Monday, September 19, 2011

Hiking With My Cousin! - Mount Pierce

For the Flags on the 48, I had plans to hike Mount Carrigain with a group of hikers that were planning the trip on Facebook. Unfortunately, due to the Sawyer River Road closure, the hike jumped from a ten mile round trip trek to fifteen miles. For me, that was just too long and I wasn't sure I would be able to keep up or even make it. So I changed my plans and decided to hike Mount Pierce. I recruited my cousin, Jen, to hike with me. I was really excited about this because I hadn’t seen Jen in many years, much less hiked a mountain with her. It would be a great opportunity for the two of us to catch up. This would be her first 4,000 footer and it was my job to try to get her hooked on hiking the White Mountains…and dare I say, get her to pursue the 48!

 Jen, excited to hike her first New Hampshire 4,000 footer!

We left my house early, around 5:15 or so. After a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, we were on the highway and heading north. It was fun to point out the different mountains to her as we drove by Tecumseh, Moosilauke and the Franconia Notch, before hitting the Crawford Notch. We hit the trailhead early, about 8:30 and started at the Crawford Connector off from Mount Clinton Road.

Love this sign!

The kiosk at the trailhead was pretty informative. It explained a lot of the history of the trail, probably the most notable detail being that it is the oldest, continuously-used hiking path in the United States. My favorite sign, however, was a large yellow sign that warned hikers of the dangers that could be found on this path, especially above timberline. This sign made us feel like bad asses! The actual trail sign for the Crawford Path was a bit disappointing though. It was made out of a composite material rather than traditional wood. This, to me, seemed very out of place. I was not a fan at all.

 I'm definitely not a fan of these new composite signs!

The Crawford Connector trail was short with minimal elevation gain. It wasn’t long before we crossed over Gibbs Brook byway of a nice bridge, and came to the actual Crawford Path. After another short distance on the left of the trail, there was a short spur path that led down to the banks of Gibbs Brook, where Gibbs Falls was flowing nicely. We stopped and admired the falls for a bit and then continued on. The Crawford Path was fairly easy and the grade was moderate and steady. Time passed quickly and before we knew it, we had reached the Mizpah Cutoff junction. Here, we met a few nice hikers that had spent the previous night at the Mizpah Hut. We snapped a few photos and then continued on the Crawford Path.

 Signs on the trail that Fall is in the air!

Gibbs Falls!

The upper portion of this path, below the Webster Cliff Trail, was again moderate in grade. The scenery was nice as it passed through a hardwood forest with a green, mossy landscape. After a bit of climbing, the trail leveled off and there were some restricted views on the left. The wind picked up a bit and we knew that was a tell-tale sign that we were getting close to the summit. The trail opened up and Mount Eisenhower and Mount Monroe were in front of us. Mount Washington, in the background, was unfortunately buried in clouds.

Views north, up the Crawford Notch toward the Mount Washington Hotel

Mount Eisenhower!

From this point, we had only a short walk to the summit. The summit itself had a large cairn and two USGS Benchmarks. The skies were clear for the most part except for Washington’s peak. There was one problem, however. We hiked the mountain much faster than I had anticipated. We had made the hike in two hours and were in fact, an hour and a half early for the flag to be raised. We ate lunch and contemplated staying for the flag to arrive. After 40 minutes or so, we started to get chilly and decided to head down.

 Glabrous Sandwort on the summit

 Jen and I on the summit of Mount Pierce! #10 for me, #1 for Jen!

For the descent, we headed down the Webster Cliff Trail until we hit the Mizpah Hut. We decided to take a quick break here. It was the second hut I had been to in the Whites, and Jen’s first. From here, we headed down the Mizpah Cutoff to meet back up with the Crawford Path. At this junction, we headed back down the way we came up. We met a lot more hikers on the way down, than we did on the way up. One group alarmed us a bit. It was a family heading up, with a five year old. They were probably 0.75 miles from the trailhead, seemed to be having a very difficult time and asked us if they were close to the top. I was surprised by the question, being so near to the parking area and I asked, “to the top of what?” (and I promise I was not trying to be a smartass). The lady in the group replied, “to the top of Mount Ethan-Allen”. I was totally taken back by this response and explained the two nearest destinations the trail would bring them to was Mount Pierce or the Mizpah. After leaving them to continue hiking, I couldn’t help but think, these are the people the warning sign on the kiosk was trying to caution.

 The Mizpah Hut!

 The USGS Benchmark...Love these things!

