Archive for August, 2009

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 3

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Since I’m up at 3am anyway (the joys of being oncall…) figured I’d continue the trip report. When last we saw our heroes, they had just settled in for a night at the relatively extravagant Carter Notch Hut…

I woke up at 6am, mostly because that’s when I set my watch alarm to go off. I went off to freshen up before the Hut crew came around with their wake up call at 6:30; I was expecting trash can lids or something similar and was presently surprised to hear one of the crew members singing a wake up song to the occupants of each cabin (three cabins total) as I returned from the bath room. By this time Dan was mostly awake and we headed over to the common room for the grub.

Breakfast was pretty good. First course was oatmeal, which I liberally covered with brown sugar, not being a huge oatmeal fan. Next was bacon and eggs; bacon is always great, but they filled the eggs with all sorts of veggies (really, mushrooms?) which kinda ruined those for me. No orange juice, but they did have some red juice…which basically tasted like watered down…red…juice. Really no better way to describe that. Thankfully they also had coffee. Even Dan ate well, which is always surprising considering his well known aversion to breakfast. We sat at the same table we had at dinner, with the same people, and had some pleasant conversation going over our various plans for the day. Most were traveling between huts and only a couple people were going in the same direction Dan and I were.

After breakfast was winding down, the crew put on a little after breakfast theater. Basic moral was to A) sweep out your bunk room, B) don’t leave any garbage, and C) tip generously. The skit was funnier than expected and I did end up leaving them a little something.

After breakfast, Dan and I returned to the cabin. I was pretty much all packed. Dan finished putting his gear together, although he did have a web loop on his pack rip off trying to tighten a strap down. He retied the strap around the pack frame, so not a huge problem. However, Dan did start feeling a little queasy, maybe due to the large breakfast, so we hung around for 30 or 40 minutes while his stomach adjusted. While I waited, I took a quick video of the hut.

And then we were off to conquer the Wildcats! First, we basically went straight up the side of Wildcat Mountain, almost 1200 feet worth. Once we got to the top, we spent the rest of the time traversing the ridge (and the other Wildcat peaks, cunningly named “B”, “C”, “D”, and “E”). About a quarter mile before peak D, we came across an old fire tower and climbed up to take a look around. I didn’t stay up there long, since it was pretty obvious why it was abandoned (falling apart just a little bit…). As usual, the Law and Rest Stops(which states, “When backpacking in a new area, no matter where you stop for a break, you’ll find a much better spot five minutes further on the trail”) caught us — at Wildcat D there was what’s probably a ski lodge in the winter, complete with an in service gondola bringing people up from below. We stopped for a few minutes to look down the side at the ski trails; luckily, one of the tourists pointed out that the trail continued along the ridge and not down the ski trail…I thanked him for that bit of insight…

And then came the “Descent of Wildcat E”. E was the last mountain in the Wildcat group and the last 4000 footer we’d cross before getting into the Presidentials proper. Splitting the two mountain groups was Pinkham Notch. The trail runs through Pinkham Notch visitor center (also known as AMC headquarters). To get there, it was only a 2100 foot descent from Wildcat E…in just one mile…

The climb down started pretty easy, so when I mentioned that the guide book describes this descent as extremely steep and dangerous we both shared a hearty laugh at the poor loser who thought this was a strenuous descent. About ten minutes later, we’re climbing down, hands and knees, almost vertically — at least someone was nice enough to bolt 4 by 4’s into the side of the rock, since otherwise there was basically no way to descend. Basically, Sleeping Giant Blue trail, except steeper angle (and that reference is pretty much meant just for Jeff…)

Pinkham Notch

Pinkham Notch

My knees had been holding up fine the entire trip, but coming down from E was really getting to them. Dan was in worse shape, since his knees had been bothering him almost non-stop. We finally got down to level ground and the Lost Pond. We got to Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center around noon, having already done five miles. Unfortunately, it was still another five miles to our next camp site, which was Osgood Tent site. We grabbed a picnic table and made lunch (we doubled up on the mini-bagel, pepperoni, and cheese sandwiches). Dan sacked out on the picnic table bench while I explored the Visitor’s center. There was a large scale 3d model of the Presidential range, so I scoped out the terrain between us and Osgood — not too bad, actually. Bought some candy bars for the two of us and headed back out to make sure Dan was still alive.

