Return

It’s been a long time, with many changes in the interim. I’ll come to those in time.

I’m going to conduct an experiment in writing more regularly, hopefully daily.

This is my first Christmas that I’ve spent apart from my family ever. No small feat, considering that I turned 35 last week. I saw them all tonight thanks to the wonders of technology, and that was comforting. The Christmas season, for all its commercial glitz and hype, has always been a precious time to me. Having my birthday the week before only made it feel more like one long holiday. Christmas for me is candles in dark churches, incense pungent with myrrh, carols (the old ones; I like some of the new songs well enough, but they aren’t the same), the scent of pine, coffee and Jack Daniels, gingerbread men with red hot and currant buttons, chorale music, and family. And always Christmas eve. Christmas Day is fine, but the sense  of anticipation is what makes the holiday what it is.

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Moosilauke (NH4k #34)

We took advantage of the gorgeous weather and headed up to Moosilauke this weekend. We were looking for something close, not too long, and high yield (i.e., had good views), and the mountain did not disappoint. My big failing as a hiker getting up early–I just associate it with going to work. When the weekend rolls around, I want to sleep in! This was especially true on Saturday after a late Friday night get-together with co-workers. So I did some math and figured out that we could leave at the luxurious hour of 10AM, get to Ravine Rd by noonish, and still have plenty of time to summit and get back to the trailhead before dark. However, the NH DOT did not get the memo, and so instead of zipping on up I93 we sat in stopped traffic in a road construction site for what felt like hours (and was actually at least an hour).
On the bright side, this provided an ideal opportunity to try out some night hiking!

We changed our itinerary a bit–instead of a loop using Snapper Trail, Carriage Road, and Gorge Brook, we opted for a straight out and back on Gorge Brook, reasoning that it would prepare us the return trip in low light.. There was no snow on the ground at the foot of Ravine Rd, but up at the trailhead there was a generous dusting. Gorge Brook Trail starts off after the brook crossing with a bit of a rocky uphill. Along this stretch we passed an older gentleman in a green Dartmouth sweatshirt heading back to the trailhead, who called us late risers. A few steps behind him, a companion tactfully asked if we had headlamps (we did, and spare batteries, too). The trail flattens out and then runs along the brook bank, making for a very picturesque stretch, and then turns away from the brook to a winding section. Along this stretch, three other groups passed us and reminded us that we’d be hiking in the dark (we knew). Really, it was a surprisingly easy trail. If I hadn’t felt pressured to keep moving quickly and summit before sunset, it would have been downright leisurely. And with the early dusting of snow, it was absolutely beautiful.

It got better when we started to break out of the trees.

And then closer to the summit, where every surface was covered in rime.

The summit itself, with us…

…and with the sun sinking lower.

Sunset begins, as seen from just below Moosilauke’s summit.

It started to get dark almost immediately after we got below treeline. I would estimate that we made it another 1-1.5 miles off of the reflected light of dusk on the snow, and then had to put headlamps on. It was actually great on the snowier sections–the rockier ones were a different story. My headlamp was pretty weak, and without good shadows it was liking walking into a 2D image.

But…we made it, and made it uninjured, and in quite good time (I believe around 4-4.5 hours round trip). I would have no qualms about night hiking with a slightly stronger headlamp in packed below-treeline winter conditions after this hike. The microspikes helped immensely, as did the lovely packed snow surfaces that come in the winter. It was a good taste of things to come!
(Pictures to follow)

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The Hancocks (NH4k #30-31) and Osceolas (NH4k #32-33)

Between work and fellowship interviews, it’s been a long dry spell for hiking. Until about 2 weeks ago, I was basically spending every day working, traveling, or interviewing. Last weekend, though, we were able to tie a couple days of hiking into traveling north for an interview. It would have been  three days save for Hurricane Sandy…we seem to have a knack for planning trips just before hurricanes. I got back into Cambridge on Friday evening from a trip to NY and NJ. We packed and listened anxiously to the weather reports. It seemed pretty clear that the storm wouldn’t make landfall until Monday, and that we could get two full days safely.

