Zealand (NH4k#16), the Bonds (NH4k#17, 18, 19) and Eisenhower (NH4k#20)!

So, disclaimer: We actually bagged Zealand on April 9th. It was the single 4000-footer we got over vacation. I have a pretty bad attitude about it as a peak…long hike, no summit views.

ImageI don’t know why it comes out so large, but anyways, that’s me and the summit and a bunch of snow.

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In contrast, this past weekend had utterly gorgeous weather. I got coverage for sick calls (thanks Steph and Diana!) and H put his experiments in the freezer, and we snuck off to NH. Initially the trip seemed doomed–I had a rotten week, H had a rotten week, I left for Boston way later than I intended, we didn’t have a campsite reserved, and 60 miles up I93 the car filled with a terrible smell of burning rubber. We stopped at the rest area/NH liquor store just beyond the tolls, filled with a sense of dread…but no smoke was emanating, everything seemed intact, and the smell quickly cleared. In retrospect, it was probably the sketchy looking station wagon ahead of us, or the road construction. We got to the Sugarloaf campgrounds around 10PM. Amazingly, a terrific spot was just waiting for us, and we were able to pitch our spacious new tent and hit the sack before midnight.

The next morning we took advantage of the long daylight hours and got a later start than planned (around 8:30AM). The beginning and end of the hike was on Zealand trail, a relatively flat and easy trail that both of us felt comfortable hiking with headlamps, and we felt comfortable aiming to be back on Zealand around 8PM to catch the last light of the day.

Image

There were tons of ladyslippers!

Views from the Zeacliff outlook off the Twinway.

The trails were mostly dry with the occasional muddy patch.The Twinway was much rougher without its covering of snow, but did make things easier in some places, especially at the base of the ladder near Zealand summit.

View from the summit of Guyot, just past where we’d had to turn around in April.

View from the West Bond spur nearing the summit. This was an easy trail except for the last 100 yards or so, which climbed fairly steeply over boulders.

View of the Twins…

and of Bondcliff.

Summit of Mount Bond (I think–it seemed to be the highest point).

Bondcliff.

Looking back at the Bondcliff trail.

It was an epic, ambitious, gorgeous hike. This is by far the farthest we’ve ever hiked in one day. Our second farthest was Carrigain (14 miles) in the winter on well-packed snow–no comparison. H did amazingly well. I didn’t fare so well (knee pain, hotspots, many many bites from blackflies). But, after a lot of snacks, nine hours of sleep, and a leisurely morning, we both felt ready to tackle another (albeit shorter) hike.

Stats:

  • Route: Zealand Trail to Twinway to Bondcliff and back, plus out and back on West Bond spur
  • Total distance: 19.3 miles
  • Total time: around 12.5 hours
  • Total elevation gain: around 6000 feet according to H’s GPS, though it felt like more
  • Total number blackfly bites: at least 15 on one of my shoulders alone

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On Sunday, we packed up the palatial tent and hit the road for the short drive to Edmands Path with the goal of bagging Eisenhower. Last November we admired Eisenhower from the summit of Pierce, but ran out of time to hike there via Crawford Path.

As we started up the trail, we passed many tired, sweaty hikers coming down from an AMC-led three day hike. The beginning of Edmands Path is flat and easy, and winds through lush green forests and over three brooks on well-maintained bridges. Eventually it begins to climb and it continues for what feels like a long time (though it actually isn’t). The footing is surprisingly good, with less of the “jumble of rocks” style trail so popular in the Whites. Just when you’re starting to get tired of climbing, you arrive at the stone gate, take a sharp left, and the trail flattens out (while still sneakily climbing). The trail above the stone gate was lovely…a ledgy brook,

banks of wildflowers,

and, once high enough up, views.

There are a couple of dodgy sections over boulders and eroded areas, but on the whole it’s a pleasant walk. And then you find yourself in the saddle between Eisenhower and Monroe.

It is a magical place, a little meadow 4000 feet up with a smelly but picturesque little alpine tarn.

We ascended via the Eisenhower Loop Trail to the summit itself, with panoramic views (and some amusing dog-watching).

