Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tell It On The Mountain Film Review and Giveaway Contest!!!

I had a great opportunity to get my hands on a new film, Tell it on the Mountain, that was recently released which chronicles a handful of hikers thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Being an east coast kid and a passionate hiker, I’ve always been interested in the Appalachian Trail and have enjoyed any documentaries I’m able to catch on the topic. I was actually unaware of the existence of the PCT since I concentrate on the local trails primarily, so this film was enjoyable from an educational standpoint as well.

Tell it on the Mountain Trailor

It’s approximately two hours long and starts off explaining the trail route which runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, across deserts and the tough terrain of the Sierra-Nevada Mountain Range. The hikers are likeable from the start and range from a variety of different personalities and ages. However, I felt their main objective for being on the trail was the same…to be closer with nature and maintaining a healthy state of mind. One hiker in particular, Billygoat, was an older hiker and made a choice earlier in life to spend his later years on the trail, as much as he was able. He explains to the watcher that working your life away in a factory will kill you faster than being outside and enjoying God’s country.

A couple, Carsten and Alina (from Germany I believe), were thru-hiking together for the first time (Carsten had thru-hiked the AT prior) and injury plagued their bid. Carsten’s back was injured part of the way through and Alina needed to continue part of the way without him. He continued to get treatment and met her at checkpoints along the way, hoping to be able to hit the trail at some point again. Unfortunately, his injury was too severe to continue. The film explains the years of preparation and financial savings it takes to commit to such a trek and in Carsten case, can end so abruptly. I think it’s something that many hikers can relate too and sympathize with even though many have not been in the same situation.

The film also introduces the viewer to the people behind the scenes, along the trail route, that are critical in helping the hikers get from point A to point B. Since the trail is so long, 2,663 miles, they go through a wide variety of terrain, elevation and climate. They need different equipment for different legs of the hike. Many people along the route help store this equipment for them and allow them to pick it up when they reach different checkpoints. It sounded like the hikers typically mailed the equipment to these people (items such as mountaineering axes, etc.) to hold onto.

Watching this film gives you an overwhelming feeling of wanting to hit the trail. If you’re as passionate about hiking as I am, it makes you question why you’ve never attempted such a huge hike yourself. The film does a great job capturing how beautiful the terrain is along the PCT and really draws the viewers into the different situations the hikers face. Hiking this trail is an enormous accomplishment of a hike! Watch this film, and you’ll fully understand why!

You can view more information or purchase this film on their website, TellItOnTheMountain.com. The site has great information on the hikers, the film makers and the trail stats. I noticed the DVD is also available on Amazon.

Here’s best part, for my readers that is; I have two copies to giveaway!!! Note that one DVD is already opened as it’s the one that was used to do this review. Trust me, if you win one of these copies (or purchase on from the sites mentioned above), you will not be disappointed! Here’s how you can enter to win a copy of this DVD. Everyone will get (4) possibly entry chances in this giveaway contest.

1. Comment on this blog post as to why you would like a copy of this film.

2. Share this blog post review and giveaway on your personal Facebook Page. YOU MUST COME BACK AND LEAVE SEPARATE COMMENT TELLING US YOU SHARED ON FACEBOOK (Separate from the first comment on the blog).

3. Share this blog post review and giveaway on your personal Twitter Page. YOU MUST COME BACK AND LEAVE SEPARATE COMMENT TELLING US YOU SHARED ON FACEBOOK (Separate from the first and FB comment on the blog).

4. If you have a blog, write a quick post regarding this giveaway opportunity, linking back to my review. YOU MUST COME BACK AND LEAVE SEPARATE COMMENT TELLING US YOU SHARED ON FACEBOOK (Separate from the first, FB and Twitter comments on the blog).

