My First Round of the 48
A retrospective account of my 2020-2021 NH48 completion.
via Mt. Osceola Trail
Though almost two years ago now, I remember the day Michelle and I hiked our first four thousand footer in a crystal clear picture. Both cross country runners throughout high school, we had trained with a variety of teams from other schools, namely the 2019 girls team from Manchester Central. Even though we only practiced together a handful of times, we’d all connected on social media and happened to see the gorgeous pictures they’d posted of a place called Mount Osceola.
I thought the name was cool, so I took to All Trails nervously, thinking a 4000-footer would be a lot more miles than I could do, and saw that the hike was shorter than a lot of our long runs were.
Before you know it, it was July 2nd of 2020 and we were destroying my 2004 sedan on the bumps of Tripoli Road. With me in my trusty Keen boots and Michelle (regretfully) in her running sneakers, we took to the Mt Osceola Trail at 8 am, a time that would soon become a ridiculously late start for me.
We got up the 3 miles to the top quite quickly, chatting the whole time as usual to make the time fly. As soon as we hit the summit, our past of hanging out to do something other than hiking changed forever.
We could see the entire Waterville Valley under the spectacular haze of the early morning sun as we killed an entire bag of trail mix at our first summit. Initially, we had not planned on bagging East Osceola as well- for I'd read about “the chimney” on All Trails the night before and was petrified. Too eager to turn around, we pursued on and found (for the first time of many) that All Trail reviews are not always what you should count on. While somewhat technical, the chimney was far more fun than it was scary. Along the way, we found a love for wooded ridge lines and an unexpected appreciation for wooded summits as we reached our second 4K, East Osceola.
When we got down to the parking lot, we looked down the road and saw cars upon cars, a stark comparison from being the third car in the lot that morning. Ever since then, I have been a relentless 6 am starter- which makes for an intense wake-up to accommodate for my 2-hour long average drive to the White Mountains.
On the way home, I recall saying to Michelle “You know, there’s only 46 more of these… what if I tried to finish in a year?” Though still optimistic, Michelle reminded me this usually takes people many years and much more experience to complete. I agreed… reluctantly… but once I started I couldn't stop. The 48 peaks were done in a year. I had my fun fact for orientation.
Mount Liberty & Mount Flume
Via Flume Slide, Franconia Ridge & Liberty Spring Trail
In an attempt based on pure ambition, Cassie & Michelle joined me on my first Terrifying 25 trail without even knowing what we were getting ourselves into. This time, in leaving a little earlier, we were the first car in the 93-Northbound Basin lot that morning.
On our way up, we took the Flume Slide Trail, which was extremely intimidating with so little hiking experience under our belts at that point in time. Luckily, with some strategic foot placement and the support of one another, it went by so quickly that we entirely blew past the summit of Flume without knowing we’d reached the summit.
Once we realized we were already past Flume and on our way to Mount Liberty, we stopped for a Michelle signature snack- dried fruit & homemade beef jerky. Then, I made my first trail enemy on accident… I heard a rustling in the trees and an older woman came up on the trail and after I visibly got spooked, I said “Oh my goodness! I thought you were a bear!” and she was not amused. Didn’t even get a pity chuckle for that one, oops.
After making my trail enemy, we summited a cloudy Mount Liberty where we got excited at all our teeny-tiny glimpses through the overcast to look into the magnificent Franconia Notch.
The Liberty Springs Trail made for the perfect trail down, fit for meeting backpackers and retelling stories from our cross country meet porta potty disasters as we scrambled down the trail.
Since I never truly ended up seeing the view from either of these peaks, I will certainly be going back- and probably doing it exactly the same way, solely for the sake of redeeming my accidental trail enemy incident.
Via Livermore Trail & Mt. Tripyramid Trail
Liz, a longtime friend of my parents, quickly became one of my favorite hiking companions and a great friend of my own when we embarked on our first 4000-footer mission together to complete the Tripyamids. Though off to a rocky (quite literally rocky, have you seen those slides!) start with a difficult hike I did almost no research for, we ultimately completed 16 of the peaks together and I got much better at doing my own research along the way… with Liz as a planning mentor of course.
I remember the sweltering heat on the late-July morning we chose to conquer the Tripyramids and their incredibly open slides, which were in direct sun. The beginning of the hike a breeze, following the wide path of Livermore Road before reaching the junction of the Scaur Ridge Trail and the Mt. Tripyramid Trail that would lead us to the much more difficult loop. Though Liz had given me the option of which way to take, I opted for the slides route so we could have a view. Unfortunately, that was the only detail of the slides I had read about on All Trails. Rookie mistake.
The trail did not start badly at all but quickly got more frightening as we neared ledges I could not get over easily. Something I have since trained for heavily and gotten much stronger to accomplish. Beyond the ledges were what I remember cussing out as a “vertical beach,” the North Tripyramid Slide. With every step slipping from underneath me and little big-mountain experience under my belt, I was a nervous wreck until we reached the last section of the slide where I finally turned around to see all of Waterville Valley in its bright green glory.
Once we got to the ridge, it was a lovely and simple traverse over North, Middle, and South Tripyramid before reaching the South Tripyramid Slide which I crab-walked down, having yet again, no trust in my strength. Looking back on it a year-and-a-half later, this hike was a huge turning point for me physically and the last time I experience fear in the mountains for a very long time. Though entirely negative at the moment, I feel that this massively benefited me in the end.
Upon reaching the friendly road at the end of the loop, I was relieved and moved significantly faster on the stable underfoot terrain. All said and done and reflecting on the experience now, I would have to say that the Tripyramids are at the top of my redemption list, and I seriously look forward to crushing them soon.
