This was experiment number one for Our Summer of Hiking. My girlfriend and I are hiking the MSGW this Summer and we are getting ready by taking 7-8 mile hikes wearing our multiday packs filled with 30-35 lbs. We loaded up the night before with all of our gear for what could have been the Appalachian Trail, but was only an 8 mile loop in Southwestern NH. Also the 5 cans of green beans we used to simulate our food weight would not have been too tasty on a five day trek. We arrived at Pisgah SP around 9 am after a tasty breakfast at Intervale Farm Pancake House. We strapped on our packs for what would be the second and only time I've had 32 lbs on my back, but this time for approximately 5 hours. Not just the messing around last night for five minutes, climbing over fake rocks and ducking under fake branches in our apartment, while the cats looked on in amazed confusion. We started off down the Kilburn Road and everything was going well until we got past the kilburn loop trails and then the path to the left that the guidebook alluded to seemed to begin to deteriorate. There were no blazes and we continued on the well established road even past a sign that said Not a Maintained Trail. We figured "Ok so it will be rough for a little bit" not "Ok we should go back and see what we did wrong." So we followed that for about a half mile till it got really unmarked and we decided to turn around. Of course sputtering and swearing a bit as we realized we just hiked a mile for nothing. We then decided to take the Kilburn loop trail in order to get the correct mileage and get our 7-8 mile goal with the packs. Climbing up the Kilburn Loop we noticed an enormous sign indicating the Pisgah Ridge Trail, the trail we had been looking for! So we decided to suck it up and go to the summit and decide from there if we wanted to do the entire loop. At the summit of Pisgah the view of Monadnock was dominant. I read in the guidebook that the view from the ledge was even better than the summit, so off we went. After about a half hour of wondering why we hadn't gotten to the ledge yet and if we had already passed it and hadn't noticed a view better than the summit of a mountain, we arrived at the ledge. It was worth the extra mile of hiking and we were going to need that extra mileage if we wanted to reach our mark. We chowed down on Tastycake ButterScotch Krimpets and Humpty Dumpty Everything Potato Chips and hung out for about 30 minutes. After contemplating completing the loop for a total of about 9.5 miles, for approximately 3 seconds we put our packs back on and hiked back up to Pisgah summit. The way back was much less eventful and took much less time. When we saw the sun reflecting off of the two cars in the parking lot through the trees it was one of the greatest reliefs of my life. I knew this huge growth that had attached itself to my back was about to be removed. As I peeled the backpack off my shoulders and tossed it into the back seat a feeling of accomplishment set in. We had done what we had set out to do and that felt good. The trip was altered slightly but you always have to expect the unexpected when you stomp off into the wilderness. It was a good day!
Route up/down: Kilborn Loop to Pisgah Ridge Trail
Started out at 7:45 am. We were the first car in the parking lot, not a soul in sight. The ride up was not promising. All the way up 93 North we drove through thick fog. When we began our ascent into Franconia Notch the clouds began to part and the day started looking up. We crossed under the highway and made our way into the woods. We had snowshoes that we decided to leave in the car because the path looked pretty packed down. With about a half mile left till the peak we verbalized that the snowshoes probably would have come in handy and on the way down we verbalized it a few more times. Along with a few other "verbalizations" as we hung on to trees while skiing down a few steep spots. But all in all we really only needed our light traction to tackle the hike. The view at the top was wonderful! The fog had lifted except for some that had settled into the town of Lincoln which made the scenery extra breath-taking. The view of Franconia Ridge was crystal clear with a few puffy clouds thrown in the dramatic effect. We had a great hike and were so glad we started out early because we ran into about a dozen people and 4 dogs on our way down. When we got back to the parking lot it was filled to the gills with hikers and snowmobilers. It was a great day that started out looking a little grim but, ended up beautiful. Thankfully my girlfriend persists when the weather looks bad, because even in the Fog and Rain you never know what the view from the top is gonna be!! Side Note: I had an unfortunate Butterscotch Krimpet accident on top of Pemi's forehead and am saddened to say that I did leave a trace today. But, I was not going to slide halfway down his forehead to retrieve them.
Route up/down: Mount Pemigewasset Trail
Cloudy day, driving through Franconia Notch we were pretty sure we wouldn't have any visibility. The cherry mountain trail was covered with fallen leaves and snow. The trail narrowed at one point and dropped off on the right hand side to a stream below. After the narrow area the trail got steeper as it made its way up to the logging road. After crossing the logging road and making a left towards Mt. Martha's summit we found tons of animal tracks in the snow. We even saw what appeared to be a Mink run out of the woods onto the trail and bound up the trail ahead of us. Very cool! When we got up to the top the Presidentials were partly covered in clouds and the sun was causing them to glow out the bottom of the clouds. We never got to see them completely uncovered but seeing them in the clouds and with the partially sun was a very stunning sight when we first got to the top. Walked to the other side near the old fire tower and saw Bretton Woods with all their trails snow covered. Very nice day. I slipped and fell twice, well I say twice, my girlfriend says three times, but who's counting, on the way down due to snow and slush on top of a blanket of fall leaves on the trail. Didn't do to much damage to myself. We used microspikes starting about 2/3 of the way up and then used them about 3/4 of the way down.
Route up/down: Old Cherry Mountain Trail
Started the morning in clouds on the not very well marked but very well used, as to not cause any confusion, Davis Path. The temp was about 34 degrees. The temperature and the weather improved from that point on. The trail is fairly steep. At one point I joked because it was like torture seeing the entire path in front of you that just goes straight up, no twists, no turns, no switchbacks, just straight up. Poor horses probably didn't like that part either! Started to see snow about half way up. Not enough to break out any extra equipment or anything just made you think about your footing a little more. Once we got to the top the view is exhilarating! All around you are mountains, basically everything New Hampshire has to offer you is on display here! With the Presidentials towering in front. Washington was covered with a large cloud, but we could tell it was on the move. We waited, ate some clif bars (side note- the iced gingerbread is delicious) and soon enough the clouds moved and and revealed Mt. Washington in all its glory. Tuckerman's Raven is building up its snow reserves. Only 6 of us climbed that mountain today and it was worth it. I know it was only 6 because we were the first to start in the parking lot and the last to leave. We are referring to ourselves as "The Fat Hikers". We love hiking so we just give ourselves a bunch of time and our "sticktoittiveness" gets us to the top! And eventually we will be "The Chubby Hikers" etc...
Route up/down: Davis Path
Very nice day. A little cold and windy but we could see a good distance. At the top there were a few snowflakes and the trees were covered with ice. The fire tower was covered with ice chips and it was a bit windy at the top of the tower.
Route up: Barlow Trail
Route down: Winslow Trail
First group hike of the season. We played around in the boulder fields for a bit before deciding on an impromptu hike up North Mountain. Lots of cool caves to explore. The top was not very open but it was a good hike with lots to see along the way.
Route up/down: North Mountain Trail
A short but steep hike. Lot's of ice in the beginning and about 3/4 of the way up the White Dot Trail. The cave right in the beginning was awesome looking all filled with ice and a bunch of icicles hanging looked like stalactites. Took a bunch of pictures of that, very neat! View at the top was nice, not an open summit but a nice view of Manchester, we even saw Boston's skyline from a few feet down the red/blue trail. A sign in pebbles wrote out Boston with an arrow. We saw Pack Monadnock as well a bit further down in a clearing off to the right. Amazing weather 50 degrees, hung out at the summit for a bit longer than we have been because the sun was so bright and warm, very nice day!
Route up/down: White Dot Trail