Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wandering AROUND Waterville

Friday, June 26, 2009
Peaks Bagged: Middle Osceola, West Osceola, Osceola, East Osceola, North Tripyramid, MIddle Tripyramid, South Tripyramid
Miles: 25 (+/-)
Elevation Gain: 9,600' (+/-)

This list known as The Trailwrights 72 has become my white whale of sorts. For the last 2 or so years I've hiked, crawled, scrathed and whacked my way through the White Mountains of New Hampshire with the final goal of completing the list of 72 peaks above 4,000 feet in elevation. The trick to this list is that you can only count one peak per hike. I guess you can say this journey started back in 1992 along the slopes of Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch. And today, 17 years after my first peak, I was hunting down number 71 and the final bushwhack on my list. Not only that, but the Vermont 100 is coming awfully close and a few mountain adventures which include mild torture to my legs are on tap. Today was one of those days.
(Tripoli Road)

Adam and I parked at the Livermore Road trailhead, threw our ultra-light packs on and started walking up Tripoli Road. Tripoli Road connects Waterville Valley with Woodstock, NH for its entirety it is paved though I think there still may be a few short sections of dirt. We climbed the road briskly with a long day ahead of us passing by numerous roadside camping sites. The local streams were running full and fast after the last month of rain we've had. It was all ready a rather humid and muggy morning. The forecast called for scattered sever thunderstorms. We definitely were in the mood to take our chances. A few cars drove by us, rather early in the morning as well seeing as we had a 7:30 start from the car. One of the vehicles was a pick-up truck that came out of the Osceola Campground. After the truck went by, the scent of Mary-Jane wafted freely through the air for quite some time.

We came upon the Osceola Trailhead parking lot and immediately took to the trail. We speed-hiked up the mountain while still maintaining decent conversation about this and that. You never know what it is that we'll end up talking about, I think one of the more memorable conversations was about how much of an idiot Rush Limbagh is (more on this later). The trail was rather muddy in places and the rocks were slick. All of the tiny streams, many of which typically lie dormant were flowing. Its been a very wet June in New Hampshire indeed. As we reached the ridge crest of the mountain, We came to a switchback where a small herd-path headed off into the woods. It wasn't long before I questioned whether or not I we had taken the right path. Regardless, we came to an end and I pointed Adam off into the trees... the swallowed him whole. The bushwhack began.
(The right herd path?)

(Into The Wild)

We pushed our way through some early areas of thick evergreens. They scratched and clawed at our legs and arms, ripping the skin open and spewing a little blood. It didn't take long for Adam to find us the herd path which we followed all the way to Middle Osceola (4,200'). I'd all ready been to this peak but it was Adam's first time. He opened the glass jar to take the register out from inside. We made a short video of the event since it was too wet to sign our names into and I snapped a pic of my joy at returning to the middle peak.
(The Saturated Video)
video
(All Smiles On The Return To Middle O)

After wringing out the trail register that was sitting in a glass jar half filled with water, we tried to write our names with very little luck and simply stuffed the notebook back into the jar and gave up. We left Middle Osceola and headed further west through the thick coniferous forest towards the rocky nubble known as West Osceola. It was easy going as far as bushwhacks go from Middle to West as a well trodden herd path has been worn into the soil here as well. There were very few places where we needed to squeeze through our walk around... in fact I know a few busier summits that require more effort to get to then this. Regardless, after walking down quite aways along the ridge, we finally climbed again and came to a rock. We climbed to the top of the rocky outcrop and here we were treated to some of the finest views in the Whites, at a place seldom visited but by only a hearty few.
(Whacking Fun)
video
(Adam tops out on the rocky top)

(The View Back to Middle O and The Ridge To Big O)

(The Hancocks From West O)

After taking in the views and snapping a few shots, we ducked back into the woods for the very short jaunt the rest of the way to the summit canister. The summit area (4,114') is very small and the top of this peak reminded me of one of the mountains you drew as a young kid. The sharp triangle with a stick figure barely keeping his balance on the top. Through the trees once more and we saw a one foot section of PVC pipe tied to a tree. We popped off one of the plastic ends and watched as the water poured out from inside once again. This time, the ledger had been stuffed inside a ziplock baggy. And even the baggy was saturated, a true testament to the amount of rain we've experienced this June. Adam took out his wallet and retrieved a receipt from Lowes Hardware. We used the pencil from inside to scratch our names and date on the paper with Adam's credit information (hehe) and I took out my camera to try shooting another video to show you folks (who don't know) what this peak-bagging thing is all about. Of course, I wasn't very good at the multi-tasking and the PVC pipe fell from the tree while filming.. woops!
(Adam Enjoys The Sweet Success)

(Finally #71!)

