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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Nipmuck State Forest adventure

June 16, 2014.

15.5 mi | 800′ ele. gain | 5.8 hr

I was back on the East Coast visiting my family and got a day to spend outside with my dad. He chose Nipmuck State Park, where we had access to a large trail network not too far from home. He chose the route and we set off.

Connecticut is flat. We started cruising along at a staggeringly quick pace. We raced past stone walls, spring wildflowers and colored trail blazes.

Blazes. Those are markings rarely seen on the west coast. The colorful paint brought me back to the first hikes I’d ever done in New England. The first trails that captivated my attention and curiosity. It was so cool to be back in that environment, thinking back to those experiences that continued to shape my adventures today.

My dad had a couple of geocaches on his to-do list today so we took a little time to investigate some wooded areas to locate these treasure boxes.

Bright sunlight filtered down through the green tree leaves. The gentle trails occasionally gave way to bouldery sections requiring a little assistance from the hands. Fun stuff.

But the best part was being able to spend some quality time with dad. He’s the one who introduced me to the outdoors and inspired me to get out in nature throughout my childhood. I was so glad he still enjoyed getting out and putting lots of miles under his feet, and also that he was capable of doing so. He’s not a terribly old dude, but I know plenty of people younger than him who would not be able to come close to what he can do out there. I hope to maintain my physical abilities long into my older age as well!

I really enjoyed today’s hike. Outdoor physical activity is healing. Whether it’s the fresh air, sunshine, nature’s greenery or some combination of things, there’s little better to nourish the soul than a good walk in the woods.

Mt. Monadnock with dad

July 5, 2009.

4.3 mi | 1800′ ele. gain | 2.5 hr.

Since our 100-mile wilderness adventure didn’t quite go according to plan, my dad and I decided to do one last hike together: a quick trip up Mt. Monadnock.

We started at the Marlboro Trailhead on the mountain’s west side, hoping to avoid some of the crowds. It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day. In only a half an hour we were treated to some open views of the surrounding forest. The trail took us up some broad, rocky ledges that were fun to scramble up.

I was wearing my Vibram Five Fingers, which felt great walking up the rock. As we approached the summit, the wind picked up. There were lots of names, initials and symbols carved into the rocks on top. This had obviously been a destination for many travelers for generations.

The views went on forever. But the up close scenery was fascinating too. Pools of water trapped in indentations in the ledges rippled in the wind. It was like finding tidepools above treeline!

It’s too bad this mountain isn’t any bigger. In less than three hours, the whole thing is over. I enjoyed spending some time hiking with my dad. Although our AT adventure was cut short, we did have nice moments on the trail. It was my dad who first got me out hiking as a kid, and I’m glad I can still share this activity with him. I’ve got his curious, adventurous spirit and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next!

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!

Rumney rock climbing adventure

April 30, 2006.

I’m writing this very late blog entry on October 9, 2017, based on the memories I have from my first rock climbing trip. Some of the details have probably grown fuzzy over time, but the main ideas are firmly cemented in my brain.

I was invited to go to Rumney with a friend (a rock climber) and his climbing pals. I had never gone rock climbing before and quite honestly, I wasn’t that interested. It’s not that I didn’t like getting to the top of things, it’s that I enjoyed doing that under my own power. I had a sense of distrust in all the ropes, metal and equipment. I remember saying: “Why would I climb up this wall with equipment when I can just walk up the ramp on the backside.” Needless to say, they were not impressed with my attitude.

We hiked out to a tall rock face. My companions pulled out a bunch of gear and performed whatever magic they needed to do to commence climbing.

Once the topropes were set up, my friend got me into a harness and tied me into the rope. “Okay, go climb!” he said, enthusiastically. “What do you mean? What do I do?” I asked. I was terrified. What do all these things do? What happens if I fall? How do I get back down? I’d never been around climbing before and I had no idea how it worked.

I hadn’t even stepped foot in a climbing gym before. Presumably, these were not as popular or as ubiquitous back in 2006. I had no mental map of the systems. I remember feeling really frustrated and scared.

I climbed up, falling a few times I’m sure. My legs were shaking, my heart racing, my anger boiling up inside. Why am I doing this? I thought, I’d rather be hiking.

After I was lowered down I decided to call it quits for the day. I watched everyone else climb, with much less effort than I’d put forth. They laughed, rigged up other routes, and had a grand old time. I felt like I didn’t have a ticket to the party. I couldn’t understand what they were doing or how they could be having any fun. I sat there and stewed. Climbing is stupid. Hiking is more pure. I’ll just stick to what I’m good at.

Well, we know how that goes…

Arethusa Falls

March 19, 2006

4.7 miles | 1250’ ele. gain | 4 hours

We had planned to get in a quick hike to Arethusa and Ripley Falls, but plans do change unexpectedly.

We had parked in the lower lot at Arethusa and walked up the road to the trail. I was in a bad mood so I let my hiking partner walk in front so I had some space to clear my head. Before long we reached the falls and stopped for some pictures. We continued along the blue blazed trail, which, in some places, was only broken out by some small four-footed creature.

By some strange luck, we ended up at the Bemis Brook trail junction, which put us nowhere near Ripley and we didn’t have time to traverse the cliffs, either. So we opted to take Bemis Brook back to the car since it looked steeper and more interesting. It was both. But, it was also super slick.

We slowly made our way down to flatter terrain and enjoyed the scenic trailway and gently falling snow. There were several points of interest along the way and before long we were back to the upper lot.

We then walked down the train tracks to cross the railroad bridge. That was really cool. There were some ice climbers on the other side so we decided to return to the car. The wind was picking up and it was a little chilly. Next time I’ll be sure to take my compass!