Mt. Jackson (4,052)

Date: 9/14/2019, solo hike

This was it. My last of the New Hampshire peaks 4,000 feet or higher. I was so determined to finish after the less-than-awesome attempted Prezi traverse the week prior that I made the 2.5 hour drive first thing that Saturday morning, accepting the fact that I would be basically at a crawl pace.

And here’s the great thing about that: I met and talked with so many more people on trail than usual! On the way up I met Jason who was hurrying to catch up with the rest of the Flags on the 48 crew for that peak. He had just ran 10 miles at 3am for Reach the Beach and hadn’t slept yet. At the junction of Webster-Jackson and Jackson Brook he had to stop to rest and we parted ways.

Near the summit I met everyone else there for the flag. Once at the top I took a swig of some Kilchoman from my unicorn flask as a cheers to myself (that’s my current favorite Islay – a type of Scotch for those who aren’t fans). And on the way down my pace was matched with a woman and her dog Lucy. She was absolutely fascinating – working for a company that manufactures safety ropes and had previously down back country search and rescue in Maine and Alaska!

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After I parted ways with them when Lucy wanted to take a swim, I met Piper and Frank (two more dogs). Also everyone I passed on the way down and briefly chatted with gave me serious high-fives on completing the 48. Honestly, this turned out to be one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever been on in the Whites!

After I finished without any more serious damage to my body I zipped over to the AMC Highland Center and finally joined the AMC. Thank you, Kiff, for asking me if it was an under 30 membership. I then decided to treat myself to a burger for lunch at Black Mountain Burger Co in Lincoln (one of my favorite places around those parts to refuel post-hike). Then I drove way out to Townsend, MA to a store called Evans on the Common where they have extremely knowledgeable staff who helped me choose a new pain of zero-drop trail running shoes.

And there you have it. 48 peaks in 3 years, 7 months – almost to the day. While I am feeling very accomplished that in no way means that I plan to stop hiking in the Whites. There’s still the Terrifying 25 and a bunch of other traverses and crazy challenging link-ups (e.g. Swan Song). There is also still the list of peaks in Maine and Vermont to finish. Then of course I can start working on New York! So be reassured, my 4 readers, that this blog will continue as my adventures continue.

Total distance: 5.2 miles, total time: ~3 hours

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Prezi Traverse/Mt. Monroe (5,372)

Date: 9/7/2019, Co-hike: Leo

Welp. This hike was an adventure, I can’t deny that.

I had never hiked with Leo before but thought he may be a good candidate for a hiking buddy as I’d seen him crushing the stairs at Harvard stadium for many years. So we met up at the AMC Highland center the night before the hike to eat dinner and spot a car. We then drove to Appalachia trailhead and pitched a tent in the narrow strip of out-of-use road between the parking lot and technical start of the WMNF. No rule breakers here.

Alarms were set for 5 but after two groups of serious Alpine start hikers walked by at 3:30 then 4 we gave up sleeping more and got ourselves in gear. The initial gradual ascent up Airline was fine, with quality headlamps strapped on we didn’t make any wrong turns. By the time we turned onto Watson Path the sun had risen enough to see fine without help. It’s also when I discovered that Leo does not have the best grasp on the concept of pace, as he tried to power hard up our first pile of rocks to summit Madison.

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We took a quick moment to use the facilities at Madison Hut before pushing on to Adams which was uneventful. We then got on the highway that is Gulfside trail, passing many other traversing groups as we plowed on at a more reasonable speed. The summit of Jefferson was just as it had been on my first summit, socked in and very windy. We had a quick bite hiding behind a cairn but didn’t waste much time continuing on the journey south.

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It was on the slow climb up Washington that Leo started to flag. He was out of water and his muscles were getting tired. I was still feeling great but knew he would need a reprieve at the welcome center. The upside to a less than awesome forecast and a lack of views is that there was no line to take a photo with the summit sign.