(West Osceola Peak-Baggers)
video
After fixing the tube and hanging it back in the tree, we headed back through the thick, not so thick, woods to Middle Peak and continued to follow the well trod herd path towards the main trail we left less then 2 hours ago. Along the herd path we found the old wire that ran communications from the old Osceola Fire Tower to the valley below. We followed this until we popped out back on the main trail and realized that we did indeed enter at the wrong location earlier and we were a tad too low on the main trail. Either way, we completed our whack for the day and the party was on!
(The Wire)

We made quick work of the rest of the trail and soon came out of the woods and out onto the summit cliff of Mount Osceola (4,315'). We took our packs off and enjoyed what sun had FINALLY poked out of the clouds in this dreary rain filled place known as New Hampshire. We enjoyed views off to the West at peaks like The Tripyramids, Chocorua, Passaconaway, Whiteface... Waterville Valley Down Below, Tecumseh and East Osceola. We still had many miles to cover. As we reviewed our plan from this high vantage point, it was easy to see that we were feeling as if our eyes were a bit bigger then our legs. There was only one way to find out and after much goofing around... we decided to move on.
(No! Don't Jump!)

(The View of The Tri's - Check out the slide on the left.. we go up that later!)

(Enjoying the Sunshine with East O behind me)

We headed off of the main summit of Osceola and headed East on the Osecola Trail for the East peak. And so it began, our rather tedious trip along the ridge picking our way through the rock garden. Rocks were once again strewn about this way and that. And where there were no rocks there was shoe sucking mud. It was quite the slow going event, but we were eventually able to get some fleet out of our feet along the way. That is until we came to the chimney. About 50-75' straight down, a nice little rock scramble. We made quick work of it (lucky I didn't fall on my face) and we began the steep steady climb to the top of East Osceola where we spotted a white sea shell amongst the rocks that made up the summit cairn.
(Adam Descending the Chimney)

We didn't stop long as the journey down off of East Peak is even more time consuming as the trail follows along an old rock slide. The footing was very loose and granular in many places and we were forced to sit on our butts and scoot our way down off of some of the more peculiar places. It had been some time since I'd been here and it's always steeper then I remember. Regardless, we picked our way through the rocks and down to a more manageable level below the East Osceola Slabs. Soon the trail leveled out entirely and we were on the Greely Ponds trail. We took a hard right and began our run back for the car at Livermore Road. We quickly came upon the Mud Ponds settled within Mad River Notch, we stopped to soak our hats in the cool water before carrying on. From here, the trail follows the headwaters of the Mad River, crosses many of the tributaries that feed into it and dumps us out all the way back down onto the Livermore Trail which led us to the car. It took us 6 Hours (+/-) and we had made a successful loop of all 4 of the Osceola's.
(The View Down East O)

(Mud Ponds)

Upon reaching the car we noticed the sky getting darker as a thick layer of grey had settled in over the whites. The sun was now gone and the winds had shifted. It was muggy and humid and we even thought we heard a few rumbles of thunder. But being the reckless two that we are, we simply refilled our bottles, dumped off our trash and un-needed items, threw the packs back on our backs and headed off down the trail once more. This time... we were off to get the 3 Tripyramids as well with a loop up and down the North and South Slides. We headed up the Livermore Road which seems to go on forever! Its only actually 3 or so miles, but after the first flat mile and a half, it goes up and up and up. And when you get to the end, you take a right into the woods and onto the North Tri Slide Trail. We came to a small stream that was flowing high. Adam decided to balance along a log, me? I just walked right through the frigid water that was so cold it hurt my feet. From here, you guessed it, the trail goes up and up and up some more. You travel maybe a mile into the true base of the North Tripyramid slide. The slide starts out as a jumble of moss covered rocks with water trickling down from above, and it eventually turns into an all out rock climb. The upper portions of the slide are at a 50-60 degree angle and requires you to pretty much rock climb some of the way if you choose to not crab onto local growth. Its a fun experience, and I'll freely admit that at times its even a bit hair raising. What I like the best about it is that when you pop out onto the trail it's all of 50' from the top.
(Adam heads up the moss covered remains)

(View of the upper "mess")

