Saturday, May 21, 2016

Kinsman Ridge Trail (AT) from Route 112 to Mt. Wolf

I always like it when I get my responsibilities done and I'm able to go hiking... This should have been a zero weekend but since there's going to be rain tomorrow and then some rain next weekend fowling up some of my long weekend plans, I decided to torture... I mean tackle the other end of the Kinsman Ridge Trail. The AT from 112 (Beaver Brook) to what I had planned as the Reel Brook Trail Junction.  I figured since I did over 14 miles last weekend, I can do a little over 10 this weekend... There's one issue though. The AT from this end has a ton of elevation gain and then a bunch of PUDS. 

The first .6 up from the highway is really steep and I take my time. Lucky the trail is pretty dry and only leaf covered. It's fatiguing to say the least and I can only imagine hiking up with a full Thruhiker pack (mine is actually pretty close). I am determined at this point to reach my original goal. It would set me up for another section easily for next weekend. Once Isis and I got through the section of UP trail, it evened out nicely and we enjoyed bog bridges, water, mud... More mud, and some decent sections of trail to travel on. Now in the 2.7 mile section that would take us to the junction of the Gordon Pond Trail, we actually ran into another day hiker here. He was cruisin' as we were taking our time. This section dips into a ravine of sorts and it reminded me of the MSGT trail that I was on 3 weeks ago... Sort of open woods with a small brook. Going down into this was not so bad but I did take note of this for the return trip. It would be our last ridiculous up on the way home.

We continued on this 2.7 miles stretch dealing with some rocks, more mud, water on the trail, and more ups and downs. I pretty much resigned myself to get dirty. As did Isis since she no longer was being careful about the mud or the water crossings. There's a few tricky turns on the rocks that we navigated slowly and managed to get through them. I think I tripped myself up a few times and almost face planted into some mud a few more times than I'd like too. I kept thinking of last weekend and hiking over 14 miles... But those miles were FLAT miles. I think it was in this section that I decided to just call it at Mt. Wolf but I wanted to wait and see. This is a rugged trail and I try to think of my fatigue level on the way back to the car. Being solo again, I have to do out and backs... Which means I hike a section twice. No big deal but it will make this a challenge for myself. We run back into the day hiker and he explains how wet the trail is to Gordon Pond. Told me to leave Mt. Wolf for another day... I don't think he realized they were two separate trails. Both probably just as wet too. Isis and I pressed on through some more PUDs and made it to the Gordon Pond Junction.... It would be 3.3 to my intended end of Reeel Brook Junction if I decide to go that far. But my legs are getting tired from the rocks we've been climbing on.

As we made the approach to the spur trail for Mt. Wolf, I encountered some ice... Easy to get around but if it had kept building, I most certainly would have reconsidered continuing. It's been really quiet on the trail today and in spite of the difficulty, I am feeling good. Isis can always tell when we are in the final push for something she keeps me going as we pop out onto a rock... Reminiscent of Middle Tripyramid except this is Mt. Wolf. It use to be on the 52 With a View List but the view is diminishing as the trees grow... I thought it still had a decent view as I could see Franconia Ridge, Cannon, and some of the surrounding peaks. I sat for a while and gave Isis some snacks. I pulled out the map and confirmed my thoughts.... I'm not going down in elevation and then climbing back up again but still I think of my over all plan and think maybe, even though there's just way to much of that too look forward to on the way back to the car.

We were joined by a red liner who goes by Grouse King. He was nice company for a little while as we swapped stories. He confirmed further for me what I wanted to do about my end point. Reel Brook is down about 1000 feet. NOT going down to climb again. We had a unanimous opinion of the KRT... Not a fan. Isis and I will go back from here. Isis was falling asleep but as soon as I gave the comand to get back on the trail, she snapped up and we started walking bidding Grouse King happy trails.

We kept a pretty good pace on the way back and some of those troublesome sections were not so bad. I slowed the pace down a lot on the down trail sections since Isis would surely pull me over if she was allowed to keep pace. My feet sometimes do not move as fast as her and my eyes do funky things since I wear progressive lenses.... Yeah, I'm now an old hiker. On our way back, we ran into our first 3 Thru Hikers... Spring may be late but the Thru Hikers are moving through early. It did not seem to be a big bubble but my plan is to now keep extra food in my pack as we do our sections. The trail going back down to the highway was BRUTAL on my feet and on my eyes. I found myself swearing under my breath as we tripped and stumbled down the rock stairs. Isis was getting excited when she heard the traffic and knew that we'd be back at the car soon. I must have cursed all the way back to the car and those that were coming off of the Beaver Brook trail probably got a good laugh... I was filthy and scratched up and... HAPPY. This may not have been a stellar miles day but it was definitely worth every step. I'll take 14 flat miles any day but the real challenge is in the varied and rugged trails. 10 miles might as well have been 14 to me. It was time to change and go get my coffee.

