Blueberry Mountain

We needed an escape, a place to meld back with nature – to relax and get away, a place for both puppies and their human counterparts to roam free and stretch their legs – fourteen days is too long to be cooped up.

Our sights were set on other destinations, but when we realized just how swollen all of the brooks and streams had become from the recent onslaughts of rain storms combined with inevitably warm springtime temperatures, turning the final crusty bits of rotten snow to white capped torrents heading downstream. We began searching for another something local.. a destination both new and exciting for all of us!

I had noticed on the short drive north that we were close to the eastern trail head for Blueberry Mountain. Just along the western flanks of the more popular Mount Moosilauke, the Glencliff trail head became my u-turn spot just prior to pulling off High Street to gain access to the gated Long Pond Road.

Like I said, our objectives were originally regarding other peaks in the area from this trail head – the fact that Blueberry was right there and totally accessible was a complete bonus and worked out fantastically for us!

Quickly locating the trail head parking lot (which was still gated from the winter about a tenth of a mile in from where we parked) about a mile into our day, all signage directed us to leave our road walk and diverge left (northwesterly) onto the Blueberry Mountain Trail, initially following old logging trails.

Both of us remarked about how the narrow, well tracked-out trail reminded us of the well-kept scenic trails of the west coast.

Dry leaves turned into patches of mud with some rock-hopping and before long we were climbing, which did not let up until we were standing on the bare summit rocks a little while later.

The eleven-percent grade continued through varying forests along our narrow walkway, through low-hanging evergreen boughs brought closer to eye-level by the weight of recent snow, all around looked like meandering side spur-paths, together we wondered if any of them whisked adventure seekers off to secret destinations.

Before long our soft trail turned into bare rock slab; weaving around patches of still-frozen ice we were thrilled to be greeted by sunshine as we closed in on the height of land.

During the entire trek up Blueberry mountain we could glance back over our shoulders and be greeted by a waving Mount Moosilauke nearby; the trail-less Mount Clough and Jeffers also visible as we panned our gaze counter-clockwise from the Mighty Moose.

Unfortunately, this morning we were not treated to the plethora of blueberries that our once tree-less peak offered its visitors, we found no wildlife scurrying around, only patches of stubby conifers adored the forest floor which was still dotted with open granite.

The bare rock made navigating quick and efficient, even when trail markers and rock cairns were sparse – we merely continued climbing “up”.

When we encountered the oncoming footprints in the snow (hikers traveling to Blueberry from the west), our topographical instincts told us to swing off on a spur trail to the right (northerly), which eventually brought us to the thick steel rebar remnants of possibly the old geological survey tripod, and onward to the actual high point of the mountain.

After taking in the scenery, putting names to surrounding peaks.. and of course, petting puppies for as long as we could, we retraced our steps in the snow back to open rock slab. Finding a nice open ledgy area with a fantastic backdrop of Moosilauke with fresh snow lining its rock slides that zippered up its ravines.

We both remarked how different the descent appeared now that the sun had melted the minuscule layer of ice that had adorned the slabs during our climb only a short time earlier.

Passing one fellow hiker, we exchanged casual greetings all while keeping our prescribed social distance and wished each other a wonderful trek.

Within minutes, we found ourselves back on the lower logging roads, traipsing through the muddy leaves from last autumn and thinking of how lovely our apples and oranges were going to taste once we arrived back at the Subaru.

And with that we tossed another fantastic hiking adventure into our grab bag of local trails; Blueberry Mountain, maybe next time we find ourselves here we will continue on to the trailless summit of Jeffers or venture over to the top rocks of Owls Head cliffs to the south.

We both agreed that next time we will pack a bit of food and some tea to enjoy on a sunny day with a bit of warming breeze – who knows, maybe we will even be welcomed to a mountain with rolling slopes of blueberries as far as our eyes can see!

Enjoy nature, happy climbing!

Erik


 

 

Overall stats for the day:

Recorded with COROS Pace GPS watch

  • 5.64 miles
  • 2hr 57 minutes
  • 1,496′ elevation gain
    • Blueberry Mt – 2,662
    • 52WAV #45

North & South Doublehead

A leisurely start to another day of adventuring found us back in Conway, New Hampshire; turns out the rechargeable and lithium batteries that the United States Post Office refuses to handle gave us a splendid reason to pack ourselves and a bit of gear into the Subaru and point our compass east.

Seeking out mountains, plant-based pizza, quietly tucked away bookstores and the new-ish REI Coop to intercept a few new USB rechargeable headlamps for our Long Trail thru-hike!

With both hearts and bellies full, the four of us (Ciara, Boone, Crockett and myself!) bounced over the frost-heaved back roads, passing what looked miniature A-frame alpine ski villages with street names such as Vail and Chamonix, we certainly felt transported right out of our familiar White Mountains!

Knowing that we would be keeping our pups on leash (as we normally do), we humans secretly longed for trails all our own to roam free on. No luck today, with decent wintery temps outside and predictions of clear skies – the makings of sunset were legit, we were hardly surprised to find a handful of others at the start of the trail – even several Sprinter vans gave evidence of a spectacular van-life unfolding!

Feeling like I was acquainted with minor details regarding these neighboring mountains, each weekend I repetitively saw the names of North and South Doublehead among the trail reports for our other adventures. Today though, we went into this afternoon jaunt with ideas of what the trail map looked like, how the trails themselves were laid out (which direction to travel in case we got off trail.. the usual details I’d research before a hike), but not as much history and back-story for the area as I typically prefer – and honestly, sometimes the mystery of not knowing who came before us keeps the conversation sharp, fun and lively!

Our two German Wirehaired Pointers were more than satisfied with our slow start as they both got some unscheduled, early treats for sitting calmly and behaving while we happily waited for a few other pups with their owners to pass by.

It did not take long for our breath to resemble puffing locomotives, expelling rhythmic steamy clouds step by step ascending the Doublehead Ski Trail. Footing was excellent, we climbed in Hillsound spikes as our boys ran trail-side to trail-side, darting from tree to tree sniffing possibly the most interesting smells of all time!

One couple descended, ripping past on their skis with their own pupper-dog yipping at their heels. They stopped briefly to chat and ask all about our brothers. Once they had their fill of dog-petting, we wished them a very nice sunset ski and proceeded up. Step by step we kicked our toe spikes into the freshly re-frozen terrain.

Being a moderately wide ski trail, the views rose from the horizon radiating warm hues of sun-setting behind us; before long we had an incredible view of neighboring Mount Washington greeting us, illuminated like a pastel-colored ball of gelato in the distance over Ciara’s shoulder.

Topping out on North Doublehead we stood for a brief moment in time taking in a hint of breeze through the trees. The cabin, however, was absolutely bursting at the seams with commotion – the laughter emanating from the likely owners of the remaining cars back at the base lot.

It was interesting to me that the guide books all list the North peak on the “52-With a View” list, unless we missed some crazy-epic views out back beyond the cabin, the north summit left a bit of something to be desired.

Hoping to find our mountaintop “with a view” we continued back onto the main trail once again, beginning to descend almost immediately.

