Category Archives: Hillstomping Update

Stories and photos from my magnificent hikes in the legendary White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Hillstomping Update: Mt. Madison 07282005

Had another break in the heat and humidity so I headed off to the Northern Presidential range (“The Prezzies,” in native-speak) of the White Mountains for some mountain-made eye candy. After hiking all summer in 80 and 90 degree heat saturated with humidity, I had almost forgotten how it feels to hike in crisp, cool mountain air. I had gotten so used to getting beaten down by the oppressive heat, feeling it suck out my energy and strength like a vampire, that I was practically running up the Airline Trail to the near-summit of Mt. Adams.

I turned south off the trail about 0.4 miles below the summit of Mt. Adams and bushwhacked around the summit to the Star Lake Trail. I did this because my canine hiking partner, Bubba, seemed to be having a hard time with all the rough granite rip-rap which comprised the trail. Besides, the view from the Star Lake Trail, looking down at Star Lake and Mt. Madison, is one of the prime ocular treats on this hike. Check it out:

(click for larger view)

Down at Star Lake, Bubba cooled his haunches and rested in one of the rare patches of grass found above treeline.

(click for larger view)

Come on, check out the rest of the pictures from this splendiferous hike.

Hillstomping Update: Franconia Ridge, 07232005

My family came up from Georgia for a visit and to have my sister’s two sons Baptized at our parish.

I took my brother on a classic hike up the Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains. Being an absolutely beautiful Saturday, lots of other folks had the same idea so the trails were crowded; I was reminded why I set a rule to never hike in the White Mountains on weekends.

We went up the Falling Waters Trail, across the Franconia Ridge to Mt. Lafayette and then down the Old Bridal Path. Bro held his own the entire hike– you’d never guess he was a flatlander. He even knew how to do a summit pose like a true hillstomper, check it out:

Bro of Samurai strikes a summit pose on Mt. Lincoln with Cannon Mountain in the background. (click for larger view)

Hillstomping Update, Mt. Monroe 06082005

This was one of the most spectacular hikes so far this year, rivalled only by the Edmands Col hike a week ago. There is an Edmands on this hike, too: Edmands Path. Bubba and I hiked Edmands Path for three miles up to the ridge where we picked up Crawford Path. Mt Eisenhower was just to the south of us and Mt. Monroe, our objective, was two miles to the north.

This was also a charmed hike: the weather forecasts threatened afternoon thunnderstorms and, for once, they were correct. And although an ominously dark thunderhead did take firing position directly overhead on the hike back down Edmands Path, it didn’t bust loose until the exact moment we reached the trail hog van and closed the door. I shi’ite you not!

The four pictures below are thumbnails– click ’em for a larger view. They were selected from the full set of photos of this hike, which you can see here.

Happy trails!

Heading up Edmands Path to the ridge. That’s Mt. Monroe in the center. Mt. Washington is to the left, partially occluded by the spring buds.

Looking back at Mt. Eisenhower. You can see Edmands Path cutting off to the right.

The view from Mt. Monroe. Mt. Washington looms before us. Glacial remnants on the right, the AMC Lakes of the Clouds hut on the left.

AT Thru-Hiker, Just Mark. He’s from Arizona. Started the AT February 22 in Georgia. About a month left ’till Katahdin. Go, Just Mark!

Hillstomping Update, Mt. Garfield 06032005

Took two of my little Samurai reproductive units on a hike up Mt. Garfield. We’ve all done this hike many times but it’s one of those that never gets old. It’s a mellow five mile trek to the summit on the Garfield Trail and you get rewarded with expansive views of the Pemigewassett Wilderness. And on the way back, there are several ice-cold mountain streams to cool off in. Good times, good times.

The photos below are just thumbnails– you can click ’em for a larger view.

My two nads givin’ the Thumbs Up on the last push up to the Garfield summit. They’re standing on about 2 feet of packed snow– that’s June in the White Mountains!

Stephen takin’ in the views on Mt. Garfield. This is what it’s all about!

Sam on Mt. Garfield summit.

Stephen on the summit of Mt. Garfield.

Hillstomping Update, Edmands Col 06012005

Route: Up via Lowe’s Path and Randolph Path to Edmands Col. Headed north on Gulfside Trail to Thunderstone Junction then took Lowe’s Path all the way back down. Total of about 11 to 12 miles.