Day 1:
So the next morning we threw our gear in the car, made a food run to Trader Joe’s, stopped for a very overdue oil change,  and hit the road. It was after 10 by the time we got on the highway, and it wasn’t initially clear how much daylight we’d have once we arrived. Our destination was the Hancocks. We made good time despite  a pit stop to re-duct tape my passenger side mirror on (thanks, person who hit my car in the Amtrak lot!) and turned into the lot at around 1 in the afternoon. The parking lot was busy but not packed, and we were late enough that the other folks on the trail were heading out rather than in. We made good time on Hancock Notch and Cedar Brook trails. Both trails were mostly flat and with good footing except for some rooty sections and an eroded wet stretch on Cedar Brook.  The brook crossings were particularly beautiful. Our plan was to ascend South Hancock first since the Guide commented on its steep, eroded, and rough nature–which usually means the trail is particularly awful. It turned out to be a good plan, although the South Hancock branch was nowhere near as awful as the section of the Wiley Ridge trail from Ethan Pond to the summit of Wiley.  The trail was rough, rocky, and–as billed–quite steep. It was fine to ascend but wouldn’t have been so fun to descend. South Hancock is wooded and viewless. There was an outlook that involved too much descending (and ascending on the return) that we didn’t bother with, and an illicit campsite complete with toilet paper and feces that made me mad. We didn’t tarry on the summit and moved on to the loop section, which was generally easy on both feet and eyes.  The northern summit was rockier and thus offered bits of view…and no campsites to be found. We hung around for a little while, eating apples and sausage sticks and enjoying the gorgeous fall weather. The return was uneventful–unrelentingly steep and rocky, but light on the loose gravel. On the way out, we passed two guys who we’d passed earlier on the trail as they were setting up their own illicit campsite.

rant

The more I hike, the more I become aware of illicit campsites, and the more they tick me off.  I understand the desire to stay in the woods in beautiful places. But really, have people never heard of Leave No Trace? Is it really so hard to make camp out of sight of the trail? Do you need to build a campfire in the woods? Doesn’t the amount of potential fuel–and the extent of potential damage–freak you out? And the whole not digging catholes or packing out toilet paper–I mean, it’s gross, but so is leaving a pile of used toilet paper and shit on the ground.

If you’re going to backcountry camp, please brush up on LNT principles before you go. A good primer can be found on Phil Werner’s SectionHiker blog here. It boils down to respecting the woods and the other creatures (human and animal alike) that you share it with.

/rant

We got back to the car in fantastic time (just under 5 hours for 9.8 miles). Evening was falling as we set up camp at a site in the Hancock campground (surprisingly busy) and ate reconstituted udon noodles (surprisingly delicious).  We were in bed by 9:30-10PM. It was almost a full moon and I kept waking up from the brightness until finally I pulled a hat on over my eyes and passed out.

Day 2:

We got up around 6 and ate muffins and raspberries in the dark by headlamp. The sun started rising around the time we were packed and getting in the car, but it was still quite grey when we parked at the East Pond trailhead. We were in for a long day.  Everything I’d read about the Osceola trail suggested that the southern end was relatively easy, and the northern end was not.  Starting from the southern end meant a much longer drive from the campsite that would eat into precious hours better spent hiking.But an out-and-back from the north sounded painful. So I planned something unconventional. We’d start from the north from Greeley Pond trail, ascend East Osceola and Mt Osceola from the Mt Osceola trail, then return via the East Pond trail after a short road walk on Tripoli Road. All told, it was around15 miles for the trip, with the most strenuous sections of the trail coming early in the day.

We started with a short road walk on the Kanc around 8AM. The parking lots at both the East and Greeley Pond trailheads were completely empty when we arrived, although 3 cars pulled into the Greeley Ponds lot in quick succession within minutes. In contrast to the Hancock Notch and Cedar Brook trails the day before, Greeley Pond was not particularly easy. Footing was pretty good, but the trail went steadily up and up. I went through several cycles of sweating, taking off my outer shirt, freezing, putting my outer shirt back on, and sweating again in the cool morning air. Once we started to ascend East Osceola, though, that problem resolved and I just sweated. The climb was not particularly difficult, just hard work and an unrelenting grade. The slide mentioned in the Guide wasn’t as terrible as I’d feared–just a short bare rocky stretch that would have been nasty if wet (or descending) but had plenty of hand and footholds. The summit of East Osceola was wooded and uninteresting, with a cairn to mark it. We moved on quickly.

