Friday, July 12, 2013

Old Speck Mountain - July 4th, 2013

With 2013's Independence Day falling on a mid-week day, I was able to accompany my friend Mike as he continues his quest for the New England 4000 footers with a hike to Old Speck Mountain in Maine. Having climbed only Katahdin (with me in 2012) outside of NH, this hike officially got his remaining quest for the New England 4000 Footers moving in the right direction. Good luck Mike!
The Eyebrow and small ridge to Old Speck from the parking lot
We started with a fun ascent of the Eyebrow Trail. I had only come down this trail once before, and its recommended for ascent only (although its not as tricky as some other similarly described trails in the whites). It was definitely a lot of fun going up it this time. It adds some elevation gain to the hike, but very little. As long the trail conditions are dry, I highly recommend anyone hiking Old Speck to go up the Eyebrow, and down the Old Speck Trail (AT). It makes the hike a tiny bit more challenging and fun.
Use only the climbing aides provided!
The Cables
The railings...the ladder....
...and the rungs!
It was really hot and humid, so the ascent was a definite work out. It was a perfect little warm-up 2 days before my planned Great Range Traverse. As with my previous times to Old Speck, I really enjoyed the surrounding scenery on the mountain. The wet, moss and fern covered land really makes it a pretty hike that most will enjoy.
Top section of the Eyebrow Trail 
View from the Eyebrow 
A web we saw about eye-level on the trail 
Fern covered forest 
Wet mossy rocks
Next, we continued on, and shortly after hitting the junction we reached the summit of Old Speck and climbed to the top of the observation tower. We took in the great views for a few short minutes before the bugs caught on and started eating us. Unbelievably, it was my 3rd time to Old Speck.
Look at that calf muscle at work after 183 days of no mountains!
Mahoosuc Trail takes you to the summit
Mike climbs the tower! 

As Mike was getting into my car in the morning, I couldn't help notice (and I had no idea) that I had bought the same pack as he, the Gregory Z30 pack. Nothing like going up the trail with copy-cat backpacks it was hilarious and made for a lot of fun on the hike. By the way, this pack is sweet and has become my favorite so far, so I'm hoping it works well this winter too for shorter winter day hikes and climbs.
DMOutdoors & The Outhouse sporting matching Gregory Z30 packs!
On the way down, we were treated to the beautiful water features found along the Old Speck Trail, which is the part that is by-passed when taking the Eyebrow Trail. I've seen these falls at only much smaller levels before, so it was nice to see them with a different effect. You have to love summer hiking for when there's a cool stream to cool off in every so often along the way.

After a solid hike with an ascent of 2,850 feet, we were pretty beat, but that didn't stop us from adding one more quick stop on the way out, and that was a quick walk to check out Screw Auger Falls, just a few minutes from the trail head. The place was loaded with people (rightfully so in this heat) so a it was just a quick peek and off we were (see photos below). Mike has hiked two more NE 4000 footers since this hike, and is going New England 4000 footer crazy trying to finish them up! He's actually sticking to his word, so to see if he finishes Maine and VT this summer, I guess we'll have to check out The Outhouse (that's if he can keep up with the blogging too!)
Screw Auger Falls geology 
Screw Auger Falls, Maine 
Screw Auger Falls, Maine 
Hike Stats
Trails: Eyebrow Trail, Old Speck Trail (AT)
Distance: 7.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,850 ft.
Actual Book Time: 5:21

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Presidential Traverse - 6/30/13

On Sunday, June 30th, I completed a full south to north traverse of the Presidential Range in 10 hours and 20 minutes. I had a funky grid-inspired plan in mind that I was attempting, that would have entailed me going back over the range in the night time, to complete a double Presidential Traverse in two different months in 24 hours. Because of the unsettled weather for my specific timeline, it left me feeling unsettled about going back up onto New England's highest peaks after it had just poured for about an hour when I finished. Wet northern Presi rocks in the middle of the night after getting soaked was enough for me to back off. But at the end of the day, I had still squeezed a Presi Day out of a warm, humid, and unsettled day in the White Mountains.