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With the harder peaks completed but a tired companion I knew that my original goal time was no longer plausible but that was okay, big picture was to finish the hike and my last two peaks. And then it happened: I stepped weird coming down the Washington talus field. And jammed my left ankle. Yes, only 4 weeks after rolling my right ankle while walking on flat trail. I was stunned and had to sit for a few minutes to let the shock wear off.

My ankle felt okay heading over to Lakes of the Clouds, actually. But then I stepped weird on the flat trail just around the corner from the hut and rolled my left ankle again. Now it was sore. I elevated it while we took our planned longer break and Leo ordered some hot food. I grumpily refueled with my cold PB sandwich and a hot tea. I couldn’t believe that this was happening again, in such a short time frame.

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Now that we were both suffering, the ascent of Monroe was markedly slower. Though we did get some very welcomed patches of sunlight through the clouds. And after that I only had one more peak to climb on my list. Heading over to Eisenhower was much less intense trail, no more talus. But then I stepped weird a THIRD time and rolled my left ankle. Again. Now it was really starting to hurt and I knew that there was no way I would be going on the trail run that I had planned for the next morning. I was starting to feel sad.

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After Eisenhower we got up and over Pierce in near silence, each of us disappointed in our performance for different reasons. Heading down to Mizpah Spring I was exceedingly cautious, carefully navigating wet rocks and roots. Overly meticulous, really. But it still happened again. I ROLLED A FOURTH TIME. And that’s when it blew up with swelling. And I knew it was time to throw the towel in. There was no way I could suffer up and down Jackson in that state. So we took the cut-off and made our way off the mountain, painfully slowly. Though I was focusing so much on my left ankle that I re-tweaked my right ankle at one point which still had a touch of residual edema anterior to the lateral malleolus (sorry to get all medical on you).

I was so upset with myself. If I had just paid more attention to each step. If I had just realized 4 weeks prior that perhaps those trail shoes were not the best choice for me. Or perhaps after the second roll I should have made the call to not finish the traverse. I’d hitchhiked in the Whites before, there’s no shame in that. Safety third and all. I felt that I didn’t even deserve a post-hike cheat meal. We drove back to Leo’s car at Appalachia, at which point my ankle had completely stiffened up and it was painful to put my weight on it. I grumpily popped a bunch of ibuprofen and we immediately parted ways without much ado.

So as to not end on a negative note: I saw a stunning rainbow on the drive home (first hint of it below) and had a couple of quality telephone conversations (because texting while driving is stupid and dangerous).

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Total distance: 21 miles?, total time: 10.5 hours? (I really stopped paying attention)

Mt. Carrigain (4,700)

Date: 8/17/2019, Co-hiker: Drock

Redemption is sweet.

After Drock came very close to losing a toe when we attempted to summit this peak last Winter, we knew that we had to go back. And lucky for us, two other friends were also planning to hike that weekend so we all camped together at Fourth Iron which is now my favorite campsite.

Since we were staying almost directly across 302 from Sawyer River Road, we figured why not just walk the ~2 miles to the trailhead. What we didn’t realize was that you gain nearly 500 ft of elevation by doing this. Somehow during the previous descent of this road our survival-mode brains didn’t register the slope in the dark, cold night.

Unsurprisingly, the first stretch of Signal Ridge trail was very easy to follow without snow on the ground. I made Drock take a picture with me at the junction sign which is where I realized that we would actually make it back to the car. We stayed on track through the notch on Carrigain Notch trail, making good time despite the fact that I had weirdly rolled my ankle the day before. Sadly the notch was socked in and I was unable to snap some picks of the cliffs on the west side of Mt Lowell for Stark (I tried, buddy).

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It felt like no time had passed when we got to the junction with Nancy Pond trail. After another 0.8 miles we arrived at the start of Desolation trail. Let me tell you, this is possibly the most aptly named trail in the Whites. With the exception of the first few minutes of this 1.9 mile journey up the back of Carrigain, it is 100% straight climb. There is no respite. It just keeps gaining elevation. My heart has never beat so fast whilst hiking these mountains. And don’t forget the stretches of big, wet rocks. For real, if you want your ass summarily handed to you, hike this trail.