We finally made it back to the trailhead, hopped in the truck and headed home. This hike was great for so many reasons. We didn’t get to see the flags or the National Guard helicopter that was making flybys, but there is always next year, and every year after for that. I was able to rack up another 4k, and Jen bagged her first one. I successfully got her interested in hiking all 48 and she's already making her plans to head to her second peak next weekend. Most of all, I spent some quality time with my cousin. We had a great hike and were able to catch up on some missed time. I wish her the best of luck with her 48, 4,000 footers and hope to hike with her again soon!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Many who “Hike” are “Happy”, especially this “1” Hiker – Blog Promotion: 1HappyHiker Blog!

A very widely known and respected blog out there is John Compton’s, “1HappyHiker” blog. It is fairly new to the blogosphere since John has only been writing it for 8 months or so, but he is really a seasoned veteran when it comes to writing articles, trip reports and participating in the digital hiking community. John has been a valuable contributor to the Views From The Top (VFTT) forum as well as the Mount Washington Observatory (MWObs) forum. He has even been published in some local newspapers.

If you've seen this happy guy on the forums, you've probably met John

In my opinion, his blog is very popular for a couple reasons. First, his content is extremely interesting and useful. When reading John’s blog postings (as well as his forum contributions), I find that he writes mostly trip reports, which I believe are the most interesting thing to read from a hiker's standpoint. He visits locations in mostly New Hampshire and Maine and is extremely detailed in his reports. He typically takes the roads less traveled and does a lot of bushwhacking as well. His reports always contain wonderful, high resolution images that capture his stories and landscapes perfectly. He takes these stunning photographs with his Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1 point and shoot camera, which is really impressive…hopefully he won’t be upset with me that I just disclosed his secret weapon :) .

John's 1HappyHiker Blog

I think my favorite parts of John’s posts are the geography facts and trail history that he shares with his readers. He adds interesting education lessons to his posts that are so intriguing to White Mountain hikers. For instance, did you know there was once an old carriage road on the south banks of the Ammonoosuc River, between Twin Mountain and Zealand Road? Read about it here and check out how he compared old photographs to ones he snapped on his trek, while trying to match up the locations. Also, did you know that the town of Stark in New Hampshire was home to a German POW Camp during World War II. Read about it here! Along with these examples, John’s posts are full of interesting facts about old railroads that once ran through the Whites, cool old porcelain signs that still hang on the trails from many years ago and many other cool facts about the Whites.

 John's comparative photo of an old carriage road and now a snowmobile trail in the Whites!

He also utilizes maps in most of his trip reports. Now, I don’t do this, but I feel like I should start. Having a map available that clearly highlights the path taken in the report is extremely useful for someone who may want to follow in your footsteps. When my wife and I started out hiking a couple years back, we went in search for these types of reports with maps. It gave us a sense of comfort to know that someone else had mapped out the same trip as we did and helped us get over our initial intimidation of the enormous, and sometimes dangerous, White Mountains. John's posts will be a useful resource for beginner hikers as well as seasoned hikers for years to come.

 A great example of one of John's 2d map, highlighting his route for his trip report!

 Another example of a map that John created. I love the 3d affect!

In closing, I want to say that John is an all-around nice guy! If you confer with him through the forums or through the comments on his blog or even via email, you’ll find out quickly that he is extremely helpful, knowledgeable and good-natured. He also helps to keep our trails in great shape. He’s a volunteer trail maintainer for both the AMC and USFS. I encourage you to drop by his blog, 1HappyHiker. It is a must-stop site if you enjoy hiking in any capacity! Keep up the great work, John! 

Please note that all images for this posting were retrieved from John's 1HappyHiker blog and are his property.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Sequence S/S Zip Tee

A few weeks back, Appalachian Outdoors, an outdoor sports and apparel distributor, contacted me to see if I would be interested in checking out some hiking gear and writing an unbiased review on it. Obviously, I accepted this offer and picked out a few things in Appalachian Outdoors’ full and attractive portfolio. I chose a set of gaitors and a new hiking shirt. For now, this review will only cover the hiking shirt, as I most likely won’t use the gaitors until the snow falls.

I have a favorite hiking shirt, as most people do. It is a Mountain Hardwear shirt, made of a wicking fabric of sorts…not sure what exactly. What I likeabout it most of all is that it has a collar, which keeps the sun and sweat off the back of my neck. Since it has been on the trail so many times, it’s really starting to get ratty. The part of the shirt that rubs against my pack is starting to break down. Also, it may be time to get a new shirt since all my hiking pictures show me wearing the same thing! Unfortunately for me, Mountain Hardwear has discontinued this shirt so I can’t even get a new one.

