Wednesday, November 23, 2011
I hope everyone has a safe, happy and fun Thanksgiving! Eat lots of food and relax a bit!
Below, are a couple turkeys I saw this past April on the Moat Mountain Trail, near the trailhead on Passaconaway Road. I hope they fared well this Thanksgiving and did not end up on a dinner table!
Monday, November 21, 2011
Jill and I brought Lylah for a walk through some trees recently. Christmas Trees that is! We typically get a tree from the side of the road and always seem to pay too much for it. This year, we decided to put that money into a tree that we can actually fresh cut ourselves. We decided on Tonry Farm in Hampton Falls to locate the Searl Family Christmas Tree.
When you pull in, you drive down this long driveway and it drops you off at a farm with fields full of Christmas Trees all around it. We were given a map and told that the types of trees were fairly mixed throughout the fields and we would have to identify the species of trees ourselves in order to know what we were tagging.
Eastern Bluebird again!
We walked for what seemed to be a mile, in and out of the different rows. It seemed every “good” tree had been tagged by previous customers. I was amazed at the different shapes and sizes of all these trees. I always assumed these tree farms trimmed the trees to be the perfect, full cone shape. However, on this tree farm, it looked like they allowed them to grow into a natural shape, which I liked. I’m a big fan of “Charlie Brown” Christmas Trees. I like crazy branches and holes to hang large ornaments.
Behold...The Searl Family Christmas Tree!
There were many trees that I liked, but Jill didn’t and visa versa, until we came to the perfect tree for us. It was traditionally shaped like cone but also has some irregularity to it too. It had really sturdy branches for heavy ornaments and was just tall enough for our living room. I’m fairly certain it is a Fraser Fir. It was the perfect Searl Family Christmas Tree. Jill decorated it by putting a large “S” at the top and some festive ribbon.
Jill's "S" on the top of the tree
Our decorated tree in the field!
It was really a fun day at the tree farm. We got a little bit of exercise in as well as spent some time outside. We even encountered some wildlife as an Eastern Bluebird followed us around the farm for a while. I can’t wait to get this tree home. We plan on cutting it down this weekend coming up. This year, we’re going to string popcorn and cranberries in an attempt to create and old fashion looking tree. I’ll be sure to post some pictures of it once it is up and lit!
Sunday, November 20, 2011
My buddy over at New England Outside has challenged outdoor bloggers to write a post about what they have learned from hiking. He mentioned to keep the post short and sweet, but I’ve learned so much from the trail, I’m not sure I can do that! My lessons learned have been vast over the last couple years, but here are some of most important ones.
Patience and Perseverance – When I first started hiking, I can recall wanting to rush to the top of a mountain. I worried about time and people passing me. Through my many journeys, I’ve learned to slow down and pace myself. I find that I enjoy the trek much more at a slower pace. It also helps me to focus in on the goal of the day. Instead of pushing through with brute force, I’m able to observe the milestones around me and really gauge my progress.
Enjoying more than the view – Anyone who has stood on the top of a mountain in the Whites knows that the views can be breathtaking. It’s probably the main reason why most hike. However, as much as the view from a summit, I’m enjoying the little things the trail has to offer. From reading blogs like the Spicebush Log, 1HappyHiker and Jim Salge Photography’s Blog, I’ve found so many cool things to keep an eye out for. Different plants and wildlife are always on my agenda to try to spot. I love going into the woods looking for the fresh Hobblebush leaves in early spring. I get excited now when I see Painted Trillium’s or Yellow Violets. I notice when I walk from a hardwood forest to a pine grove. And I’m always on the outlook for historical artifacts on the trail or traces of an earlier hiking generation.
The White Mountains, People Die Up There! – Being a responsible hiker means being a prepared hiker. When I think back to the first time I hiked in the Whites (back in 98’, up Mount Washington…funny story if you have time to read this post), I was completely unprepared and could have easily ended up as a story on WMUR News. My pack has gone from about 5lbs to probably 35lbs, and sometimes around 50lbs in the winter! Being prepared is very important and can sometimes be the determining factor on if someone makes it out of the woods alive or not. It’s not a situation any hiker wants to be in and is usually not predictable. So making sure you have all the essential survival gear with you is extremely important.
