Mount Washington, NH ~ through the hiker’s lens

At 6,288 feet, Mount Washington is the highest mountain in the northeastern United States, and one of the 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers. Home to a weather observatory, a cog rail, and an auto road, it’s accessible to anyone in the area that wants to visit. For those who choose to hike to the summit, it’s an entirely different experience – one as beautiful as it is dangerous. The view as seen from the trail:

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(Surprise) to Mount Moriah – Another 4000 footer bites the dust!

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So . . . what can I say that’s nice about this hike? The view was gorgeous. And that’s about it. While incredibly beautiful, Moriah was one nasty lady on the day we hiked her. Or maybe I shouldn’t blame her. Maybe it’s not her fault. Maybe it’s that the surprise part of hiking over (and especially back over, on  the way down) Mount Surprise is that it seems to never end. Ever. Twilight Zone, stuck doing the same thing forever, never. Surprise!

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Of course, it could also be that we hiked it on what was the hottest day of the year so far. And being 4000+ feet closer to the sun really does seem to make it feel hotter. Especially when you’re drinking over a pound of water an hour and sweating it out twice as fast as you can drink it. Then there’s that whole searing heat radiating up from the sun baked rock thing. It could be that some of that added to the sour taste this hike left in my mouth.

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Whatever the case, I didn’t love this hike. Except when it was over. Actually, not until it was several days done with, but who’s counting (besides me). The important thing is that we completed the 9 miles safely. Some hikes are better than others. Some days make conditions more difficult. That’s what we prepare for. It isn’t always easy, but most things worth working for aren’t. The next hike will be better.

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At 4049 feet, Mount Moriah is #41 on New Hampshire’s list of 48 4000 footers.

Middle Mountain

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Middle Mountain is an 1857 foot peak in North Conway, NH that offers an excellent view of the valley below. Start at the Pudding Pond trail head (heading north on North-South Road, take a right onto Artist Falls Road, then another right onto Thompson Road, trail parking is on the right). When you see the kiosk with trail info, take the path to the left and chose the fork closer to the parking area.

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This is an easy hike with a great payoff. It can easily be combined with a side trip to Peaked Mountain, also with a great view of the valley. Your hike can be further stretched to include Black Cap and Cranmore Mountains, all part of the Green Hills Preserve.

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Mount Jackson ~ Presidential Range, NH

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Although part of the Presidential Range of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Mount Jackson was named after 19th century Geologist Charles Thomas Jackson and not President Andrew Jackson.

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At 4052 feet, it is the 38th tallest of New Hampshire’s 48 4000 footers.

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This is a moderate hike with numerous river crossings and rock scrambles.

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There’s a great view of Mount Washington in the (not so far) distance.

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In mid-May, there was still quite a bit of ice on the trail.

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The views from the summit are wonderful, if very, VERY windy.

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 It was our first 4000 footer of the season, and I’m not going to lie – it was rough.

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The 5.6 mile hike took us about 4.5 hours, though I have no doubt that the hike could be done much faster.

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My Top 5 Mountain Hikes of 2015

Although I didn’t get nearly as many mountains hiked as I had hoped this year, I crossed another seven 4,000 footers off my list and saw many amazing, memorable views. As the year draws to a close, I’ve looked back and determined my top 5 mountain hikes of the year.

1  Mount Pierce/Mount Eisenhower Loop – This was one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes I did this year. Mount Pierce and Mount Eisenhower are both 4000 footers that are part of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. Both have great views, but the vista from the summit of Eisenhower was incredible. Definitely worth the 10 mile, 6-7 hour hike.

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2   Black Cap Mountain – One of my first hikes after the thaw this year, we hiked several miles up a closed road before reaching the mountain trail, and this was still an easy hike (in comparison to most mountains). Though this mountain is small (2,369 feet), the view is mighty! Black Cap Mountain offers a spectacular view and is a great hike.

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3   Mount Chocorua – I hiked up Mount Chocorua via the Champney Falls Trail, which is a gorgeous hike along waterfalls until you reach the switchbacks leading to the top of the mountain. The easternmost peak of the Sandwich Range, the views from Chocorua’s 3,490 foot summit spread far and wide, allowing for a gorgeous look of the surrounding landscape.

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garfield4   Mount Garfield – I’d be lying if I said this was one of my favorite hikes, but it was one of my favorite views, which made the monotonous, grueling hike worth the effort. At 4,500 feet, Mount Garfield is the 17th highest of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. This was the first time I hiked a snow covered mountain, which I didn’t love, but the view at the top was so incredibly gorgeous that I completely forgot the horrors of the trail (until I was back on it on the way down). I was momentarily transported to an almost magical winter wonderland. Then I was back on the trail. The beauty was short lived, but it’s definitely a memory I’ll cherish forever.

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5     Mount Field – I peak bagged Mount Field along with Mount Willey, and was supposed to head over to Mount Tom, too, (all 4000 footers in the Crawford Notch region) but the weather turned and that didn’t happen. Usually I have a vendetta against a mountain anytime the hike doesn’t go as planned, but this time I didn’t. Perhaps that’s why I liked this hike – because it was a lesson where I grew and gained maturity. Maybe, but it’s more likely that the memory of the creepy birds landing on my hands with their taloned death grip grew on me (it did). I’d like to go back and have another chance with those birds. This time I’d try harder to put my whole birds are dinosaurs that sometimes peck your eyes out thing out of mind and instead try to enjoy becoming intimately acquainted with my new feathered friends as they land on me like I’m in a Disney movie.