We reached the top of North Tri and ran right over it after touching the high spot (like true peak-baggers do... and on the TRUE highest point). We continued down off the top and ran the ridge rather quickly over to Middle, over the top of that and off to South. We reached the top of South Peak and then immediately started to head down the South Slide. This slide is vastly different then the North Slide where as the south slide is comprised of the decaying pink conway granite. The felspar inside the granite (I could be wrong on this) reacts with water in that water causes it to decay and disintegrate. This is also how the Old Man of the Mountains fell from his cliffside perch. Its a real mess to run down, yes RUN down as the tiny rocks began to fill our shoes. We ran past a few hikers on their way up who asked us where the slide was. "You're on it"... "Oh... how far to the top?" Yes... the classic questions of a sweaty tired hiker. We gave them the good word and continued our run down off the mountain. Once you reach the base of the slide, the trail is actually a very fun downhill run through a great hardwood forest, along another raging brook with numerous cascades. We trudged through some of the water crossings getting our feet soaked. We quickly came back out onto the Livermore Road and we blazed our way back to the car. We only stopped along the way to soak our bodies in the frigid waters of the Mad River, which we had run through and around its tributaries all day long. There is no more fitting way to end an amazing journey. We ran all the peaks we had planned and when we got to the car, we only wished our ladies would allow us to play a little longer as we had plenty of gas to summit Tecumseh... just not enough time. Regardless, we completed the tri's in around 3.5 hours, our entire day in under 10 and even made it home for dinner.
(Adam pauses on South Slide with Sandwhich Mountain and Lost Pass in the distance)

(Concentration)

(Through the River - Movie)
video
(The cold soak... he even LOOKS cold for the cam!)

To many more adventures... happy trails
SJ

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sole-Reapers


I went for a run with Adam yesterday and the topic of "Shoes" came up in conversation. As a matter of fact, over the last few weeks, footwear has been the topic of many a conversation that I've had both on the run and at work at Eastern Mountain Sports. The main topic of conversation these days tends to revolve around a new book that recently came out titled Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. In his book, Christopher McDougall introduces the running world to the Tarahamura indian tribe and their abilities to run barefoot or with nothing more than sandals made from old rubber tires. DING! Imagine that... humans who run barefoot and can run hundreds of miles while doing so.

Baby Me This - Baby Me That
This isn't the first time I myself have thought about running barefoot. During my year studying to enter the athletic training program at the University of New Hampshire, I was simply amazed at the neediness of the schools track and field athletes. While getting my shadowing hours done in the schools athletic training room, I sat in amazement as some of the track and field runners came down to have their arches taped. I remember one day, while watching a sophomore in the program taping an arch, saying to the runner, "I wonder where Native American's got the athletic tape to tape their arches while they hunted their food?" Of course, my sarcasm was duly noted but my point was vastly overlooked. A few months later, while sitting in a room filled with students in the A.T. Major and a few professors, I was asked what about the program had surprised me the most and I replied, "The overall neediness of some athletes to feel babied." It truly was an outstanding time in my life of education. I sat in disbelief that high schools and even college's are treating athletes in ways that could be more detrimental to their long term running then we are in helping them. How did Roger Bannister ever run a 4 minute mile in nothing more then a thin pair of rubber slippers?


What Do I Wear?
I was asked yesterday, and have been various times, what shoes I run in. Before I get to what I currently enjoy running in, lets take a trip down memory lane about what I've spent some time running in previously. When I first started running I went out and bought the first pair of shoes that felt good on my feet. When I put them on they cradled my foot, offered some toe room and I felt comfortable while running in them. I like the shoes, but they didn't last very long, they were Asics Gel (something or other). The next pair of shoes I got was my first sponsorship. I received a free pair of shoes from Loco Running. The Loco Bandito's are as I've referred to them as "the shoe that feels like the box." 'Nuff said. My next pair of shoes would take me great lengths and was part of my second ever sponsorship with a store known as Hubert's. This company was gracious enough to give me 8 pairs of The North Face Ultra GTX Trail Running shoes. When I started running mellow trails with these shoes I loved them... but as soon as I took to the mountains my foot moved all around inside the shoe. The shoes would wear in at a lightning fast speed, the soles fell apart and I really found out that as I began to run further on my runs; that I could truly trash a pair of shoes. These shoes got me through my first ultra, they saw me to the finish of many White Mountain Runs, but in the end; they just deteriorated far too fast for my liking and it was time to move on. I moved on to The Salomon XA Pro 3D Xcr trail shoes. These shoes were rugged with some of the best gripping soles I've ever stepped upon rocks with. However... I ran into problems with the lacing system. The zip-lock lacing system would wear to a point that the eyelets would break or the cordage would fray and snap. The zip-lock wasn't very secure and the shoes would loosen, leaving my heels open to blisters the size of half dollars. And finally... at $125 a shoe, I couldn't see buying any more pairs of Gore-tex shoes whose toe box splits straight across the top when repeatedly getting wet. After the Salomons I moved onto Montrail Hardrocks, again a great shoe with tremendous toe and side protection for those of us who run on rugged terrain. These shoes grip the trail well and could take a beating. The only problem is that once Columbia bought out Montrail, the construction of the shoe's changed for the worse (as did the way the company dealt with their athletes and the sport of ultra-running) so I boycotted them all together.

