Monday, May 30, 2016

Presidential Traverse (Out-and-back) - 5/26/2016

The weather for this past Thursday afternoon was looking fantastic. With this planned a week in advance, I had arranged my workday for a quick early morning ride to the job sites down in Plymouth, MA, and then raced back to meet Alton at 12pm. We were at the trail head around 2pm. As we exited the car, and Cole jumped out to stretch the legs, a ranger was there and was a little harsh in his tone when he told Alton it was the law for the Cole to be on a leash. Literally like 30 seconds after getting out of the car. The law is actually ..leash or verbal command, as the sign indicates at the Mt. Clinton Road Trail head.  The approach of the ranger was a little silly, but we brushed it off. As I paid for my parking, I went back to the car for a pen, and took the opportunity to say he ought to replace the pencil when he gets a chance. (Little does this ranger guy know) Cole and us' plan was to hike a double Presi, and/or at least some fashion of an out and back Presi. Before the hike, we always plan out, or talk out our options. We have a knack for making last minute decisions, and crafting our plans on the go, but not without a lot of discussion before and during the hike. One option was after reaching Madison, we could return hitting Isolation, and hiking out via Isolation-Dry River Cutoff-Mt. Clinton Trail back to Crawford, or the other option was return via Gulfside, Westside, Crawford Path with no summits, and our third option was to descend to the west slopes (Caps, Ammo, Edmands), and hike roads back to Crawford. What was NOT an option, was getting back to the car any later than 6am, as Alton had a scheduled appointment at work, which was of high importance. With all of that in mind, we started up the trail at 2:15pm.
OMG it's Cole on a leash! ... for like 30 seconds 
Heading up the Crawford Path
Mt. Pierce
Webster-Jackson and Crawford Path junction
The hike up to the ridge was nice. Seeing what we're about to hike across is always awesome. On Mt. Pierce, a guy recognized Cole "from the internet" - never said he recognized Alton or I, just Cole. This pup is something else, I'll tell ya. Next up, we made a quick jaunt of the next section to Eisenhower. After a nice break up there, we ran off the summit on a fast approach to the Monroe Loop. I enjoy a northbound traverse when the pace is fast, as once up to the ridge, it's a nice flow over the easier terrain on the southern presis and good time can be had getting towards Washington and the halfway point. When the goal is to ultimately hike back to Crawford after reaching Madison, we had to keep the pace, like we always do.
A panorama from Mt. Eisenhower summit
Mt. Eisenhower summit cairn, looking west
Alton hikes between Eisenhower and Monroe. We hit Franklin too.
Cole is happy and ready to take on the Monroe Loop, but first....little Monroe.
Cole found a puddle but it was a bit muddy than expected.
He was half black and half white for a while.
Cole enjoys the summit a bit longer, as we leave for Lake of Clouds Hut
Lake of the Clouds, always majestic
Cole enjoys a cool-down with one heck of a setting
One of my favorite spots in the Whites to stop and take a look back.
Mt. Monroe was the spot of my 48 finish.
The climb to the top of Mt. Washington was steady as usual. It was quiet and nice and warm, so it was easy to keep going while enjoying the view.  We reached the summit in the 6 o'clock hour, no one else in sight.  It was my 27th summit of New England's highest peak. Despite hiking most of the 4,000 footers at night together last year, this was Alton and I's 1st Washington summit and Presi Traverse together, something we only realized as we were on this hike. After a quick picture, we readied for the baby jog to Mt. Clay, another stretch to make good time. With the sun lowering, we enjoyed incredible views and calm winds as we descended past the Great Gulf. There was running water along this section, and it offered a unique view with the sun glistening off the water.
The Great Gulf, between 6 and 7 pm
Cole found another puddle, another spectacular spot near Mt. Clay
Looking west on the approach to Mt. Jefferson at sunset
Cole summits Mt. Jefferson at sunset
Enjoying a comfortable evening above treeline
We cross the Jefferson snowfield at twilight with no winds
We made really good time from Jefferson to Adams. Although its not the first time being calm up here, it still had is in an awe during this section. We joined with the Israel Ridge Path and made it to the summit of Mt. Adams. We didn't stay long, and we made it down the tricky Airline Trail. The rocks are pretty big on this trail, and tough descending at night, but we kept going and made it to the hut. We dropped the packs and made it quickly up to Mt. Madison for the 10th peak, and 8th 4,000-footer on this full Presidential Traverse. From Crawford Path it was 14 miles in 8:50. This included 1:50 of stopped time enjoying the hike. We quickly descended back to the hut.
Alton and I on Mt. Adams
Mt. Madison Summit, just after 11:00pm
Despite a nice time on the way across at 8:50, it was now after 11pm, and that left us about 7-ish hours for the return trip so Alton can be home in time. With that in mind, we headed back up the Gulfside Trail towards Thunderstorm Junction discussing our options. We kept moving, traveling back to Edmands Col, and there we finalized our previous discussion that we were going to head over to Caps Ridge via Randolph Path for a minute and then the Cornice to Caps Ridge Trail.  The wind had picked up a little bit on the way over and remained consistent, which solidified this decision. We would probably not even be close if we did any other option. We entered onto the Cornice Trail, and it was fairly rocky and steep compared to its appearance on our map. With the wind going pretty good, and us being spaced out a little farther, being later in the hike, Alton misread the trail sign, continued, and we started to go beyond the right junction to access Caps Ridge. Alton ended up going all of the way up to Jefferson again. I saw Alton pass the sign, and I yelled "Oh, next one?!", but she didn't hear, and I trusted her, so we continued for some minutes. Alton was gone following cairns, I was crawling during this section, but after a few more minutes, I knew something was up, and it wasn't going to be me ....climbing any more. I checked my GPS, and was .16 away from Caps Ridge Trail, and saw that we were in fact ascending Jefferson again. I quickly rock hopped my way over in a fast straight line and began looking up. A few short minutes later we saw each others headlamps, and we descended saying what the hell just happened. I knew I should have also looked at the sign, but I didn't. The sign might even have been a little askew. Little things like this can happen when you push yourself on tough hikes, but trusting your hiking partner and remaining calm is important, no matter what happens.