Weather: Reports called for mostly cloudy skies with partial clearing by the afternoon. I know from experience that these type of days can yield some of the most dramatic views, which this hike provided in abundance, as you can see below.

Trail Conditions: Wet, wet, wet! Although the lower elevations were clear of snow, there’s still plenty at the upper elevations that’s still melting, making for lots of water running down the trails. Chronically wet rocks, slick with new bio-growth, made for tricky footing. Above about 3,000 feet, the trail had long stretches of slick ice. Randolph Path was mostly covered with slick ice. Long stretches of Gulfside Trail still had over 4 feet of snow which made for treacherous travel because you would posthole up to your crotch. I was especially concerned for Bubba because of the sharp, jagged rocks below that could wrench his paws. But no injuries other than bruises to both man and canine.

The four photos below were selected from the full set of 13 pictures, which can be seen here. You can click the thumbnails below for a larger view.

Bubba leads the way up Randolph Path to Edmands Col. That’s Mt. Jefferson in the background.

Bubba prances at Edmands Col.

A moody view of Mt. Washington and its massive headwall from the Gulfside Trail. The thin, black wisp of smoke to the right of the summit is the infernal Cog rail ride that flatlanders pay $50 to ride up to the top of Mt. Washington and then triumphantly pose for photos by the summit sign as though they’ve accomplished something noteworthy.

Heading back down on Lowe’s Path. Git you an eye-full of Big Sky!

Hillstomping Update, Cannon Mountain 05242005

Just a quick run up to Cannon Mountain and back. The weather was calling for rain but it had already been raining steady for so long that I no longer cared, I just wanted to hike. So, I took my chances.

Went up via the Hi Cannon trail, which including climbing the long ladder shown below. No sweat for bipeds with opposable thumbs but quite a feat of agility and dexterity for a canine. However, Bubba isn’t just any ordinary canine, nawsir; he’s the mostest awesomest hiking puppy the world has never seen.

My Semper Fi Hiking Partner, Bubba

Yes, this ladder is as long as it looks and, yes, Bubba climbed it like a fireman!

Mt. Lafayette and the Franconia Ridge from Cannon Mtn.

Lonesome Lake from Cannon Ball

Trail coming down from Cannon going to the AMC Lonesome Lake hut was still very socked in with snow and ice. It’s a tough little stretch of trail even in the best of conditions with large boulders and steep drop offs to negotiate the entire way. But the snow and ice gave it just what it needed to give it that element of bust-ass fun. Oh yeah, took some world-class spills on that trail, yee-ha!

From the Lonesome Lake hut, I took the Cascade Brook trail back down for a total round trip of nine miles. A short little hike. The weather ended up being beautiful with only the barest, briefest spritzer during my short sojourn at the AMC hut. Perfect!

Check out the rest of the pictures from this hike here.

Hillstomping Update, Bond Cliff 05172005

I made my bi-annual pilgrimage to the Bonds last week. The Bonds are three mountains, Bond Cliff, Mt. Bond, and West Bond, smack in the middle of the Pemigewasset Wilderness Area; the jewels of the Pemi. All three are on the NH 4,000 footer list so you always see peak baggers making the trek to tick ’em off the list.

Bond Cliff El Classico… just like in the brochures!

It’s a long day hike, about 22 miles, no matter which direction you approach it. And the Bonds are a spectacular backpacking destination.

For this trip, my semper-fi hiking partner, Bubba, and I started from the Lincoln Woods trailhead and slogged north for eleven miles to Bond Cliff and then Mt. Bond.

Weather was mostly cloudy but no rain. Significant snow and ice pack left on the trail above 3,000 feet but post-holing wasn’t a problem and I bare-booted it the entire way.

Passed a group of about half a dozen young dudes, all in their 20’s, heading up to Guyot Campsite on the other side of Mt. Bond. Lucky bastards! Bubba and I have spent many a very pleasant night up there at the Guyot shelter so we were a little envious.

Check out all the pics from this hike.

Hillstomping Update, Sandwich Dome 05052005

A most splendiferous day for a spring hike in the Sandwich Range of New Hampster’s White Mountains yesterday. The sky was speckled with those cotton ball clouds and casting moving shadows on the rolling landscape creating an aquatic wonderland. While I love a clear blue sky for its crystalline purity, the watery, undersea effect is unique to partly cloudy skies. Here’s a landscape shot from atop Sandwich dome that illustrates what I mean, click it for a larger view:

From left to right: Mt. Tecumseh, the Franconia Ridge, and Mt. Osceola.