Enter Brooks
For the last two years I've been lucky enough to run for an represent the running company known as Brooks Running. I Run Happy in two different pairs of shoes that they offer. The Cascadia's and The Adrenaline ASR 5's. Both shoes are different. The Cascadia's (3 or 4's) are strictly a trail shoe that drain very well in wet conditions. A great shoe that however does not offer much in the way of toe protection or "sticky soles" for rocky terrain. I tend to wear these shoes in trail races which require the need for draining and/or doesn't offer much in the way of rugged terrain. Then there is my go to shoe... the Adrenaline ASR 5's (I'm currently testing the 6's) which is a road and trail hybrid shoe... which means you can run in it on either roads or trails. This shoe is a great all around shoe for ultras where we do tend to run on both road and trails. The soles have adequate traction, there is plenty of stability and there is some fashion of toe protection. They don't drain well... but they're damn comfy. They are the shoe that is working for me the best right now... and until something better comes along or it is time to move on... they are what I'll continue to run in as I'm very pleased with my testing of the ASR 6's.

Wow... what a boat load of shoe history. I started running in 2004 and in the almost five years that I've been running, working my way up from a paltry mile to a brain demoralizing 125 miles, I've run in seven different pairs/styles of shoes. I've never gone too far into investigating what the right pair of shoe for me is. I've always just gone out, tried a pair on, took a few strides and if they felt good... I tried em out. I look for toe protection, stability, perhaps they drain well or are Gore-Tex, durable and have some kind of sole that'll grip all these rocks in New Hampshire (Yes.. we have rocks in NH). In the end, I am beginning to wonder if I've done it all wrong. Have I taken good care of my feet and knees by being so lax in my shoe shopping procedures? Have I thrown my bodies alignment off by not paying attention to the needs of my muscles?... after all, the ankle bone's connected to the leg bone.. the leg bone is home to the calf muscle...the calf muscle's connected to the hamstring.. etc. And how many more times will the count have to come out and continue to count shoes in my historical collection?

I decided to visit the Runners World website today while job hunting (yes.. I'm digging deep into places I have no chance) and there on the homepage was a so called "Running Shoe Finder." I sat wide eyed as I looked at the screen to see how very few questions the Shoe Finder asked me. Gender, Size, Shoe Type and Sort Results By. I filled in my responses: Male, 8.5, Trail, Lowest Price and then clicked on "find shoes." The count was in full action as I counted a results page with 40... count them.. FORTY uh uh uhhhhh.. pairs of shoes that apparently might suit me. All of the companies are there and prices range from $80 to $130. I clicked on my favorite Brooks Adrenaline ASR 5's and read the Runners World Review: "This trail version of the Adrenaline GTS 8 offers better traction and a water-resistant upper. Another notable feature is an environmentally friendly outsole rubber that's made from sand." Wow... shoes made from sand, sign me up! It's only now that I find where it says Foot Biomechanics with the answer "Neutral." Now I'm not 100% certain what neutral is and how it relates to you pronators and supinators out there... and as soon as I'm done writing this I'll do some more research. But what I find odd is that Foot Biomechanics wasn't one of the original options that needed answering in order to refine my shoe search. Isn't this one of the main questions I need to be asking myself? Is it one of those foot telling questions that I've ignored for so long putting my shoes and my body in a difficult position?

Articles:
Recently I received some e-mails that spoke about the running shoe industry. I want you to check them out (It's better reading then what I write) and keep them in mind as you move forward with your shoe selections.
Popular Mechanics - The Running Shoe Debate: How Barefoot Runners Are Shaping The Shoe Industry
2.) Dailymail - The Painful Truth About Trainers: Are Running Shoes A Waste Of Money? (By Chris McDougall)
3.) NYMag - You Walk Wrong
All three of these articles, and McDougall's book Born To Run, speak to the overpowering evidence that the shoe industry is the reason so many are getting hurt while running and subsequently why so many end up HATING running and will never do it again because "it hurts." I'm not saying that I myself will be going barefoot anytime soon though I will be checking out the new Vibram Five Fingers the first chance I get to help strengthen some of the very muscles that running in shoes ignores. But what I am saying is this...

It's Up To YOU
You might be one of those over thinkers that mulls over every stupid detail involved in deciding on a running shoe. Maybe it's be course of habit or you have to because of your flat feet... whatever. I just want you to think about what is merely important to you in a running shoe. For me, again, its durability, toe protection, good traction and a comfortable fit. You're first pair won't be the perfect pair.. it might take you years to find the perfect match and when you do, the company you go with will discontinue the shoe. It happens, just be ready to adjust to change and adjust your opinions. YOU NEED TO FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. What works for me might not be the best for you.. so asking someone "well what do you wear?" will get you no where. You are an experiment of one as is with anything in this sport... experiment away and see the results for yourself.

