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.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Iron Mtn & South Cliffs - A Beautiful Trailhead (Yes, Trailhead)

This was day four of our five day hiking vacation in the Whites.

Without further ado, I am going to show a few pictures of the beautiful views that exists at the trailhead.  Yes, these next three shots were taken from the trailhead, not some viewpoint or summit:

There you go.  I guess we could have ended the "hike" here and jumped back into the car satisfied with what we had seen.  LOL...

Today's hike was of Iron Mountain and more importantly the South Cliffs some .7 of a mile further along the Iron Mtn Trail.  It is the cliffs where we were treated to great views, even better than those at the trailhead.  To reach the trailhead you make a rather substaintial elevation change on the dirt road approach.  As best I recall, the drive on this well maintained dirt road climbs about 1,100 feet which is why the views at the trailhead are so good.  

Now on to some pictures taken during our climb.

There is a viewpoint not too far from the actual summit that has nice views.  This shot and the next one are from that viewpoint.

To help put things in perspective, the larger mountains on the right side of this photo are the Wildcat Ridge and further along Carter Dome.

At the summit of Iron Mountain there are remnants of a fire tower but there are no views.

To reach the best views on this hike you need to follow this designer trail sign.  I think they used Microsoft Publisher or maybe Adobe Illustrator to design this trail sign.  The sign says it is .5 of a mile to the South Cliffs but the White Mountain Guide has it as .7 and I would agree that it is at least that far.  An easy hike with a number of smaller ups and downs along the way.

We've reached the cliffs and the views are broad and certainly made this short hike worthwhile.

A little something I don't do often in my blog, a video of the view.

There is a lot of washout like that shown here on the trail up to Iron Mountain.  I often wonder when I see this type of condition whether it was caused by years of rain and erosion or was most of the damage from a few major storms (lke the damage done by Hurricane Irene in 2011).

More erosion.

If your are looking for a short hike with substantive rewards while in the Jackson, NH area this is one I would highly recommend.  It is only about 3.25 miles with 1,210' of elevation gain.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mt Hayes - Hazy Day On Hayes

This was day three of our five day hiking vacation in the Whites.  Today we planned a hike to Mt Hayes both for the views and because it is just off the AT where the Centennial and Mahoosuc Trails meet.  The latter was important in that we were also dropping off two friends who are thru hiking the AT.  We had helped them resupply in Gorham earlier in the morning and now they were returning to their AT journey (more about that in a post to come).

The trailheads for both the Centennial Trail and the Mahoosuc Trail are on the same dirt road which follows the Androscoggin River.  As far as I can tell, the only thing gained by using the Mahoosuc Trail is that you save about .8 of a mile of hiking.  After driving on the dusty, bumpy dirt road for 6.6 miles past the Centennial Trailhead, there is no doubt that we would have been better off using that slightly longer hiking route.  What we did gain by using the Mahoosuc Trail is peacefulness (and a dusty car).  We only saw one person for the entire hike.  He was on his way down the mountain, which we found interesting because there were no other cars parked near the trailhead.  We are not certain where he had came from or where he was going??

If you plan on using the Mahoosuc Trail, know that you should stop and park when you see the dam pictured below.  You will not yet have reached the trailhead but there is no parking at the actual trailhead.  You must park at the dam (only a .1-.2 mile walk to trailhead).

This signage is both interesting and confusing.  The sign for the AMC Trail which points right is especially confusing.  As far as I can tell there are no trails in that direction.  I took this photo while standing at the trailhead looking across the road.  In any case, look for the trailhead sign shown in the photo below and you will be in the proper location.

An interesting fungus growing from the trunk of a birch tree.

We've reached the ledges and are enjoying the views.  It was hot again today so the photos are hazy.

 The right edge of this shot is looking right down the heart of Pinkham Notch (Rte 16).  The ledges generally face in this direction.

All in all this was a nice hike with great views that I would recommend to others if you are in the area and are looking for something easy with a nice reward.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mt Martha & Owlshead Cliffs - Not "The" Owl's Head

This was day two of our five day hiking vacation.  Today, on my 60th birthday, we hiked the Cherry Mountain Trail to the summit of Mt Martha.  After enjoying the great but limited views from the summit, we took the Martha's Mile trail to the Owlshead Cliffs.  No, this is not the infamous Owl's Head Mountain that those seeking to complete the 48 4k's need to accomplish.  It is however a small open ledge with 180 degree views ranging from the Presidential Range to Lancaster, NH.  Don't hike Mt Martha without also taking in the Owlshead Cliffs.  It is the views from the cliffs which make this hike worthwhile.

