Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lylah's First Summit - Black Cap Mountain 05-26-12

While on vacation up north a few weeks back (my vacation report), Jill, Lylah and I decided to hike Black Cap Mountain. We figured it wasn’t that long and the elevation gain wasn’t much, so it would be a good hike to commit to after a long hiatus from hiking as well as with a one year old on my back.

We took Hurricane Mountain Road to the trailhead, which was an adventure in itself. I’ve heard stories about the road and how steep it was, but nothing really prepares you for driving up it until you commit yourself to it. It was steep, narrow and very windy. A few times, near the top, I felt my rear tires actually slip a bit while going around steep curves. The whole time, all I could think about was how nerve racking the trip down the hill will be.

Putting sunscreen on the Munchkin!

Lylah, ready to tackle her first mountain!

Once at the top of the road, we came to a parking area on the right for the Black Cap Trailhead. We all put on sun screen and bug spray and we were on our way. The beginning of the trail was very nice, and went through a pine grove with little or no elevation gain. Right away, it was clear that we had missed prime wildflower season, as many of the Painted Trilliums had passed and lost their beauty and the hobblebush plant leaves were large with no flowers at all. I did find a couple wild blue violets on the side of the trail. I learned quickly that it’s not easy to take get on your knees and crouch down to take a photo of a flower with a one year old on your back. As soon as I did, Lylah almost came barreling down over my head…thank gosh I caught her before she did :).

 Lylah on my back...gosh this pack is so uncomfortable...for me!

 A nicely groomed trail!

The butterflies followed us the whole way up to the summit.

At the junction with the Black Cap Connector Trail, there was a kiosk maintained by The Green Hills Preserve. They had some information there, a log book and supplied maps of the local trail network to hikers passing through.

 Painted Trillium, past its prime :(

My favorite plant, the Hobblebush, large leaves and no flowers. I missed them this year :(

I assume this to be a Common Blue Violet, but could be another variety.

Green Hill's Preserve Kiosk

We continued on while the trail climbed more moderately. A family passed us just before making our way to the rocky slab portion and asked us if we were missing an “Elmo”. We didn’t realize it at the time, but Lylah apparently got sick of having company in the pack and decided to ditch Elmo further down. They told us they propped him up on a rock in the trail. We figured we’d pick him up on the way back if he was still there.

 Memorial on summit

Stairs on summit

Near the top of the mountain, the views open up to a slab trail leading to some view points and eventually the summit. The views to the north and west are great. There were excellent views of the Moats, Chocorua, Carrigain (in the distance) and Kearsarge North. What took us by surprise was Lylah. She kept pointing out to the distance and making sounds, as if she was amazed by the views of the mountains surrounding us. I hope she was…she is my daughter!

Our feet on the summit...notice Lylah's little foot on her first summit!

Family photo on the summit!

Kearsarge North, You can easily make out the famous fire tower on the summit.

The Moat Range, with Cathedral and White Horse Ledges in the foreground.

Even though the summit was breezy, it was still buggy. We took a few pictures, a few deep breaths of White Mountain air and headed back down the way we came. It would have been nice to relax for a bit and soak in the views, but the bugs would not let us! I did notice on the summit, that there was a nice memorial to Anna B. Stearns, whom I’m guessing was a generous contributor to The Green Hills Preserve. Also, there was a set of stairs created from rock and cement, although I’m not sure what they could have gone to. Maybe there used to be a fire tower or house up there at one point. If anyone has any info on these, let me know, because I’m curious. Before we left, we took our standard “summit shot” of our feet on the marked (or assumed by me) summit location…It was Lylah’s first summit, so she got to participate too!

Mount Chocorua in the distance.

 Cool, tall tree on the summit

Hurricane Mountain (foreground) and Kearsarge North (background) 
Elmo, waiting for us on the trail!

The hike down was fast and smooth for the most part. The munchkin fell asleep half way down and I recall her head resting to the left of me. So, the weighted pack was constantly throwing me off balance, which was a little annoying (I hate this Kelty pack!). We also came across Elmo, propped up on a rock, just like the nice family told us he would be. Once packed up in the truck, we survived the white knuckle ride down Hurricane Mountain Road. It was a great morning hike and one that I hope Lylah enjoyed as much as we did! 

Here's Elmo, propped up on a rock!

 Lylah, out cold in my pack...throwing my balance off every step!


Monday, June 18, 2012

"Welcome to God's Country!"

“Welcome to God’s country!” This is what Tom Ryan, author of Following Atticus, commented to me on a Facebook post regarding my family and me arriving in the beautiful, northern New Hampshire village of Jackson. Anyone who reads my blog knows that Jackson is where I want to be, and anyone who has visited Jackson knows exactly why. The village is quaint, surrounded by beautiful mountains, fresh air and completely removed from the hustle and bustle of the city life. Jill and I used to visit Jackson on a much more regular basis, but with the little one, making multiple night trips up there is tough. This was our second trip up there with Miss Lylah, the first being when she was three months old and ended badly, with a midnight ride home due to an ear infection. This trip was much, much better.

