Hiking the 4000's in NH

Gorgeous Garfield
April 26, 2010, 2:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

After a couple fun filled weekends with my kids, we had another opportunity to get out hiking.  In preparing for the weekend, I noticed the weather on Sunday might not be great.  Also taking into account Thursday was Earthday and we were going to be outside doing a service project all day, we decided to only tackle one mountain this weekend.

We spent Earthday on Thursday building raised garden beds at Wagon Hill Farms in Durham NH.  One of the great things about working for Timberland is the opportunity and encouragement to serve.  Alina came along on Earthday and helped with the service project.  After a full day of building garden beds, digging, shoveling, wheeling, raking …  We were pretty tired.  It was a good decision to only do a one day hike.

The original plan for the weekend was to do both Mt. Garfield and Mt. Hale since they are close by.  I also figured they were two mountains that would be pretty safe in the wet snowy conditions.  We decided to skip the Sunday Hike and just do Garfield on Saturday.  It turned out to be a good decision after our adventure on the Garfield Ridge.

Saturday Morning came early.  We woke up about 6:15am and slowly stirred.  Neither of us were feeling too refreshed after getting to bed around 2am.  Oh well, we were awake and only going for the one day.  We packed our water, granola bars, PB&J sandwiches and some left over pizza.  We made sure we had some layers and even packed up the snow shoes for this trip.  I also grabbed my new Timberland Chocura hiking boots and Alina wore some heavier winter boots.  Today we would be ready for snow, or so we thought.

When the bus was loaded up , we jumped in and started the drive to the mountains.  It was a quiet morning drive for the two of us, but sunny and looking like a great day for a hike.  After a couple of hours of driving we made it to our exit and started looking for gale river loop road.  We passed what looked like the road, but it was closed, so we turned into the next parking lot.   Sure enough our road to the Garfield trail head was closed, but a sign pointed out a trail through the woods to the trail head.  This is where we realized that our camera batteries were dead and I would have to use my phone for pics.

We put on another layer, strapped the snow shoes to our bags and headed off.  We started on the beaver brook trail towards gale river loop rd.  An easy half a mile walk through the woods brought us out on the road, but which direction is the trail?  We took our best guess and started walking.  We found a trail head, but it was the gale river trail head.  A map showed us that we were 1.6 miles from the Garfield trail head.  So at this point we made a new plan.  We would continue on the road to the planned trail, Garfiled.  We would then summit Mt. Garfiled and take the Garfield Ridge trail back to the Gale River trail and come down.  If we had time we would take a detour and climb the Gale head Mountain too and bag two peaks.

Armed with our new plan, we started our warm up walk down the road to the Garfiled trail head.  Here we took off our additional layer, got comfortable and realized we better start hurrying.  It was already 12:20 and we hadn’t even stepped foot on the trail.  My research said it would take about 6.5 hours up and down on the Garfield trail and we planned on taking the ridge trail at the top adding a couple of miles to our hike.

The Beginning, well at least of the trail

The Garfield trail was well marked and a pretty easy climb.  We found a sign saying a bridge was out, but we disregarded that and kept moving.  When we came to the river, it was low enough and there were plenty of stones to make an easy crossing.  We continued up the trail.  It was a beautiful day for a hike, the bugs weren’t bad, the slope was gradual and the company was fantastic.  About a mile in we stopped on a fallen tree and ate our granola bars.  After our short snack break, we were back on the climb.  We walked through beautiful hardwoods, listened to the birds and avoided the slightly muddy trail spots, until we were a couple miles in and started to see snow.  We had snow shoes, but it wasn’t snowy enough to need them at this point so we continued on.  The trail started into some long switchbacks and then shorter ones until we knew we were close to the top.  The snow still wasn’t very bad.

After a 4.8 mile hike up we hit the juncture of the Garfield Ridge trail.  Now it is another .3 miles to the peak, but this is the steap part.  We turned and headed up, quickly running into a couple of hikers.  We asked if it was a hard climb in the now heavy snow, and how far.  They said it was close, and not too bad, very encouraging.  It was extremely steep, but the snow made some good steps so the final ascent was quick and easy.  Approaching the top, the snow ends and a large rock is visible and I could tell the view was awesome.  I stood on the rock turned and looked up to where the fire tower used to stand, WOW.  A few more large rocks and we would be at the top.  We ran into another group of hikers who said they came up the long way (meaning Gale River trail and then the Garfield Ridge Trail, our planned descent trip)  All they wanted to do was get down to the bottom as quick as possible.  They said it was snowy that way.  As they went down, we climbed to the top and admired the magnificent views.

