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!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Mount Potash Trail Clearing - A Special Thanks!

A few weeks back, I wrote a blog posting on a trip that my friend Sean and I took to the summit of Mount Potash. In that posting, I mentioned how the trail had been neglected to a degree and when hiking, we struggled over many trees across the trail. I figured this was due to the fact that Mount Potash is not a very well traveled mountain, when compared to many of its neighboring peaks in the White Mountains.

Soon after I posted this trail report, a fellow New Hampshire hiker, Chris, inquired about the trail and asked how recently we witnessed these fallen trees. You see, Chris gives back to the mountains and the hiking community. He spends many hard hours volunteering to maintain New Hampshire trails in the White Mountain National Forest, performing tasks such as clearing fallen trees. He took the information that I reported, headed up the Mount Potash Trail this past week with a one man saw and ax, and cleared the trail for future hikers.

Mount Potash Trail earlier this month when Sean and I hiked it. Fallen trees across were an obstacle.

Mount Potash Trail after Chris was done clearing it last week!

Chris, thanks for your hard work and dedication. It's guys like you (and many other volunteers) that make it possible for hikers to enjoy the beauty of the White Mountains and New Hampshire. My hat's off to you, buddy!