Mount Willey & Field

willey10The last weekend in May, we set out to bag three more 4000 footers. The plan was to hike Mount Willey, Field and Tom, all part of the Crawford Notch section of the White Mountains. It may have been overly ambitious so soon into the hiking season, but we felt confident going in. willey9

The GPS took us to the Willey House Site, which wasn’t exactly where we wanted to go, but which was home to one of the trailheads that would lead us to Mount Willey. The most strenuous, direct way up. In fact, it’s suggested that if you take this way up, that you get dropped off at the trailhead after parking at the other end, as there was no loop to this hike. After hiking over the mountains one way, you’d have to hike them all again the other way to get back to your car without a drop. Whoops.

willey11So we took the Kedron Flume Trail, which wasn’t too horrible. The flume itself was neat, a stream of water that disappeared over the side of the mountain. We then hiked the Ethan Brook Trail the rest of the way up Mount Willey, which I thought was brutal. Most trails get steep the last half mile or so to the top. This one was crazy steep for an entire mile. There was a series of ten or so ladders on one area of the trail that you had to take to ascend the trail, sometimes over bald, smooth, vertical rock face. willey8I couldn’t see exactly how many ladders were in the series from the bottom, and it was much too perilous to stop in the middle for a picture, but by the end I felt like I had climbed up a twenty story building. And the trail just kept going up. After pretending to be in a movie (visions of the Chinese temple from the last Karate Kid came to mind), after pretending to be in an episode of Night Gallery or the Twilight Zone where I was caught on a trail that would never end, after telling myself that I was a machine and I had this, I was still climbing up with no end in sight. My patience, my temper, and my sanity were in short supply.

willey1And then we reached the tiny outlook that would provide the only view to reward us for our efforts. Next we reached the stone cairn that marked the wooded summit of Mount Willey. We grabbed a quick bite and then continued on towards Mount Field, as the day was growing old and there was no time to waste.
willey7It took almost an entire hour to reach Mount Field. At a slightly shorter distance than that to Mount Tom, I was worried. At the rate we were going, we wouldn’t be done and off the mountain until after dark. And due to the strenuous nature of the hike, I knew I couldn’t maintain our current speed.

willey2I fed the birds on top of Mount Field as I pondered the situation, their creepy strong talons twisting around my fingers with indian burn force as they ripped the food from my hands. For some strange reason, maybe the novelty of it, I kept subjecting myself to the experience. And then I heard the most beautiful thing ever – my husband’s voice suggesting that, due to the time, the weather, and the two pups who would be waiting at home for their dinner, that we climb Tom another day. The only thing that could have made me happier was already being down the mountain.

willey3It was an arduous (for me) trek back to Mount Willey. Somehow, with ankles wobbling and knees knocking, I got safely down the mountain with only one mishap – I paused for a moment, and the lack of momentum caused me to tip straight over to the side. I caught myself before falling and remained in a weird yoga stretch for a minute while I gathered the strength to right myself. I’m known for doing all my own stunts. I’m working on knowing exactly what stunt I’m going to do before it’s actually done. It’s a skill in progress.

Adopting an, “I’m NOT a little teapot,” matra, I continued to stumble down the mountain, listening to the cars pass on the road far below while knowing – KNOWING – that there was a willeypizza traveling in one of them. Several (seemingly endless) hours later, we were once again at the trailhead where our journey began. So while we ended the hike without conquering the three peaks we had set out  to climb, we did bag two, which should have earned me a pizza, but it didn’t. I got to go home and cook dinner instead. (Maybe I should have toughed it out to the third summit after all.)

Starr King to Mount Waumbek

waumbek2waumbekMay 23rd found us hiking over Mount Starr King to reach Mount Waumbek – one of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers. Waumbek would put us one peak closer to our goal of joining the AMC’s 4000 footers club. It would also be our first 4000 footer of 2015.

waumbek1We drove to Jefferson, NH for the hike, which was part of the Pliny Range of the White Mountains. While there were rumored to be outlooks near each peak, neither was known for its views. Perhaps to compensate for this, the lower trail was waumbek3 lined with a beautiful array of wildflowers. The trip was easy, but as we hiked along the crest that would lead us to the first summit, it got incredibly cold. It was hard to believe that the previous week waumbek10I was worried about heat stroke as we rummaged through our packs to add clothing layers and, since we didn’t bring gloves with us, to find anything to wrap our hands in so that the feeling would return – it was honestly that cold. waumbek7

Luckily, we quickly reached Mount Starr King, named after the Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King. It was surprisingly, but wonderfully, warmer at the top and after a few minutes in the sun our hands were able to defrost. A short mile later and we had conquered the 4006 foot summit of Mount Waumbek, too.  waumbek6

After a quick break, we began our descent, finishing the hike in only four hours – a full hour less than the suggested hike time. Which meant that after running full speed after a giant both up and down a mountain, I was home in time to cook dinner. Joy :-/

Champney Falls to Mount Chocorua

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chocuruachocurua17It was a beautiful, summer-like day when we set off to hike Mount Chocorua. There are several trails you can take to the summit. We chose the Champney Falls trail, named after renowned White Mountain artist Benjamin Champney, for the view. The trailhead was easy to find, located right off the scenic Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire.

chocurua12chocurua15We began the 7.6 mile hike in high spirits, stopping for lunch near the falls under the shelter of an overhang hidden in a chasm off to the left of the trail. Although it was May 10th, a thick layer of ice covered the ground, making our little picnic spot much cooler than the surrounding area.

chocurua9We then resumed our journey up the trail, the day becoming hotter and hotter, my skin frying under the boiling sun. The trail is in the tree line until you reach the bare, craggy rock at the top. Unfortunately, most of the trees along the lower 2/3rds of the trail were just beginning to sprout their leaves after winter.

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Just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more heat (pretty sad for a Florida girl, huh?) we reached the pine lined switchbacks of the upper trail, occasionally crossing ice patches with their lovely little pockets of cold air. By the time we reached the treeless reaches of the upper realm, I had recovered from the heat.

chocurua8chocurua10It was clear, sunny, and best of all, windless when we arrived at the 3490 foot summit. The easternmost peak of the Sandwich Range, Chocorua’s views spread far and wide,
providing a gorgeous view of the surrounding landscape. After chocurua7a quick break, we began an uneventful descent. All in all,  Chocorua was a lovely hike, the falls were gorgeous, and it was another day well spent in the mountains.