Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Parker Mountain...Not a Fan!

There are very few hikes that I can say I didn't care for. Mount Tecumseh was really the only one (and that is because I think that mountain is cursed...but I will tell you that story another time) that I can think of. However, this past Sunday I found a second mountain hike that I didn't particularly care for.

Jill and I were ending our vacation after a pretty fun-filled week. As mentioned in a previous blog, we started off the week with a great hike in Acadia. Mid-week, we tried our hands at Mount Jackson and Mount Webster, but mother-nature forced us down the trail early. So, we decided to try to finish the week out strong, and hike a close by mountain. Parker Mountain is located in Strafford, NH and only stands 1,410' tall. The Spencer Smith Trail, which leaves from Route 126 to the summit, is only about 1.1 miles. Based on the closeness to our house and the length of the hike, this seemed like a perfect Sunday afternoon activity.

We headed up the trail and noticed that it was heavily eroded, making footing very difficult, especially since the trail was a bit moist from rain the night prior. There was one good view point about 0.2 miles up which outlooks to nearby Blue Job Mountain. This alone, was the only good view the whole hike. The next 0.6 miles was a bit steep and heavily eroded without any scenery. At 0.8 miles we came to a homemade rock cabin (well half a cabin, the walls only went up 3 feet) which would have made a really good camp site. After that, it was fairly flat through the woods until we reached the true summit.

Heading back down, we weren't rewarded with any views as many other mountains offer on the descent. Instead, the clouds moved in, which gave the mosquito's an opportunity to swarm us. This, along with the high humidity made the trek down pretty miserable. Since this mountain didn't satisfy us the way most other mountains do when we summit, we rewarded ourselves with hot fudge sundaes, which were delicious!

So, we gave this one a thumbs down. I found a second mountain I'm not crazy about in the Granite State. I suppose it probably won't be the last, but I know these types of mountains will be few and far between. The truth is, I would gladly hike twenty bad mountains with no views, if it meant I could sit atop one great New Hampshire mountain and overlook nature's creation!


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Acadia was Great!

Jill and I started off our vacation this past week in Bar Harbor, Maine. I'm obviously bias to vacationing in New Hampshire but I was more than happy to give Bar Harbor a shot. It was within driving distance, is known to be beautiful and Acadia National Park is located right there. We decided to plan out our first day in the park. The plan was to get up and drive up to Cadillac Mountain for sunrise, then head down to some trails and get in a nice loop hike before lunch.

Sunrise on July 17th was scheduled for 5:03am. This meant we needed to be up by 3:30am so that we could get ready, out the door and up the mountain with time to spare. We did so and were shocked to see the parking lot at the top of Cadillac Mountain was already filling up at 4:30am. Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain in Acadia standing at 1,528 feet. It has trails that lead up to the summit, as well as an auto road with a large parking lot. It is a pretty bald peak constructed of pink granite.

Jill and I found a nice little spot on the eastern slope of the summit and watched as the sky subtly changed colors from shades of gray to shades of pink to shades of orange. It was very pretty and worth getting up early for. Many people were out there with their families observing the beauty as we were, and others were out there with tripods and cameras capturing the gorgeous landscape. Soon, a deep orange sun started to peak up slowly over the eastern coast. It was an awesome view to wake up to.

After sunrise, I'm sure most people headed out to get some breakfast. Not us though! We had Fiber One bars and headed to our trailhead of choice. It was still nice and early, and we wanted to get on the trails before they got crowded. The route I mapped out for us was to head up The Beehive, circle south to Gorham Mountain and then swing back north, taking the Ocean Path back to the trailhead.

It's my understanding that The Beehive is one of the more popular trails in Acadia. It is pretty short, but is a vertical climb, which makes it appealing. In order to be more accommodating to all skill levels of hiker's, trailblazers have placed iron rungs for gripping and walking on, into the cliffs. The hike starts out easy and the trail climbs pretty gradually. It isn't long before you come to a split which allows you to go around to the back of The Beehive for an easier, steady ascent or head up the cliff side. Jill and I obviously chose the cliff side. To be truthful, the rungs are placed in such a way that you never feel as though you are in absolute danger. The rungs always give you good footing and great hand reach options. The wide open views from this trail, spanning from the northeast to the southeast, made any apprehension for this hike dissolve quickly.

