Category Archives: New England

Cannon Mountain

July 16, 2015.

7.8 miles | 2300′ ele. gain | 4.5 hours

Lonesome Lake Trail > Dodge Cutoff > Hi-Cannon> Kinsman Ridge> Pemi Trail

Photo album

This summer, I returned to the place it all began: New Hampshire. It’s where the hiking bug first bit, and changed the course of my life forever. I had one day to hang out with my brother and he wanted to go hiking. For our adventure, he chose a loop of trails that would take us on a tour of Cannon Mountain.

This was great for a couple of reasons. One: it was a loop, not a boring out-and-back. Two: HE did the planning! All I had to do was show up and start walking. I was ecstatic.

We started from the Lafayette Campground, lucky to find a parking spot. It was a weekday, and the place was crawling with hikers, campers, and who knows what else. I had forgotten how jam-packed with people it was over there. Undeterred, we crossed the creek beside my favorite “No picnics” sign and set out towards Lonesome Lake.

The trail climbed over exposed roots and rocks as it headed for the lake. It was just as I’d remembered. When I moved to the west coast, eager to climb higher mountains and find more rugged trails, I was disappointed. All I found were well-graded, well-signed, manicured trails with more switchbacks than roots. I couldn’t believe it. Over time, I learned to seek out more challenging trails, but I still longed for the days of fighting my way up the grueling east coast hiking paths.

At the lake, we scanned the signage to find the steepest route up to Cannon Mountain. The Dodge Cutoff brought us to Hi-Cannon, a no-nonsense type of trail that wasted no time gaining elevation. We stopped frequently to catch our breath and praised the tree cover for blocking out the hot, summer sun. Along the way we crossed an old, wooden ladder bolted into the side of the mountain. We also stepped out to an unmarked viewpoint located atop a rocky precipice that dropped seemingly all the way down to the highway.

Back on the main trail we began to hear voices and see tourists who didn’t look like they’d hiked all the way up here; we had made it to the top of the tram. We wandered up to the viewpoint tower and were surprised by a cold breeze. Views seen, we then went back down and over to the base of the tram stop. There, we sat at a bench overlooking the ski track and ate our lunch. A fascinating mix of humanity buzzed and swirled about at the top, all packed up for their “hiking” adventures. I doubt many of them strayed much more than a tenth of a mile from the tram.

We had other plans. From our lunch perch we headed east on the Kinsman Ridge trail to descend the rocky slabs back into the forest. From the slabs, we were treated to beautiful views of the Franconia Ridge, a place I’d hiked so many times before. But, it had been a decade or so since I’d tramped across those mountain tops. It was nice to see them again.

We followed the blue blazes back to treeline and kept descending. The trail was steep, rooty, rocky, and sometimes wet. It was quite an adventure, especially considering we were hiking on a popular trail in a state park! A family of four was headed up as we were nearly down. Not sure how much further they made it; from the sounds of their conversation, I think they believed they were almost done.

When we reached the valley floor, the Kinsman Ridge trail dropped us onto the Pemi Trail. This family-friendly footpath led us along a relatively flat strip of land paralleling the highway all the way back to the car. Along the way we passed by another lake and walked beneath the cliffy east side of Cannon Mountain. This used to be the site of the “Old Man in the Mountain,”  a chunk of rock that resembled a man’s face in profile. Much to the state of New Hampshire’s dismay, this iconic rock formation sloughed off the face of the mountain in 2003. A memorial and interpretive area remain, ensuring that future visitors of the state learn about the history of their precious stone face.

I enjoyed the opportunity not only to get back into the White Mountains but also to share this experience with my brother. He had recently gotten into hiking and was going through many of the firsts that I remember as I was blundering through the learning curve many years ago. If we do one of these hikes together each time I visit, it will only take 47 more years to complete the list of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers!

Franconia Ridge Night Hike

My last adventure in the White Mountains would take me back up to the Franconia Ridge, a super-highway of hiking. I thought it might be interesting to be on the ridge at night under a nearly full moon. After following weather forecasts and the lunar calendar, I decided to attempt this hike on July 15.

Anthony and I started up the trail at about 10pm, under partly cloudy, humid skies. Many stars were visible, so I expected a night with astounding views from above treeline.

