Monday, January 31, 2011

Great Nature Quotes!

There’s nothing like a good quote. A line someone said or wrote that they most likely didn’t think would ever live on in history. We can always pull these notable phrases out and apply them to our lives, as our children and their children after them will be able to do as well. Since I started hiking almost two years ago, I’ve really developed a love and appreciation for nature, as I’ve written about many times. Finding new quotes about nature and the outdoors, as well as about this great Granite State, always reminds me of my new founded appreciation and helps me realize that people have found this same appreciation throughout history (history is another great love of mine). I thought I would take a few minutes and share with you three of my favorite wilderness quotes and how I’ve stumbled about them.

I think when most people think of nature quotes, John Muir comes to mine. He has so many notable phrases that it’s difficult to pick just one. One of my favorites is short and sweet, and is undoubtedly one of his most recognizable quotes:

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – John Muir

How powerful is that quote? I understand exactly what he means. If I could wake up every morning and look out the window and see mountains, I know I would feel at home every day. Being able to hike up a mountain, especially in the White Mountains is a huge privilege for me. Everyday time constraints and our proximity from the Whites does not allow for as many visits as I wish I could make on an annual basis. However, I do get up there to hike whenever possible. I always think of this quote when we’re heading up north because I do feel like they’re calling my name!

Recently, I started watching The Waltons. I know what you’re thinking!!! Cheesy, right!!! Well, I know it is, but I don’t care. I used to watch these episodes every night with my parents when I was very little. Today, I enjoy the moral lessons that each episode brings to the viewer about that family living in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the Great Depression. At the beginning of each episode, the narrator and writer for the show, Earl Hamner, Jr. starts off with an intro to the episode, and in one episode, had a quote that really stuck in my head:

“A mountain has no need for people, but people do need mountains. We go to them for their beauty, for the exhilaration of standing closer to mysterious skies, for the feeling of triumph that comes from having labored to reach a summit.” – Earl Hamner, Jr.

This is a great quote! It helps describe in a few ways, why Jill and I choose to hike mountains. As many of you know, there’s a lot more to it than simply hiking up and down a hill. But rather, it’s the feelings that you receive when you look around at the wilderness landscape below you, and knowing that the mountain top has nothing waiting for you other than peacefulness and beauty.

Finally, I get to one of my favorite quotes! I recently discovered this quote through Dave Olson’s blog, Fat Man of the Mountains. He wrote a great blog post regarding how his blog name came to be, and he started it off with a great quote from Daniel Webster in reference to the Old Man of the Mountain:

“Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoemakers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but in the mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.” – Daniel Webster

This quote has a bold meaning to me, as I’m sure it does most people. Of course, the White Mountains are rugged at the least and can be extremely unforgiving at times. If ill prepared on a nasty day, one can be subjected to some of the cruelest punishments from the elements and lives can easily be taken (which happens every year, unfortunately). This quote reminds us that we must respect the mountains because “God Almighty” is giving us a sign that these mountains make “men”. What kind of men? I believe he meant wise, tough men…that appreciate and respect nature and the wilderness!

So, these are my three favorite nature quotes (at the moment). If you have one that you love and think of often on the trail, please leave a comment and share!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Snowshoe Trek of 2011 - The Gonic Trails!

This weekend rolled around and I was absolutely determined to get out in the woods. It had been some time since Jill and I had set foot on a trail, and it was killing me. Right now, busy-work from our household "to-do" list and school is eating up all of my free time. Of course, these are things that are important and must be done. But sometimes you just need to take a few hours and do something to relieve stress. For us, that stress relieving activity is hiking around New Hampshire.

The beginning of Locke's Loop

Sunday certainly didn’t come without chores. I had to finish up some accounting homework and get some painting done in the nursery (chipping away slowly, but the trim is almost complete!!!). But we did find a few hours to take a ride up to The Gonic Trails to do some snowshoeing. I first heard about the Gonic Trails through a trip report from a fellow blogger, Jason, who is the author of Hike the Summits blog. Apparently, these trails are on land that is owned by Waste Management, Inc. It is located off a side road (Rochester Neck Road) of Rt. 125 in Gonic, NH.

