G.I. Joe and Monsters Vs Aliens

November 15th, 2009

Watched the new G.I. Joe movie and Monsters vs Aliens this weekend — had two free Redbox movie rentals, so why not?

G.I. Joe wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Definitely glad I didn’t pay 10 bucks to see it in the theaters. What amazed me is that apparently only about six Joes actually do anything until the very end. At one point, a call goes out to “all Joe teams” — there’s only six of you there…and three of you are in the same room… Still, if you don’t want to think too much and just enjoy things blowing up, have at it.

Monsters vs Aliens was a lot better (but that’s probably not saying too much, compared to G.I. Joe). Funny movie and definitely enjoyed hearing the British Hugh Laurie ( as opposed to the House version…). And what could possibly be bad about a movie with Steven Colbert as the President? In my book, nothing.


October 30th, 2009

Found this in my back yard this morning…


And speaking of baseball…

October 27th, 2009

Doesn’t it seem odd that last year, while the debate about adding instant replay was going on, suddenly the Umps start blowing home run calls, one for the Mets, one for the Yankees, and one for the Phillies. Baseball adds instant replay for home runs to the 2008 playoffs.

Now, with a push to expand instant replay, all of the sudden all the Umps in the 2009 playoffs are deaf, blind, and dumb. I’ve never seen umpiring this bad. The bizarre thing is, in the past and without instant replay, the umps would almost always get even the closest plays right — calls that, before I saw a replay in slow-mo, I was sure they’d gotten wrong.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence…

Worst World Series Ever!

October 27th, 2009

Great, just great — as I Met fan, I’m hoping the Yanks and Phils end in a tie. If the Yanks win, it’s just another reason for Yankees fans to bust the chops of all the Mets fans. If the Phillies win, it’s another year where the Mets’ biggest rivals in the NL East made them look stupid and won it all.

I just can’t win…

The Annual Fall weekend on the AT, 2009 Edition

October 23rd, 2009

Last weekend, October 17th and 18th, Dan and I did a 16 mile, overnight backpacking trip. We decided to pick up where we left off in Massachusetts, heading north from US 7 (Great Barrington) to Beartown Mountain Rd. Also, this was to be an “Ultralight” trip — our gear lists were cut down heavily to hopefully make the hiking easier and more fun. Despite the rather ominous weather forecast and a late start on Saturday, the trip was a blast.

The plan had been to leave the house around 8am or so. Naturally, I couldn’t drag myself out of bed before 7:30 and then I still had various odds and ends to put together (directions, final food preparation, maps). The food didn’t take too long, since I had put together most of it the night before. The directions to the trail heads also didn’t take long. The map, however, was a problem. I couldn’t get National Geographic Topo to print to my ink jet. I also couldn’t find the AT guide book map for this section. Instead, I decided to just load the topos and trail info into my gps and just take that to use as my only navigational device (aside from my wrist compass, of course). More on that later…

We finally rolled out of the house around 10am. Quick stop for coffee and a breakfast sandwich and we were on the road. Two and a half hours later, we had parked Dan’s car at Beartown Mt Rd and arrived at US 7 to start the trip.

Some notes about Beartown Mt Rd — it’s right on the trail and there is plenty of parking along the road, but it’s also a hilly unpaved road. There are plenty of houses on the road, but after snow I would imagine it would be very difficult to travel.

On US 7, we parked in the lot for a craft and garden store, the same place we had parked when we had finished at US 7 on a previous trip. Just like that time, we asked the owner for permission to leave my car over night. Very nice people, they let us both times.

The first mile and a half was almost perfectly level and crossed through several fields, along the Housatonic, and finally crossed the Housatonic, before entering the woods proper. The level trail let us speed through in about 30 minutes — moving fast enough that Dan had to stop twice to remove his fleece jackets (one at a time, he started off wearing two). I was hiking in just base layer and wind jacket so even with the fast pace I was pretty comfortable.

Once in the woods, the trail started switch backing up into the hills. This was only 900 or so feet of elevation gain up to East Mountain and wasn’t much to worry about. We were soon at the top and the trail stayed pretty level for the remainder of the trip.

We did get a pretty spectacular view along the ridge, though. Well worth the small amount of up hill hiking we had to put in.