From the summit of North Doublehead, we left the bustle of the cabin behind us and picked up the Old Path south which loses about 300′ in three-tenths of a mile; perhaps it was the fading daylight or it could have been the glissading descent through several inches of unconsolidated snow, but the path down to the col seemed to be a moderately steep one in these conditions!

Blasting through the next intersection, knowing that the setting sun would be greatly reduced of its color minute by minute, quick work was made on the trek over to South Doublehead. Some slight meandering and mild switchbacking gave way to incredible look-out ledges on the hikers right.

The skyline now shone with deep pinks and residual glowing nectarine hues, it was here that I think I found my happy place!

Completely unsure if I had actually reached the “high point” of South Doublehead, I consulted one of my GPS/mapping apps which indicated indeed, I had not. Actually, depending on which map you consult – you may get differing direction of where the high-point of the mountain is located; some indicate the ledges that I visited initially to be the summit point, while others continued down the New Path and onto the short spur past where the New Path swings right and down grade.

Either way, both locations had great views! I suspect that some day Ciara and I will return with our pups, a plant-based power lunch basket and in good weather sit atop these rocks and watch the hawks ride the thermals!

It was so serene and lovely up on South Doublehead.. which directs my thoughts to the namers of Iceland and Greenland; perhaps they threw the title for “52 with a view” at North knowing that it would keep the scores of hikers away from the peace and amazing vistas found at South? Not likely, but also not sure!

Capturing the final moments of color in the sky before all shone a dull grey, I began retracing steps rather hastily now. I had occasionally jogged in my Asolo mountaineering boots, while not something I like to make a habit of, they are nicely supportive for the ankles and honestly.. if a person would want to hike with 5-pound weights on their feet, these boots are a darn good option for getting that extra leg work out!

In what felt like a fraction of the duration to ascend, I saw the intersecting signage at the bottom of the final hill and without breaking stride, slammed left – back onto the Old Path which began cutting down the mountainside then continued with a swing off to the left, lessening the grade.

Up and over mounds of snow, launching myself gleefully off ledges of fresh powder with the occasional one-legged glissade for style-points, I was reminded of childhood again as I leaned into each turn, hugging the new growth saplings as I meandered each switchback. It felt amazing to gain speed and just cruise down the trail as the light grew dim, letting the cares of the impending work day slip from my thoughts.

Eyes darted from the snowy path before me to the next foot placement henceforth to the surrounding forest, side-to-side I scanned for the slightest bit of movement or glowing eyes watching this wacky hiker galloping down the mountainside in a fit of laughter! I am happy to report that not a moose nor a bear was spotted (or startled!) on my speedy descent.

A very quick half-mile was tackled before reaching the lower Y-shaped intersection where we had passed not long ago, continuing back down familiar terrain along the super solid Ski Trail. It’s always amazing to me how easy it seemed to jog down this path, possibly warmed up from the slow slog up-slope earlier or perhaps enticed by the thought of seat heat once back at the Subaru helped to hustle our trek out.

Any further to go and I think we would have been breaking out the headlamps, but as the last bit of light dwindled we slowed to a walk to complete the remaining quarter-mile or so, enjoying every last bit of trail time that we had.

Just like that.. sadly another adventure was coming to a close but (..happily for our taste buds!), not before we made a side trip to The Met in town for iced lattes and a black coffee containing several glorious shots of espresso – just the late night fuel we craved to keep eyes pried open for the two-hour drive back to our cabin.

It was a very lighthearted day, late- but perfectly timed start for an incredible sunset in the mountains, no where else we could want to be (..except maybe wrapped in an electric blanket, cozied up with each other and a good book!), great company, awesome eats, good trekkin’ – long-days are always welcome, but I am totally already looking forward to the next short-day out for us!

Interested in more of these 52-With a View sort-of jaunts? Be sure to check out my other post, a quick read all about this list of hikes.. right over.. here!

Be well, stay healthy and have happy climbs!!

– Erik


Overall stats for the day:

Recorded with COROS Pace

  • 3.93 miles
  • 1hr 54 minutes
  • 1,988′ elevation gain
  • North Doublehead – 3,053′
  • South Doublehead – 2,939′

52 With a View

Are you perhaps new to hiking in the glorious state of New Hampshire?.. Or maybe you are looking for a different type of adventure – something with a slight twist from the typical “New Hampshire 48”, the 4000-foot summits?

While lists and “peak bagging” is not for everyone, I found it can be a charming way – or even a guide as to what to hike next, Summit of Doublehead Mtor where to adventure next!

There have certainly been many weekends where I’ll sit by the fire with coffee nearby and ponder my options – and really, the options for good trekking in New Hampshire really are endless, so how could a person simply ‘run out’ of options for fun mountains and places to adventure in this massive state?

There are days when I have absolutely tossed twenty or more peak-names around in my head, plotting my would-be adventures on topographic maps only to sit back and think aloud, out of near frustration: “but nothing really.. calls to me.

There are many out there who would scoff at the idea of having a list of mountains to “check off”; pick a mountain, climb it, picnic on its summit, which-ever-way you want to enjoy new trails – and that’s it, check it off the list, done.

While I can honestly say, yes I use lists as more of a ‘guideline’ of what is available to me locally or wherever I may be traveling to on any given weekend – I am definitely not one of those folks who will conquer a trail just to remark: “never again!” – there are always different seasons, varying times of the day – such as a sunrise or sunset hike; trails can absolutely be hiked any time of the year.. but with proper gear for winter travel, of course!

The options for a good, satisfying trek are truly endless with a good imagination and desire to get outdoors!

So, where might I be going with all of this?

To a list that most have probably heard of – if you have stepped foot on any trails in NH already, or found yourself striking up a hiking-related conversation with other hikers’ – most have certainly heard of it!

52 With A View.. or better seen in print as: 52 WAV

This was a sort of challenge created by a few hiking folks that absolutely took off – these are not your typical ‘high peaks’ as they all fall under the four-thousand foot mark, so you won’t find the Mount Washington massifs on here!

Obviously, as the name implies, at least at the time that the list was mustered up – in 1979 (revamped in 1990), there were views on all of these mountain tops. Well, naturally, shrubs grow thicker, trees often times grow taller – but I have found most of the views that once made these place names a hikers’ destination still provide incredible panoramic views.

Why hike off the 52 WAV list?

For really any number of reasons! As in my case, there are weekends where I’ll ruminate over contour lines of a map and for a moment become somewhat depressed that no trail really beckons to my soul – these are typically shorter, easier hikes to trek than some others found in the White Mountain National Forest.

But what is really captivating for many folks (myself included at one time or another!) is that upon completion of all fifty-two summits, the kind organizers offer a finishers patch to spice up your pack, tack into a frame with your favorite summit photo, or just hang onto and collect ‘memories’!

In an effort to make this a ‘one stop shop’, and of course a ‘thank you‘ for reading along – I’ll kindly include a bit of info as to where you can get your own 52WAV patch.. later on in this post, below!

