Mount Sunapee

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The climb was challenging. The view was amazing. I have to say that Mount Sunapee is one of my favorite hikes so far.

I know that I was supposed to have learned my lesson about always doing my research before a climb. And I did. But halfway to the mountain we had researched, we decided to switch mountains. So a quick Google search via smart phone, a change in navigation, and we were on our way to Mount Sunapee.

On the drive, we passed by Lake Sunapee, the welcoming shores tempting us with the promise of a lazy day spent playing in the water. But we were on a mission and would not be swayed. Then, upon reaching the base of the mountain, we were shocked to discover that there’s an Adventure Center at the base of the mountain. Zip lining, Frisbee golf, ski lifts, Mini Golf!!!! I’m a HUGE mini golf nerd. The lure of brightly colored balls and ridiculously arranged greens….did I mention there was ice cream? But, alas, we were there to hike up the mountain, not play, so hike we did.
mountain1 This was no neatly manicured walkway. Trees that had fallen across the path were left for hikers to hurdle. Slippery rocks, gnarled tree roots and multiple switchbacks added to the charm of this rugged trail. Plenty of steep inclines made this hike a good test of strength and endurance. Going full speed ahead, we covered the 2.1 miles to the summit in just under an hour and a half. The final approach was a short walk through a tangle of purple wildflowers.
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We had the entire summit to ourselves. The views were gorgeous; a great reward for a challenging hike. I’d definitely recommend Mount Sunapee. It was a moderately hard climb, great views at the top, and very few other hikers. It doesn’t get much better than that!
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Spanning the Gap

Mount Monadnock as seen from Gap Mountain's North Summit.
Mount Monadnock as seen from Gap Mountain’s North Summit.

   I had a bittersweet moment this weekend as I said good-bye to an old pal. And while I’ll miss my friend, the time had come to part ways – it simply could not be avoided any longer. This weekend I traded my 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee in for a younger model. And while I’ll miss the car that had been my faithful adventuring companion for the last 10 years, I won’t miss what had become a daily struggle to keep it on the road.

    Or my new found freedom. I came home from the grocery store on Sunday, and it was suggested that in order to break in my new Jeep, that we hop in and drive to New Hampshire and find a mountain to hike. What’s this? An unplanned road trip? And we’re taking my car??? Suddenly the impossible was once again possible. My ride was no longer an old, broken down mule used only to get to work and obtain groceries. No, now I was the owner of a sturdy steed capable of covering great distances. So we headed to New Hampshire and ended up at Gap Mountain.

     At just under 2000 feet, Gap Mountain seemed like a good prospect for a late afternoon hike on a work night, an hour and a half from home. And it was. Although it started out pretty level and flat, there was a good distance of steep climbing to get to the top. Enough to cause breathlessness and excessive sweating. And although I thought I had learned to always do my research, we went in completely blind. Luckily the path is well marked, because we went in without a map.

     The sign at the entrance let us know that we were climbing the South Summit, which had no view. It then went on to boast of the wonderful view the North Summit had of nearby Mount Monadnock. So upon reaching the top after a quick 35 minute hike, we simply kept going, hiking over the top of the mountain, across the Middle Summit until we arrived at the North Summit. And while the view wasn’t all that the sign boasted, it was pretty, and a nice reward for an impromptu hike.

    

Learning to Fly

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The last of the morning mist was still melting off the surface of the river. The chorus of the birds welcoming the day blended melodically against the soothing tones of rushing water creating a memorizing effect. I’m standing there, hypnotized by the moment…..until a mosquito bites me on the neck, bringing me swiftly back to reality. And the reason I’m here in the first place. Today, I’m learning to fly.

     Fish, that is. I’ve fished plenty of times before, but this is different. Intricately wrapped flies instead of bait. Casting with light-weight plastic tubing you pull out by hand instead of fishing line released by a reel. No, this is a sport that takes much more skill than the fishing I’ve done in the past.

