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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rock Rimmon...The One in Manchester, NH

We’ve had some pretty nice weather down here in Southern New Hampshire over the last couple weeks. I thought it would be a good opportunity to checkout a place to hike that is close by but doesn’t have the best reviews. Believe it or not, it’s in the largest city in the State, Manchester. It resides on the west side of the city and goes by the name Rock Rimmon. From what I’ve read, it’s a great location to get some views of the city, but the garbage and graffiti make it an unpleasant place to hang out or spend time.

Rock Rimmon from the Parking Area. Notice the Basket Ball Hoop for Perspective.

I recruited my buddy, Keith, and we both headed over there at lunch. Rock Rimmon is located in Rock Rimmon Park and the ledges are easily visible from the road. Right away, I noticed they were very wide and certainly had the potential for good views. The trailhead is to the left of the parking area, just up the street. There are no trailhead signs.

Kiosk at Parking Area

As soon as you enter the trail, you head uphill to the left. Quickly, you come to a junction with a few paths. I’m assuming the other trails head through the park grounds, but I couldn’t tell you if that is a fact or not. We stayed to the right, keeping the ledges to the right of us as well. The trail continued up hill, over some slab terrain, and continued clockwise. It was not long, maybe ten minutes or so, before Keith and I came out to some great, open ledges.

Rock Rimmon from the trail, keeping it to the right of us.

The ledge was much larger than I had originally thought. We had great views southwest, toward the city. Over to the northwest, we could also see the Uncanoonucs in the distance. It was a great place to spend lunch time and one that I plan on visiting more often.

Views of Manchester from the Ledges

 The Uncanoonucs in the distance

The reviews were correct, that the grounds were littered with a lot of trash and broken glass. Due to the fact that it’s an inner city location and I’m sure it gets a lot of traffic, so this may be hard to avoid. Also, the ledges were painted with graffiti which did take some of the natural beauty of the location away from it. Regardless, it is definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Trendsetting! My Hiking Water Bottle

My wife and I have a joke together that goes back quite a few years. When I was in college, I purchased a flowered, Hawaiian type shirt before they were popular (at the time). Soon, the shirts became a short lived trend and I became a self-proclaimed “trendsetter”. Through the years, there have been other products and moments that bring me back to that situation and I joke around and tell my wife I’m still a trendsetter. Most recently, this surfaced in the Kittery Trading Post when I was checking out water bottles…

I carry a pretty unconventional water bottle as far as hiking goes. Many carry Nalgene bottles or some other flashy bottle of choice. Most, nowadays, carry bladders on their back such as Camelbaks, so the water is easy to access. I on the other hand, carry a thirty year old US Army canteen that my father took on all of his military trips into the field. It’s familiar to me from childhood as I remember playing with it when I was a kid. It clips onto my backpack’s waste strap for easy access and is shaped for easy handling. The case is fur lined to keep it insulated and in the bottom of the case, there’s an aluminum pan which could be used for boiling water in a survival situation. It is by far my first choice for an H2O dispenser and may just be my “favorite” piece of hiking equipment because of the history and sentimental value that comes with it.

Now, back to the inside joke of me being a trendsetter! We were looking at a large rack of water bottles, as we always do when we’re in Kittery Trading Post and noticed Nalgene’s latest water bottle design. It’s a canteen!!! It’s shaped just like the one I carry that’s 30 years old and looked like it would fit right in the carrying case that I currently have. I could not resist and said to my wife, “see…setting the trend again!!!”