At the time of writing this, I cannot claim to have hiked all of the mountains on this list, but I have either solo’d or trekked with friends along many of these routes – so, of course you can comment on here or shoot me a note on any social media platform with any questions – if I don’t have the answer – I will gladly find it for you!

Where can I find these 52 With a View?

Just do a search on your favorite web-browser and you will find a plethora of trail reviews, maps you can print (always have a hard copy of your planned hike.. and of course, know how to read your map!!).

One site that I have become familiar with that even offers hikers’ a spectacular App for any smart phone to track your progress or even use to simply pinpoint where these hikes are located is Peak-Bagger (I threw a link in there for you, just click the text!). I enjoy this page/app because it is super easy to add dates, elevation gain or any special notes about each hike that you would like to have all in one convenient spot to quickly refer back to and jog your memory!

Plus, one epic feature is that you can select a tab to view the lists that your ascended peaks fall under, select which list you want to view; the map that is generated contains way points signifying each peak to signify where they are located with green dots for climbed or red dots for ‘to-still-do’, I love it!

Do I need any special gear to tackle these magical mountains?

 

No way! Well.. maybe some binoculars or good snacks if you think you may want to relax and observe nature during some of the time not spent trekking17 miles to a secluded 4000-footer in the middle of the National Forest!

While the trails are generally easier jaunts in the forest, they still provide steep trails – after all, this is still New Hampshire, and most of these trails are still located next to their taller cousins.

Just be aware of what season you are hiking in: if you naturally feel you can articulate your feet and ankles on our east coast trails with simple grippy trail runners or approach shoes, that should do you just fine in three of our seasons!

Of course, be mindful that these trails are no different: they get steep, they get wet, they get massively eroded down to rocks and roots, you absolutely can still twist ankles – these are still hiking trails into the forest – don’t ever assume that you The author on Smarts Mt - fire towerwill have cell phone service anywhere on any hiking trail in New Hampshire!

What are the peaks?

I’ll include a list of names and elevations as a starter for you (also below), if I wrote about my hikes to these destinations I’ll graciously link those pages to the names, so just click away, read and enjoy! However, if you don’t find a link to a hike that you are interested in.. there is a good chance that I just have not written about my adventure yet.. these things take time! 😉

Please feel free to reach out to me about any one of these hikes – if I haven’t yet climbed it, I’ve likely put in a bunch of time researching the peaks, so please do reach out if you would like any additional info here!

..52 With A View..

 

  1. Sandwich Mountain – 3,960′
  2. Mount Webster – 3,910′
  3. The Horn – 3,905′
  4. Mount Starr King – 3,898′
  5. Shelburne Moriah Mountain – 3,735′
  6. Sugarloaf – 3,700′
  7. North Baldface – 3,600′
  8. Mount Success – 3,565′
  9. South Baldface – 3,560′
  10. Cherry Mountain – 3,554′
  11. Mount Chocorua – 3,480′
  12. Stairs Mountain – 3,468′
  13. Mount Avalon – 3,440′
  14. Jennings Peak – 3,440′PeakBagger.com - 52WAV map
  15. Percy Peaks (North Peak) – 3,420′
  16. Mount Resolution – 3,415′
  17. Magalloway Mountain – 3,383′
  18. Mount Tremont – 3,371′
  19. Three Sisters (Middle Sister) – 3,354′
  20. Kearsarge North – 3,268′
  21. Smarts Mountain – 3,238′
  22. West Royce Mountain – 3,200′
  23. North Moat Mountain – 3,196′
  24. Imp Face – 3,165′
  25. Mount Monadnock – 3,150′
  26. Mount Cardigan – 3,123′
  27. Mount Crawford – 3,119′
  28. Mount Paugus (South Peak) – 3,080′
  29. North Doublehead – 3,053′
  30. Eagle Crag – 3,020′
  31. Mount Parker – 3,004′
  32. Mount Shaw – 2,990′
  33. Eastman Mountain – 2,939′
  34. Mount Hibbard – 2,920′
  35. Mount Kearsarge – 2.920′
  36. Mount Cube – 2,909′
  37. Mount Willard – 2,865′
  38. Stinson Mountain – 2,840′
  39. Black Mountain – 2,820′
  40. South Moat Mountain – 2,760′
  41. Black Mountain (Middle Peak) – 2,757′
  42. Dickey Mountain – 2,734′
  43. Iron Mountain – 2,726′
  44. Potash Mountain – 2,680′
  45. Blueberry Mountain – 2,662′
  46. Mount Israel – 2,620′
  47. Square Ledge – 2,600′
  48. Mount Roberts – 2,582′
  49. Mount Pemigewasset – 2,557′USGS marker atop Mt Cube
  50. Mount Hayes – 2,555′
  51. Middle Sugarloaf – 2,539′
  52. Hedgehog Mountain – 2,532′

For information about receiving a patch for your determination and love of adventuring.. I have been told to direct you to:

  • Mark Tuckerman
  • PO Box 718
  • Center Harbor, New Hampshire 03226

Also, be sure to check out a few of these resources for a bit of further reading and research bliss!

Late-winter trail running on Mount Monadnock

“Honey.. I don’t know what to do, again..!!”

Not often, but if you listen carefully enough these words can be heard echoing across the bare apartment walls. The dilemma of not knowing what to do, which mountain to go visit. How can this become a problem in the first place? With so many sprawling networks of trails, seemingly endless bumps of mountain ranges both big and small, just take your pick!

All throughout the week, similar to any other week that I know Ciara is going to be on call, I know I have free rein to sprawl out in any direction I choose. The weather had been checked, which looked good – real good in fact! I could hop in the trusty Subaru and drive any direction settled on – north if I wanted to stay local and visit Moosilauke, head a bit further east and I could be in the Wild River Wilderness area of the White Mountain National Forest, west would take me back to the lovely Green Mountains, of which I had several 3500 bumps on the horizon that I had been meaning to pay a visit. South of Plainfield, however; this area did not hold as many options as the other directions, but there was one summit that had been on my ‘to-do’ list .. or better yet, my ‘please-visit-when-you-have-a-spare-several-hours’ list.

We have now lived in the state of New Hampshire for about 16 months, and the name of this mountain is one that I have known for all of these 16 months: Monadnock. We first saw this towering mass while Ciara was showing me the pretty side of Keene, where she spent sometime doing the college things in years past. The instant we turned through the double rows of trees onto Rt 101 it was there sticking up off of the horizon, “whoa.. what the heck is that thing??”, I remember murmuring as I reached for my phone to check the GPS maps. She was certain what we were staring at was a local favorite, in fact a favorite of just about everyone in the state who had climbed its flanks.

It was the only mass in sight rising off the horizon line: Mount Monadnock.

While doing my search for weather, trail maps, reports, conditions, history – I quickly learned that there are quite a few of these Monadnocks around the area, no less than five dot the topographic maps of New Hampshire and at least one in Vermont. So, why is this such a popular name? While most mountains are named for folks (famous first discoverers, or landowners, or important folks, etc.) or towns found in far away countries, a monadnock is quite simply a geological term given for a rock formation which rises at least 1,000 feet above the surrounding highlands. Our Monadnock today just happens to be an ultra-hard chunk of bedrock that just refused to erode away as the rest of the valleys had, luckily for this feature, it gives adventure-seeker folks such as myself something to do!