Looking down the Isinglass River just above Locke Falls

The parking area is pretty large and we were pleasantly surprised to see quite a few cars there. It seemed many people were walking their dogs. The trails were covered with snow from the previous Wednesday’s nor’easter, but they looked as though they had been beaten down pretty well. Since it didn’t look like we were going to be breaking trail, we decided to start off with YakTrax for footwear. We did, however, decide to ruck our snowshoes in...just in case.

Picture of the Old Bridge Supports

After examining the map at the trailhead, we decided to venture to the right of the parking lot and head down Locke’s Loop, which was well marked with blue blazes. As we started down the path, it was clear to us that we were going to like this local hike. The forest had a mixture of both hardwood and softwood. It wasn’t choked with brush or fallen trees, but instead seemed wide open…even though we were in a mature forest. The sun was able to easily poke through the trees and made the wooded landscape really look beautiful.

The trail was pretty flat for the most part, but did gain and lose a small amount of elevation at times. It was wide enough for both of us to walk side-by-side rather than one in front of the other, which I think is always a bonus. Even after taking a few breaks (Jill gets tired easy these days since she’s carrying little Lylah), it didn’t seem as though it was long before we came to an intersection. Taking a left would continue on Locke’s Loop and bring us back to the trailhead. However, we decided to take a right, which was a small extension to the Luanne’s Lane Trail (blazed in Yellow). Once we made it to this trail, we hung a left and walked a short distance before making our way down to the banks of the Isinglass River.

Strange Ice Formations, From Locke Falls (Looked Like Upside Down Mushrooms or Jellyfish)

The Luanne’s Lane Trail meets up with the Isinglass River at an old bridge crossing. The banks are built up with stone which were obviously supports for the bridge at one time, but the bridge itself is not there anymore. I’m sure it was used during the horse and carriage days. At this point, we also saw a few small, round emblems nailed to trees along the river which indicated that we were trekking through Barrington Conservation Land.

The King Jellyfish!!!

As we made our way down the river, it was obvious that Locke Falls was very close by. The trail descended and we came to some decent size ledges to the left (we were at the bottom of the ledges, not the top). Features like this on the trail always reminds me of White Mountain hikes like Boulder Loop. As we passed the rock walls, we finally got a slightly restricted view of Locke Falls. Jill and I made our way down the banking and found a very nice, picturesque river scene. The waterfall was flowing hard on the right, and looking down river, all the exposed rocks in the river were still covered with snow. It was very nice.

Locke Falls Running Strong

Being down next to the river, we did notice a couple things that I figured I would mention. The river seemed to give off a strange, slightly-unpleasant odor. I’m not sure if this was because the upper portion of the river was under ice, or maybe it had something to do with how hard Locke Falls was pounding the river bottom. Also, at the bottom of the falls, the ice formation was like nothing I had seen before. Ice was forming in small, round shapes, that looked kind of like inverted mushroom tops or jellyfish. It’s hard to explain, but I did snap a few shots of it. I think maybe the foam created from the falls was freezing and causing this strange ice formation. There was actually a stump or a rock that had snow on top of it with an ice skirt all around. As the water moved in and out of the ice skirt, it change color from white to black and almost looked like it was moving. Jill called this the “giant jellyfish”…he must have been in charge of all the small ones! :)

We stayed on the banks for a while but then started to get cold. So, we headed back in the direction we came, making our way back up to the Locke’s Loop intersection where we had broken off. At this point, we started to pass quite a few groups heading out and had fun watching dogs (that actually had fun in the snow...our pugs HATE the snow) play and run around in the white powder.

Down river from Locke Falls

Once back on Locke’s Loop, I decided that I had had enough of the YakTrax for this trip and it was time to breakout my Tubbs snowshoes for the first time this season. The trails were wide enough that I could easily trek on unpacked trail through powder, while Jill continued on the packed areas with her YakTrax.

