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

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hedgehog Mountain

In my post about Mount Potash, I said how I didn't understand why everyone hiked Mount Hedgehog and not Potash (since they share a parking lot). Well, it was time to find out!

I parked at the same parking lot,

and used the same picture

But instead of ignoring this sign, I turned left to go to the UNH trail.

It was a calm walk through the woods.

After just a bit, I hit a giant trailhead with a ton of information. I didn't even know there was a cross country ski trail. I turned right to follow the trail (I don't know where straight would have gone).

After a bit of climbing, the trail came out to this giant clearcut area that was pretty sweet. 

I had started out the trip wondering if I was following the guide I found online correctly or not. I was worried I'd follow it backwards and confuse myself, which is exactly what I ended up doing. This sign confused me, and even though I have dealt with this several times, I did it wrong. Rather than take the longer trip up the mountain (assuring less steep inclines), I decided to take the straight line to the summit. Why hike 2.1 miles when I can hike .9?

I mostly made this decision because I felt it would be ridiculous to hike up to Allen's Ledge on the way back, when I could just hit it on the way up. This made sense, but in hindsight, maybe the other way would have been better. 

The hike got surprisingly steep right away, and I was having another one of those hiking days where I just had zero energy. Oh, and it was also in the mid 90s with pretty high humidity- temps I like to claim are perfect conditions for exercise, which is a statement I'm starting to feel doesn't apply to me anymore. I was exhausted.

I took the small spur trail to Allen's Ledge.

I was met with a giant rock face, and it made sense to me that the views would be from the top of the rock. Incorrect.

The farther down and to the left I went, the views got better. THIS was the ledge:

Not bad- only a little bit into the hike and I was getting awesome views already.

After getting back on the trail, it started to open up out of the woods pretty quickly. It also started to get quite steep:

And insanely rooty:

But with enough breaks and enough focus, I started to come out to the top of a mountain:

And after a nice section partially above the tree line, I got to the true summit. Here's an HDR I love that I make a nice shadow appearance in:

The true view up there was looking straight towards Passaconaway, which was an absolute monster this close. I was impressed by it on Potash, but here, you're right next to it, and it's frightening. Here's a mini panorama:

And a much wider one of the view to the left:

There are two lookout points at the summit, and while the most obvious one is better, turning around and hitting up the other one is definitely worth it. The views are more similar to Potash's:

I loved this little tree fighting through the rocks. Yea, I might have edited it a bit:

I hung out up there for awhile. I had tons of views, and even though black flies were trying to ruin my moment, my PB&J was still fantastic. But it was getting dark and I had planned on driving to NY for the weekend after this hike. I needed to get going. 

I followed the same trail over the edge of the summit since I knew it would loop around to that sign in 2.1 miles. Right away, I started to understand why people go up this way rather than down. There were tons of sections of rock with very little grip- stuff that's fun to go up but pretty hard to go down:

I could have taken a billion pictures getting back to the tree line. This section was awesome. The entire way was just walking towards Passaconaway over giant rocks, in and out of the trees, with ledge views everywhere. While it was probably harder to hike down, having those views the whole way rather than having them behind me started to make a lot of sense. Maybe I had made the right decision.

Eventually, I was back in the woods, walking around a giant rock wall.

And after awhile of hiking in dead silence after I thought my backpack scraping against my back was loud grunty breathing from a bear or sasquatch (and didn't realize until later that I had completely fooled myself (.... or had I?)), I was back on ledges. This spot was pretty incredible. It was nice to be able to look up to where I had just come from:

Passaconaway and the valleys around it made for a pretty glorious view. So it was time to take a Mike vs. The Mountains shot:

I feel like camping up here would be pretty cool.

This section lasted awhile, and it made me hike insanely slowly. I couldn't stop taking pictures. It was just nothing but open faces, ledges and views for quite some time. I don't even remember where I took this picture, but the sky was just dark and cloudy enough that it was making for incredible HDRs:

Once back in the woods, I got into a case of Down Syndrome. Let me explain: when I finally got to the parking lot, I saw a guy I had seen at the top of the mountain who was either just really weird or super high. He was quite psyched to see me. "DUUUDE YOU MADE IT!" I told him that yes, I had. I had enjoyed the hike, but going the way I did, I had to deal with a lot of ups and downs, and I didn't understand why they made the trail that way. "Oh, you got a case of down syndrome huh?"