I had been thinking to myself this week.... When will I grow up? I am going to be 44 this year, I own my own home and with that all the responsibilities of a home owner and I'd still rather spend my time and money on anything related to hiking. I had to tell myself that if I didn't get my lawn mowed after work one day this week, I'd zero and do my responsibilities on the nice day. Well, I was able to mow the lawn (Which was the length of a small jungle Isis was getting lost in) and that meant I was clear to go up North... Somehow all my other responsibilities can wait (cleaning, laundry, and the domestic things that may never get done). I don't have any children (except the one's that I work with) and maybe that's a good thing as far as how I spend my time in some peoples eyes and this gives me extra time to devote to the things that I want to do. Being single adds to this as well since I don't have to answer to anyone and I can do what I want on the weekends... But all of this is a little bit of a regret in my mind too. My point is... When will I grow up?? Probably never. I want to see as much of this great big world as I can and while it may just take me forever to see the rest of New Hampshire, I am going to continue to try and hike the AT... Short sections at a time for now until I get a vacation to start doing LASH (Long Ass Section Hike) hikes... But first I have to get through my final LASH of the LT. The adventures will continue...

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ethan Pond Trail Connecting Dots on the AT

Sometimes, in the middle of the journey, another journey emerges... I was finding myself feeling kind of stale and craving new scenes from a Grid pursuit. Then I really found my heart in longer distance hikes with all kinds of things to see and something new with every hike, I decided to call shenanigans on myself and start section hiking the AT and what better way to start than to connect the dots in New Hampshire. Hiking the 48 gave me a great start with hiking and also gave me a lot of AT miles so, it only makes sense. Today, I decided to hike the Ethan Pond Trail from 302 in Crawford Notch to the junction of the Zealand Trail... I already have miles from there to the hut and beyond. I love new trails and I was not disappointed today. 

Once you arrive at the trail head for Rippley Falls/Ethan Pond, you cross the railroad tracks and begin climbing... This section of trail takes you first past the top of the Kendron Flume Trail and eventually to the start of the Willey Range Trail... We turned at this point to continue of the AT (Ethan Pond Trail). I'm immediately struck by the lack of people on the trail and I like it. After the turn, there's a little push up and there's some standing water on the trail too. It flattens out briefly with a first set of bog bridge (many more to come). It's now a mile to the Ethan Pond Shelter junction. There's a brief section of ice that can be gotten around without traction. Once it flattens out again, it stays this way until the junction with sections of bog bridges and sections of trail that are flooded with water but there are rocks to hop. Isis and I make the best of this beautiful day and continue to walk and enjoy the woods. 

We turn down the spur to the Shelter at Ethan Pond and at the pond itself, we run into the first 3 hikes of the day. This is a great area and I'm sure that I'll be back to spend the night some day. There's some snow hanging around where the sun can't reach. We head back to the trail and make our push to the end. This is a 2 mile stretch that my mind starts playing with me. I'm wondering if I can get to the end and back to the car in a reasonable time. I start going down the road of altering plans and then I just shake it off... I've got a headlamp and a tent... I'm good. Now get moving. Isis and I enjoy the wooded sections and I do note a few stealth camp sites that look fabulous. The trail remains flat with intermittent water, rocks, and bog bridges before it takes you by a river and leads you to a foot bridge. Such a beautiful area. 

From the foot bridge, there is a short wooded walk and then the trail starts to open up and you see all the surrounding peaks. You walk by a pretty decent talus field and over some rocks reaching the junction for the Zeacliff Trail. First, I'll probably never take this trail for it's steepness and second, from here, it's 1.3 miles to our end point or in this case, our turn around point. The trail dips in and out of the woods over and around rocks. I love it. This trail has fed my soul today. We reached our turn around just after 1pm... 7.2 miles in just over 4 hours. I'm feeling pretty strong. 