Mount Garfield was spectacular.  The 360 degree views were incredible.  We stood in the remains of the old fire tower and tried to take some pictures.  My phone was not up to the task, completely incapable of capturing the beautiful landscape surrounding us.  We could see peaks in every direction, the closest one was Mt. Lafayette.  Looking down on the ridges leaving Garfield was impressive.  We felt so high staring down at the trees lining the sides of the smaller mountains.  So we took our pictures, ate our sandwiches and kissed.  It was hard to leave this spot.  We figured out the ridge we would be hiking over to the Gale River trail and started back down.

My Camera does not justice

Us at the Top

Our Feet

The view down

The steep descent off Garfield brought smiles to our faces.  It was fun, scary and provided excellent scenery.  Once back to the Ridge Trail, we headed out in a new direction and were not prepared for this difficult journey after our easy climb.  At the top of Garfiled the guys warned us it was snowy.  It was snowy, they could have warned us about some other things too.  We decided to put the snow shoes on at this point, so I tried to get them off my pack.   Unfortunately they were all tangled up and it was not possible to loosen them, so in the interest of saving time we left them strapped to my back and continued walking through much deeper snow.  Not more than a quarter mile from the top we were happy we didn’t have snow shoes on.  We found a vertical climb down, over steep rocks with running water.  It was an impressive site, but also a hairy climb down.  We made it and continued our snowy walk along the ridge.

Steep, Rocky and Wet

Alina on her way down

Ups and downs over the mountains through the heavy snow and steep rocky climbs turned out to be slow going.  It was about a 2 mile walk along the ridge, but it took us hours.  At the last peak before descending to the juncture with the Gale River trail, we stopped and admired the view.  We could see an AMC Hut on the next mountain.  The Sun was blazing and the Moon had joined it in the sky.  With a quick thank you to the universe for the beauty surrounding us and a bask in the sunlight we went for the last stretch of the ridge trail.  At this point, we were tired, wet and starting our race with the daylight.

The snow continued.  It seemed to just get softer, and easier to collapse under our feet.  We made it to the Gale River trail and the sign said 4 miles down.  That sounded great.  We were ready for the snow to end, but this was a shadier side of the mountain and it lasted for a lot longer.  The descent was steep and snowy and slow going while the sun continued to dip behind Garfield.  When the snow finally dwindled we were left with a muddy flat trail and were very thankful.  The climb down was steep and now it was a gradual slope, but how much longer.  Well it was a lot longer.  We picked up our pace and couldn’t understand where the energy came from.  We had the energy, so we hiked fast, crossed rivers and climbed over numerous fallen trees that were not cleared from the trail.  As the sun finally disappeared, we knew we had to be close.  We were close, and overjoyed to see the road and a bench at the trail head.

We sat on the bench for a minute and laughed about or trip down.  It was going to be nice to get back to the bus.  We still had about a half a mile through the woods to get to our car, but the moon was very helpful.  Walking with the moon at our backs, the trail was lit up and we could see our shadows.  We took the easy trail back and found the bus.  Ah, what a relief.   We grabbed some water, a slice of pizza and got out of our wet clothes.  It was a great hike, but so nice to be done.

Mount Garfield has amazing views.  The Garfield trail is an easy climb, about 5 miles to the top but easy walking.  The ridge trail and the gale river trail are a bit more treacherous and strenuous especially in the snow, wet conditions.  I would highly recommend the Climb to the top if you want to see the Majesty of the mountains in NH.


Hike Up – 5.1 Miles

Elevation Gain – 2700 feet

Time to Summit – 4 hours

Our Journey – Garfield Trail à Garfield Ridge Trail à Gale River Trail about 15 miles 10 hours.

Waumbek Correction
April 7, 2010, 8:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Unfortunately I received bad news yesterday. Apparently we stopped on Mt Starr King and did not continue al the way to the top of Mt Waumbek on our Easter Hike.  That means we did not get to the top of another 4000 footer over the weekend.  I’m unchecking it on the mountains page, and we will make another trip to the top of Waumbek when we get a chance.  Regardless it was a great hike and the views from Starr King are fantastic.

Easter in the Mountains
April 6, 2010, 9:52 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Pulling out of the Waterville ski area we had smiles on our faces and sore feet.  We had an idea that the next mountain was going to be rough after the unexpected snow and difficulty of Tecemseh, but we were on a mission so we headed up the road to the little town of Jefferson, NH.

