Friday, June 27, 2014

Mt Greylock - Highest Summit in MA

At 3,491' and located in Lanesborough, Mt Greylock is the highest summit in the State of Massachusetts.  Our small group of friends get together once each year with the goal of hiking the high point in each of the six New England States.  We still have CT and RI to accomplish.  With RI being a small 800' elevation 'bump' as opposed to a more typical mountain we will probably accomplish it on the way to or on the return from the CT hike next year.  We all had a great laugh when relaxing after today's hike as we read a description of the climb up Jerimoth Hill in Rhode Island (from the closet road).  Yes, a full 10' of elevation gain will be our challenge (that is not a typo).  We all think we will bring full packs up that 10' of elevation just so it is legit.

As we've gained more knowledge of AT thru & section hikers, Leslie and I have been wanting to find opportunities to leave trail magic.  This hike gave us our first chance to do so.  Early in the morning of our hike we drove out to an area where the AT exits onto a road near the town of North Adams.  There we left a cooler of Snickers bars, Gatorade, sodas, and wet wipes.  We would return later in the day to see if we had any takers (see update near the end of this post).  Here is a picture of us leaving the cooler which Leslie had appropriately emblazoned with the AT symbol.

Inside the cooler Leslie had written the following note and as well she left paper and a pen so those who wanted could leave us their blog information or other notes.
Once our trail magic had been placed, we proceeded to the trailhead.  Here is a photo of our group just prior to departing.
  The trail commences at a farm with a beautiful barn and the mountains in the background (not Greylock).
Our first rest break along the trail.
Here we take our second break at a campground along the way. 
Three bumps on a log. 

A pretty little pond as we neared the summit.

Here we've reached the summit with the beautiful Bascom Lodge ahead of us.

Here is a shot of the summit view.  The town of North Adams is below us in the distance.

Sue is telling Phil that she believes we've not actually summited this peak until we get to the top of the Massachusetts war memorial.  Unfortunately, it is closed this year for renovations.

A group photo at the summit.  The handsome/good looking one who looks so fresh and ready to press on is Benny (the golden retriever).
"I think we are on the dashed trail", Phil says.  Russ responds, "That can't be, I think we are here on the dotted trail."  No GPS for these two more 'traditional' gents.  Which way is North?
 The Carson family sits near the bottom of a beautiful, tall waterfall we passed on our descent.  A mere 100 yd diversion brings one to these falls.  Beautiful indeed...

We followed the river emanating from the base of the falls for several miles on our descent.  Nothing like the soothing sound of water while hiking.

After our hike we returned by car to the spot where we had left our trail magic this morning.  All of the Gatorade was gone, most of the sodas were gone, 12 of the Snickers bars were gone, and about half the wipes were gone.  How cool is that!

Better still, two of the hikers left us notes and the URL's of their blogs.  I will religiously follow the rest of their adventures on the AT.  

Leslie and I were like kids in a candy store when we found this:  
 Several of our group took a refreshing dip in the pool on our return to our rental house.  We had rented this house for two nights and what a find it was.  The place was beautiful, huge and impeccably cared for.  There were fields all around and beyond that mountains on three sides; stunning to say the least.  It will be tough to beat this one.
As if all of that was not enough, we ended our evening with a gorgeous sunset with our firepit burning away in the foreground.  Every day should be like this!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Mount Isolation - Failed Attempt #1

Yes, the weather was beautiful with clear skies in the morning and intermittent clouds in the afternoon.  The temps were pushing 80 and humidity was up just a little as compared to recent days but it was not oppressive.  It seemed like a great day to knock out one more of the 48 4k's in NH.

We planned this to be our longest hike to date at 14.4 miles round trip to Mount Isolation.  No doubt the name of this mountain speaks for itself.  Notice I said "...planned this to be our longest hike to date..."  Unfortunately, we never made it to the summit. 

Our planned route used the Rocky Branch Trail for 3.7 miles, then the Isolation Trail for 2.6 miles, then a final .9 mile on the Davis Path plus a short spur to the actual summit.  All in all about 7.2 miles one-way.  This following map shows our expected route.

All seemed well when we started out just after 8:00 AM.  The trailhead sign showed our first leg of 3.7 miles was ahead of us.  There would not be an easy warmup today as the Rocky Branch Trail climbs pretty consistently for the first 2 miles or more starting right at the trailhead.

According to my GPS, we made it about 5.2 miles of our planned 7.2 miles before deciding to bag the remainder of the trip.  A mere 10.4 mile walk in the woods with nary a view.  The image below is our actual movement as logged by my GPS and overlayed in Google Earth.  Mt Isolation was so close yet so far.  It may as well have been 200 miles away as opposed to the 2 miles that it was.