I am now going to call it this all the time. I just wanted to be at my car, and the hike down just never ended. I just kept going down, down, down. Down Syndrome.

I'm assuming these trails are called the UNH trails because people from UNH made them, probably for a class or something. I don't know what they were thinking on that 2.1 mile section. I like a small climb on the way down every now and then just to give my muscles a break, but jesus, this was ridiculous. I thought I was climbing back up the mountain a few times. Not only that, but it felt like the trail went around stuff a bunch or meandered randomly when it absolutely didn't need to. Maybe they designed it for people who love hiking and being in the woods, and not the jerks like me who are sick of hiking as soon as they're a half mile down from the summit. 

But all in all, this hike was awesome. I got some nice beginnings of sunset on the way down, and there were views everywhere. I now understand why people hike Mount Hedgehog. Potash is awesome and worth it- the summit views are better in my opinion, but Hedgehog had all those ledges, and just tons of rock sections to hike around/over. Definitely an awesome mountain that I will absolutely be hiking again- maybe in the fall so I can peep tons of leaves. 

I got in the car and started heading north up the Kanc to go to NY, when I realized how stupid of an idea it was. I wouldn't get there until probably 2 in the morning, and even though Dustin and Amanda would be out late at a Phish show (which is why I was going), it would have been a huge pain in the ass to drive that far when I was that tired only to bother them and be that guy who shows up that late. So I called an audible and called Kevin and Gina to see if I could just stay at their house. I stopped at Wendy's on the way and destroyed some JBCs.

Their house was maybe the hottest house I've ever been in (BUY AN AIR CONDITIONER YOU LUNATICS), but I got a shower, some nice unexpected hang time, and once I set up my travel fan, I slept pretty damn well. I also got some cute overload:

I got up fairly early the next day and started making the 4 hour trek to NY for a crazy weekend. 

Hedgehog Mountain is awesome. Go hike it. Here's probably my favorite shot from the trip, all instagramed. This would have been my view after coming out of the trees if I'd hiked up the way the online guide told me. That small ledge with Passaconaway staring down at me was quite glorious. 

currently listening to: Those Who Lie Beneath- "An Awakening"

Monday, August 5, 2013

Caverly Mountain

After doing some huge hikes, then sitting through a week of rain, I decided late in the day one Saturday to get out and hike a small mountain I'd been curious about for a few years, Caverly Mountain in New Durham, NH.

Heading north on King's Highway, shortly after a small pond on the left, the road bends to the right, and there is a gated dirt road on the left. This is Caverly Road, apparently. I parked here and headed out. Here's an atrocious picture of the starting point:

It's just a dirt road for awhile, but I'm glad I didn't try to drive up it, since there are huge rocks and loose sand. Follow it for probably a half mile, and you'll reach the trailhead.

Turn left here, this is the start of the "trail."

I put trail in quotes because this is basically just a dirt road up a mountain. I wasn't expecting much since this is a pretty unknown and small mountain, but I was hoping for more than this.

thanks for the arrow though!

It's very wide the whole way up, with increasingly bad footing:

And, since it had rained so much, a lot of that footing was quite wet:

Eventually, the trail got a bit flatter and opened up into some nice woods. It then got a LOT wetter:

But shortly after that, I was at the top. 

I was immediately happy. This was exactly the hike I wanted- short and easy with not a lot of elevation gain, but still enough so that I felt like I was hiking a mountain. Due to the high humidity and temperatures (it was 90 if I remember right), I was pretty soaked by the time I got up there. I also had had almost zero bugs on my last few hikes, so I stopped bringing bug spray. Whoops! The entire hike up, I was battling 10 deer and horse flies who thankfully mostly didn't bite me, but still annoyed me to death by just flying all over me the entire hike. Always bring bug spray. Always.

The top of Caverly was pretty open rock with a lot of sporadic trees and sections of grass. It was very nice and I thought about how it would probably be a great place to camp. Someone had even set up a sweet fireplace and left a chair!

There was also this awesome rock that looked like a Graboid from Tremors or the worm monster from Star Wars: 

But what ruled about the top was the view. This immediately gets thrown in the book of hikes with awesome views with minimal effort. 

