Yesterday, Saturday November 24, was such a big day for me. I headed to the mountains for the first time in 4 weeks to figure out this winter hiking thing. I’ve hiked in the winter and snowshoed but not a big mountain and definitely not a 8 mile 4,000 footer.
I’ve read all the books about mountain rescues and being safe in winter. I had all the gear I needed and watched the weather fanatically. All signs pointed to a good day to hike Hancock North.
In reality I didn’t set out to hike to the top. I wanted to scope it out; at least make it to the trail junction of North and South to see what the trail was like and to test out my snowshoeing skills and try out my spikes. I’d never used spikes before.
The day’s temperature started out in the 20s and not a cloud in sight. The parking lot for the Hancocks was almost full (a good sign that people were on the trail, I wouldn’t be alone). I saw that the trail from the parking lot to the trail was packed so I decided to leave the snowshoes in the car. I could alway turn back if I needed them.
I didn’t need them.
The trail was fantastic; hard packed and I seemed to be following someone wearing snowshoes. I knew this trail pretty well since I’ve already hiked it twice to South Hancock in September . In winter it was glorious. The river crossings were easy.
The snow was falling off the trees and crashing to the ground; sometimes loud sometimes softly. The snow falling to the side of me and behind me was creepy at first because it sounded like someone was following me in the trees, but after a while I got used to it.
After the last main water crossing, shortly before the first junction I met a man coming down from the peaks and chatted with him a bit. I noticed on his watch that he was at 3 hours 11 minutes and he did the loop – that guy was fit. He mentioned my hat, my Leadville Race Across the Sky beanie, and asked if I did it. I said it was my dream. He had raced it and was signed up for the coming race. Two years I said. Two years. I will do it.
It was the first time I said it out loud.
I met a solo woman hiker coming down from South Hancock and another solo man passed us going up as we chatted. With all the people out there and the trail being well marked, I thought I could make the summit. So at the trail junction Winnie and I headed for North Hancock.
The trail got pretty steep about ten minutes from the junction and someone had slid down it, wrecking the trail. I encountered a second hiker actually sliding down. I didn’t have the heart to say she was wrecking the trail; she knew it but did it anyway.
The spikes helped me from falling backwards and I had to take a few breaks to catch my breath. Then Winnie came running back to me and jumped on me and licked my face, which she never does while hiking. We stopped for a break: water and treats. Then started again.
I’m sweating bullets, the views are starting to get good and she runs back again, jumps up and licks my face – it’s time to turn around. Something happened to her or it was just too much – I don’t know but I wasn’t going to force it.
We turned around, 0.2 miles to the top.
The hike down was tough. I fell a lot and slid a lot and stepped off trail a lot. It was a bit nerve wracking when I stepped off trail and my leg disappeared in the snow. We made it back to the junction and I realized how warm it got. My spikes were clumping and I was still sweating going down.
It was a tough hike that I know I have to do again shortly. But you know what – I love winter hiking. It’s so quiet and peaceful. There are less people. It was wonderful to follow a trail in winter and know exactly where to go. The snow made my pace slower so I took in the scenery more than summer/fall hiking. I was so much more calmer winter hiking; I wasn’t in such a rush.
I can’t wait to hike when I need my snowshoes. I’m excited about this new hiking option!
Since this is the fourth time through Lincoln to do the last hikes of the 4,000 footers I have started a bit of a routine. I stop at Half Baked for a latte and then the One Love Brewery for a take home beer. Today, I changed it up a big and got the latte but instead of the beer I stopped at the Mountain Wanderer.
I’ve been reading Steve Smith’s blog and have checked out his book, The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains from the library. It was time to buy the book and marked it up so I remember the hikes. Plus, each mountain has a section about hiking it in winter.
I asked the man behind the counter if he was the author and he was! We talked for a while about winter hiking, Owl’s Head, Hancock and Winnie wanting to turn around. Steve motivated me to try the bushwhack trail to Owl’s Head since it will have a nice packed trail soon. He told me the story about Brutus the dog who has a bushwhack trail named for him. It was a wonderful, informative conversation; I was psyched to buy his book directly from his store. He was a wealth of knowledge and so kind.
It was a good day!
Training for my 2-year plan starts today.
I will finish the 4,000 footers.
I will run/hike 1,000 miles.