We arrived at the first of the shelters on this stretch of the trail, the Tom Leonard Leanto, around 3pm. We had averaged 3 miles per hour since we started and had made great time. This leanto had four bunks and a loft area and a tent platform overlooking the ravine. When we got there, we found four other backpackers already in the shelter. The loft and the tent platform were still empty, but Dan and I decided to move on to the next shelter, in the hopes that it would be less crowded. Also, one of the backpackers had a banjo, which made us a little nervous…

We did have lunch at Tom Leonard before we left, though. BMCs (bagel, meat, and cheese) sandwichs, this time with full size everything bagels were the order of the day. Tasted real good. Around 3:30 we pushed on, hoping that we could make the next four miles before the rains started. Considering that we had already covered almost eight miles, I didn’t expect we’d be able to maintain our quick pace.

And taking it slower was pretty easy when we kept coming across cool spots like this stream. It the summer I’m sure this would be a mosquito heaven and we’d have been racing through it to avoid getting bitten to death. In the fall, it’s just a nice spot to sit and admire the view.

We crossed three roads before arriving at Benedict Pond. There’s a blue blazed trail that loops the pond and also goes to the Benedict Pond camp ground and picnic area. Being a little pressed for time, we only stopped briefly to look around at the pond.

This was where I was really annoyed at not having a real paper map. It was almost impossible to determine the distance to South Wilcox, or any other points along the trail. While the topo maps were nice and clear, they were really only useful for seeing what the immediate terrain was like. The waypoints I had recorded were mixed up with other waypoints, making it difficult to even determine what was upcoming.

I like the gps as an environmental sensor (compass, altimeter, barometer) and a recording tool to aid dead reckoning (distance traveled, moving average), and especially to record where you’ve been and tag interesting spots along the way. For me, though, I found it couldn’t replace a paper map in getting a big picture view. Maybe it’s just because I don’t have a lot of experience using the gps in that manner. Something I’ll have to practice.

It was about 7pm before we arrived at South Wilcox Shelter. Bear box was nice to see. We came to a rather primitive looking leanto, no loft, no bunks, totally dismantled picnic table, and a fire pit. There were couple of books in the shelter and a note to another backpacker directing them to another shelter past the privy. I thought the note was interesting, since it implied another shelter in the area. I went looking for water (and this second shelter) while Dan started gathering fire wood. This would be the first trip in probably years that it looked like Dan would get to make a fire.

Past the privy I did find another shelter. This shelter was identical to the Tom Leonard shelter — bunks, loft, intact picnic table, another fire pit. I returned to get Dan and we relocated down to the newer shelter. Both shelters were empty of other hikers.

South Wilcox New Shelter

South Wilcox New Shelter

Inside of new South Wilcox Shelter

Inside of new South Wilcox Shelter

I went out again for water. Even though I found later references to multiple water sources in the camp site area, I couldn’t find any of them and ended up hiking a quarter mile back down the trail to the last stream we had crossed. I brought the same 4 liter platypus bag from our White Mountains trip, but instead of my normal filter, I used cloride dioxide tablets with an aqua mira Frontier Pro water filter. The tablets only take 30 minutes to kill the small bugs and the Frontier Pro (3 micron filter size) handles the big stuff. Nice part was using the filter in gravity mode — it screwed directly onto the platypus bag and I attached a length of tubing to the other end of the filter. At that point, I just needed to hang the water bag upside down and let the water drip through the tubing into the water bottles. Worked really nice (and I forgot to record the process — I will in the future).

After water was taken care of and Dan had a nice roaring fire, we had a dinner of tuna, bacon, and cheese on a pita and I boiled some water for hot apple cider. Nothing better than a fall night in the woods in front of a fire with a hot drink. Some tips — gatorade bottles can handle boiling water, but the bottom of mine became inverted and would no longer stand properly. Also, kool aid mix and hot water are disgusting together.

I took some time to read through the trail register and read what I think is the single best entry I’ve ever seen: Hannah Montana’s Hiking Tips. The page was done up in pink marker with Hannah Montana stickers all over it. Work of art. And the tips were genius (I’ll be incorporating some of these in the future):

1) Designer jeans make a great food bag, just tie knots in the legs
2) Battery powered hair dryer dries socks and keeps mosquitos away.
3) Hannah eats her noodles out of her boots
4) Toothbrush also cleans tips of your trekking poles
5) Use Fruit by the Foot to hang your food bag
6) Denatured alcohol is a great cuticle remover
7) Use your water filter to inflate your sleeping pad

Who knew Hannah was such an experienced backpacker?