Hiking in the White Mountains this time of year is tricky. While the lowlands are in full spring mode, the alpine zones are only just now realizing that it’s not winter any more. Looking at the mountains from the base, one could get the mistaken notion that the summits are clear of snow. Oh, but how wrong you’d be!

Snow patches started appearing at about 3,000 feet with solid coverage above 3,500 feet. The last 500 feet (about 0.6 miles) to the summit of Sandwich Dome, I was hiking on a condensed snow base that was at least three feet deep. I didn’t bring crampons or snowshoes, didn’t need ’em either. The snow was consolidated enough that I could just kick in and keep going. Postholing wasn’t a problem. The ice patches were covered with enough blown down spruce needles and branches that traction was like, *not* a problem, y’know? Fer sher, fer sher.

Had a great view of snow-capped Mt. Washington, click it for a bigger view:

The vista toward Mt. Washington as seen from atop Sandwich Dome.

And then I took the same picture above but cropped in on Mt. Washington, click it for a bigger view:

Same as above except zoomed in on Mt. Washington.

The reason you see all the snow on Mt. Washington and not on the surrounding mountains is because Mt. Washington (along with most of the rest of the Presidential Range) is above treeline. The fact is that all the 4,000-footer summits in the White Mountains are still buried in snow. The spruce trees around the summit on the lower peaks cast shadows that prolong the snow cover into the spring and early summer, long after the above-treeline peaks are cleared back to naked granite and schist.

You see those photos above? THAT is why I hike. When I hit a summit on a day like yesterday, I plant my skinny butt on a rock, whip out my binoculars, and feast my myopic peepers on those fabulous vistas. Running my eyes over those peaks and valleys makes my bowels rumble. But that’s a story for another time. Giddyup.

Hillstomping Update: Mt. Liberty

As they used to say in Rome, “Et tu Beautay!” The beauty of the scenery so moved me that I pooped stuff I hadn’t even eaten yet. Yeah, check it out… the scenery, that is (click the pics for the full-size view):

The Northerly View Along the Franconia Ridge from Mt. Liberty

Mt. Garfield from Mt. Liberty

Looking through the Pemigewassett Wilderness at the Bonds (foreground) and Snow-Capped Mt. Washington

Cannon Mtn. from Mt. Liberty

Looking at Mt. Flume (and some Bubba butt) from Mt. Liberty

An August Group on the Summit of Mt. Liberty

I met a distinguished group of hikers at the summit. One of them was John Lacroix, the dude who made a cool DVD about hiking the 48, 4000-footers in the White Mountains. It has some great photography and information about peak-bagging in the White Mountains. The DVDs cost less than $18 and all the proceeds go to benefit the American Diabetes Association. You should buy a copy– I did. My little hiker kids and I enjoyed watching it.

I made another 30-second mini-movie of the views from the summit (7 mb, need QuickTime).

Hillstomping Update: Smarts Mountain

I’ve hiked this mountain many times in the past. It’s a moderate eight mile (round-trip) hike to the summit which has an old fire watch tower that you can climb for tremendous 360 degree views. In the photo below, we’re about halfway up; that’s the summit of Smarts Mountain in the background, behind Bubba. If you click the picture for the larger view, you can just barely see the fire tower.

Bubba Strikes a Contemplative Pose Along the Trail to Our Objective, Smarts Mountain (in the background)

This was the first hike of Spring! Gorgeous day, temps in the low 40’s, full sunshine, clear blue skies, and visibility at the summit went on forever. The picture below was taken from atop the fire watch tower. I’m looking northeast toward the White Mountains. If you click the picture for the larger view, then you’ll see (from left to right) Mt. Moosilauke with a little snow cap on the summit, then next over are Mts. Lafayette and Lincoln, and the white, heaving mound of Mt. Washington is on the right-hand side.

Rare View of the White Mountains from the Smarts Mountain Fire Tower

No matter how many pictures I take, they just fail to capture the expansive grandeur of the mountain vistas. So, I used my digital camera to make a moving panorama of the entire 360 degree view from inside the fire tower on top of Smarts Mountain. You’ll need Quicktime to watch it. You can download the free version here (there’s a Pro version offered on that page for $30 but you don’t need that, just get the free version– it’s just as good for this purpose).