The stretch between the summits had some ups and downs, but stands out in my memory as being fairly pleasant (as such ridge walks tend to be). Even the chimney on the ascent to Mount Osceola was fun–a short, very steep scramble that probably would not have been so nice to descend or tackle in slicker conditions. But on a sunny October day, it was a delight. We arrived at the same time as a group of two humans and two dogs. The humans stood around contemplating the chimney, while the dogs just charged up it (and down, and up again).

Mount Osceola’s  summit was lovely. It was clear and we could see to the Moats (I think) and beyond. We had lunch, admired the view, petted the dogs, and then were ready to move on as the crowds started to arrive. The  descent was long but easy compared to the trip up, with many switchbacks and trails that were more dirt than rock. H spotted a colleague from his grad school program in a group of hikers who were making their way up.  Just as  we were starting to wonder how much longer the trail continued, the parking lot at the trailhead appeared!

Here’s where I started to get a little nervous. My plan sounded fine on paper just looking at numbers and elevation lines. I had no idea, though, what the trail would actually bring, especially as far as being able to follow it for its entire length.  It turned out to be just fine. The first section was wide and well blazed. We had second lunch at East Pond about 1.4 miles in from the road. Beyond the pond, the trail got narrower and less well blazed until we got close to the Kancamangus, but we were able to follow it without too much difficulty throughout. It also ascended gently but steadily until it reached the height of land (and then descended in a similar fashion), making it more work than it seemed on first glance…but again, completely doable. We saw 1 person in the entire 5 mile stretch. The solitude was glorious.

Although we didn’t move as quickly as we had on Saturday, we were out of the woods before 5PM and walked at a pace faster than book time. We were back in camp well before sunset after stopping in town to get firewood, and had time to set up a campfire and a protective tarp before it got so dark we needed headlamps. By 7:50 it seemed like midnight and H and I were in bed shortly thereafter. We planned to get up early to avoid having to eat and drive in the middle of a hurricane. Our goal was to ride it out from a hotel room in Hanover.

As it turned out, Sandy largely spared northern New England and we were fine. Would that all of the eastern seaboard had fared so well.

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Haikingudesu ka? Īe, watashi wa ima, haikingu shite inai.

I fully intend to finish the prior post…just not tonight.

The long absence of any new content on this blog reflects the state of the rest of my life. Without getting into too much detail, it’s been busy. At the end of July, shortly after returning from the hiking extravaganza, I moved (still in the same state, just south a few towns). I’m now living with my sister in a beautiful little town on Narragansett Bay. She and I haven’t lived together since before I went to college, but it turns out it’s great fun. Among other things, she’s trying to teach herself Japanese, and trying to teach me too in the process. The title is a tribute to that effort, and translates to “Are you hiking? No, I’m not hiking right now.” At least, that’s according to Google Translate.
In addition to moving, I’m in the midst of my one sustained rough stretch for this year. I wrapped up my last ICU month ever a week ago, and now I’m on nights for another 3 weeks. I wrap up the stretch with a month in what residency program directors like to proclaim is the busiest ED in southern New England.  Throughout this, I’ll be traveling near and far to interview for fellowship programs.

I’m not at all unhappy with where things are at right now, but it doesn’t leave a lot of free time for hiking or blogging. When I can, I’ll be exploring locally and will let you know what I find.
Until then.

