Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
NH day trips with Han Solo - December 2001
After briefly meeting Han Solo at the Gathering, I noticed the "APB" that went out afterwards had a Boston area number. Turns out he grew up just a few blocks from where I lived for ten years and his parents are still there. I'm now just 1.5 miles away.
Anyway, I told him to look me up when he came to town and we would go hiking... That was last weekend.
Our first trip was an AMC hike up Tecumseh, a 4,003' mountain in the southern Whites. I don't do much hiking with the AMC but another friend was going on this hike and it was fun to carpool. Although it was December and cold, there was just an inch or so of snow and the conditions were definitely more three season hiking than winter.
I probably wore the least rugged footwear of the group with my NB961s. While not the typical shoes seen on an AMC hike in December, they were fine for the occasion. Certainly not the overkill of the plastic boots that one novice was wearing. Although I keep wanting a bit more torsional rigidity, I continue to favor those shoes over my newer Merrills. The going was slick in a few places with the little bit of snow coating the ledgy rocks but the pace of a group of ten made us go slow enough that it didn't matter. Eventually, we did split into two groups for some of the hike up. We met near the summit and all summited together. Not much of a view from the tree and fog covered summit. We all went down mostly together as a group.
The trail skirts one of the Waterville Valley ski area trails. We stopped both on the way up and down to catch the view from the downhill trail of still mostly exposed rock. But, there was skiing and snowmaking on the neighboring slopes just above us.
The next day, we took a short trip up to Mt. Monadnock and climbed by way of the Pumpelly trail. As usual, I did see someone I know at the summit and was able to introduce Han to Larry Davis, a 'regular' on Monadnock.
Fast forward to Thursday... I had been talking about contra dancing in the car over the weekend so brought Han to the Thursday night dance. He had a good time and is already looking forward to checking out the Lansing area dances.
On Saturday, we got a late start and drove directly to Glencliff. Han wanted to check out Moonbow's Gearskins - OK, yes, so did I ;-). We stopped by to figure out when would be a good time that evening and Big Jon ended up joining us for the hike that day and the next.
Rather than take the AT up Mooselauke, the three of us climbed the Carriage Road but with a foot or so of powder on the trail, the going was slow. Since we didn't start hiking until around noon, we aborted the summit attempt and turned around at the Snapper Trail intersection about 1 mile from the south summit. Going down was a whole bunch of fun as it usually is in the winter. While there wasn't enough of a base yet to just glissade down in our boots, we were wishing for our skiis. The conditions and grade of that road would have been perfect for them. I wore my Limmers for the first time all year for this hike. I had given Han my gaitors as he was wearing NB804s so my feet did get wet from melting snow that got stuck inside the ankle of my boots. But, as long as we didn't stop for too long, my feet stayed plenty warm.
That evening and the next morning, we were all feeling the effects of pulling our feet through the snow. Lifting our legs to climb stairs was an interesting experience and we were glad to be going primarily downhill on Sunday.
On Sunday, we hiked south from 25c, past the new Ore Hill shelter and Atwell Hill Rd to 25a. I have good memories of the 25c trailhead from the trail magic I received from Mother Hen during my thruhike, a winter hike with some friends, and some trail maintenance with Key-Mho-Saw-Bee, Mrs Gorp (who's memories may not be so good) and others from the ATC and DOC.
By the time we got out there and started hiking, we had loosened up a bit and the hiking itself seemed to work out whatever left over kinks we had from the previous day's hiking. We saw an incredible number of animal tracks in the snow. Deer and rabbit were pretty easy to ID but many others left us wondering... There were tiny tracks with a dragging tail, others that might have been squirrel or marten, and some that looked canine but whether it was fox, coyote, or a neighborhood dog, who knows? We saw none of the animals but saw and heard a few birds. A moose sighting would have made Han's day but we didn't even see any moose tracks, much less the animal.
The new shelter is great. It is south facing and enjoys the full benefit of the sun. For a winter hike, it definitely made for a pleasant break point. Look for the H2O sign in front of the shelter and the Privy sign in back. I didn't follow either sign.
