Monday, January 30, 2012

Stratham Hill Park and Lylah's Lost Mitten

The sun was out this past weekend and we didn't want to pass up the blue skies, so we headed over to Stratham Hill Park. Stratham Hill Park is one of our favorite, local places to meander around the woods. It has light grades and well groomed trails. Most of all, it's close by. It was the perfect spot to bring Lylah on her first "winter" hike as well as try out our new Kelty FC 3.0 child carrier backpack.

Me and the munchkin sporting our new Kelty FC 3.0 Child Carrier Pack!

We arrived mid morning and found the wind was blowing a bit. So we snuggled Lylah up in some warm clothes, mittens, hat and some cool shades. The pack wasn't bad but will definitely take some getting used too. I hope to have a gear review out soon on this product.

Kitty Rock Trail, Ice Covered Unfortunately

We first headed over to ascend the hill using the Tuck Trail, but found the trail covered over with hard, glossy ice. I'm assuming this was a product of the day of rain we received earlier in the week. Since we didn't bring any traction, nor did I feel comfortable walking on anything "risky" with the baby on my back, we opted to head up the back side of the hill via the Kitty Rock Trail, which has lesser grades. However, upon reaching the trailhead, we found the same icy conditions. 

Wood Duck houses which have been put up fairly recently

So we continued south to meet up with the Old Tote Road. I noticed on the walk there, someone had put up wood duck houses along the ponds and runoffs, which I like to see. When we reached the Old Tote Road, we found some icy conditions so we walked along a field, which ran parallel to the Old Tote Road. There, we found many people walking their dogs and playing in the sun.

Field parallel to the Old Tote Road. People in the distance playing with their dogs.

Old Farm Equipment in the field near the Old Tote Road trailhead

We walked for a bit and found a place where we could cut back into the Old Tote Road. At the junction ahead, we took a left and headed over the bridge which goes over the runoff for Stratham Hill Pond. We then took another left and headed down a trail which traverses the banks between two small ponds. It was a pretty cool trail.

Trail which traversed the banks of two ponds...pretty neat!

From here, it was starting to get a bit nippy, so we decided to head back to the truck. But then, we saw it...one of Lylah's mittens on the ground. Jill checked her out and it seemed she had thrown both of them, but we had no clue where the second one was. So, we retraced our steps in full, doing the whole loop again. Unfortunately we didn't find it on the trail. Back at the truck, I pulled Lylah out of the pack and her second mitten flew out. Apparently she was just hiding it.

It was a short walk in the woods and unfortunately for us, we couldn't make it to the top of Stratham Hill due to ice. However, we still had a great time. Lylah smiled from ear-to-ear while in the pack. I think she really enjoyed it. I can't wait until we get some decent snow in the region so we can bring her snowshoeing!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wishing This Is Where I Was Right Now...


Monday, January 16, 2012

My First Guest Post!

A few weeks back, Grant, author of New England Outside, asked me to write a guest post for his blog. I was happy to do so and excited too. This is the first time I have ever been approached to do a guest post. In the blogging world, I think it is a great way to keep relations with fellow bloggers as well as reach new readers. 

My post, 5 "More" Hiker Etiquette Guidelines,  was published today and can be viewed at New England Outside. Please head over there and check it out when you have a few minutes. Also, check out New England Outside as a whole if you've never been over there! It's really a great site!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Good Fortune!

Jill and I went out for Chinese food the other night and this was our fortune:

"Life always gets harder near the summit."

This is true in most cases. However, no matter how hard it is, the incredible feeling you get on the summit makes you forget all about the difficult time you had laboring to get there!


Friday, January 6, 2012

Giveaway Opportunity on New England Outside - The Will to Climb

Grant, over at New England Outside, has a great giveaway contest going on. He's giving away a free copy of The Will to Climb by Ed Viesturs. He's also giving everyone up to five, yes five, chances to enter! The rules are really simple. Leaving a comment will get you one entry. A Facebook share will get you two. A Twitter share will get you three. And finally, a blog post will get you four and five entries (if you have a blog). Now, be sure to read his rules carefully, because there are still specific guidelines to follow when sharing the links and commenting on his blog. You can read and enter his giveaway here!

Now, the whole contest revolves around Grant wanting to know what your 2012 hiking goals are. Mine revolves around hiking with my daughter. My goal this year is to see her face light up for the first time while looking at a mountain landscape on the top of her first summit! Jill and I are researching hiking backpacks now and hope to purchase one in the next few months. When I do, I'll let you know all about it!

Now, what are you waiting for? Go enter the contest and good luck! You have until January 17th!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pawtuckaway Mountains and an Old Friend!