The Cornice Trail at night, most of it anyways.
Darn my feet were killing going down Caps Ridge. Through the wind, I think I heard Alton say ahead of me, "I think we're almost done with the Caps".  About 20 minutes later when I caught up with her next we were still on the Caps. Felt like the most sore descent in a while for my feet, but eventually we made it to the parking lot and took a quick break. Didn't help with her messing up the route and jinxing our distance to go, but I would never get mad! From the Caps Ridge Trail head to Mt. Clinton Road Trail head is 6.5 miles via Jefferson Notch Road and Mt. Clinton Road. We chose this plan because no matter how tired we are, we knew we could take care of 6.5 miles and make it back in plenty of time to make it to work. It was a long walk without stopping, and it even started to rain Alton and Cole saw a Moose, but I didn't. We arrived back at the trail head at 5am, one hour before our latest time to leave and be on time. Another successful night hike in the books.  Despite only hiking 11 hikes since January 1st, I have done 44 4,000-footers, 236 miles, and 84,000 ft. of elevation. My average hike distance this year so far is 21.5 miles and 7,700 ft of elevation gain. Alton & Cole have joined me for 9 of those hikes. Clearly we're having fun with having fun doing long and difficult hikes. Perhaps we'll see this continue this summer...
The only sleep I got in 32 hours
Cole fast asleep, probably dreaming of his next biggest hike
Me and Alton's first Presi Traverse and Mt Washington summit together.
27th summit of Mt. Washington
20th summit of Madison and Eisenhower
12th Presidential Range Traverse

Trail Conditions:
All of the trails used were mostly dry. Microspikes are not needed anywhere along the traverse. There was some runoff on Gulfside coming down from Washington - it was pretty cool shining in the setting sun. Lots of puddles for dogs, Cole was well hydrated and cooled. Couple small blow downs on Caps Ridge Trail. The rocks in the northern presis were hard and sharp as usual. We had a beautiful evening with barely any wind and warm temperature except wind while descending Caps.

Hike Stats
Trails: Crawford Connector, Crawford Path, Webster Cliff Trail. Eisenhower Loop, Monroe Loop, Gulfside Trail, Clay Loop, Jefferson Loop, Israel Ridge Path, Airline Trail, Osgood Trail, Randolph Path, The Cornice, Caps Ridge Trail, Jefferson Notch Road, Mt. Clinton Road.
Distance: 27.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 9,850
Actual Book Time: 14:40
Presidential Range Traverse (out-and-back from Mt. Clinton Road)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Catching Up - Bringing Back DMOutdoors

Cover photo: October 2015, Sunset from Signal Ridge Trail, Mt. Carrigain

2015 was one off the best and busiest years of my life. Most of you who have enjoyed following DMOutdoors are my friends and family, and will know most of this update when you think back to all my updates, but I feel that some sort of "catch-up" post is required as explanation as to the stoppage of keeping up with the blog. Everything going on the last year was just too much to allow me to sit at the computer...and for sure, that's not a bad thing at all, however, I've always been passionate about my blog, and its time to bring it back. But first, lets take a look back at what has transpired since June 2015 to we go.