We followed some directions that I found online, and they were almost right.  We figured it out and found a little road right off of route 2 that went to a small parking lot at the base of Mt. Waumbek.  Once we knew where we were spending the night, we headed into town.  We needed to pick up some more water, and batteries for the camera.  We also thought it would be fun to find a local dive to maybe shoot a game of pool or something.  Well, we found a market and that is about it.  There was a great view from the market, and they sold what we needed.  We decided to drive down the road to see if there was anything to do.  Nothing, Not a Thing.  We saw lots of people sitting on their porches drinking, that looked like the extent of activity up there.

Our little Camp

So we headed back to the parking lot and decided to make dinner.  We pulled out the stove, heated up chili and made taco salad.  Dinner was delicious.  There were two other cars in the parking lot, and right as we finished up dinner a couple came down from the mountain to their car.  We chatted with them briefly about the hike.  They said it was pretty snowy up there, but they made it without snow shoes.  After our hike that day, we weren’t too worried about the snow.  The trail was totally clear at the base and it didn’t look like there was a river to cross.

MMMMmmmm Taco Salad

Before the sun went down, we setup the bed and did a little reading.  Being exhausted from the day we didn’t stay up late when it got dark.  We played a quick game of yahtzee (I won) and then tried to get comfortable on the little bed.  We are used to a king size at home, so the bus is a little tighter than normal but sleep came pretty quick.

Going to bed with the sun, and sleeping in the bus lends itself to an early morning.  At about 4:15 am we were awake.  We laid there for a little bit and then I was up making coffee.  We ate some cereal, listened to music and got dressed for the day.  We even had warm, dry shoes to put on.  The night before, we setup the propane heater in corner under the bed with our shoes.  After a couple of hours of direct heat the shoes were dry.  And a little extra time with the heater in the morning made them nice and warm to put on.  I was thinking, ‘Let’s keep em dry today.’

Making Coffee

Drinking Coffee

Toasting Shoes

At 6:30 in the morning, we were dressed and ready for our second 4000 footer this weekend.  We skipped the planned easter egg hunt, but we brought some yummy eggs for snacks.  The trail started a lot easier than the previous day.  This trail was clearly marked and there was no snow on the ground.  It was a beautiful spring hike, with a bit of mud.  The trees at the bottom were all hardwoods with no leaves but everything was turning green.  We found a little well at the beginning of the trail and had a lot of fun hopping on rocks to ‘keep em dry’

Beautiful Morning to start Hiking

The Start

Isn't she cute, We started hiking early

It didn’t take too long for us to get high enough where the trees changed from hardwoods to pines and snow start showing up on the ground.  It wasn’t too bad at first, but the further we went along, the more snow there was.  This trail wasn’t nearly as steep as the day before, but the snow was just as deep.  It seemed to be packed a little harder, or it was just early in the cool morning, either way we didn’t sink as much.  It was a beautiful walk through dense pines up the side of the mountain.  In the morning there was not a whole lot of sun on this side of the mountain, so we kept our layers on.  Even though it was better than the day before, we both still sunk in several times and managed to get wet feet again.

Just a pretty Birch

The snowy trail

snack time, thank you easter bunny

Walking through the pines we gradually made it to the summit of Mt. Waumbek.  When we arrived at the peak, we saw two hikers taking a picture of themselves up there.  These two guys belonged to the other car down in the parking lot, they had camped out on top of the Mountain, ‘It was Cold’ was there comment.  The top of Waumbek is absolutely beautiful.  The view was fantastic, you could see all around.  There is a large fireplace / Stove up there and would be a great place to camp out, just not in the winter.  We took some pictures of the presidential and other mountains, ate a snack, laughed and kissed.  We also took a picture of our feet, and headed back down the mountain.  My feet were wet and cold.  I knew moving would warm my toes back up.

I love this girl

Beautiful up here

Next time we are camping and cooking up here

Feet at the Summit

The walk down was pretty easy.  Again we sank in the snow a little more, but it wasn’t too bad.  Not being too steep we could take smaller steps and not hit the snow too hard.  We ran into a group of four hikers on our way down.  As it turns out two of them were on Mt. Tecumseh the day before a little bit earlier than we were.  We thought it was odd that we ran into people doing the same mountains as us since they are over an hour apart, but I guess we are in a new club the 4000+’ers of NH and New England.  We were able to share stories of the ‘rivers’ and the deep snow and compare the people we passed on the mountain.

As the trees changed the snow disappeared.  We were able to finish this hike on solid ground.  The walk down was fun and peaceful.  We passed another couple just starting their hike and for once we were the early birds finishing up while others started.  We finished the hike around 11:30 and decided to head home.