Monroe and Washington.

On the descent down the other side of the loop, the alpine plants all seemed to be in bloom! I imagine that the Alpine Garden right now must be spectacular. We wended our way slowly down, admiring the tiny flowers.

H and I ate lunch sitting on a slab of granite, basking in the sun and enjoying the breeze, trying to stretch the afternoon out as long as possible0. On our descent, we passed an older gentleman who paused to tell us the story of Edmands Path* and catch his breath. It was sad to get back in the car and head south, but it was a fantastic weekend that washed away the badness of the week–and I know we’ll be back soon.

Stats:

  • Route: Edmands Path to Eisenhower Loop to Crawford Path back to Edmands Path
  • Total distance: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2750 ft

*According to him it was built especially for guests of the Mt Washington Hotel. They would ascend on horseback until they reached the stone gate, then from there would dismount and walk the rest of the way. “Even the ladies in their long skirts!” he said.

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Oh yes

I ran 20 miles on Saturday kind of by accident. It felt pretty darn good. On Sunday I saw the lovely ladies of CT, plus Alyssa’s lovely husband and children (who did remarkably well under adverse conditions). It was a short visit, but satisfying, and reminded me of just how much these 3 extraordinary women did to keep me sane during med school. To cap off the weekend, H and I went to Parker Woodland in Coventry, our favorite Audubon refuge in the state, and finally did both loops. This refuge has 7 miles of trails, much of which are rocky, rooty, and feel much more remote than they are. The weather was gorgeous and clear to  start–but about halfway out the sky turned dark and started to downpour on us. It felt just like hiking in NH!

And now I should go study for those pesky USMLE step 3 exams I have to take next week and keep trying to forget about. Oops.

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Finally, pics from hiking

I got distracted by a month back on the Pedi wards. It felt terrible, but wasn’t objectively so bad–but it certainly ate into my sitting-around-excessively-late-and-futzing-on-the-internet time. And H graduated! Really, he was done after he defended in December, but this made it official AND was celebrated with a lovely visit from his folks from far-off WA (hi Stacia and David!). These were very lovely distractions.

So, pictures! These are from the last day, which was gorgeous and sunny. Tradition requires that we hike up Boott Spur at least once per vacation, so that’s what we did.

Requisite goofy picture at the Tuckerman Ravine trailhead.

I love the avalanche and falling ice signs. Very important message, but the faces on the stick figures running away are priceless!

Here is the ladder that started it all…

View from the first viewpoint

It’s hard to see, but some clever person adapted this former alpine zone sign with a message of their own*.

View from Split Rock.

Ascending in the above-treeline section…it is exactly as steep as it looks. We lost the trail and I made H turn around in a steep section just above where I was in this picture. It was astonishingly clear and beautiful, but windy, and I didn’t feel confident enough in my own (very limited) winter above-treeline experience to push on.

Amazing sculpted snowscape.

And more around a half-buried cairn.

View into Tuckerman Ravine from Harvard Rock.

And a view up at the ridge where we’d been headed.

So then we descended, feeling a little tired after a week of breaking trail and slopping through snow. We had seen a lot of moose tracks all week without seeing much additional evidence of moose, and so we didn’t think too much of moose tracks on the trail at first…but then they seemed very fresh. We had just started speculating on how recently the moose had come through when we came around a hairpin turn…

And there was the moose! (The brown blob in the middle of the picture is its rear end, and the diagonal blob peeking out of the trees is its nose). It (she?) was snacking on some delicious evergreen bark along the trail. At first we were entertained by watching it from a safe distance. Then we started to get impatient and made a lot of noise to try and get it to move along. The moose was not impressed and continued its leisurely meal, plodding along a foot or two along the trail every so often. Finally we decided to bushwhack around the moose. Of course, the first thing that interested it was the sound of us crashing through the brush. For a moment I thought it was going to charge or come investigate–fortunately after we picked up the pace, we got through the woods and successfully circumvented the moose without incident.

While waiting for the moose to relocate, I noticed this very large, very blood filled moose tick sitting in a moose print (finger for scale). Impressive.