So what happened?  At about the 5 mile mark I suddenly began to have significant cramps in my quadriceps.  I rested for a time and began drinking water profusely.  I was soon to learn that it was too little, too late -- or was it too much, too late?

I also tried to fuel by eating but I was nearly choking to get things down.  Food was the last thing on my mind.  I had no appetite and swallowing was difficult.  My cramping eventually subsided a little so we again began to press on towards Mount Isolation.  

At best we covered another 1/4 mile and all of a sudden my quads effectively locked up.  The cramping was constant and very painful.  No position, whether sitting, lying down or standing seemed to be comfortable.  It was clear after about 15 minutes that I was not going to make it to the summit.  I tried to convince my wife to continue on her own.  I suggested that I would slowly make my way back to the river to cool down and get water and that I would wait there for her.  Being concerned about my condition she was not, under any circumstances, going to leave me alone.  Bless her soul!

We waited a bit longer, I choked down some minimal amounts of food and I kept drinking water.  I finally felt able to walk but the cramping continued.  Though I was able to keep moving, it was at a slow pace.

At the second crossing of the Rocky Branch River on our return we stopped so I could filter more water.  By that point I had consumed 4 liters of water and two bottles of Gatorade.  I felt sluggish and still did not feel like eating.  We rested for a time while I filtered 4 more liters of water (thank goodness I brought my Katadyn filter which I occasionally leave behind to conserve weight).  I did manage to take one photo of Sue while we rested.

From this point we had 3.7 miles remaining to get back to the car.  A short time after restarting our descent I perked up a little and kept a reasonable pace.  Then with about 1.5 miles to go I hit the wall yet again and slowed to a snail's pace.

By the time we reached the car it had taken us 4.5 hours to cover 5.2 miles - downhill no less!  Over that distance and time I had consumed yet another 3.5 liters of water.  We survived though.

Thankfully Sue offered to drive (I always drive).  On the road my leg cramps continued intermittently though they were less severe and kept diminishing.  My stomach however also began cramping and I was very nauseous.  About an hour into our drive I suddenly began scrambling for a plastic bag into which I quickly deposited 2-3 liters of water.  It was not pleasant.

So it seems I had become severely dehydrated and then in my zest to drink water I became overhydrated.  I had no idea the latter ailment was possible but apparently it is.  A nurse friend of ours lectured me about it later that week.  It would appear that my electrolytes were so low that my system was not absorbing my water intake properly.

After doing some research later that week I decided that I needed to begin to carry an electrolyte supplement.  This is the second or third time in 2014 that I've become dehydrated, though this time it was much worse, so I knew I needed to take action.  I settled on trying Nuun tablets in my water to add electrolytes.  See my upcoming post for Mt Greylock to see how I fared using these supplements (it was good news).


Saturday, June 7, 2014

South Carter - So Close, Yet So Far

So we did it again.  I mentioned in a previous post for Galehead Mountain that my early yearnings to be a purist when hiking the NH 48 4k's were dashed, and for good reason.  An extra 10-mile hike here or there using the same trail to reach a nearby summit that could have been bagged months earlier begins to knock some sense into one's purist mind.  South Carter was just one more notch in that belt.

This was our first 4k of 2014.  Mr. & Mrs. Slowsky (that would be us) need a few warm up hikes each year before we tackle a 4k.  We felt we were ready this weekend and South Carter was one on our list that was yet to be bagged.  Yes, we had done Middle Carter via the Imp Trail in the past.  Even worse, we had also done Carter Dome via the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail.  In the latter case we were within .8 of a mile of South Carter and in the former within 1.3 miles.  Why did we not bag it then?

I suppose that there is some balance as there is often another 4k just a mile or two away from the summit you are standing on.  Get to that next summit, and if only you could stretch just a bit more, there is yet another 4k a couple of miles away.  For me, 10-miles or so and I am beginning to wear out so that next summit is out of reach.  I still haven't figured out how we'll do the Bonds.  In any case, today we worked to fill the gap in our 4k list by hiking South Carter.

We used the Nineteen Mile Brook - Carter Dome - Carter-Moriah Trails today to summit South Carter.  The Nineteen Mile Brook Trailhead is about 1-mile north of the entrance to the Mount Washington Auto Road on Route 16.  It is a popular trail, at least partially due to it being the most direct route to accessing the AMC's Carter Notch Hut.  I like both the Nineteen Mile Brook and Carter Dome trails as you are often near a brook and the sound of falling water is always pleasing.  