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At the summit we got to enjoy probably the only 15 minutes of blue skies for the day. Nearly 360 degree views? I don’t know why I hadn’t hiked it sooner! And there was a group of rambunctious middle aged folk up there telling jokes and teasing a marine who was drinking a Bud Light as his summit brew. Really good vibes.

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Then we descended back through the clouds along Signal Ridge. I would have loved to run portions of this if not for my ankle, though admittedly most of it was rocky, rooty, and far too slick to get up to speed. Nothing else eventful occurred along the way. The 2 miles back out along the road gave us flashbacks to the slog we’d made last Winter, knowing at that time that we still had >1 mile of 302 to walk up to get back to the car.

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The joy of camping next to the Saco is that it provides a built-in ice bath which we greedily took advantage of while waiting for Marcus and Jenny to return from their Kinsman adventure. 9/10 would camp here again, provided no other campers play loud, crappy music until midnight (seriously, what’s up with that?)

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Total time: 6 hours 35 minutes, total distance: 18.2 miles (including road)

Owl’s Head (4,045)

Date: 8/10/2019, solo hike turned into co-hike w/ Brian and Mingus

I half wish that I had done this hike during the 2018 season, when I was in my best ever hiking/trail running shape. However if I had done that I wouldn’t have met a new hiking friend. Also tip for people working on their own list of 4,000 footers – maybe don’t save Owl’s Head for last. It is such a relief to have it over and done with!

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I got to the Lincoln Woods lot nice and early at 7:30 and set out along Lincoln Woods trail at an easy jog for the nearly 3 miles to the junction with Franconia Brook. This was also relatively flat without too many rocks, roots, and ruts of mud so I continued to jog as much as possible. Shortly before the junction with Lincoln Brook I came across a very cute black lab named Mingus and his human, Brian. It was at one of the many brook crossings (thankfully water levels were super low) and we helped each other pick up the not-at-all-blazed trail on the other side.

I decided to slow to a power walk for the sake of company (it would make my mother happy, I reasoned). And of course, smallest of worlds, it turned out that he had just met a friend of mine at a running club in Concord, NH. Many crossings and much more flat trail later we came to the “bushwhack” up the slide. This mile was the only truly fun part of the hike and where Mingus and I pulled ahead of Brian – don’t worry, I didn’t steal his dog. We waited at the top before weaving the last bit over to the view-less summit.

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The way back down the slide was uneventful. We met another dog named Gustavo which is just a fabulous name for a dog. And once back on flat trail did a bunch more jogging. Our legs finally crapped out about 1.5 miles from the suspension bridge, especially considering that Brian had missed a turned and done an extra 2 miles at the start, so we walked it in.

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Not the most thrilling hike ever but it had to be done, and done it is. My reward to myself was a burger and a cider at Black Mountain where Jamie was naturally behind the bar. My top pick for recovery eats in Lincoln by far!

Total time: 5 hours 24 minutes, total distance: 18.2 miles by map, 18.3 by Strava

Mt. Hale, Mt. Zealand (4,055; 4,260)

Date: 7/13/2019, Co-hiker: Amina

This hike was my first Summer hike of 2019. After learning to treat sciatic nerve adhesions and getting a few moderate intensity trail runs under my belt, I felt ready for a casual pace day hike. Amina had not truly hiked since her hip surgery in 2018, so we were both curious as to how our bodies would handle a come-back.

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We started up Hale Brook which doesn’t do you any favors for pretty much the entire 2.2 miles to the summit (i.e. it’s pure incline). Fortunately it was cool to start, in the mid 60s F. Unfortunately the humidity was there from the get go. Still, we hit our first summit fast and happily reapplied sun screen and bug spray at the big ol’ cairn. Which is exactly when my phone decided to shut itself off for no apparent reason. And wouldn’t turn back on. For the rest of the day.