It took another half hour or so to get Dan moving again, since the climb down really did a number on him (along with the climb up from Carter Notch). By one or so we were back on the trail, which for the most part was pretty level. We crossed the Mount Washington Auto Road at mile post two — and were very happy to have left it behind, since the stench of car exhaust was almost overwhelming. Another mile or so further, we crossed a pretty nice river and decided to take a break. Dan wanted to refill his water bottles, since the water he got from Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center tasted like “burning rubber tires” or something similar. While we were hanging out there, a north bound hiker came by and stopped to chat. He told us he’d seen a moose on the trail at Osgood camp site; apparently the moose walked within four or five feet of him. He showed us the pictures he’d taken and it was pretty impressive. Dan and I were both pretty psyched about the idea of seeing a moose; so far, the biggest animal we’d seen was probably the spruce grouse. As we got closer to Osgood, we did see several moose prints in the mud, but that was about as close as we got.

There were quite a few rivers and streams between Pinkham Notch and Osgood tent site, but the coolest (and also the largest) was the West Branch of the Peabody River. We were only a half mile or so away from the tent site when we got there and I was very impressed with the bridge slung across the river.

At the next river (not nearly as impressive as the Peabody) we took a longer rest break, since Dan wanted to wash up a little bit. Since he’d been going on about swimming, I got a good laugh when he put a foot in the water and nearly froze. After a half hour or so we continued on and got to Osgood by 7pm or so.

There were a lot more people at Osgood than I expected. Only five tent platforms or so, we got there in time to snag space on the most remote platform. I say space, because we split the platform with another hiker (from Stratford, CT). After we got there, two other hikers showed up and had to find semi flat areas off the platforms to pitch their tents. Dinner was cranberry chicken and rice, sans cranberry (since Dan doesn’t like cranberries). Pretty good, although I added a little too much water. Also, the home made dehydrated veggies don’t seem to dehydrate very quickly — I’ll have to work on that.

Since there wasn’t a bear box, I got to play my favorite game — trying not to look like a total moron while hanging the food bags. Naturally there are never any decent trees anywhere nearby. After attempts in two different trees with no luck, one of the other backpackers told me there were bear boxes near the privy. Off I go, thinking that not only didn’t I see the bear box on the way up, but I had spent thirty minutes looking like an idiot. Turns out, no bear boxes — the guy had seen one of the composting boxes for the privy (conveniently marked with bio hazard signs). I returned to bear bagging (by this time getting dark) and managed to hang the bag about seven feet (on a good day). Whatever, it was hung.

As an added bonus, the weather report for the next day was rain showers in the morning and possible thunderstorms in the afternoon. I was pretty worried about that, since we had the toughest climb yet tomorrow to Mount Madison (3000 feet in 1.5 miles) and doing that in the rain didn’t sound like a smart idea. I told Dan we’d need to be up there before the rain started — once we got to the top of Madison, we could take shelter in the Madison Springs Hut, which was only a half mile past the mountain. I stayed up for a while checking the map and then fell asleep pretty quick. That night was probably my best night’s sleep so far on the trip.

Ultralight Fishing Kit

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Thought this was very interesting — a tenkura style fly fishing kit weighing only 6 oz. Almost makes me want to learn fly fishing…the idea of catching my food on a backpacking trip is very intriguing.

Skunked again

Friday, August 21st, 2009

My dog got sprayed by another skunk this morning, making it the third or fourth time in the last two years….apparently, this dog really loves skunks.

Here’s the skunk shampoo recipe we used (from

Caution: peroxide may lighten dark coat colors.

* 1 quart hydrogen peroxide
(make sure you are using hydrogen peroxide)
* 1/4 cup baking soda
* 1 teaspoon liquid soap
* ix well and shampoo.

BEFORE trying this, gather ingredients (do not mix), put dog in tub, make all preparations ready. You can mix the soap and peroxide together but as soon as you add the baking soda it starts to fizz. Sponge it on while it’s very active, with special drenching of identifiable skunked areas, then lather and leave it in for a while and rinse.

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 2

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

I woke up early, around seven am or so, after a pretty lousy night’s sleep. I spent most of the night tossing and turning trying to get comfortable on the wooden tent platforms. Turns out I don’t like tent platforms. After packing up our gear and filling our water bottles with the remaining filtered water, Dan and I had a quick breakfast of poptarts.