Happy Trails
SJ

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Big Q

Down With The Sickness?
It has indeed been an interested series of a few weeks. I went on an 8 day canoeing trip for my major with UNH. While on the trip, namely the second to last night, I suspect that I drank some "dirty water" and in turn swallowed the parasite known as Giardia or as I like to refer to it as "The Beaver Fever." Giardiasis (GEE-are-DYE-uh-sis) is a diarrheal illness caused by a microscopic parasite, Giardia intestinalis (also known as Giardia lamblia or Giardia duodenalis). Once a person or animal has been infected with Giardia, the parasite lives in the intestine and is passed in feces. Because the parasite is protected by an outer shell, it can survive outside the body and in the environment for long periods of time (i.e., months).

Anyway, long story short, I contracted Giardia which caused me to have diarrhea for 3 days with a fever of 103, nausea, the whole deal. On the third day I went to drink some water and I couldn't keep it in, so I went to the ER. This was on Tuesday the 9th. I've spent the last 10 days on a pill known as Flagyll. Flagyll is the single most horrendous item I have ever put into my mouth. It is a bitter pill that causes vertigo, has a metal after taste, causes you to lose your appetite and because of its flushing effect and incorporated use of the kidney's for processing... root beer colored urine with back pain.

With this being said, I have no idea how I 1.) Ran Pittsfield Peaks only finishing 7 minutes slower then last year and 2.) Ran the Pemi-Loop last week while obviously suffering from the side effects of the parasite and the pill while on the journey. I'm either an idiot, a freak of nature for being able to endure these things... or Both.

Unfortunately, for the month of June I've only run 3 times. 20 Miles, 54 Miles and 33 Miles. 103 Miles in 3 runs... I've really fallen off the Vermont 100 Bandwagon in terms of my training and I am in full blown panic mode. I want nothing more then to recieve my third straight buckle at the Vermont 100 in as many tries. It is also going to be my tenth run of 100 miles or more. I want to perform. I know I'm not going to be at my best... I haven't been all year... but I want to pull it out... I need to find a way to get in 3 weeks of decent training to get my legs into shape enough to take it on.... it all starts Monday... here goes nothin.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Pemi Loop

I've done the Pemi-Loop so many times now that I'm not even sure what to write. You can only write about the same thing so many times before it begins to get stale, repetitive and uninteresting. And the pemi-loop is by far one of the most interesting things that I do. So in an attempt to salvage the majesty and adventure that is associated with the loop, I'd love to give you a run report in poetic form. Now I'm no Robert Frost, but hopefully you'll get an idea of how the day went through the following prose. Some of it will rhyme, most of it won't.. whatever... I had a blast. Next time I'll be sure to be completely healed from Giardia before I head out to do this.
Enjoy.... I hope.

Beaver Fever In The Pemi
Cool and clear the sun might shine, a far cry from earths recent daily tears. Three strong we cross the bridge and enter a world where magic still lives. Trees grow tall, young and strong. It hasn't been long since "The Baron" had his way, the earth stripped clean, lightning flashed, burned and torn. No more hard men carrying axe and till, just us three testing our will. The river rushes by, running high today, over rocks forming eddy's towards the majestic shore. The rail line travels as far as the eye can see, remnants of old line the wooded edge. We start to climb and cross streams one by one, the air begins to cool and shine does the sun. Winding left and right the switchbacks they came, the trees begin to shrink as the tree line is within sight. We hoist to the top of the famed hillary step, marching to the cliff, the cathedral... the Altar.
(First Views of the Day)

(The Boys with The Pemi Behind)

(BondCliff)

Silently I pray and thank god for my good tidings, its time to push on with a long day ahead. The old man is excited, like a young kid making it to the ice cream truck. One exclamation to the next, I smile, I'm happy I've shared the mountains again. We forge ahead with the ridge laid out upon us, say hello to a few hikers who've taken days to travel the same route in the opposite direction. The wind blows lightly, the temps are cool, the sun is warm. The views are magnificent, it's one perfect day to be in the Whites. From Bondcliff to Bond from one peak to the next, our legs carry us along our merry way.
(The Ridge From Bondcliff to Bond)

Rocks strewn everywhere.. here? Not here... ONLY IN VIRGINIA RIGHT?! NOT! This is the rock garden of the gods. Rocks left rocks right. Rocks up, rocks down... rocks all around. Laid here laid there...laid without a care. My god my god they go on and on and on... this is just the beginning of Sherpa's whiny song. Stop, enjoy the views, Loon is the only man made thing in sight.. the rest of the world is wild.. look back from where we came.. its beautiful.. I love this game!
(Bondcliff from Bond)