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Still feeling fresh we skipped along Lend-a-Hand to the junction with Twinway. With a rolling hills sort of feel to it I’d say we had our deepest conversations along this section. When we hit the junction with Twinway we immediately ran into the first of many groups of AT hikers. Knowing we’d be coming back this way we didn’t stop to admire Zealand Falls and braced ourselves for what we anticipated to be a serious mile plus schlep up to the ridge.

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It was actually nowhere near the climb I feared it would be (I was thinking of getting up to South Twin from Galehead hut – gulp!) and at the ridge line we stopped on a nice flat rock in order to eat a sandwich and strip down to sports bras. The stroll over to Zealand was pleasant, mostly in the trees with occasional views. The summit itself was a bit bit of an anticlimax, except for the fact that it has a cool wooden sign.

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We doubled back the way we came, this time continuing along Twinway past the gorgeous Zealand Falls. We stopped at the hut for a bathroom and snack bar break which was PACKED with through hikers, section hikers, and day hikers. So many dogs to pet. We descended via Zealand trail which was broad and well maintained with a very gentle grade. I could see why so many non-serious hikers chose it as a day hike to the falls. We even did a little bit of trail running – mainly to get away from some mutant flies who were unaffected by the cloud of OFF surrounding us.

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After a cool down stroll along the dirt road back to the car (and the sinking realization that my phone truly wasn’t going to magically turn itself back on) we headed to Moat Mountain for post-hike burgers. With no obligations – and no social happenings to be aware of what with a dead phone – we sporadically decided to drive back west along the Kanc and take 93 back to Massachusetts. All in all, neither of us had exacerbated our 30-something bodies and we were both feeling pretty darn good!

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Total time: 8 hours, total distance: 14.4 miles by map, 13.7 miles by Amina’s Strava

Vârful Retezat (2485 m)

Date: 6/12/2019, solo hike in Romania!

The plan was to hike Peleaga and Păpuşa, thereby bagging two of the fourteen peaks over 2500 m in Romania. I had only just learned about this list three days prior but what can I say, I’m a sucker for these kinds of sequential accomplishments (as evident from the existence of this blog). But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men …

Rookie mistake #1: not getting pointers from local hikers beforehand.

I chose my route based on where I was staying in relation to a trailhead, how much I could challenge myself, and the views.

Rookie mistake #2: choosing the most aggressive route I could to the peaks when I have not been regularly hiking (and recovering from a recent injury).

After driving to the trailhead just past Nucșoara, I trekked up the blue stripe trail 45 minutes to the first cabin.

Rookie mistake #3: I didn’t have coffee before starting (it was not available at my Airbnb).

At the cabin I gulped down a tea, not realizing they did in fact have coffee, but honestly I was already starting to feel a caffeine withdrawal headache on the drive there. I had never before started a hike with a headache …

Rookie mistake #4: I ignored my body and pushed on.

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Regardless, I still started up the yellow stripe trail which immediately had me slogging up a steep incline. While singing to myself. Because the bear presence is real in Romania. And stupidly I forgot that I hadn’t downloaded any Spotify playlists to my new phone. Did I mention that I also couldn’t find Strava on my new phone? And that none of the trails give distance on the junction signs, only estimated time?

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Eventually I got along a ridge and started seeing some views. I hit what I thought were false peaks but are apparently mountains in their own right, Lolaia Nord and Sud. Then, in only 2 hours instead of the posted 4, I summitted Retezat, my highest peak yet at 8,143′!

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At that point my headache had become a constant throb. I was trying to stay up with my sugar and electrolyte needs as well as hydration. Which is when I realized, I may not have enough in me or with me to tackle 2 more peaks.

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Rookie mistake #5: I didn’t bring enough fluid/fuel.

