Oh What A Time!

There has been a lot going on for the past two weeks and surprisingly not a lot to do with hiking! I am freshly back from a trip out west where I had the honor, joy and privilege to perform the marriage ceremony of two of my closest and dearest friends in Muir Woods underneath the awes inspiring canopy of redwood trees outside of San Francisco. The week was a perfect celebration (complete with perfect weather) and overall a perfect vacation.

Now that I am back, however, it is time to get back to it. I have not been hiking the past two weekends; limiting myself to running (I even squeezed in a run in Golden Gate Park while in San Francisco), some bike riding, and my normal yoga practice to get me by. Yoga has been kicked up a notch because Ben convinced me to start attending more 6 AM classes at the studio. The biggest advantage is that it frees up the evenings for other activities such as going for a walk, a run a bike ride or meeting up with friends for a beer!

As far the hiking – this weekend we are bound for Mt. Moriah near Gorham, NH. This will be an official time trial hike. Depending on the trail combination it is between 9 miles and 10.6 miles long and about 3300′ of elevation gain. According to the BHA (Ben’s Hiking Algorithm) this comes in at a cut off about 5 1/2 hours. This is a tall order as it is my biggest challenge yet, but I am excited to give it a shot. It will be a good barometer to see where I am at and what I need to work on in.

Here are some pics from my run today down to the lighthouse. Enjoy!

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Bike Ride 4-13-13

I was thinking about hitting the trail this weekend for a hike, however the weather in Maine has been pretty crappy. Particularly yesterday which brought rain, sleet and even some snow for most of the day. Today’s weather pattern was clearing but still unsettled and I figured that the trails would probably be in crappy condition after the slop that fell yesterday. So begrudgingly, I decided to stay more local and closer to sea level.

Instead I decided to pull the bike out of the basement and pedal my way to one of my favorite spots in the area – the Scarborough Marsh. I practically grew up on the marsh and have many great memories of exploring it as a kid. Now it’s about a 25 mile round trip bike ride which makes it a perfect way to kill a few hours and get some exercise while I am at it. Riding along the Eastern Trail also makes it super safe and easy to get to.

The last time I did this was last summer after my surgeries when I was cleared for bike riding. I rode my bike to Old Orchard Beach and had a hell of a time doing it. I was anxious to see how I would fare now that I am 10% lighter and have exercised regularly. While I am definitely feeling my quads now (ouch!!) I was able to handle it much, much better. This gets me pumped up to know that I can handle some longer rides and look forward to doing some more to compliment my yoga and running as my primary training exercises.

All in all, it was a good day outside, even if I wasn’t on a mountain top. Tomorrow is yoga in the AM and perhaps a run in the afternoon if the weather holds.

note: you should definitely check out the Eastern Trail Alliance and East Coast Greenway. Both groups are doing amazing work in promoting and finding paths to connect communities safely for bikers and walkers. 

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Hiking Weekend Part Two: North & South Doublehead Photos

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Hiking Weekend Part Two: North & South Doublehead

unbelievable.

unbelievable.

After our adventures on Mount Washington (see: write-up and photos) we met Alison for lunch and made our way over to Mount Doublehead in Jackson where we were meeting up with our friends for an overnight stay at Doublehead Cabin.

Doublehead Cabin was built in 1932 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It features enough room for 8 people, has a wood stove and a common area for cooking and relaxing and some incredible views. Out of the front of the cabin is a view out to Mt. Washington. A short 30 foot walk out the backside brings you to a clearing with views into western Maine.

We took the new ski trail up to the peak. It was not especially steep but at around 2.5 miles it was a grind. A grind that I was not sure I would make with the heavy pack after the earlier adventures up Mt. Washington! Luckily the sun was warm, skies were clear and there was plenty of snow. Because the trail is actively used for back country skiers the rules of the trail are to use snowshoes to avoid creating post-holes.  Riding the energy of the early spring sun, we powered on up to the top. It helped to think of the ridiculous amount of food and drink we had waiting for us as well.

After a prolonged happy hour(s) while enjoying the afternoon sun, we watched Mt. Washington slowly get swallowed up by a cold front that was blowing through. Once obscured we watched the front start to move in our direction where the winds had started to pick up. We then decided to move it on indoors and fire up the wood stove. The stove did not throw off a ton of heat as the cabin was pretty big and drafty, but there was enough to take the edge off.  Ben whipped up his classic veggie barley stew; we had birthday cake and sat around and laughed and joked and raised the glass a few times to honor the birthday girl and a pretty awesome day!

The following morning came with a bright sun trying to warm us up after a cold night with very strong winds that rattled the cabin on more than one occasion.  Coffee and tea were whipped up along with a veggie egg scramble and turkey sausage. With Mt. Washington still obscured by the clouds we headed to the west side of the peak to bask in the warm spring sun. Stretching it out with some morning yoga and enjoying our coffee and tea we sat around for a bit gazing out into the mountains of western Maine.

