Presidential Traverse in June

The Presidential Traverse – Saturday June 27, 2020

  • Mount Madison – 5,367′
  • Mount Adams – 5,794′
  • Mount Jefferson – 5,712
  • Mount Washington – 6,289′
  • Mount Monroe – 5,371′
  • Mount Eisenhower – 4,780′
  • Mount Pierce – 4,311′
  • Mount Jackson – 4,052’

Since I’m the type of hiker and runner who likes to get things done as quick as possible, I think the traverse is a perfect event for me. To complete an event like this – in one day – you can’t stop a lot and you have to keep moving despite the pain to get to the end. But what is great for people like me is to be around people I really like, who stop to smell the roses, take in the views and hang out at waterfalls. I don’t normally do this so it’s good to be with people who do, and do it without annoying me too much, LOL. 

That said – it was a freaking perfect day to be above treeline. 

The crew met at 4:30 at the AMC Highland Center in Crawford Notch to drop a car and then drove up to Appalachia trailhead. We didn’t quite know what trail we were going to take and ultimately decided on the direction of Valley Way or Airline. The only plan up to that point was to get to the hut and backtrack to Madison so when we came to a trail junction that offered a choice to Madison first – we took it – Watson Path. Looking back Valley Way would’ve been the better choice but we opted for a loop instead of out and back. 

Madison was amazing. About 10 people on the summit. Since we would be at this all day, we stopped for a short time and kept moving. The weather was perfect, hovering around 50 and very little wind. All day there was cloud cover and we could see Mount Washington the entire time. 

Next up, Adams. This is always a tough climb. As I hiked, I thought of all the search and rescue stories of so many people being trapped or killed on this mountain. The weather on this summit can be unpredictable but today, it was perfection. 

Hiking with this crew: Bob and Mark, is so fun. They are silly and fun to be around. They were in much better shape that I on this hike. They have been hiking much more and training better so it was an effort to keep up most of the day.

We really wanted to run some of this but there weren’t many runable spots. There was a group of trail runners who knew exactly how to get to Jefferson after we took a wrong turn with another group of traversers. We hiked close to them most of the day. This group had the same group dynamics we had. They were telling funny jokes to each other as they hiked and giving each other shit like I did to Mark about leading us the wrong way. A few times when Mark led, he wasn’t following cairns and I would exclaim “Damn It, Mark” in fun. You just go forward the way that looks obvious and you go off route a bit when you follow Mark. LOL

After the steep climb to the top of the crowded Jefferson summit I was falling a little behind the crew. My legs were dead. There was so much scrambling and the rocks are rough and abrasive. I cut my hands in a few spots. I turned my ankle a few times and my metatarsals were twisted and turned in odd ways due to rock placement. That’s life in the Presidentials for sure.

Bob Joke: Could someone come and remove some of these rocks? 

We missed the signs for Clay and continued to bypass it even after realizing our mistake when talking to some hikers. Since it’s not a true 4,000 by the AMC definition we were all okay and didn’t go back. Onward to Mount Washington – the rock pile

Mount Washington was the only place I added a layer and a beanie. We didn’t stay too long because the wind made it cold! The only summit with wind today. We headed to Lake of the Clouds for a bathroom break (no restrooms at Washington) but all the huts had water, snacks for sale and bathrooms. 

From this point on I had Zombie brain and dead legs. We had heard that the northern Presidentials were much harder so we briefly enjoyed the thought that the hardest climbing was behind us. HA! 

Over Monroe and Franklin (a 5,000 footer but not on the official list) 

I remembered Eisenhower from a hike last fall with Winnie-Dog. It was a nice easier climb with the huge cairn at the top. 

Pierce wasn’t as exciting after the day we had above the trees but the cairn was pretty big. We kept moving. 

We saw a mountain in the distance and I hoped it was Webster (one we weren’t doing) because it looked so far away and it was going to be a good climb. It was Jackson. This was the start of entering the dark place at hour 10 or 11. 

We finally got to the top and I was swearing and hating this mountain. I’m sure it’s a fine mountain but the last big climb made me mean. But come to find out, the descent back to the car would be the worst part of the day. Talk about a dark place. This is the part that marked distances seemed so wrong and much longer than 1.6 miles or even .9. The remaining miles back to the car were pure hell but we got er’ done.

Bob Joke: This is not a place to get hurt. We wouldn’t want to leave you behind.

How people run this – I can’t conceive – however, I want to. I will. I will try to next time. Except someone mentioned a Presidential Traverse Double. Now that would be great and something to really train for AND I wouldn’t have to death march down the Webster / Jackson trail. Along the trail I told Mark how lucky we were today. We were fortunate to not get hurt and that the weather report was wrong all day. One wrong foot placement, looking the wrong way or not paying attention – our day would be done in a second. I’m a worst-case-scenario-person a lot of the time and know how quickly things can go sideways. I’m cautious but not risk averse. We were fortunate today. We were blessed. 

I decided at mile 18 that I would 1) never do something for more than 12 hours ever again and 2) my body will never finish a 100 mile race because I felt much worse at this moment than DNF’ing at Leadville at mile 36. However, now, two days later, I’m ready to get stronger and fitter to do more crazy things like this

Lessons Learned: 

  • Do more trail running with rocks prior to event
  • More glute strength workouts
  • Decide on routes first, there were too many options at the start
  • Always do this with people you like – the two people I was with are the best, anything else would suck
  • When you run/hike with Bob you always have perfect weather above treelike – that’s a fact (so far)

Post Blog Writing Advice from DangerGirl about running the traverse. I will take it: 

Weekend Recap, June 15 Looking Ahead

It was a fun weekend of riding and running and hiking with the dogs. While we haven’t been hiking the big mountains or any real mountain, I think next week we will take it to the next level. Winnie and Goldie are ready for a longer hike. 

The trees in Winant Park are green and lush. Look up!

I was thinking this last week about all the plans and goals from the beginning of the year. It’s been such a strange year but no year goes completely how I’ve wanted. It’s like the saying that if you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans. I didn’t know that was attributed to Woody Allen. 2019 and 2010 were pretty great years.

Things I planned on doing on January 1, and status as of June 15:

  • 52 marathons in one year. I have only have completed one 26 mile run. There still may be time. 
  • 4,000 footers in my 49th year. I’m getting there slowly while placing blame on the stay at home order. There is time.
  • 100,000 feet in June, July, August. This is the new goal and I love seeing my calculations change every day. This is possible.
As of June 14, 2020, this is for the month of June – must hit 33,000 to stay on track for 100,000 feet of vert.
  • 100 mile finish. My training is not going well. The most important runs are the long runs on the weekend and I’m not hitting the numbers. There is still time. This is possible. 

I’m so behind but it’s all good. I love thinking of all the fun things that help me get psyched to do too many activities in one day that leave me so tired. As much as the tiredness lately has been driving me crazy, I know that I’m getting stronger, if that is even possible at 49. 

This week’s training plan – running!

This week is some big mileage and lots of activities: swimming, small group weight training at the Y, running, hiking and a hike or two. See you on Strava!

My new favorite place to Mountain Bike – Bear Brook!

The Osceolas in February

I got a chance to hike to Osceola and East Osceola today. Oh my gosh. The slides are so hard.

I hiked Osceola last January and didn’t quite make it to the main peak but today, I did both peaks and feel like I really don’t need to ever do them again. Well, okay, let’s be real, I want to finish the grid in the next year or two so I have 10 more months that I have to do them in. 

My friend Mark, who I know from racing Leadville last year, was up for a challenge and agreed to hike with me. The alternative was running 15 trail miles in Concord. I needed to get out of the city and head to the hills and he was game. Thanks Mark! 

The slides were harder than I remembered from a year ago. They were so freaking hard. It was cold, too. Temperatures started at 12 degrees. I debated for hours prior to leaving Concord about bringing Winnie. I love when she hikes with me because I don’t have to worry about getting back to her. And she loves hiking. She did awesome! 

On top of Mount Osceola

There were two other dogs on the trail and they were so cute and happy. Winnie didn’t quite get along with one of them but we didn’t hike with them the entire way. (I think they didn’t get a long because they were a little too much alike; not exactly submissive but not aggressive either. Not every dog gets along and it’s okay). All three dogs just loved being on the trail with their owner and having a great day. So happy!

Mark and I started with spikes and after the first peak switched to snowshoes and then wore them for the rest of the day. On the slides I was walking like an ape, just trying to grasp a hold of anything to make me not slide down. 

Mount Osceola

We were able to hike around the chimney and reached a socked-in summit. It’s okay – that hike was so hard I was just thankful to make it alive to the summit.

The hike down was tricky. We slid down a lot,  and there were some scary moments when I couldn’t stop. But you know, it was so great to be in the White Mountains, with my dog, with my friend Mark and bag two 4,000 footers.

I needed to get out of the city. I needed to be in the mountains. I needed to have a beer at One Love Brewery and just escape life and endurance training. 

It was a hard day. It was a F**king hard day in the mountains but it was life affirming and filled with all the things I love about my life: dogs, mountains, friends, checking off shit from your to-do list. 

East Osceola

I can’t wait for the next time.

Cannon Mountain January 2020

I headed up north to hike Cannon Mountain today with Vicky and Mike. It was raining hard in Concord and all the way up to Lincoln. Then suddenly, no rain. The Lafayette Campground parking lot had three cars in it (there were actual parking spots, imagine that) as we started up the trail to Cannon. 

The snow was sand-like and the trail pretty steep for most of the hike. Despite a few icy sections, and the ladders, we made it to viewless summit. 

It was a fun hike. A great day to be outside while it rained in Concord.

Vicky on the ladders.

The last time I did this hike was July 1989. It was time to get on this trail and mark off number 10 of 48 at 49.

Just before the summit

The Pemi Traverse in Winter

While I’m not sure it is the proper name, I called our hike on Thursday, December 26 the Pemi Traverse since we hiked 25 miles through the heart of the Pemigewasset Wilderness and didn’t loop it. It seems like the right name, though.

The day started with a car spot coordinated by Ross. The four of us left from Route 302 and walked 2.5 miles on Zealand Road to the Hale Brook Trail. The hike was steep in section but spikes were the right choice. The temperature was warm enough to warrant wearing just a wind breaker, hat and gloves. We were the only ones on the trail and at the summit, so far. I don’t remember ever being at the summit of Mount Hale alone; it’s usually crowded.

Mount Hale, 4054, done! 

Now onto Zealand via Twinway. While hiking through the low laying areas, the snow was sand-like. The streams weren’t frozen, but icy,  and at one point I stepped the wrong way over a stream, lost my balance and face-planted into a pile of soft snow. There were a few false summits and I was glad to reach the junction for a right hand turn and a .1 mile hike off Twinway to the summit. 

Zealand, 4260, done!

We hiked over Guyot, 4580, but unfortunately it doesn’t count as one of the 48 4,000 footers.

Onto the Bondcliff Trail and a short 1 mile diversion over to West Bond, 4540.

Originally I was going to bypass it and keep on with Vicky who was having leg cramps, and didn’t want the extra miles. I bypassed this peak on the summer Pemi Loop run because I was exhausted. But on this hike I felt great and wanted to go for it once I saw the trail sign. It was soooooo worth it. Great views, no clouds and no wind. I hit my head twice on tree limbs dangling across the trail (Stop staring at your feet while hiking!) while on the final 10 miles of this hike. Ouch. 

I hiked up Bond as fast as I could to catch up with Vicky. Hiking above treeline is amazing. By 4:15pm there was still no wind and the temperature seemed to be staying steady but I was losing light. Bond, 4698 done! I took a video and some pictures and continued on to Bondcliff. 

I wanted to arrive at Bondcliff at sunset because it is my favorite mountain. I missed the sunset but it’s okay. Vicky was waiting at the top. I took in the amazing view and the colors to the west. I just love the rock formation and the feeling of being in the middle of a protected wilderness. There was very little snow and I could’ve taken off my spikes but I opted to keep them on; they made me feel more confident despite so many rocks. Dark was approaching and I wanted to hike the difficult descent off Bondcliff with Vicky so we headed down.  

Bondcliff, 4265, done! 

The slogfest back to Lincoln Woods began in the dark. It was my first time hiking with a headlamp in the White Mountains. We ran some of the trail and then really picked up the pace the last four miles. We made it safe and sound to our cars. 

Things I learned on this trip, luckily not from difficulty but just knowing that so much could’ve gone wrong, and always thinking about worst case scenarios:

  • Always carry extra batteries for your headlamp
  • Never hike long distance that begin and end in the dark, alone
  • Hike with more gear and more food than you need
  • Stop staring at your feet and look around while you hike so you don’t get a concussion from running into trees

What a day! Here’s the crew stopping at Zealand Hut for some water.