The trail then descended to a lovely little kettle pond called Lacul (Lake) Bucura. It was at this point that I lost my sense of direction. I had not paid particular attention to the topography lines on the map that I borrowed from my Airbnb … I came down from the ridge line I was on to the south, not the north, as I thought I would. But we’ll get to this error.

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It was here that I decided not to push for the two additional peaks that I had initially set my sights on. It was 12:30 and thunderstorms were predicted to roll in sometime in the afternoon. While I could just barely detect the hint of clouds in the distance, I really didn’t want to be exposed above treeline in case of lightning.

So I started down the blue stripe trail … and about 20+ minutes later it hit me – I was going the wrong direction. My spirit was a little broken in that moment. But I had no choice. I had to get back to the rental car. So up again I went, retracing my steps in the snow fields that were still very much unmelted and interspersed throughout my hike.

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At the lake I filled my filtered flask with icy cold run-off and chugged a fair bit of it. And that did the trick! A bit. I found enough of a second wind to get all the way back to my little ridge line. And there I met three young women who had spent the previous night in one of the mountain cabins and were now heading back to civilization. One of them spoke English quite fluently and we briefly chatted as I slurped down more from my filter, the 3 L bladder in my day pack being completely empty.

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And then it was all literally downhill. It took me about 90 minutes (and some more singing when trees started being more than sporadic) to get to the next cabin (at ~1700 m). I bought a Pepsi there. I greatly prefer Coke but I was desperate for sugar and caffeine. I had a very terse exchange of words with the caretaker (partly in Romanian, partly in English) before taking off again. At that point the clouds were rolling in and I could hear thunder in the distance. I wanted to get as low as possible before the rain began.

Rookie mistake #6: Descending quickly on wet rock with a drink in one hand and without total focus.

I can’t even remember if the rain had started yet. But under tree cover and during mud season there were innumerable slick rocks amidst full streams which composed the trail at that elevation. And then I slipped and fell. Hard. A real digger. My worst fall yet on a hike. I struck more body parts on rock in that one fall than I ever have before when falling on trail. All in slow motion. Plus I spilled the majority of my soda.

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(It doesn’t look bad because I don’t actually bruise visibly)

You know what? After the fall, I prayed. I asked Pan and any dryads in proximity to help me not fall again for the rest of my hike. Being in Europe, it felt appropriate to ask these minor deities for protection while in nature.

Thankfully in only another 10 minutes after the fall I arrived at the next cabin, the one I had originally set out from. I sat for 5 minutes. I ate another bar. I mustered what strength and motivation I had left. I waited for the rain to stop. And I set out, knowing I had 45 more minutes until I was done. I had a few more slips but no falls. I also stopped singing after my fall but saw no bears (thanks, gods). I passed a handful of other, slower moving folk. And I made it. There was the car. After oh so many hours in that thing over the prior 4 days I didn’t think I’d be so happy to see it.

Time: 8 hours, distance: ???

South Carter, Middle Carter (4,419;4,600)

Date: 5/18/2019, Co-hikers: Alex H, Rachel D

Fourth time’s the charm!

I finally bagged the rest of the Carters (that count) while up in the Whites celebrating my adventure buddy Stark’s 30th birthday. He had rented a large campsite at Barnes Field and invited a whole bunch of crazy outdoorsy people to CYOA during the day and enjoy one another’s company at night. I found two like-minded folk to join me on my previously futile quest.

We started up 19 Mile Brook Trail, now very familiar to me. Trail conditions were fine and mud not too crazy. Passed by the decimated carcass of a blue jay – I mean, feathers everywhere – that had been decapitated. The brook was full and fast with run-off. After turning onto Carter Dome Trail we encountered 2-3 areas of washout requiring some unforeseen but easy fording. Trail was picked back up on the other side without issue. Around ~2700 feet of elevation the snow pack started popping up again. We happily spiked up when necessary.