Via Hi-Cannon, Kinsman Ridge, and Bikepath
Not even twenty-four hours after conquering the Tripyramids, Michelle and I got a 7 am start on the Hi-Cannon trail. Like most of the other starts to trails leading to the Kinsman Ridge, Hi-Cannon also starts with an infamous grade that gives you no time to warm up. It’s not hard, it's not easy, but it sure is a jolt after being in the car for two hours. After the first mile or so, the difficulty seemed to ease out and we started getting fantastic views as we approached the ladders on Hi-Cannon.
Before we knew it, we were joining the Kinsman Ridge trail where I recall us easily carrying a conversation as we worked our way to the summit lookout.
After eating our bagels in a chilling wind, we decided to make our day into a loop for some variety and go down Kinsman Ridge Trail and finish out on the bike path. Kinsman Ridge was different from Hi-Cannon mostly in the way that it felt like a scramble for the majority of the hike. However, we didn’t mind and the 2 miles down went rather quickly. Upon arriving at the ski area parking lot, we directed ourselves to the bike path and laughed hysterically when we saw a family biking who was carrying their dog in a baby sling. Despite not being on the mountain, this was the easy highlight of the day.
In my entire 48, Cannon’s summit was the only one I had visited previously to hiking it, courtesy of the one time I skied there of course. Even with such low mileage, Cannon was a fantastic hike that lived up to a four-thousand footer expectation!
North Hancock & South Hancock
via Hancock Notch Trail to Hancock Loop Trail
Before embarking on my (official) four-thousand footer mission, I had documented whether or not certain mountains would be better to do on rainy days than clear ones due to their lack of views. For the first time yet, this came in handy when I didn’t have a lot of days off from work and Michelle needed a shorter hike that would allow her to go meet local incoming Northeastern freshmen like herself that afternoon. With these two factors in mind, we left at 4:30 am to conquer the 9 miles and relatively light elevation gain (twenty-six-hundred) of the Hancocks.
The Hancocks are infamously known to have better views from the parking lot than at the summit, which I can sadly say, is true. This, however, was not the main charm of the hike. The Hancock Notch Trail is gentle and gave us the ability to keep a steady conversation until reaching the steeper slides of the Hancock Loop Trail which boasted grades up to 51% near the top of Mount Hancock. From North Hancock, we saw absolutely nothing through the mist, but by the time we had traversed the blow-down littered path in between Hancock and South Hancock, the skies had cleared and offered us excellent views of what I now know to be Mount Carrigan & Vose Spur upon reexamining my pictures from that day.
On the way down the Hancock Loop Trail, Michelle got in a head-to-head fight with a Grouse that was aggressively guarding the trail, which was our only interaction with wildlife more complicated than a squirrel in all twenty-six of the four-thousand footers Michelle and I got to share.
Even though the Hancocks are not a fan favorite, nor a high rank among my list of favorites, it does resemble my favorite type of journey. A promising view from the trailhead, a flat multi-mile approach, and one huge slide to the summit at the end. For this reason, I have found so much love for summits like Owl’s Head, North Twin, and Bondcliff. This list certainly taught me that I prefer a more remote peak.
via Nineteen-Mile Brook, Carter Dome Trail & Carter-Moriah Trail
It felt like an impossible undertaking at first. On our longest day, my hiking partner operated on 3 hours of sleep, and our longest commute yet. Nonetheless, I put on a brave face, convinced Michelle that the fifteen miles would be easy if we started early enough, and assured her she could sleep in the car. We departed at 4:30 and I enjoyed most of the ride with an earbud in as Michelle caught up on sleep. It was only when I sped around a tractor-trailer on Route 2 while lip-syncing the hell out of J. Cole’s “No Role Modelz” that Michelle woke up and started to prepare or the day ahead of us.
We started up the Nineteen Mile Brook trail at 7:30 and breezed through the first 2 miles and thoroughly enjoyed the gentle climb up to the Carter-Moriah ridge on the Carter Dome Trail. Once we got to the ridge, we out and backed the “sub-Carters” and ran through lots of homemade beef jerky and peanut butter bagels. Though the summits themselves were rather viewless, the constant outlooks provided by the ridge were breathtaking and inspiring to an obnoxious number of pictures taken.
After out-and-backing the ridge section, we took to Mt. Hight where we enjoyed blueberries and one of my all-time favorite outlooks of the Presidential Range. Even to this day, years later, Mt. Hight is still in my top ten summits I’ve ever done- despite not being on any major hiking lists other than the 72.
After stopping at Mt. Hight, we had our last gain up to Carter Dome where we felt thankful for stopping at Hight, as Carter Dome did not provide much of a view. It did, however, intrigue me to see trail signs advertising the Black Angel and Rainbow trail- which I am still immensely excited to go back and discover.
On our descent to Carter Notch, Michelle and I took our time on our tired and inexperienced long-mileage legs (oh how things have changed) and felt offended as we watched a family of three descend in flip-flops. After emotionally recovering from that sight, we made it down to the Carter Notch Hut, my favorite of the NH AMC huts, and took a long break before finishing out the next four miles of Nineteen Mile Brook to close the lollipop.
Whenever people ask me what hike I would do if I could only do the same one forever, I always say the Carters. They weren’t my favorite trails, my favorite peaks, nor my favorite things to see along the way. However, the Carter loop does something that most hikes in the Whites don’t do: it has a little bit of everything. The Carters combine the ease of Garfield with the sights of the Presidentials and the water bodies of Owl’s Head all at once. Indeed a well-rounded and magnificent way to get outside.
via Garfield Mountain Trail
The plan to hike Garfield was born out of trying to find an easier 4K to accommodate a third and non-hiker member that would be joining Michelle & me. With a later departure than usual, Michelle and I made a detour to pick up our hiking partner and carried on to Exit 35 towards the trailhead. We started up the Garfield Mountain Trail and were stunned by how smooth the first three miles were. Even as the miles progressed, there was nothing remotely technical until the last tenth of a mile or so up towards the summit.