When Jill and I got to the top, we received the reward of phenomenal views all around. We saw mountains in one direction and the Atlantic in the other. We were the only ones on that mountain at the moment and we felt like we owned it. We laid on the cliff slabs for a while and soaked in some sun. Soon, we were off again and headed over to Gorham Mountain to the south. It was a rather short trail over, descending for a bit and then ascending to the summit. The humidity in the air certainly made all the hiking seem a bit longer than it really was. Once gain, on Gorham Mountain, we found ourselves with a 360 degree, spectacular view.

At this point, Jill and I were starting to get pretty hungry (remember, we missed breakfast) as well as pretty hot, since the sun continued to climb high. We headed down the south slope of the mountain and along the Cadillac Cliffs. There are two trails that run along these cliffs. One runs along the top, while the other runs across the middle of the ridge, halfway down the cliff's edge. We decided to take the lower trail and check out the cliffs up close. This trail was very cool and we saw some very neat caves. It did have some rough footing and required some less than steady hiking, but was well worth the effort.

Soon the Gorham Mountain Trail ended at a trailhead a few miles away from our car, so we crossed the road to the Ocean Path and headed north. The Ocean Path is a nicely maintained gravel sidewalk path, which contours the shore. The scenery was beautiful all the way back to the car and consisted of sheer cliffs that the ocean waves had carved out. over time Halfway back, we took a small detour to view Thunder Hole, which is a hollowed out cave beneath the shore that has been carved out by ocean waves. When waves hit the bottom of the "hole", it sounds like thunder and shakes the ground you are standing on.

All in all, spending the morning in Acadia was great. I was truly surprised at how much the mountains in the park reminded me of New Hampshire. They certainly weren't as high in elevation, but that is all relative. Most of these mountains were between 500 and 1,000 feet high, but they were all at the foot of the ocean, which definitely made them seem pretty high. The pink granite, domed summits also reminded me of New Hampshire mountains, like Cardigan or Kearsarge. Looking up at the cliffs on the southeasterly faces of these mountains reminded me of the great rock slides that scar many of the mountain slopes in the Whites. Finally, the constant roar of the ocean waves, which you could hear while hiking, was very similar to the roar of the fast moving brooks on many of the New Hampshire mountains.

I would love to return soon and explore more of Acadia, even if it isn't in the great State of New Hampshire!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

A bad day in the Whites, is better than a good day in the office! Mount Jackson and Mount Webster Failed Attempt

What can I say? Today was a bad day in the White Mountains for Jill and I. You see, we are on vacation and we have planned out each day. The first portion of our week was spent in Bar Harbor, ME, where we hiked in Acadia National Park (posting of this later). The last portion, we planned out with local activities. Today was our hiking day.

We decided to take advantage of the low crowds of a weekday and drove up to the Crawford Notch to hike the Mount Jackson/Mount Webster Loop. We have been wanting to try this hike for quite a while now. It seems to be a pretty short hike for the great reward of summiting the two southern most Presidentials. In all, it is approximately 6.3 miles in distances and is supposed to have incredible views.

As I try to do for all of our hikes, I got the maps (AMC and Map Adventures) and the AMC White Mountain Guide out to prepare ourselves for the hike and to understand what milestones we could expect on the ascent. I try to do this because it helps break up a hike into smaller legs. Instead of knowing you have "x" miles ahead of you to the summit, you can instead anticipate only a fraction of that to a brook or some other trail feature.

For this hike, ascending the Mount Jackson branch, I was able to map out six milestones before the summit, three of which were brooks. It is interesting to point out that two out of the three brooks that I found in the Guide, did not appear on either of my maps (they were Small Mossy Brook and Flume Cascade Brook). So, after I was done with my research for this hike, we were ready to go.

The weather forecast for today was good. It was supposed to be mostly sunny, with a possibility of an isolated shower in the North Country. Driving north, this was the case. We had our sunglasses on and were soaking in all the morning had to offer. As many people continued their week driving to the rat race, we were heading up to be one with nature. We were going to climb two mountains and realize as we always do, how beautiful New Hampshire is. This was of course, until we hit the Crawford Notch.