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Days 3-6: The Carters, Moriah, and Madison

We wrapped up our “easy day” of hiking Willey at Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch. I kind of love Joe Dodge. It has a very retro feel to it, and while spartan compared to a regular hotel (1 towel apiece, shared bathrooms, family style or buffet meals), it’s luxurious compared to camping, and more than adequate for what H and I need/want.  We ended up in one of the renovated queen rooms. I’m not sure how I feel about the renovations. In pulling down the bunks, it seems they also lost the pine paneling that gave the rooms a slightly kitschy but lovely rustic feel. The new decoration is much more standard hotel-like, and feels a little like lipstick on a pig, but the bed was large and squashy and I slept like a rock.
We packed our gear the night before and were up early, scarfed down a huge breakfast in the dining room, and hauled out to 19-mile Brook trailhead to begin our great 1st backpacking adventure. 19-mile Brook trail, like North Twin, is badly eroded in the lower parts. I believe the AMC is gearing up to re-route it come fall, but for now hikers are left either picking their way through the exposed rocks in the trailbed or following the beaten path on the eroded bank. The storm had left many downed trees in the brook as well. Carter Dome trail suffered as well, though not so badly, and a hard-working maintenance crew was out both times we hiked through. The footway on Carter Dome was less damaged and relatively easy to get through, and the switchbacks were wonderful. We made a relatively fast and easy ascent despite mild protests from our legs and found ourselves at the intersection with Carter-Moriah in good time.

The northbound section of Carter-Moriah is GORGEOUS! Cool lichen-covered woods, wet mossy areas with bog bridges, ledgy sections on Middle Carter and the minor peaks…and very few other people. A handful of thru-hikers passed us heading towards Katahdin, but otherwise we saw no one  until we were nearly to North Carter. There, an older couple passed us heading south. They told us they’d spent the night at Imp Campsite, our destination, and warned us that we had quite a descent ahead. They were right. The White Mountain Guide describes this section as “steep and rough” and cautions that those with heavy packs should allow extra time. This description doesn’t really capture the experience of this section of trail, which includes parts where we inched our way down slabs of rock that were 70-80 degrees with the horizontal, and scrambles that involved hugging short vertical rock faces and groping for hand- and footholds. It was not a nice descent, but proved much more fun on the return trip the next day.
Needless to say, we were relieved to reach the bottom and find more bog bridges, and even more relieved to find the turnoff to Imp Campsite. We took a lunch break on our tent platform, set up the tent and stashed our food in the bear box, and tanked up our water supply (using a Sawyer Squeeze filter that worked great the whole trip, and was quite idiot-proof even for me). Finding it still early, we hit the trail again with much lighter packs, and wound our way north over the gorgeous ledges that form the route to Moriah’s summit. Actually, we very nearly missed the summit and would have except for a camp group with sharper eyes and clearer heads. We reached the intersection with Kenduskeag trail and couldn’t figure out where Carter-Moriah went…and then a kid from the camp group spotted a blue blaze on a sheer rock ledge where the trail went up. It was a fun scramble, and short, and the views from the summit were absolutely worth it. After a short rest, we surrendered the summit to the camp kids and headed back to Imp, playing leapfrog with three very fast young men from the group.  We made dinner in a ledgy area just north of the campsite (H’s idea) and enjoyed the views.

(more to follow…must get ready for work)

 

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Days 0-3: Garfield, the Twins and Galehead, and Willey

Pictures soon!

We left Boston very late Thursday night–H had to work and I had to meet with a friend/mentor about a new project, so we didn’t hit the road until at least 8PM after inhaling sandwiches from the wonderful Clover Food Lab in Harvard Square. I, with my usual terrific planning, had not reserved a campsite. So when we finally arrived at Sugarloaf I and II campgrounds in the Whites at 11PM, we parked in the pitch darkness near the entrance of II and walked around with headlamps peering at the signs in front of each site. All but 2 sites were either reserved for the next day, or occupied…we felt very lucky to find one nice spot that appeared neither to be reserved nor occupied, and pitched our tent with a minimum of fuss, finally getting to bed around 1AM.

The next morning we were awoken by a polite but insistent call from the campground host. Apparently someone had goofed writing on the sign and the site was actually reserved! Fortunately, a nonreservable site opened up while we were snoozing and we were able to haul the tent (sleeping pads and all) two sites over, and set up camp for the next couple of days. In the end, it was a good thing, because our original site was smack-dab in the middle of a family reunion that stretched across at least 3 sites and featured what appeared to be a full bar laid out on a picnic table!
We got a late start that first day owing to our late night the prior evening, and decided on a hike that looked interesting but not too taxing–Garfield. We ascended via the Garfield trail. This is a lovely wooded trail that’s in good shape and involves a minimum of the crazy ups/downs and rock heaps that I feel like are a characteristic feature of WM trails. The only remotely challenging part was the last 0.2 miles up to the summit cone, which is well worth the (small) effort.