The Hiking Community – When I started hiking regularly a couple years back, I started participating in forums as well as started writing this blog. I was amazed at how large the hiker’s network was in this region and how friendly everyone is. It’s like having unlimited resources and knowledge at your fingertips. I’m extremely thankful to the hiking community for the information they have shared with me and other hikers. I’m also very appreciative to have made so many great friends!
Life – “Don’t take life so seriously, you’ll never make it out alive” – Van Wilder…I know, kind of cliché, but so true. Hiking has taught me this. Before I started hiking, I was huge ball of stress. I worried about a lot of things, including work. Hiking has given me a way to relieve stress and enjoy life the way it should be enjoyed. Being on a trail helps me forget about all my worries and really focus on what’s important. I spend most of my hikes alongside Jill, who is what is important to me. I spend time in nature, which I have come to find is very precious. Soon, I will be able to share this with Lylah too. I can’t wait for the day that she can look out over the White Mountains from the summit of her first mountain.
So there you have it. The list could probably go on and on. But for now, I think these are the most important lessons I have learned. Thanks to New England Outside for a great challenge and a great idea for a post.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
So this post is a little late, but better late than never I guess. Last week, Jill and I got sick and then this week, the munchkin got sick. So needless to say, it's been pretty chaotic in the Searl household and blogging took a back seat, unfortunately!
I did close the contest on November 11th, as I said I would, with 32 entries! I thought it was a great turnout, but I knew it would be for such an awesome book, Following Atticus!
Okay, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Random.org chose entry 22 and entry 29 as the winners. This is Grant and Jen S. I will be contacting the winners soon to get addresses or, if you read this post, please feel free to drop me a line! I'll get these great items out to you two shortly. Thanks to everyone who entered. If you didn't win, please don't let that stop you from picking up your copy of Following Atticus as soon as you can!
Friday, November 11, 2011
It's Veteran's Day. My Dad served our country for 36 years in the U.S. Army and my Grandfather fought in World War II, fighting in the Battle of Buldge in Bastogne. Being from a family with these roots, I'm a pretty patriotic guy. So, I didn't want the day to go by without saying thanks to all those who have served. We owe everything to them. Our land, our freedom and our happiness. Happy Veteran's Day!
Old Glory at Stratham Hill Park
Thursday, November 10, 2011
By Jill Searl
I've had my trusty pair of Merrells for well over four years. They are old, grubby, dirty and ripped. I've been looking for another pair of hiking shoes to replace them over the last two years. I’ve even looked for a new pair of the exact same ones, but I don’t believe Merrell even makes them anymore. I bought a pair of Keene boots last year which are comfortable in all, but I really don't like the style of them with the big black toes. No matter what new shoes I’ve tried in the past couple of years, I always seem to gravitate towards my Merrells when heading out on a hike.
Jill's new Patagonia Drifter A/C Hiking Shoes
I recently purchased a pair of Patagonia A/C Drifters. We receive Patagonia catalogs in the mail, but other than that I haven't really seen (or noticed) the brand in the stores. But I liked the style and the shoes had great reviews so I decided to try them. As soon as they arrived I tried them on and my first impression was they were very comfortable, had plenty of cushion and fit true to size. I have wide feet and it has been difficult to find hiking boots that are wide enough, these were plenty wide enough. They seemed to have a lot of support which is a key feature for my old ankle injury. One thing I didn’t like right away was they were heavy, which is different than my old, super-light Merrells. A quick comparison between these Patagonias and similar-sized Merrells shows that the Patagonias are about 4 oz. heavier than Merrells. After my initial try on, I was anxious to hit the trails and break them in. But I’d be lying if I said I didn't pack my Merrells in my backpack just in case!
Jill's Patagonia Drifter A/C on the summit of South Moat Mountain
So, Karl and I hiked South Moat in Conway, a moderate 5.6 hike. As we hiked along, I made a few adjustments to the laces and once I found my comfort level, they felt great! The upper portion of the trail was a bit steep with plenty of ledges so I was a bit worried about the trip down and how my feet would move in the shoes walking down the slabs. All I could think about was my awful decent down the Tecumseh ski trails in a new pair of Merrell boots (yet another failed replacement trial for my favorite Merrells). My toes were cramped and my feet slid so much I had blisters for weeks! But my feet stayed put in the Patagonias and I made it off the mountain without a single blister. It was also very warm the day of our hike and I found the shoes to be breathable. The only thing I’m not sure about is how waterproof they are, I read a couple of reviews saying that weren’t that good, but we didn’t come across any water on our hike.