Around 10 pm we both headed up to the loft area for some sleep. I was exhausted. Instead of my normal 20 degree bag, I had decided to bring my brand new, homemade, synthetic quilt. The quilt uses climashield and worked pretty well, although I did have issues with cold spots during the night. I plan on adding a few features (under straps to tighten the quilt around me, maybe a button at the neck) to solve that problem in the future.

I woke up around 3am to use the nearest tree — it was about 34 degrees. When I woke up next, around 6 or 7 am, it was still in the thirties, but the rain had started. Nice downpour, before it slowed to mixed snow flurries. Around 10am we both got up and started packing. Breakfast was bagels (Dan added meat and cheese, I went with plain) and soup. Dan had some potato soup while I tried a store bought Broccoli and cheese soup. Terrible. I ended up not having any. Dan seemed to enjoy his soup.

About 10:30 we were packed and moving. My knee was killing me and I took some ibuprofen, which didn’t seem to help too much. The cold didn’t help much. I was nice and comfortable under my poncho, however. The snow also made for some nice views.

We only had 2.5 miles to go from South Wilcox to Beartown Mt Rd. We arrived by 12:30. Quick trip to get my car, coffee and food from a Dunkin Donuts, and then back home — I was home in time to watch the Jets lose to the Bills.

Maybe I should have stayed in the woods instead…

J! E! T! S!

September 27th, 2009

3 and 0 — the Jets are looking pretty good…

White Mountains Trip — Gear Report Card

September 14th, 2009

Since I’ve completed my trip report for my week in the White Mountains, I decided to also post my gear report card. I typically go through my gear after each trip to determine what can be improved, replaced, or just left behind.

Up first is the “Big Three”, my tent, pack, and sleeping bag.

I went with my Granite Gear Vapor Trail for this trip. It’s a nice pack and at two pounds pretty light. However, I think I was pushing the weight limit on this trip, at around 30 pounds, and I had some problems with the hip belt causing some chafing. One thing that worked out real nice was my jury rigged hip belt pockets (see this thread for details. I loved the hip belt pockets. I kept my camera, bug juice, and alcohol sanitizer in the pockets and being able to quickly get to those items without opening my pack was great.

One day I’m going to perform some surgery on this pack and add a front mesh pocket and shorten the way oversized extension collar…

I pulled out the REI Quarterdome T3 for this trip. At about 5 pounds (same weight as my two person Sierra Designs tent) it’s a palace for just two people.

I used my Campmor 20 degree bag in the Whites. More than warm enough, if not the lightest bag. I mostly used it unzipped like a quilt. I used a Prolite 4 torso length pad, which I was more than comfortable with. I also brought along an inflatable pillow, which, when half inflated, was pretty comfortable. Don’t think it was worth carrying though and I’m going back to using spare clothing as my pillow.

My stove for this trip was my homemade Supercat alcohol stove. This was my first use outside of the back yard and it performed great. Brought 8oz of fuel (denatured alcohol) and a wind screen made out of aluminum flashing. The wind screen needs some work, but other than that the stove did what it was supposed to: boil water. My MSR Titan Kettle worked well with the stove as well and the entire kit fit inside the pot.

I used a long handle titanium spoon and one of those origami style cup to eat out of. Most of the meals were boil in a bag style, so the long handled spoon worked well. The origami cup was kind of a pain, but could double as a cutting board or plate and being able to store flat helped. I’m not sure if I’d use it again, though. By the end of the trip it started to retain the cup shape.

In addition to the freezer bag dinners, our lunches were either tuna pesto sandwiches or BMCs (Bagel, Meat, and Cheese). The Meat was both pepperoni and summer sausage. One thing I didn’t bring that I missed was gorp. I’ve decided that I function much better eating small amounts of food often. Three regular meals just doesn’t do it for me.

My base layers were a long sleeve shirt with a pair of nylon zip off pants. I should have gone with the short sleeve shirt I brought, but when the weather was cold and rainy the first morning, I decided to go with the long sleeve base layer. Big mistake, way too warm in it. The zip offs were okay, but I think shorts with wind pants would probably be a better combination in the future. I also had a spare pair of socks.