For such a relatively easy trail, we had the mountain largely to ourselves. On the summit (the busiest place), we encountered a guy who was partway through a Pemi traverse, and a handful of through-hikers. We ended up walking a bit with one of the northbound through-hikers. He was getting towards the end of his journey and was clearly feeling it. He had been inspired to do the AT by an uncle who’d hiked the trail before, and they’d planned on actually hiking together. Just 2 weeks before they were scheduled to start, though, the uncle was killed in a car crash. This through-hiker was carrying his uncle’s ashes and scattering them along the trail. He told us that was what kept him going even on the worst days. He’d also met couple, both with type 1 diabetes and insulin pumps, and a man with a pacemaker, all of whom were through-hiking as well. Crazy.

We finished the 10 mile hike in 6.5 hours (with a very leisurely pace and a foot-soaking in one of the brooks on the way down), stopped at Foster’s Crossroads (an amazing gas station and junk store) to get camp wood, and headed back for a mellow evening.

The next day we were up earlier and at the trailhead for North Twin trail by 8ish. North Twin was the first trail I’d seen with really significant damage from Hurricane Irene. We’d otherwise been hiking in snow or in less affected areas, it seems. The trail was eroded in the lower parts and it was quite a sad sight to see.

We passed two large groups along the first part of the trail before the last river crossing, never to see them again. I suspect they might have been beginner hiking groups because they were talking in detail about water crossings. Further on, we ran into a third large group of people again moving slowly…but this time it was Randy Pierce, the Mighty Quinn, and their entourage. It was inspiring to watch them all working together, and to watch Randy tackle the challenging terrain (and triumph) without the aid of sight.

In contrast to the Garfield hike, the trails to the Twins and Galehead were strenuous, with lots of ups and downs on paths that seemed to be nothing but boulders at times. The few sections that were flat were so remarkable that H felt like he had to document them. The outlook from North Twin was lovely, as was the view from South Twin’s summit.

The descent from South Twin to Galehead hut was short but arduous, requiring careful foot placement with each step on the boulders. We paused at the hut for a quick break (and to buy a tasty but stingily small chunk of applesauce cake), then made the quick trip along Frost trail to Galehead’s rather boring wooded summit. The outlook was nice, though.

By the time we reached the flats along North Twin trail again (having returned the way we came), I was pretty footsore and we were both sweaty and tired. A soak in the Little River proved the perfect antidote. Revived, we returned to camp–admiring the elaborate campsites of people camping along Haystack Road along the way.

On our third morning, we had a leisurely breakfast of our usual oatmeal and discussed where to hike. An easy day hike, we agreed, would be just the thing. Mt Willey (which we had missed back in our February trip to the Willey range) seemed just the thing. Only six miles round trip, and if it was steep, how bad could it be?

Willey is not an easy day hike.

We started on Ethan Pond trail and passed some weary looking through-hikers heading for Webster Cliff. A few were napping in the parking lot as we walked to the trailhead. The initial stretch of Ethan Pond is rocky and definitively goes up, but the footing is good and it’s never particularly challenging. The first short stretch of the Willey Range trail (coming from the north) is the same, maybe even flatter in places. It’s very deceiving, because then the trail goes up, ascending about 1650 feet in 0.7 miles. It is steep. Eventually you get to the ladders, but before that the trail is eroded and covered in loose slippery rock. The ladders…well, the picture speaks for itself.

These are only about half the ladders. In total there seemed to be about 10-12 of varying lengths. It was work. At one point I sat down in despair, unsure if I could bring myself to keep going up but not really wanting to back down the way I came either.
The summit, when we finally reached it, was perfectly fine.