Hiking up the Falling Waters Trail, we stopped several times to admire the many waterfalls along the path. I had a flashlight as well as a headlamp, which came in handy for finding river crossings and reading signs. The woods were quiet and very dark. The air was heavy with humidity and even though the temperatures were cool, we were both sweating.

We stopped at Shining Rock only briefly. The clouds had thickened and the moon was on the other side of the ridge, so there was nothing much to see. Before long we reached treeline and stopped for a snack on Little Haystack.

The bright moon appeared through the passing clouds now and again, providing fleeting glimpses of the surrounding mountains. We caught a nice view to the pointy peaks of Flume and Liberty, rising through the dull clouds. As we headed up the ridge, views of the Pemi unfolded, with Owl’s Head and even the Bonds somewhat visible.

It was surreal to be up here in such quiet and darkness. Of course, no other hikers were out. You’d be lucky to find solitude on this ridge in daylight. Anthony and I plodded along as the moon became engulfed in clouds and the sky closed in on us. Soon, the fog was so thick we could barely see two steps ahead of us. There would be no views for the entire length of the ridge!

After reaching Lafayette, we turned down the Greenleaf trail. I had trouble seeing, and kept turning my ankles on the rocks. Anthony went on ahead as I slowly made my way down. We began hearing the loud, spinning noises of the anemometer at the Hut and the views improved. Once on the Old Bridle Path, footing was no less tricky. I remember this route being a piece of cake! Not so easy in the dark…

I’m glad I was able to experience my first night hike before leaving the Northeast. Thanks, Anthony for coming along!

Waumbek, Cabot, Devil’s Hopyard

I drove up to the Great North Woods region to try and finish the few remaining 48 peaks I have left to go. Since I’ll only be around for another couple of weeks before moving to the Pacific Northwest, it’s coming down to the wire. I planned on tagging both Waumbek and Cabot on separate dayhikes.

7/5: Waumbek. You’ve been there. You know what it’s like. Another peak off the list. Should I feel some sense of accomplishment?

7/6: Horn, Bulge, Cabot. You’ve been there too. Well, maybe not to the Horn, since it’s not on “the list.” I actually enjoyed this hike because of the wide variety of birds, insects, amphibians and reptiles I came across. There were also lots of pretty wildflowers that I can’t identify, but were lovely nonetheless. I enjoyed the variety of low, muddy areas, mixed deciduous forest and dry, grassy fields that I encountered on this mellow hike. I’d recommend the Horn for it’s fun little scramble and nice views. I’d recommend the Bunnell Notch trail for the open woods and fields towards the bottom. A surprising and welcome change of scenery. Unknown Pond was also quite nice but the bugs were ferocious so I didn’t stop for long. I did leave a subtle message for Dr. Wu, since he mentioned he’d be in the area that day.

After returning to the car at 2pm, I wondered what I was doing here. Checking peaks off a list? Wait, there are too many cool routes to be done. I had looked at the map the previous night and the moniker “Devil’s Hopyard” caught my attention. I looked it up in the AMC guide, which provided a terse but intriguing description. Since it was close by, I went to check it out.

Devil’s Hopyard. The quick 1.3 mile hike out to the Devil’s Hopyard in Stark, NH was easily the highlight of my trip. It’s mild and innocent enough, until the path diverges from the Kilkenny Ridge trail. Soon, the woods take on a totally new character, becoming more dense and overgrown. The path itself changes from a wide, well trodden walkway to a series of rocks piled over gently rushing water. I wondered several times if I was even on a trail, but proceeded gingerly to see what the woods would produce next.

I thought, if I were a gnome, or elf, or faerie, that I’d definitely live here. Moss engulfed every surface of rock and tree. In a few spots, blowdown obliterated the view ahead. The forest had an eerie, mysterious character. My imagination was running wild.

Towards the terminus of the trail, you enter a magnificent gorge with a tall rock face shooting up to the left and massive, old trees towering to the right. Clamber over a few more rocks, listen to the faint sound of running water beneath, and soak in the feeling of being closed in and utterly alone in the forest. At the end of the trail you are surrounded by trees, ferns, moss and rock, all seeming to loom closer as you venture off the beaten path. I had the urge to explore here but my sense of adventure is taken over by fearful thoughts when hiking alone. I walked along the edge of the rock face just a little bit, keeping track of where the trail was at all times. This is truly an amazing place. It’s these random gems that I find on my own that I appreciate infinitely more than any standard route up a 4000-footer.