All in all, I’m happy with my purchase and look forward to wearing them on a few winter hikes.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Don't forget, there's still a couple days to enter to win a copy of Following Atticus by Tom Ryan! It's free and easy to enter. Visit this post for all the details. For now, I'll leave you with Tom's book trailer for Following Atticus below!
Tom Ryan's video trailer for Following Atticus
Monday, November 7, 2011
This past weekend, I decided to head to the Bartlett area and hike Mount Stanton and Mount Pickering. I didn’t necessarily want to bag these peaks for peaks themselves, but more for other reasons. I’ve been on an Iron Mountain history kick lately, and I’ve heard the views over to Iron Mountain are phenomenal and really second to none for this mountain. I also knew that the Mount Stanton Trail was rather secluded and not heavily traveled other than the occasional backpacker making their way to the Langdon Shelter. So, aside from the peaks, I figured it would be nice walk in the woods, great views of mountains that can’t be seen easily from other points and some un-crowded trails.
Mount Stanton Trail was tough to follow with the leaves on the ground.
Slimy mushroom on the trail
The trailhead for the Mount Stanton Trail was easy to find, although it only had a small sign indicating its presence and the parking was roadside. I arrived at the trailhead at the same time as a hunter. I think he was just as surprised to see that I was walking in the woods for fun, as I was to see him hunting on a “hiking” trail. I stopped and chatted with him for a while and explained my intentions of heading up to higher elevations. He said his plan was to stay down low. It made me feel better that I ran into him before setting off so that he knew there were hikers in the woods, but that little bit of comfort didn’t stop me from putting on my hunter orange beanie cap (just incase)!
The trail was very difficult to follow at the beginning. It is blazed well, but I constantly had to look up to the trees for the blazes because the foot trail was not recognizable. This was in large part due to hardwood forest dropping its oak, birch and beach tree leaves. Once the trail began to climb, it did so pretty steeply and I can recall thinking the descent would be tough with the leaves on the ground and not knowing what was under them.
Ascending onto White's Ledge!
Mount Kearsarge, North from White's Ledge. Nice, first view of the day!
I finally made my way up to White’s Ledge, which was a pretty lengthy strip of ledge with some great views east toward Mount Keasarge, North, and some restricted views to the south and west toward Attitash Mountain. After making my way over White’s Ledge, there was a very steep and slippery ascent up to the summit. The summit was actually pretty large and on the eastern portion, had some good lookouts to Kearsarge again, with the Doubleheads in the background. Views of Attitash were also much better, although the sun’s position was hindering any good shots I was able to take of it.
On this southern (sunny) side of the summit, there were a ton of snakes. I'm pretty sure they were sunning themselves and unfortunately, I kept almost stepping on them. As one would hiss at me and move away aggressively, I’d take a step back and almost step on another one! I was able to get a few shots of them and hopefully I didn’t really step on any of them. They were all harmless garter snakes…I think!
Mount Attitash from the summit of Mount Stanton
The Doubleheads, Black Mountain and I think, one of the Wildcat peaks
As I made my way across the summit, I came to the ledges on the northern side of the mountain. Here, I found the first of the leftover snow from a snow storm a week earlier. I also got my views of Iron Mountain that I had been anticipating. I was floored at how large it looked, not just from a height perspective, but also from a mere bulkiness perspective. You could easily make out the summit, Green Hill and Duck’s Head. The views over toward Jackson also unveiled a better view of the Doubleheads, Black Mountain and a snow topped, Wildcat peak. To the left of Iron Mountain, was the Presidentials, and of course, as it usually is when I’m up north, Mount Washington was in the clouds.
One of many snakes on the summit of Mount Stanton
Tree trunk growing over a rock on the summit of Mount Stanton
The whole time I was admiring the views the north, a northerly wind was pounding on me hard. Of course, I started to get a chill in my sweaty clothes so I figured it was time to get moving. I had a difficult time picking the Mount Stanton Trail back up after these northern ledges. I walked around a bit and finally found the trail descended the northwestern slope of the mountain, not the western slope as I had assumed. Once I found some blazes on some ledge, I headed down into cover from the wind.