I will run a 50 miler in 2019 and I will run a 100 miler in 2020.
First on the list: be a tourist.
We drove to Maine to see a famous lighthouse and stopped for lunch at When Pigs Fly.
We saw the lighthouse during a big wind storm so the waves were huge! It was a good day to be at the coast.
In the evening we played blackjack and cribbage.
Sunday at 9:30 we started out on our long run. We waited until it warmed up to 27 degrees. Thank goodness for the sun!
And walking back to the house.
Such a fun weekend. Kassandra was a trooper with the cold temps since she lives in Tucson. I’m so glad it didn’t snow!
Saturday’s hike was epic. North Twin 4,761, 8.6 miles round trip during peak New Hampshire foliage.
4,000 footer #2 for Winnie and #43 for me!
We had to cross the Little River six times.
After slipping on a rock half way through the first crossing I decided for safety I would just walk through the water and not worry about rock hopping. My Injinji socks and Pearl Izumi trail shoes quickly dried enough to not give me blisters.
The fall foliage was beautiful and the lighting just right:
We saw a few dogs and about 20 people total which isn’t much considering the drive past Lafayette trailhead with cars parked for miles on I-93. I can’t image hiking Lafayette with all those people. One family hiked North Twin with children who looked 5-years-old – amazing! So many smaller groups that loved Winnie and petted her.
She’s getting less scared of people on the trail which is nice.
A great day to be on the trail. I had great conversations with hikers about hiking the 4,000 footers and other trails.
Then after driving home I met my mom to see to movie, A Star is Born.
On Saturday Winnie and I hiked to the top of Mount Sunapee. The trail was pretty wet and muddy from all the rain. The streams were flowing and Winnie had fun playing in both water and mud.
We saw a lot of people on the trail and Winnie swam in Lake Solitude. Winnie was beat for the rest of the day. Unfortunately I wouldn’t be taking her to the hike scheduled for Sunday: Flume.
I hiked the Liberty Spring Trail to the Franconia Ridge Trail. The trail passed over Liberty and then I reached Mount Flume in 2 hours 30 minutes. I saw a few hikers on the trail going up and about 10 trail runners coming down. I hoped that I would be running down, too.
I tried to run as much as I could but the trail was 75% rock with large roots thrown in for good measure. Once I passed Liberty Spring tent sites I could hear the wind and it got pretty cold. I put on a warmer jacket and a beanie. I didn’t realize that the Franconia Ridge Trail is an exposed ridge only on the northern section that is closer to Lincoln and Lafayette. This part of the ridge was wooded and smelled of pine.
The summit rocks of Liberty took my breath away when I saw it for the first time.
The rock pile seems to rise out of the ground and trees. According to my AMC White Mountain Guide Twenty-fourth edition I hiked Liberty in 1988 and 1991 but don’t remember. I did note that on the 1991 trip I took the same trail starting on the Whitehouse trail. I’m so glad I kept that book over the years. I knew I’d be back to finish all the 4,000 footers.
About 15 people took pictures and hung out on the summit of Liberty. I don’t stop and continued hiking south to Flume; I passed about 10 people headed to Liberty.
Since my PI trail shoes were still soaked from yesterday’s hike in the mud at Sunapee I wore my new, not-yet-worn Altra trail running shoes. It was a risk to wear them on this important bag-a-4,000-peak hike but they turned out to be perfect. They got a bit beat up on the rocks and roots, and managed to stay comfortable the entire time.
I did like the Liberty Springs Trail despite feeling like I walked up stairs for miles on end. As my thoughts started to wander through the sometimes monotonous terrain, I thought about the Grid and wondered if I might try to do it: hike all 4,000 footers in every month.
Sunday’s Total mileage: just about 10 miles round trip. I’m pretty beat and not sure I’d want to do that hike in every month, but I’ve been thinking about winter hiking and with the right instruction I might give it a try.
Now I’m down to six remaining 4,000 footers: N. Hancock, Waumbek, Cabot, Garfield, N. Twin and Owl’s Head. My plan is to finish them by the end of October. November is too risky with the potential of ice and snow on the trails. I’m hoping that Winnie will hike Waumbek, Cabot, Garfield and N. Twin; the other two are too rocky and long.
Foliage Update: The leaves in northern New Hampshire are just about starting to turn. Next weekend they will be at their peak colors.