Mount Washington, NH ~ through the hiker’s lens

At 6,288 feet, Mount Washington is the highest mountain in the northeastern United States, and one of the 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers. Home to a weather observatory, a cog rail, and an auto road, it’s accessible to anyone in the area that wants to visit. For those who choose to hike to the summit, it’s an entirely different experience – one as beautiful as it is dangerous. The view as seen from the trail:

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North and South Twin Mountains

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We recently hiked North and South Twin Mountain, making us officially 50% done with the New Hampshire 4000 footers! We began the hike off Haystack road, approaching from the north. There were some crazy river crossings on this trail, including a scoot across a fallen log over a raging torrent of rushing water – perhaps approaching from this side is a better idea when there hasn’t been heavy rains in the area?

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After what seemed like forever (but was really only 3.5 hours), we reached the overlook for North Twin. Although only 1.3 miles from the summit of South Twin, the distance looked long and daunting, especially since this hike was and in and out instead of a loop, which meant hiking over to South Twin, then back over to North before heading down. Basically hiking up – down – up – down – up – down. There’s no way your legs aren’t going to feel that :-/

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At 4902 feet, South Twin is the 8th highest of the 4000 footers (North is 12th). This hike was a challenge, but the views were incredible! The 11 mile hike took us just under 8 hours, which would have been shorter if my knee had been a little more agreeable on the way down. All in all, an awesome hike with breathtaking payoffs at the top. If you approach from the south, the AMC’s Galehead Hut is about a mile from the South summit, providing an alternative for those who don’t want to tackle the hike in a single day.

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(Surprise) to Mount Moriah – Another 4000 footer bites the dust!

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So . . . what can I say that’s nice about this hike? The view was gorgeous. And that’s about it. While incredibly beautiful, Moriah was one nasty lady on the day we hiked her. Or maybe I shouldn’t blame her. Maybe it’s not her fault. Maybe it’s that the surprise part of hiking over (and especially back over, on  the way down) Mount Surprise is that it seems to never end. Ever. Twilight Zone, stuck doing the same thing forever, never. Surprise!

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Of course, it could also be that we hiked it on what was the hottest day of the year so far. And being 4000+ feet closer to the sun really does seem to make it feel hotter. Especially when you’re drinking over a pound of water an hour and sweating it out twice as fast as you can drink it. Then there’s that whole searing heat radiating up from the sun baked rock thing. It could be that some of that added to the sour taste this hike left in my mouth.

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Whatever the case, I didn’t love this hike. Except when it was over. Actually, not until it was several days done with, but who’s counting (besides me). The important thing is that we completed the 9 miles safely. Some hikes are better than others. Some days make conditions more difficult. That’s what we prepare for. It isn’t always easy, but most things worth working for aren’t. The next hike will be better.

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At 4049 feet, Mount Moriah is #41 on New Hampshire’s list of 48 4000 footers.

Middle Mountain

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Middle Mountain is an 1857 foot peak in North Conway, NH that offers an excellent view of the valley below. Start at the Pudding Pond trail head (heading north on North-South Road, take a right onto Artist Falls Road, then another right onto Thompson Road, trail parking is on the right). When you see the kiosk with trail info, take the path to the left and chose the fork closer to the parking area.

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This is an easy hike with a great payoff. It can easily be combined with a side trip to Peaked Mountain, also with a great view of the valley. Your hike can be further stretched to include Black Cap and Cranmore Mountains, all part of the Green Hills Preserve.

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Mount Jackson ~ Presidential Range, NH

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Although part of the Presidential Range of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Mount Jackson was named after 19th century Geologist Charles Thomas Jackson and not President Andrew Jackson.

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At 4052 feet, it is the 38th tallest of New Hampshire’s 48 4000 footers.

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This is a moderate hike with numerous river crossings and rock scrambles.

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There’s a great view of Mount Washington in the (not so far) distance.

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In mid-May, there was still quite a bit of ice on the trail.

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The views from the summit are wonderful, if very, VERY windy.

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 It was our first 4000 footer of the season, and I’m not going to lie – it was rough.

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The 5.6 mile hike took us about 4.5 hours, though I have no doubt that the hike could be done much faster.

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Jockey Cap ~ Fryeburg, Maine

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Jockey Cap is a 600 foot glacial boulder in Fryeburg, Maine that offers exceptional views with about 10 minutes of (somewhat strenuous) effort. Enough to get your heart pumping, but over before you think about lying down.

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To find the trail, navigate to Quinn’s Jocky Cap General Store. Part across the street. The trail head is in the back left corner of the parking lot when facing the store.

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Wild By Cheryl Strayed ~ Nonfiction Book Review

wpb6This book is brutally honest. The author splays herself across the pages, revealing hers sins and transgressions, opening herself up for judgement and condemnation. As I was looking over some of the reviews on Goodreads, I was surprised by how many people chose to do just that. I was shocked by how readily the jackals ripped this book apart.

Who reads a memoir about someone who has always made all the right decisions and known their path in life? Sounds pretty boring to me.