On the long return trip home I debated the merits of bagging Hale, Cannon or Tecumseh today, the three “quickies” I have left on my list. Thinking back to the experience at Devil’s Hopyard and to the long list of hikes I want to do that do not help me finish the list, I decided I’m done with it.

The 4,000 footer list was helpful in giving me a starting point from which to explore the mountains. Now that I’ve been to every corner (more or less) of the WMNF, I know where I want to go. Sometimes, I even have the urge to hike up the same mountain TWICE…by different routes, or in different seasons! Blasphemy!

I’ve met complete bozos who’ve done the list and I’ve met really interesting outdoorspeople who haven’t done the list (and vice versa). Completing the list does not inherently classify one as an accomplished person. And so, after all this musing, I figured out that I’m better off hiking the hikes I want to do rather than the ones I have to do. Waumbek and Cabot were cute, but I had no burning desire to go up there.

Besides, I can dream of conquering Hale when I come back to visit the Northeast.

Fumbling around the Baldfaces 6/24/06

For sleeping bear’s last real White Mountain hike before she leaves, we tackled the Baldface Loop…one of my favorites from last summer.

The forecast called for rain, and lots of it. Two so-called reputable hikers, whose names will not be mentioned here, bailed even before the day began. So, it was myself, Anthony and Lindsay (sleeping bear) who started up the trail at about 9am. We were socked in with clouds for the entire day but there was no rainfall. We lucked out bigtime, although some views would have been nice.

The trail begins innocently enough as a pleasant stroll through lovely open woods. After reaching the shelter, however, the trail takes on a new character. We were embraced by large, flat slabs covered ever so slightly with enough moisture to create a slick surface. Lindsay and Anthony approached the ledges gingerly in their stiff hiking boots while I clambered up ahead in my trailrunners, only slipping a few times. We did a bit of bushwhacking around some of the more dicey parts where a fall would mean a seriously painful walk out. Meanwhile, a group of hikers from up North blew right by us, full steam ahead.

The ledges were slippery but oh so fun. Lindsay got a little personal with one of the rocks…

We broke through all the tough stuff and arrived at a large cairn which we assumed was the summit and had lunch. We enjoyed the cooling breeze that gave us a respite from the heavy, thick, air. After pressing on for a short while we came across the actual summit and proceeded north along the loop trail. The loop would have been perfect on a clear day

The remainder of the day was filled with interesting fecal finds, munching on wintergreen berries, leapfrogging the Canadians, trying to get lost and getting found again, and amusing conversation.

Post-hike we picked up supplies in North Conway and drove back to the campsite Anthony and I’d made home as of late. We made tacos and hotdogs, drank beer, and had a jolly ol’ time. Lindsay, you will surely be missed!

Presidential Traverse N-S 5/27/06

This past Memorial Day weekend I finally completed a Presidential Traverse. I set out with members of another hiking group (GASP!) at approximately 4:30 am on a dank and foggy Saturday morning. The group got along very well and our abilities were fairly evenly matched. The conversations were enjoyable and had nothing to do with gear, rescue efforts, rookie mishaps or other dramatic gossip. Most of the day I missed the conversation anyways since I preferred to stay at my own pace in the back of the group. I can’t stand it when someone’s hiking right behind me.

The entire traverse took 16 hours to complete, with a majority of the hike in the . Trails were wet, muddy, and streaming with water,with the exception of course of the Northern Presidentials with their piles of gigantic boulders. The Madison Hut was closed, of course, but the door was unlocked so we stopped in there to regroup before reaching the summit. Atop Washington, however, the buildings were open so we took a longer break there and did some people-watching. Unfortunately I think our stops were too frequent and too long, so I was glad to get back out on the trails. On the way to Lakes, we encountered many, many hikers. It seemed as if the weather didn’t turn many people away. It was amusing to look at the wide range of people walking in the Presis today. Some people were all decked out: tough, winter, name-brand outerwear; ice axes; helmets!! Others dressed only in cotton t-shirts, jeans and sneakers, and some people only had one tiny backpack for their entire group. My group was comfortable in a base layer, shorts, gloves and hat and we each carried a ton of food, water and extra clothes. Temperatures were in the 40’s and there wasn’t much wind at all.