The big question mark at this point was where we’d be staying that night. The next closest free camp site was almost 20 miles away (Osgood campsite). In between Imp and Osgood are two AMC huts, Carter Notch and Pinkham Notch. Both of those were full service huts and reservations were strongly recommended (according to the guide book, at least).

That decision could wait for a while, though. First we had to climb 1500 feet up to the Carter line of mountains — North Carter, Middle Carter, South Carter, and Carter Dome. Mount HIght is also in this range, but we decided to take a side trail and bypass the summit; by the time we had reached Mt Hight we were both getting a little beat and Dan’s knees were starting to act up.

We stopped for lunch at Carter Dome, which was only a short distance past Mt. Hight. Carter Dome was pretty cool — a large rocky area with nice views.

Dan and I on Carter Dome

Dan and I on Carter Dome

Lunch there was mini bagels, pepperoni, and cheese and tasted great. As we were packing up the food I saw what I later confirmed was a spruce grouse.

After lunch we began the descent of almost 1500 feet in a mile to Carter Notch Hut. This was a pretty tough descent and we got to the Hut around 3:30pm.

Carter Notch Hut

Carter Notch Hut

At this point we had to decide where we wanted to stay. The next closest shelter was Pinkham Notch Hut another six miles away. Since Carter Notch Hut had some open bunks we decided to bite the bullet and stay there the night (at 90 bucks a person). While pricey, that did get us a hot dinner (salad, soup, stuffed shells, and dessert), breakfast in the morning, and a bed with a mattress.

After paying and ditching our gear in the room, Dan and I sat down to play chess in the common room. While we were playing, I noticed a kid (probably 12 or so) come rushing in and start filling up a glass of lemonade. The kid ran back outside. A minute or two later the kid returned, this time with what I figured was his father. The kid went to fill the glass again while the father slumped down on the bench; the father was carrying a huge pack that must have weighed fifty or sixty pounds. His son (I assume) kept giving him glasses of lemonade and helped his father get his pack off. Clearly, wherever they’d come in from, the father had been having a hard time with all that weight.

After a few more games of chess, we sat down to dinner. This was served “family” style; clearly, other families are much more polite at dinner then mine — there was a distinct lack of fighting and arguing. We were joined by six other people — a father and daughter, a mother and son, an older woman hiking alone (I think) and a older man, who also appeared to be on his own. Conversation was very interesting — the mother and son (the mother was seated to my right, the son across the table from her on Dan’s left) were very impressed by Dan’s whistling skills and decide that his trail name would definitely be “The Whistler”. I quipped (I’m quite good at quipping, having practiced for years) that as long as I didn’t become “Whistler’s Mother” I was fine with it. After talking a little more about music, it turned out they had also stayed at Imp the night before, in the shelter, and had also heard the Indian Flute player. The father and daughter were both reading Ann Rand’s “The Fountainhead”, which I thought was interesting. The solitary woman was someone Dan and I had passed during the day (and would pass again the next day).

Dinner was soup (Moroccan Lentil, which was pretty spicy), salad, stuffed shells, “almost sourdough” bread, and for dessert carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Everything was very good, even the carrot cake. After dinner Dan and I headed back to our bunk room where we were joined by the overpacked father son team that had arrived during our chess games. I took the bottom bunk and Dan took the top.

I had a fairly rough night’s sleep, again. Just couldn’t get comfortable. Around 10pm I went out to use the bathroom and stayed out there for a few minutes star gazing. The night’s sky was amazing; no light pollution and being 3000 feet up helped, I’m sure. Eventually I got to sleep, although I woke up several times during the night.

Primal Quest 2009 starts tomorrow

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Primal Quest 2009 start tomorrow. Unfortunately, I don’t get any of the channels it’ll be shown on (Untamed Sports, The Ski Channel, and Rush).

Guess I’ll have to wait for the dvds.

Back from the DIRT…

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

This year’s DIRT went pretty well. This year’s Wiffleball game became Boys vs Girls (and the Boys won, despite claims of cheating and illegal performance enhancing drugs).