To the right was Winnipesaukee, but the sun was so brutal, it was hard to capture, even with HDR skillz:

I hung out for awhile and enjoyed the views, then headed down. On the way down, I thought about coming out here with a tent and basic survival stuff and food and just living in the woods for a month, and the logistics of all that. What would I do all day? What would I do when someone wandered over and found me, a haggard mountain man living in the woods on a tiny mountain in New Durham? I think about weird stuff while hiking.

I stopped on the way home to take pictures at that little pond. It was pretty gorgeous:

And I turned around and drove past this again just to get a picture. Apparently this has been like this for a long time. I love it, and I love that the town kept it.

Was this the Graboid from the top of the mountain?!?

I pulled over at Sunrise Lake too, since we all know that my hiking trips are really just photography trips/instagram fuel.

All in all, great little semi-local hike. Once I decided that where I was parked was in fact the right place, and found out that the trailhead really was the trailhead, it was only about a 3 mile round trip hike with somewhere between 700 and 968 feet of elevation gain. I say this because the sites I use have drastically different numbers- I'm guessing the higher elevation gain number takes into account the walk up Caverly road (which is pretty hilly) and the other only starts counting at the trailhead. So the higher number is probably the right one. Either way, this is a great small hike with a crappy trail but fantastic summit. Definitely a good warm-up or last-minute hike for a pro, and a great option for a n00b looking to get into hiking. 

currently listening to: The Story So Far: "Under Soil And Dirt"

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

4,000 footers #6 and 7: Mounts Tom and Field (and Avalon)

Next on my list for 4,000 footers were the comparatively smaller Mounts Tom and Field, easily done together (according to the internet). I got up early, but took forever to get there (with stops for food and a stop at EMS for shotblocks), but when I got there, it was a perfect and gorgeous day. 

The trailhead for these bad boys is at the Crawford Depot, the first building/train station on the left once you've driven into Crawford Notch (going west), somewhat across from Saco Lake and just before the giant AMC Highland Center. In other words, plenty of parking. 

I got my stuff together, stretched and headed out. There were a lot of people in the parking lot, but they were either tourists using the bathroom or people walking to the AMC center and parking here instead. To get to the trailhead, just cross the railroad tracks and you're good to go.

Mount Jackson to the left, Willey in the distance

The main trailhead:

The trail started out pretty flat, then gradually gained elevation. I hit a nice stream crossing.

After a little ways, there was a sign for the Cascade Loop, something I hadn't really read about on any online guides. I decided since I had no idea where it reconnected, I'd skip it for now.

But right next to the sign, there was a section of fast moving water and almost cliffs. 

this is steeper and more badass than it looks

A few minutes later, I came across where the Cascade Loop went. Since this was clearly just a section of trail that visited sweet cascades and was only a brief section, I decided if it was light enough on the way home, I'd hit it up. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

I eventually came across 3 or 4 filthy young people working on the trail. They were re-routing it to get away from the river a bit- I guess it got a bit too wet. The guy I asked didn't seem to have much of an answer. The trail they were making was a mudfest that generally sucked to walk on. I prayed this section wasn't long. 

I saw 2 tents set up deep in the woods. I guess these were volunteers who just camped out off the trail then worked on it all day? I hoped they were getting paid, it looked like awful work.

The trail went back to normal and I hit another nice stream crossing in a bit, this one with a nice little rock bridge:

And then the trail got much nicer- clean, dry, well maintained and not too rooty or rocky.

And then I was at the intersection I had been looking for. 

Every online guide I read took the left here, hiking a half mile to the summit of Mount Avalon, a much smaller mountain than Tom and Field that apparently had the best views. Since I'm a supreme view whore, I had decided to do the hike the opposite direction the guides took- take the more gradual, less steep (at least seemingly so, based on a topographic map) trail to Tom (which supposedly had a mostly wooded summit with not much views), then over to Field (which were better), and end my trip with the best view. 

So I went right, now following the A-Z trail.

The trail almost immediately went steeply downhill, the thing I hate the most when hiking up a mountain. And almost right away, I stepped on a rock wrong and ate shit down the trail. Only like a mile into the hike and I'm already falling! Awesome.

The trail was going down to what was probably once a raging river, but was now mostly just rocks. This spot was awesome, and honestly, the woods were so busy, it was really hard to capture in a picture.