If this mountain had been on our radar for so long, and we had visited the area several times, why had the trails not yet been traversed by us? With miles and miles of connecting trails – this seemed like such a beautiful area to trail run, winter hike or just relax on its open summit on a windless day. We knew Mount Monadnock to be contained in the State Park, which clearly has blasted all over its website that puppy dogs are not allowed under any circumstances (ours are always on leash, like most posted signs recommend). We really saw no feasible reason to go hike this just to check it off a list while our boys slept in the car – we don’t hike like that!

So Monadnock, for nearly a year and a half stayed on the “boy, that would be nice to visit, but not without our doggies” list!

After much debate and stating that I had no idea where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to hike – I decided to make the trek south on Sunday, March 24th, to get an early start seeing what this mound of bedrock had to offer!

One could easily get tangled up in the question of how to ascend the mountain, one glance at the trail map clearly shows six main ways of travel to converge upon its summit, with a plethora of sub-trails spider-webbing all around – so a vague idea of the network is recommended. I had my maps, studied them well and decided to at least narrow it down to the Dublin Trail as this was the most straight-forward trailhead to my southerly direction out of Plainfield, but I had read raving reviews, all featuring something slightly varying from trail to trail – I wanted to traverse them all!

Sunday made for a very lovely drive down along I-91, passing several farm stands once on more back roads that I deeply wished would be open for my return trip later in the afternoon. Once again, turning onto Rt 101 and heading east, there it was directly ahead, the only mass in sight, towering above the sleeping townsfolk like a dormant volcano.

Thanks to Google Maps, my antique iPhone easily got me down the correct roads which wasted no time turning to icy, snow-covered dirt. We had received a hefty three or four inches several days prior north where I had departed, it appeared that they had some snow down in Keene in the areas that the sun Saturday had not graced, I was actually quite surprised to see bare, leaf covered trails diverging from the rail trail parking lot.

When I come across a sign that reads “Road Not Maintained: Road Closed For Season”, I typically try to not push the limits of my Impreza. Noting that the tracks did continue the additional mile to the official trailhead parking lot, the owner of the tire tracks had also bottomed their vehicles out, scraping a flat layer of fresh snow dotted with their oil all the way down the closed road. Not me, not today, I was alone early in the morning and just did not need to get crazy in the Subaru already today.

The spot was got; second car in a plowed out area next to an old farm, I assumed it was okay to park there – off on the side, out of any tractor paths, good to go! The Dion snowshoes simply went for the car ride, but I did opt for the Asolo boots and brought the Hillsound spikes for later on when the fluffy stuff turned to flowing ice down the trails. I was beginning the day in 24 degree morning temps, but with predictions of up-to 35ish, I had the longsleeve base layer with Gore Wear wind jacket on top – while there was next to no wind down at the trailhead, mountain-forecast.com was actually calling for 45 mph sustained winds on the summit. Super stoked to break out the new Salomon 12L hydration pack for the first time, I had the Gore-Tex Marmot jacket tucked comfortably in the back, along with some extra beanies to switch out the headgear before summiting in case the sweat-factor grew too hefty.

On the trail we went, or better yet – down the road to find the actual trail we went, using the tire track to gain traction. A quick 0.9 miles and I was in the main parking lot checking out the large scale map of the wilderness one last time, the Dublin trail was super straight forward, no divergences until I reached the higher elevations, so follow the white reflectors is all I needed to do.

Actually, I was very surprised to see that the trail was as broken down as it was, looked like a small herd of jackelope had been traipsing through these parts. It only took a matter of minutes before I heard who the prints belonged too – I passed the first guests of the morning around 8am, they had just come down from the summit, watching today’s sunrise and in the process had become quite chilled in the gale force winds up on the open summit. I didn’t get a chance to ask how the sunrise was, but assumed if timed just right, they would have lucked out big time!

The trek thus far was only through 4 inches of powder so no need for those snowshoes (I was still tired of wearing them from the Nor’East Ultra Snowshoe 50K just prior!), but with the trail becoming increasingly ‘ledgy’, I reluctantly put on the Hillsound spikes. First fortified step onto the flowing ice and I was immediately reminded of why I bought a second pair of these Canadian mini-crampons, treked right up the icy granite like it was bare boulder!

As the amount of sidewinding spur trails increased, and the lookout vistas grew vastly in number, I knew I was getting close because this mount of Monadnock was only ~1700 feet above the surrounding towns (listed as 3150′ ASL), I could track all of my progress on my Coros watch, step by step so I knew exactly where I was via three satellites.

Reaching the last real area of tree cover (which had grown incredibly stunted by this time), I took a moment to pause, turn around, and simply breathe in the gusts. I could hear the wind and knew that once I was above the treeline, I would be in for the chaos until I retreated to this very spot some time later in the morning.

With no guidance from marked trees, and knowing the white rock blazes were now covered with feet of snow and ice, I just continued in the general direction of “up” as the foot prints now radiated out in every direction that I could see, even up and over the poor alpine flora for no apparent reason (this made me sad, there was clearly no reason to trample the alpine growth that took probably decades or longer to obtain its foothold on the bare, abrasive mountainside, these tracks were clearly out of sheer laziness).

Knowing that I was still following a roughly southeast direction (I could tell by where the sun sat in the sky this morning..), I tracked around boulders and scooting over rocks, it was nice to finally engage all of my limbs as I whispered to myself “Parkour!”.

Reaching the signage for ‘Jim’s Junction’, it was reassuring to know that I was still on a marked trail one way or another. It was clearly time for an extra layer as I made the final push to the summit – actually, what I saw in the distance I assumed was this ‘false summit’ that the sunrise trio had warned me about, turns out that I had already passed that rock minutes prior though!

Up and over the next pile of rock, trying to trek lightly over beautiful wind-sculpted ice formations – to my delight.. and surprise there was a Geological Survey marker (two actually, which made me think there was a third buried somewhere under all the ice that would form a triangle across the summit, each bearing different icons), a 4inch bronze disk embedded in the bedrock. “I made it!”, I exclaimed to myself in my own thoughts, actually it may had been right out loud, but with these gusts well over the predicted 45mph winds, I never would have heard my own voice. The GoPro was out and snapping away as I braced a hip against the rock – even with this, there were several blasts that came through and forced an extra few degrees of lean and the need to brace with both hands – needless to say.. the winds were pretty dang robust up here today!

What felt like 30 minutes up above treeline very well could have been closer to 2 minutes, just long enough for a handful of photos and to shut my eyes and absorb a few strong wind gusts, taking in a few meditative breaths and just be in the moment. It felt incredible to pass from “just-another-hike” down in the treeline to moments later being privileged to experience such potentially destructive natural forces, such as this wind.

Retracing my windswept steps, I decided to check out this false summit – I found out afterward that it did in fact have a name: Dublin Peak, listed to be around 3031′. Standing on its micro-summit, I captured a video, something I rarely use the GoPro for – but I had to bring a taste of this wind back to share with Ciara – it was wicked!