So, to summarize, if you want to enter 4 times, you have to write a comment as to why you want to win this giveaway, share on FB and Twitter and share on your blog. You would have a total of four comments left on Live Free and Hike. Note, you don’t have to do all four, do as many as you’d like…but you have to let me know!!! The winner will be chosen using Random.org. I will draw the winner on September 13! Don’t miss out, this is a wonderful film!!!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Loop Hike on Mount Belknap!!! 08-27-13

Jill and I had a morning free this past week on our vacation so we decided to find a hike that was closer to the seacoast region and somewhat short to fill our time. We decided on Mount Belknap in Gilford, NH which is in the Lake Winnipesaukee Region. The drive up seemed to take longer than we had figured as it is a good 30 minutes past Mount Major over back roads. At the foot of the mountain, there is a Carriage Road that is open to vehicles during the non-winter months. Note that there is also a gate for this road which is open from the hours of 9am to 6pm daily. Be sure to get your car out of there by 6pm, or it will be locked in for the night!

The Carriage Road is about 1.5 miles long and climbs a good portion of the mountain. It does have some steeper parts and a couple hairpin turns, but is not as scary as some of the other mountain roads I have been on like Hurricane Mountain Road which leads to the Black Cap Mountain parking area.

Parking area at the top of the Carriage Road...We were the only ones there!

Shed near parking area, trails begin behind shed

Once in the parking area at the top of the Carriage Road, if you walk past the shed (in view), you’ll come to the main trailhead. There are three trails that lead to the summit of Mount Belknap from this point. The first is the Green Trail, which is the most direct and shortest route, but also the steepest. The second is the Red Trail, which is also pretty short, and moderately steep. Finally, the third is the Blue Trail, which is the longest, but has the best footing and is the most popular. We decided to make a loop and take the Red Trail up, but the Blue Trail down.

Sign on shed...Mileage is a bit off from other signs and AMC Guide.

 Red Trail

The Red Trail started off with gentle grades but seemed to be very wet. Add in some exposed roots and rocks, and the trail was very slippery. As we continued on, the trail did get steeper and erosion over the years has exposed a lot of slippery granite slabs making footing tough. One thing that drove us nuts was the amount of spiders on this trail! Every 50 feet or so, there were huge spider webs across the trail. It slowed us down a bit as we were preoccupied with trying to find them in order to pull them down with a stick before blazing through. Most of the time, we didn’t see them until we had already walked through them, which caused us to spend time picking spiders off from us!

One restricted view halfway up the Red Trail

The Red Trail went by pretty fast. Near the top, you pass a small house to the left with a communications antenna near it. Soon after this point, the fire tower comes into view on your right before entering the summit. I was really surprised however; there were no views from the summit top itself. You did need to climb the tower to get any view over the trees. From the fire tower’s platform, there were 360 degree views all around. It was a very hazy day, so we couldn’t see too far. I have read that you can see Mount Washington from the top on a clear day.

 Fire Tower at Mount Belknap's Summit

Views from the tower!

More views from the summit...Winnipesaukee!

View toward a cell tower and electrical lines, also following the White/Yellow Merge Trail off the summit!

After having an apple, Jill and I headed off the fire tower and took some snapshots of the summit including the Benchmark at the foot of the tower. We found the Blue Trail and headed down. Very soon after starting our descent, we located a spur trail on the right that was marked by surveyor tape. This is an unpublished trail that leads down to a piper plane crash site from 1972. I’ve read in hiking forums that this is a steep trail with rough footing and that the trail can be difficult to follow. Since I had Jill with me, I didn’t think it was a good time to explore this trail, so I will do so on a return visit in the near future. Franklin Sites has a good trip report showing the location of the trail on a map as well as a photo of the crashed plane.

 A pretty beat up NH DPW&H Benchmark at the summit. The only other one of these I have seen is on South Moat Mountain.

Another Benchmark on the summit. This one was a carved triangle with a copper cap in the middle.

On the way down the Blue Trail, there were two good view outlooks. One was to the northeast, where Mount Washington could be seen if the weather was clear and the second was to the north where you could see the peak of Gunstock Mountain as well as the ski area equipment. Soon after the outlooks, we came to a junction with the Saddle Trail and the Overlook Trail. We turned left and stayed on the Blue Trail. The trail was in great shape the rest of the way down. It flattened out near the end, crossed a brook that was currently dry and we made our way back to the parking area.

