Monday, May 28, 2012

2012.05.28 Middle & North Sugarloaf - A Short Sweet Hike

This was day two of hiking on Memorial Day weekend.  With our having accomplished our first 4,000 footer of the season yesterday, today's hike was planned to be something shorter, not to mention easier, in order to save on our aching muscles and knees.  It was also our goal to beat much of the holiday weekend traffic on the way home - a goal we did not accomplish.

This two summit hike of Middle and North Sugarloaf (there is no trail to South Sugarloaf which is the tallest of the three summits) is only a 5.5 mile trip which we accomplished in about 4-hours.  The trail head is reached by using Zealand Road off Route 302.

After having completed this hike I am stunned that I have never heard of it before.  The effort/reward ratio makes this a real winner!

The hike begins on the Trestle Trail for about .2 miles and then turns left onto the Sugarloaf Trail.  On our descent later in the day we did continue on the Trestle Trail past this first intersection.  This less traveled (by far) portion of the trail follows the Zealand River for about a half mile eventually requiring a river crossing in order to return to the parking area.  Going in this direction adds nearly a mile to the trip and I think it was well worth it.  I understand that the bridge across the river was washed out years ago so, in high water the crossing is said to be next to impossible.  We were however able to cross today but it did take some effort.

Back to the Sugarloaf Trail.  Some 1 to 1 1/2 miles after turning onto this trail you reach a "T" intersection with Middle Sugarloaf to the left and North Sugarloaf to the right.  We decided to head towards Middle Sugarloaf first.

Once there we enjoyed nearly 270 degree open views from the ledges.  After taking it all in for a short time, we retraced our steps along the col and headed over to North Sugarloaf.  It too has amazing views and open ledges.  The trip between the two summits is is a total of 1.4 miles.

I would definitely recommend this short but rewarding hike to beginners or to those experienced hikers looking for a short trip.  Here are a few photos for your enjoyment:

Someone please tell me just how much force is created by a glacier such that it can move  boulders this size like tinker toys.  This boulder was HUGE!
A Pink Lady's Slipper - the state flower of NH.

Question: Was I thrilled to be here?
It may be difficult to tell but I really was happy.

This photo and the next few are from the summit of Middle Sugarloaf.

This shot is from North Sugarloaf.

This odd and lonely boulder was just sitting on the top of the ledge.  It seemed as though it could easily be toppled off the mountain.

An interesting formation of rock slabs one layered over the other.  I wondered how this was formed.

This photo is from North Sugarloaf looking back at Middle Sugarloaf.  If you look closely you can see an outcropping of ledge (right edge of knob) on which we had been standing earlier.

An oddly colored rock (photo does not do it justice).  It was almost a cream white.

A closeup of the rock in the last photo:  In this shot it would appear that there was a fossilized branch in the rock.

A lot of work has gone into the creation of steps on this trail.  This is but one example.

For those who follow our hikes; this is the mandatory vegetation shot.

Yet another huge boulder this time located on the Trestle Trail.

The Zealand River.

One last Pink Lady's Slipper.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012.05.27 Waumbek via Starr King - Little "Reward"

This Memorial Day weekend we planned to accomplish our first 4,000 footer of the 2012 season.  A little late I'd say.  We planned on staying in the Whites for a holiday weekend getaway so it made sense to accomplish one of the more northerly 4,000 footers.  With that we decided to climb Mt. Waumbek on Sunday and get it "ticked off the list".

Saying the latter is somewhat funny to me.  You see, I tell everyone that I am not attempting to accomplish the entire list of 48 NH peaks of 4,000 feet or more however, I do find myself keeping track of each one we complete.  That approach is merely so I can have an excuse when I later choose not to do some of the longer treks that might require an overnight stay.  As much as I love the mountains and hiking, sleeping on the ground is just not appealing to me.  Call me a wimp I guess.

Mt. Waumbek is a baby 4,000 footer and barely makes the list at 4,006' which makes it number 46 of 48.  My GPS must need calibration as it indicated the elevation was 4,014'.  Though, now that I think about it, I was holding the GPS in my hand which likely added 3-4 feet of elevation.  Overall it is a pretty accurate device I guess!

Mt. Waumbek is actually in the Pliny mountain range.  The trail head is easy to find and is located on Starr King Road off of Route 2 in Jefferson, NH.  On this holiday weekend the parking lot was full but there was space along the road and also in some more open wooded areas adjacent to the roadway.

To reach Mt. Waumbek, at least from this direction, you will first summit Mount Starr King (2.6 miles from the trail head).  Once you "climb" out of your car, the climbing will not end until you reach the summit of Starr King.  The grade is easy to moderate but it is non-stop with few if any flat sections.  Once you summit Starr King, watch closely as the limited views from here are all you will see during this entire hike.  Nice as these views are, they left me wanting.

From Mount Starr King it is another 1-mile to Mt Waumbek which is reached by crossing the essentially flat col between the two peaks.  All in all this was a 7.4 mile hike which took us just under 6-hours.  With the typical bug-fest one experiences in the woods of NH in May, we were kept moving and our breaks were minimal.  Some photos:

The limited views from Mount Starr King.  Mount Washington is in the distance.

The ledge at the summit of Starr King with an old chimney/fireplace in the distance.