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Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer ~ Nonfiction Book Review

book24This is a book that I’ve wanted to read for a long time. I’ve read Jon Krakauer before and knew he had an easy, enjoyable style of writing. I expected this to be a gripping story, but I had no idea exactly how enthralling it would be.

Let me start by saying that I also had no idea how dangerous it is to climb Mount Everest. Difficult, yes, but when actually presented with the statistics (and these are out of date – they don’t include several subsequent tragedies) I was absolutely shocked. That tourists, as in, not professional mountain climbers, would continue to pay upwards of $65,000 apiece to be led into such a deadly situation leaves me speechless. Not speechless enough to not find the words to tell my husband that I am no longer okay with him climbing Everest, but I had few words beyond that.

The book explores Krakauer’s firsthand account of a climb during the deadly 1996 season, during which several of his fellow climbers and guides, among others, lost their lives. After reading his story it is clear how easily (and how often) tragedy strikes on this mountain. There are no rescue missions to the top of Mount Everest. You are literally hiking at the altitude that jets fly, under what are severe conditions at best.

I can’t remember ever reading a nonfiction book that kept me in such a state of suspense before. It almost reads like fiction, and like a horror story, it’s scary. I could not put it down. Five stars.

Black Cap Mountain

 

blackblack7May came to New Hampshire bringing a much awaited spring with it. After a rough, snowy winter, flowers and bird songs and days where you can venture outside without a thick winter jacket on seem like the things that dreams are made of. black10We were anxious to find something to climb. I was more anxious to wake my muscles gently from their long winter nap, as no amount of hiking flat black3terrain – even when it’s covered in waist deep snow – can prepare you for the change that occurs when you go from walking onward to walking upward.

black5I chose Black Cap Mountain for our first climb of the year. At only 2369 feet, Black Cap offers a huge payout in amazing views in exchange for minimal effort. The 2.2 mile

round trip hike can be accomplished in just
an hour or two. Sounds perfect, right? Only
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black14off of was still closed for winter. Argh. But the trailhead was only 2.3
miles from the gate – what’s an extra 4.6 miles added to the trip, especially when it’s paved road and the actual hike is so easy? Yeah. black6Hurricane Mountain Road is a very steep stretch of asphalt.

black2After walking up the road, hiking up the mountain was easy. The day was beautiful  and the view was definitely worth it. We
had the mountain (almost) to ourselves with the exception of a mountain biker, an Ukranian couple, and a baby black bear we missed seeing. After such a harsh winter this climb was a perfect re-introduction to what I hope will be a season full of fantastic adventures.

The Lollipop Loop

hale3This past weekend found us hiking the Lollipop Loop that would lead us over the summits of North and South Hancock in the New Hampshire White Mountains. The hike itself was enjoyable, the trail rambling through the woods with leaves just beginning to gain their fall colors and over shallow river crossings. This trail was much easier than the hikes of the past few weeks. Until we got to the top, that is – but that’s often the case.

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The trail is called a Lollipop Loop because it resembles a lollipop. A single path leads to a divergence – you can go left and ascend North Hancock or right to South Hancock. Whichever you choose, you can hike to the other once you reach the summit, creating a loop at the top of the trail you have to take back down. Thus the lollipop.

hale1The last .7-.5 miles, depending on the direction you chose, is a steep hike. I would suggest hiking up North Hancock, and down South. The north side had a large stretch of loose rock – I’d rather climb up a sliding trail than surf down it. There are ledges at each summit that provide nice, if limited, views.

hale5The trail is located on the hairpin curve of the Kancamagus Highway. The parking lot is a few hundred feet after the road straightens out. A sign at the far end of the lot will point you in the direction of the trail-head. Even if you don’t hike, if you’re ever in the area, you should take a cruise down this road. There are plenty of places to stop for amazing views, like the vista from this lot, shown right.

 

Defeating Mount Whiteface

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I’ve finally conquered my foe and marched across the summit of Mount Whiteface. It took plenty of planning (making it to the right Whiteface is half the battle) and lots of hard work (no one said it would be easy) but this mountain has been slayed and my vendetta settled. It only took four attempts, but who’s counting?

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whiteface10The steep climb led to some ridiculous scrambles over bald rock. Large stretches of stone with limited holds that left you dangling a few thousand feet over open air. Not the most comfortable moments I’ve spent on a mountain, but the views from the ledges were spectacular, as was the view from the false summit. The true summit of Mount Whitehead is a small stone cairn nestled in the woods.

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After conquering Mount Whiteface, we hiked over to his neighbor, Mount Passaconway. The trail between the two was long and full of PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs). After hiking halfway down over a three mile stretch, we had to gain all of our lost altitude in a one mile hike straight up. Like Whiteface, the true summit of Mount Passaconway was in the woods, but a small ledge nearby offered a nice vista.

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This was a long, arduous hike – a little more than twelve miles done in eight hours, and we were dragging our feet by the end. The journey was a struggle, but well worth the effort, and we’ve bagged two more of the White Mountain 4000 footers!

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Hiking Mount Hale

haleThis past  weekend we hiked Mount Hale. At 4055 feet, we got to cross another name off the White Mountain 4000 footer list. That’s about it. One of the quicker 4000 footer hikes, it was much like climbing a flight of stairs for almost 2 hours.

The summit was a ring a trees encircling a clearing with a stone cairn and the rusted remnants of an old fire tower. We covered the 4.6 miles hike in under 4 hours, including our lunch break at the top. Although the hike was boring and unremarkable, it was a necessary evil to achieve our goal. Like a band-aid, we removed it as quickly and painlessly as possible from our path to victory, leaving the way clear for future triumphs. Now off to better climbs!

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