It was a beautiful if somewhat frustrating hike. This was the second time we have had to turn around on Boott Spur because of weather (last time was thick fog), but even so it’s hard to be disappointed.

More to follow!

 

*The sign reads “Mt Washington [with an up arrow] FAR”

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Week o’ hiking: NH4k sort of fail, but tons of other great stuff!

H and I just got back from vacation. I had ambitious plans for the week–we were going to do the Bonds, and one or two of the northern Presidentials, and maybe some of the Carters…all the trail conditions were looking like late May rather than mid April, and I was feeling pretty good about hiking at a usually suboptimal time of year. Things looked good. We packed microspikes “just in case” but snow and ice were reportedly low. And then shoulder season in the Whites showed its usual colors, and it started snowing the night we arrived, and continued to precipitate until the day before we left. So…we bagged Zealand. Um, and that was it.  But–we got to experience some true winter-like above treeline conditions (good and bad), met a wide variety of fascinating and entertaining people, saw (way too much) wildlife, and hiked in very beautiful and peaceful places. It was great. Plus, on the far end of the week, we saw some friends who were way overdue for some quality time.

Pictures and commentary to follow later, but some random thoughts for now.

  • Much snow can fall in April.
  • Moose are large, smelly, slow moving, and do not care about your wishes.
  • I never fail to be entertained by my fellow guests at AMC lodging (stories to follow).
  • Hiking in shoulder season is way harder than in full summer or winter (excepting serious above treeline kind of stuff).
  • MSR Evo snowshoes are the bomb diggety.

I also mean to post my gear list, not so much because it’s so great or because anyone else should care, but because I am really trying not to pack so much damn junk every time, and for the first time I feel like I hit the balance of having just enough stuff without having too much.

I realize too that I’m way behind on some other things on the list, and I have a new thing to add (#n+1: volunteer as a medic at the Boston Marathon next spring), and there was one other thing that I wanted to write, but I seem to have forgotten and I want to go for a run before the blissfully long daylight runs out.

 

xo

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Weekend

We spent the weekend in DC with some dear friends. It always astonishes and delights me how  a friendship can be picked up very nearly as it was left, even if that was 2 years before…I am a terrible long distance friend, and that bad trait is exacerbated by residency. Long distance starts to become “you do not live in my house.” I don’t call people, I email sporadically, I kind of suck. But I am so grateful to have friends who forgive these faults and don’t hold them against me.

We have vacation next week, and are planning on hiking for most of it. (Location TBD by weather, etc.) I am dehydrating things like crazy. Celery, leeks/green onions/garlic, tomato chunks, green beans, 2 kinds of rice, peppers, mushrooms, spinach…and right now I have a jar of spaghetti sauce in the oven (minus the jar), and hummus, salsa, and refried beans in the dehydrator. Hopefully we will eat well next week. I need to come up with better things to eat on the trail. Pictures later if I can motivate myself.

I also realize that I am overdue for a running update. I know and am disappointed by my weekly running tally, but will focus on the most recent week and long runs:

– 3 weeks ago: ran 3 days total, long run was 13 miles + 1 extra to ice cream

– 2 weeks ago: ran 3 days total, long run was 16 miles (sort of inadvertently)

– Last week: ran 3 days total (are you noticing a theme here?). Monday was bushed. Tuesday in clinic forever. Wednesday saw my sister. Thursday ran 8 miles. Friday was long run day, 15 miles (felt pretty good, then got on the plane and felt less good). Saturday I socialized. Sunday ran 10 miles in a very beautiful and very long system of trails hidden in otherwise yucky suburban northern VA.

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Fabulous resources

For those who want to hike in NE (and I seem to be finding more and more):

Happy hiking!

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Trip report: Mts Tom, Field, and (attempt) Willey (NH4k #13-14) and Mt Carrigain (NH4k #15)

Day 1: Tom, Field and (not quite) Willey via Avalon Trail, A-to-Z Trail, Mt Tom Spur, Willey Range Trail, Avalon Trail.

We drove up to Crawford Notch Sunday morning, arriving around 11AM, topped up our water supply at Highland Center, and hit the trail.