But if I had to do it again, I’d come from the south/west end, or do a long loop going south/west from Ethan Pond, swinging over the rest of the Willey Range, and going back through the Pemigewasset wilderness instead.
By the time we reached the bottom of the trail (after a long debate of the pros and cons of going the other way along the trail, coming out by Highland Center, and doing a long road walk, before eventually deciding to just get it over with), we were whupped, so whupped that the short shlep to look at Ethan Pond seemed way too far. So we slogged back down Ethan Pond trail, chatted with a father and son pair who were coming from an overnight at Nancy Pond and weren’t sure where they’d parked the car, and finally emerged back into the parking lot to watch some trail magic occurring and to go eat our own lunch across Route 302 by a swampy part of the Saco River.

Stats:
Day 1: Mt Garfield via Garfield trail and Garfield Ridge trail, rt 10 miles, 3100 ft

Day 2: North Twin, South Twin, Galehead via North Twin trail, North Twin Spur, Twinway, and Frost trail, rt 13.8 miles, ??? ft

Day 3: Mt Willey via Ethan Pond trail and Willey Range trail, 6 miles, 3050 ft

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We’re back! (NH4k #21-29!)

H and I got back last night from six glorious days of hiking. We conquered nine new peaks (Garfield, Galeheard, Moriah, Madison, Middle Carter, South Carter, North and South Twin), backcountry camped, and faced many fears. Well…I faced many fears. The only fear H faced was that of running out of snacks–a danger only on our very last day when provisions started to get low. We met some great people on and off the trail, including the amazing Randy Pierce and his entourage. It was a wonderful chance to decompress and recharge in preparation for the next three busy months (difficult rotations, fellowship interviews, finishing up the move).

I will get pictures and stories up soon!

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Oatmeal cookies

I have a great disdain for most oatmeal cookies, and it’s because I grew up thinking that my mother’s extraordinary version were the standard. Over the weekend, I got the recipe from her (again), and I thought I’d share…while putting it somewhere I can’t lose it.

My mother’s oatmeal cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, blend together until creamy:

  • 2/3 c granulated sugar
  • 2/3 c brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 c soft shortening
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla

In a separate bowl, mix until well combined:

  • 1 c flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves

Stir wet and dry ingredients together until well mixed. Then fold in:

  • 3 c regular oats
  • 1 c broken walnuts
  • 1 c raisins

Drop in tablespoons onto parchment or Silpat lined baking sheets and bake 12-15 minutes.

This recipe makes an enormous number of cookies…and we doubled it! Because I’m trying to use things up, I ended up tweaking the recipe a bit. Used a flax “egg” (1 Tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tbsp water) instead of real egg. White whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose. Unbleached cane sugar instead of white and brown sugar, and mixed in 3 Tbsp blackstrap molasses to make brown sugar equivalent. Increased vanilla to 1 1/2 tsp and added a little extra cinnamon. Used tart dried cherries, dried cranberries, and raisins in combination. Finally, we used butter instead of shortening and browned it before using (it was a little freezer-y). The cookies turned out very well (it’s a forgiving recipe), but were more on the dry crumbly side than with the original formulation. I think the whole wheat flour probably could have used some extra water.

Anyways, they’re delicious. It’s that little kick of cloves that keeps them from being insipid, and the high proportion of oats makes them healthy. Right?

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Audubon exploration and trip planning

It’s been a busy past few weeks, despite basically being able to set my own schedule. I took the last of the three licensing exams (and passed), have finally finished applying to fellowship, and am most of the way through a bunch of chart reviews. Last weekend we had a surprise visit from two dear friends, and took them to see the Tall Ships and eat fried clams. This weekend was much more of a work weekend–Saturday we spent much of the day hurriedly packing and moving my junk to my new home about 20 miles south on the Bay.

On Sunday, we decided we needed an adventure and hit the highway to the Long and Ell Ponds reservation (Audubon/Nature Conservancy/DEM) to hike. The description on ASRI’s website was succinct, so we had no idea what to expect. Other hikes in this area have ranged from boring to fantastic.

We were not disappointed. Almost immediately the well-blazed trail headed through a rhododendron forest over boulders and wound up a large rock mass to a 3-way fork. One branch led to a lookout on a granite ledge over Ell Pond, a national landmark with a plaque to prove it. A beaten path leads from the far end of the ledge through the trees down to the edge of the pond. The only sounds we could hear as we stood by the side of the pond were the wind and the far-off drone of an airplane.