We then decided to pack it up and shut down the cabin. After packing up and cleaning up, Brian and Laura parted ways going back down the ski trail. The rest of us headed back down the “old trail” to South Doublehead. We dropped our packs in the col between the two peaks and made our way up the South Peak approach.  Once up at the top we walked out on to some ledges that had a view that can only be described as unbelievable.  Initially I was only mildly interested in making the short hop up to the South Peak, but I was very glad we did because that view was worth the price of admission.

After some silliness and relaxation we then headed back on down the trail and headed back to the cars to wrap up our weekend.

The great thing about these hikes this weekend is that it helped to reground me. I have a goal of hiking the Traverse and have been and will continue to work hard at making that a possibility. But, it is important to also remember that along the way you need to stop, enjoy the experience, seek out new adventures and build new skills and most importantly remember to take the time to enjoy the experience with your friends along the way.

The 1942 USGS Topo Map of North & South Doublehead
(image from http://www.newenglandskihistory.com)

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Hiking Weekend Part One: Mount Washington Photos

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Read about the hike here

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Hiking Weekend Part One: Mount Washington

Mt. Washington rising above the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Mt. Washington rising above the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Zoiks! What a great weekend for climbing, hiking and general carousing with friends in the mountains!

First Up: Mount Washington

With an early morning wake up call, I was questioning if my extra beer the night before was a wise decision. But as 4:30 AM hit and we were leaving Ben’s driveway before the sun was coming up, I was feeling good about the day’s prospects.  We pulled into the parking lot a little after 6:00 and were heading up Tuckerman Ravine Trail as the sun’s rays were starting to hit the mountain above us.  Our target: the Lion Head Trail.  The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is essentially a “grind”. It is 2.4 miles and 1800′ of gain and is very wide – it is routinely patrolled by Forest Service Rangers on snowmobiles and has a snowcat that travels back and forth on some of the trails in the area. Being mindful of our set turn back time of 10:00 AM we wanted to boogie and made it up the 1.75 miles to the Lion Head Trail in an hour, which was a great pace for hiking up. After a brief turn off to get to the foot of the rise, the real fun began.

Lion Head is the steepest hiking I have ever done*. The winter route is set up because the summer route is too prone to avalanches during the winter. And the winter route is closed during the summer route because it is too steep with out the snow to fill it in. Luckily Ben had his ice axe with him and let me use that as we went up to gain experience with it.  We made okay time going up, it was slow, but steady and very, very tiring. My arm was exhausted from swinging the axe into the snow pack and my legs were exhausted from kicking in with my crampons.  Realizing that the way down would be very slow going becuase the snow was so soft and we only had the one ice axe; we adjusted our turn back time to 9:30 to allow for more time to get back down.

After a short break to fuel up and hydrate we started to make our way down. I would like to say slowly. But an ill fated attempt at trying a “short slide” turned into an on-the-edge-of-out-of-control plummet until I was able to latch onto a tree, avoid the bouncing ice axe, and stop my self from sliding off the edge of the trail. It was probably the most terrifying 2.8 seconds I have ever encountered! After looking up and clearing the snow from my face and sunglasses, I gave Ben the quick thumbs up that I was okay and offered up that he not take that approach.

From that point until the base of the cliff face, we decided we would down climb.  Down climbing is essentially like going down a ladder. You face the mountain and hike down backwards. I would drive the ice ax into snow with my right arm; reach down with my left leg and kick in a foot hold; my right foot would go next; and my left hand would punch a hole in the snow or grab onto a tree or root for support. On and on we went down the face of the trail. If I weren’t so focused on finding safe foot placements, I probably would have been a little more petrified. But by taking it easy, taking one step at a time, and taking multiple breaks to assess where I was going made it that much easier to move on.

Once we got off the really steep part, the fun began. The lower part of the trail descends at a pretty good grade but not nearly as vertical as the higher section. Translation: perfect for sliding!  This time, the slide was three times as long and many times safer, but still just as fast. I again blew by my anticipated stopping point, swerved around an s-curve of trees and continued down the path. It was quite the ride! Once we got back down to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail we moved pretty quickly getting back down to the lodge a little after noon time passing many skiers who were making their way towards Tuckerman for their own adventure.

Overall, for my first real tough winter climbing experience, I could not have been happier.  A little fun, a little adventure, perfect weather – low winds and few clouds were seen anywhere – made for an excellent adventure. We didn’t make it to the top of Lion Head but overall, the goal was to get out there on the trail and get me some experience on some tougher hiking trails.

After lunch, we repacked our packs to get ready for the overnight on Doublehead and made our way on over that mountain for an afternoon hike an evening birthday soiree.

It was a perfect start to the weekend with great weather, great hiking and many lessons learned!

-cb-

*as we had stopped at the base of the steep sections, we were surprised by a hiker coming down who had spent dawn up at the summit. Looking mildly like a meth head he described his hike down by saying “I am going down to the lodge to change my diaper”.  Add that to the list of things you don’t want to hear right before attempting what you know is your most challenging hike ever.