The slog to Eisenhower seemed to be the turning point for me. Up until then I was feeling great. Now I’d occasionally get shooting pains in my knees which were not so fun. After what felt like ages, we reached Pierce. Only two more to go now. At least we were getting back into the trees; the wind had picked up along the Crawford Path. Every little thing was starting to annoy me, including the pain in my left knee, the moisture and wind. After the breakdown of the body comes the breakdown of the mind.

Jackson, done. Now, Webster. The group was slowing down now. The sun burst through the fog while we were sitting on top of Webster and the group wanted to hang out for a bit. Myself and one other person decided that was not in the cards for today. It was already 7:30 and we had 2.5 miles to go. The sun was going to leave us soon.

The Webster-Jackson trail at the end of a 24 mile day feels awfully steep and riddled with obstacles. We were moving at grandma speed and stopping every tenth of a mile. I was losing my mind. So I decided to push ahead of the group and take no more breaks. Mentally I felt like I was fighting a losing battle and I quickly entered a downward spiral, feeling worse and worse. Tears were welling up in my eyes and suddenly I felt really stupid. I’m better than this! I’m stronger than this! “Think of something funny,” I said. Then I started cracking up. This was the final turning point. I regained control over mind and body and ended up running most of the last 2 miles out. I felt fantastic.

I emerged from the trail at 8:30 or so, right before sunset. Score. I walked back to the car near the Highland Center and drove back to the trailhead to pick up the others. They’d just finished by the time I got there.

What a great day, I’m sure glad it’s over.

Oh, I hiked Tremont the next day, too.

Ethan Pond/ Thoreau Falls Overnight 5/12-5/13

Spring is here! It’s been raining all week and all most people do is complain about it. You can’t beat the weather, so sleeping bear and I decided to embrace it and go camping anyways.

We started out for the Ethan Pond Shelter around 8pm Friday night. Driving through the notch, we saw a huge group of backpackers at the Kedron Flume trailhead. Figuring they were also headed to the shelter, we moved quickly to beat them to it. The air was heavy with mist and drizzle, but the rain held off for us on this first leg of our journey. As daylight faded, we donned our headlamps and proceeded steadily to the shelter. The forest was quiet and serene. That made hauling heavy backpacks loaded with lots of extra beer… that much more pleasant. An hour and a half later we found the empty shelter and unloaded our junk.

After settling in, we had some beers and some laughs, came up with a few possible plans for the next day, and hit the sack. This was my first time staying in a shelter and it was rather comfortable. The temperature wasn’t too cold and it was nice listening to the rain but not being soaked by it.

Both of us had trouble getting motivated to move the next morning and it wasn’t until 10am that we finally hit the trails. There was a precarious stream crossing where water enters the pond that we’d had some trouble with the night before. Today, the water had risen a significant amount, making the crossing much more difficult. We tossed some fallen limbs over the water and used a branch like a hiking pole to maneuver across. We would not worry so much about dry feet in the next couple of hours.

The Ethan Pond trail was flooded, as was all of the surrounding land and water areas. Rivers pulsed loudly as the ground squished under our feet. Wooden planks covered a large portion of the trail; the ones that were not submerged came in quite handy.

Soon we heard the rumblings of Thoreau Falls. The trail deposits you at the top of the Falls, providing you with zero view. So, we bushwhacked down the steep side over spongy mats of needles and slippery rocks to the base. Tons of water were coursing over the edge of the Falls, sweeping around a curve in the rocks and racing to the ground below. It was one of the most awesome things I’d ever seen. Lindsay and I figured this was one very rare sight, and definitely worth braving some raindrops to go and see. I was instantly glad I hadn’t decided to stay home this weekend.

We hiked back up to the trail and decided to turn back to the shelter. Both us were having issues with rain gear and the weather wasn’t getting any better. Besides, we’d had a fantastic day already, there was no need to add any more miles or random destinations.

We splashed back through the rising water, miraculously avoiding major injuries. Footing was very slippery and I did my share of sliding around. At one point I realized I was totally soaked through. My arms and hands were freezing and they’d lost most of their range of motion. Opening a Ziploc bag and unclipping my waist belt became extremely taxing chores because my fingers refused to move. Meanwhile, Lindsay remarked that these are perfect hypothermia conditions. I couldn’t wait to get dry.