The trail then climbed very steeply to make up the elevation I had lost,

and continued this way for awhile. Over more stream crossings,

over boulders, getting steeper and steeper,

and even turning into stairmaster land too. I was PSYCHED.

Shortly after this picture was taken, I almost puked from a giant bug flying into my throat. I was scream choking and making barf noises, with spit and boogers hanging off my beard. These are the kind of moments where it feels very weird to be completely alone in the middle of the woods.

I was starting to hurt pretty bad. I was trying to hike smart and take my time, but the trail just didn't let up. It wasn't insanely steep by 4,000 footer standards, and was generally pretty gradual, but I'm in generally terrible shape for someone who thinks he's a hiker, so this trail was never-ending and painful.

But as I've learned with hiking, the cooler looking the woods got, the closer I knew I was:

And soon enough I was at an intersection of flat, somewhat open forrest.

I sat on a tree and ate a banana, then headed to the summit of Mount Tom, following the sign for the Mount Tom Spur trail.

The trail immediately climbed, but I was in the almost-there zone, and I elevation gain really didn't bother me at this point. I was also in the wow-these-woods-are-awesome zone, where as long as the woods are thick enough and I'm hiking over crazy rocks and roots and feel like I'm in the middle of a remote and dense forrest, I don't hurt as much. If only all of hiking could feel this way!

It was a hard-enough half mile, but I only needed a few short breaks, and then I began to see sunlight. There was a clear right turn to what was obviously a lookout, but in my save-the-views attitude, I decided I should worry about the summit first, then views later. This blinding sun was what I wanted right now:

I walked right past the cairn marking the true summit, deciding to see if there were views beyond the mountain tops I could barely see over the tips of trees at this spot. Luckily, there was a spot with a tree trunk that got me just high enough to see some decent views.

There's sort of a bench up there, but generally it's just flat ground with trees everywhere, and views you have to really work to get. But they were nowhere near as limited as I was assuming based on what I had read online.

And #6 was summited. 


I spent as little time as possible up there (I had to take like 10 pictures before I got that awful one), then hit up the small trail for the outlook. It was pretty sweet:

And I got to see where I was going next. It looked very far away.

I flew down the trail, slipping for the 2nd time, then hung out at the clearing just to catch my breath. I then followed the trail right, down a hill.

The woods had a thickness that was oddly silent and creepy.

I then turned onto the Willey Range Trail, where it was .9 to the top of Mount Field.

People who are in great hiking shape will often follow this all the way to Mount Willey, then either walk up the road from its parking lot, or do a 2 car Willey Range Traverse. I imagine the 1.3 miles from Field to Willey are probably pretty awesome, but that's quite beyond my skill set. Plus, Willey was #4 for me. No need to go back already! 

This trail was as good as the others in terms of footing and elevation gain, but I was pretty damn tired at this point, and all this climbing was killing me. I did my best to listen to music and just pace myself, but I needed a lot of breaks. I spent a lot of time wondering why someone who hates walking uphill so much keeps going hiking.

At one point, I reached a fairly flat spot, and found myself walking downhill for a lot more distance than I was comfortable with. I didn't see the trail going up at all, and actually walked by, wondering if I had somehow missed the summit sign/trail. I was freaking out, immediately wondering if I was lost.

Nope. The trail does go downhill more than it seems it should, but eventually, it climbs a little, and then this sign told me where to go:

Apparently the summit is a small crown of this mountain, which, now that I look back, you can clearly see in the picture of Field from the outlook on Tom. This true summit is reached by hiking up a very steep section right after I thought I didn't have to hike up anything more. Ughk.

I did most of this before gasping for breath. Turning around revealed a pretty sweet view:

A quick turn to the left was nice too:

And then I was at the summit cairn,

and I was happy. 

There's a very obvious trail to a somewhat cleared out outlook with even a sort-of seat. I loved the view from there.

It was made a world better with a PB&J too.

I ate a lot of the food I had, happy that, after I was starving and weak on my last 4,000 footer, I had finally brought enough food. I took too many pictures of the same thing, wandered around the top a little, then headed out. I almost screwed up real bad though, since I just started blindly following the trail I had taken to get here as it continued past the summit. I had completely forgotten that I had hiked a Spur Trail, and I needed to go back to the sign to get to the Avalon Trail to Mount Avalon, which would not only take me to Avalon, but also my car. That could have been bad. I wonder when I would have noticed that I was hiking up Willey? 