In October of 2014, around my 30th Birthday, I decided that I would attempt to complete the remaining 42% of my White Mountain Grid ( in the next year. That goal would entail hiking anywhere from 10 to 32 4,000-footers per month while working my full time job with my brother's commercial flooring business. The total was over 240 mountains, mostly at night, after work. I finally completed my 48 at night (summit after sunset/before sunrise). Many times I pulled over and napped in my car because I couldn't make it home - nodding off. After a couple of hours, I still had to go straight to work. Every hike I had to pack my "life bag", which often included extra boots, gloves, clothing for double Hikes, ... and then there was my toiletries and street and work clothes for the next 1-2 day, since I may or may not be at home.

At the same point in time, that fall, this awesome and loving girl named Linda sparked my interest and our feelings for each other have grown all year into an amazing relationship. :) . She is a super-mom to her two very talented youngin's, Doloreon and Izabel, and they each make me a very happy man.

I had been living with my brother that fall (2014), but was starting to look at homes. There was this one in southern NH, a 1960 ranch with a barn on 4.5 was awesome! It was right up my alley, but, no matter what, it would take years of work inside and out. After looking at about eight other houses going into the winter months, I put in an offer. This got the wheels turning on a process that was on-going from the beginning of last winter through August 2015 when I closed on the home. The house was in a reverse mortgage short sale situation. I think It was mostly this that resulted in me not being able to post even the basic trip reports I started last summer. So during the whole 5-month home buying process, it was emails and back and forth, lots of day-to-day waiting, hoping, uncertainty, and obtaining bids for work that would be needed to make my case and support my offer on this house. I would like to give a shout out to Kevin Madigan and Berkshire Hathaway for helping me from start to finish.
The house I was after; the listing photo from the fall of 2014
4.5 acres with a barn....and lots of work to do
In April 2015, I had to hike 32 of the 4,000 footers to reach my goal of finishing the Grid come November 2015. It was the hardest month of the Grid. It was also the month where one weekend I drove with my brother down to the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and climbed Clingman's Dome, its highest point. I was planning to go with Linda but we had to change plans, and Bill came with me. It poured rain. The rest of the days in April were spent working during the day and hiking through through the snowy and wintry nights. Yes, very snowy nights last April compared to this year. Alton remembers...Isolation at night in snowstorm, a few circles, then Owl's Head at night in the rain with ice bridges over streams breaking at our feet. Overall, hiking and life, April was a big, big storm in more ways than you think. Along with just being out there in the woods at night, many times alone, Alton and Cole were my biggest supporters in April as I pursued my goal. Perhaps this very difficult month was the reason Alton and I share a very adventurous and caring attitude for the mountains and one another.
4/11/15 - On the summit of Mt. Monroe in 90mph winds, where I aborted
a Presidential Traverse. I drove around the range, and hiked the northern Presi's the next day.
4/12/15 - Ascending Mt. Washington for a Northern Presi Traverse
4/15/15 - Sunrise from West Bond during a nighttime
36.5 mile, 9-peak Pemi Traverse
4/19/15 - Clingman's Dome summit, Highest Point in TN
with my brother.
4/22/15 - Summit of Owl's Head at 11pm, in pouring rain and sleet to Grid April
Then there is the important part of it all... my family. My beautiful niece is an aspiring dancer and gymnast. Her dance team made it to the National Championships in Disney World last June. I had never been to Florida before, so for my first time ever, I got to go to Disney World and stay in a villa for a whole week. I was in Magic Kingdom on the night of 4th of July with my family, Linda, and her two kiddos. I had finished all of my peaks for June before leaving, and had over 20 to do in July when I returned after the 4th of July. I remember too, it was a pivotal moment during the short sale process, and I remember getting a promising message while sitting poolside in the sunshine from my broker about the process, yet it still would still take another two months to finalize.
Magic Kingdom on the 4th of July 2015
Fast forward now those two months, which were spent hiking weeknights at fast paces. It's early August. After 5 months, emails and calls start gong back and forth, and me raising my offer $3,000....then a few days pass.......5 months of anxious waiting while I hike more 4000-footers under the cover of darkness to close out August. On August 14th, it all came to a close - I got the house!