The middle fork, labeled “Hemlock Forest,” drops steeply down a rocky cleft over rock steps. In my experience, it’s uncommon to find such a rugged trail in this part of New England, and it was a delightful surprise! The trail winds through more rhododendrons, over a brook on well-constructed bridge, and up and down more ledges. It passes the southern edge of Long Pond and eventually breaks out by a parking lot near the end on the pond, then takes a hairpin turn through a dense shrubby forest. At this point, the bugs came out in force and we had to pick up the pace a bit. The trail breaks out onto a large flat ledge where we saw the backside of a white tailed deer crashing through the woods, and a ton of attractive black and white dragonflies. From there it heads back into the trees and snakes around large and s mall boulders, many piled up in rock walls or cairns by farmers long ago. We turned around at the point where the path comes near the shore of Asheville Pond. Standing on the rocks amongst the waterlilies, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. (Later we found out that we were a short distance from another parking area.)

One neat feature of this trail was a section that ran along a ridge of granite that protruded out of the forest around it. H was so taken with it that he had to capture it on film.

On the way back, we took the third branch to Long Pond. This path ran along the tops of rock masses high above the edge of the pond, then dips down into the forest and comes up next to a huge boulder. From the far end of the boulder it was an easy scramble up to the top, and we were rewarded with views of the pond and the forest. By this point it had started to rain a bit, so no pictures. The ominous clouds finally forced us to head reluctantly back to the car.

It was a fantastic little hike. It looks like the trail actually connects to a longer network of trails to explore–and we will definitely return to do so. We are gearing up for vacation in the Whites later this week and this was a perfect warm up.

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Summertime strikes, and car camping

It has abruptly gotten hot and muggy here in New England. Yesterday was dry, clear, and almost chilly in the shade. Today it was in the mid-90s with a heat index >100. Despite having the afternoon off, I couldn’t bring myself to do much more than lie around in the apartment, sluggishly working on fellowship applications and reading trashy novels (I have gotten addicted to the Game of Thrones series, to my embarrassment). When the sun started to set, I dragged myself out for a short run (about 4 miles) that I’ve been meaning to do for a while, one that incorporates an number of ups and downs on the big hill in town. It may not have been the best day for it. Now that it’s dark, I’ve finally gotten around to doing laundry and making a last-minute run to the grocery store for fruit and popsicles, the only things I seem to want to eat once the temperatures are above 85.

Thoughts on car camping:

As of this time, we haven’t actually yet backpacked, so take this with a grain of salt. Hopefully we’ll get that experience over the summer. At the end of our long hike last Saturday, I found myself sort of wishing that we’d camped in the backcountry  so as to be able to take things a little more slowly. On the other hand, it was awfully nice not to have to haul a tent, sleeping gear, cooking gear, and food (as well as the 10 essentials) up and down the peaks. And I have to say, I kind of love car camping. It’s nice to have a base camp to leave all your junk. Not carrying your gear leaves a little more room for slop, which is good when you plan things at the last minute the way we sometimes do. We do car camp in a pretty minimalist way, but I can’t help but admire (even though I sometimes  also scorn) the plush setups some of my fellow campers have…particularly when I can smell them cooking bacon and pancakes on their Coleman stoves in the morning and we’re eating oatmeal. I particularly enjoy the camping habits of Boy Scout troops, though I prefer to camp a fair distance away from them. We did feel like we were camping quite luxuriously this past weekend, though, between the palatial new tent (in which H could both stretch out full length AND sit up) and the new Eton crank radio (courtesy of my new local NPR membership!) that allowed us to listen to NPR with breakfast.

Much of my love of car camping comes from fond memories as a child. I particularly remember one of our first camping trips when I must have been quite small. It was evening, and must have been a damp day because the grass was slightly dewy…my mother, sister, and I were blowing bubbles and they clung to the grass and shone in the lamplight. It was quite magical. I have also been lucky enough not to camp near disrespectful others. I think this is one of the great dangers of car camping–getting stuck next to the party animals–and can be a huge turnoff. But for now, it remains lovely.

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