 View to the northeast from first outlook point on the Blue Trail descending from the summit.

Somewhat restricted view of Gunstock Mountain at second outlook point on the Blue Trail descending from the summit.

This was a quick loop hike and had some pretty good views from the fire tower. Unfortunately, the haze on the horizon was not cooperating with us that day and we couldn’t see that far. It was nice to explore a new peak that was not hours away from home (well, only one hour anyway). However, I’m very partial to the White Mountains. Whenever I climb a mountain in the Lakes Region, it just never seems to compare to the Whites!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Well After a Hike, There's Nothing Like a Good Cigar - Mount Crawford 08-24-13

Mount Washington, from the summit of Mount Crawford!

My buddy Alex and I typically hike once a year in the May time frame. We did do a hike in May this year (The Doubleheads) but decided that hiking together was much too fun to make it a once a year event. Therefore, we tentatively put August 24th on the calendar for another trek in the White Mountains. August came around and we decided to solidify plans and head up. However, determining what mountain to hike was tough. Neither of us were in tiptop hiking condition so we didn’t want to do anything too long or challenging. At first, we targeted Mount Hale, as Alex enjoyed that hike the first time he did it back in 2010, and I’ve yet to cross that one off from my 48-footer list. However, after seeing how clear and beautiful the forecast was going to be on the 24th, we looked for something that had more potential for views. We finally  decided on Mount Crawford. It’s a mountain that I have not seen published in many trip reports, except for 1HappyHiker’s reports (but he always takes phenomenal pictures on every trek he makes, regardless of the view potential), so I thought it was a bit of a gamble.

Mount Crawford is located in the southeastern part of the Crawford Notch (it actually may not even officially be in the notch...but close) and is reached by hiking the first leg of the Davis Path. After reading about the trek, I learned a great deal about the history of the trail. It was the 3rd trail blazed to reach Mount Washington by Nathanial Davis and was the longest at the time in 1845. It was used as a bridle path for 10 years or so until it was abandoned. It was re-opened in 1910 by the AMC, strictly as a foot trail, but still followed the old bridle path most of the way.

There were a lot of cars at the trailhead, but most of the occupants of the vehicles were  lounging in the Saco River. Alex and I headed north up the river bank for a few hundred feet and then a very cool suspension bridge (Bemis Bridge) crossed the Saco. From there, the trail passed through someone’s backyard and headed into the woods. We soon crossed into the Presidential Rang - Dry River Wilderness and then over a small brook (I can't find the name of the brook) which was stone dry. After this, we passed a tent site on the right and the trail then began to climb steeply and held that grade consistently. 

 Bemis Bridge over the Saco River

Crossing into the Presidential Range - Dry River Wilderness

While hiking up, Alex and I both noticed a strange smell on the mountain. Alex mentioned he thought it smelled like a latrine. I definitely thought it was a musky type smell, like something decomposing. I figured it was some sort of vegetation giving off an odor due to possibly the time of year or the heat and humidity. The steep portions of the trail were extremely well maintained. All the water runoffs were well cleaned and the rock steps were put in place nearly the whole way up. Also, I must say this was one of the friendliest trails I have ever been on. The whole way up, we passed other hikers coming down who struck up conversation with us. It was nice to see the hiking community in such good spirits that day.

Great Trail Work - Thanks!

Alex and I came to the first view point, just below the Mount Crawford spur trail that leads to the summit. It had great views to the south and west. From there, we continued on over open ledges to the Mount Crawford spur trail junction. Heading up the last quarter of a mile gave us some awesome views to the north, over to Stairs Mountain. Stairs Mountain is a peak I’ve only seen in photos (mostly 1HappyHiker’s photos) and was pretty excited to see it in person. John from 1HappyHiker actually compared Stairs Mountain’s profile to one of those old locomotive engines from years past…I completely agree with him.

View to the Southeast (I think)

Alex, making his way to the Mount Crawford summit on open ledges!

