Saturday, August 27, 2011

Darn Irene

First a qualifier.  No Mom, I am not talking about you.  It's that darn hurricane Irene.

We had a 4-day getaway planned and booked in the White Mountains for this weekend to celebrate my birthday and, of all things to say on a hiking blog, we planned to do some hiking.  I had Jefferson, Madison and Adams in my sites using two separate hikes.  But, I guess it's not to be.

The likely arrival of Irene on Sunday caused us to push our trip out for two weeks. Kudos to the Mountain View Grand (one of my favorite venues in the Whites) for allowing us to change our reservation at the last minute without any additional charges.

We instead planned to hike Mt. Monroe on Saturday as a normal day hike.  I took the day off on Friday (because of the aforementioned special day!) and went shopping for hiking gear at EMS and Kittery Trading Post.  Sue has been needing a larger pack and we spent at least an hour trying various packs at EMS to find that perfect fit.  You hikers will know what I mean when I express how important it is to have the perfect fit on a pack.  After all that effort Sue found just the right pack, an Osprey Atmos 50 but, they only had it in mustard color and that would be a hiking fashion faux pas.  So, she later ordered it on-line.  Shame on EMS for only having it in one color but congrats to them for really taking some one on one time with us to get that perfect fit.  Even on-line they only offered it in mustard - why one must ask.

Alas, here it is Saturday morning and now even our Monroe day hike is now cancelled.  Why?

On Thursday I ordered a generator in anticipation of power outages becoming prevalent after Irene rides up the east coast.  I've been wanting a generator for years and it always seems that after a storm passes and the power returns, somehow it drops on my priority list and then never gets done.  Not this time.  Though admittedly I am a little late in the game again.

When I placed the order on Thursday the generator I selected was already "on a truck in New Jersey and it was headed this way."  Friday came and went and the generator did not arrive.  So, instead of hiking Monroe on Saturday I will be waiting around the house for a call from the store to let me know my generator has arrived.  At least I hope to get that call.  If I miss my hike and the generator does not arrive, now that will be a double whammy...

The latest update:  Just learned that both the Appalachain Mountain Club hut system (AMC Closes) and the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF Closes) are closing due to the storms.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2011.08.21 Mt. Carrigan

So is it Mt. Carrigan or Mt. Carrigain?  The evening before this hike we were at a steak fry dinner with about 50 members of our Church.  It was a great evening of fellowship and conversation!  A few in attendance know how Sue and I love to hike and so they were asking about our upcoming adventures.  Whenever I would tell one of them that we were going to hike Mt. Carrigain the following morning, the looks returned were questioning.  Frankly I was questioning the pronunciation of the name of this mountain, a mountain which I was not familiar with.  During the evening someone eventually told me it was pronounced Carrigan, regardless of its spelling.

Turns out I am not the only one confused.  Take a look at the following photos:
Note how this trail sign is clearly spelled CarriGAIN

 On the other hand, this trail sign is spelled CarriGAN.
But, look even closer. Someone has scratched an "i" into this wooden sign between the letters A and N.  Clearly I am not the only one confused.  And, it gets worse.  Check out the next photo.

Those two signs are on the same tree!
So the mystery remains.  Is it Carrigan or Carrigain?

Now more about our hike.

This was a 10-mile round trip hike where we went in and out on the same trail.  The summit elevation is 4,700' and we started at 1,400' for a 3,300' elevation gain.  The first 2.2 miles of this trail is essentially flat having an elevation gain of only 500 feet.  The real hike is the last 2.8 miles.  The entire hike took us exactly 8-hrs.  Conditions may have caused us to finish a little quicker than normal. 

Why you did I say we may have finished more quickly than normal?  One word, thunderstorms.  A strong storm began rolling in at about 3:30 PM and we could hear the thunder becoming closer and louder by the minute.  By 4:00 PM it began to rain and it grew from a mere sprinkle to an all out downpour within a few short minutes.  It was so bad for a time that the rain was coming in sheets.  The wind was blowing, my eyeglasses were fogging up, the trail was puddling and even my rain gear became ineffective.  We hiked as fast as we could and arrived at the car at about 4:45.