I could tell I was near the hut because the traffic had increased and at this time of year, there's a cast of characters already hitting the trails. We did not stay and chat with a group as I wanted to keep the pace up and get back into the woods... Back into the quiet. Funny thing about a return trip going back the way I came, I tend to throw it on auto pilot and just go... Breaking occasionally for treats for Isis. I knew that the return would be long but also easier as all my ups are now downs and there are now more downs than ups... Let gravity take you and soon you land back at the car... The parking area is BUSY with tourists going to Ripley Falls. Another cast of characters. With more pouring in at 4:30pm... I'm changing in my car and hitting the road for a extra large blueberry coffee from Dunk's (I always stop at exit 28). This has been a fantastic day of connecting the dots. Another section of the AT is done for me. Slowly connecting all the missing trail miles.

When I started this journey of hiking, I was searching for something... I thought it was a person. Turns out it was a little dog, my best hiking partner and the person I was searching for was actually myself. My mother during the first leg of the 48 bought me the book Following Atticus and I now understand the bond between a person and a dog. My heart breaks for the Little Buddha has crossed the rainbow bridge but as I walked the trail today, I began to see my bond with Isis in a whole new way. She checks on me if I fall, she communicates with me if she needs something or she thinks I need something. She is choosey about who we associate with on the trail and I credit her for backing up my intuition when it comes to people and other dogs. We are bonded and I can honestly say when she is called, I'm pretty sure that I'll be forever changed. At home, she is my constant companion and makes sure that I'm never alone. I always reflect on a particularly dark time about 3 years ago... She use to be a crate dog but one particularly emotional night, she refused her crate to keep me company... She's never gone back in that thing since and pretty much that crate sits in my basement. She's helped me find my way in this madness and has walked with me with every step. She may be tiny but she is fierce and together we are strong. I found myself on the trails through her. I've reached a point in my life where peoples opinions matter less and my own voice matters more. I abandoned my GRID for a richer journey... One that really grabs my soul and feeds it with new visions at every step. I cannot wait for my future hikes in future states. I cannot wait to see what parts of me I find on the trail with my best trail partner by my side. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Monadnock Sunapee Greenway End to End Hike.

I'll be there first to admit that I missed trail life... The chance to walk and think. The chance to meet some pretty interesting people and see some pretty amazing things that you never see from the sofa. It's hard at times and you want to give up completely at your worst moments but if you push on, something pretty amazing happens. You get to know yourself and your relationship with the world around you. I suddenly decided to do the 48 mile Monadnock Sunapee Greenway. I would take four days to do it which would give me enough time to get my legs under me and to test out some new gear for my up and coming Long Trail trip in July. 

Day One: 4/28/16 Dublin Trailhead to Crider Shelter. 15 miles.

The pack was heavy with all my provisions and some winter gear because it would be cold at night. Four days of food and snacks for both Isis and myself. We would start at the Dublin Trail trail head in near by Dublin NH (Close to my home in Jaffrey NH). The weather was cooperating with chilly temps in the AM so I was layered up at first. I said good bye to my mother who had dropped me off and would eventually pick me up (my biggest supporter). Heading through the hard woods we transitioned to a pine forest. The grades are easy for the trail with nothing over 3000 feet. It take me no time to get to Route 101 in Marlborough. Crossing here carefully for traffic. No issues with the trail so far and I'm just trying to get my head in the game and my feet under me. Isis is trying to eat every blade of grass and roll in anything she can find. The first thing we come to of interest is Eliza Adams Gorge which is beautiful and then a quick stop at Spitoir Shelter for a snack. I've run into two other hikers heading this direction. At least I know someone else is out there. 

 A nice walk by the Howe Reservoir Dam reminded me of 19 Mile Brook Trail... Except bigger. The trail itself has a lot of rural road walks to take which I was aware of but somehow surprised by the amount. I was giving my trail runners a good test as I imagined that walking this in boots, I'd be feeling it immediately. At least I had some cushion. 

Another pass by the Childs Bog Dam and we walked through some pretty open areas. A stop for lunch brought out a new tuna packet to try. Packed in sunflower oil for extra calories. This really worked for me. Passing under route 9 using the underpass was interesting and creepy all at the same time. Heading into Stoddard via logging and local dirt roads I came upon the site of the recent forest fire. How much Isis wanted to roll in the soot! And how much I held her back. this area was depressing and while I love the smell of a campfire, I am not a fan of a forest fire smell. It was too much for my nose. 