Strapping on my Tubbs

On this section of the Locke’s Loop, halfway back to the trailhead, it coincided with the Watson’s Way Trail (blazed in red). In the short time I had the snowhoes strapped on, I could feel the workout in my legs. I think the snowshoes definitely make you use muscles that you typically don’t use with a normal stride. It wasn’t long before we could see the cars parked at the trailhead, and the parking area had certainly filled up quite a bit.

What a great day of snowshoeing!!! Sure, I would have much rather been snowshoeing in the beautiful White Mountains, but sometimes, time just doesn't allow it. With our schedules so busy right now, this small outing in a Gonic forest was exactly what we needed. It was a short drive there, had a great forest landscape, rivers, waterfalls and some small bits of history (stonewalls, bridge supports, etc.). We will certainly be heading back there soon, most likely this winter and the upcoming spring!


Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Journey to the Mountains - Guest Blogger Post

By: Mark Truman

When Karl asked me to write a guest blog for Live Free and Hike New Hampshire, it didn’t take me long to decide on the topic. The name of the blog is the inspiration. It’s what our journey over the last several years has been. The story of coming home to a place we’d never really been.

So Near and Yet So Far

New Englanders are funny people in many ways. We live in small states (mostly) in a generally small region of the country. We have so many wonderful things here from big cities to beautiful small towns, from oceans to mountains. And yet so many of us take advantage of so little of it. My wife Natalie and I both grew up in Connecticut in the 60s and 70s. When I was in grammar school, we spent a week in two different summers in New Hampshire. I remember having a cottage on a lake. I remember going to Story Land and the “usual tourist attractions”. I think we took a tram up one of the mountains but can’t really remember much of anything else. The year after Nat and I got married we went to New Hampshire for a long weekend with our best friends. It was the first time we’d been back since we were kids. On that trip, I remember going to Lost River, riding the Alpine Slide at Attitash and driving across the Kancamagus. We took the tram up Cannon and walked around on the summit and went down and sat on the ledges below the Rim Trail. We watched hikers coming up from below. I remember commenting that it would be cool to hike up a mountain someday. That was in 1980.

It Takes a Child

When our daughter Jamie was born almost 15 years later, we still hadn’t returned to the mountains. When she was little we started taking a summer vacation with Nat’s parents in Maine every summer. We’d find a different house on the ocean each year and spend a week or two of sightseeing, biking, walking, kayaking and generally enjoying the beautiful Maine coast. Jamie grew up loving all things outdoors. Somehow, though, we still hadn’t found hiking as one of those things. We continued our Maine family trips every summer but in 2003 we decided to take a second vacation. We hadn’t been to New Hampshire in a long time and figured that Jamie would really like it. We stayed in a small motel in Lincoln and reintroduced ourselves to the mountains. When we were driving up, I remember thinking about that last time we’d been there and the image of driving into Franconia Notch and being surrounded by the mountains. As we came into that spot again I glanced back into the back seat and saw the look on Jamie’s face – one of pure awe. Not surprising for a child seeing her first mountains, but I felt exactly the same way myself. We had a wonderful time that week. We went to Lost River and the Flume, took the tram up Loon, drove around and just enjoyed the views and spent many hours walking in the woods. There was no Story Land or Santa’s Village – Jamie had no interest in that. We thought that we were introducing our child to the mountains. Turns out, she was introducing them to us.