During the ascent I was actually a bit concerned that retracing my steps would take longer than needed and perhaps I would get chilled, of course I began to over-think the situation – that’s just how my mind works, dwelling on the “oh shit.. what if I fall off the cliff” moment. Well.. if it actually did happen, at least then I would have played the scenario out in my mind 50+ times! Luckily this did not happen; the tracks were windswept, but being a bluebird day I was easily able to see well out ahead and keep a straight trajectory toward the treeline where I ascended.

Much of the descent back to the Dublin Trail was such a degree of rock-solid ice that I was actually able to start a bit of scurrying-jog here and there, making the travel super fast. The pace continued as I made the initial switchbacks, rounding tree after tree. Once again the GoPro made another appearance in ‘video-mode’. I gave the audience a “woohoo!” as I bounded down the rock face, just to look up and see a couple slowly making their way up the slope. Assuming they thought I was having way too much fun (I really kind of was..), I gave them a big wave, tossed a smile their direction and wished them an excellent hike.

The hillside encouraged a steady yet comfortable pace as I continued on, finally shutting off the GoPro after filming enough of my fancy footwork to make any viewer nauseous as I zoomed over the rolling trail. Having no real concept of what time of the morning it really was, I stopped briefly to chat with the final couple of the day – super friendly French-Canadian folks with most outstanding accents! They asked about the summit conditions – not wanting to believe my report of the face-slapping bitter cold wind, nor the fact that I was just now breaking two hours. Once again, I wished this party a stellar blue-sky day and they essentially wished the same for me and the remainder of my day.

From here it was back to the 0.9 mile jaunt back to the Subaru via packed snow logging/farm road. As I ended my Coros GPS track, simultaneously reaching for the refreshing 16 ouncer of fresh, pure celery juice from the refrigerator which has also been known to be.. my car.

What a marvelous day! Great hike! I hiked/ran it fast, I absolutely cannot wait to return during warmer weather, wearing fewer layers (and hopefully sneak Ciara + 2 puppies in), so we can bask in the sun and enjoy all of those incredible views.

Life is truly magnificent up in these mountains!!

Know a place I need to check out? ..running or hiking.. let me know!

 

Want to hike or run? Let’s do it!

 

Thanks for reading and checking out my adventures!

 

Cheers!

Erik


 

Overall stats for the day:

Recorded with my Coros Pace GPS watch

  • 6.4 miles
  • 2hr 32minute
  • 2,051′ elevation gain
  • 52 With A View (#26 highest)
  • 3165′ highest elevation

That’s not the right ‘Kearsarge’!

Flashback to the first day of October, 2017.

Ciara and I were fresh off the road-life; nearly four months spent traveling – visiting dozens of National Parks and Forests with our To Trails signagedoggies Boone and Crockett. While driving back from Acadia National Park in Maine, we decided to stop at this mountain with a fire tower that we had heard so much about – I had done minimal research while en route from Maine, just enough to know that hikers could sleep up in the tower! We were super excited and ready for a place to sleep (and stretch out!) that was not in my 3 person tent for the first night in many months.

We pulled off the highway and followed the signs – in fact, we could even see in the distance (which was getting closer by the mile!) the little fire tower cabin on stilts, sticking off the top of the open slab rock summit. We pulled into Winslow State Park, looked at each other and said “this place doesn’t look like the photos..” We got out of the CR-V with our grumbly bellies on our minds and went straight for the Thule on the roof where the 10lb pan of butternut squash mac & cheese was kept for safety (from the puppies!). Consulting our phones as we fed each other bites of the dairy-free deliciousness with a stellar panorama ahead of us, finally I perked up – I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’, with the bad news, but slowly I mouthed out:

“uhhh..honey.. I think we’re at the.. wrong Kearsarge..”

There was a moment of silence, then I shared the map. Another bite of vegan mac and cheese as the nut topping crumbled into my beard, “oh.. we went too far west, what do you want to do?” We ended up stuffing our tummies a bit more, walking Switchbacking up the ice flows on the Winslow Trailaround to see the adjacent peaks and decided to move along because we had reservations about sleeping overnight in the State Park lot. Down the road, we pulled into the edge of a driveway to consult the next map; this was the first time that we had ever been actually yelled at and chased away – while being in our car and still located in the road, our jaws scraped the pavement as we drove away remarking our new friends audacity.

That night we slept at the base of Moosilauke and fell in love with the White Mountains of New Hampshire –

several months later we were quickly becoming official residents of the state and now call both Moosilauke and our first Kearsarge – our backyard!

Fast forward to a year and a half, to a morning when I am getting ready for a morning of snowy trail running, trying to decide last minute over several cups of coffee what would be our best bet – it was a true toss up between Cardigan, Kearsarge and several more distant peaks that neither of us cared to drive to. It wasn’t until my trip to google maps that I decided that we Crockett running the trails behind meshould go visit an old friend – it was only 6 minutes further than Cardigan, and also had that fire tower at its open summit!

Not knowing what we would encounter, despite reading several trail reviews from the prior day, I had my 75L Gregory packed for a 24-mile trek (original plan was to visit The Bonds in winter, that got scrapped after I felt crummy for the better part of Saturday), also thought of grabbing my running vest just for hydration, could not decide until we reached the trail head whether I would want my Salomon SpeedSpikes, Asolo boots with snowshoes, or boots with Hillsound spikes – if there was ever a day of indecisiveness, this was surely it!

Ciara got the boys ready just the same as any other 5am morning before we piled gear into the car, as I hastily decided against both my Gregory and Salomon vest. Left both in the apartment as I brought water, carrots, bananas, apples, Asolo boots, spikes, REI insulated jacket and my Marmot Gore-Tex jacket – at least I remembered Ciara, Boone, Crockett and my gaiters!

With any instances of logical planning out the window, I congratulated myself on having a full tank of gas in the Subie!

Next stop: Winslow State Park. Back to the roads that encouraged us to make the NH move! Driving past Sunapee on 89 was just as beautiful today, with all the fresh snow as it was that autumn afternoon a year and a half earlier! We had been to First look out before the summit pushenough New Hampshire State Parks in winter to expect that the final drive into the park would be gated, closed and plowed in – today was no surprise! We arrived second to the lot, I fumbled the parking options around in my mind like a game of tetris, trying to decide where my car should go to allow myself as well as everyone else to come and go freely.

The human bellies were fueled, the doggies paws were coated with a fine layer of Mushers Secret, evidently we beat all of the crowds again today as our fellow friend was prepping his snazzy short skis with skins next to his Subaru.

The mile long road walk in was a layer of ice with packed snow over-top, about two cars width in fact! We were beginning our trek in the old tread tracks of local snowmobiles, very easy to walk in. I thought about how I could have done just fine in the SpeedSpikes – this thought changed as soon as we stepped foot onto the Winslow Trail.