It was a beautiful day for this hike, in fact a bit on the warm side as I soon learned.  With about 3-miles left on our 9.2 mile, 6.5 hour trek covering about 2,950' of elevation gain I began to feel burned out.  We hadn't been that far today and this segment of the hike was easy with only a moderate descent.  At some point it struck me that maybe I should drink more water, maybe I was dehydrated.  Sure enough, after downing about a liter of water over a short period from my bladder as we progressed, I became re-energized and began picking up my pace.  Gosh, I wish I could recognize this issue sooner.  This is not the first time this has happened to me.  This 245 lb. body sweats a lot climbing a mountain and it takes a lot of water to keep me hydrated.

Enough complaining.  On to some pics:

 I hadn't even begun and I looked tired.  :-)

The trail passes along water for miles.  It runs along both Nineteen Mile Brook and another tributary running along the Carter Dome trail.  I could have taken 100 pictures.  Here are just a couple.

All that effort and such a nondescript summit; except for the babe nearby!!

Just a few yards south of the actual summit there is a fine but small lookout.  For the most part these are the only views.  Pretty nonetheless.

Mt Hight is on the left and Carter-Dome is on the right.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunny Day on Mt Sunapee

It's been a long cold winter and a slowly developing spring with nice weather one day and cold raw weather the next.  If you live in New England I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.  I would argue however that today was thus far the most beautiful day of 2014.  Weather in the mid-70's, even at the summit, crystal clear skies with only the contrails of jets making streaks across the perfectly blue sky.   All in all it was a stunner of a day!

I've been struggling with an ankle injury that is still bothering me from a hike on the Hancock's last year and Sue is struggling with Morton's Neuroma in a foot so we decided to hike something less aggressive than a 4k in the Whites.  Is this a medical blog or a hiking blog?  Funny thing is the next morning at breakfast Sue and I are comparing notes on our aches and pains when I stopped to point out how ridiculous the topic of conversation was.  Is this how our hikes will be for the rest of our lives?  No discussion of the beauty, the views, the wildlife, the peacefulness but instead a conversation about aches and pains.  Geez....

Our plan was to hike Mt Sunapee on the Andrew Brook Trail leaving from Mountain Road off Rte 103.  If everyone is efficient about it there is roadside parking for a good number of cars (20+).  This is a popular hike on weekends, so it appears, but it was not overwhelming.  As far as we could tell a good number of the hikers only went to the lake, or maybe to the cliffs I describe later, with many seemingly foregoing the trip to the summit of Mt Sunapee.  The total round trip according to my GPS was 6.8 miles with about 1,450' of elevation gain and 1,800' of cumulative elevation gain.  The trek to the summit has many small ups and downs which add to the cumulative gain.

The Andrew Brook runs alongside the trail (thus the trail name if you've not figured that out) for the first mile or more.  You don't really get many views of the brook but the sound is always nearby.  Lot's of stones along the trail and lot's of mud.  The mud is easily maneuvered but there is a lot of it.  The trail could certainly use more stepping stones in places and more log bridges over some of the wetter sections.

I'll mix in a few pics here with more descriptions.

It is a 2-mile trek from the trailhead to Lake Solitude.  The lake is beautiful as you will soon see. 

In the early sections of the trail there are literally miles and miles of blue plastic tubing from maple trees that have been tapped.  These blue lines feed into larger  black tubing.  It is absolutely unbelievable how much of this tubing there is.  I wondered what would happen if a deer were trying to make its way through.

The morning sun on the new green leaves was beautiful.  A camera does not really capture how pretty it is.

We've reached Lake Solitude.  We will next circle around the right side of the lake and then climb up to the cliffs you can see in the background.

We've reached the cliffs overlooking the lake, called White Cliff, and the views are stunning.  It was a great place to have lunch.  If you do this hike be careful as it is easy to miss this lookout as it is not marked.  Just look for the long section of ledge that has a white color and looks like the back of a whale.  Follow that rock even beyond where it ends and you will find a few great spots to sit on the edge of the cliff.

After you leave the cliffs it is a 1-mile hike thru the woods that undulate up and down.  Eventually you will reach the first ski trails on Mt Sunapee.  From here you follow this dirt maintenance road about 1/4 mile to the summit lodge.

 I should have brought my skis!  Yes, that is snow that remains.  That is hard to believe it has not yet melted because it is in a wide open area.

Magnificent views of Lake Sunapee from the top of one of the ski trails.

A shot from the deck of the ski lodge (and next photo also).

Note:  Be sure to go to the upper deck of the lodge (on back side of lodge).  There are nearly 180 degree views from that deck.  We found the deck and enjoyed the views but I was sans camera.  I intended to return to my backpack to get it and return to take photos but I forgot.  Can you spell Al-Zih-Mahs.  Sue says she will hike it again this week to take some photos from that deck.  :-)

 One of the few views of Andrew Brook along the trail.