We cleaned up the bus from our stay the night before and left the Easter Ham in the refrigerator.  We will cook that when we get home.  As we drove off, we had to stop once more to get pictures of Mt. Washington, we’ll do that one when the snow melts.

Mt. Waumbek:

Hike Up about 3.5 Miles

Elevation Gain about 2700 feet

Total Time about 4 hours

spring was down the hill

Steep and Deep, Mt. Tecumseh in April
April 5, 2010, 1:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It was a wonderful weekend for hiking.  Spring has started with beautiful weather, and we were able to take full advantage of it over Easter weekend.  We successfully climbed both mountains we set out to tackle, camped in the bus, and enjoyed spring in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

On Friday night we had a special visitor come stay with us.  Teresa, one of Alina’s closest friends, was driving through the area and spent the night.  We had a fun evening of Music, Quesadillas (Los Olas Style) and dyeing Easter eggs.  While the girls chatted and caught up, I was busy prepping food and supplies for our weekend and making sure I had directions to get where we were going.  After packing our gear and food and serving dinner, we took a bus ride around the beach and headed over to the Galley Hatch to pick up some desserts.  MMMMmmm, I love their cream puffs, good thing we went hiking after that.

Alina and Teresa Dyeing Eggs

Easter Eggs

Saturday morning came early.  Being excited for our trip, I was up with the Sun and let the girls sleep in.  Actually I was up before the Sun.  I started the coffee, grabbed a cup and headed down to the beach.  I reached the beach just as the sun was peaking up over the ocean.   Knowing we were leaving the beach for a couple of days, I was able to sit and absorb the beauty of the morning.  The peace of starting the day as the sun rises filled me with tranquility for a day in the woods. After the sun was fully in the sky, I headed home to make breakfast and start the weekend adventure.

With our bellies full of creamed eggs on toast and coffee, we said good-bye to Teresa and jumped into the bus.  The air was still a little chilly, but the sun was up and it was a great day to be cruising to the mountains.  We stopped in Concord at the EMS to pick up some ‘yak trax’ just in case there was any snow (ha ha ha, more about that later).  The yak trax are just some rubber and springs that go on the bottom of your hiking shoes, kind of like snow chains for shoes.  We figured that if there was snow on the top of the mountain they would add a little extra safety.  Well, we were happy we stopped.

Our Saturday mountain, and the first of our 4000+ peaks together in NH was Mt. Tecumseh.  The trail to the top of Tecumseh starts from the Waterville Valley Ski area parking lot.  We pulled into the ski area to see lots of cars and people enjoying the spring skiing.  We ate our lunch of PB&J sandwiches and potato salad before throwing on an extra layer and the water packs.  We found the trailhead and crossed the little stream to start our trek up.

The Start

It didn’t take long for the extra layer to come off.  We were a couple hundred yards on the trail when we were both down to tank tops and had our pants rolled up.  Unfortunately this is where we also found the first of our river crossings, and the start of the snow….

While researching the mountains, I read that this was a pretty easy hike.  It was rated as Moderate, but short and easy to do in an afternoon.  It was a short hike, and it only took us about 4 hours in and out, but the 3 days of heavy rain and the 70 degree weather melting snow made for some hairy stream crossings and lots of soft snow.  The trail was quickly covered with snow, so we put on our yaks and followed along.  Then we had to cross what was probably a little stream normally, but more of a river today.  There was no good way to cross.  We worked our way off the trail a little bit to find a couple of big rocks on each side of the stream.  I took a deep breath, jumped and of course slipped on the landing rock and ended up on the other side, but with a wet shoe.  It took Alina a little longer to gather the courage and take the leap, but she made it without a problem.   I had an opportunity to take some pictures to pass the time while she was preparing herself.

You can do it!

So we made it across the river and hiked through snow until we ran into some people who warned us that it gets pretty deep up top without snow shoes ‘walk softly’, so we took the advice and continued.  After all they were teenage girls in shorts without snow shoes and they made it.  The snow continued to get deeper, and we passed more people with snow shoes until we found the second river crossing.  This one was a little further up and the water was a little deeper.  Once again, I took a deep breath and a jumped across.  Alina borrowed some poles and worked her way across on shallower rocks.  Now the fun was about to begin.

