Saturday, September 13, 2014

Wildcat A - Flags on the 48 (2014)

For several members of our team, this was our second year of participation in the Flags on the 48 memorial (FOT48).  If you are not familiar with FOT48, here is an excerpt from the organizer's website (

"We in the hiking community continue to honor the deceased with a tribute: flying the American flag atop all 48 four-thousand foot and higher mountains in New Hampshire on the weekend closest to September 11 each year. By demonstrating our steadfast unity in this challenging endeavor, we also hope to express our unwavering support to the families, friends and communities whose losses are beyond comprehension and whose suffering we remember in our hearts."

Very powerfully said indeed!

This is such a popular endeavor in the hiking community that once the online annual registration opens, many if not most of the 48 mountains have teams assigned in minutes.  In fact, the process can be a bit chaotic.  That simply speaks to everyone's interest in participating and also how much of an honor it is to carry and erect a flag on these 48 summits as a way of remembering those affected by the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The FOT48 event is also important to the 100's of other hikers who make certain to summit one or more mountains that day just to see the flags and to pause in remembrance.  Whether assembling a team and erecting a flag or simply hiking to see flags erected by others, all are profoundly impacted by this memorial event.  For me, the very recent and well publicized terrorist killing of a NH man held captive by ISIS made this year's memorial even more poignant.  Lest we forget...

The event this year took place on Saturday September 13, 2014.  It was unseasonably cold which was made worse by strong winds at the summits and a bit of late afternoon rain.  Teams are limited to 10 participants and Leslie our team leader did a great job of organizing a full team of friends for this hike.  Shh...don't tell anyone but there were actually twelve of us.  That is, if you count Benny the wonder dog who has already completed the 48 4k's and is now working on his Trailwrights 72 and Walden the pup who hiked for the first time today (he did take a deep nap at the summit!!).

Our team used the Nineteen Mile Brook and Wildcat Ridge Trails to reach Wildcat A, our assigned mountain.  We also made a quick stop at the Carter Notch Hut on the way to the summit which is about a .6 mile RT diversion.  The total RT distance for this hike was 9-miles with 3,228' of elevation gain.  The only truly challenging part of this hike is the last .7 of a mile up the Wildcat Ridge Trail with 1,027' of elevation change over that short distance - a real heart thumping, lung stressing climb.

Let's move on to some pictures with some added commentary.

Our team members while fresh were all smiles as we departed the trailhead at about 7:45 AM.  Left to right; Paul, Kristen, Angie, Erlinde, Scott, Leslie, Sue, Ray (mois), Lauren & Mark.

There was a traffic jam at the junction of the Nineteen Mile Brook and Carter Dome Trails as this was a convenient spot for everyone to take their first break 1.9 miles from the initial trailhead.  There are so many people here because the team covering Carter Dome had arrived just minutes after our team.

We've  arrived at the small open ledge immediately adjacent to the wooded summit of Wildcat A.  Our flag pole sections have been assembled and Leslie, Angie and Paul work to secure the flag.
 Right on cue as it was just a minute or two before noon when our flag was raised.

  Now that is a pretty site.

Our full team takes a photo to remember the moment.  Benny the golden makes it into the shot but I think Walden the pup may have been napping having tired from his first 4,000 footer.
A photo across Carter Notch with Carter Dome in the upper left.

The same view as above but zoomed in on the AMC's Carter Notch Hut below.

With binoculars we could actually see the flag on Moriah in the distance (I think its Moriah).  Not long after these photos were taken, the clouds moved in over the Carter-Moriah Ridge and we could no longer see those summits.

There's Walden.  Even after a nap he still looks tired.  He did a great job for his first hike and on the descent he was even able to go off leash for a time.  Walden's "mom" Kristen is in the background.

This part of the story is both sad and uplifting.  We admittedly took our flag down at about 1:30 PM.  Technically the event runs till 2:00 but it was so cold and the traffic had thinned so we made a decision to head down a bit early.  In addition, rain was forecast to arrive at 2:00 PM and we wanted to get down the very steep Wildcat Ridge Trail while the rocks were still dry.  No sooner had everything been put away when two dads and their two sons arrived.  They had driven from CT that morning with the clear intention of hiking Wildcat A and seeing the flag flying.  It was upsetting to all of us when those two boys rounded the corner and did not see a flag as they were clearly let down.  Scott from our team jumped into action and without hesitation began reassembling our flag and poles.  Better still, he enlisted the help of the two boys in the process.  They were thrilled.  Once everything was assembled and the flag was waving, the requisite photos were taken (sadly I personally did not take a picture).  The boys then helped us take everything back down.  In the photo above one of the boys is teaching me the proper way to fold an American flag, a process I literally was unfamiliar with.  In the end, what could have been a disaster (the boys missing the flag after a long drive and hike) turned out to be a real positive experience for all of us.

The mandated photo at the actual summit of Wildcat A.  It is actually a pretty nondescript summit.  Thank goodness for the great views from the ledges a few yards away.