For insulation, I brought the Montbell Thermawrap. Nice, light jacket. I also brought a thin wool sweater, which I didn’t use at all. A thin insulated hat completed my insulation.

One of the more useful/versatile pieces of clothing was the Marmot Ion wind jacket. Very light and was perfect to pull on at rest breaks or in high winds.

For rain gear, I had my poncho and my waterproof/”breathable” rain pants. As I discussed in my trip report, the rain pants didn’t really fit my purposes (or I was using them the wrong way, like while hiking in the rain, versus in camp in the rain). My poncho worked great after I figured out the best way to connect it to my pack.

I took a cheap Nikon digital camera, mostly because it was small and ran off double A batteries. Took okay pictures, but didn’t do as well on distance shots, particularly in tricky lighting. One plus was ability to record video. With the StickPic, I was able to do some cool SurvivorMan style shots and videos. Definitely recommend the StickPic. A lot easier than finding a rock to balance the camera on for those self portraits.

I forgot my Letki poles at home and had to buy a cheapo pair from Walmart. Aside from cheaply made baskets that gave up the ghost, these poles worked great for just twenty bucks. One nice feature was the clamp style locking, as opposed to the twist locks. I like that a lot more than twist lock poles.

I took my Katahdin Hiker Pro filter, mostly because I’m willing to take the weight for the convenience of quick, easy water. On future trips, I want to start using more chemical treatments, though. For water storage, I had my 3 liter hydration unit and a 20 oz plastic bottle for powdered juice mixes. I also brought a four liter platypus zip water bag, for in camp use. It was nice to filter water upon reaching camp and then having enough for dinner, drinks, and to top off water bottles in the morning.

For light, I brought a Petzl head lamp and a small photon style light. In the future, I think I’ll skip the head lamp and just bring the photon. For a knife, I brought my Leatherman Micra. More than enough for cutting cheese and meat and cutting mole skin.

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 5

September 13th, 2009

It downpoured most of the night. When I woke up on the final day of our trip, around 6 am or so, the rain had mostly stopped; only short rain showers. However, the fog had rolled in and if I didn’t know the Presidentials were across the valley I’d never have been able to tell. Visibility was only twenty to thirty feet.

Dan woke up mid morning, around 10 am. We had the last of our pop tarts and some hot apple cider (Clif Shots Hot Apple Cider, pretty good). After that, we took a hike over to one of the self service cabins (“The Log Cabin”) to check it out; we were gone about an hour and a half and got back around 12:30. Our original target had actually been “Gray Knob” but we missed a trail cut off somewhere and ended up at The Log Cabin. It was pretty nice, one room cabin with a porch and open doorway and an elevated sleep platform. It started raining while we were there, so we sat for a while to wait it out. During the rain, a veritable troop of kids came tromping up the trail. The leader stopped to ask us which cabin this was — since I thought this was Gray Knob and they were headed to Crag Camp cabin, the directions were a little…off… About twenty minutes after the troop trooped off for what would be a slightly longer hike than they (or I) thought, Dan and I headed back to Perch.

Once we got back to Perch I called Sue and was basically told that Dan and I had to be at Mt. Washington that day and that the auto road closed at 6pm. The reason was that Sue had borrowed her mother’s van for this trip and didn’t think it would handle the drive up and down Washington. Instead, Sue was using Michelle’s car; Michelle was a friend who had come up with Sue to spend a few days camping with her. Michelle was leaving the next day so today was the last day Sue thought she could pick us up. She also said that the weather report was clear and sunny. As soon as she said that, the sky cleared and we saw the sun for the first time in almost two days. Dan and I immediately started packing and had a quick lunch (tuna pesto wraps) before heading off at quarter after one.

Naturally, twenty minutes after leaving Perch, the sun once again disappeared and it started raining again. I donned my rain gear and was very pleased at how the poncho stayed perfectly in place and gave almost full coverage. We hiked back to the Presidential ridge line and joined up with the AT past Mt Jefferson, having skirted around that summit. The visibility was still down to only forty feet or so and we frequently had to scout out for the next cairn before continuing along the trail. I even had to consult the compass, just to make sure we were heading in the right direction; without landmarks, it was hard to tell. The rain tailed off after an hour or so but the wind was still very strong so I left the poncho on.