The next few years we returned to the mountains each summer. We explored more trails, took trams up new mountains and set out on a quest to see every waterfall in the Whites. One year we drove up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, parked at the cow pasture and hiked across the Alpine Garden. I’ll never forget the feeling of that spot. Standing near the top of a mountain looking down over other mountains around us was intoxicating. Later that week we decided we’d actually give it a try. Jamie wanted to hike up a “big” mountain and we wound up choosing Cannon because we could hike up and take the tram down. We didn’t want to push her too hard. Standing in the tram lot and looking up at the summit I recall thinking how big that mountain looked and wondering if we were biting off more than we should. We took the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the top. Every step was fun. We were hiking up a real mountain! Each opening that brought new views was amazing. It wasn’t about where we were but how we got there. When we reached the rim trail, just below the summit, Jamie turned to me breathlessly and said, “This was more fun than Disney World!” That was one of the happiest moments of my life. Walking around the Rim Trail, we went by the ledges we had sat on over 20 years before and wondered why it had taken us so long to do what we had thought about then. We took the tram down from the summit of our first 4000 footer that day. It didn’t count for our list. Of course then we didn’t even know there was a list.

Jamie's first big mountain - Cannon

Our little mountain goat in her favorite kind of place

There Are Other Seasons

Our summer trips to New Hampshire continued as Jamie grew up. Each year we did more hiking. It was getting into our blood. The big mountains were still daunting though. We visited many more waterfalls (I think we almost completed that list) and had many wonderful mountain hikes. We also decided that it would be fun to go to the mountains in the fall. We planned our first fall weekend in October of 2006. We were hoping for beautiful foliage. We hadn’t counted on snow. On the way up the fall colors were beautiful. As we got to Lincoln and started into Franconia Notch we started seeing it. Everything above about 3000 feet was snow covered. We had no idea that winter could come so early. We were staying at the AMC Highland Center that weekend and our plan was to hike Mt. Avalon that day. Surely this would be OK – it’s a small mountain. It was a beautiful fall day and the temperatures in the valley in Crawford Notch were warm. We started up the trail which was covered with the brightly colored autumn leaves and a short way up met a lone hiker coming down. He told us that the trails were really icy not much further up and that we should probably turn around. We considered his advice since we didn’t have any kind of real winter gear but we decided to go on and see how bad it really was. He was right, the trail was very icy and soon the ice gave way to snow. We couldn’t turn back now. When we finally arrived at the summit, we were greeted by an autumn winter wonderland. The summit was coated in about six inches of new snow. The temperature was warm enough that we could have been wearing shorts. Across the notch, the southern Presidentials were frosted and Mt. Washington was in its full winter garb. We hadn’t planned on it, but we’d gotten our first taste of winter in the mountains.

Mt. Avalon

When I was a kid I loved winter like every other kid. Snowball fights and sledding, endless days playing in the snow. Somehow, as I got older I decided that I hated winter. Shoveling the driveway, driving on slippery roads and bone chilling winter days were not fun. I knew that someday we’d retire and move south like my parents had. Enough of this winter stuff! But winter in the mountains is different. After our first little taste that fall we started coming to New Hampshire each winter. February vacations at the AMC Highland Center were wonderful. The first year we borrowed snowshoes there and on the first hike we were hooked. There was nothing like floating across the top of fresh snow on unbroken trails. Suddenly, winter wasn’t such a bad thing anymore! That first year we also took the AMC “alpine tour” which was a lift ride up and down Bretton Woods with a snowshoe hike across the ridge at the top. Winter in the valley was fun – winter at the top of a mountain was amazing! The next few years we spent more and more time up north in the winter. We took lots of winter hikes to amazing views on small mountains and last winter, we took the plunge and did our first winter 4000 footer – Mt. Liberty in January. It was one of the best hikes we’ve ever done and my opinion of winter is changed forever. It now makes me feel like it did when I was a kid. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself…

Nat, making it to the top of Mt. Liberty - Our first winter 4k

Really? They Have Lists For That?