Last week, I had the opportunity to hike with a very good friend of mine that I don't see that often. My buddy, Daigle, is a civil engineer and has been working on location in various cities across the country, managing major construction projects for new bridges. He was home for the week between Christmas and New Year's and was nice enough to set aside some time for hiking with me.

Our original plan was to hit the Whites, but when the westward winds blew in on Wednesday, so did all the cold weather. Many of the trail condition postings mentioned that crampons should be used on the higher ledges of most peaks. Since neither of us had crampons...or were experienced winter hikers, we thought it may be wise to stick around the seacoast region where there is still no snow!

 Ice on the North Mountain Trail

South Mountain from North Mountain (Looking over Middle Mountain). You can see the fire tower poking up.

Since Daigle had never been to Pawtuckaway State Park, I figured that would be a good place to spend the day. I mapped out a route that started on Reservation Road at the North Mountain Trailhead, traversed over North Mountain, down the Boulder Trail and then traversed South Mountain via the South Ridge Trail. We'd finish the complete loop by continuing on the South Ridge Trail and hiking back up Reservation Road to where we originally parked. I estimated the loop to be between 7 or 8 miles, but I still haven't had time to take the guide and actually figure the mileage out yet. 

We started out early and were the first car parked on Reservation Road. The trek into the foot of North Mountain is easy and flat and goes by quickly. At the foot of North Mountain, the trail climbs the southwestern slope pretty steeply. It wasn't long before I was huffing and puffing, and realized how out of shape I was. I'm sure the loads of chocolates and pie that I consumed during the holiday season didn't help either! Due to the steep pitch, it wasn't long before the trail flattened out. We found a nice rock perch  facing the east and stopped for some coffee while we tried to identify landmarks in the distance. Daigle was great at this. He quickly picked out Portsmouth and Great Bay through the binoculars.

NGS Reference Mark

Summit Cairn on North Mountain...I want to know if there is a Benchmark under this!

 Very large communications reflector

After relaxing for a bit and consuming our warm beverages, we continued over North Mountain, which is a very long ridge. We finally came to the high point, which is marked with a cairn. I explored this area a bit and it wasn't long before I spotted NGS Reference Mark. I was surprised to find this because I had been up there before and never noticed it. After researching these markers, I knew there must be at least one or two more. Low and behold, I found two more. Using the triangulation of them, they were pointing directly to the cairn. So I wonder if the Benchmark was actually buried under the cairn? I am kicking myself for not digging into it to see if it was there. If it was, I wonder why someone would have burried it? Anyway, it's bugging me enough that I want to get back up there and see if I can unearth the thing. If an NGS Benchmark exists, the cairn should really be reassembled next to it!

The Devil's Den...the cave is much larger than the picture alludes!

Dead Pond

Round Pond


At the north end of the mountain, we came to the large billboard like communications reflector that is painted green and faces to the north. I'm going to be honest, I have no idea if this reflector is still used today or what it is (was) used for. This thing is pretty large and is really an eyesore. I also have no clue how long it has been out there.

Descending the north slope of the mountain was pretty easy and we quickly passed the Devil's Den to our right, which is a very large cave, and Dead Pond on our left. The trail is pretty flat as we continued down the Boulder Trail and we passed a portion of Round Pond on the right and some large cliff features on our left. The trail got pretty confusing at this point, because the trail junctions on the map are covered by boating, scenic outlook and fishing markers! Daigle was able to guide us in the correct direction and we were headed up the South Ridge Trail.

Pawtuckaway Lake from the fire tower on South Mountain summit

Toward Northwood and possibly Kearsarge in the distance?

I believe (and I may be wrong), Mt. Washington poking up in the distance. Camera is really focused, which is why the quality is bad.

View to the west, Uncanoonucs and possibly Pack Monadnock?

I must say, the trails in Pawtuckaway are either flat or very steep. There doesn't seem to be any moderate grades up to these mountains! We made it to the top of South Mountain very quickly and were the only ones on the summit. We climbed the fire tower and the wind from the west pelted us pretty hard. Again, Daigle pointed out all the landmarks...Northwood, Portsmouth, the Uncanoonucs. I think we even spotted Mount Washington's white cap way off in the distance, but I can't be sure. We snapped a few shots and headed back down to find a windless, sunny spot for lunch. When we were done eating, we got moving pretty quickly as the temperature was dropping with the wind. The trek back to the truck was quick and easy. We made the loop in just 3-1/2 hours which I thought was pretty good time.

Fire Tower on the South Mountain Summit

It was definitely a fun hike. Spending time in the woods is always one of my favorite pastimes, but catching up with an old friend definitely tops that. Daigle is heading down to North Carolina for a new assignment now. Hopefully we can catch up again on another hike when he heads back home later this year.

One of Daigle's bridge projects he just finished up. Pretty amazing stuff!