Since we only had four hours to cover about seven miles, we really had to hustle. We also had to bypass the rest of the peaks (Adams, Jefferson, and Clay). At one point, while passing Mt. Clay, the fog actually started to lift and for just a brief moment we could actually see something other than the heavy white cloud.

We only met a few people on the way to Washington. One group was the campers we had been sharing Perch with; they were returning from Washington. The other group we met while crossing the railroad tracks. Couple of guys also coming down from Washington. The amazing thing was the shorts and t-shirts they were wearing.

We reached Washington around 5:30 and took a quick summit picture; the wind was much stronger and it was getting pretty cold, so we didn’t stick around long. We met up with Sue and Michelle at the Visitor’s center. Apparently, we really stunk since Sue had the car windows open the entire drive down the mountain…

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 4

September 12th, 2009

And here’s where things go all pear shaped…

We woke around 6am on Tuesday. I started packing up immediately because today we were supposed to reach Mt. Washington by the afternoon; Sue would be meeting us there to give us the rest of our food supply so we could continue our trip another two days. I had one big concern, though — rain was in the forecast starting this morning and there were supposed to be thunderstorms in the afternoon; I definitely didn’t want to be above tree line in a thunderstorm.

A slightly smaller concern was that we would be climbing almost 3500 feet in the first two and a half miles, to Mount Madison. I knew this would take a while, especially since Dan’s knee was still hurting and that the earlier we got going the better.

The one saving grace was the AMC Hut just past Mt. Madison. If we ran into trouble, we could at least hole up there for a while.

We got moving around 7:30 or 8 am and it was every bit as difficult as I expected. As we approached treeline and 4000 feet (still 1000 feet short of Mt. Madison’s summit) the “trail” turned into a massive field of boulders with cairns for the trail markers. Walking across the boulder feet made things more difficult, since not every rock was secure. We only saw two other people that morning, coming down from Madison, what I guessed was a grandfather and grandson. The grandfather was carrying a pack that looked almost twice the size of mine.

We stopped for a snack at around 4500 feet. The clouds were starting to roll in and we still had another half mile to get to the top of Mt. Madison. Considering that the entire terrain was broken rock, I definitely did not want to try climbing down Madison in the rain. After eating a couple of BMCs (Bagel, Meat, and Cheese) sandwiches, Dan and I continued on. While we were eating, Dan had asked if we’d head back to Osgood if it started raining. I told him that, in that case, it’d almost certainly be less dangerous and faster to continue and try to reach the AMC hut. If we really needed to, there was at one cutoff trail to bypass Mt. Madison and go directly to the Hut.

We got to the top of Mt. Madison around 11 or so. It was an hour later than I had wanted, but I couldn’t do a lot about that. There was only one other couple there, carrying just camera equipment (they had come up from the hut). The wind was really whipping, making it feel about ten to fifteen degrees colder than it had been climbing up and making conversation almost impossible. In addition, it looked like the rain was about to start at any moment and I started feeling rain drops. I put on my wind shirt and pulled out the camera for a couple quick snaps and a short video. After I finished with the camera, I spent a couple more minutes looking around and then started heading down.

When he had reached the summit, Dan had dropped his pack and taken shelter behind some boulders. As I started heading down I caught his attention and motioned for him to follow. Dan didn’t really want to and I had to wave him forward once more before he started packing up. The other couple were already on their way down. While I was climbing down (Dan was somewhere behind me — I’d stop to keep him in view before continuing down) the rain started and it was a becoming fairly sustained by the time we both reached the hut.

It took us a minute or two to find the entrance to the Hut. Madison Springs Hut was designed in a T shape, with the common room making up the base of the T and the bunk rooms across the top. The bunks were stacked 4 high, which was interesting. We went into the common room and saw a couple thru-hikers (they had come from Lake of the Clouds that morning and had stopped for food) and another family already there. Dan practically collapsed as soon as he landed on the bench. I went to find the bathroom, which was an actual flush toilet; I found that interesting since even the toilets at Pinkham Notch (along the road) had been composting toilets.