It wasn't long after this that Isis and I reached our first stop for the night. Crider Shelter. After starting at about 7:30am, it was now around 3:30pm... For a 15 mile day on a full pack, I thought that was pretty good. Only one minor hot spot to tape up. We set up camp and were joined by the two hikers we had met earlier. Dinner was served with a healthy side of black flies. I had chosen my turkey, white bean, and sweet potato chili over rice. Great choice! Really enjoyed it after that long day. Isis was fed and chores were done. The black flies drove us into the tent though, instead of being social. I don't know how those two hikers stayed in the shelter. But it was cold so the bugs eventually went away. I have to get use to sleeping in a one man/one dog tent... It's low so, you get dressed/undressed laying down. I brought my fleece liner and my 40 degree bag. Plus my winter shell and long johns with fleece socks. This combination did the trick but the adrenaline was still pumping so it was hard to sleep. Day two would start on very little energy. 

Day Two: Crider Shelter to General Washington Shelter. Washington, NH: 15 Miles

Day two started early around 6:30am due to lack of sleep and getting chores done. Needing water, we stopped by the lake for breakfast... Traditional 2 packets of oatmeal and coffee. Nice view. I breathed in and felt the trail come alive. Today would be a hard fought day. Day two usually is. We were heading up and over Pitcher Mountain. The two hikers I shared shelter with hiked on by and I kept my own pace. Going through some great forest land (Andorra Forest) and eventually coming out the parking area for Pitcher Mountain where the two hikers from the shelter were taking a break and making plans. It was also in this stretch that I came close to seeing a bear... I saw fresh scat and heard some movement so I too made movement and sound. While I wanted to see the bear... I'd really like to stay safe. 

A word about this section of my day... Confusion. The two other hikers took the road by Pitcher. I did as well. But they kept going on the road instead of going to the summit. I went to the summit. Got turned around a few times... Each time ending up at the parking lot so, I did the road twice to the turn for the summit trail and the extended road road walk which added miles. This about killed my spirit BUT, I pressed onward. Determined to make it to the shelter for the night. This part gets very tricky as it's not well blazed and neither is the summit. You travel through grasslands and over some pretty good size hills. With a full pack and a bit of a frantic head for mistakes, it takes a lot to gain concentration again. It's hot and the bugs are out... Makes for a challenge. Then there is a reroute due to beaver activity. I'm not sure if this added or subtracted miles. It felt like an addition. this was a steep down and then a decent flat section leading to a road in Washington NH. I was happy to see this but my feet were pounding from the road walks. Pressing on, we made it to the Clark Robinson Memorial Forest... Almost to the shelter. You just have to climb the BIG hill with ledges and lots of black flies. UGH! Who's idea was that??? The hill was Oak Hill... I'll never forget that one. 

I had run into three other hikers at the top of Oak Hill. I had hopes that I would not be sharing a shelter with them. Being a solo female, you listen to your gut. I was making plans to stealth camp but got to the shelter first and chanced it. My two other companions on the trail arrived from the opposite direction... they had taken an extended road walk instead of going over Oak Hill (I'm not sure what was worse). They were calling it quits and heading to Washington General Store for dinner. I was having Steak with Mashed potatoes and Gravy. This was also a winner of a combination... All together in one bowl. The three other hikers did pass by and my other companions departed to meet their ride. General Washington shelter is privately owned and you can see the owners house from the actual shelter land. No cell service even though the home is that close. But Washington always seemed to be a dead zone. Great water source and an enclosed privy. I enjoyed this shelter and sleep was a little better. I turned my 40 degree bag into a quilt over the top of Isis and myself. This worked like a charm. Ready to do it all over again for day three....

Day Three... General Washington Shelter to The Steve Galpin Shelter at Moose Look Out.
15 miles. 

Starting my day off pretty close to 6am. Legs are tired still. The third day on a Thru is always tough as you wait to get your legs under you. That comes on the fourth day... But that is also my extraction point. So, the day starts off with a walk through down town Washington. This is not well blazed at all. I walked a little of route 31 and get on track. Heading on a side road through the town, I wait to head back into the woods. Lots of hills to walk up. Give me some ledges any day but these flat hills under my pack weight are killing me. We turn finally down another road (Lovewell Mtn Rd) that quickly deteriorates and is a muddy mess. The blazing is poor here too so I turn back feeling very discouraged by this. But decide that I'm going to press on. We turn back into the forest and are climbing Lovewell Mountain. To my surprise, this is a pleasant climb. just under 2500 feet tall with a great trail leading up to the summit. 