Upon returning to camp at 2pm, we changed clothes, jumped in the sleeping bags, heated a couple of water bottles (SO NICE!!) and made burritos. We decided to cut our trip short by a day and hike out. So, I packed up, put my wet pants, boots and gaiters back on, and we walked back to the lot. At least the rain had ceased, and although my feet were getting soaked, the rest of me was dry. Before reaching the lot, we took a side trip to Ripley Falls. Here, the water careens straight down in a perfect line before smashing into the rocks below. Spray from the waterfall filled the air. The raincoat hood went back up and we scrambled to find a photo-taking spot that was clear of the spray.

A few short minutes later we were back at the car, changing into dry clothes again.

I love hiking in the rain!! We saw two amazing waterfalls on the trails and two more on Rte. 302. There are few people out in weather like this and the forest has an entirely different character. Anyone can be a fair weather hiker. There is so much to see and explore when the conditions are less-than-perfect. If I limited my outdoor adventures to ?good? days, I would miss out on plenty of memorable things. And, it helps to have a brave hiking partner who also likes doing crazy hikes like this!! Thanks Lindsay!

Urban Blizzard Hike

Although this is my first winter hiking season ever, and it’s been a mild one, I’ve been out there in a wide range of conditions. Looking out the window this morning did deter me from driving somewhere but did not deter me from walking somewhere. I decided to suit up and go for a walk to Quincy Center (that’s Massachusetts just so ya know.

And so, I bid my roommates adieu, walked down the driveway, and hit the sidewalks of Quincy with only a bottle of water and a camera. I decided to leave the ice axe and bivy gear at home.

Pushing through the freshly fallen, fluffy snow along the roadside helped get me energized and it felt good to be outside. It wasn’t too cold today, and the wind was gusty but not all that bad. Not many folks were adventurous enough to take to the streets in this hyped-up weather. I got a fair share of confused looks from people thinking I was a weirdo for being decked out in balaclava, wool hat, goggles, windproof outer gear, heavy gloves, insulated boots and snowshoes. I took one look at their jeans, sneakers, baseball caps and cotton sweatshirts and decided they were the weirdos. Everyone had a beet red face. I was actually quite comfortable. Most of the people outside looked pretty pissed off to be out there. I smiled and waved and went on my way.

I walked from W. Squantum St. all the way down Hancock until I was practically through Quincy Center (2.5 miles?). Finally I found a roast beef place that was open so I stopped there for lunch. After ordering I noticed I could see my breath in there. Odd, it didn’t feel cold. The place was open for business but they had no heat. I was toasty warm from all the walking that I didn’t even notice!

The walk back home with a belly full of warm sandwich was nice. The snowfall had died down a little so the visibility was a little better. The city center is very pretty and there was much that I noticed today that I’d never bothered to see before. I snapped a ton of pictures and walked back at a leisurely pace. I was surprised to see that almost all of my footprints were totally obliterated by the new snowfall and drifts. It was as if I had never been there. I kept checking the street signs to make sure I was taking the same route!

I was able to get some exercise, experience the “blizzard,” and test out my new Kamik -40 degree boots. They’re warm but not broken in and so I have some nice blisters now.

Funny how the weather that always used to keep me holed up inside the house now draws me outside. The snow is still coming down and the wind is blowing like crazy. I hope school is closed tomorrow so I can break out some trails in the Blue Hills!!

Go enjoy your neighborhood in the driving snow if you can, I highly recommend it.

Navigating the Blue Hills

Hi, my name is Jess and I’m navigationally impaired.

My dad has the internal compass of a passenger pigeon. That trait apparently skips a generation. I needed something to do today so I figured I would go for a leisurely hike and try to develop my navigational skills.

With my trusty map in hand I got in the car and drove a whole 10 minutes (maybe) to the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, Mass. The Blue Hills Reservation is very close to busy highways and is pretty flat…much different than what I am used to, hiking in the Whites. It’s not easy to get lost out there when you stay on maintained trails, since the trail junctions are well marked and there aren’t that many trails to begin with. But the Blue Hills has an astounding network of trails, some blazed but most un-blazed. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve gotten somewhat lost (and yes, also hopelessly lost). The goal for today was to work on getting better at placing my location on the map.

