Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012.08.26 East Osceola - A Series of Firsts

There were many firsts on this hike of East Osceola which starts on the Greeley Ponds Trail off the Kancamagus Highway and then turns up, and I mean up, to the summit using the Mount Osceola Trail.  The first 1.4 miles is a walk in the woods with only about 200' of elevation gain.  The last 1.5 miles is up all the way with the steepness reaching a heart pumping grade for about half that distance.  So, what were the firsts on this hike?

First #1 - This was our first 4,000 footer since early July when Sue started having knee and back pain.  The physical therapy appears to have worked as we accomplished today's climb with her having very little pain.

First #2 - Today was my birthday so it was my first 4,000 footer of my 58th year of life!

First #3 - This was the first hike ever where mid-mountain we took a cell phone call (hard to believe we even had a signal) during which our eldest son Addison told us he had asked his girlfriend to marry him!  Very cool!  We are very pleased as his fiancee Isabeau, is a wonderful girl and we welcome her to our family with open arms.

First #4 - This was the first time that we finished a hike and found this:

 Hmm...  The back window of my car is open and I am not the one who opened it.

Now I see...  Some JERK took the lovely rock you see in this photo and tossed it through the window so they could get to my wife's purse.  The got nothing but a nice Coach bag and clutch, about $40 in cash and $100 worth of NH State Liquor store rebate cards (we must drink a lot??).  Sure, they got several credit cards and other things but within minutes of our having returned to the car we called and cancelled all of those so they are useless.  If you look closely on the near side seat, they left an iPad.  Why did they not take that also?  It is not the value of the things they took that matters.  Instead it is the time to close accounts and open new ones, get new checkbooks, new driver's license, replace eyeglasses and more that is so painful.  And of course, the way insurance works the damage to the car is on one policy and the pocket book is covered by another so we get whacked for two deductibles, nice! 

We stopped by the Lincoln, NH police department on the way home to report the incident and they could not have been more pleasant.  They seemed truly frustrated because this is apparently a very frequent occurrence and the Greeley Ponds Trail head is one that is hit often.  So hikers beware.

As always, it is mandatory that we take a trail head photo.

An eerie site with the sun reflecting off the early morning fog.

The vegetation shot of the week is this almost perfectly white mushroom.  Sue called it an albino mushroom.

We have reached the intersection between the Greeley Ponds Trail and the Mount Osceola Trail.  We've finished the easy part.  Now the climb begins.  Some friends of ours did this hike last winter.  Really?  I had trouble doing some of the steeper sections in August so I cannot imagine what it was like in mid-winter.

Not being familiar with this hike I thought that this might be where we were headed but not so.  I have no idea what the name of this ridge was.

An interesting rock formation jutting out from the ground.

Our first views from an open but steep ledgy area.

A view from a lookout at the col.

From that same lookout this picture is of Osceola (highest peak on the upper left).  Most everyone we spoke to today expected to cross East Osceola (our final destination) and continue on to Osceola.  We had done Osceola in 2011 using the Webster-Jackson trail.

Not a great photo but the summit you see is where we are headed.

A nice couple took this photo for us at the summit of East Osceola.  The summit is wooded and all that makes it recognizable is this cairn.

A bit of a gully we needed to maneuver.

The roots of this tree provided some handholds.

Are you serious.  The trees are beginning to turn and it is only August 26. 

There were several different sections of bridges crossing bogs.  35 sections in all. Yes, we did count them.  I guess we must have been board (no pun intended).  On the way up I noticed that we had crossed a lot of small brooks so, on the way down I counted those also.  21 to be exact, though that included 5 or 6 which were currently dry but which clearly would flow had it not been so dry in recent weeks.

Great hike, great day except for the return to the parking area.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

2012.08.12 Smarts Mountain - Continuing Recovery

As we continue Sue's progress towards increasing elevation changes and hike durations because of her knee and back injuries, we were looking for an easy 2,000' elevation gain and a 6-7 mile trip.  Smarts Mountain in Quinttown, NH fit the bill perfectly.  This 3,240' summit required 1,950' of climb and it was a 6.4 mile trek.

We used the Daniel Doan trail in and out.  The trail is named after the author of two books we often use when planning our hikes.  Dan wrote both "50 Hikes in the White Mountains" and "50 More Hikes in New Hampshire".  The Dartmouth Outing Club named this trail in honor of Dan (a graduate of Dartmouth) just before his passing in 1993.  If you are an avid hiker, you need these two books.  Dan's beautiful descriptions of each trail are fabulous.  We carry both in our car during every hiking trip just in case there is a last minute change of plans. 

Certainly this trail is not as popular today as it once may have been.  We were the first car in the small parking area at 10:00 am (fits 4-5 cars).  We saw no one until we reached the summit (more about that later) and we saw no one on the way down.  When we got back to the parking area it appears we had been the only car there all day.

There has been some recent trail rerouting and repair and more is planned as several areas were marked with surveyors tape with notations indicating additional rebuilding is forthcoming.  Certainly this trail needs some TLC but all in all it was an enjoyable hike.  Our trip took just under 5-hours.  So did the RT drive.  Not a good ratio.  

One thing you should know about this hike.  There are no views or lookouts.  BUT -- luckily there is a fire tower at the summit allowing for a stunning 360 degree view.  Today our views were limited due to haze (it was a humid day) and clouds.  It will be a sad day for Smarts Mountain when this fire tower ages and is no longer usable.  It is in decent shape now but I did notice that two of the four support cables (I assume there were four) are missing.  Other than that the steps and upper deck seemed more than safe.

Back to the group we met at the summit.  The Appalachian Trail runs across the summit of Smarts Mountain.  I believe that this is the first 3,000' mountain the AT reaches when it first crosses from Vermont into NH.  There were four hikers resting at the summit and it was clear that they were not out for a day hike.  After I said hello, the first thing I asked was whether they were hiking the AT, which they confirmed.  My reply to their affirming my suspicions - God Bless you guys!  I am always impressed when I run into AT through hikers. They said that they hope to finish by mid-September (Katahdin in Maine).  This group looked tired.  It was hard for me to imagine they had another month or more to go.  Sometimes when I am hiking I struggle to finish the last mile or two of my 'day' hike.  How physically and psychologically difficult is a through hike of the AT!  Kudos to them...

There is one sad point to make about our running into this group.  I mentioned to Sue on the decent that we offered them nothing.  Here we were over provisioned for our lowly little 6-mile hike and we offered them nothing but our company for 3-minutes.  I had extra Cliff bars, gorp, yogurt pretzels and more and I offered them nothing.  I will never let that happen again if I run across a through hiker on the AT.  Both Sue and I felt really guilty about it.

On to some pics:

 Every hike starts with a trail head photos.

 Earlier I mentioned it was a humid day.  With Sue only able to carry 1-liter of water and nothing else, i am doing double duty carrying a pack with supplies, food and water for both of us.  Combine the humid day with the extra weight (not to mention an overweight and asthmatic hiker) and the result is a hiker who looks interesting when he takes a break.  Yes, look closely.  That is actually steam rising from my body!

A perfectly formed spider web between these rocks. 

Near the summit a spring feeds this flow of water down the trail. 

Careful around the hatch inside the fire tower.  It is in need of some repair. And, it is heavy so watch you head on the way down. 

 We sit inside the fire tower and have lunch.

This shot and the next few are from inside the fire tower. 
The saga of the golden mushroom continues.  You will need to read  my other posts to understand.