     So we launch bright and early on a raft into the Deerfield River, thankfully leaving the mosquitoes back on shore. The day is sweltering from the start, but we find a deep inlet of cool water at the bottom of a small drop off, so there’s a swift current sweeping by. And the fish love it. Looking at the surface of the water, you can tell by the ripples and channels where the fish want to be, and although my casting skills with fly line are far from perfect, I manage to work my line over, left right, left right, back and forth until I manage to get my fly in the current, and every time I’m rewarded with a strike.

     Every time a rainbow trout at the end of my line, and the dance begins. You see the strike, you pull the rod back to set and hook the fish, and you start stripping the line in. The fish fights, the rod bends, you give it some line back and let it run a little. Let it tire itself out. Strip the line in again; bring it closer and closer until its head is up and you can swing it boat side to scoop it up in a net. Unhook and release, then begin the dance again.

     Once the sun was at its zenith, we moved down the river and tried floating flies as we glided over the gentle rapids. Not as much luck as the inlet, but a completely different fishing experience, well worth the try. And considering the luck we did have, I’m sure that had it not been so hot, we would have been pulling them in just as quickly as in the inlet. But the rapids were shallow and probably hot – my skin was sizzling in the heat despite the constant reapplications of 50 proof sunblock.

     Fly fishing was a great experience. I had a fantastic time and I’m sure this is the first of many trips. I’m planning on investing in a pair of waders and exploring the local rivers, and I’ve researched a couple of mountain hikes in Maine that lead to good fishing spots, so I can combine some of my hobbies. I’m even looking forward to trying my hand at tying a few flies!

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Always Do Your Research.

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I learned a very important lesson this weekend – always do your research. Different from always be prepared. We always go hiking with a full pack – first aid kit, water purifying kit, flare, space blanket – basically everything you’d need should you encounter an emergency or get lost or stuck in the wild.  No, doing your research means knowing what you’re getting into. Not that Mount Greylock was hard to hike. In fact, it was the easiest mountain I’ve hiked so far. But I didn’t know that going in, because I didn’t do my research.

     To begin, we started the day with a three hour drive to get to the mountain. Since we were navigating to the visitor’s center at the foot of the mountain, we didn’t bother printing any maps of the trails before we got there. We were sure they’d have plenty. And they did. So I got a map from the ranger and walked across the parking lot to where the trail started while casually perusing the map. Then I looked a little closer at the map. Looked at the sign at the trail head. Then the map again. Then I hiked back across the parking lot to speak with the ranger.

     The full trail for Mount Greylock is eight miles long. I love hiking, and used to think nothing of a 10 mile trip – back when I lived in Florida where everything is relatively flat and you hike a mile in under 20 minutes. But, as I learned the hard way on my first climb after moving up here last year, mountain miles are different. It takes a good hour a mile when you’re climbing straight up. We had read (briefly) that it only took 4 hours to climb Greylock. Something wasn’t adding up.

      A quick chat with the ranger revealed that very few people climb from the bottom, especially if they’re not planning on staying overnight (which we weren’t), and there are many places to park along the way as the road goes all the way to the top. A lot of visitors just drive up. So, at the ranger’s suggestion, we parked halfway up at the campground parking area. About 4 miles from the top, so still a challenging day’s hike. We thought. Except that when we get out and start climbing, we discover that the trail really isn’t that steep. Almost like a vacation compared to the last couple of weekends. 
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So we took the Campground Trail to Hooper, then chose the Overlook trail to the top to add a little time. We passed a few nice waterfalls on the way up. Lots of mud, slick rock, and tree roots made the journey a little more challenging than a walk in the park. At the top, there’s a war memorial and a lodge. A nice view, but a bit crowded with all the people who drive up. We spent some time wandering around the top, had our mountain summit snack, then started our way back to the car and our long drive home. We took the Appalachian Trail to Hooper to Campground on the way down, and passed a picturesque  pond. The entire climb took less than four hours, with plenty of picture ops and a long stroll around the top. Had we been prepared and done our research going in, we would have known that we didn’t need to start halfway up – most of the hike was not measured in mountain climbing miles. But it’s a lesson learned, and we’ll be better prepared next time.

     However, we have a little something different planned for next weekend’s adventure. We’ll be traveling back to Western Massachusetts, but this time we’re headed for the Deerfield River, where I will try my hand at fly fishing for the first time!