The shirt I chose from Appalachian Outdoors is made by Outdoor Research, a company I had never heard of before. The model of the shirt is the Sequence S/S Zip Tee. It appealed to me because it had a collar (see my reasoning for this above), and the product features section stated that it was made of Dri-release® fabric to manage moisture and would dry quickly. It also had built-in FreshGuard® odor neutralization, which must be a plus…right?

Outdoor Research Shirt I Am Reviewing

I received the shirt quickly after placing the order and tried it on. It was lightweight and comfortable, as I expected it would be. I had plans to hike North Uncanoonuc Mountain a week later (my trip report) so I figured that may be a good time to try out my new shirt. The day came, and I packed the shirt in my truck for the trek.

North Uncanoonuc is fairly steep and I was trying to test my endurance by not taking breaks. Due to this, I started to sweat fairly fast. Right away, I got hints of a strange odor. I wasn’t sure what it was, but kept moving forward. Soon, the odor became pretty overwhelming and it reminded me of burning hair or perm smell. I figured it must be the wool in the shirt getting wet from my sweat. For the rest of the hike, I was wet and I smelled awful. The shirt did not release moisture or dry quickly, even on the downhill when I had stopped sweating, I stayed soaked.

As soon as I got to the truck, I pulled the shirt off and laid it on the back seat. After a forty minute drive home, it did not dry. When I arrived home, I placed it on a drying rack to see how long it would take to dry, but it didn’t dry that night. By the next morning, it was finally dry, but the wet hair smell remained. I then decided to wash it to see if I could get the smell out. The same thing occurred after washing, very smelly and took a long time to dry. However, once dry, the smell did seem to go away.

I must say that I was a bit disappointed in this shirt. I had high hopes for it and this is my first impression of the company Outdoor Research. I’m hoping the gaitors I received, which are also made by Outdoor Research, perform better than the shirt did. I’ll definitely have a post reviewing these gaitors after I’ve used them.

I can say one good thing did come out of this experience. I had never heard of Appalachian Outdoors before and after visiting their site, it is a distributor that I will be using in the future. The people there are very nice and I enjoyed dealing with them. Also, they have a $6.95 flat rate shipping for everything…how can you beat that? Thanks for the opportunity Appalachian Outdoors!


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lylah's Hiking Gear!

Today, Jill, Lylah and I went to EMS. We found the coolest little Nalgene bottle. It’s a sippy cup! Another piece of hiking gear for Lylah! 


Thursday, September 1, 2011

North Uncanoonuc Mountain

I drive west on Route 101 every day, heading to Manchester to join in the rat race that we call work. On this morning ride, a couple small mountains that look like mirror images of each other (with the exception of multiple radio towers planted on the southern peak), always come into view and for a long time I wondered what they were. A while back I decided to do some research on them and found that they were the north peak and south peak of the same mountain. It is the Uncanoonuc Mountain and has a decent trail network over each peak as well as a little history associated with it.

Uncanoonuc Mountain Trail Kiosk

Trail Map, which can be found here

The southern peak, which has "probably the finest forest of communication towers in New Hampshire", as the AMC Southern New Hampshire Trail Guide puts it, used to actually have a trolley that ascended its northeastern slope. This railway has since been removed and is now a foot path. I’ve heard through some forums that you can still find old railroad spikes on this trail if you look hard enough. The trail map also shows that there is a viewpoint to the Boston skyline 51 miles away, although, I’m guessing this can only be observed on a very clear day. There is also an auto road that goes to the top, but I don’t know if there is a gate prohibiting the public from driving up or not. The summit sits at 1,321 feet.

 White Dot Trail blazes...I prefer the painted blazes on the trees instead
 Cool, Yellow Mushroom!

The northern peak doesn’t have quite as much history (or at least I couldn’t find any) and remains less touched by man made structures. The trail map shows that there is a viewpoint toward Pack Monadnock, just below the summit on its southwestern slopes. The summit sits at 1,324 feet. A colored trail map for both peaks and their viewpoints can be found here. However, you must note that the map was created upside down, so a northerly direction will be at the bottom of the map. I have no clue why anyone would create a map like this!

Very cool caves on the first portion of the trail.
On Wednesday evening, I set out for the summit of North Uncanoonuc Mountain. I left straight from work with the trail map in my hand and decided to ascend the White Dot Trail. I’m not sure which trails are more popular than others, but the trailhead for the White Dot Trail was fairly easy to find, so that’s why I chose it. This trail ascends 700 feet in just 0.6 miles, so I was expecting it to be pretty steep the whole way up. The trailhead parking was just off the side of Mountain Road in Goffstown, across from the trailhead. There is actually a Uncanoonuc Mountain Kiosk just before this parking area on the right that displays the same trail map that I had printed off.