The trail leaves a larger than normal parking area along Rte 115.  Watch for the parking area closely as the signage on one side of the road is missing.  We had way more parking available than we needed as we did not see another person for the entire hike.  Peaceful for sure.

This hike was a 5.4 mile in and out with 2,470' of elevation gain including the descent to Owlshead and return back up to Mt Martha.  So, though it is a short hike there is enough climbing to get your heart a'pumping.

 Celebrating my 60th birthday.  We've completed 1.7 miles and we will reach Mt Martha in another .2 mile.  From here to the summit the trail is actually a snowmobile trail in the winter months.

Had to take a selfie to get a shot of us both as there was not another human being to be found all day.

The limited but still impressive views from the summit of Mt Martha.  The Presidentials are in the background.

This is the last segment of the Martha's Mile trail just before we reach the Owlshead Cliffs.

The next couple of shots are from the cliffs.  It was beautiful for sure.

Looking back at Mt Martha from the cliffs.

There appears to have been some recent surveying of this area and this marker shows the boundary of the White Mountain National Forest.

The surveyors determining this boundary had to work very hard.  Here they've cut a swath through the woods on a steep section in order to gain a line of sight for their surveying instruments.  I would imagine this is not an easy job!

 As we descend, the last mile or so of the trail follows an area where the trees have been harvested in recent years.  That allowed the afternoon sun to cascade onto the trail.

Certainly I would recommend this short but interesting hike.  You'll find it on the 52 with a view list.


Monday, August 25, 2014

North Percy Peak - Ledges Galore

Today was day one of a five-day vacation in the White Mountains.  We were there to celebrate my 60th birthday and to do what we love; hike in NH.

Our plan was to do short and mostly obscure hikes each day and return to the lap of luxury each afternoon at the Mount Washington Hotel.  We spent most days alone or very nearly alone in the wilderness and returned to the hubbub of an exclusive resort each evening.  A dichotomy to say the least.  This location would also provide easier access to some of the 52 with-a-view hikes that are further north, with some being as much as an hour north of our hotel.

Just how quiet were our hikes?  On Monday we saw only two groups of three, Tuesday no one, not one soul, Wednesday one person, Thursday one group of two.  Friday was a bit busier as we hiked North Twin and as well it was the start of Labor Day weekend.  Here is a summary of our hikes for the week (each has or will have their own blog post soon):

08/25 - North Percy Peak - 5.9 miles - 2,260 elev gain - 5 hr 15 min duration
08/26 - Mt Martha & Owlshead Cliff - 5.4 miles - 2,470' elev gain - 4 hr 40 min duration
08/27 - Mt Hayes - 5.4 miles - 1,810' elev gain - 4 hr duration
08/28 - Iron Mtn & South Cliffs - 1,210' elev gain - 3.2 miles - 3 hr duration
08/29 - North Twin Mtn - 8.6 miles - 3,100' elev gain - 7 hr 15 min duration

For the five days: 28.5 miles - 10,850' elev gain - 24 hrs

The weather each day was essentially perfect, though we did find Mon-Wed to be a bit on the warm side with nary a breeze.  Monday's warmth made the long ledge scrambles we were faced with as we approached North Percy Peak to be somewhat like hiking on a barbecue grill.

To hike North Percy Peak we parked at the Percy Peaks Trailhead and did the 1-mile road walk to reach the Percy Loop Trail.  We followed the latter to its intersection with the Percy Peaks Trail, summited North Percy Peak and then returned to our car using the Percy Peaks Trail.  It certainly felt like the perfect way to hike this mountain.  Here is what the loop looks like:

I would point out to fellow hikers that there is a lot of mossy ledge on the descent using the Percy Peaks Trail.  There are herd paths circumventing much of this slippery trail but, even so, caution is needed.  I myself slipped and fell twice on the descent.

 Here we start our hike with the roadwalk.

We signed the log book at the start of the trail.  Thanks to this group for maintaining these trails!!!

I took this photo a couple of miles before reaching the trailhead.  North Percy Peak is the mountain in the background.  This gives a great perspective of just how much ledge we would encounter on our way up.  Remember, it was a hot day and the sun had baked these ledges.  Just how much can one over-sized hiker sweat in a day?  Lots!

We've arrived.

The peak is a large plateau with sparse vegetation.  Short paths lead to views in all directions.

The heat created even more of a haze than normal but to the naked eye the views made the hike worthwhile.

 We begin our descent with a beautiful lake in the distance as seen above.

All in all a great hike and one which is very deserving of being on the 52 with a view list.