As we got more and more into hiking in the Whites, I began to study the mountains. I bought many hiking books and planned the hikes that we’d maybe do someday. I also learned about the 4000 footer club. We still hadn’t managed to actually hike one yet, but I love goals and challenges. This seemed like one to add to my list. In 2007, I was turning 50 and had been thinking for a while about what I wanted to do to celebrate that milestone birthday. In my reading I had come across an article about a fantastic sounding hike – a hut-to-hut Presidential traverse. It promised several days above tree line and the experience of a lifetime. It also had the potential to be very hard and make for long days in the kind of weather that I was well aware we could find in the mountains in summer. We made our plans and reservations many months in advance and I spent those months in a struggle between happy anticipation and worry. What if it was too hard? What if the weather was bad? What if, what if…? OK, I tend to over analyze everything and worry a lot – it’s my nature. July came and the rains started up north. I looked at the weather forecast every day for weeks before our trip. Rain, rain and more rain. Within days of our departure the long term forecast was for rain almost every day. Should we back out now? I just couldn’t – this was my big test, my big adventure. We got to New Hampshire the day before our hike was to begin and the forecast had improved - just occasional rain now, not so bad. We woke up the next morning to clearing skies. Taking the AMC hiker shuttle to Appalachia, we couldn’t wait to get started. The hike up Valley Way went quickly and we were soon at the hut. We checked in, dropped our packs and headed up to the summit of Mt. Madison – our first “official” 4000 footer. The skies were now blue and nearly cloudless and sitting on that summit was one of the best moments of my life. I knew that these were the places I wanted to be.

Mt. Madison - Our First 4000 Footer

The next three days were like being in a dream. The weather changed completely from the original forecast. Four straight bluebird days with warm sunny skies and wonderful mountain breezes. Four days of wandering ridges and summits above tree line in one of the most amazing places I can imagine on earth. A once in a lifetime experience. The nights were spent watching the amazing sunsets from the huts, eating fantastic meals and trading stories with the people who were taking the same journey as us and then falling asleep listening to the breezes blowing across the mountain tops outside the hut window.

Before we had started this trip, I had been thinking about THE LIST. We could actually bag our first 8 4000 footers in four days! Once we were up there something changed though. The list disappeared from my head and bagging summits didn’t seem very important. The second day we skipped Adams and Jefferson – it was going to be a long day, we were already in paradise and there was just no need. We had planned to go to the hut and drop our packs and head up Mt. Washington. As we hiked under the cog tracks and looked up to see the crowds on the summit we changed our mind. Being on a mountain summit with buildings, a road and people who had arrived on a train didn’t seem like a good way to end a perfect day. Looking back I’ve never been unhappy that we skipped those summits. They couldn’t possibly have made the experience that we had any better. But now that we’d had a taste of being up there, we had to go back. The next summer we repeated our experience with a four day hut-to-hut from Franconia to Crawford Notch and again a forecast of mostly rain (with the accompanying worrying on my part) turned into another four bluebird days in paradise. We were truly blessed.

Mt. Monroe on Presidential Day!

Since 2007 I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the lists. Nat has no interest whatsoever in those kinds of goals, but she loves being up there as much as I do. Today we’re working on the list (and of course we now know that there are many lists), but not as a self-motivating goal or a way to get a patch. I see it as a way to bring us to places we might not try otherwise. We’ve now reached #21 and we’ve done every one together. We’re both anxiously awaiting the next 27 – and many, many others. It’s going to be a fun journey. I wish we hadn’t waited so long to start it…

Coming Home

As we were beginning our hiking experiences and I was looking for new sources of information, I stumbled on the Mt. Washington Observatory forum. I joined and started participating and soon was a regular part of a new virtual community. Many of the people there shared our love for hiking and the White Mountains and it was wonderful having a place to go to talk about my passion with others that shared it. I joined the forum the year after our Presidentials hike and learned about Seek the Peak – the annual hiking fundraiser for the MWOBS. That summer, we did our first Seek the Peak and stood on the summit of Mt. Washington for the first time. There were cars and tourists and all the things that I had wanted to avoid the year before – but there was also something magical. This mountain has something about it that can’t be explained. There was something more though. I finally was able to meet the virtual community that I’d been hanging out with online every day and share the mountain and trails with them. In the years since then, we’ve made many more friendships in the New Hampshire hiking community – friendships that will last for life. There is something very special about these people who share our love for the mountains. We know that it is this community that we will someday call home for real.