I planned to start out by following a well marked trail and then began to wind my way through multiple side trails. Ultimately, I would create a convoluted loop of a to-be-determined distance (3-ish hours?). Not 100 yards into the hike I missed the first turn onto the orange-rectangle trail and instead followed the red dots. This would be one of only 2 blunders all day…not bad!

Once I realized my mistake I changed my route. I could see where I was and where I would go. The good thing about the Blue Hills is that almost all of the trail junctions are marked with numbered signs that correspond to the map. If you have a map, you know exactly where you are. And since there are trail junctions every few hundred yards or less, it is always possible to find your way out. I figured this was the perfect place for someone like me to practice using a map.

Essentially, I took the long way from a parking lot on Chickatawbut Rd. to Buck Hill, Tucker Hill, and Houghton Pond, then came back using different paths. All day I meandered through swamps, around ponds, up and down hills, over rocks, and through fields. The trails were sometimes narrow, sometimes wide. I also stumbled upon the old route 128, which runs parallel to the newer and substantially bigger 93/128. Along the way I stopped to take many pictures and I really wished that I’d have brought my sketchbook along too. The only people I encountered were on the popular Skyline trail, which I avoided as much as possible. When I hike, I like to get away from people.

This was a great exercise in reading and understanding maps for me. Most of the folks on hiking sites seem to have quite a bit of experience and knowledge in outdoor skills but I am really new to this. I kind of like being new because every adventure brings so much wonder and excitement to me; sometimes I feel like a little kid out there. But I also learn so much every time I hike, or walk, or climb, or stroll…that each path is interesting no matter how flat or close to the city it may be.

So for those people hiding in the woodworks, getting intimidated by the endless threads about technical gear or outdoor skills, etc… my advice is simple. Hiking is glorified walking. Go out there and do it. Pick a place near home like the Blue Hills to wander around and get lost without the possibility of getting in trouble. Bring a map so you can get found again. And just discover for yourself what you need to know about walking outside. Obviously some hikes require technical knowledge and winter weather requires technical gear. But I stand by my belief that the best piece of gear you have out there is your brain. And developing basic skills in observation, sound judgement, navigation and survival are of more value to me than a $400 jacket that required more engineering than my car.

Next time I’ll bring my compass…there’s nothing that intimidates me more. No one yet has been able to explain to me what to do with that thing. I think I’ve got to get out in the woods and figure it out myself. You know, not too far from one of those numbered markers in the Blue Hills.

Moosilauke

October 15, 2005.

Serenity, solitude, success.

I set out alone today on Moosilauke for a variety of reasons. I hadn’t hiked solo since early July, I wasn’t feeling that well, and I felt as if I’d had way too much social contact lately. I needed to get away from it all and have my own adventure for a change. Much of my hiking earlier in the year was done alone, and I felt that I needed to get back to that. We all hike for different reasons, and for me, the feeling of being alone in the wild is one of the most desirable emotions achieved through hiking.

I hit the Glencliff Trail at 7:30 am during a brief respite from the rain. The trailhead was underwater; little did I know that this would be one of the driest spots of the hike. The path begins as a gentle, scenic foray through some woods and a beautiful pasture. Apple trees lined the way, producing a strong, delicious aroma. Combined with the sparkling fall colors and soft patter of raindrops, it excited all the senses.

After scaring away a small bunch of turkeys, I exited the pasture, encountered my first stream crossing and entered the woods. I was already feeling the weight of deadlines, responsibilities, and the other banalities of city life dropping from my shoulders. I felt awake and alive. Today would not be about peakbagging, making good time, or hiking someone else’s plan. Today would be about experiencing nature for myself and letting go of the nonsense that normally consumes my life.

My allergies are the worst in the morning and I had been battling a cold for about a month, so the slow ascent took a toll on my lungs. I took every photo opportunity as an excuse for resting and catching my breath. There was no shortage of amazing scenery, interesting fungi, colorful leaves, or delicate vegetation. I was captivated by all that surrounded me. I wandered along the trail, half in a dream, constantly smiling and looking up at the rain. I was warm, and only used my jacket as a hood and cape over my backpack, so I could feel the raindrops on my bare arms and face. The raindrops were soothing.