When I returned from the bathroom, I asked Dan what he wanted to do at this point. The rain was starting to come down a little harder; I wanted to wait it out and then continue on. Dan said he was beat and had thought we could just stay at Madison Springs hut for the rest of the day. Truth be told, I was pretty much speechless at that. We’d only done three miles, and while the elevation gain had been major, it was still only three miles. We were on a schedule and taking practically an entire day off would cause some problems. The problem was the weather. I definitely didn’t want to attempt Mt Washington in bad weather. I went out to call Sue and update her, and to cool off a little bit after just barely keeping my cool with Dan.

At this point, I had two problems. One was the weather and the other was Dan’s knee. Some ibuprofen had helped one knee on the second day, but the other knee had started hurting that same day and hadn’t stopped. Stopping early at Carter Notch Hut and taking a couple of extended breaks on the way to Osgood hadn’t helped either. Now bad weather had rolled in and I was worrying about what would happen if Dan’s knee gave out altogether. Even without all that, it seemed like Dan was tiring more quickly than usual.

When I came back in from talking to Sue, Dan was having a Buffalo burger. I decided that was a pretty good idea and ordered one myself. After eating I perused the Hut’s library for a few minutes (it was only one bookcase). The rain didn’t show any sign of stopping and it was already almost 1pm. The weather report had said morning showers, but if the rain kept up all day I knew we’d probably have to hole up somewhere — making Mt. Washington today was looking increasingly unlikely. I told this to Dan and then went to check if there were any free bunks left.

Naturally, Madison Springs was all booked. The crew member also checked at Lake of the Clouds and they were also all full. (note to self, next time make reservations). It turns out we had been pretty lucky that Carter Notch Hut was so empty. Since we couldn’t stay at Madison Springs and wouldn’t find room at Lake of the Clouds, I asked about other campsites in the area. The crew member mentioned a couple of self service huts and other camp sites nearby. I headed back to the table to check over the map and after some consideration chose Perch Shelter as our target for the night. This shelter was just a couple miles away and looked like we’d have to do the least amount of downhill to get there. I called Sue to let her know about our plans and we headed off around 1:30 or so.

We reached Perch shelter about 3pm to find the shelter overrun with a father and what I assumed were his sons. Luckily they were only making dinner in the shelter because of the rain, but they took what seemed like forever, making hot dogs, mac and cheese, pop corn, and god knows what else, using two stoves to cook all their food. I put on a couple extra layers as I was more than a little wet from the trip from Madison Springs Hut. Dan pulled out the shelter register and started reading through that. Finally after an hour or so, the family moved back to their tents and Dan and I spread out our wet gear and started preparing our own food.

I forget exactly what we ate, but I do remember that Dan crawled into his bag shortly after and was out like a light; I think he woke up off and on, but that was about it. While Dan was resting I started reviewing my rain gear, which had failed pretty badly on the trip over. First up was my poncho.

Two years ago Dan and I did a trip in Massachusetts during a pretty major rain storm and my poncho worked great, except in high winds. In particular, the back of the poncho kept blowing up and over my pack and was almost impossible to keep in place. I had planned for that by attaching the back of my poncho to the ice axe loops on my pack with carabiners. This had kept the back from flying around on our way to Perch but hadn’t helped the front of the poncho at all. I ended up just taking off the poncho, preferring the ability to see where I was going and move faster than getting wet. After some thought, I came up with a way to rig the poncho to my pack that kept it in place in high winds and would also function better as a pack cover.

After the poncho rigging, I took a look at my rain pants. I’d only worn them a couple times since I’d gotten them as a gift. Every time I’d used them I had ended up sweating out and today had been no different. I’d taken them off 20 minutes away from Madison Springs Hut. I realized that rain chaps or gaiters would be more useful and decided to make myself a pair. I cut the legs off the rain pants. The cuffs had elastic and buttons to keep them tight and by putting the cut off legs on upside down (cuffs around the knees) I could keep them fastened. It worked pretty well for an emergency field upgrade.

After I finished messing with my gear I read through the trail register. Dan had mentioned lots of people recording card game scores or mentioning playing cards, and one post even mentioned the deck of cards kept in the shelter, so I wasn’t too surprised when I found the cards and a set of dice in the box the register had been. Dan had poked his head out of his bag when I found the cards, but I didn’t really feel like any card games. I probably dropped off to sleep around 7 or 8 pm.

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 3

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.