After a quick scramble, we were promptly greeted with rushing winds that shortened our summit visit to one picture and about 2 minutes before retreating to the trail junction to eat our snacks. I was in my bagel phase, Michelle always seemed to bring some sort of deconstructed charcuterie board, and the third sat down with just one bag of Chex trail mix that Michelle and I found pretty amusing at the time as we tended to travel with entire pantries on our backs.
As more people started to funnel into the junction from every direction, we started to make our way down. The fun thing about Garfield is that while it does gradually get more difficult, generally it is a very chill four-thousand-footer and my go-to recommendation for someone with 10-mile endurance who is unsure of where to begin their 48 lists.
Additionally, it is also a fan favorite for a hot day as you stay in the shade for the first 4.8 miles of 5 miles, and then get the perfect open summit to get a nice tan up top. And hey, the 360 views aren’t too shabby either.
Michelle showing off her favorite place on the way home, Boise Rock
via Starr King Trail & Kilkenny Ridge Trail
The hard part about hiking is that you rarely luck out with a good day on your days off from work. For me, at least, I would most commonly find myself looking out the window as I served coffee to see the perfect bluebird day and then look off four-thousand-footer summits into a sea of clouds and not a single view.
Thankfully, there are some 4Ks that don’t have any views at all to save for these moments. On a humid and rainy day, Liz and I journeyed north to Jefferson to hike Mount Waumbek. The way up to Starr King, which I found to be such a cool name before realizing it was named after a person with THAT COOL of a name, provide good footing and very gradual gain. As we approached Starr King, the trees opened up a bit and we got to hang out with two Gray Jays before pushing on to the famous fireplace on Starr King. As far as winter hike potential goes, this hike takes the cake, and whenever I have the opportunity for a winter view I will certainly be returning to the Starr King outlook.
Pushing on to Waumbek was about another mile and pure moose land. It was relatively flat and went by pretty quickly, despite the increasing pace of the rain coming down on us. When we got to the summit and took a quick break, I wandered over to the sign on the far end of the summit and was so stunned to see that a trail was pointing over 20 miles in one direction! The Kilkenny Ridge Trail, of course. Something I’m now planning to cover in full when I finally grace the Cohos trail in the summer of 2023.
Though not too interesting a summer hike, Waumbek is one to save for your unideal day or a winter hike. And don’t forget, sometimes the hike is more important than the view so definitely don’t discount my friend Mount Waumbek.
Via Blueberry Ledge, Rollins, and Dicey’s Mill
I still remember this day with clarity beyond belief. It was a hot and clear day that began with me driving Michelle, Megan, and me up to the Hooksett rest area to meet up with our cross country coach, Deb*. It was still dark when we got to the rest area and I had both of the girls fake sleeping in my backseat to avoid needing to get up and move into Deb’s car for the next hour and a half of the drive.
After exchanging coordinates with Deb, we proceeded north to Ferncroft and started up the Blueberry Ledge Trail shortly thereafter. The first portion went well and we were sure to take breaks often in support of the people in our party who hadn’t hiked anything big recently. Once we got to the ledges, however, the fact that we were in a heat wave became far more apparent. Though Megan, Michelle, and I managed to push through just fine with occasional sips of water and snacks, Deb wasn’t seeming to fall in line with us. She was starting to feel faint, began dry heaving, and started vocalizing immense concern for her physical state.
Not really knowing what to do, the three of us were sure to share our electrolytes, snacks, and comfort so that we could get Deb across the flat section and then to the cruise downhill. Seeming to show progress, we kept on to the Rollins Trail and Deb insisted the three of us go ahead- so we did. Rookie mistake. Something I would never do now, having been through WFR and Mountain Leader classes.
Thankfully, however, we had cell service, and a couple of minutes after we went ahead I got a dire call from Deb. She couldn’t go on. We quickly backtracked and found her lying on the ground and breathing heavily. I had never been so thankful to have cell service, especially because I was yet to own a Satellite Communication. We got in contact with 911 and Deb’s symptoms worsened significantly. It was at this moment right here that I realized backcountry emergencies take a long time- I cannot emphasize enough to all new hikers to educate themselves on what it means to call for a backcountry rescue and what emergencies constitute this.
In a massive number of phone calls I had with everyone in the area from the 911 operator, to the fire department, to the chief of fish & game, we knew we were getting help for Deb, just didn’t know when- which was a problem because now the three of us had run out of water and it was 90 degrees out.
Eventually, we were instructed to walk as much as we could physically transport Deb to meet the rescue crew that was ascending Dicey’s Mill Trail. To our surprise, we had made it about 0.8 of the way down Dicey’s before the leader of the pack ran out to us with electrolytes and recovery gummies for Deb while we waited for the rest of the crew. We slowly made out way down and were so thankful for the crew that was abundantly understanding of Deb’s panic as well as our anxiety about getting her help.
Deb ended up being just fine and was evaluated at the base in an ambulance and got to go home later that afternoon. I think that this incident serves to prove that no matter how easy the trail is, things can and will go wrong. The Rollins trail, for example, gains no elevation at all and is a 3-mile cruise through the wood- as is Dicey’s, except slightly downhill. Whether this had been here or on Mt. Adams, it probably could’ve been solved with time and reassurance more than anything. Nevertheless, I do not regret the decision we made to call that day. Always be sure to know about the preexisting conditions of hiking partners so that you are their best resource if things go wrong.
*Name changed for privacy
via Lincoln Woods, Lincoln Brook Trail, and Owl’s Head Path
Coming off of an all-time high of knowledge on dehydration, Michelle and I conquered our largest feat yet: Owl’s Head. Two nights before our hike, I had Michelle over and we dug through AllTrails reviews and various blog posts about Owl’s Head, the four-thousand footer people seemed to loathe most heavily. Still lacking important gear, like water filters and good footwear, Michelle and I did a lot of improvising to make this hike work. We each carried 5 liters of water, on a hike that runs by a river the entire time, and also packed sneakers in case our feet started to hurt in our boots… what the heck were we thinking back then.