There were times that I was completely aware of every inch of wildness that surrounded me and there were times where I was so deep in thought that I may have been walking through outer space. My mind was at once gripped with such feelings of complete peace and happiness that nothing else mattered but the present. I am not a spiritual, religious, or hysterically emotional person. But, this was probably the closest I’ve ever had to a spiritual experience. I wanted to cast off my pack, lay down on the wet leaves and soak in every bit of the moment.

After a short snack break I began noticing the trees getting shorter and I knew I was nearing the Moosilauke Carriage Road. As I approached treeline, I snapped out of my spiritual daze and the adrenaline started to flow. I reached the south summit spur, followed it out to its large, open tracts and imagined theview that would be there. Not feeling much love for that place at that moment, I quickly returned to the main trail.

The last half-mile or so to the Moosilauke summit was wet and windy. The short spruce that lined some of the trail provided a substantial amount of protection from the elements. Once I stepped out from behind that barrier, I felt the full effects of the weather. At that point, however, I felt such a rush of hiker-as-adventurer/conqueror that the rain driving into my cheeks and legs did nothing to slow my pace or dampen my spirit. I felt a burst of energy and a new motive for hiking. My heart raced and my smile broadened as I swiftly walked past the towering cairns to the bright orange summit sign. I threw my hands up over my head, spun around dramatically and absorbed all of the awesome power of nature hurling itself at me. Now the moment was not about a solitary reflection on life but about a struggle between (wo)man and nature face-to-face on a barren playing field. On a slightly nicer day I could have explored up there forever. But I was starting to feel a little chilled, so I snapped a few photos and bounded back down the trail.

Summiting those bare peaks is invigorating. I loved that I had Moosilauke completely to myself. The moment was mine. I left with the desire to return soon. I quickly reflected on the progress of my day thus far: a gentle ascent with many pauses to appreciate my slow but steady progress, an overwhelming emotional experience, followed by a gradual buildup to something I expected to be great, a triumphant climax at the top with whipping wetness and trembling emotion’

(stay with me, people, I’m still just talking about hiking)

I anticipated a long, thoughtful descent through a mixture of terrain and simple observations about life, friends, and nature. Although the way had been wet so far, and I was now completely soaked from the waist down, I had no idea what I would be in for during the second half of my adventure.

The Moosilauke Carriage Road provides a pleasant, easily graded walk through the forest. I didn’t have to exert myself much going down so I put on a fleece vest to help keep my core warm. And to think, at the beginning of the hike, I thought I had overpacked! I continued in my attempt to keep as dry as humanly possible, walking on the edges of the trail and hopping on the rocks and raised bits of mud. Eventually, my socks became so saturated that my efforts were fruitless. I changed into my spare, dry socks and continued down the road.

Approaching the Hurricane Trail, I noticed that the water levels seemed to be rising significantly. Rivers rushed by loudly and dramatically. Footing became less sure. Although the fall leaves are pretty, they cover up the loose rocks, deep puddles of water, and other surface features of the trail. I started to slow down to prevent ankle injury or any other stupid mistakes.

The Hurricane trail ascends, relatively steeply in some parts, up Hurricane Mountain (3K’r). The trail soon became indistinguishable from the myriad streams in the area. There were some points that I had to stop and look around to assure myself that I was, indeed, following a trail. There were blazes on a few random trees and sparse bits of orange flagging along the way. These little reminders did wonders for my confidence, but they were few and far between. Several times I remember pausing, laughing, and wondering where I was supposed to go and how I would get there. There were streams running alongside trails that contained less water than the trails themselves. There were also flattened areas of forest that were completely flooded. A few fallen logs and small piles of vegetation served as areas for semi-safe passage, but most places required hip-waders and/or a kayak. I clung desperately to trees a few times before realizing that most of the trees were not really good for that purpose. It took a fallen tree to the back of the head and a branch in the face before I stopped grabbing on to them. Sometimes my intelligence is amazing.

As if the ascent wasn’t bad enough, I then had to climb down from Hurricane Mountain, almost constantly in a stream. Walking upstream was a little more mentally okay. I started to worry a bit more when the water was moving in my direction. The rocks and moss were very slick, which I discovered while slipping and sliding my way down the trail. Again, my socks were completely saturated. After a while I figured it would be easier to just accept the fact that I was wet and just splash right through the water. It made footing decisions infinitely easier.