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Our first major challenge appeared after turning onto Carter-Moriah Trail. There were numerous, large downed trees completely obliterating trail. This was far from the first time I had come across these conditions in Spring but this time I was bull-headedly determined to not be turned away. I climbed over/under/through/around until I finally found trail again after about 10 minutes. A quick game of Marco Polo helped my co-hikers locate me and was also of assistance to an adorable father-son trekking team who had just spent the night at Carter Notch Hut.

We climbed the (mostly) monorail to our first peak, South Carter, where unfortunately a tree had destroyed the cairn. But to our most wonderful surprise the skies cleared up midday and gave us lovely views both east to Maine and west to the Presidents! Considering it was Alex’s first hike in the Whites we were very happy for him.

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From there we continued to trudge along snow pack for a while, coming across various other happy hikers. A flat rock ~1/2 mile or so south of Middle Carter provided a nice resting spot where we met a good boy named Pretzel. And actually above treeline trails were snow-free, for a blissful but short segment. Middle Carter we actually passed before realizing it. If there was a cairn/marker it was buried in ~4 ft of snow still since that peak is not exposed.

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After a quick and painless descent to the next junction we started down what is possibly the unhappiest trail experience I’ve experienced yet in the Whites. North Carter Trail was once again monorail, but monorail that was only the width of maybe 6 inches, with deep, soft snow on either side. It was like walking on a balance beam. Down a steep incline. With post-holing or falling guaranteed if you misstep.  Even though I was moving cautiously and slowly I pulled away from my co-hikers out of pure eagerness to be done with that grueling 1.2 miles as quickly as possible. I took my worst fall of the day along this segment which resulted in quite a bruise on my upper right thigh.

After the others caught up we descended the rest of the way together on Imp. Happily the snow disappeared again right around 2600-2700 ft. Imp is a bit meandering and given that we were low on fuel and a bit loopy we ended up singing for the last 1.5 miles. Once some birches were in site and the temperature started to rise the bugs came out. I again pulled ahead because you just need to keep moving to keep bugs away from you. And while trilliums are beautiful I don’t really need more than 1 photo of them.

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The walk back to the trailhead along 16 was just over 1 mile and painless. I’m a little reluctant to say that possibly the highlight of the day was when, on the short drive back to camp, we passed a MOOSE on the side of the road! My first New Hampshire moose!!! Rachel and I both yelled in excitement.

Total distance: 12 miles per Strava (10.9 trail), total time: ~9 hours

Mt. Moriah (4,049)

Date: 11/3/2018, Co-hiker: Stark

The best laid plans …

We had a great idea. We would park at the Wildcat slopes, bike to the Carter-Moriah trailhead, and hike the 18ish miles over Moriah, the Carters, and Wildcat before illegally sledding down the Wildcat slopes. Sure, the forecast said rain, but hopefully it would still be nice, packed-in snow up high.

It was chilly and raining when we hopped on our bikes around 8:45 but the 11 miles to Gorham was mostly downhill. It went by quickly though managed to completely soak through our shoes. The temperature down in Gorham was a heck of a lot warmer than in the notch and I rapidly found the need to shed many layers. Somewhere around Mt. Surprise the rain stopped and I even removed my pants and spent the rest of the adventure in shorts.

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As we continued to climb the temps started sinking a bit and the snow pack plus rain resulted in pure puddle-dom. It was the classic guessing game of trail-or-stream for many blaze-free segments. Between that and sunken wooden logs we had long given up on our feet ever drying.

Then came the treachery: the last 2/10th of a mile push to the summit of Moriah was where we started postholing. Now this is nothing new when it comes to wet snow near summits. What was so dangerous about these postholes was that because of the rain and warmer temps, at the bottom of each sunken step was a pool of freezing cold water. After an incredibly short time of this terrain we both lost feeling in our toes and feet.

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And this is where decisions have to be made: do we push on and hope conditions improve? Do we at least get to the Imp junction then bail? Or do we just turn around?