It seemed that there was a very nasty storm cloud or system hanging over the Notch. Particularly, over Mount Jackson and Mount Webster. We assumed the weather forecast was correct and this would move out and burn off. So, we geared up and went upward. The trail was nice, as it alternated between steep rock and then steady earth. It was very wet in places and you had to be careful where you stepped. We learned from another hiker that it had down poured in the Notch for six hours the night before, which explained flooded trails. Regardless, we continued on, optimistic it would pass.

Hiking was fun, even with the wet conditions. Soon, the drops hitting us from above seemed to not come from the tree runoffs anymore, but from the sky itself. It started to rain more steadily. We didn't think much of this and kept hiking. Besides, we were sure this was going to pass...right? Soon, we came to the familiar roar of a brook or river. This surprised me at this point, because the next brook crossing was the Flume Cascade Brook, and this was one that isn't even published on the maps! How big could it be?

As we got closer to the roar, we noticed a few hiking parties standing on the Brook's bank. The hiker's faces were frozen with bewilderment. As I looked down at the Brook, I could see what their expressions were focused on. This small brook had turned into a raging river. Unfortunately for us, there were no rocks peaking over the stream of water to hop over on. At that exact moment of realization, the sky opened up and it began to down pour. We walked up the brook and then back down, trying to find a good place to cross, keeping in the back of our minds that we would need to cross it again on the descent. Also, we knew the Silver Cascade Brook was further up and was supposed to be larger, as it is published on maps.

Knowing our limitations and knowing that it is more important to stay safe, Jill and I turned back (along with the other hiking parties). We were extremely disappointed and bummed for the rest of the day. However, I don't regret the decision. The Whites can be unforgiving if you don't respect them. One wrong move or slip on that brook and one of us could have been injured pretty badly.

So, it was a bad day for us in the White Mountains. We left Crawford Notch under cloud cover and rain, and drove into Conway under total sunlight. We did not summit any mountains. But I've been thinking all day, that this bad day in the Whites, was better than a good day in the office!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's Been a While

I know it has been a very long time since I have posted last, but that is for a few reasons. I had been out of the country on business for a few weeks and then upon my return, I came down with a stomach bug. It figures it would happen that way. Needless to say, I don’t have much for recent events to blog about with respect to day hiking around New Hampshire. I can however share with you how I coped without being able to get out and experience nature and the wilderness, as I love to do. Before leaving for my trip, I picked up some DVD’s and a book that would keep my love for hiking and New Hampshire not too far home.

The book I purchased for this trip was called, Shrouded Memories by Floyd W. Ramsey. This book struck my interested because it was a made up of eighteen historical stories regarding the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Unfortunately, it was rather difficult to find. The one place I was able to find it was on the Mount Washington Observatory website, which I was more than happy to purchase it from. One story in particular within this book was with regards to the B18 Bomber that crashed on Mount Waternomee in 1942 (check out my trip report of the bomber crash site here). I’ve done a lot of research on this story specifically, and I believe the information in this book is the most complete account of that scary night. I highly recommend this book for your nightstand.

For the trip, I also purchased the DVD documentary set, National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Ken Burns. I have wanted to see this series for quite a while now and this trip gave me the excuse to purchase it. After watching only a few minutes of the first disc, I was quickly drawn in by the spectacular images and beauty that was presented. The documentary itself was awesome and told the story of our National Park's heritage in great detail. It was also wonderful to learn about the wilderness pioneers that help shape these sacred places, such as John Muir. I would recommend this series to all American’s who love the beauty of nature as well as history.

Finally, I purchased a Nova special on Mt. Everest. Anything regarding Everest has always interested me, as it does most hikers. It is such an extreme environment and the people who choose to hike it are the best in the world at what they do. However, Everest never seems to be picky when it claims lives, even among the best. This two-disc set was pretty good. It went through the normal topics with regards to climbing this summit such as elevation sickness, the death zone and of course, the history of climbing the mountain. If you like information regarding Everest, I would recommend this set.

So there you have it. This is what I occupied my many plane rides with. I was very happy with my choices and urge you to check them out as well. If any of my close friends out there want to borrow any of these great works, let me know and you are more than welcome.