A portion of our team on the descent that afternoon.  Four members had decided to bag Wildcat D and then descend the ski slopes of Wildcat so they could check those off their 48k lists.

Several of us made a stop at Dairy Queen to enjoy some ice cream treats.  We had spent all day in the cold and now we needed ice cream.  Really?


Monday, September 8, 2014

White Faced On Mt Whiteface

There are sections of this hike to Mt Whiteface that lived up to their reputation and without a doubt I was "white faced" while trying to do them.  There were two spots in particular where my fear of heights had me shaking in my boots.  Beyond those two short sections however, I really enjoyed this hike.

Our original plan was to summit Mt Whiteface using the Blueberry Ledge Trail and then to avoid coming down the tough and steep sections of the ledges we would instead take the loop around the bowl using the Rollins and Dicey's Mill Trails.  I guess the steep and difficult sections did not scare me sufficiently on the way up so we scrapped our original plan and instead did an in and out using the Blueberry Ledge Trail. 

Truth be known, may wife embarrassed me into descending using the same route.  She did not want to do the extra 2-miles or so required for the loop and she seemed fine with returning on the difficult but shorter route.  Far be it from me to tell her I was scared to death by the thought of returning on that route.  After all, I am the big burly husband and I am not supposed to show any fear.  She'll know the truth when she reads this blog post though. 

Our route took us across 7.8 miles with 3,000' of elevation gain.  Book time is just under 5.5 hours and it took us nearly 7 hours.  Did anyone account for the difficult scrambles in the book time?  Heck, there were some sections where I needed a 10 minute pause just to plan out my strategy of how I was going to get from point A to point B.

On to some pictures.  And, I should note that I have almost no pictures of the steep sections.  I was too darn worried about not sliding into an abyss to think about taking photos.  Google this hike and you will find more shots of the steep sections.

The number of man made stone steps on this trail had to be in the 100's.  Someone put a ton of effort into their quality contruction.
There they be.  Our first glimpse of the ledges ahead of us.

The trail somewhat suddenly breaks out of the woods onto this shear cliff with great views.

This is one of the steep sections and this photo simply does not do it justice.  The section between these tree roots and the next flat where one could stand is particularly challenging.

There were a number of great viewpoints on the upper sections of this hike.  This shot and the next show some of those views.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Mt. Moosilauke - Literally A Last Minute Decision

We had not planned on hiking today.  As I was going about my morning routine of having breakfast and reading the newspaper, on a whim I also checked the weather.  Though the temps were going to be a bit on the warm side and the humidity was expected to be high, the forecast called for clear skies all day.  With no commitments at work today, my mind starting thinking about a hike.  One never wants to pass up a clear day!

It was at least 7:45 am before we decided; yes, let's go on a hike.  We had not packed, we had none of our normal lunch provisions and so on.  Certainly we could get lunch provisions on the drive to the mountain so we finished our morning routines and began to prep our backpacks and other gear.

But, where should we hike today?  Ah hah!  If it's going to be hot, why not pick a mountain known for its cooling breezes - Mt Moosilauke.  Truth be known, that was not a brilliant choice.  Not because it doesn't have the beautiful views and cooling breezes were were looking for, but instead because we are working on our 48 4k's and this hike is just as long and difficult as many of the mountains remaining on our to-do list.  As we had already done Moosilauke a few years ago, why not instead choose to knock off one of the other 4k's remaining on our list?  We were scurrying to get out the door so we did not ponder our choice of Moosilauke.  It was more or less "yep, sounds good, lets go."  Oh well...

With stops for food and gas and coffee as well as bathroom breaks, we were not at the trailhead and ready to begin hiking until 11:45 am.  The days are still long so that, in and of itself, was not a concern but it did feel odd as we usually begin our hikes by 9:00 or 9:30.  Not to mention the fact that we would be dealing with the midday heat due to our late start for this hike.

Our plan was to take the Glencliff Trail to the ridge where we would meet up with the Moosilauke Carriage Road Trail.  This was a different route than that used when we last hiked here (began at Ravine Lodge the last time).  Our selected trail for today would involve 3,385' of elevation gain and about 7.8 miles of distance.  There was some signage discrepancy about the distance which indicated it was actually longer but I think 7.8 is probably correct.  The humidity worked its magic on my asthma today and I was a huffin' and a puffin' through much of the climb.  We reached the summit at 3:00 pm -- Mr. & Mrs. Slowsky were at it again.  

Moosilauke is one of those mountains where the summit is most always crowded.  Not so today.  There were times where we were actually the only ones at the summit.  It only lasted a few minutes but even when others arrived they were either couples or singles.  There were never more than five of us at a time at the summit; a luxury for this mountain.

We left the summit at 3:30 and made it back to the car by 6:15 pm.  I was pretty beat (now there's an understatement).  Here are a few pics:

Here is one place where there is some distance confusion.  We've walked about a half mile so far (distance to Sanatorium Road which is no longer named as such) and the sign says we have 3.7 miles to go.  That would put the RT at 8.4 miles but, no need to quibble.

The Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) maintains these trails and they do a fine job of it.  The DOC uses orange colored signage which is unique in the mountains of NH.