Regrets aside, Michelle and I arrived at Lincoln Woods before the sun did that morning. We crossed the bridge as the sun rose above the Pemigewasset River and worked diligently to keep a good pace because we had heard such horrible things about the slides and wanted to allow ourselves plenty of time. I remember us passing the wilderness sign and chuckling that it said people could go off trail because we had expected the rest of it to be like Lincoln Woods- again, more rookie mistakes.
Though the trail didn’t continue like the sidewalk we were just on, I will say it never got too intense. Until mile 7 or so, we barely gained any elevation at all. Plus, we were so early in the morning that we only saw one party, who’d been camping, before passing the trail up to Owl’s Head.
I say passing because we missed the turn. This was a pre-Gaia Izzy. A me that came before the version of me who checks her GPS at every other turn. So not only did we continue down Lincoln Brook Trail instead of taking Owls Head Path, but we LOST Lincoln Brook Trail too! Equipped with just a paper map, we figured if we stayed by the river we’d be fine. Though we were off trail for almost an hour, we somehow found it again and even more surprisingly found someone on the trail who was able to confirm we were about a mile past Owl’s Head Path. Unfortunately, my pants were around my ankles when we ran into him, but the advice was worth the embarrassment.
After turning ourselves back around and slapping our heads when we saw we’d missed the very obvious cairn marked the opening to the path, we made out way up the slide which was massively overhyped by the internet. It wasn’t scary, nor was it annoying, it was awesome and opened up to some incredible views of the slides aback the Franconia Ridge. The only part of Owl’s Head that I didn’t like was the crowds up top! Not so remote after all.
If you’re just getting started with your four-thousand-footers, don’t be so quick to discount Owl’s Head. I preferred it to a lot of the more popular hikes and I thought it was a great way to spark my passion for long wilderness trails.
via Lonesome Lake, Fishin' Jimmy, Kinsman Ridge, Kinsman Pond, and Around-The-Lake
The Kinsmen day was a special one for me, as it was the first time I had my hiking buddies join forces. Still equipped with my ‘04 beige beauty, I picked up Michelle and Liz very early in the morning to allow for a 6 am arrival at Lafayette Campground. We soon began our ascent up Lonesome Lake Trail, which ailed me heavily for the second time… learning to love this trail only came this past year in 2022, as I got better at running up steeps.
Once we got to Lonesome Lake, we looped beside the hut and ascended Fishin’ Jimmy, which we were ungodlily worried about after ready reviews- it was sort of a breeze though. Fishin’ Jimmy is not only an iconic part of the AT, but also consists of several ladders and steps built into the rocks which makes it a fun 2 miles.
After Fishin' Jimmy, we traversed to North Kinsman on the Kinsman Ridge Trail and we were completely socked in. Expecting more disappointment at the south peak, we headed over pretty slowly and were then stunned to see sweeping views of the Lincoln Valley and the Moosilauke region. For the cherry on top, I also got to celebrate my 17th and 18th peaks on the cairn throne at the summit!
On the way down, we decided to mix it up with the descent, something that my tracer brain is quite happy we did. So, after a brief stop at Kinsman Pond & shelter, we descended on Kinsman Pond trail which frankly was just not a favorite of mine- especially because it was soaking wet moss on a 90-degree day. Maybe I’d like it more now though, I tended to be pretty stuck up with my hiking in 2020.
From the base of Kinsman Pond Trail, we briefly upped back on the AT and then to Around-The-Lake where we then retraced our steps back down to the car.
Though a long day due to our unexpected stops, the Kinsmens are an underrated set of mountains on the 48, particularly because they are overlooked by their more famous brothers in the notch.
Lincoln & Lafayette
via Falling Waters, Franconia Ridge, Old Bridle Path
The Lincoln & Lafayette loop is not only the most highly regarded hike in New Hampshire, but also a frequent feature of my college essays, wall decorations, and pleasure reads. With a long ridge, a beautiful waterfall, and an AMC hut all in nine miles it is the perfect sampler pack for what the White Mountain National Forest has to offer anyone who makes the journey up I-93.
Michelle and I specifically held off on this hike so that we could bring Cassie along with us; after all, it only felt right to bring the trio to complete the rest of the mountains on the Franconia Ridge together. We got a very early start, something I imagine Cassie’s family will remember forever as she chose to fire up her blender at 4:25 AM before I picked her up. After our usual drive, we arrived at the lot at about 6:30 and started up Falling Waters.
The bottom of Falling Waters is noticeably eroded, which makes sense as it supports the Lincoln & Lafayette hikers, the Cloudland folks, and every other attempt in between. Beyond Cloudland, which was just breathtaking, particularly because I hadn’t done enough research at the time to even know it was there, the trail was fairly wet and ascended steadily. There was nothing technical, just a move or two where you had to exercise some care on wet rocks.
By the time the trees opened up to Little Haystack, we were in such an incredible state of bliss that the sudden drop in 40 degrees wasn’t even a bother- luckily we were all prepared. From Little Haystack, we watched the clouds rush over us and award us occasional glimpses of Cannon Cliff, which was suddenly so far beneath us.
Onwards to Lincoln, whose summit was completely passed without realizing we’d summited, we found a pretty gentle underfoot and found pleasure in ducking behind the rocks to get out of the wind periodically. We remained completely socked in for both Lincoln and Lafayette but still stopped to take a picture of me in shorts with full gloves and a hat. Got to love those exposed New England ridges!
The descent to the hut was rocky, but nothing to worry about. We didn’t stay at the hut for long because it was closed for social distancing, but just beneath the hut, on the Old Bridle Path, we had the most magnificent outlook of the Lafayette Slides and stopped for far longer than I’m willing to admit. Beyond the rock scramble right beneath this, the trail remained indifferent to any other woods trail but we did get a handful more outlooks on the way down.