With probably about a mile to go, I came across two backpackers heading up. We chatted for a few minutes, I warned them that the trail would be submerged and hard to follow, and they went cheerily on their way. They were in very good spirits for such a yucky day. So was I. I knew any people I encountered on a day like today would be pretty cool dudes. I am sure they forded the trail just fine.

My epic journey would shortly end. It felt like a physically and mentally cleansing trek. The symbolism was hard to miss. As I entered the pasture and sloshed down the home stretch to the road, I was somewhat sad that it was all over. I felt that I really accomplished something today. My body and mind felt clear and refreshed. I even felt as if I’d knocked my cold out. I promised myself that I’d leave more time for solo hiking as long as the weather permits. It has been great these past few months meeting so many new people and having wonderful new experiences, but ultimately the one person I need to keep happy is myself. Having my own plans, my own moments and experiences is vital for self-preservation. I hope that I get to feel like this again sometime soon.

Hancocks via Arrow Slide

We set out this morning with two goals in mind: bag the Hancocks (rocksnrolls’ idea) and hit the Arrow Slide (my idea, thanks Dr. Wu. At about 8:45 am, there was only one other group out on the trail, and we played leapfrog a bit til we hit the split in the Hancock Loop. The hiking up to that point was confusing, or maybe we were both still waking up. There were several stream crossings and seemingly innumerable herd paths that got us a bit lost fairly early on in the day. Luckily, we got back on track–thanks to the leapfroggers–and made it up to the good stuff.

The trails were very wet. So wet, in fact, that we initially missed the area leading to the base of the Arrow Slide. The AMC guide mentioned a dry, flat, gravel area just after the Loop path split to go to North Hancock that would lead us to the Slide. Well, the area was totally flooded, and we walked right past it. After walking up and up and up, I felt that we were probably nearing the top and figured we’d missed a turn. So rocksnrolls took a break and I quickly walked back down to the stream crossing to try and find the slide. I found some old campfire pits and cleared areas but no slide. The trees were dense and there were no viewpoints anywhere. Frustrated, I started heading back and met my hiking partner back at the stream. Two heads are better than one. We found the slide after following an overgrown watery pathway.

At first I was reminded of the hike up North Tripyramid but I soon realized this would be a bit trickier. Just like the lower trails were wet, the slide was soaked in places too. There were miniature, dripping waterfalls everywhere and there was lots of menacing-looking moss. Rocksnrolls was smart and stuck to the far edges near the trees where there was more soil and better grip. I looked at those nasty rocks and smiled big. Screw the water, I want to go that way, up all those fun rocks…

And so, slowly, we climbed. Occasionally we sent large chunks of loose rock careening wildly down the slide. Rule of thumb for slides: never hike directly behind anyone! So, we went our separate ways. Sometimes I got myself to a certain point, stopped, looked around, and thought how the %$@* can I go on from here?? The wet rocks made me very nervous. I can honestly say I was a little scared on this hike. Whoa, that’s never happened before! I just made sure I had a good grip with one hand and one foot before I moved anywhere. And I made it. We both did. In one piece, and no major injuries. Rock on.

Then we had to bushwhack back to the trail. I’d certainly never bushwhacked before so this just added to the adventure. Just after we started off through the trees (it smelled like Christmas in there) we spotted blue tape tied around a tree. We followed the blue tape “trail” back to the Loop trail (the whole time, hoping the trail didn’t lead to a psychopath’s mountain lair) and were then at the summit. And in this adventure I discovered a rule of thumb for bushwhacking: Wear long pants. Oh, and bring a machete

The group we passed earlier, with a million dogs, was hogging the view at North Hancock so we continued to the South peak. Compared to what we just accomplished, the rest of the hike was a breeze. There was a brief steep section coming down from South Hancock but it was nothing to write home about. Along the way we observed a spruce grouse and a garter snake. We also heard several chickadees, and possibly a chipmunk or two.

We completed our hike in about book time for the regular Hancocks Loop (which doesn’t include the Slide–booooring). Not bad, I think. The whole hike was gorgeous. There were lots of mushrooms and plants, as well as almost perpetual streamside views. At times, we were sick of all the water–at times, we were hiking right in it.

This is an amazing hike for those looking for a real adventure in the Whites. From reading other trip reports I guess it’s not nearly as tough when it’s dry. I’d definitely do this one again. And I hope I haven’t scared rocksnrolls from hiking with me. Who’s coming with me next time?