The last couple of years we’ve managed to make the mountains the place that is “so far, and yet so near” instead of the other way around. It no longer seems like a chore to drive 3-1/2 hours each way in a day to do a hike up a new mountain. Weekends or longer are just bonuses now. We’re getting north ten times a year and wanting it to be more. The mountains and hiking are now a part of our souls. It’s where we love to be. Nat’s celebration choice for her 50th is camping in Baxter and hiking Katahdin. I can’t wait. In 2009 we celebrated our 30th anniversary standing on a mountain top (Camel’s Hump in Vermont). I hope we’re doing the same for our 40th and 50th.

Camel's Hump on our 30th Anniversary

Since those first vacations in New Hampshire with Jamie, the mountains have been calling us home. At the moment she’s busy being a teenager and has temporarily lost interest, but I know she’ll be back. As for Nat and I, we’ll keep doing our day trips and weekends and vacations when we can. Every day in the mountains is a good day and each time I drive into Franconia Notch and feel the mountains reaching out and wrapping themselves around me, it’s just like that first time. We’re also planning for our retirement (which is still too many years away) and know that there’s only one place we want to be. The mountains have called us. This journey will be complete and we will be home. And then the next journey will begin…

I want to extend a very special thanks to Mark for writing this post for LFAHNH. He's my first guest blogger and I couldn't be happier with his post. Please note that the contents of this post (text and pictures) are property of Mark and are protected under my copyright. - Karl


Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's Your Blog...Name! An OBN Writing Prompt

As part of a writing prompt by the Outdoor Blogger Network, they are requesting that bloggers write a quick post about how their blog names originated. As many authors have said, in the fifty-plus responses to this prompt, my title Live Free and Hike New Hampshire has a pretty simple significance and there is no real great story behind. However, I thought I would type it up anyway! “Live Free or Die” is my State’s (NH) official motto. As many of you who read this blog know, I love the State of New Hampshire. I feel it is a very unique State when compared to others, including New England bordering states. Many will tell you that the mountains and wilderness here are different than anywhere else in the country.

The motto, “Live Free or Die”, came from a toast written by General John Stark in 1809, which was read at the anniversary reunion party for the Battle of Bennington, which was actually held in the State of Vermont. The complete toast read, “Live Free or Die: Death is not the Worst of Evils”. I love this toast. Each time I think of it, it reminds me of how precious liberty and freedom really is. At the time of the Revolutionary War, people felt so strongly about their liberty, that laying down their lives for freedom was an easy and necessary decision. Even today, the heroic men and women of the armed forces are doing this for us. I think the State of New Hampshire reminds us of this everyday with this motto. If we don’t think of the motto every day, we’re certainly reminded of it once we look down at our license plates!

Okay, enough with the history lesson and back to how I named my blog. In September of 2009, while vacationing in Jackson, NH, we visited a small gift shop, Flossie’s General Store, which is located right over the covered bridge in the Jackson Village. Along with other small trinkets and gifts, we bought a rustic, old looking, wooden sign that displays this motto, “Live Free or Die”, and hung it over our kitchen sink, where it still resides. This has significance, which I will explain shortly.

I decided to start this blog early in 2010, with a lot of encouragement from Jill. Jill, being the public relations professional that she is, emphasized how important a blog name is. For a couple days, we went back and forth with different ideas, but nothing sounded like it fit a blog by “me”. Finally, Jill said, “I have the perfect name…Live Free and Hike!” She knew that I would love it because it incorporated my favorite motto with my favorite pastime. I can’t help but think that the sign over the sink, from a small gift store in Jackson, helped prompt her idea.

I feel this title is appropriate for so many reasons. When I’m up in the mountains, relaxing on a summit ledge and absorbing the sun and beauty, I truly feel free. Not just free from a rights or liberty perspective, but free from stress and turmoil. Free from the rat race. Free to enjoy what the wilderness of New Hampshire has to offer!

For more on the history of New Hampshire’s motto, click here.