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Looking at a map, the fastest way off the mountain was back the way we came. And the safest option. And we were glad to have taken it. Within a quarter mile the rain picked back up significantly as the temperatures warmed again. Our feet regained feeling. Our gloves and mittens soaked through but under tree cover the wind was no threat.

Back in Gorham the rain continued to fall lightly but the wind had picked up significantly. Which meant that if we were to cycle back to the car we’d be facing 11 miles of pure uphill into 40+ mph wind. Even though we had only hiked 9 miles we were cold and wet and exhausted just from being cold and wet. So we hitchhiked. After 10 minutes of thumbing a local couple in a truck gave us a lift. And WOW, were we glad – back up in the notch the wind was blowing WAY more fiercely and the rain was beating down with reckless abandon (mmmyep, it really was that dramatic).

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After reuniting with el Jeep we quickly zipped over to Dodge Lodge in order to change into warm dry clothes ($1 for a hot shower, so amazing) before backtracking for the bikes then turning around once again to get into North Conway for consignment shopping and a bite to eat at Delaney’s. That drive through Pinkham notch was probably the worst weather I have ever personally seen in the Whites. The wind was shoving itself into el Jeep and leaves were tornadoing all around the road (I know, not a word).

After bopping around town, as the sun was setting, the sky cleared for a while and was just so gorgeous we figured it would be nice to take the Kanc back south. With just a bit of light left we stopped in awe – Lower Falls had become tumultuous white waters where I reiterated my fear of kayaking. And sure enough a small group of some adventurous/insane folk were walking along with their kayaks in hand, either about to or just having taken that wild ride. As we climbed and darkness fell the rain turned into snow and I could cross off two more life experiences I had not been eager to close off: driving the Kanc in the dark/snow.

But we lived. And my third attempt at a Carter traverse again was a no-go. But I hit my 40th peak and had an adventure day for the books (or blog, as you like it).

Total distance: 10.8 on bike, 8.7 on foot, total time: 32 minutes on bike, <4 hours on foot

Mt. Chocorua (3,475)

Date: 10/13/2018, Co-hiker: Sisterface (Rachel)

I know. Chocorua is not a 4,000 footer. But I am including it on this blog for one very special reason: my sister came with me! Not only did she do an amazing job keeping pace up her first mountain EVER but we ascended via Carter Ledge trail which is on the Terrifying 25 list.

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We started out on an overcast Saturday with rain in the forecast and the temperature hovering around 50. Just lovely hiking weather. Despite the fact that White Ledge campground was closed for the season I knew that I’d be fine to park for the day at the closed gate as I had seen many a car left there while driving home from bagging Isolation just 2 weeks prior. A quick stroll over to the trailhead, turned on the Strava, and off we went!

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The first 2 miles were a nice walk in the dry woods with not too many leaves on the ground to slip us up. Soon enough we were heading up the first ridge and some bare rock with excellent views of peak New Hampshire foliage. The clouds and spitting rain really made the color pop. As we got to the first truly exposed bit of ridgeline and stopped to take some more photos my sister asked “is that snow?” and I responded “no, I think it’s just thick rain.” I was wrong. Also I was informed that ‘thick rain’ isn’t a thing. It had begun to flurry.

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Unfazed, we pushed on through some fun bits of scramble as I gave my sister bits and pieces of hiking tips and trail etiquette, how to trust your shoes and choose your steps, etc, etc, etc. She was still feeling pretty gung-ho even when a view point showed us that we still had a mile plus to go to reach our destination.

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It was after we had reached Middle Sister and the remains of the old fire tower and hit the summit of First Sister that she learned how discouraging false peaks can be, especially when the white out conditions of what has become a genuine squall prevented us from even seeing Chocorua only 0.4 miles away. But we made it up the last scramble and were all smiles again!