This shot and the next several are from the summit.  Most are lacking in detail in the distance due to the humidity at lower elevations causing everything to appear hazy.

So much for the forecast of clear skies.  Those are rain showers in the distance, though they never reached us.

On the descent we were only about a 1/4 mile RT from the South Peak but we decided not to bother as, 1) we've been there before and, 2) the haze would have made the views unimpressive.

Sue ponders her knee and foot pain and what lies ahead.

One tired puppy!!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mt Major - Really, You Saw No One??

It was time for a little hiking exercise so we made the quick trip to Mt. Major.  This is always a great hike for a reasonably minimal effort.  The loop we did today (Boulder, Straightback, Brook, Mt Major trails) is about 4-miles long with 1,150' of elevation gain.  It took us 2 hours and 10 minutes.  We did not stay at the summit very long as the bees were swarming.  We had brought a corn & bean salad with balsamic vinegar on it and the bees were very, very attracted to the sweet smell!

Most often I prefer to hike Mt. Roberts on the other side of Lake Winnipesaukee as the trail conditions are much better and it is often less crowded.  It is however, 45 minutes further away from home and, as it was, we were not starting this hike until about 4:00 pm.

For those of you that are familiar with the very popular Mt Major, imagine this.  We completed this hike and did not see another soul - not one!  I have hiked Mt Major a dozen or more times and that has never happened.  Most often you feel like you are hiking in a mall when you hike this moutain.

 Sue checks out the summit marker.  Sort of funny as I don't recall ever noticing this marker before.

 It was a humid day so the views were rather hazy.


Friday, August 29, 2014

North Twin Mtn - Success On Our Second Attempt

Today was day 5 of our hiking vacation in the Whites.  The next morning we were scheduled to return home so we decided to end the week with our longest and most aggressive hike of our vacation.  This begs the question; shouldn't we have started with the tough hike while our legs were fresh on day 1 and then have done the shorter less aggressive hikes later in the week?  That would have been way too logical!

In 2011, two weeks or so after Hurricane Irene had done incredible damage to the White Mountains, we attempted to hike North Twin.  The "Little" River remained swelled from the storm as well as subsequent rains and after significant effort we could not find a safe way to make the first crossing let alone the two more river crossings required ahead of us.  We were also ill prepared as we had not brought along any water shoes or clogs.  A little more research in advance would have made that need clear.  All of that said, I admit that we are both wimps when it comes to water crossings. 

Since that attempt in 2011 we've also learned of the now well defined and oft used herd path that allows hikers to avoid the first two crossings of the Little River.  Though the first two crossings today were more than passable with aggressive rock hoping or by fording, we opted for the herd path.  Honestly, the AMC should relocate this trail to the area generally defined by the herd path or, relocate boulders in the river to make for more safe crossings (probably some green reason not to do this).  Continued use of the herd path without good trail building techniques will eventually cause significant erosion issues, or so I assume as I am no expert on trail building.

In any case, we reached the third crossing using the herd path and it was only moderately difficult to rock hop.  This crossing is about 1.9 miles into the hike and the elevation change from the trailhead to this crossing is only a few hundred feet.  The real climb begins after this last river crossing.

The elevation change on this hike is 3,100' over a total RT distance of 8.6 miles.  "Book time" for this hike is just under 6 hours but it took us 7 1/4 hours.  That said, the two sets of views near the summit were some of the best I've experienced so we meandered there for longer than normal.  Let's move on to some pictures.

Sue is not flashing the peace symbol.  She is instead indicating that this was our second attempt at hiking North Twin Mountain.

At this point we have reached the first set of open ledges just shy of the summit which is pictured here.  The summit appears wooded but there is a view a few yards past the summit cairn.

The summit of South Twin is in the distance.

This photo and the next several are from the ledges of North Twin just before reaching the summit.

The Presidential Range is way off in the distance with much of it in the clouds.

We've now reached the summit and have gone just a few yards beyond the summit cairn to another outlook.  The views from here were so stunning that we could have stayed here for hours.  The next few shots are from this second outlook.

Fraconia Ridge in the background running left to right.

The sharp point of Mt. Garfield can be seen in the center of this shot.

Touching the cairn at the actual summit.  It's official.  Another 4k in the bag.  This was #34 for me and #35 for Sue.

This is the sign for the outlook near the summit.  Interestingly enough a group passed the summit headed to South Twin just after we had gotten here.  Only one of the 3 or 4 people hiking together decided to hike the few yards from the summit to the outlook.  Boy did they miss some great views.

This is the trail between the summit and the first set of ledges (we are now heading back down).  It was both beautiful and unique.

We've now reached the first ledges again on our descent and we pause to enjoy the views for a second time.

A pretty spot in the Little River that we passed on the way back to the car.

I must say that North Twin is now one of my favorite hikes.  I hated the fact that I could not cross the river back in 2011 so I found myself putting this hike off while knocking out other 4k's.  Today we were rewarded with perfect weather and views.  This is a definite "do over" in the future.