One Bond, two Bonds, one more bond to go. Should we go? Do We go?.. hell... Lets go! I've never made the trip to the side while on the loop, but I figured what the hell lets go it's worth the trip. Half mile out to the top we do climb, to see a mom and her kids sitting on her side. They rise and leave, we've the place to ourself, its not a race its for fun lets talk and tell jokes. We gaze all around 360 degrees, the pain is all ready forming in my tired knees.
(Bondcliff from West Bond)

(Adam and Nate Nyucking it up)

Back to the main route we travel on foot, not right go left and continue downhill. Down and down we go into the col, past the side path which would give us a nap. One kid, two kid, three kids..... five kids. They're cousins out enjoying the mountains; oh to be young again... no bills, no cares. Few smiles though, only pain. Back above the trees across the krumholz fields. The earth slides down the mountain, more rocks, more dirt more beauty. This of all the places is my favorite. We stop to drink, to eat to enjoy. Breathe in the fresh mountain air, the smell of Christmas trees is abundant. Simply outstanding!

Back into the woods we run up high across the ridge that touches the sky. From the summit named for the famed Cartographer to the high peak with an fraternal.. no paternal... oh whatever.. a Twin. We press along running amongst the rocks, over bog bridges we don't watch our clocks. Not a care in the world nothing matters today; just 3 men running enjoying the fray. The birds sing all around we hear many swanson thrush Sarah would be happy. Mud flies up and all around, I'm filthy all ready might as well bath on the ground. The sky is a dark blue, the valley a happy green, we climb higher and higher to the top of the rocks. Greeted by a pooch, hello friend. Milwaukee's Best? Chug anyone?
(Yours Truly on Top of South Twin)

(Milwaukee's Best on the summit...PIGS)

(Lovin South Twin As I Always Do)

Going Down? Down down down... Over 1,000 feet in under a mile. Rocks everywhere, slow going, pick your way, left right, slip... repeat. No easy way. On your knees on your ass... on your way down. Through the trees you see the hut. Tired hiker on his way up. Be careful it's wet! Thanks my friend, I hope this doesn't become a trend. It takes as long to go down as it would to go up. I'm not a fan of this way, I know whats ahead. I'm not happy. Lets go! We make it to the hut and stop for some food. "Do you guys have a trash?" I laugh when I hear the question... did he just ask that? The answer came with every ounce of attitude one could expend, "Umm actually this is carry in carry out." In true fashion, another Galehead Hut Croo with a crappy attitude. I'd never stay here... well.... I won't say never. We pack it up and head on out, the worst of it all is just ahead. The dreaded, the comical, the painful Garfield Ridge.

Where it is flat you cannot run. The rocks take away all the fun. If the rocks were bad before, they're worse now.. I feel like a slow tired cow. It's awful, I scream, I whine and I cuss. All I need is to see some blister puss. Giardia is killing me, I vurp and vurp and vurp. I cough, I sweat, I pant. We slowly climb up and over every damn P.U.D. The rocks are more numerous with each and every step, they go down they go up and they go all around. It's no funny anymore. I get a bit teary eyed. I want to cry, again, as I've done here many times before. I hate this ridge, I hate it some more.
(There's Only Rocks In Virginia)

(Oh MY GOD!)

(Nate Enjoy's it)

(I Think I'm Gonna Be Sick)

It's alot slower then I'm used to doing the tougher side first. I'd rather go down this then up yet I'm over turned. The guys are dancing, joking and singing; I'm dragging my legs pained by their stinging. I'm sick, I feel awful I should have stayed home. Maybe I'll bail down into the Valley and run for the car? I can't, this was my idea, gotta stay strong. This ridge I do hate, with a passion you see, its very often that it drops me down to one knee. Sweat pours down my face from every single pore; I'm soaked and cranky can't take anymore. But finally, a ray of shimmering hope, we climb to the top of our next grand rock, its Garfield and we enjoy the views from the top.
(Adam Gives Nate The Visual Tour)

(Owls Head Nestled Within The Pemi)

We leave the top and head out for more. The ridge isn't over; Garfield Ridge IS THE DEVIL! It's not as bad now the terrain changes quickly. From a big jumbled yardsale of rock to slab galore. Moss covers the trail on all sides, its moist, and muddy and we're lovin the ride. BELCH! BLURP! VURP! Oh god.. will this ever stop?! I'm ready to be done its taking long then ever before. Whose idea was it to go Counter-Clockwise anyway? This is nuts, its dumb, I'm gonna complain. Hey... check out my feet.. more rocks! Where? HERE?! In New Hampshire?! You're kidding right? I smile, I love this, Why? BECAUSE IT'S HOME!
(Going So Slow the Fires of Hell Swallow My Feet)