Stairs Mountain Profile

Once at the summit, the views opened up completely. There was a bit of scrub in the center of the peak, but you could easily maneuver around the brush on flat open ledges, affording you 360 degree views. The best view on this day was toward the Southern Presidentials, where Mount Washington stood tall in a very clear and blue sky. Mount Willey, Mount Carrigain and more peaks were all easy to identify. Alex and I also saw the Conway Scenic Railroad train crossing the trestle heading back to Conway, which I was able to snap a shot of.

 Close up of Mount Washington!

Mount Washington and Mount Monroe!

Southern Presidentials

Conway Scenic Railroad heading back to North Conway

After eating a well-deserved lunch and soaking in the views, we headed back down the same route we ascended. The steepness of the trail and the swift pace we kept definitely made my legs a little shaky toward the end. However, the phenomenal trail work the trail maintainers have done with the trail, making stairs most of the way, helped us out a bunch. I can’t say enough good things about the current condition of the fist couple miles of the Davis Path.

 View to Southwest

Mount Washington, just prior to leaving the summit...notice not one cloud!!!

We got back to the car in pretty good time. As a new tradition, Alex and I setup a small camp at the car for a couple celebratory beverages. This time, Alex had some great cigars to go with them. Hanging out after the hike, smoking a good cigar reminded me of Blondie’s quote in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…”Well after a meal, there's nothing like a good cigar”…only replace “meal” with “hike”!

Blondie, need I say more!!!

It was a truly beautiful day in the Crawford Notch (or just south of) and I found a new favorite summit. I felt as though we were taking a gamble on this one, and we hit big. I really feel this is an underrated summit in many ways. It has phenomenal views and the trail is in great shape. The trail is pretty short and not too strenuous. I’m not sure why there isn’t more published reports on this hike on the interweb…I’m hoping this trip report will encourage more to checkout this prime spot! Another great day in the Whites!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gear Review: Avex Brazos AUTOSEAL® Water Bottle

First, I must start out by saying that I am EXTREMELY delinquent in getting this water bottle review out. I hope both Avex and the Outdoor Blogger Network forgives me for my lateness. I won a water bottle a few months back through the OBN, which was supplied by Avex and in return, I was to do a fair, unbiased assessment of their product.

I had never heard of the company, Avex, prior to winning this bottle. When I did get it, I notice a few things right away which I’d like to mention. First, it was skinny. The bottle supplied was the model Brazos Autoseal and holds 25 fluid ounces, but still maintains a thin profile. I liked this feature because a lot of mesh water pockets in today’s backpacks can be pretty small and standard size Nalgene bottles just won’t fit most of the time. This skinny profile was perfect for these types of pockets.

The second thing I noticed was that it had a cool loop that clicked in and out of position. If you didn’t need the loop, it seated perfectly to the cap so you wouldn’t notice it. However, it could also be used to clip onto an overnight pack very easily.

Third, I noticed that in order to drink from the bottle, you needed to do two things. The first was to pop open a cap. Second, you needed to push a button to open a spring loaded water seal at the mouth piece. I thought this might be a little too much at first. Does someone really need two lines of protection to keep water from leaking? And, would it be a hindrance to push a button to drink? The only way to tell was to try it out.

After trying the water bottle out for a few days, I was pleasantly surprised at how convenient the setup was. I can easily pop the cap with my thumb while holding the button with my index finger. This can all be done with one hand. When compared to a Nalgene bottle, this is much easier since you typically need two hands to unscrew the top of one of those. I give the Avex Brazos Autoseal two thumbs up! It has actually become my wife’s water bottle of choice for outdoor activity! I would highly recommend it for anyone that is in the market for a new hiking water bottle!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Loop Hike On Mount Moosilauke!

Jill and I picked a day last week and headed up north to hike. It has been way too long since the two of us have hiked together and it was nice to get back out on the trail with each other. Since it had been almost a year since Jill's last hike, she wanted to hit something big, but not too challenging. For that reason, I chose Mount Moosilauke with an ascent up Gorge Brook, Snapper, Carriage Road and Glencliff, and a descent down the full Gorge Brook Trail. We also made a detour up to the South Peak because I’ve heard good things about the views…and, if I ever decided to do Trailwrights, I can cross that one off!

We got to the trailhead a little later than we normally like to on the weekends because we needed to make sure Lylah was squared away with the babysitter (Grammy) for the long day. When we arrived at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, we were able to find parking close to the turnaround and trailheads, even though there were a lot of cars there. When walking to the trailhead, I did notice they removed the sign of the bus eating the car…I was bummed about this as I wanted to snap a picture of it.

Signage at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge

Bridge over Baker River near the beginning of the trail

I think the one thing I don’t like about this hike is the fact that you have to climb so far down into the ravine before you start heading up. Each time I hike this loop, I think to myself…”the hike back up to the parking area will be torture”…and it usually is!

 New sign on the Wales Carter Connection Trail

Once down in the ravine, the trail crosses Baker River and swings to the left through a few trail junctions. We continued up the Gorge Brook Trail for a short way and crossed the brook over a bridge. We quickly came to a “trail closure” sign which informed us that a portion of the Gorge Brook Trail had been closed due to flood damage. A detour for this closure had hikers follow the Snapper Trail (which we were planning on taking anyway) a quarter mile up, where the new connector to the Gorge Brook Trail entered on the right. This trail sign for this new trail was in the shape of a whale and was called “Wales Carter Connection”. We continued past this junction and headed up the Snapper Trail.

Green on the Snapper Trail, the photo doesn't do this view justice

Looking back on the Carriage Road to views to the South

The Snapper Trail is one of my favorites in the Whites. It’s hard to explain why since it doesn’t have any brooks or rivers, rock scrambles or views. It is pretty gradual and has good footing. One of the best ways I can describe it is that it’s very green. The vegetation on the trail just makes it pleasing to the eye.

The Snapper Trail went quickly and we came to the Carriage Road. It’s hard to believe that people got a team of horses up that road with a stagecoach full of passengers years back. It’s pretty rough and at times, has a decent grade. At just about any point on the trail, you can look behind you and get great views to the south and east. A bulk of the ascent is on this trail but it does go by quickly. A sure sign that you’re almost to the next trail junction is a large rock barrier across the Carriage Road which is there to hinder snowmobiles from passing any further.

Cool old sign on a gnarly tree 

Boulder Gate to Hinder Snow Machines

View toward Moosilauke's summit from South Peak

Cairns on South Peak

We finally came to the end of the Carriage Road which exited onto the Glencliff Trail. At this point, there’s a short spur trail which leads up to the South Peak. This peak is over 4,000 feet but does not maintain the minimum elevation drop/gain with the main peak to make it onto the 48/4K list. However, it does make it onto the Trailwrights list. The spur path was mostly flat but did climb over some larger rocks and boulders near the end. The South Peak gave some great 360 degree views and was well worth the short excursion.

View to the west from South Peak, over to what I think is Mount Clough

Once back on the Glencliff, Jill and I made very quick time to the main peak. It was about a mile more of travel, but was the fastest mile of the day. The ascent to the bald summit was as I remembered, being dramatic…and windy. We shared the summit that day as there were a lot of hikers up there. But it wasn’t so crowded that we couldn’t enjoy the views. I was also able to find the US C&GS Benchmark that I had missed on previous summit visits.

USC&GS Benchmark on the summit!

Bird on the summit!

Views to the northeast

After we had a well-earned lunch, we headed down the Gorge Brook Trail. The top portion was tough going down as there were some steep sections and I have a Posterior Tibial Tendon issue that has been acting up. The lower portion of the trail wasn’t bad at all and followed the Gorge Brook much of the way. As I mentioned earlier in this post, the worst part was hiking back up to the parking area from the Baker River!

The Franconia Ridge

 Foundation of an old building the Dartmouth Ski Team used to use to store possessions and stay warm.

 Part of the Summit House Foundation, still on the summit

View of the Ravine Lodge as we head out of the Ravine to the parking area

It was great to get out and tackle a 4K. We had great weather and great views. You really can’t ask for more than that in the Whites! Previous Mount Moosilauke trip report from 2010 here.