I could hardly believe that several months earlier we were sitting in shorts, eating Ciara’s scrumptious vegan treats –

so many Summit sign & tower atop Kearsargeleaves were gone, scenery had drastically changed with the seasons; the one image that did not change, however, was our view to the southeast – towering over one thousand feet above us was the tiny cabin perched atop the scarred summit, still bare from the 1796 fire.

Knowing that others had trekked all over these hills only yesterday, we decided to make a big “lollipop-shaped” loop out of our journey, beginning with the shorter, yet steeper of the paths: up the Winslow Trail, which is marked as 1.1 miles but also contains the 1600 feet of elevation gain from the spot where we stood. My quads and hamstrings begged for some abuse this weekend! We both remarked how lovely the forest was in this part of New Hampshire – similar to the side of Sunapee where we almost lost Boone that frightful day, the trees were short and stubby – our perfect Christmas Tree! The trail continued at a fairly steep grade, but knowing it was only for a relatively short distance – we pressed on up the hills, switchbacking several times up and around some lovely ice flows about halfway up the slope.

We came upon an open rock maybe 15-20 feet across and almost flat enough for a proper picnic had it not been covered with ice and frost! Here is where I really proved how well the new Hillsounds would stick into the tacky ice. I managed to grab several photos of our first views and, of course – some of Ciara with her boys, hopefully unaware of how wide-angle the GoPro really is! As she grew tired of my antics and taking photos of my Hillsound spikes before the fresh black powdercoatMy crew, waiting down the trail gets wore off, she turned and headed away – still climbing gradually up the hill.

We didn’t have far to go from there, in fact by the time I caught up with the other three, there was a faded silhouette cast in the monochromatic cloudy sky, the first radio tower now became visible through the lofty trees as we grew closer to the summit rocks. One final turn away from our soon-to-be trail down and we skirted the open face – now following the 2-3 foot tall rock cairns which had been built by past hikers to help aid those lost in a winter white-out.

With the brothers still on leash, Ciara booked it straight for the fire tower which still permitted us to climb the stairs up to the closed and locked hatch; I snapped a few photos of her from a distance. My primary objective while now on the summit was to venture across the three ‘could-be’ high points (each being marked by larger summit cairns and the bedrock face scratched all to hell from the elegant graffiti artists of the early 1900’s) in search of a USGS survey marker. I actually did not do any research prior to this hike (and I still haven’t by the time of writing this) to inquire if there even was a survey marker

Heading down, we took the Barlow Trail

Peering down at the summit bedrockplaced atop Kearsarge. It could be due to all of the snow and ice spread across the rocks, but my searching came up empty! At least I did give myself a healthy tour of the summit rocks while it was not terribly chilly or windy at 2937′.

The exposed summit rocks boasted some incredibly elegant scripture and typefaces of individual letters all the way to complete names and dates. I roamed, while trying to tread as gently as possible on the factory fresh points of my Hillsound spikes, all over the summits – one to the next – each open slab appearing higher than the next. Our descent

I didn’t see Ciara any longer, and I definitely could not hear her over the growing wind, so I turned back and set my course toward the tower which I had yet to visit before descending. I was beginning to get chilled – and once off the rock and on the third landing of the fire tower base, the wind had picked up exponentially. Being forced to remove my glove to operate the GoPro how I wanted to – I grabbed some shots, looked around one last time for that golden survey disc – which turned up with nothing remarkable, peered around for any evidence of Ciara or the boys – which proved me to be 0/2 in this instance, I took my losses as a suggestion that I should begin making my way back down to find my buddies.

Back at the intersection – I hoped they remembered to take the Barlow Trail!

Turns out as I tried to spot them from high in the tower, they were watching me and trying to catch my attention with whistles and some hollering, none of which I heard over the wind until I re-entered the treeline on the Barlow Trail which, together we decided to take back to the trail head. This trail appeared more gradual on topographic maps – and I also knew that it was listed at 1.8mi, being 0.7 miles longer than our direct shot of a trail up, we had hoped for some butt-sliding despite forgetting our sleds at home! The trail initially followed what appeared to be a somewhat-ridgeline and then bee-lined back toward the Winslow Trail, descending with earnest now.

Having no sleds for our bums, we ran.

The boys seemed to feed on our growing speed and their pace hastened also – before long I had three speed queens on my heels, and we ran! Downhill, around corners, grabbing trees that could withstand our brief weight – we braced as we took turns and continued running the trail. We encountered the first folks heading up as we kicked up fluffy snow in our wake behind us (two of the others actually wore mountaineering boots and full crampons, ‘overkill’ I remember thinking to myself, but such a beautiful bright green set up!). A few more twists and turns and the forest became slightly more level as Ciara yelled – “Hey there’s a cabin up there!”, which turned out to be the exact spot, once again, where we had eaten our plant-based mac & cheese 18 months prior!

We made it back to the place we began, now we only had a 1-mile trek out along the same double-wide, packed down trail. We returned to the parking lot as an older couple gathered their things – the woman standing, waiting patiently for her beloved husband to get his shit in gear and hit the trail (Ciara had compared this lovely couple to us – apparently I am theCiara and I post-trail run down Kearsarge one left at the car fidgeting with my gear for way too long too? Or perhaps I just like to get everything in order before setting out – especially when its cold as heck outside! 😉 ). We bid them a fantastic day out in the woods, packed up our own gear, packed out our doggy poop bags and began filling bellies with left over apples and bananas.

Another fantastic day in the woods!

I am so happy that we finally made it back to check out Kearsarge and see what we missed that October day, of course – every time we hit the trails – I only learn of even more trails and peaks that draw me and pique my attention…and whisper to me how they too want to be climbed!

And as we ascend this Kearsarge – the ‘other’, Kearsarge North – climbs a few notches higher on my ‘to-do’ list!!

Of course, as trails change with the seasons, and naturally we will be back to run them in warmer seasons and then relax on their open summits with our doggies and coconut water!

Have an awesome day, happy hiking!!topo map

Erik


Overall Stats for the day:

Recorded with my Coros Pace GPS watch

  • 4.8 miles
  • 2hr 21minute
  • 1,670′ elevation gain
  • Mount Kearsarge – 2937′

The 3960 foot Sandwich

It was Friday afternoon as I sat down to verify Saturday’s weather in the White Mountains were still looking up: clear skies but rather chilly on Saturday. I was really psyched that the weekend was playing out perfectly – I had my first ever snowshoe run scheduled for Sunday – or so I thought. *Bing!* – there was the sound of a new email in my box; the title contained ‘Nor’East Trail Sunrise in VT for the snowshoe series 10KRuns’ – the friendly folks who were putting on the snowshoe event. Turns out that the race was actually taking place Saturday morning – just a few short hours away..

 time for a quick change of plans!

The snowshoe run turned out fantastic – my first ever shot at this type of event; took second over all in the 10K distance and then stopped on the way home to run up this “Magic Mountain” Ski Resort that I had driven past on the morning commute to the race, turns out this small peak is also known as Glebe Mountain, I found that the best way to summit this peak was right up the face “staying to the left” as the Ski Patrol had kindly suggested.