There’s a reason this is the most poppin’ trailhead. It sure is epic.
via Carter-Moriah Trail
It took me a total of 29 hikes to complete my NH48 and I will willingly admit that the Moriah hike was ranked 4th to last on my "first impressions" list. I will also admit that the bottom 3 were all viewless peaks, which makes the 360-degree Moriah stand out a bit.
Michelle and I went for Moriah in August of 2020 and got started early to accommodate the nearly 3-hour drive to a random suburban neighborhood where the Carter-Moriah TH is. After questioning whether or not we were in the right place, we got going up the trail which swiftly gained in elevation. Along the way to our first waypoint, Mount Surprise, there was a handful of clear-cut areas but none of them warranted any additional views.
By the time we did get to our first outlook on Mount Surprise, there was that underlying feeling that we were going to summit something at any given time even though we had some 2 miles left. Beyond Surprise, the grades stayed between twenty and thirty until we were just beneath the summit where the trail flattened out a bit.
That very last part somehow felt the longest- despite Michelle and I being able to hold a great conversation for all of our other hikes, those constant un-switchbacked granite slabs seemed to have taken a toll on us.
When we finally reached the summit, it was a great relief to have excellent views of the Presidential Range on a sunnier than usual day as far as weather windows tend to go for me.
The way down was certainly quicker than the way up, but many of the granite sections bordered on “Do I play it safe and butt scoot or suck it up and walk normally?”
In hindsight, I wish I had done this from the backside. Not for ease of trail or because my route was frightening, but because there was nothing special about my approach. Coming in from the Wild River Wilderness on the other hand... now that is the best-kept secret from your average 4K focused hiker.
Jackson, Pierce, Eisenhower
via Crawford Path, Webster Cliff, Webster-Jackson, Roadwalk
In many ways, this retroactive diary of my 48 is feeling like I’m just telling a story about Michelle and me. Until the end of summer 2020, right before she left for school, it was truly just her and I, up and down, there and back. This hike was special for a lot of reasons, but most strongly because it was the pause of an era.
The weather was far from in our favor on the late August day we had slotted as our final hike before Michelle went down to Boston, where she somehow became a city girl over time. The winds forecasted for 30-40 mph, it wasn’t going to be sunny, and we even had a chance of rain. But deep within me I still felt so strongly that we would have the Beatles (Here Comes the Sun) on our side that day, so we took on the Southern Presidentials.
The two of us took up Crawford Path fairly early and bore left towards Eisenhower. As we came across the first of the bog bridges, I got frustrated with all the views we were missing as the clouds rushed above us. We made our way to the summit slowly in the wind, but along the way caught a singular glimpse of the red roof of The Mount Washington Hotel. Promising.
By the time we reached the mega-cairn, I was rewarded with my first of many cloudy days on this summit. I recall the wind whipping around us as an older couple joined us on the summit. They asked us if we’d like our picture taken, which was a rough subject at the time with social distancing, and when we said yes, she amused us by saying “it’s okay, the wind spread out the germs up here!”
As we came off of Eisenhower, the skies almost immediately calmed to a brilliant blue. With this added benefit, our walk to Pierce was pleasant and beautiful. So much so, that we walked past the summit and had no idea until we were already halfway to Mitzpah! Of which, has long been my favorite hut. Just quiet enough and sitting on the corner of the well-traveled and the untraveled, the Mitzpah is a gateway to the Dry that I adore.
From here, we kept on to Jackson through the bog bridges and mud that kept flat for nearly the entire time until the tiny scramble to the summit of Jackson. It was here that I reached #24, I was officially halfway after just a month and a half!
For our way down, we had initially planned to skip Webster and go straight down from Jackson, however, I don’t think I was carrying a regular GPS at the time and because we couldn’t find the trail, we decided we’d keep on to Webster. This decision was nothing short of fabulous- the way down was gradual, easy on the knees, and granted us the lovely views Webster has to offer. It was just amazing to look back and see everything we had just covered.
When Michelle and I got down that day, we changed into jean skirts in the parking lot and went out to dinner. After all, it was a big deal, last hike together for a while and the halfway mark? It was time for some Cold Mountain Café, which I strongly recommend for your post-hike grub… you happen to catch them on a day that they’re open, of course.
“JPE” was one of my favorite days of the entire journey. I think I ranked it at hike #6, but looking back I might even list it higher now.
via Mount Tecumseh Trail
Deep within my 2020 phase of every hangout needing to be a hike (don't do this to yourself, your friends and family will get annoyed), Emilie and I had a day to ourselves which we decided to use for our first hike together since we were ten. Not wanting to jump in for anything crazy, especially because Em was responsible for her puppy all day, we decided to conquer the smallest of the four-thousand-footers, Tecumseh. After getting a crazy late start, we parked in the Waterville Valley Ski Area lot and got going with a stream hop up the Northern end of the Mt. Tecumseh Trail.
Surprisingly only running into a handful of people on the way up, we struggled to keep the 6-month-old Vizsla, Kyah, calm as she wanted to bound up the trail far faster than the rest of us did. The first mile or so was a breeze with light and gradual gain, but then we met the stairway to heaven section. While this wasn’t hard for any of us, it was hard to do it while keeping back a leashed dog. I cannot emphasize enough that the only challenge of this hike was bringing a puppy with us.
We got to the junction up top, which takes you on a loop with the summit at the head of it, and shortly made it to the top where I was surprised to see just how many trees had been (illegally) cut to give us a view. More recently, around 2 years after my first Tecumseh summit, I was on top and overheard a woman saying that she was so sure she had done Tecumseh before, but the fact she had a view led her to believe she hadn’t. I poked in and asked her how long it had been, and joked that she probably had summited, but was correct in saying it didn’t have a view last time.
