leaf covered and the trees seemed to be totally bare. It is a sure sign that winter is on its way and fall will soon be a thing of the past. As we neared the top of the Lincoln Trail, the fire tower came into view. The summit of Stratham Hill is a very well groomed, field area. The fire tower is very high, which you are constantly reminded of as you climb the stairs, because you can see through them on the way up. From the top, it is said that you can see well into the Whites, to the Presidentials, however I've never been able to. This was no exception as the visibility distance did not seem to be that far.

View from the tower, not sure which mountain!

White Birch on the eastern edge of the summit

After hanging out on top of the fire tower for a while, Jill and I made our way back down and over to one of my favorite features of the whole hill. It is a landmark table, which was designed and built in 1881 by Lester Lane. The top is round and has various landmarks called out in their respective direction from where you stand. It also gives the mileage from the top of the hill, to the landmark. Mountains such as Kearsarge, Mondanock, Pawtuckaway, Blue Job, etc. are all mentioned on the table. The one that jumps out the most to me, though, is Mount Washington, which it says is 88 miles away.

Landmark distance table at the summit

Mount Washington on the distance table

After locating the USGS bench marker and snapping a photo, we headed off to the east and down the Kitty Rock Trail for a few feet, before hanging a left onto the South Eagle Trail. The South Eagle Trail is a narrow hiking trail, which curves through the woods, descending and crossing many old stone walls. One can only imagine that this area was all fields one day and these stone walls indicated one farms boundary with another. Soon, Jill and noticed to the right that a swampy clearing was visible through the trees, which was Stratham Hill Pond.

USGS Bench Marker on Stratham Hill, in Stratham, NH

South Eagle Trail ended at what is known as the Old Tote Road. This road looked very much like the old carriage roads that run through my Dad's property. To the left were nicely mowed fields, separated from the Tote Road by more stone walls. Soon, we came to the remnants of what was once an old wagon. I found this surprising since I have been by this spot a bunch of times and never noticed this before. From here, Jill and I bushwhacked a few feet down to the banks for Stratham Hill Pond to find some wildlife, but instead, found another lonely wagon axle, rotting in the swampy water.

Stone walls were all over the woods...history at its best!

As we continued on the Old Tote Road, we came across some old barbed wire fencing that must have been left over from years ago. That was evident from the since the trees it was affixed to, had grown around the wire quite a bit. Again, being a history dork, I love this stuff.

Wagon axle and remnants on the side of the Old Tote Road

Wagon axle in the water by the banks of Stratham Hill Pond

Old barbed wire, half way in an old oak tree

Nearing the end of the Tote Road, we came to some open banks on Stratham Hill Pond where we finally found some wildlife. Some lazy ducks were swimming around the pond. I did my best to take some pictures but they unfortunately came out a bit fuzzy.

Duck in Stratham Hill Pond

Berries on the side of the Old Tote Road

View, looking down the Old Tote Road

From this point, Jill and I crossed a nice little wooden bridge, headed back up to the Kitty Rock Trail and worked our way back to the parking lot. For a day that was set aside to be jam packed with errands and chores, we certainly got in a great, early morning hike. We saw some nice views, got to see some wildlife and found some neat historical objects. All only 20 minutes away from our home!