I hiked back down to where I was supposed to be, and the sign told me it would only be a mile to Avalon, and 2.8 to my car. Ok pain, go away.

This trail felt like it was steeper than the trail I had taken up. It was also a lot more slippery, with way more exposed rock sections. I was happy I had taken a less steep route on the way up (since I'm pretty good hiking down steep stuff), but I saw why most people go up Avalon first, since the footing hiking down was pretty atrocious or non-existent a lot of the way.

This section took me longer than I was expecting because of the footing, but I eventually reached a pretty sweet clearing:

Hey, I was just up there!

And after climbing down more, I hit yet another "summit 100 yards" sign. 

And holy shit, this was some steep stuff.

This is me flipping off the trail, but I apparently don't know how angles work when it comes to photography:

Not only was this 100 yards steep, but it hit rock climbing levels. This was not what I wanted to deal with at this point in the hike.

But it was extremely worth it.

I even made a panorama that for the most part works. This is the full view from the top of Avalon: 

I don't think stupid blogger lets you view this huge anymore. Too bad, it rules.

Even the other side (looking at Field) was gorgeous, especially with the golden hour sun hitting the trees the right way.

Hiking down this section was pretty tough, and this was also when it started to get a bit dark. I still had 1.8 miles to go!

I immediately was so happy I had hiked up to Tom first. The trail from Avalon back to the intersection with the A-Z trail was absolutely brutal: just boulders and roots on insanely steep stuff. I wished I had had ski poles. This section took a long time, and I'm still feeling lucky I didn't slip at all. This was like pure break-an-ankle terrain.

By the time I got back to the sign, it was starting to get pretty dark, and I was pissed I had killed my very short hike-down-in-daylight streak. The last section seemed to never end, and just got darker and darker. By the time I got back, it was night. 

But I was alive. I stretched, put on my crocs (lifesavers), changed my shirt (why did it take me so long to think of this?), tried to ignore the stink from the bathrooms, and got in the car to begin the 2 hour drive home. Although not as steep as some other hikes, this had the most elevation gain I've done, and it was my first 3 peak hike too. I hurt, but I was generally alright, and it was a solid day of hiking. 6 and 7 in the books! And not only that, I'm done with the Willey Range! 


The short version:

These mountains are right in the middle of tourist land, but they're also across from Jackson and the beginning of the Presidentials, so they don't seem to be anywhere near as popular. I'd say they're definitely a great introduction to multiple peak hiking, and a great and fairly reasonable way to cross 2 4,000 footers off your list. If you're just looking for views, Field is the better one in terms of 4,000 footers, but Avalon absolutely takes the cake if you are only interested in views and not 4,000 footers. Unfortunately, the trail is extremely steep and I don't know how soon I'd want to try to hike up it for that view. It's great, but that's some STEEP hiking. 

-Take 302 west from Conway into Crawford Notch. Park at the Crawford depot, on the left right before the AMC Highland Center, and basically across from Saco Lake. Take the Avalon trail, which starts right over the train tracks. 
-There are signs everywhere you need them, but I did the Avalon Trail, A-Z trail, Mount Tom Spur, Mount Tom Spur back to the intersection, Willey Range Trail to Mount Field, then A-Z back to Avalon, back to the car.
-Hike time: A little over 6 hours with solid time at 3 summits.
-Mileage: 7.2 miles: 2.9 to Tom, 1.5 to Field, .9 to Avalon, 1.9 to the parking lot
-Elevation gain: 3,091 feet (I think- one site says 2,750, so maybe somewhere in between)
-Summit Elevations: Tom: 4,051, Field: 4,340, Avalon: 3,442 feet
-Number of people seen on the hike: 4 workers, and 1 older guy who was only about .5 miles to the parking lot when we met. The rest of the hike was all mine.
-Number of times I fell: 2

Music listened to: I attempted to start playing every song on my ipod (everything I've gotten over the last year) on shuffle, which would be a fun thing to keep going all summer, but my ipod froze and undid all of my work on the next hike I went on. :(

currently listening to: Snoop Lion- "Reincarnated"