At 8:45 on the nose (after leaving a cache at Appalachia for myself about an hour earlier), I began my day with a quick ascent of Mt. Jackson in about 70 minutes. I stopped at the Mizpah Hut to re-fill my water, both bladder and bottle, after already drinking my entire 2 liter bladder. I drank close to 8 liters on the traverse. Without any hesitation, I continued on, moving the quickest of the day from the start all of the way to Eisenhower. At times, I moved swiftly at a jogging pace, including most of the way down Eisenhower. I refilled water at each hut location, including the Washington summit, managing my water with any problems. The temperature for the entire traverse was not overly oppressive.  In fact with breezes, it was pretty nice.
Webster-Jackson Trail 
A beautiful morning in Crawford Notch & Bretton Woods  
The Presidentials from Mt. Jackson.  (1:10)
AMC's Mizpah Hut 
From Mt. Pierce (2:03)
Mt. Eisenhower (2:38)
Oakes Gulf from Mt. Monroe (3:34)
I looked at my hand on the summit of Mt. Monroe to find a surprise hitcher
No bad weather at the moment but potential for it was growing nearer....
The majestic Lake of the Clouds, as always 
Mt. Washington summit (4:33)
Quick photo for my 14th summit of Mt. Washington - don't want to hold up the line.
Wasn't wasting any time sitting around...dark clouds coming, the toughest ahead...
The Great Gulf and Spaulding Lake
Mt. Clay, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Adams 
Mt. Jefferson summit (6:59)
Clouds over Washington from Jefferson
View from near Adams summit
Mt. Adams (7:39)
Osgood Trail on Madison summit ridge
View from Madison
Mt. Madison (8:31)
I felt great descending to Appalachia, and was in really good spirits for having accomplished this time, and being in the ballpark for an attempt to go back over. When I got the trail head, I grabbed my cache and quickly cooked and ate a 2-serving freeze dried meal. I had my hammock set-up for about an hour's rest, but in minutes, the sky let loose, and before I could get my tarp up, I was pretty soaked, including my hammock, really dampening things. I had to scurry to get my military-style poncho over me, my pack, and cache bag, where I sat for at least 45 minutes as it poured, not being able to do anything. It let up a little bit, and I was able to get the tarp overhead, but my hammock was pretty much now useless until I could get it dry. With this madness taking place, my specific time for break was really for not, and by that time it was becoming impossible for me to finish in 24 hours, so I decided to just chill out. I opted against pushing myself over wet rocks and an uncertain night of maybe more rain. I took the Appalachian Mountain Club's shuttle back to my car at 8:40 on Monday morning. I had taken the day off to go for it, but just didn't feel like pushing it this time. It was a pretty interesting night at the trail head under my tarp. At least I had left my cache with food, warm clothes, dry socks, and everything I needed! I'll be tweaking my plans a little and I think this one is getting another try at the end of August!
Appalchia (10:20)

Hike Stats
Trails: Jackson-Webster Trail, Webster Cliff Trail, Crawford Path, Eisenhower Loop, Monroe Loop, Gulfside Trail, Jefferson Loop, Israel Ridge Trail, Airline Trail, Osgood Trail, Valley Way Trail
Distance: 21.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 7,530 ft. (skipped Franklin and Clay since they are not on "the grid")
Actual Book Time: 10:20

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Brotherly New England 4000 Footer Finish - 6/22/13

On Saturday, June 22, 2013, my brother and I completed the 67 New England 4000 Footers atop North Brother in Maine's Baxter State Park. As we neared closer to the end of this journey, it grew on us that it would be ever-so-fitting to end this part of our journey with a two-brother climb over the Brothers to end on Brother. Being the northernmost peak on the list in Maine, it also fit with both of our tastes by being hard to get to, remote, and beautiful (we nearly went for it this winter). Although we experienced this same accomplishment together on the same final peak, we created our very own journeys having completed our White Mountain 4000 footers at different times and on different peaks (but both in less than a year). And, despite me having finished the White Mountains 4000 footers earlier than he, both he and I have now reached ALL 67 summit together, at least once, which is a pretty amazing thing. After reading that, what comes to mind is that this is what climbing the 4000-footers is all about. So what if everyone's doing it, yes it's the same goal, but everyone's journey is different, filled with different highs, different lows, and different obstacles on trail and off trail. This was how we both closed out another chapter - A great weekend in the mountains, a Brotherly New England 4000 Footer Finish.
Nesowadnehunk Lean-to #6

We booked two nights in a lean-to at the Nesowadnehunk Campground, and arrived Friday evening about an hour prior to the required 8:30PM cut-off. For us, the adventures always start on Thursday with packing. This one required an early exit from the office, in order to make the long 5 hour drive. Don't forget at 20MPH, the 16 mile drive into Nesowadnehunk Campground takes about 45 minutes or so. The full moon was incredible, and after a nice fire and setting up the sleeping gear, we were sleeping not too much later.