Overall, Tecumseh is easy, but not exactly my recommendation for first-time hikers looking for a good day in the Whites. The neighboring Osceola presents a much finer beginner hike to those aching for a 4K, yet a similar challenge level.
Adams & Madison
Via Airline, Lowe’s, Gulfside, and Valley Way
Peaks 26 and 27 of my four-thousand footers were easily the most difficult of the entire project. The combination of sharp-rocked summits, vigorous elevation gain in short distances, and having read “Where You’ll Find Me” was sure to add up to a hard day, but the part I didn’t expect going in was how much I’d love the challenge.
Liz and I went up Airline, the generally suggested orientation for the common loop, which was relatively friendly until we broke treeline. Here, it became more obvious why the trail was a Terrifying 25 elective, but it was more terrifying in the way that you had to look down at King Ravine Trail- a T25 requirement. By the time you can see the open Ravine, Crag Camp across the way, and have sunlight pouring down on you as you get closer to the sky, the fear aspect is not the first thing across your mind.
From the junction with Chemin Des Dames, the trail was moderate to difficult but not overly technical. Once we got up to the base of the summit cone, however, I was a slow-moving mess. Having improved my scrambling skills tremendously and upgraded out of boots to trail runners, I acknowledge I would not be in the same shambles I was back in 2020 as when writing this in 2022. Yet, at that moment, I was convinced I would step in a hole between the jagged and dark rocks and fall to my doom- talk about a drama queen.
Waiting patiently for me the whole way up, Liz was first to hit the summit and we gazed over to Jefferson in pure amazement as the clouds worked around and above all the mountain tops in our sight. We had the summit to ourselves for no more than a few seconds before several adventurers joined us, namely the “mountain man” who effortlessly gazelles from peak to peak, beating us everywhere throughout the entire day.
Not wanting to descend the North Side of the mountain we just came up, we took the more gradual descent of the cone using Lowe’s and Gulfside, which carried us to Madison’s summit. Relatively speaking, the approach to Madison was much less intimidating than that of Mount Adam’s, but we got fully clouded the instant we touched the top oh well, I’ll be back a good five more times for my trace anyways.
Despite everything we’d been through that day, things got hard as we descended at Valley Way. After climbing nearly five thousand feet in just a handful of miles, descending was not something that excited me as light rain started to fall on us. Once an avid trekking pole denier, it’s a wonder how I still went another year after this before I embraced the knee-friendly life.
Getting back to Appalachia was an unforgettable feeling on that late August day. The strength and confidence that my first character-building day in the Presidentials gave me carried me over for a long time. I can’t recommend this route enough for one’s first confidence booster on the hard stuff. It is the perfect blend of comfort and difficulty while bagging such rugged peaks.
Monroe, Washington, and Jefferson
Via Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, Mount Monroe Loop, Crawford Path, Gulfside, Mount Jefferson Loop, Jewell Trail
Whenever I bring Cassie on a trip, it somehow ends up being at least twice the day I'd expected. Most recently, we completed a monster of a trip through the Dry together, but our first mission was each of our first Mount Washington summits.
Having done some reading on how the cog and hiker lots work, we opted to park in the hiker lot a fraction of a mile down the road since my WMNF pass would cover that rather than paying a hefty cog fee. We started early, just before 7 am, and headed up Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail towards Lake of the Clouds. Along the way, there are ample views of the river, the majestic gem pool, and the falls up the slabbier section of the ravine. As we crested the tree line, the clouds would not budge, despite a clear forecast.
Neglecting to sit around and wait for the sun, we summited Monroe while eating apples. As we made our way back down to Crawford Path, the clouds immediately lifted to the most incredible panoramic working from Monroe to the Mount Washington Hotel, to the hut, to Lake of the Clouds, and finally the ridge to Washington, where he too disappeared back into the clouds.
After our jaunt to Monroe, we kept on Crawford path towards Washington where we were immensely disappointed to see a full shopping mall’s worth of people on top. When I was eating a well-earned lunch, I had a cog rider come up to me and question that I hiked up, to which I responded by sticking my arm out and requesting he respect social distancing guidelines. Gotta do what you gotta do on the busiest summit in New England.
On our way down Gulfside, heading for the Jewell Trail, I told Cassie that I never wanted our hike to end. So, we made a very impulsive decision to carry on to Jefferson. The walk to Jefferson was delightful, not too hard, and beautiful. I’m not sure I’d specifically recommend doing all three peaks like this, but it certainly made sense for me to go about it that way. After hitting Jefferson, we worked back to the Jewell trail and easily understood why it had a reputation as a cruiser trail. With a little bit of action music, we ran down Jewell in about an hour, getting back to the car with just enough time to grab pizza back home at 110 Grill before they closed. That night was bittersweet though, we had to start senior year the next day. At least summer went out with a bang.
Note: This hike ended up having about 5,400 gains over 12.5 miles.
Via Gale River Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, Frost Trail
As I sit here now, it’s been exactly two years since the first and only time I’ve hiked Galehead. Making for an excellent shoulder season hike, Galehead is a treat in that it is still a “beginner 4K” in snow and ice, especially when it comes as a surprise.
Liz and I parked at the Gale River Trailhead at about 7 am on November 14th, 2020. The sun still hadn’t quite risen when we began, but it mattered little as we were not to have a view-heavy day anyhow. The trail first traces an old logging road and is extremely gradual and favorable for conversation. About 1.5 in, we crossed the North Branch stream which was rock hoppable, even despite the recent precipitation. As someone who typically charges through water crossings and struggles with this in the colder months, this was a great crossing. In another mile, we crossed another water crossing, this time over Garfield Stream, which was again rather friendly.
Once we got towards and onto the Garfield Ridge Trail, it took a bit more to earn the terrain. We climbed low(ish) angle stone steps before the Galehead hut, which has a 180-degree outlook that I got to see none of.