The weather was gorgeous–clear, sunny, and cool but not freezing–and we made fairly quick progress to the intersection with A-to-Z.

We paused for a quick break, and chatted with an older gentleman who had stopped for an M&M break. He was on his way to Mt Avalon and suggested we stop there as well. We kept it in mind (see below) but continued onwards towards Mt Tom. The A-to-Z trail was steeper than what we’d traveled on earlier, but still quick going on nicely packed snow.

Another quick break at the Mt Tom Spur intersection, then up the short spur through a dense forest of tiny trees, up a steeper section (with a bushwhacked detour around the most dicey spot), and onto the summit!

Although it had gotten overcast, it was still clear below the clouds, and the views into the Pemigewasett wilderness were fantastic! We admired the views a while, until the chilly winds drove us back into the trees and down the trail.

Another break at an intersection (that’s me gesturing with a peanut butter sandwich), then onward towards Mt Field.

The trail was less well packed than A-to-Z, but still quite manageable thanks to the snowshoers who had come through before. It was a surprise to step off the trail and find myself thigh-deep in snow. All around was a wonderland of snow-frosted evergreens!

On the summit of Mt Field we encountered a pair of grey jays, who decided we might be good for some snacks and followed us for the rest of our trip (they were sorely disappointed).

By now it was starting to get later in the afternoon, and we had to decide whether or not to go after Willey or to turn around and head back. We set a turnaround time and continued on.

We were rewarded with these views from the side of Mt Field. The trail was even less broken out (rough, but still doable without snowshoes) and full of ups and downs. We made good time, but were left with a half mile to go to Willey’s summit at our turnaround time. Not knowing what the descent on the Avalon Trail would look like, we reluctantly turned around, with summit of Willey tantalizingly visible before us.

The views from Mt Avalon were incredible! H with Southern Presidentials and Washington behind him…

Webster-Jackson (I think)…

We made a brisk descent along the steep sections thanks to some butt-sliding and impromptu skiing, and were back at the trailhead by 5:30, well before our goal of 6PM. In retrospect we probably could have made it to Willey and back safely, but I am cautious by nature, especially on trails I don’t know (which is still most of them).

We had a good but expensive dinner at Highland Center and headed to the Notchland Inn, our home for the night.

Day 2: Carrigain via Sawyer River Rd and Signal Ridge Trail

We spent Saturday night at the Notchland Inn, which was lovely. The highlights were giant friendly Bernese mountain dogs, a bathtub, and a fireplace. We did not get up early, as had been my ambitious plan (residency has cured me of ever wanting to get up early again), but enjoyed breakfast and a lot of coffee before we eventually got underway to Sawyer River Road, our destination a few miles down Rt 302. The road was flat and just a touch slushy and sticky. We were passed by a number of surprisingly polite snowmobilers before reaching the Signal Ridge trailhead.

The trail started off flat, with many water crossings…

with some interesting snowbridges and ice formations…

The crossings were only a little dicey in the morning.

We quickly found ourselves at the intersection with the Carrigain Notch trail.

Carrigain Brook was quite unencumbered by ice! (But still easily crossed with a rock hop.)

The flat part ended shortly thereafter and we began to ascend for what seemed like forever.

We were tantalized by a few views through the trees as we plodded upwards.

Finally the trees began to get shorter and the views more spectacular…

and we broke out of the trees and found ourselves on Signal Ridge!

A few minutes (and a few pictures) later, we arrived on the summit and climbed the fire tower to revel in the extraordinary 360 views!

Signal Ridge as seen from above.

The marker for Signal Ridge.

I found myself grumpy instead of elated by the views, but that was quickly cured by a cheese sandwich and some trail mix, and H and I soaked in the sun and our surroundings until we started to get chilly, then reluctantly headed down.

The descent was much quicker–a bit of a slide down the steep part just below the summit, and a mixture of foot-skiing and butt-sliding for the rest of the descent. The snow had an interesting tendency to form sticky balls on my microspikes and yank them off. We did the final mile or so of the trail alternating snowshoes and bareboots, and had to slog through the now very squishy snow-slush on Sawyer River Road.