On Saturday morning, feeling very excited, we awoke to a pretty nice morning. We pretty quickly geared up for our final hike, which was a counter-clockwise loop over Mt. Coe, South Brother, North Brother, and Fort Mountain, which is a bushwhack. North Brother would be our final 4000-footer, and the other peaks would be make for a nice bonus, getting 4 total 100 Highest Peaks. Our packs were already set so after some quick food and orange juice, we made the short drive from the campground to the Marston Trail parking lot, where there was one other car. The weather was looking great as we looked up to Doubletop and over the Nesowadnehunk Stream. We signed in at the register, and the person before us was about 20 minutes ahead going straight to North Brother, though.
Doubletop from Marston Trail parking area 
Start of the Marston Trail
The woods along the start of the trail are nice, and eventually it reaches a stream and follows it for a little while. We made our way to the Mt. Coe Trail junction, where we took a right beginning our approach to Mt. Coe.
Marston Trail below the lower Mt. Coe Junction 
Lower Mt. Coe Trail junction 
Small stream crossing on the Mt. Coe Trail 
Hiking up into col between Coe and O-J-I 
I see you lil' fella - this guy nearly got squashed 
As we made our way into col between O-J-I and Coe, we couldn't help but notice how sweet of a slide it was! The rock was wet in many places, which resulted in slip and scrape of my leg in one spot that drew blood. The slide seemed to get much steeper the higher we went, but the top is pretty cool, and within about a minute of going into the trees at the top, we rounded the corner coming out onto the Mt. Coe summit. The views from the summit were great, in all directions.
Impressive! - Looking out towards our start from the base of Coe Slide 
Caution: Slippery when wet - Indeed it was a little tricky in spots
Great shot of Bill on the Coe Slide 
The Coe Slide and the col, with O-J-I 
Mt. Coe summit, with the Brothers in the background
The Katahdin massif from Mt. Coe
South & North Brother from Mt. Coe
From Coe, descending the little ridge into the trees on the way towards South Brother reminded me a little bit of descending the Hamlin Ridge Trail from Hamlin Peak. It's a nice little section with cool views that gave us a little boost of momentum, because we pretty much cooked it along the easy stretch of trail following Mt. Coe until we reached the South Brother spur. In the trees, it was tough to tell what was going to happen with the weather. We decided to drop the packs to bag South Brother. As soon as we did and started up the spur, of course, the skies opened up. As we kept going up the spur, it started to rain a bit harder, and the wind was gusty, making it pretty chilly. Of course, we left our jackets in our packs (it had not rained yet on the day). As we neared the summit, and about 10 minutes after the rain started, it seemed to let off a little bit, and we were able to enjoy the summit of South Brother.  Even though the rain lasted just a few minutes, we did get wet, which resulted in us having to make minor clothing adjustments when we got back to the packs.
South Brother spur junction
Spur Trail to South Brother 
Me on the South Brother summit
Clouds and rain moving in over the Klondike 
Anyone know what peaks these are well west of Doubeltops? 
Next up on our agenda was North Brother, our final 4000-foot peak to climb in all of New England. Of course here the excitement grew a little. We continued on the Mt. Coe Trail .7 miles to the junction with the Martson Trail. Although foggy and wet, the trail and woods were still really nice.
Mt. Coe Trail nearing Marston Trail junction 
Mt. Coe Trail & Marston Trail junction
Now on the Marston Trail, we contended with wet and running trail from the recent passing rain shower. The vegetation on these paths are a lot more grown in than the White Mountains, which makes things interesting, and obviously keeps your outer layers wet. Phasing us not, we continued on and upwards. Eventually we broke treeline and the last of the scrub to come within sight of the summit sign through a faint cloud. Although it wasn't the clearest and best of sights we've seen, it really stood out, beckoning us, with its impressive summit. Around us as we trekked toward the summit, moving fog covered the sun, reduced our views tremendously, and blew against us. A few minutes later, with smiles ear to ear, we touched the summit, finishing the New England 4000 Footers.
Approaching North Brother Summit