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Heading back the way we came she was dreading the slow, butt-sliding descent down the innumerable scrambles we’d climbed on the way up. After a quick snack we retraced our steps and despite carefully reminding ourselves of which direction we’d come from at every junction, we made the happy accident of starting down Piper trail instead. When I realized this I mentioned that while it would add a little extra to our pre-agreed upon 10 miles she nonetheless felt much safer, as did I, with the more gradual and less exposed descent.

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As we came down the skies super cleared up and the temperature also rose. The people we encountered heading up the trail asked about conditions up top. When we told them about the snow clearing they thought we were joking. After enjoying the sounds of a feeder stream to the Chocorua river for a stretch we came to the Nickerson Ledge trail which would take us over and backward a bit to rejoin Carter Ledge to finish our return trip. This trail was definitely not taken nearly as often as the others, and after an initial climb we lost all blazes near some large boulders and a view point.

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Having taught my sister about blazes and cairns she was worried to be on trail without seeing either. That plus feeling like we were going the complete wrong direction, despite being on what was very clearly a man-made trail. Eventually we spotted some shoe prints and before too long we came across the junction with Carter Ledge with 2 miles of straightforward descent back to the campground. A bit shaken, she was still worried that the trail didn’t look the same as earlier in the day due to the squall having blown oh so many beautiful fresh (slippy) leaves all over our old prints.

But then we back. And after sitting through leaf peeper traffic in North Conway we treated ourselves to burgers and wings at Delaney’s Hole in the Wall before grabbing a hot cup at Frontside and making the drive back to Mass. I was and am so proud of her for bagging such a significant peak for her very first mountain! I don’t expect that she’ll ever run mountains the way I do but I hope I helped her find some love for nature that she hadn’t before tapped in to.

Total distance: 10.8 (10.4 per Strava), total time: 5 hours 56 minutes

Mt. Killington (4,236)

Date: 10/6/2018, solo hike

This was the first hike I’d ever done that started in the afternoon. I was looking at a piece of property along the VT/NH border that morning then had an early lunch with my family who lives in the area. So by the time I got on trail it was nearly 2:30 pm. Knowing that the trail was short and I was planning to go fast I was not concerned about beating sunset. That being said I NEVER get up on New England peaks without emergency gear. I’ve learned some lessons over the past 20 months of experience with my new hobby.

I decided to take Bucklin Trail as it was the most direct route up the mountain and not only did I have lunch plans that day but I also had plans to be in Franconia that evening (me? overextend myself? nooooooo never …). I put el Jeep in 4 wheel drive to get myself to the trailhead which was a ways down a dirt road on the backside of the mountain. Luckily a day hiker had already finished so I got a parking spot in an actual spot. The weather was warm and humid, in the 60s and overcast.

The first 2 miles were pretty unremarkable, some early foliage and a little waterfall, and I managed to run a fair bit of it. I was happy not to encounter more mud pockets than I did. After those 2 miles the trail finally started to ascend at a moderate grade. I was still full from lunch at noon which led to my not hydrating very well. Nonetheless I passed a fair number of groups still on their way up so I didn’t feel terrible about my later-than-usual start.

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The last 0.2 miles after Cooper’s Lodge were a classic 4000 footer pseudo-scramble. I knew that no spectacular views awaited me as it had been socked in all day but I was at least hoping for a cool breeze. Alas, no. Just as warm and sweaty above treeline. And also I couldn’t find a cairn or survey marker which was a wee bit disappointing. That all being said I did not hang out very long.

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The run back down the mountain was more a controlled fall at first with all of the wet rocks until I hit that flat-ish last 2 miles again. What was annoying was all of the other people on trail who did not understand trail etiquette. I guess I was hoping that this peak would be a less popular choice for Columbus Day weekend, especially with the foliage peaking later than usual, but no.

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Overall my first Vermont 4000 footer was pretty ‘meh’ though I am hopeful for the remaining four.

Total distance: 7 miles (7.3 per Strava), total time: 1 hour 50 minutes