We only saw a few other people on this gorgeous day and gorgeous mountain, but it was kind of nice to have things to ourselves.

Lovely weekend!

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Hiatus, and NH4k #13-15

February was a busy month. I basically did nothing but work (except for that one weekend where I hiked). And I got gastroenteritis, which was neither planned nor welcome.

March is shaping up a little better, so I hope to get back into the swing of things. Had a great hiking weekend, with aspirations of bagging 4 4000-footers, but sleep won out and so got 3 instead. Oh well–just means I have an excuse to hike again! I will post the trip reports (and finally finish the one for Cannon and Hale) soon, although I may have to write a grant first (!). In the meantime, here’s something nice to look at:

I think it’s Eisenhower (as seen from Mt Avalon), but am willing to be corrected.

Running recap:

  • I have been sucking at this. Didn’t run AT ALL last month, which is unusual for me.
  • Wed: 6+ miles (loop by the river, India Pt Park, and South Main)
  • Thurs: 5+ miles (I can’t actually remember where I ran)
  • Fri: had aspirations, but didn’t run because I was trying to get to Boston
  • Sat/Sun: hiked instead!
  • Mon (today): long clinic day, didn’t run but if I ever go to bed I might be able to tomorrow!
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Trip reports: Cannon Mountain (NH4k#11) and Mount Hale (NH4k#12)

I had an unheard-of 3 day weekend thanks to my dear friend Steph, and took a mini-vacation with H to go hiking! It’s been a frenetic couple of weeks and time in the woods was much needed.

Friday evening got busy and I didn’t leave work until almost 10PM…stuffed some food into myself and my gear into the car, got to H’s apartment around midnight and bed around 1AM. We got a late start on Saturday morning, but still managed to hit the road before noon. Thanks to my lead foot, we were at the Lonesome Lake trailhead by around 2PM. The trail was well packed from many feet and it was a quick ascent in microspikes despite our heavy packs. We thought at first that we might try to bag Cannon that evening, but the upper part of Lonesome Lake trail was steep and slippery and the light was starting to fade by 4:30, so we turned around and headed for the hut. Intrepid snowshoers had taken a shortcut across the frozen lake, leaving their tracks behind them. We took a more conventional route on snow covered bog bridges and admired the icy marshes. The sky was clear enough to see Franconia Ridge in the distance.

The fire was lit in the hut and inside it was bumping! A troop of boyscouts had taken over a large swathe of space both in the main building and in the bunks. George, the caretaker, kindly corralled them so that H and I had a place to put down our stuff. We seized seats by the fire and read ancient books from the hut library and watched a pair of men make dinner (complete with a salad course and plate settings) while the boyscouts rehydrated endless freeze-dried meals until it was our turn for the stove. The night got livelier still as a small crowd arrived to celebrate George’s birthday, and was still going strong when H and I went to bed. It was surprisingly quiet in the bunks, though–the only sounds were the rhythmic droning of a scoutmaster snoring next door and the giggling of the young French speaking couple who shared our room as they squashed together on the top bunk. I had worried about getting cold sleeping in the unheated huts, but my fears turned out to be unfounded. H surprised me with a lovely brand new 0F  down bag (on deep discount at EMS) and I spent the night (10F outside) lovely and warm.

We had a quick breakfast early the next morning as others started trickling in, and hit the trail around 9AM just as the mass of boyscouts were waking up. Our plan was to do a big loop that started and ended at the hut before heading back to the parking lot in the evening. We headed out on Cascade Brook.

It too was packed into a snow sidewalk that made for easy walking, quite different from when it was a raging torrent (on the trail, not just in the brook!) back in May, and reached the junction with Kinsman Pond quite easily. Kinsman Pond was slightly less traveled, but still an easy to moderate walk, and I suspect much faster on snow than on uncovered rocks. The pond itself was a gorgeous, alien ice world–and very cold. Snow piled up around the edges of the pond, blurring out the trail and sticking to any warm part of us. We eventually gave up on the trail and walked on the pond itself, passing a group that we’d chatted with earlier at the hut.