What I believe is Carter Notch over Green Hill
Mount Washington...yes that's right...you have to look through the clouds!!!
On my descent of Mount Stanton, the landscape changed dramatically. The hardwoods turned into a red pine forest quickly. It was very nice out there and peaceful. I no longer had the sound of the rustling leaves at my feet. The trail descended steeply and it wasn’t long before I was in the col of the two mountains. Here, I found the White Mountain National Forest boundary cairn. It was painted red and had a pipe driven into the ground at this location. There were also two “Bearing Trees” marked with aluminum signs dated 1981. This spot was obviously a corner point of the WMNF boundary lines. From that point on, the trail also had red blazes and National Forest Boundary signs kept popping up every now and then. Another interesting feature in the col was a water hole, It was probably 20 feet in diameter and it looked like it collected runoff water from the mountains.
Cairn at the WMNF boundary
Bearing Tree sign, one of two that I found
Boundary signs on the trail up to Mount Pickering
The hike up to Mount Pickering was steep in some places, but not as steep as the ascent to Mount Stanton. The red pines gave up to a hardwood forest again and I was making more noise in the leaves than a crashing moose. The trail subsided quickly and before I knew it, I was on the large, flat summit of Mount Pickering. I made my way past the high point and over to the north ledges, which again, gave me very nice views of Iron Mountain. I was also able to see Mount Langdon and The Crippies (what a sketchy name) from this point. I hung out for a bit and then continued west on the Mount Stanton Trail. I had heard that the ledges just over the summit had great views, and I couldn’t determine if the ledges I was just on were the ones in question. After descending for about 0.3 miles, I made the call that I must have already been on the “great views” ledge.
Water hole in the col between Mount Pickering and Mount Stanton
Another snake, this time on the summit of Mount Pickering
So I started my journey back to my truck, retracing my footsteps back up to Mount Pickering. This is where I started getting tired and one of the reasons I hate in-and-out hikes. Something about re-climbing a peak you just did, does not appeal to me. I was hoping, however, that maybe some of the clouds would retreat around Mount Washington’s peak and I would be able to get a nice, snowcapped shot…didn’t happen though. Something worth mentioning was a water hole on the summit of Mount Pickering. I didn’t notice it when I traveled westbound on the summit, but on my return, it is very noticeable to the left of the trail (northeastern portion of the summit). It was approximately 30 feet in diameter and was obviously filled with the remains of some melted snow. It seemed a bit out of place up there, but neat nonetheless. Oh, and on my way back, I almost stepped on yet another snake sunning itself in the middle of the trail.
Favorite view of the day, Iron Mountain with its magnificent South Cliffs in view!
Retracing the col was tough. I was tired at this point and you’re either hiking down a steep section or up a steep section. There is no flat section between these two mountains to take a "rest" on! I recall thinking the ascent back up to Mount Stanton’s summit, through the red pine forest, would be the last, tough push I would need to make. I did finally make it up there and took a couple last shots of the great views over to Iron Mountain, as I could not help myself.
The Crippies and Mount Langdon
Stairs Mountain poking up in the background
The descent from Stanton was a real pain in the neck. On the steep sections, I had to hold onto trees as I stepped down. The oak leaves were piled on the trail and it was wet between them and the rocks. I feel as though I skied down the trail more than I hiked down it. I finally came to White’s Ledge again and decided to eat my lunch in front Mount Kearsarge. The peanut butter sandwich I made was excellent and gave me some energy to finish up the remaining mile or so that I had. Again, I struggled through some steep sections and then got lost near the beginning of the trail since I couldn’t tell where it was.
Old arrow sign I found on the trail...I like these old weathered signs!
When I finally made it out to my truck, I could see the hunter was still out and about. A couple women, with intentions to hike the trail, were getting ready as I was pulling away. I warned them to put on any orange they had as there were hunters around and it would be a safe thing to do. They informed me that they didn’t have any orange, so I decided to part with my orange beanie cap and handed it over to them. I figured the loss of $0.99 (for the hat) was worth contributing to some other fellow hiker’s safety.