At this point, the ground was completely covered in deep snow. There are a couple of indicators about how deep the snow was.  Surrounding the trees you can see holes that go down at least 18 inches, but still not showing the ground.  And then of course when our legs would sink into the snow we could tell how deep it was.  Several times our whole leg would go into a fresh new hole.  We continued hiking and stepping as lightly as possible.  The trail was very steep, and the snow very deep.  Every step we took, our back foot would sink / slip back probably 8 inches.  This added a lot of steps to our hike.  The steepness continued without turns or level spots for most of the rest of the climb.

I lost my leg

We did get a little break about a third of the way up the hill where you could step out onto the ski slopes and check the view.  It was an impressive view from this spot, so we took some pictures and enjoyed not slipping or sinking into snow for a few minutes.  Then back to the incline.

The View

Me and The View

Alina and the View

The trail continued up and up and we continued sinking and slipping.  This is a short hike but that means it is a steep one.  We passed a few more people on their way down with big smiles.  Finally we finished the ‘meat’ of the hike and it was a little less steep.  The snow was still deep, but what a relief to walk towards the peak on a less steep area.  Then the last push to the top and we had reached the summit.

At the summit we sat down and appreciated the scenery.  We also appreciated not sinking in snow for a few minutes.  We ate our snacks, laughed and kissed each other.  We also took some pictures of the view and a shot of our feet on the top of the mountain (this will be our tradition on each peak).

I think we will do Pine Bouquets for the wedding

Yummy Granola Bar

At the Peak

Having a short break and some nutrients, we started the descent down.  Quickly we understood why everyone on the way down was smiling.  Though we still sunk into the snow, the mountain pretty much pulled us down the hill.  We practically ran down and had fun slipping and sliding.   We definitely created more deep holes down than up, but it didn’t take us very long to get back down to the view point, and then the river crossing.  We made it across the first river without too much difficulty.  It took Alina awhile to figure out a way, but she did it in the end.  Now with soggy feet from all the snow we trudged on towards the next crossing.

Back at this crossing, we looked for a better place to cross.  We found one that looked descent and I jumped across and waited on the other side.  Alina tossed me her yaks, but they hit a tree branch and landed in the river.  Responding as quickly as possible, I retrieved one of them but the other was lost.  Bravely Alina crossed this one and we were anxious to get  back to the bus and out of our wet shoes and socks.

Finally we made it back to the parking lot.  We took off our wet footwear and hoped they would dry before tomorrow.  We ate some more potato salad and got back on the road.  We were delighted to be done with the hike.  There were some pretty views at the top, but it was hard to see much with all the trees.  The snow and rain made it a difficult mountain to climb, but it is done.  Now we were excited to find the next mountain and a place to setup camp, that is sleep in the bus.  More on that in the Waumbek post….


Hike up about 2.5 miles

Elevation Gain about 2300 ft

Total time 3.5 – 4 hours

The Journey Begins
April 1, 2010, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

After moving around my whole life, I’ve lived in NH for 2 years.  I think it’s time to  start calling it home.  This state is full of things to do, places to see and fun to be had.  In my short stay I have found the love of my life, a wonderful place to live and lots of outdoor adventure.

Living on the coast of NH with my beautiful fiance Alina has been an experience I’ll never forget.  We wake up every morning viewing the ocean out our front window.   It’s a short walk to the waves where we have learned to surf and we enjoy the water with my kids.  Walking along the wall in the evenings, or any time, is a real treat.  The summer is full of excitement as the ‘Carnival’ comes to town and provides excellent people watching.  Free, live music plays every night where we enjoy listening, dancing and an occasional ice cream cone.  Sunsets are the most beautiful time of day, sitting on our back deck watching the brilliant colors descend over the tidelands.  Life on the beach has been full of blessings and wonderful moments, I will cherish this forever.

I love living on the seacoast of NH, but that is not the point of this blog. Check out http://www.alinaandbrian.com/ if you want to see our daily life adventures  and wedding plans.  This blog will detail the new adventure we are embarking on.  Last year we bought our VW bus and also made it out for a few hikes where I learned about peak bagging in NH.   We set a goal to hike all the 4000 ft or higher mountains in NH.  After we top  the peaks in NH we will move on to the other New England states and eventually cover all 110, 4000+ peaks in the  Adirondacks and North.

I’ve been researching the NH peaks.  With a gorgeous spring weekend coming up, we decided to start the adventure.  This weekend we will climb our first 2, 4000 ft peaks.  The plan is to start with the smaller ones and work our way up to Mt. Washington.  The full schedule is not set, but this weekend we are hiking Mt. Tecumseh and Mt. Waumbek, both right around 4000 ft.

I’ll be updating the blog as we work our way up and over the 48 mountains in New Hampshire.  Look for a post next week about our first hike, and camp out this year.