We made a bad choice along the way.  We carry backpack covers to keep our gear dry when it rains.  When we took out our rain gear (jackets) we decided to forgo the backpack covers.  Bad idea.  Every stinking thing in my pack became soaked.  The trials and tribulations of hiking in New England.

Let's look at a few photos:

During each hike I enjoy capturing a photo or two of some sort of vegetation.  This week it was some interesting green moss (at least I think it is moss versus grass).  The next photo zooms in on this patch.

This area of the forest was rather spooky.  These red pines made for an eerie backdrop.

Before reaching the summit of Mt. Carrigan you first reach Sawyer Ridge.  On this ridge I found our Christmas tree for next December.  A little garland, a few ornaments and a white angel on top and it will be awesome!

Our first open views from Sawyer Ridge.

We are going to cross the ridge straight ahead of us (you can see a portion of the trail in this photo) and then we will climb the rest of the way to the summit.  If you look closely at the peak you can see the fire tower we will later climb.  I wish we could go straight up to the tower but the trail will instead take us all the way around the left side of the mountain for the final ascent.

Here is a piece of the story that is somewhat disturbing.  The yellow highlighted trail in the image above is the trail in and out that we had taken.  See the other trail that loops way, way around and then arrives at the same summit from the other direction?  Well, that trail is 8-miles longer than the direction we took.  Why is that important?

Within a few minutes of our hike starting this morning, a group of five clearly experienced hikers passed us on the trail.  Several hours later I found we had arrived at the summit within minutes of each other.  I was feeling pretty good about myself.

We all sat on the upper deck of the fire tower and had lunch and conversed.  It was then that I learned they had taken the much longer hike around and still arrived at the same time we did.  How embarrassing!  How depressing!

What follows are several photos I took from the fire tower at the summit of Mt. Carrigan; or is it Mt. Carrigain?

I've always wondered about sections like that in the photo above.  It is a very rugged trail with large stones and boulders somewhat randomly laid.  The question is, were they laid or is this natural.  As I look left and right into the woods there are similar stones but seemingly only a few.  Did someone actually move all of these stones into the path?  Or, is it that stones like this exist in the woods but they are covered by a forest floor made up of decades worth of pine needles and leaves?  Certainly there are times where it is perfectly clear the stones were laid by man to make a long lasting trail but, in areas such as that above it is simply not clear to me.  Natural or man-made...

There were a number of switchbacks on this trail and in many cases some hard working crews had repositioned stones to literally make steps at the corners.  Who does this stuff?

Carrigan or Carrigain; that is the question.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

2011.08.13 Middle Carter via Imp Trail

After a one week break from hiking, it was simply awesome to be back at it.  I'm hoping to hike every weekend at least thru October; no more breaks.  In fact, my 57th birthday is around the corner and as we were hiking today Sue asked what I might want as a gift.  The answer was easy.  "Book us a nice place to stay in the White Mountains for 5 or 6 days and then let's hike every other day (or more if we are up to it)."  Done deal according to Sue.  I sometimes wonder, would it be cheaper if we simply bought a home or condo in the White Mountains for all the time we are spending there and considering the cost of commuting back and forth!

I thought I might start this week's post by giving you some stats about our hiking day.