From the closed hut that was marked with a pair of old Sanuks, we continued for another 0.5 miles to the cairn-marked wooded summit of Galehead. The Frost Trail, which gains the summit from the hut, feels practically flat but accumulates about 250 feet from the hut.
Coming back to the hut, I made some awkward moves over the icy rocks but was not further diverted by the wintery conditions.
Hopefully, the next time I do Galehead, it’s part of a 20 miler out of Lincoln Woods. You’ll know where to find that when the time comes!
Via Dicey’s Mill Trail, View Spur
Passaconaway was a weird day from start to end. In addition to being the redo from not tagging the peak due to the rescue event on Whiteface, it was also the most infamous day in Michelle and I’s time hiking the 48.
What was supposed to be just the two of us last minute turned into a three-person hike as an old friend of hers called needing an urgent out of spending Thanksgiving break at home. Not taking into account that this was a bad idea given all Ben* had was the clothes on his body and his phone, we went with it and picked him up at 6:30 am well out of our way in dense fog.
When we got to Ferncroft, we outfitted Ben with the water, food, and backpacks we grabbed last minute and got going up Dicey’s Mill Trail, which was nearly completed in entirety the previous summer but never to the summit. Except for the fairly high water crossing over a tributary of the Wonalancet River, the trail was smooth over the duration up to Camp Rich Tent site.
The first mile or so is fairly flat and wide, and then starts to gain further by the second mile, and gains rather steadily at the third. At the intersection with the Rollins Trail, the left section of the loop trail is significantly easier than the right, as I came to find this fall. Once near the summit, there is one opening looking towards the Kancamangus and then a spur trail to the left that descends steeply to a view and another spur to the right that leads to the true summit that is marked with a very tiny cairn.
Coming down the iced-over rocks presented challenging, particularly for Ben who was in jeans, a cotton t-shirt, and Jordans. More embarrassingly, it was here that we ran into Hiker Ed who amazingly held back in saying anything about the unfavorable wardrobe decisions.
Though drastically lacking in preparation, I value a lesson learned here. Don’t take out newbies that don’t know what to expect and never let them wear jeans on a near-winter hike.
Note: Image is from most recent hike of Passaconaway in October 2022
Field & Tom
Via Avalon, Willey Range, Mt. Tom Spur, A-Z
While I was completing my initial round of the 48, it was very rare that I ever winter hiked. Being an AP kid and a 3-sport athlete did not leave me with much availability in the winter, as what I did have was generally designated to skiing. But, with a random Tuesday out of school for finals week, Liz and I headed to Crawford to bag a very approachable first winter 4K for me.
With my mom’s Tubbs poorly strapped to my 32-liter pack, I began on a stubborn rampage to never take off my microspikes. Anyhow, this method was only successful for the first bit up the Avalon Trail but obliterated me coming up the steepest and most snow-packed section approaching Avalon. Before I knew it, the snowshoes came out of the paracord, hit me in the head, and provoked a sea of cursing. I angrily put on the snowshoes and as I was told earlier, had a much better day afterward. From Avalon, Field ascended easily over the extremely gradual and packed-out trail ahead of us.
Similarly, the section of Willey Range between Field and Tom was easy, but required snowshoes… as represented by several postholes in the terrain in front of us. When we got to the summit of Tom, gray jays rapidly flew around the usually leaf-covered views which framed the Presidentials oh-so-well, making for some pretty incredible new lockscreens.
Coming down was surprisingly quick as we came through relatively well-packed terrain with sufficient traction provided by the jaws of our snowshoes. Once we got to the junction with Avalon Trail, we took a quick break and switched back to microspikes for the remainder of the hike.
Though these two peaks tend to get a bad rap for a lack of view and challenge, I think that makes them the ideal candidate for a winter hike.
via North Twin Trail, North Twin Spur
The Twins were a fantastic adventure for many reasons- we had our first shoes off water crossing, met Abel the GSP, and it was Michelle and I's only hike together in the months since she had started college. Getting back at it in early June, we were fortunate not to find any snow up top and experience pleasant temps the entire time, but this certainly is not a given for 5000 footers in the spring.
Starting from the end of Haystack Road, Michelle and I went up North Twin Trail and made the standard approach of keeping to the left of Little River until past the Fire Warden Trail, a common bushwhack of Hale. We crossed the Little River in about mid-quad depth, it was chilly but still refreshing. The water was certainly high given the time of year, but it had not precipitated heavily in the days prior. Pictured right.
Past the crossing, we began to gain steadily. Despite this hike having a relatively high amount of elevation gain, none of it felt too intense compared to many of the other 4K routes. In the beginning, there are still some hop overs but nothing like the Little River. By the time the grades eased, we could already see the ridge line and the end was right in sight.
After catching a view of North Twin, we took a muddy walk to South Twin where we saw one of the biggest crowds I’d ever seen on a hike- after all, I was a weekday hiker at the time. Among the crowd, I was astounded to see a dog with goggles. Excitedly, I asked the owner if I could take a picture, and before he even said yes, he started handing me “Abel the GSP” stickers. It was legendary. Looking around, we had a unique experience of actually getting a view into the Pemi. Even though to that day I had done Garfield, Galehead, Lafayette, Lincoln, Flume, and Liberty, I'd never really had a view from any of them.
Our way down was pleasantly uneventful, we moved quickly without running which allowed both of us to be home in time for the early bird special, a rarity but a necessity when there's only so much time to balance hiking and seeing family over college breaks.
via Gorge Brook, Carriage Road, Snapper
For my first hike as a high school graduate, I had my dad take a day off of work so that we could hike Moosilauke together. Unfortunately, that was about day 5 of biting off more than I could chew and I was not in a good mood that day. I graduated on Friday and then immediately went to set up/clean up my long-time manager’s wedding on Saturday. Then, I woke up in Erika's yard Sunday, went to work a 7 am shift, attended several graduation parties, worked Monday, and then thought it would be a good idea to wake up at 4:30 am on Tuesday. It was not.