Hillstomping Update: Mts. Welch and Dickey

Dayyam, I hit this one just right! You just could not ask for better winter hiking conditions. In fact, it was SO nice, that I almost feel like it’s cheating to call this a winter hike. But, Spring Solstice isn’t ’till the 21st, so technically it’s still winter. Although, you’d never know it by conditions: pure blue skies, temps in the upper 20’s with a very mild breeze, plenty of snow pack, not rotten yet, still with good bouyancy. It was one of those rare winter days where you could comfortably linger on the summit as long as you wanted. Usually, the summit visits on winter hikes are very brief due to the raging winds and extreme wind chills combined with a rapid loss of body heat as soon as you stop moving. Ahh, but today was soooWEET!

The Welch and Dickey loop is one of those cheater hikes in the White Mountains. That’s where you get incredible views for comparatively little effort. “Comparatively” is the key word– compared to hiking the 4000-footers, this is a cake walk; but it’s still a 4½ mile hike in the White Mountains, in the winter, with a full winter pack, so I think a bead or two of sweat did form on my fair brow.

Anyway, the pictures below tell the story. Click ’em for a larger view.

Viewing the Tripyramids from the Shoulder of Mt. Welch

Bubba gets Excited as We Near the Summit

Bubba Takes a Break on the Summit of Mt. Welch

Ooo, Aahh!

Looking Back at Mt. Welch from Mt. Dickey

Viewing Franconia Notch from Mt. Dickey: Cannon Mtn. on the Left, Franconia Ridge on the Right

Hillstomping Update: Mt. Kearsarge

This was my second post-back surgery hike carrying a full winter pack. (The first was last week to Ethan Pond– it was so cold that I couldn’t take any pictures so it wasn’t worth posting anything on it. Nice hike, though.) Things are progressing well and, while I still have some healing to do, it hurt less this time than on the Ethan Pond hike. That’s encouraging progress! Like the Ethan Pond hike, this hike up Mt. Kearsarge was selected for mellow grades and short distance (about six miles).

One of the most astonishing things I saw on this hike was moose scrape that was more than 12 feet high! (For those of you who don’t know what moose scrape it, it’s marks left on trees from male moose scraping their antlers during rutting (mating) season.) That is NOT a moose I’d like to cross paths with during rutting season! You can click the picture below for a larger view:

Moose Scrape on Mt. Kearsarge

But it was a gorgeous day for a hike: partly cloudy skies, mild breeze, great visibility, and with temps in the upper 20’s it was warm enough to get subtle hints of spring in the air. In the photo below, I was looking out toward Ragged Mountain. If you click the picture for the larger view, you’ll see Bubba on the trail. Yeah, he da goodest, bestest Bubba ina whole wide world!

Viewing Ragged Mtn. from Mt. Kearsarge

And in this one, I was looking toward Mt. Cardigan. In the larger view, you can see its snow-capped twin peak in the center of the picture.

Looking Toward Mt. Cardigan from Mt. Kearsarge

Coming next: Ragged Mountain. Stay tuned, you won’t wanna miss it!

Hillstomping Update, Franconia Ridge 10/26/2004

Timing is everything and we timed this one right. After struggling up the Falling Waters Trail to the summit of Little Haystack on the Franconia Ridge, our eyeballs were treated to a feast of dramatic mountain vistas, White Mountain style. Here, see for yourself.

Sam on Little Haystack Mountain

After summitting Little Haystack, we headed north on the ridge to the summit of Mt. Lincoln.

Stephen is Blown Away by the Views!

We Bad!

Looking into the Pemigewassett Wilderness from the Franconia Ridge

Our original plan was to the hike the “T” (Little Haystack, north to Mt. Lincoln, doubleback to Little Haystack, then continue south to Mt. Liberty, doubleback to Little Haystack and head back down.) But we spent so much time lollygagging and feasting on eye-candy that we ran out of time and headed back down after Mt. Lincoln. We got back to the van just as the sun was setting. Sunset comes early up here in pre-winter Yankeeland, even earlier in the mountains.

Misty View toward Cannon Mountain

Take a hike!