When I returned home for lunch, I still had no solid plan of what I would like to do the following day; Ciara was still out of town visiting her mama with the doggies. I checked, and re-checked the weather all afternoon: heavy snow in the morning with 35 increasing to 45mph winds toward the afternoon. I had several back-up plans of what I would like to do – Sandwich and Jennings being toward the top of my list for several weeks now, Tripyramids via the slides being a strong runner up (did this route in summer, I desperately wanted to check out the North Slide in winter!). With the uncertain forecast looming and imminent chance of rough winds – I opted to stay on a shorter, more sheltered hike: Sandwich Dome, Jennings Peak and the Into the forestother wee pile of rocks that I saw on the topographic maps – Noon Peak,

To the mountains I must go!

Packing my bags were just as up-in-the-air as the weather, it seemed! All evening as I packed Muir and filtered water, I could not decide: wear my running vest which would allow me to travel faster yet not carry as much water, or fully pack my 75L Gregory Baltoro that had become my new go-to hiking pack which would fit crampons, extra layers, 100+ ounces of water (should I need that much on a 8mile hike..I would have it!). Eventually as I continued packing the Gregory, I just settled and gave in – I was taking the 75 liter Gregory!

Without Boone and Crockett hanging around on the bed all night – of course my cat (Gracie-Lou as some know her) had to come in around 3am to see what I was doing; being all quiet there in bed, just resting my head on the cotton candy-like pillow.. I was sleeping soundly, so of course she had to wake me up, what a thoughtful gal!

With cat fed, myself adequately coffee’d up, car packed and ready to go –

with a handful of fresh carrots I put the Subie in first gear and took off down the road! It was a fairly quiet, uneventful hour and 15 minute drive up to Campton. The sun was beginning to light up the sky as I got off I93 and drove through Campton on NH Route 49, turning a corner to see the massive Welsh and Dickey ridge with its bright white, snow crusted open First lookout on Noon Peaksummit ledges.

I had already read the reviews yesterday of the parking lot being an ice skating rink, and with no surprise, it was! The lot was nicely plowed (my guess was the town plowed for workers to access the transformer/sub-station next door and had just continued their plowing frenzy to help out us crazy winter hikers?) and a new coating of dirt had been sprinkled down to offer a trace of grip – the Subaru did totally fine, and once at the top of the brief ascent of a side-road, the lot opens up to fit 12-15 cars easily. Over the gaiters, the Hillsound spikes went on immediately after grabbing my corner parking spot (I was the first car in the lot at 7am Sunday), which were completely adequate and I ended up hiking in only the Hillsound spikes until the intersection of Jennings 2.6 miles later.

Ciara and I were here with the boys several weeks earlier, so this time I knew where the trail began (there are ski trails which folks use for tubing and skiing which spider-web out in every direction, with the parking lot acting as a ‘base’ for all winter activities!). The trail was crispy and held my weight just fine on this 13 degree morning, although it appeared that the prior hikers all wore some hefty snowshoes!

The trek begins past the electrical sub-station as the tracks dip left into the woods, but they also continued straight past the official trail and continued down toward the water – I wondered what these tracks were doing, heading that direction – but as I was getting chilly, I continued on the path I knew well and into the forest.

A brief descent leads to the first and only real water crossing of the trek: Drakes Brook, which was completely unfrozen from several weeks ago, and now rushing enough to froth up in areas. I searched for some stable boulders to cross on – finding some that would serve my purpose about 30 feet upstream. I stood there in my waterproof Asolo boots, gaiters and brand new Hillsound spikes: super grippy as long as the ice would bear my weight as I crossed. I glanced below my feet for too Sandwich Wildernesslong: blue/green rushing ice water, about 2 feet deep where I was standing – I could just tell, one slip into that water and my day would be done as quick as I began!

Commitment: using trekking poles for some balance as I skimmed over the ice-covered rock and onto the far shore: “I made it!” – I celebrated with myself and grinned as I continued walking into the official forest boundary, past the Sandwich Wilderness signage. The trail remained gradual for the initial 3/4 of a mile, gaining about 700 feet, thenceforth the climb continued steadily – the toe-side spikes on my Hillsounds digging into the packed snow crust with all their might as I kicked in and inched my way up the slope. With every step I took gaining more elevation, the sound of the wind slamming the whispy evergreen tree branches grew louder, causing me to peer up from under my thick beanie

to ensure no tree tops came down, turning me into a vegan shish kabob.

The summit of Noon was not absolutely apparent until I had passed it! Don’t get me wrong – it was absolutely spectacular up there, soaking in the views for what I had from just under 3000′. Prior to reaching what I would consider the peak, I first came to a outcroppy ledge which I imagine would make a lovely spot for a snack break or lunch! The panoramic views spanned Noon Peak sunrisefrom Waterville Valley and Tecumseh to the Tripyramids and beyond to Wonalancet. Continuing up the trail for several more minutes and once again the views enveloped all that lay ahead – I even managed to scrounge together a fair bit of a tangerine sunrise peeking from just below the cloud cover in a far off mountain valley.

My breath was taken away in more ways than one!

I stopped, just standing for a brief moment, reflecting on how I found myself up here; soaking in the never-ending gusting wind blasts, one by one; I was truly content up here.

The Sandwich Mountain Trail makes a quick dip back into the trees where the forest becomes quite dense, trees leaning into the void of open trail, creating a fantastic image of green canopy. It was fast going through here, still on packed snow but now with some evidence of a brook running gently underfoot, making the packed snow collapse into a V-shape down the middle of the trail.

After passing the switchbacking Drakes Brook Trail at the 2.6 mile mark (~3,270′ point) the trail continues shortly, ascending to the next intersection with the Jennings Peak Spur. I had fully intended to make a loop out of todays’ hike; taking theJennings straight ahead, Sandwich off to the left Drakes Brook Trail back down to cross the brook on my way out, but from up here peering down the descending trail into the abyss – I could see not a single clue of human activity down the pathway.

I had a little devil on my shoulder telling me to continue up to the summit of Jennings –

in only my Hillsounds, because they were working, providing excellent traction – the downside was that ever since I left the little nub of Noon Peak, I had become “that guy”, post-holing several times along the way. Sure, it was only 4 inches a few instances back on the trail; I was now at the junction of the Jennings and Sandwich trails with the indications of, once again, no boot nor snowshoe prints (turns out they were windswept!) leading up to Jennings – I decided to switch to snowshoes for coming the ascent. This spur trail is noted as 0.2 miles on all maps that I have seen, but I will tell you – sure, the trail had a bit of elevation gain, but it The Jennings Spur Trailfelt much longer than advertised!

The summit of Jennings Peak was being nailed with all 45mph of wind that was called for today, right through the trees it blew. I was thankful at this point for keeping my Patagonia outer shell on! Glancing up at where I had left to go during my hike – just below 4000′ – the dome-shaped summit of Sandwich mountain was encrusted in a fine layer of white frost, it looked like winter was back up there! Taking several photos and then actually being intimidated by the wildly gusting winds, I retreated, making super fast work sliding back down the spur trail and before I knew how far I had gone, I was back at the intersection.