Wake up:  5:00 AM
Depart:  6:10 AM
Arrive at trailhead:  8:15 AM
Hit trail:  8:30 AM
Arrive Imp Cliff:  10:10 AM
Arrive Middle Carter Summit:  1:10 PM
Return to car:  5:10 PM
Arrive home:  7:30 PM
First cocktail poured:  7:50 PM
Distance hiked:  9.9 miles
Elevation start: 1,250'
Summit elevation: 4,600'
Total climb:  3,350'
Total hike duration:  8 hrs 40 minutes
Pain level:  Not bad
Would I repeat this hike:  Probably not
Would I hike to Imp Cliff again:  FOR SURE

Though this was a 'nice' hike, the best segment occurs early on and thereafter it is a bit mundane.  From the north trail head (there are two trail heads .2 miles apart) in about 2.2 miles we reached Imp Cliff and we covered that distance in about 1.75 hrs.  We had climbed about 1,850 feet but the views made it seem much higher.  The morning view across Pinkham Notch to Mount Washington and the Presidentials was beautiful, really beautiful.  What I loved about being here at mid-morning was how clear the view was.  In fact, it was crystal clear.  

On many days, if not most days in the summer, the haze sets in by midday and the views are often less impressive.  On this morning the air was clean and we could clearly see the Mount Washington Autoroad and the towers at the summit.

Let's move on to some pictures where you will find more commentary.

 Though we took our mandatory photo at this trail head sign, which was where we parked the car, we actually started our hike at the north trail head located about .2 miles away.  How did we get there?

Yes, we "hiked" along Route 16 until we reached the north trail head of the Imp Trail.  Because we were doing a loop, this allowed us to leave the car where we would end our hike as opposed to where we started our hike.  Seems odd to be "hiking" on asphalt!

Though not a great photo, I wanted to capture this sapling growing on the top of this boulder.  The boulder is moss covered and the sapling seems to be thriving well early in its life.

If it survives and grows, eventually its root system will find its way to the ground for water.  This mature tree growing 'from' this boulder was only a few hundred feet from the sapling shown in the last photo.

Early in our hike we arrive at a beautiful waterfall.  The pool at the base of the waterfall is relatively deep at what appeared to be 3-4'.

At just after 10:00 AM we arrive at Imp Cliff (the feature this trail is named after).  We have climbed about 1,850' already.  The views are crystal clear and beautiful.  We sat for a long time taking it all in.  This photo looks across to the north end of the Presidential range.  The three primary peaks you can see are (left to right) Mt Jefferson, Mt Adams and Mt Madison.

 Here is a clear shot across to Mount Washington which we hiked about a month ago.  Its summit is about twice as high above sea level as it is where we are standing (6,200' versus 3,100')

Here I have zoomed in on the base of Mount Washington where the Autoroad begins.  If you can see it in this photo, the parking lot was loaded with tents and campers.  It appears that there was some sort of bike race today (I assume up the Autoroad).

 Another photo of Mount Washington.


Sue is enjoying the view of the Presidentials.

Looking the other way from Imp Cliff, shows where we are headed.  We will spend the next mile or so skirting our way around the left side of this ravine.  Once we get around it, we will begin the climb further up towards Middle Carter Mountain.

Often on our hikes we seem to run into a rock formation similar to the one shown above.  I wonder why?

 Looks like a blueberry.  Not.

We have traveled about .9 miles from the Imp Cliff to this trail intersection (total hiked thus far = 3.3 miles).  We have 1.2 miles to our next intersection at the Carter Moriah Trail.  Once there, we will hike .6 more to the summit of Middle Carter at about 4,600'.

As we cross the ridge on the Carter Moriah Trail toward Middle Carter, we encounter several bog areas where the Appalachian Mountain Club has done yeoman's work to build these plank systems to keep people away from the sensitive vegitation.

We cross several of these bogs!

We've arrived near the summit of Middle Carter (actual summit is about 100 yds away from here).  The summit is hardly discernible and it was in the trees (no views).  Just before the summit though, we had views both east across the Wild River Wilderness to several smaller mountains that I cannot name.  And, west across Pinkam Notch towards the Presidentials.  Enjoy this series of photos.

I've turned 180 degrees and we are now looking west. That is Mount Washington in the distance and the next photo shows more of the Presidentials (further north). 

I'll close this week with a photo of some wildlife we came across on our way down.  Is that a pear tree?