The snow depth was a bit lower here than up on the slopes of Mooselauke. Probably in the 6-9" range. For the most part, the dry fluffy snow was easy to walk through but negotiating bog bridges that are barely visible was always "fun" ;-).
The hike down after the shelter was very fast. Crossing Atwell Hill Road, we looked back to note the northbound DOC sign with accurate mileage (to the tenth of a mile) to the next shelter, road crossing, and Paris (go figure).
Sunday night, Han and I went into Lincoln for dinner and to check out McKenzie Gear, an outfitter with a strange mix of gear that just happens to include Red Ledge, Feathered Friends, Golite, and Montane. I couldn't resist buying the Montane featherlite pants. :-)
On Monday, we knew we needed to get out early to get Han back to town for his family Christmas celebration. So, we started at 8:00 and did the four miles from 25c back to Glencliff. Big Jon declined to join us for this day's hike.
The weather had warmed noticably by the time we left in the morning. Rather than snow on the car from the night's precipitation, we had to scrape freezing rain off. But, the rain had mostly stopped before we started hiking.
We quickly realized that once again, there were many animal tracks criss crossing our path. There were also deer tracks that we ended up following for miles. While some of the tracks were obviously old, some were so new they made me look around to see if the animal was still nearby. But, no such luck.
As we climbed Mt. Mist, we ascended into the fog and mist. Somehow it seemed appropriate for that mountain. As Han said, it was a good thing the summit was marked or we wouldn't have known we had hit the summit. We started descending and soon arrived at yet another DOC sign. This one, pointing out a side trail to a viewpoint was marked "Beware of tourists." Given the fog, we skipped the sidetrail.
We soon arrived at a T intersection with a double white blaze. To the left was the Webster Slide trail to the top of Mt. Webster 1 mile up. We took the right turn to go down towards Lake Watchamacallit (Wachipauka) and found ourselves following the DOC tiger strips rather than white blazes. This trail quickly brought us to the Lake which we could tell would be a really nice place for a break in the summer. But, we also couldn't find the trail out of there. The DOC blazes seemed to end. We started to backtrack up the hill a bit but decided to just bushwhack given that we could hear the road from the lake.
We had my compass but no map (this was off my White Mountains map and I hadn't brought my AT maps). We knew the approximate direction of the road (SE to NW) and the trail in relationship to that, and backtracking would be an absolute cinch given our snowy footprints should we not be able to figure out how to continue north.
So, we followed the path of least resistance through the trees for a while and then stumbled upon a DOC blaze. Although we couldn't see any hint of a trail, we knew there was one. Han stayed within site of the tree while I scouted ahead. Based on the compass reading, he thought I was heading too far to the right so I turned left, looked up, and 50' to my left, I spotted another DOC blaze. We followed this process a few times until I spotted a true, honest-to-goodness, white blaze. We had figured out fairly early on that we probably turned right to go down to the lake when there was a some less obvious trail straight ahead to stay on the AT. We had just found it again.
Following the AT was much easier and we were once again able to make good time even as we climbed the Wyatt Hill, the last hill before descending to Glencliff. As we were starting the final mile or so of descent into Glencliff, it started sleeting and raining but we were warm while we were moving so just hiked wet knowing we could change as soon as we got to the hostel. It took us a bit longer to get to the road than expected as I think we were angling toward the road rather than going straight at it. We could hear trucks seemingly close by but it took forever to get there.
The snow today was somewhat compacted by the rain we had and the snow we kicked up skittered across the surface rather than sinking in as it had in yesterday's powder. Pulling our feet through the snow took a bit more effort but with less than 6" on the ground, we could mostly just pick up our feet a bit higher.
On Sunday and Monday, I wore my Sorels and had toasty warm and dry feet all day on both days.
With any luck, the Whites won't have any more major melts this winter and the snow we hiked in all weekend will be an excellent base for more snow. While there was certainly enough snow to support snowshoes, snowshoes were unnecessary this weekend. The added weight of the snowshoes would have probably been more work than the extra effort to break the trail in the powder.
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