Mount Chocorua over Chocorua Lake on the drive home
On the way home, I really felt like stopping at the Dairy Queen at the junction of Rt. 16 and Rt. 302, however, it was closed for the season. I figured it was the Big Guy’s way of telling me that I shouldn’t eat unhealthy crap on the ride home. So, instead, I headed north on Route 16 and made my way over the Jackson Covered Bridge into my favorite village. I stopped at the White Mountain Café and Bookstore and picked up a large, decaf coffee for the two hour ride home. It was excellent as expected. Truly, another great day in the Whites!
Sunday, November 6, 2011
I hiked up Mount Stanton and Mount Pickering this weekend. There were some really nice views to the north on both peaks. I hope to get you a trip report soon. But until then, here's a quick picture of Mount Kearsarge, North from White's Ledge!
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Iron Mountain, as seen from the summit of South Moat, in the foreground of Mount Washington!
Iron Mountain has always been an intriguing mountain to me ever since the first time I noticed it on my trail map. I would even go as far as saying it is my favorite mountain. The mountain and its trails seem to stand alone, secluded from the vast trail network that New Hampshire houses in its backcountry. One can reach the trailhead by traveling up a secluded, dirt road, a few miles out on Iron Mountain Road, off from Route 16 in Jackson. The road climbs a few hundred feet in elevation in these couple miles and dumps you off at an old pasture and farmhouse, with spectacular views to the Presidentials. The trailhead itself is known to be one of the best views you can obtain on this hike, being picturesque in both the foreground and background landscapes. As one would imagine on such a secluded trail, the Iron Mountain Trailhead is simply marked with a homemade wooden sign that simply says “TRAIL”.
Iron Mountain Trailhead Sign, Taken September of 2009
View up to Mount Washington from the pasture at the trailhead, phenomenal views
Wildcats from the first viewpoint just below the summit
This mountain is very rich with history, although, there is not a whole lot of published information on it. In the 1800’s, as the name alludes, the southeastern slopes were used for iron mining. Prior to these mining operations, the mountain was actually called Baldface, I'm assuming for the large and bare rock exposed on its southern slopes! The only publication I can find that narrows down the timeline for these mines was from the 1922 edition of the AMC White Mountain Guide, which says on page 241, “They (the mines) were worked about 1872.” It also goes onto explain that there was once a hiking trail that ran from Jericho Road (which runs on the south side of the mountain) up to the mines by way of an old carriage path that was actually used to gain access to the mines when in operation. It gives a good account of the mine layout, explaining a 60 foot tunnel and an old mine shaft filled with water. When I made my way down to the mine area by way of the published spur path on current maps, I think I found the large shaft filled with water and found dumps of ore deposit on the slopes. I did not find the tunnel to speak of. However, I can say that the spur path we ascended was very difficult to follow and even more difficult to backtrack, as it was marked with small cairns, made up of only two or three small rocks. 100 years later, there is no published trail that leads up to the iron mines from Jericho Road. In fact, even a USGS map from 1942, only 20 years later, shows no sign of a trail connecting the two points.
Piles of rocks I found next to a shaft with water in it
I found some rocks with drill marks in them down in the mine area
Some of the best views on Iron Mountain can be seen from the southeastern slopes on what is called the South Cliffs. This wide open ledge has great views all the way to Sandwich Range. It is an easy hike down from the summit and is close to the junction with the current Iron Mine Spur path. I recall sitting on these ledges with Jill, no one else in sight, and feeling that it was extremely peaceful. We enjoyed the views and really fell in love with the spot. My understanding is, the only place that you can really get a good view of the South Cliffs (from another location) is Mount Pickering and Mountain Stanton. These cliffs are a great location to go if you feel like spending time in the White Mountains by yourself.