I had my momentum, I had my snowshoes on, I was now hydrated and hungry; so on I proceeded along the ridge with an occassional view of my final destination up above – it seemed like miles away from where I currently stood (the sign claimed 1.3 miles to the summit this time!). A few sections of light blowdown directed me to slow down and take a look into the forest, the dark Sandwich Mountainevergreens all covered with that same mystical white frost as earlier – almost as if someone had made tree-decorating a craft project up there before I came though! So incredibly beautiful up there, I didn’t want to leave – but at the same time, I did, so that spring may settle in during the coming months and I could return again when the woods became warmer!

All tracks had been blown over on the ridge while heading over to the Sandwich Dome, but it was fairly easy to tell where the trail cut through the wilderness: I just kept going through the narrow pine tree corridor. Just minutes prior to the final slight ascent I literally ran right into the Algonquin Trail sign, poking its top up above the snow depths by about 6 inches. I didn’t realize then that I was so close to the open summit, but I opted to not take my GoPro out again when I reached the next look out – this would be the first encounter of the day between my eye and a sharp stick (which only resulted in a few angry noises blurted out and I was bouncing down the trail once again!). Seconds later as I reached the open summit rocks all of my cares got set aside, right along with my trekking poles! I roamed around for a bit, taking in the views Algonquin Trail Signas the low hanging, dark clouds blew in – over head from the east. They were already beginning to take over the upper heights of Tecumseh, with only lower ski slopes visible now, poking out from the heavy grey cloud above.

Despite seeing a rock cairn and assuming by lack of signage, that I had indeed reached the summit – I took out my phone (which was in a plastic bag to stay dry, in my jacket and in airplane mode), brought up the Gaia GPS app just to verify that I was on the highpoint of Sandwich Dome, the imagery proved me correct this time. Before grabbing my trekking poles for the jaunt out, I remembered the packet of Muir Energy that I had stashed in my glove to defrost: Pineapple Kale was the flavor of the day – and what a burst of mouth-watering flavor it was! Muir Energy has been my go-to stomachable nutrition for running and hiking for quite some months now, my girlfriend and I enjoy what they create very much!

I had accomplished what I came for!Sandwich Dome summit, the views to my back - clouds coming in!

I had an epic day hiking in the White Mountain National Forest, beat the treacherous weather, very happy with many of the photographs that I had captured, and possibly the most important for me: I wore a smile probably 99% of the day, genuinely a fantastic trek in the woods! With a return journey of almost 4 miles, I knew it would take some time, and care to return in one piece back to the Subaru. So down the trail I began, running this time; my intention was to just loft down the steeper descents and carry some speed with me – not running to get the trip over with, but simply because the exhilaration of flying around the trails takes 25 years off my life! The snow was just marvelous for this, stable enough to gain traction and not break though the top crust with every step.

Less than 20 minutes later, I had covered the 1.3 miles back to the intersection of Drakes Brook; another 15 minutes after that, I was back – standing in the open alpine-like meadow atop Noon Peak. This time while I was up in the vast openness, the wind was tearing up over the cliffside, cancelling out any other bedlam. Here I stood, eyes closed, arms dangling contently by my side, thinking, meditating,

just experiencing the sheer force of nature, feeling the wind trying to encourage me off my feet.

I was brought back to the present moment by the “Hello there!” of my new friends who will go down in my recollection as Gus and Agatha – super sweet wilderness folks! We chatted for nearly 10 minutes about anything and everything, turns out Gus had adopted this trail and was very curious about the state of blowdown ahead – luckily, I was pleased to report a clear trail ahead for them (the small sections that I did encounter could easily be tossed aside once the snow melts)! I wished them a Narrow views of Sandwichlovely remainder of their day and we parted. I moved (what I felt was) super-quick on my feet as I ran down the steeper descents – implementing a technique that I had taught myself through trail running, moving the feet with such a turn over rate to help minimize impact on the bones and joints (probably looks goofy, but it surely helps efficiency!) – which worked fantastic for me here – I didn’t lose traction once as long as I stayed light and quick on the crampons on the bottom of my Dion snowshoes!

I had consulted my new friends ‘Gus’ and ‘Agatha’ about their route and found out they took a “bushwhack” to easily avoid Drakes Brook way down by the parking lot trailhead. I recalled seeing where the tracks from the ‘whack joined back up with the main trail, thinking nothing of it at 7:15am this morning; I had decided to take this bushwhack, to see where it would take me, to see what the crossing looked like that they, with so many others had taken. There were not many prints and many steps sunk me straight up to my knees; I quickly cursed this route under my breath (karma would catch up for my disapproval in only several minutes..). The bushwhack continued along the brook and met up with the powerlines, which I trotted under and saw that I was now supposed to go back into the trees. As I entered the slim forest along the roadway,

I peered up to see what was ahead – and then I felt it under my eye!

I got real nervous, real fast. I had a half inch diameter stick poking under the globe of my left eye, in a split-second reaction I pulled my head away, said some words that are better left not repeated here, and discovered a black mark in my vision, nasally. Being that I am in the Ophthalmology field where I work – immediately I began in disbelief, replaying through what had actually just happened. I had a black smudge in my vision: retinal detachment? posterior vitreous detachment? was it as bad as an open-globe all the way out here in the forest? All those times – if for nothing more than just the wind, I had fumbled the idea of putting my sunglasses on ever since I left Sandwich Mountain!

How could I let this happen – I could almost see my car through the trees, I was that close to safety! Once I regained some Perfect trail for a winter run!composure – I discovered that the black line in my vision was void because the bark of the stick came off and stuck against my cornea – that was an easy fix. The remainder of the day consisted of picking dried blood out of the corner of my eye and dealing with a bruised orbit for the following 4 days. Next time, there will be sunglasses (as long as it isn’t so dark that I need a headlamp!) on if I am in the forest or on snow – there is no need to risk that one again – and if you learned anything from this –

watch your eyes while you are in the woods, they may be your ticket to safety! 🙂

I would say this was one of the more memorable solo hikes that I have taken on – from the views, the intense winds, being able to run on snowshoes down another mountain, to the folks I get to meet, to the scary shit – like almost poking an eye out! I am always learning what not to do, and this hike up to Sandwich was a great mentor, being able to shut out the distractions of life and tune into the destructively beautiful side of nature. It all makes up a sliver of why I do what I do, I learn everytime that I step foot on a trail that photographs constantly differ as the conditions vary day to day, the other hikers are rarely the same folks – usually pretty darn amazing characters out there.

I don’t think that I could never replace the joy of hiking and running mountains with anything!Sandwich Map

Thanks for sticking with me through this long-winded, but oh-so-much fun day out in the Sandwich Wilderness!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Please leave them down below!

Also, don’t forget to find me on Instagram for many, many more hiking/running/nature/plant-based riotous fun adventures!

Be safe out there, have an epic day out on the trails!

Erik


Overall stats for the day:

Recorded with my Coros Pace GPS watch

  • 8.0 miles
  • 4hr 2minutes
  • 3,327′ elevation gain
  • Noon Peak – 2976′
  • Jennings Peak – 3440′
  • Sandwich (Dome) Mountain – 3960′