Stefano, Joanne, Pete, and Michelle

Stefano, Joanne, Pete, and Michelle

The Horseshoe portion started fairly late (7:30 or 8pm) and went until 1:30am. The normal 10 rounds, followed by the playoffs, had to be shortened to 8 rounds (and we ended up playing only 7 games due to the late hour). We also only played to 8 instead of the normal 11 and the playoffs were played to 11 instead of 21. I made the playoffs but ending up placing fourth, but still had a lot of fun.

Too bad I didnt throw these...

Too bad I didn't throw these...

Not just the President, they're also members

They're also members

Going to the DIRT

Friday, August 7th, 2009

This weekend is the 2009 DIRT, otherwise known as the Dylan Invitational Recreational Tournament. Among the festivities is the traditional “Kids” Vs Old People Wiffle Ball game (kids being not so much kids as we were when the tradition first started, but the Old People are still Old…) and of course a horseshoe tournament; this is the summer edition of the AWSHIT winter horseshoe tournament, held for the last twenty years.

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 0 and Day 1

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Dan and I had arrived at Timberland Camp ground, about 3 miles from the AT trailhead, Friday (7/17) night around 10pm.  Sue (my wife) and her Mother had arrived a few hours before us and had been busy during that time setting up my Mother in law’s pop up camper.  It had started raining halfway through the 5 hour drive and continued down pouring throughout the night.

The plan was for Sue to spend the week camping at Timberland while Dan and I left the next day (7/18) to backpack from Gorham, NH to Crawford Notch.  Sue would pick us up in Crawford Notch on Thursday, 7/24.

We got a late start Saturday morning.  Dan and I redistributed the food bags again, leaving behind a larger share than we were originally going to take.  We replaced several hot meals with greater supplies of cold meals, like Tuna Pesto sandwiches and mini-bagels with cheese, pepperoni, and summer sausage.  I also realized I had forgotten my trekking poles and a bandanna at home, in my rush to get out of the house.

Because of my missing poles, we stopped at a local Walmart to pick up a pair of cheap replacements.  The replacements, a pair of Outdoor Products trekking poles (20 bucks for the pair) actually held up nicely during the trip.  I feature I liked that my normal poles lack were the locking clips, rather than a twist lock, for adjusting the pole height.  Major issue was the filmsy baskets on the poles, both of which broke off during the trip.

After getting breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts, Sue dropped us off at the trail head around 1 pm.  The A.T. in the WMNF actually runs over many different trails — this stretch was on the Rattle River Trail, running alongside the Rattle River. 

A.T. / Rattle River Trailhead in Gorham, NH

A.T. / Rattle River Trailhead in Gorham, NH

The first three miles went by extremely quickly; Dan and I covered them in an hour or so, with only a brief stop at the Rattle River Shelter at mile 2.

After crossing and re-crossing the Rattle River,

Bridge over Rattle River

Bridge over Rattle River

the trail began to climb steeply up the side of Middle Moriah and Mt. Moriah.  Our first night’s campsite, Imp Shelter, was on the other side of Mt. Moriah (on the Carter-Moriah Trail.  We gained almost 2500 ft of elevation in the three miles from Rattle River Shelter to Mt. Moriah.  Once on top of the ridge, the the trail became fairly level, with some lengthy sections of moss “bogs” that were protected with a long run of boards for hikers to travel over.

After we passed Mt. Moriah, we stopped briefly on the ridge while Dan readjusted some gear on his back.  The ridge had great views of the Presidentials and the Carters before we re-entered the forest.

We arrived at Imp shelter around 6:30 or 7pm.

Imp is an AMC managed shelter; along with the shelter itself, there were several tent platforms.  Per person, it ran 8 or 9 dollars a night.  Dan and I chose to use a tent platform and picked Platform One, which was the most secluded.  Dan filtered a few liters of water for dinner while I set up the tent and started putting together dinner (Mountain House Classic BBQ Chicken and Rice).  I gave Sue a call (she was also having chicken for dinner, with with corn on the cob and potatos).  After dinner we crawled into our bags and listened to another camper play and Native American flute.  I fell asleep pretty quickly after that, but didn’t sleep very well.  Combination of the tent platform and not being able to find the right temperature balance in my bag kept me tossing and turning most of the night.

Backpacking in New Hampshire

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Just finished a weeklong backpacking trip through the White Mountain National Forest, starting at Gorham, NH and ending on Mt. Washington.

Pictures are here: