48 4000 footers in one year, Ending on Kinsmans

On Sunday as I hiked to the top of South Kinsman I realized I finally reached a goal in 2020. I hiked all the 4,000 footers in my 49th year. 2020 has been a rough year for everyone. One of the things about being in the mountains is that you feel far removed from the real world. Maybe that is why I like to do it so much. Reality has been hard this year.

It could be why I always seem to go long: running, triathlon and hiking. You get to escape from reality for a longer time. Ultra running, Ironman and White Mountain Traverses – I love them all.

Eight weeks ago I realized that I had 20 peaks to hike to actually accomplish one goal I set for myself for the year. I went into full planning mode. Somehow, magically, it all came together. If it wasn’t for the people who joined me on many of the hikes I may not have made it in time. Not every hike went as planned and there were some (attempt) days. One thing I know is true is that it’s good to have goals and arrange your life around them. You always have your life to come back to after hours and days in the mountains and on the trails. 

The Kinsmans were tough and I was procrastinating hiking them. John agreed to join me on this hike since he hiked it a few weeks ago. He told me that he fell a lot and lost the trail a lot; great, I thought. And, when we didn’t start hiking until 11:15 a.m., I wasn’t sure I was even going to make the peak.  

We parked at The Basin and took Cascade Trail to Kinsman Pond then Kinsman Ridge to the peaks. The hardest part of this route is just keeping on the trail and keeping your feet dry. We did neither. We hiked fast because of the late start. We had headlamps but I wanted to hike fast enough so we didn’t have to use them. 

We arrived at Kinsman Pond in all its glory. The bright, flat November light reflecting on the pond blinded us so I waited until the return to take this picture.

We looked up to see where we had to go from the pond and it seemed so far away. We had to keep moving.

As soon as we turned on the Kinsman Ridge Trail there were more people. We hoped they all had headlamps because it was late in the day. We knew we were going to need them although I wanted to make it to the end in daylight.

We got to North Kinsman and didn’t stop. The top of South Kinsman offered fantastic 360 degree views. John took my picture on this last summit. We ate some food and headed down. 

For some reason I had an abundance of energy and strong legs for the descent. About two miles from the car we needed headlamps. It was difficult navigating some of the trail in the dark, especially two of the river crossings. But we made it out alive and have some fun stories to tell. 

It’s good to finish this goal. It was truly a fun adventure with so many great tales to tell. I wanted to hike the 4,000 footers again because when I finished the first round in July 2019 I didn’t remember the mountains I hiked from 20 years ago. I wanted to know these mountains – all the 4,000 footers. I wanted to know the trails and listen to people talk about these mountains and actually know what they were talking about. I think I’m a little closer to this. 

These 4,000 footers in the White Mountains will scare the bejesus out of you and make you a believer in the power of your own body. They will bruise and batter you and make you stronger than you’ve ever known

Hiking Moosilauke via Benton Trail in November

Two weeks ago this trail looked a little different than Saturday. I attempted Moosilauke with my dogs on the Benton trail on October 18, the day after the big snow storm, and couldn’t find a good river crossing spot with the high water running, so I turned around. 

Saturday the water was much lower and I was able to cross the river and hike to the peak.

It was a good day to be in the mountains.

Tunnel Brook trail was a nice gradual walk to the Benton Trailhead. Once we crossed the river the climb began. No big boulders and no granite slabs – it was just a nice hike. 

As we arrived at the Beaver Brook trail two families with young children came up the trail. I know that trail and it’s a tough one – good for them! We hiked for .4 and came out of the woods with a short hike above the treeline to a crowded summit. 

On Moosilauke trying to get out of the wind for a break.

As I took my phone off airplane mode I got a text message from the New York Times: Joe Biden is our 46th President. I yelled to everyone on the top the great news.

It was so windy only the people closest to us heard and cheered too. 

I could see the Kinsmans in the distance knowing I would be up there the next day. And then we headed down. We only saw one other person heading up. 

Termed the quiet side of the Moose, I opted for the Benton trail since it is the easiest trail for dogs and it turned out to be both quiet and gentle. Just shy of 10 miles, it was a great hike option. Saturday wasn’t as warm at 4,802 feet than most parts of New Hampshire however Peter wore shorts and I wore regular hiking leggings.

The dogs had a great time but are definitely tired today, Sunday. Goldies 7th 4,000 footer, and Winnie’s 20th. Now it’s on to the Kinsmans today and to accomplish my goal of 48 in my 49th year.

Hiking the Tripyramids in November

Let’s get right to it and talk about how hard the Tripyramids are if you opt for the Mount Tripyramid Loop. 

A slide.
Then another slide.

I’m happy to have made it through on Sunday.

We saw a few people on the Livermore Road and no one else until the second summit. Now I know why: only crazy people would hike that loop with the conditions we had on Sunday. 

The slide was long – a hundred miles – or so it seemed. Foot placement was questionable at every step.