View as you walk onto the South Cliffs
The summit is another historical location. Apparently, many years ago in the 1800’s, you could stand on this summit and have fine views toward the village of Jackson, NH. Today, the summit has a lot of tree growth on it and views are limited or nonexistent. The way to get up there today is by way of the Iron Mountain Trail from the field and farmhouse that I described in the beginning of this post. It is a steep, somewhat eroded path, but there are some really fine viewpoints on the way up toward Mount Washington and the Wildcats. On the summit, are remnants of the old fire tower that once stood tall. It was a wooden tower, thirty feet in height and was in operation from 1939 to 1948, and then sold in 1949. Some wooden ties, rusted hardware, a broken down platform and some concrete leg supports are still on the summit. I’ve even found a USGS Reference Mark on the summit, but have never found the Benchmark that goes with it.
Fire tower that stood on the Iron Mountain summit in the 1940's. Picture from New Hampshire Fire Towers Website
Remnants of the fire tower that once stood
More debris of the tower
USGS Reference Mark on the summit
Another trail that was used by hikers to make their way up to the summit was from Route 16. It was a trail that was blazed by W.A. Meserve of Jackson, NH in 1905. I’m not sure what the name of this path was or if it ever had a published name. The trail left from a pasture behind the old Iron Mountain House, which was built in 1861 and closed in the late 1980’s. It ultimately burned down in the year 2000 and the Red Fox Pub was erected in its place. This trail meandered under the now wooded cliffs of Duck’s Head. Here’s another interesting fact. Duck’s Head used to be known as Iron Bluff, a sub-peak of Iron Mountain. It is labeled Iron Bluff on the 1896 USGS map, but labeled Duck’s Head on the 1946 USGS map. Okay, back to the trail. It split near the top of Duck’s Head, where you could go to the, at the time, open ledges over Jackson or head west to the Iron Mountain summit. This route also took you over another sub-peak known as Green Hill. This trail no longer exists. I’m not sure if it is still bushwhacked from time-to-time or not.
Left Map: 1896 USGS Map, showing the peak near Route 16 as Iron Bluff
Left Map: 1942 USGS Map, showing the peak near Route 16 as Duck's Head
Click the image to make it larger
Current published trails on a modern AMC map
Iron Mountain was also the home of a ski area, Iron Mountain Slopes. It is considered one of the lost ski areas in New Hampshire and I believe it was located just south of the Fire Fox Pub on route 16, but I can’t say for sure. There is a website, New England Lost Ski Areas Project, that has a lot of information on this historical slope. It looks like one of the organization's members bushwhacked the old slopes a while back and found many of the ski area’s equipment still on the mountain side. There are pictures of the old rope tow equipment as well as the summit return building just about falling in. The summit return building still has all the old wheels for the ropes, an old stove and even the motor that ran the tow. The ski slopes have completely grown in with tree growth and are nearly impossible to make out with the comparison pictures on that site. I can imagine it is really cool to stumble across this historical equipment when walking through the woods.
Before and after image of the Iron Mountain Ski Slope: Taken from NELSAP.org
Summit Return Building, still up on the slopes: Taken from NELSAP.org
Rope Tow structure, with trees growing around it.Taken from NELSAP.org
Iron Mountain will always be one of my favorite mountains. I think, back in its heyday, Iron Mountain was a very significant landmark to the village of Jackson. Even the small bridge on Route 16 over Ellis River, just north of junction with Green Hill Road (once called Iron Mountain Road) was known as Iron Mountain Bridge.The mountain was well-known and could be accessed from many different paths, but now only one secluded trail leads to its summit. It once had sub peaks named after it, which have now been renamed, forgetting about the origins. It has been mined and skied, but the evidence of this is buried in the woods and is difficult to find. It has had a fire tower planted on its summit and dismantled shortly after. I believe the summit has even been used for surveying or map making at one time since I found the USGS Reference Mark up there. I feel as though Iron Mountain has lived out its life and is now a forgotten peak. As I have said in many of my posts, I hope to retire to Jackson, NH or possibly even move up there sooner. If I do get up there one day, I will certainly hike this mountain often; find all the old paths that were once blazed and all the historical remnants left behind of better days on Iron Mountain!
Sources: Some information and pictures for this post were taken from the following, great sources. I encourage you to go to these sites or review these books!
New England Lost Ski Area Project: http://www.nelsap.org/nh/ironmt.html
New Hampshire Fire Towers: http://www.firelookout.org/towers/nh/iron.htm
1922 Edition of The AMC White Mountain Guide
The White Mountains by Moses Foster Sweetser
VFTT Post by 1HappyHiker