The day is hot so, I am thankful for the shade trail which also takes the bugs away. After Lovewell Mtn, it's a hard fight through Pillsbury State Park land with all the PUDS on my way to my shelter for the night. I will admit to tossing out many F Bombs as the bugs fly in my mouth and up my nose. I will admit to loosing it completely and wanting to head down to Pillsbury Ranger station to get picked up... But, I sat and had a snack and then pressed on. Slowly but surly we climbed hill after hill and enjoyed some pretty fast sections too. The woods seems to be dying here though... Not a spot of green save for some plants just starting to poke through the ground. Everything is late this year. The trail itself is decent but I have noted very little water for a dog to drink freely. We make it to shelter again around 3:30pm. Always with a sigh of relief. My pack is getting much lighter now as the trip wears on. It seemed as though we would have the shelter to ourselves again. So, I did my chores and fed Isis and myself. This was a real test... Dehydrated chicken chunks and Zatarand's Cheesy rice... Wow! That was about the best dinner I could ask for. Really filling and perfect after a hard fought day. Again though the bugs were out in full force which sent us into the tent. I eventually decided to close up the outer fly and try and rest. Around 7:30pm, Isis begins growling. I'm not hearing much so, I try and calm her. Then I hear rustling. I call out and a man answers. Hmmm.... Guess I won't be alone tonight. I poke my head out in the dimming light of day and see that 3 hikers have arrived. They are seasoned AT section hikers... One by the name of Zenith and the other Mike. I never got the third's name. Classic guys in long white beards. Trail hardened. Zenith is a talker... He's a gear head talker. I entertain until the people are shadows. I try and sleep to the sounds of them setting up camp. Thankfully two of the hikers are soft spoken. Then when all is quiet, the loudest snore erupts soon after Zenith's last words... He warned us he snored but how does he fall asleep so fast?? I did not get a lot of sleep... Note to self: EAR PLUGS! Time for day four... Summit extraction day. 

Day 4: Steve Galpin Shelter at Moose Look Out to Mount Sunapee. 7.6 Miles including Summit trail to the parking lot. 

Giving up early in the morning around 5:30 means that I get an early start... This is good because according to Zenith, it's gonna rain. They are heading SOBO and planning to stop either in 5 or 11 miles. I was treated to a pretty decent sunrise which was viewed from of all places... The Privy! There's no door here but there are walls at least because it is visible on a hill from the shelter. Same old routine of breakfast and chores. The guys pack up pretty quickly and seem to get under way. I was not far behind them. With only 7.6 miles and a ton of ledges between here and Mt. Sunapee, I want to get in as much as I can before the rain really comes. .2 heading north there is a great stream for water. I'd say it rivals the Garfield tent site spring and Liberty Spring as well. I only take 2 liters since it will be short and cool to hike today. Isis is tired but I've discovered my legs... I can crank it out today. A lighter pack too since most food has been consumed.  This stretch is really about getting up and over the hills and walking the ridges. at .5 is Lucias Look Out. A little view here and we sign the register. A ridge walk provides a break on my calves. I am enjoying my walk out today.

We head down to 2400 feet and walk a flatter section before heading up to 2600 feet for a while. The rain is starting to pick up and I ask my grandfather to hold off the heavy stuff until after the ledges. I take one slip of a spill but recover nicely. The pack cover comes on as I skipped the liner. Isis is shaking off excess water. Our next stop is Lake Solitude which is down a piece from 2600 feet. But it's peaceful and sort of Lonesome Lake esque. There's even a random chunk of ice in my path. We then come to Jack and June Junction making the final push to the summit. Gotta head up 100 feet. 

Climbing, we break out to the ski trails and I remember how hard it was to head up this way on Bromley. The terminus comes into view and I just put my head down and go. Standing there, in the rain which is now falling harder, I get my summit shot and find the summit trail down. It's now 2.1 to the parking area and a short wait for my ride with two pop tarts and a packet of tuna. I feel very much accomplished and pleased with how my gear performed. I'll be subtracting some things and adding a few others. I'm looking at food and how much I will carry and that includes water. While the inline filter helps, I may not fill the 3 liter bag up so much on the less humid days. I learned so much about myself and my hiking style in this short time. I never thought I had it in me (or Isis for that matter) for a 15 mile day. All in all a very successful trip from Dublin New Hampshire to the top of Mt. Sunapee. The adventures will continue though.... After a zero weekend next weekend. 48 miles earns me that much. And a patch too. ;)

I should also note that while I waited for my ride, there was a massive gathering of EMTs/and Paramedics at the base... I was well taken care of and checked on often. Thanks for reading and stay tuned....