Maybe you can’t relate to some of Strayed’s mistakes. Maybe you find her behavior completely unforgivable and reprehensible. Maybe that’s how she felt about herself. Maybe that’s why she rashly decided to hike over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail when she was so ill prepared – to face her demons and her own behavior and find a way to embrace her mistakes as a necessary part of her journey through life. There is no sugar coating in the pages of this book. What you will find in this book is honesty, humor, and one individual’s tale of survival – not of the PCT, but of the situations thrown at her by life.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed is one of those books that exists on many different levels. It’s a book about adventure, a story to fuel wanderlust and exploration. It’s a tale about searching for one’s self and a place to belong – not in the sense of an actual place, but within yourself. It’s a book about making mistakes and losing your direction in life. And it’s a novel about the untimely loss of a parent.

I immensely enjoyed Strayed’s insightful prose, beautiful descriptions and sharp wit. I appreciated her story. You may not. In my opinion, five stars.

My Top 5 Mountain Hikes of 2015

Although I didn’t get nearly as many mountains hiked as I had hoped this year, I crossed another seven 4,000 footers off my list and saw many amazing, memorable views. As the year draws to a close, I’ve looked back and determined my top 5 mountain hikes of the year.

1  Mount Pierce/Mount Eisenhower Loop – This was one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes I did this year. Mount Pierce and Mount Eisenhower are both 4000 footers that are part of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. Both have great views, but the vista from the summit of Eisenhower was incredible. Definitely worth the 10 mile, 6-7 hour hike.

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2   Black Cap Mountain – One of my first hikes after the thaw this year, we hiked several miles up a closed road before reaching the mountain trail, and this was still an easy hike (in comparison to most mountains). Though this mountain is small (2,369 feet), the view is mighty! Black Cap Mountain offers a spectacular view and is a great hike.

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3   Mount Chocorua – I hiked up Mount Chocorua via the Champney Falls Trail, which is a gorgeous hike along waterfalls until you reach the switchbacks leading to the top of the mountain. The easternmost peak of the Sandwich Range, the views from Chocorua’s 3,490 foot summit spread far and wide, allowing for a gorgeous look of the surrounding landscape.

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garfield4   Mount Garfield – I’d be lying if I said this was one of my favorite hikes, but it was one of my favorite views, which made the monotonous, grueling hike worth the effort. At 4,500 feet, Mount Garfield is the 17th highest of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. This was the first time I hiked a snow covered mountain, which I didn’t love, but the view at the top was so incredibly gorgeous that I completely forgot the horrors of the trail (until I was back on it on the way down). I was momentarily transported to an almost magical winter wonderland. Then I was back on the trail. The beauty was short lived, but it’s definitely a memory I’ll cherish forever.

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5     Mount Field – I peak bagged Mount Field along with Mount Willey, and was supposed to head over to Mount Tom, too, (all 4000 footers in the Crawford Notch region) but the weather turned and that didn’t happen. Usually I have a vendetta against a mountain anytime the hike doesn’t go as planned, but this time I didn’t. Perhaps that’s why I liked this hike – because it was a lesson where I grew and gained maturity. Maybe, but it’s more likely that the memory of the creepy birds landing on my hands with their taloned death grip grew on me (it did). I’d like to go back and have another chance with those birds. This time I’d try harder to put my whole birds are dinosaurs that sometimes peck your eyes out thing out of mind and instead try to enjoy becoming intimately acquainted with my new feathered friends as they land on me like I’m in a Disney movie.

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Cliff Walk in York, Maine

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cliffwalk5It was a warm December day in New England – not many sentences are going cliffwalkto start like that. It was 50 degrees, the sun was shinning full force, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and we decided to make the most of the opportunity. We drove to the Maine coast  to walk along the shore. More specifically, we drove to Cliff Walk in York, Maine, to walk along the cliffs that border the beach.

cliffwalk7cliffwalk9On one side, you have super expensive, fancy houses. On the other side, there’s
a drop to the rocks below. Everywhere you’re surrounded by beauty. Fresh, clean air, peace and quiet, and an amazing  view – this is an experience not to be missed.

cliffwalk4The walk is not very challenging, but there is a fair amount of up and down, and soon enough, we were able to shed our sweaters and enjoy the beautiful Maine December day in our t-shirts!!! I still can’t believe it. The only things I can suggest to make Cliff Walk better is that I wish it was much longer.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson ~ Nonfiction Book Review

book21.jpgI picked up this book as a means of research because I wanted to learn more about hiking the Appalachian Trail . I’ve been mulling over the same book idea for over a year, but just couldn’t seem to put it to paper. I’ve hiked parts of the AT, but only those found in the northeast. How could I possibly write about a 2100+ mile trail that begins in Georgia and ends in Maine without seeming like a total fraud? Or worse, an inexperienced idiot? I set out to solve this problem the same way I always do – by reading.

I picked up this book by Bill Bryson before I knew that it was being made into a movie. It seemed like an ideal starting point to learn more about hiking the AT without losing myself in a dry, technical trail guide. My hope was that this firsthand account would provide me with with both information and color – and it did!

This book mixes Bryon’s account of hiking the trail with the history of the AT, the surrounding wilderness, and anything else Bryson thought would be useful (or fill pages). The end result is an awesome educational tool (for me) that is surprisingly funny! I enjoyed this book much more than I anticipated I would enjoy reading about two middleaged men walking in the woods. It was, in my opinion, a delightful surprise that held my attention and made me itching to lace up my hiking boots and hit the trail. Five stars.