(older entries, separated by genre or date, are listed at the bottom of this page.)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Best Albums of 1994

This was a good year, which meant I wanted to talk a lot about the albums. As long as this took me (from putting off doing it), I really enjoyed reminiscing about these classics, and getting my music-journalist on and writing WAY too much. I'm trying to get these out sooner. Hopefully 1995 will be soon, but for now, enjoy my musings on the wonderful year of 1994:

(click the picture for the link)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Whiteface Mountain (Belknap Range)

Probably a solid 3 weeks ago, I took advantage of some more unseasonably warm weather and decided to start taking down the Belknap Range (the small range of 12 peaks around Alton Bay that Mount Major is part of). My plan is to get all of these under my belt this spring as a warm up for knocking off 4,000 footers this summer/fall. I started with Whiteface, which is the farthest south and the smallest at only 1,664 feet high. I had read a few trail recaps at Franklin Sites (a great resource for hiking around here), and this one seemed pretty obvious and simple. 

You have to park at a small little clearing before a gate at the end of the short road connected to Belknap Mountain Road, then walk up a dirt road past peoples' houses, turning left just before the far white house in this picture. Certainly an odd start to a trail. I felt very odd walking pretty much through backyards with kids screaming in them. 

The trail is moderate but vertical right away. It's also incredibly boring. 

There was a nice surprise about 15 minutes in though, as there is a dilapidated old house off in the woods to the right of the trail. 

I ignored the KEEP OUT signs and explored a bit. It looked like maybe an old hunting lodge, but from a tree hitting it and the floor rotting out, it had seen better days. It now had the usual beer can/garbage collection, plus this, which I thought was pretty funny:

Here's an HDR of the destroyed side. Pretty cool. 

The trail had a few turns and downward parts as I got higher up. It definitely got more interesting and trail-like (rather than just a fire road through the woods), and before long, I reached a sign I wasn't expecting. Maybe I didn't read those trail reports very well. I only saw 794 feet of climbing and people saying they got to the top in 20 minutes, so I figured this was super easy. 

It was farther and steeper than I thought, and I had no idea this trail was also a route to Whiteface's neighbor, Piper. By maps, it looks like you can make it to Belknap and Gunstock by following the same route, but there isn't much for signage or info on these trails online. This frustrated me a lot, since it was getting dark (WEIRD that I would leave too late), and I was pretty much in the "wait, I'm not at the top now?!" mode. I followed the sign for Whiteface and instantly hit the land of "wait, I have to go all the way over THERE!?"

Admittedly, it wasn't that far, and this is still a pretty short hike. I'm just out of shape and was apparently not as prepared for this hike as I had thought. AND, call me entitled or unrealistic, but I have grown fairly used to mountains with signage on them, either with "the top of the mountain is over there" signs or mileage signs. I guess I shouldn't expect this of all mountains, but I kind of do- it would be very nice to know exactly how far I have to go, and exactly where I need to go to get there. To the left of this picture was a very worn trail into the woods that I first thought was to the summit, before I realized I wasn't actually on top of a mountain. 

From here on, the trail curved to the right and then wrapped around up the side of Whiteface. There were huge rocks and plenty of dirt/mud. The trail pretty much sucked, as it was clearly just a road that people went off-roading on. I like my trails to be thin and very deep in the woods or at least interesting/beautiful. This was neither. 

I got to the top though, and took the best shots I could on a super overcast, murky day. 

The last steepness before the top

Piper behind me

MERCUH (I joke, but this was nice to see)

I assume that this is a spot where someone camped and then got attacked by bears: 

(on the ground is a stove and some supplies, and high in the trees are shards of clothing- this was kind of terrifying). 

Here's a as-good-as-I-could-get panorama of the view from the top:
(as with all pics, click to see it bigger)

And here's a super blue HDR of where a jeep mudbogged the crap out of the dirt.

As a typical Mike-hiking storyline, it got dark pretty quickly as I was on the top, and I had to walk pretty fast to get back down before I was wandering through the woods in the dark. It also started raining pretty much at the division sign in the woods. Luckily it didn't rain too hard and the trail was easy enough to navigate, but I absolutely got to my car in full on darkness. And as Kevin said, only I would find a Ministry CD in the middle of the woods. In good condition too! I'm guessing it flew out of someone's jeep while it bounced off enormous rocks. 

This was a nice small hike, but other than the view below and the destroyed house, it wasn't much to get excited about. BUT, 2 of 12 peaks are in the bag, I got some exercise, and I finally listened to Bon Iver's first album with an overcast rainy trail and mountaintop as my backdrop, which worked perfectly. I'm planning on doing Gunstock, Belknap and Piper in a loop, Rowe on its own, then Kevin and I are talking about attempting to do the remaining 7 in one ridiculous loop (which will include Major again) sometime in May (I hope). That ought to be pretty hilarious/awesome.

Mega instagrammed view from Whiteface: 

currently listening to: The Mars Volta- Noctourniquet