I'm happy I got to balance in some boating weekends last summer on Lake Winnisquam. I got straight to work at my house demo-ing the basement, mowing my 4 acre field by hand with a cord trimmer, then by hand mower, then by ride-on mower. I also hauled every piece of wood of 2 cords to its location for my wood-burning fireplaces and stoves. This was done late at night after work by headlamp, just as my hikes were. My neighbor said I've single-handedly done more work at the home in 2 months then anyone did in the last several years.
On the boar with Linda and the kids
McGinness Family Weekend - August 2015
Mowing my field with a push mower - August 2015
Removing the old kitchen floor tile
October was another very difficult month. I had to reach 28 summits to close out the month. I completed a 14-peak Presi-Cat traverse where 12 of the peaks counted for my grid in one day hike. This was a traverse from Mt. Moriah to Mt. Jackson. I was also busy having painters paint my great room, and ripping up, and having floors put in my kitchen.
Sunset from Clay as I headed south to Mt. Washington during
a Moriah to Jackson Traverse (41.6 miles, 18,800' elevation gain, 26hrs)
The Great Room when I bought the house 
The Great Room nearly finished
It seemed, that after a year of sharing my exciting adventures, I had an increase of awesome hiking friends who were following my journey. I found myself on a few more group hikes than before, and because of that, I've accumulated some more great hiking friends, and they are all remarkable in their own ways and endeavors.

As October passed, November came. On November 8, 2015, I was incredibly fortunate to become the 59th finisher of the White Mountain Grid on Mt Eisenhower. Joining me was the best crew of hikers I could ever ask for. It was a day of celebration, one where the goal was to enjoy the outdoors and the Presidential Range. The other goal was to have fun, and that we did. It was windy and challenging as well. It makes me very, very happy that my special day was one that all who were with me won't soon forget. I strive to make all my hikes this way, whether by myself or with others.
A well deserved celebration on Mt. Eisenhower, a special moment
with great friends that will never be forgotten.
Since my Grid finish, I did not hike for almost two months. Holidays were fast approaching and so was my Grid Finish and Housewarming Party! I was busy getting as much of my homestead ready for the mass of fun friends and family in my life to see my new home and celebrate an incredible year in the mountains as I pursued this fun and challenging goal, the Grid.
Purchased a ride-on mower, vigorously cleaning up the homestead
The bonfire at my Grid Finish & Housewarming Party
As the holidays came and went, and winter set in. A group of amazing friends and I set out to take on some of the hardest single-day traverses throughout the winter. As if I was some retired adventurer, these big winter hikes were the only ones I came out for. We did a Mahoosuc Range Traverse, the first ever to be completed in one day in winter, a Presidential Range Traverse, a Great Range Traverse, and a Pemigewasset Loop. All winter, I continued to work on my home, which still kept me away from time at the computer to write about these adventures. I will never forget last winter, and I have my awesome friends to thank for capturing the experiences in their words, on their blogs. The collective commitment, endurance, dedication, and character of our group has shaped a bond that I'm sure will allow us to get together for big hikes no matter where life takes us.

The 1st ever winter Mahoosuc Traverse in under 24 hours (22hrs 30 min)
Winter Great Range Traverse - 16hrs 12 min
Full Winter Presi Traverse - 12 hours 20min
Winter Pemi Loop - 16 hours
Now a WHOLE year or so later, its May 2016, and the ice is finally giving way to dirt trails and knee-jamming rocks. Despite the lack of posts on the blog, it was certainly a wild year of non-stop adventure for me, in my life.  With that, I respectfully ask that you join me as I refresh my passion for sharing my adventures with you, here at DMOutdoors.

This special post is dedicated to all of my followers, friends, and family, and hiking friends. You have all stuck with me and my adventures, and for that I am so grateful. To put all of this into perspective, below was my schedule from the fall of 2014 to my grid finish on November 5, 2015.  As you can see, I put every ounce of my heart and soul into finishing this goal, as well as balancing all of the very important life moments that happened for me in the last year.

For anyone pursuing the White Mountain Grid, I found these quotes inspiring:

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out. ~Robert Collier

The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus. ~Bruce Lee

Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life -- think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success. ~Swami Vivekananda
Thank you!