Apparently this was a portion of an old cabin that had burned to the ground.  Who carried the 50 lb. bags of mortar up the mountain for the stone and brick work?

This is it folks.  The entirety of the 'view' from Mt. Waumbek.  A lowly little cairn (a.k.a. a little pile of rocks for you non-hikers).

While near the summit of Mt. Waumbek I spotted this sign for the continuation of the trail.  I paused for a moment and thought about continuing on to South Pond.  After all, it was a beautiful day and the weather was clear.  Something about the distance had me reconsider though.  Clearly by the time I could complete the 41.2 mile round trip, I would be tired, very tired.  Maybe another day - NOT!
We had some company at the summit.

My required vegetation shot of the trip.

This was one of three wells/springs along the trail.  Two of the three had stone walls like this one.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

2012.05.12 Morgan-Percival Loop - Elevation Isn't Everything

Today we accomplished our second warm up hike of the season.  What a day it was!  A crystal clear blue sky all day, temps in the high 70's and a light breeze.  It simply does not get any better than this.

This is a loop hike incorporating both Mt Morgan and Mt Percival.  Both peeks ring in at only 2,200 feet.  These might be considered 'bumps' as opposed to real mountains when one considers all of the 4,000 footers in NH.  But don't be fooled.  With about 1,550 feet of vertical rise (per our hiking book), and after actually hiking it, I can tell you that there is more substance to this hike than the summit elevations might indicate.  The total RT is about 5.5 miles which we covered in just under 4.5 hours.

A map of the loop with our having gone counter-clockwise getting to Percival first, crossing the ridge to Morgan and then descending.  I think this direction was the best choice.  The trail head in the image is not the one we used.  The second trail head that you can see is where we started and there is ample parking on both sides of the road.

 The obligatory trail head photo.

 A pretty slowly cascading brook very early in the hike.

Two log bridge = comfy & safe.  One log broken and suddenly it becomes a balance beam.  Add to that a sketchy railing and this becomes a less comfortable crossing.  Luckily, further downhill there was a safer way to cross. 

Parts of the lower elevation had 'recently' been logged.  You are only in this scarred up area for a short time so it was not too bad.

The first of two snakes that Sue ran into (she was leading our hike as she typically does).  She was not happy! 

 Just minutes later we ran into snake #2.  He was a little bigger than the last.

 A minefield of rock we passed on the way up Percival.
 Our first open views of Squam Lake.

 We reach the summit of Percival and the views are clear and simply beautiful.
Is that Steven Tyler I can see at the lake's edge?

 This week's vegetation shot.  This poor tree is trying to establish itself on this rock.  Will it survive?  So little resources to draw from...

Here someone took our photo at the summit of Morgan.  More beauty (Sue and the lake!).

The weather was perfect, the trail was reasonably challenging and the views were stunning.  What a day!


Sunday, May 6, 2012

2012.05.06 Mt Roberts - Our Warm Up Hike

We had such great plans to hike some or all of this past winter (Training for Winter Hiking). It was to be our first ever winter of hiking but, it was simply not to be.  I could post pages and pages of excuses but they would be just that; excuses.  I can only hope to have better success next winter.

Even getting started this spring has been full of fits and starts but today we finally made our first hike of 2012.  I am shocked that we went five full months without hiking.  Today was such a pleasure though. 

Its funny.  Much like our plan to hike this winter, getting our hikes started this spring has been a struggle.  I'll tell just one story to help frame what it has been like to begin hiking over the past few weeks.

We had a plan and we were fully ready to make this short hike of Mt. Roberts on Saturday (yesterday).  Our packs were full, trekking poles and boots in the car, gorp mixed, snacks packed away.  We were ready!  Only one problem though, when we got up Saturday morning Sue was stoned. Well, not exactly, but she was loopy.  You see, she has been having a bit of an issue with psoriasis so in the middle of the night she woke up itchy and got out of bed to take an antihistamine pill.  In the dark of the night though, and still half asleep, she took a Valium (or something similar) instead.  She had one pill left over from a planned dental procedure a few months ago because she gets very anxious before seeing the dentist so she takes something to relax. Saturday morning she was in no shape to hike. :-)

It turns out Sunday was a gorgeous day so it worked for the best. I won't get into too many details about this hike as you can see my prior post for that.  I will say though that this is a quick yet beautiful hike.  We made it to the summit in one hour and 35 minutes -- and remember, we are the Mr. and Mrs. Slowsky of the hiking world. The total round trip was about 3:15.

Our progress was helped along by the black flies. Ahh yes... May in NH. Each time we stopped for a breather we were swarmed within seconds. Those conditions improve your hike times!  I've only included a few pictures below as most of the views and outlooks were identical to how they looked when we last accomplished this hike in October of last year (Mt Roberts - A Beautiful Baby).  At that time all of the leaves had fallen and for this hike the trees were barely budding and were still barren so the pics would be near duplicates.

For those of you familiar with my hiking blog, you know that I always like to include at least one photo of vegetation.  This week it is these new leaves.  If you look closely you'll see the 'fuzz'.  Electrolysis for trees could be a lucrative business on this mountain.

Picture in picture I guess. 

 Look very closely in the distance and you will see snow on Mt. Washington.

Yes, I was really there.