Small toad on the side of the trail

The White Dot Trail is marked with a trail sign, however, it is hung quite a few feet from the road in the woods, so it is not viewable from the roadside. I noticed that the older blazes for this trail were blue in some areas and red in others. The newest or latest trail blazes were white painted tin can tops, nailed to the trees. These were certainly easy to follow and visible for a great distance in the woods, however, they didn’t look forest friendly to me. They looked more like litter than trail blazes. I suppose I’m old school. I like the good old paint on bark blazes!

View of one portion of the trail, steep the whole way!

As expected, I found the trail to be steep. It started with a mixture of rocky sections and root exposed sections. Very soon after emerging into the woods, some very nice rock caves were on the left. They were certainly large enough for someone to spend the night in and it seemed that someone even built up one side of the cave with rocks to make a more enclosed shelter. The mushrooms were plentiful on the hike and there were a wide array of colors. One in particular on the first half of the hike was a bright yellow color. I don’t believe I have ever seen a bright yellow mushroom before. As for wildlife, I didn’t see much other than a small toad that I unintentionally disturbed while trying to take a picture of a mushroom!

Mushroom colony...taking over this stump!

Some colorful berries!

The trail continued on pretty relentlessly with its steepness. It went straight the whole way and didn’t do much turning or meandering through the hemlock filled woods. Near the top, at about 1,200 feet, the trail did start to level off a bit. The view behind me opened up to the north at one particular point. If the sky wasn’t hazy, I’m sure I could’ve seen all the way to Kearsarge South or the lakes region mountains. However, it was hazy, so I didn’t see much other than the flat landscape.

Swarming dragon flies all around on the summit!

View over to South Uncanoonuc Mountain from North Uncanoonuc Mountain

The summit was pretty wide and flat. It was covered with blueberry bushes, which I’m sure a few weeks back, were covered in delicious wild fruit. There was a small fire pit area where it looked as though visitors abused the summit and left some broken glass bottles and a small amount of litter. Just past this pit, there was a view over to the South Uncanoonuc Mountain peak. It was as I expected it to look, a huge forest of radio towers and antennas. Not the nicest view...but a view nonetheless.

Signage showing hikers the direction of the Boston skyline

I was not alone on the summit. There were about fifty huge dragonflies swarming all around me, I’m assuming dining on the smaller bugs in the air. They circled around all over and it was really a cool site. I tried to snap some pictures, but it was tough. I also held my arms out to see if I could some of them to land on me, but I guess they were too hungry to turn their attention toward me. After exploring the summit for a bit, I decided to make my way down the southern slope of this peak, taking the Red Dot/Blue Trail. I was in search of the Pack Monadnock view!

View of Pack Monadnock, 16 miles to the southwest

Pack Monadnock, towers are visible

The slope down the southern side was not steep at all. It was fairly flat and still riddled with blueberry bushes. I came to a rock off to the side of the trail that had pebbles forming an arrow and the word “BOSTON” pointing to the south. I climbed up on some nearby rocks to see if I could see the Boston skyline as the arrow was pointing in the right direction, however, the haze was too thick. I continued down the path and the Red Dot Trail exited to the left and I kept going on the Blue Trail. Soon, Pack Monadnock came into view on the skyline. It wasn’t the most wide open view, but nice regardless. You could just barely make out the tower on the summit.

View toward the north, some mountains visible through the haze

After snapping a couple shots of Pack Monadnock, I reversed my direction and went back up to the summit. Again, I was greeted by the feasting dragonflies. I took another quick look around for a USGS Survey Benchmark, but couldn’t find one. I don’t know if there is one on that summit or not, but figured I would check just in case. I then headed back down the White Dot Trail the same we I came up. The trail being steep was tough on my legs. I didn’t use my poles, although, I probably should have.

Sun, starting to break through some clouds on the summit

I came out of the woods around 7pm and the sun was already setting down. I only saw two people the whole trip (one coming out as I was starting and one on his way up, as I was going down). All and all, it was nice to be in the woods and get a bit of exercise on a short, steep trail. The views certainly were nothing to write home about, but I wouldn’t say it was wasted effort. I was able to explore some forest that I had never been in before, got a little exercise, saw some great dragonflies swarming and the view to Pack Monadnock wasn’t that bad either. Most of all, a lot of my curiosity of the Uncanoonuc Mountain that I see each day driving to work is satisfied. I plan on returning soon enough to explore the southern peak as well.