And now it begins the climb to the top. To the peak named after a general, Lafayette. Out of the trees and off of the choppy rocks, we climb onto slab and reach for the top. On and on we go and go and go and go, we're still moving entirely too slow. I haven't drank much eaten even less; my stomach's been giving me so much distress. Its been a rough day, lord knows how I've been holding on. Won't be much longer now before the day is done. We climb the hill higher to The Peak Known as North; this is where Guy sat down one frigid Winter Day... thanks for your service... its impact does stay. Above the trees we climb the winds picking up. It hits nothing from the rockies to here and blows us around. Its chilly its cool the views are enough. 360 Degrees Nate might have to pick his jaw up. The boys have tons of energy, me I'm lagging behind. Perfect time to take out the camera and enjoy the devine.
(The Climb Up North Lafayette)

(Nate Head's Towards The Main Peak of Lafayette)

We stop and sit amongst the foundation of the Old Summit Inn. Nate is in disbelief, that men built anything up here. Out come the magic cookies! Yum yum yum. Smiles all around and the drinks abound. Did you hear that kid scream?! Though it's not a kid, its the Ravens above... what a stupid bird. They play in the wind in groups of 3 and 4. A murder for sure. We get up with the end in sight, the Franconia Ridge to Run, brings back much delight. Maybe this isn't so bad afterall you see... oh hell, what am I saying Garfield Ridge killed me. All this hiking at the end is lame, I'll go the other way the next time.. and the next... and the next. Hello Steve! Hello Roy! Seeing people I know brings on so much joy. A Smile, a wave, a hello... on we go!
(We Head South Along Franconia Ridge)

(Nate Approaches North Lincoln With Lafayette In His Tracks)

(Enjoying The Ridge)

Down one peak and up the next, this one count? Nope... ok...how bout this one? Yup? And this one? Nope? Damn! This is so confusing. What do peakbaggers know anyway. A scowl here a scowl there... I just want to pull down those hikers pants to see their underwear. Those people have been grumpy since the start of our day; do we ruin their enjoyment that much? Why the hell did they even come out to play?! We continue on over this hump and that... pact the Gargoyles and over to Little Haystack. Over that hump as well and back into the trees. The boys are running now, I'm off in the weeds. Down into the col and then we climb once again. Up up and away, two more till the end. Here comes a puppy and their owners so grande.. "you can do it, its worth it its almost the end." I step aside and smile, they ask where we'd been. I tell them, they're silent, they'll never ask again. I march to the top to see the Boys looking around, I just drank from that plastic bottle laying down on the ground. I get to the top, take a few deep breaths.. I'm outta here you guys.. you catch me in a flash.

Off of Liberty we rang back into the last col. Down and down we go with me in the lead, I'm slow.. I'm slow... I'm starting to bleed. I'm hungry, I'm tired, I want to be done.. I'm trying to figure out when it stopped being fun. I lie, I digress we continued to go. We climbed through the trees to the top of the Flume. Watch your step boys its a long way down form here, the end is kind of in sight... a few thousand feet its clear. We stop and look back one last time from where we came, over the Bonds, Guyot, Twin... The Ridge of Hell... The Ridge of Heaven... what an amazing journey indeed.
(Lookin Back [from left] at Lafayette, Garfield, South Twin)

(One Last Look At Bondcliff)

Back into the trees and we take our exit stage left, down we go, better hold your breath. My legs are burning no energy left... I'm gonna die my friends... ok maybe not. Down the stairs we ran, the ladders the rock steps... switchbacks took us this way and that. "Bleed elevation" if you're baggin what I mow... down and down and down we go. From the top of the world to the valley below.. its time to be done, time to end this show. Back on the tracks we run to the end game. We get to the bridge, wish we knew that dames name. We stop, drop packs, peel of shirts and head downhill... I walk right into the water and let me tell you its chill. Hold my breath and dunk my head....into the magic waters... the perfect end. This journey is done... another pemi-loop.... IN THE BOOKS.

33 Miles
12:24 = OUCH

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Memorial Day Hiking

Its a tradition that has gone on for years. A holiday weekend with a journey into the mountains. For the last 5 or so years now Sarah and I have had the same camp site at Crawford Notch General Store and Campground. The site rests quietly on the banks of the Saco River, which at this point in its travels is a mere 10 miles young. Towering above the chilly rush of water are the cliffs of Mount Crawford. The constant rush of the water drowns out the noise and hoopla wrought on by our fellow campers. Every year, people walk onto our site to take in the view with us, they walk to the store and try to reserve the site for themselves for the following year... only to find out that sorry... WE ALL READY HAVE! Neener Neener Neener.