Our view of the Jackson Covered Bridge as we arrive in the rain on Friday afternoon

We started the weekend on a Friday evening which was very rainy. We arrived at the Christmas Farm Inn, which has been our inn of choice with Lylah since they welcome children. As soon as we were settled, we did what we always do the first night we arrive, headed to the Shovel Handle Pub for a good dinner and a pint of Tuckerman Pale Ale! The Shovel Handle Pub is by far our favorite pub in Jackson. It’s built in an old, rustic barn next to the Whitney Inn at the base of Black Mountain. The decor is great, consisting of antique outdoor sports memorabilia (snow shoes, skiing stuff, etc.). Later in the evenings, they typically have live music from some great local musicians.

On the first morning, we got ready for a hike up Black Cap Mountain. On the way to the trailhead, I stopped at my favorite Jackson coffee shop, the White Mountain Cafe. To my surprise, it has changed ownership and is now The Backcountry Bakery & Cafe. I wish I had known it was for sale, because that would have been the perfect opportunity for me. Owning a coffee shop in my favorite town, surrounded by mountains…sounds like heaven!!! I chatted with the friendly people behind the counter, purchased two delicious hazelnut iced coffees and we were on our way.

My favorite coffee shop, The Backcountry Bakery & Cafe

Black Cap Mountain, by way of Hurricane Mountain Road, is a short hike so we figured it would be a perfect first hike for Lylah (on my back). I don’t want to go into the details too much since I will write a separate trip report on our hike, but Lylah made it to her first summit by 11am…not too shabby. However, I pretty much decided I hate my Kelty child backpack. I need to figure out something better if I’m to do any distance with her.

Lylah and I ready for our hike up Black Cap

After hiking, we hit up the J-Town Deli, one of our favorite deli shops in downtown Jackson. J-Town has a country store like atmosphere and you can order fresh sandwiches, subs and pastries. On this particular day, Moat Mountain Brewery was doing some promotions in the store, so they were giving away free samples of their brews!

After eating lunch and trying for two hours to get Lylah to take a nap with no luck (she was way too preoccupied with all the excitement of being on vacation), we decided to hit downtown North Conway, one of our favorite things to do while up there. I was lucky and found a parking spot right in front of Zeb’s General Store, so that is where we started our downtown shopping. We made the rounds and found that shopping with a big BOB stroller is not easy when trying to maneuver through the narrow and crowded store aisles. We crossed the street and stopped into Synergy Sportswear and picked up a couple Life is Good shirts. It was really great to be downtown again and the weather was perfect for shopping.
Lylah, a little apprehensive of Zeb's bear behind her

The next day, we went down to breakfast and got a surprise. We saw our first bear out the window of the restaurant. It was a small bear which the locals call Moe and was in search of its own breakfast. I snapped a couple pictures (one of which was Moe on top of the dumpster) and we headed back to the room to pack up. Before heading home, we decided to check out the annual Wildquack Duck River Festival. This is a cool event where the town has festivities which range from kid rides, silent auctions and all sorts of cool things. They end it with a huge rubber duck race down the Wildcat River starting at Jackson Falls. There are many prizes for multiple winners.

 Moe, the little black bear hanging around Jackson!

The Wildquack Duck River Festival

We parked in downtown Jackson, got another iced coffee at The Backcountry Bakery & Cafe, and headed down the river path behind the Snowflake Inn. After checking out the festival and allowing Lylah to get her picture taken with a giant duck, we headed back up to the main road and decided to walk down to Flossie's General Store. It’s one of my favorite little shops, which has everything from door mats to kids toys, all stuff related to Jackson, New Hampshire and the wild. After spending some time in Flossie's, it was time to head south again, back to reality.

More of the festival

 Duck's Head...I think this is why it's called Duck's Head, but could be wrong!

This was a great trip and Lylah’s first real vacation. We fit a lot in, in just two days of being up North including Lylah’s first mountain summit, downtown shopping, dinner at our favorite pub and checking out the Wildquack Duck River Festival. We had beautiful weather and it was a lot of fun!

I found one thing is for certain after staying in Jackson again, this time with a “larger” family…Tom Ryan is right. This is “God’s country”. It’s a special place where you can forget all of your stresses. It’s where we (my family) belong! Someday…someday…we’ll build that log cabin up there in the foregrounds of the White Moutnains…in “God’s country”!


A Rough Couple Months!

So, as I'm sure you've all noticed, I really haven't been around much the past month or so. Well, I knew it was going to be busy couple months, but I just didn't realize how busy. I was finishing up my last couple grad classes (two difficult ones too...I left the worst for last), planned my daughter's first birthday (just kidding, my wife planned the whole thing, but I attended and cooked the burgers), and we planned to list our house anticipating it would take a few months to sell. To our surprise, we were under agreement in just one week. This doubled our workloads, getting documents prepared, inspections concluded and everything else that goes with selling a house. Along with that, so we're not homeless, Jill and I had to view tons and tons of new houses in just a couple day's time. We found a new house and we are now under agreement on that! Along with selling/buying a house came a ton of stress!

Anyway, things are winding down now. I'm all done with school and Lylah is now one year old (good lord time flies). We still have a lot to do with selling/buying houses, but we are past the first hurtle. I finally have a little more time to focus on the blog. I have some good stuff lined up in the next few weeks. Jill, Lylah and I took a trip up to our favorite town, Jackson, and hiked Black Cap Mountain. Also, I have a review for Cobrabraid paracord survival bracelets as well as a great giveaway opportunity on the same. Finally, I have to get back to Kevin's four part guest post on his amazing accomplishment of running the Boston Marathon. So stay tuned...hope to have some posts to you soon!