H and I had a truncated first lunch in the shelter, but it was so windy that we started to get chilled and had to start moving again. From there we found ourselves very quickly on the Kinsman Ridge trail. It was packed snow over the Cannon Balls, making for fun (if nerve-wracking) ascents and descents in the steeper sections. H tried out the fine art of butt-sliding and decided that that was his new favorite mode of locomotion for the rest of the trip. There was only one really dicey section on the 2nd Cannon Ball (I think) where ice had formed a steep chute that threatened to direct you into a chunk of rock and tree root. I (being a weenie) wanted to turn around at  first, but H gently persuaded me and I eventually slid down feet first on my belly. Very dignified. Unfortunately we didn’t get any pictures either of the chute or me sliding down it.

Finally we came to the intersection with Lonesome Lake trail and the beginning of the ascent to Cannon. I was very nervous about this section. We had come through there last May on an ill-planned dayhike, had encountered a lot of ice, and I had slipped and cracked my head. Not hard enough to do any significant damage, but hard enough to make me think about what could have happened. I wasn’t sure what to expect in the winter besides the worst, and as it turned out I wasn’t too far off. The trail was covered in densely packed snow and in some places thick ice in nearly vertical sheets or so it seems now as I’m recalling it. My microspikes gave me some grip, but I wished more than once for crampons and ice climbing axes (and the knowledge to use them, of course). Somehow we got to the intersection with Hi-Cannon where the trail started to flatten out, and took a moment to regroup and push onward to the summit tower over an easy stretch.

It was freezing on the summit (predicted wind chills -10 to -20F, colder than anywhere I’ve ever been). H’s damp mitts stuck to the railings as we climbed to the top to check out the views on a stunningly clear day. We didn’t tarry though, and beat a retreat into the ski lodge to regroup, drink hot cocoa, and plan our descent. H would have been perfectly happy to slide the whole way down on his rear, but my fear of heights and I were not going to be able to go back the way we came. We ended up taking Kinsman Ridge north down the mountain, and I’m so glad we did. The views from the Rim trail and along the descent until the paths wind into trees were spectacular. The trail itself was moderate at first, then annoyingly steep along some ski trails, but nothing like the conditions on the south side of Cannon. We arrived at the parking area sore-footed and tired, and slogged the last 2 miles back along the bike path to the Lafayette parking lot, singing old marching songs to keep our spirits lively. The car was a welcome sight and it felt wonderful to heave our weighty packs into the back seat and head north on 93 towards Bethlehem, NH, our home for the night.

Total distance: 10.5 miles.

Total elevation change: 2000+ feet.

Hours spent hating on Cannon Mountain: many (but I can check it off the list!).

Part 2 to follow (still)…but pictures below…

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Updates to list (past 30!)

1. Complete the NH 4000-footers peakbagging list!

2. Overnight backpacking trip

3. Multiday backpacking trip

4. Learn to use crampons

5. Go to MoMA in NYC

6. Read and analyze a journal article a month

7. Spend quality time with at least one friend at least once a month

8. Winter hike in the Whites above treeline

9. Cook once a week

10. Dehydrate something at least once a month

11. Get a primary care doctor and get a (very overdue) physical

12. Travel outside of the US

13. Run a marathon

14. Take my partner to Maine…and have tea at Jordan Pond House

15. Become a member of both my local NPR stations

16. Read HP Lovecraft

17. Swim once a month at least (starting in March)

18. Watch all of David Attenborough’s nature documentaries

19. See an IMAX movie at the Museum of Science

20. Visit all the wildlife refuges in the state

21. Bike from Boston to Providence

22. Visit the local museum of natural history

23. And the Mutter in Philadelphia

24. Re-read The Emperor of Maladies

25. Bike the length of RI on bike paths

26. Run at least 4 days a week (3 on bad months) with at least 2 long runs a month (this overlaps with #13)

27. Go raw vegan for a week

28. Donate platelets

29. Go paleo for a week

30. Find a place with a sauna and use it

31. Volunteer at the free clinic

32.Volunteer at a local soup kitchen

 

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