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Getting Ready – Mt. Washington & Doublehead

So far the weather looks good for Friday’s attempt at Mt. Washington.  Because of our plan to meet our crew up at Doublehead later in the day we have a short window to bust a move up the mountain and make it back down to meet up with the others.

Ben and I are leaving town by 4:30 AM to hit the trail head at about 6:00. We then plan on hiking as far as we can until around 10:00 AM at which point we are going to make our way back down. Our target:  Leave Pinkham Notch on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the Lion Head winter ascent trail. Then from there, it is Lion Head to the top of the head wall, back to Tuckerman Ravine Trail and perhaps even up the cone.  The question will be, how far can we make it?

This will be some of the most advanced winter hiking I’ve done and I am anxious for the experience.  There is no real time-trial for this hike for training purposes, just out cut-off time to turn around. This is just because we can and to gain a little more experience in some relatively advanced conditions.    The goal is to go for it, have some fun and see how far we can get.

This also, of course, means that I will be clicking “refresh” on the Observatory’s website constantly for the next 36 hours. Things look okay for now, but tomorrow will be the last “go / no-go” check until we take off in the morning. From there, we will be assessing the weather as we go. If it looks shady, we’ll probably just hike to the base of Tuckerman and check out the early morning scene before heading back down to join the gang at Doublehead.

In the meantime, it is time to pull together my gear and get things organized. It will be a fun weekend of hiking!

Snap shot from the AMC's White Mountain Guide map of trails around Mt. Washington

Snap shot from the AMC’s White Mountain Guide map of trails around Mt. Washington

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Upcoming Hikes & A Couple of Quick Hits

It is Monday and I am already looking forward to the weekend. I know, I know… so is everyone else. But this week in particular, there are a couple of hikes that I am looking forward to.  We’re celebrating a friend’s birthday up in the Whites this weekend which will end up in a hike to a cabin as well some exploring in the area.  And to kick things off, Ben is dragging me up Mt. Washington, as long as the weather holds. The weather is always iffy on Mt Washington so we’re holding off on the actual plan until we get closer and see what Mother Nature has in store for us. But if things head in the direction I want, I will post about what our plan is before we hit it on Friday.

In the meantime here is a couple of links worth checking out:

  • AMC’s Equipped is a fantastic source of news in the gear world. Matt is always writing about different products or sharing information to think about when selecting gear. It is a great starting point for anybody who is on the hunt for gear. This week he posted about Gore-Tex and why your boots can sometimes feel wet (a rather fitting read given my recent mission to find new boots).  After finishing this post, read his archives as there is so much information he shares. 
  • hikeSafe is a program by the White Mountain National Forest and New Hampshire Fish and Game. The idea is to educate hikers and those who enjoy the outdoors by sharing common sense guidelines to help plan and execute your adventure. This way,  you and everyone you are with can safely enjoy themselves.  Read more about hikeSafe here. More importantly, practice these guidelines and share them with your fellow adventurers.

 

 

-cb-

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Photos: South Baldface Mountain Training Hike 3-30-13

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You can read my write up here: http://wp.me/p3hCp2-21

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Hiking Boot Hunt 2013: Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX

The leader in the club house so far is Vasque’s newest model of the Breeze boot, the Breeze 2.0 GTX.

Light, breathable, supportive. The top contender so far.

Light, breathable, supportive. The top contender so far.

 

Vasque is a newer brand to me (despite the fact that they have been around for almost 50 years). My past three pairs of hiking boots have all been by Merrell. I have loved my Merrell boots as they have all been traditionally very sturdy, supportive, great traction and very comfortable. However, they have run a bit on the heavier side and have not been very which I am trying to avoid this time around.  So, when I was at EMS earlier this week I tried on three pairs of Vasque Boots: The Breeze 1.0, the Breeze 2.0 and the Wasatch.

The Breeze 2.0 was my favorite of the bunch. I was really surprised at how light they are for a boot that had a lot of coverage. I wear size 14 boots and I am used to them being very heavy and clunky. My first thoughts were I should be targeting a low-cut trail shoe to cut down the weight and increase maneuverability  I have strong ankles and I was not as worried about the full support or protection that higher cuts offer.

The Breeze 2.0s are mid-cut boots providing higher ankle support and protection while they are also very light. This particular model of boot has the Gore-Tex lining which will cut down on breathability but there were side panels of fabric that would give what looks like good ventilation points. Additionally, my foot fit very well inside the boot. Traditional hot spots for me are on the heel, at the wide part of the foot and the top of my foot. And each of those areas were snug but not too tight.  The other aspect that I liked was that the sole was not too stiff, allowing for movement and flexibility while climbing over rocks.

I look forward to trying some more boots over the next few weeks. One of the challenges is that there are not many outfitters around Portland so options are limited. It will take some investigation and perhaps a trip down to REI in Boston to see more.  Ultimately my goal is to make my decision by the end of April, just in time for the warm weather to hit and the snow to be gone!

-cb-

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