While the views were not extravagant for our initial summit of North Brother, we would later get some sunshine on the way back from Fort, which was our next destination. Fort Mountain is a New England 100 highest peak (along with the other 3 summits on this loop), and it is a bushwhack. There was no way we would pass this up for another time. The beginning of the bushwhack is very clearly marked by cairns leaving the summit of North Brother and into the scrub. There were orange flags marking the route from this point on. They often make sharp turns, so on occassion you should look in each direction to see where the next one might be. When in doubt, if you do look down among the grown in path, you will see a pretty decent herd path at your feet. I would caution, though, that the path is not flat underneath. It's not necessarily a walk in the park because there is elevation loss and gain involved, and the path is littered with roots, making trips and falls almost unavoidable (never mind it was soaking wet). This type of terrain could easily tire you if you're not ready for it. Even I might add that I'd be a little worried heading into this area solo.

Without incident, however, we made it to treeline on Fort and immediately went to the two left summits, with the far left one being the true summit. At the time, and even though I had just read a report before leaving, I completely forgot which of the summits was the true one.  Because of that, I suggested to Bill that we go over to the other ridge (south) just in case (a peak-bagger's worry). We found orange flags leading over there, but when we arrived nearly 30 minutes later through thick nasty stuff, we clearly could tell the other summits were higher. At that point, I wondered that the flagging going south along the ridge might lead to the plane wreckage that rests on Fort's mountainside. That would be left to find out for another day, and we of course went back to the true summit (which took another 30 minutes through the nasty thick scrub).  During this pointless out-and-back to the southern summit, my brother lost his entire food bag out of his pack! Thankfully this was a day-hike. It's a bright orange bag. I wonder if anyone will ever find it!
Approaching summit of Fort Mountain 
Bill on Fort Mountain 
Me on Fort 
Fort Mountain summit ridge 
Looking back at North Brother from treeline on Fort
Fort Mountain bushwhack (on way back to North Brother) 
Bill pops out of the trees back onto the slop of North Brother - amazing!
After our excursion on Fort Mountain, we made the bushwhack back without any issues at all. In fact, things got a much better as the sun poked through the clouds and we made our way back to North Brother. When we did, we stayed a little longer than before because the views were spectacular. I think at that moment, we experienced the best views we've ever had in Maine. With that said, it was also time to celebrate, and that we did, with a shot of whiskey at the summit and a couple of nice ales back at the lean-to - it was a beautiful night at Nesowadnehunk Campground. The incredible Supermoon was a memorable setting for our night, as we enjoyed the fire and talked about our journey.
Baxter State Park 
Katahdin's summit in the pufy white clouds 
South Brother and Coe 
South Brother and Coe, with Doubletop behind 
Leaving North Brother, amazing scenery to be present in 
A surprise view descending the Marston Trail 
Steak and Kabobs 
A beautiful evening on Nesowadnehunk Stream 
Mt. O-J-I from Nesowadnehunk Campground 

This lil' guy chilled with us for a while 
Hangin' by the fire 
A surprise deer on the 45 minute drive out of the park
Looking back at my records, shout outs go to Sean R, Rachel L., Mike W., Nicole W., and my awesome niece Kiara for being a part of me and Bill's New England 67 journey. Shout outs to those we've met on the way! Most importantly, thanks to my brother Bill for joining me in this adventure and visiting every single one of these summits together.  Your path to # 67 was a little bit different than mine, but being part of yours, and being able to end this one together on North Brother was nothing short of perfect! On to the next adventure we go....Thanks all!

Hike Stats
Trails: Marston Trail, Mt. Coe Trail, South Brother Spur, North Brother Spur, Fort Bushwhack
Distance: 13.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,460 ft.
Actual Book Time: 10:25