About halfway up the North Slide, I saw footprints going off to the left, out of the wind and ice, I took it. My hiking partner chose to go right up the slide. 

After what seemed like a lifetime, the slide ended, we were out of the wind and back into the safety of the trees. Life was good again. 

Then as we got to Middle Tripyramid we saw our first hiker. All four of us were happy to see humans. 

We continued on the loop in bliss that the remainder would be fun and delightful.

We both envisioned laughter and happiness and storytelling. Then the South Slide became steeper and longer. 

Miraculously, the wind died down, the views opened up and we were off the slide, back in the woods and then shortly, a dirt path.

The 4,000 footers are no joke these days. Mid-Winter Conditions. I say. 

Be prepared. Turn back if you feel uncomfortable and unprepared.

If it wasn’t for the fact that we were prepared, we were in great physical shape, we had food and water, we had the 10 Essentials, I would not have continued. 

Be safe out there friends. Don’t take chances. Love the one you’re with LOL. 

Three more peaks until I reach my only reachable goal in 2020. Damn you Kinsmans. Please don’t be the death of me.

Owl’s Head NH in pictures

Two big water crossings. Some chose to take off their running shoes. Some did not. I charged right through.
This is the view from the slide. So pretty. The slide was hard, as per usual.
Once above the slide it was a winter wonderland. So pretty. So flat.
We enjoyed the slide much more coming down.
We took a few more pictures on the way down.

It was a good day to be in the White Mountains. We took the Black Pond bushwack to Lincoln Brook Trails and still had two big water crossings. They sucked with all the rain and snow. However, as I charged through them four times my feet stayed happy. (Thank you Altra Lone Peak and Darn Tough Socks). I even had a sock change in my pack and opted to stay wet. I liked the garbage bag that a hiking couple used to cross the rivers. I may steal that idea in the spring.

The slides are always tough. There were a few icy patches but not enough to put on spikes. We saw about eight people all day (not counting the hikers on the way back through Lincoln Woods).

I say it all the time – but it matters who you hike with. Vicky and Michaela were the best hiking partners. We laughed and talked and shared stories all day long. I’m not embarrassed to admit that we talked about Ross all day long. Ross hiked Owl’s Head with me last year so I could finish all my 4,000 footers. He also invited me to all the best long distance hikes since that day. He invited me to the Pemi Traverse where I met Vicky. Then I met all their hiking crazy friends. It truly is a community you find by hiking the 4,000 footers in New Hampshire. Follow the fun ones on Facebook and Instagram and message them; they will invite you into their world.

Today we created so many memories; funny stories I know that will get passed on because even in the last year we told so many stories. Vicky asked me to throw a big rock into the river so she could use it to get across. I did as requested and that will forever be a funny story of the look on her face when she was soaked by cold water and couldn’t move. Famous last words: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I hope you are reading this and reach out to me or people you follow on social. If you want to hike crazy long trails and finish stupid lists that award patches – just do it. Go do epic shit. I fail a lot but I also have great days like today. Days that make you check off boxes, eat big meals and blog about how great life is sometimes.

Go hike a mountain or 48 of them in one year or take a risk to message someone that may just make your life great. I highly recommend it.

Five more peaks in my 49th year. I just may do this.

Field and Willey Hike in October

For the first time in a very long time before a big hike, I slept in. I didn’t get to the trailhead until almost 10 a.m. It was perfect timing because it was a cold morning. 31 degrees according to my watch. 

As I hiked up the Avalon Trail I heard water everywhere. So many waterfalls and streams. A few others started right before and after me. The climb starts just after the first half mile and then the turn off to Mount Avalon has a lot of granite slabs. At first there they were just wet and a little slippery and then became icy and slippery. 

The icy granite faded away and there was just a great dirt trail. I headed into the snowy trees toward Mount Field and passed up Mount Avalon, which everyone said had great views. Some times when I’m hiking solo I get a bit nervous and just want to get to the summit. That was today. I brought micro spikes and hiking poles since I didn’t know what to expect. 

I passed a few hikers heading down and they said microspikes weren’t needed so it made me feel better. As we approached Field there were some great views between the trees and once I got to the summit. The sun came out and just lit up the iced trees. Truly spectacular. 

I continued onto Willey on the Willey Range trail. It was a ridge that went up and down with some steep climbs ups and down but didn’t last long. I almost missed the turn off to Willey when I started to hike down. Thank goodness for the GPS map on my Garmin. That was the summit, looked around and headed back. 

The slabs were still icy on Avalon as we headed down to Crawford Notch and the Conway Scenic Railroad train was stopped at the Depot. I’ve never seen that before. 

We headed home and got back to Concord by 4 p.m. It was a good weekend of hiking in the White Mountains. Six more peaks to go to hit my goal of finishing the 4,000 footers in my 49 year. 

Kinsmans, Tripyramids, Moosilauke and Owl’s Head are all that are left. Two more weekends to get them done. I think it will happen.