Along with the tradition of camping in this historic place, comes the traditions of outdoor exploration. In years past, our Memorial Day weekend has included two days of hiking along with a race. I've run The Vermont City Marathon twice and the Pineland Farms 50K once. I've hiked to the summit of various peaks. This year would be a bit different though. The focus of our time was, of course being out doors but, that of relaxation. We wanted to enjoy each others company and a quieter stroll through the forest. So... our Saturday started with the singing of birds, the rush of the flowing water and our old friend Drew waking us up asking where breakfast was. Drew had parked up at the road and walked down into camp to rustle us out of bed. I dragged myself out and started cooking right away. I make a mean Egg McMuffin at camp and I made plenty for all of us to enjoy. The Orange Juice and coffee flowed and we were starting the day off right.

Drew drove ahead and we dropped our car off at the Willey House Historical Site. We decided to leave a car here and hike over to it. We then piled into Drews car and drove up to Zealand Road. Along the way, after passing the Highland Center we noticed AMC crews working in a field next to their storage trailer. They were getting set up for some heli-drops to the high mountain huts. It looked like they were dropping off a seasons worth of fuel to a few of the huts, but who knows, we never heard or saw them in action. We got to the end of Zealand Road, parked the car and headed off down the trail. It was a gorgeous morning despite being a little overcast, temps were cool and there was no wind. It was quiet and pleasant and we were excited to be here.

We slowly meandered down the trail, past the Beaver Swamps and over mounds of old dusty moose droppings. Drew entertained us with stories about this past winters excited moose that had settled down in the area and had been giving hikers a hard time. He certainly has a way with words and knows how to entertain us. We soon came to a junction in the trail and we opted to travel in the direction we'd never gone before, onto the Ethan Pond Trail heading back towards Crawford Notch. Our journey would take us around Whitewall Mountain. Whitewall Mountain is littered with what seems like a million large boulders, which had been carved and re-placed by loggers of the late 1800's and early 1900's. JE Henry and his logging railroads, moved the earth out of their way as they lay miles of tracks down to move their lumber out of the "woods" and out to the main rail for transport to port. We stopped to take in the views and I even gave Drew a short Map and Compass lesson as we looked off towards the Hancocks.



After the completion of the short lesson and some snacks we rose back to our feet and continued our walk. We followed along the old railroad grade until we came to our next junction. The Thoreu Falls trail headed off to the right and I'd never been there. My father has told me of some rather large holes in the rock there that are speculated to have been formed by Extraterrestrial Aircraft. I didn't see the holes he was talking about over there, but I did see magnificent water falls and outstanding views of Guyot and The Bonds.


We headed back to the Ethan Pond Trail and worked our way onwards. Soon we came to an old bridge which looks like it was assembled by the loggers. Large tracks of timber, covered in creosote spanned the river. While standing on the bridge, I glanced around on the river banks and saw evidence of larger bridge structures having been near by years earlier. Large concrete abutments still sit quietly along the rivers shore with large coils of metal materials lay under years of decaying duff. The history in these woods is deep and it intrigues me greatly.


We started to head up a very subtle incline as we made our way towards Ethan Pond. I was at Ethan pond this past November on a rain filled night (see "Slept In A Puddle) and I wanted to return when it wasn't cold, rainy and snowy. Ethan Pond holds its place in history as a place where Ethan Allen Crawford himself used to love to hunt. Stories of this mans past include one in which he shot and killed a bear only to later lift the bear onto his shoulders and walk proudly down to the notch where he brought his kill home. There used to be Otter living in this pond, there is no more evidence of their residence here. The quiet waters of Ethan Pond sit silently below the rocky summit of Mounts Willey and Field. We stopped for a break as Sarah's blood sugar was giving her small issue. The rest was well welcome on our lazy stroll through the forest. We even found some snow nestled into the woods in the surrounding area.



We left Ethan Pond and headed for home. The trail all along the Ethan Pond area was a series of Bog Bridges carefully placed here by AMC Trail crews to maintain trail. The moss covered soaked earth is lined by various bogs, perfect moose habitat. Even though we never saw a moose, we counted over 200 bog bridges. Building and placing these is a monumental feat. Simply amazing!

We came to the trails junction with the Willey Range Trail, we took a right and immediately ran into hikers coming down off of Willey and others heading up. The trails on this side of the woods are a busy place as peak-baggers seek their peaks. We then came to the junction with the Kedron Flume Trail. This was our final trail of the day as we walked steeply downhill, over the Kedron Flume and down to the tracks of the Conway Scenic Railroad which still operates through the notch in summer months. The sun never came out, but the gray sky allowed some different views and perspectives on a magnificent place. Always plenty to explore and the Memorial Day traditions continue.