My dad and I parked at the Ravine Lodge, where I quickly texted Michelle that she made a mistake not taking her Dartmouth acceptance, and went up the Gorge Brook Trail. Gorge Brook was easy, but with my brain feeling like I’d already walked 20 miles that morning, it was a difficult hike for me. There was nothing hard about the trail, yet when we got to the top I wouldn’t even wait around for my dad to take a picture. I was ready to go and I was not feeling it.
We went down the Carriage Road, which was easy but at times rough on my dad’s feet as he dealt with odd-sized socks. Connecting back on Snapper was uneventful physically, but very difficult on my sluggish mind.
The haze I completed this hike in is great proof that just being tired can be as dangerous as hiking in a storm, you can’t see things quite for as it is!
Picture left taken at a later date.
via Ethan Pond Trail & Willey Range Trail
After forcing a group of my brother's friends to get up 5 hours earlier than they typically do to hike with me, I knew the day had to be worth their while.
I drove the four of us up from Southern NH and we accessed Willey from the Ethan Pond TH, for no reason other than I didn't know Kedron Flume was an option at the time. Immediately, despite not being in the greatest of shape, the three of them blasted ahead of me and I got a little bit worried for the day. With my background being entirely in running cross country at the time, I was an expert at moderate and steady- not the sudden sprint. Thankfully, within the first half mile, someone had already asked to take a break and the rest of the hike trended similarly. Though the topography didn't suggest it, the first portion of this trail leading up to the Willey Range Trail was surprisingly relentless.
Besides being steep, very breathy, and well-rooted, Ethan Pond Trail was what I expected. When we kept straight up Willey Range Trail, I was getting battered with questions about when we would get to the "fun part." Up until some eroded sandy areas, the trail was uneventful. Afterward, we were greeted by the 8 continuous ladders that earn the Willey Range Trail a spot on the Terrifying 25. Despite the effort one puts in, completing the ladders does not get you that close to the summit.
With one more push, we got to the true summit and then were delighted to find there was an outlook that had excellent views of the Southern Presidentials across Route 302 below us.
Thankfully, my choice did not disappoint, the whole group was delighted to have done such an amazing hike. Willey is special for a lot of reasons, not only for the ladders but because you can gain a very legitimate 4K (no shade Tecumseh...) in just about five miles. Epic!
Via Glen Boulder, Davis Path, Isolation Spur, and Rocky Branch
The day after my 18th birthday, I woke up in Attitash Village with Liz for a couple of days of tying up loose ends as we approached the final month of our forty-eights. Planning on car spots for both days that week, we dropped my car at Rocky Branch and then proceeded to the Glen Boulder trailhead where we began to approach one of the most commonly dreaded peaks on the list.
The first two miles of Glen Boulder were surprisingly a breeze, it took us about an hour to start breaking treeline, but this is the kind of trail that probably takes as long to go up as it does to go down, solely because of the grade. However, I do say this is a bit biased because the only time I ever went down Glen Boulder was when I looped it with the Diritissima when I had a sprained ankle this past summer. Anyhow, once we broke it was incredibly windy. Before touching the boulder, we had to scale some fairly pedestrian yet still terrifying ledges. Liz got up the ledges fine, but for some reason, I was convinced my 170-pound self was going to blow off the mountain like a feather. Moments like these are why I’ve decided to start gym climbing at a 5.4 – 5.6 level, I need to be more comfortable with heights to do the Northern Presidentials at the speeds I aspire.
After yelling at myself to stop “being a little bitch,” I got up and we cruised to Glen Boulder. Beyond Glen Boulder, which I of course staged a picture to look like I was holding it up, we approached the intersection with Davis Path and proceeded left, away from Boott Spur. At this point, we were at about 5,100 feet which meant we were to descend significantly to the 4,003-foot-tall Mount Isolation. The way to Isolation was at first blustery, but once we got back to the treeline it was a pleasant and smooth walk in the woods. After we intersected with Rocky Branch, we had to out and back something like a mile and a half total to Isolation, which had one of my favorite views of Washington. Despite it being June 23rd, there was still snow in Oakes Gulf.
From the summit, where I was shocked to not see anyone finishing their 48 as nearly every geotagged post on Instagram of the mountain is someone finishing up, we repeated the out and back briefly before walking back to my car at the base of Rocky Branch.
Rocky Branch lives up to its wet reputation, but on a hot summer day where the water crossings weren’t too bad, I didn’t get my shoes wet and I only needed to take them off for one crossing. We counted something like six more major crossings but about eleven total.
Despite being shit on by much of the hiking community, Liz and I had nothing but love for Isolation. I can't wait to go back and do it again!
Via 19 Mile Brook, Wildcat Ridge Trail, and Polecat
Fresh off Isolation, Liz and I got up early in Bartlett so that we could car spot from 19 Mile Brook TH to Wildcat Ski Area. What we didn’t expect, however, was to pull up the 19MB trailhead behind six-state trooper cars and armed policeman circling. I was more in favor of waiting in the car until they dispersed, but Liz got right out and asked if we’d still be okay to start hiking. An officer told us that they were looking for someone who appeared to be living somewhere in that vicinity of Route 16, but told us we could start hiking if we desired. However, we were warned to move slowly past two disheveled-looking people and call the police should we run into the wanted couple.
Though I was hesitant, we started up 19 Mile Brook Trail and surprisingly had an uneventful 4 miles to Carter Notch Hut. At the hut, we took a quick snack break to procrastinate the 0.7-mile climb to Wildcat A that we were worried about gaining so quickly.
Yet, with the always reliable conversation topic of failed high school relationships, we got up the trail quickly and without difficulty. Though we gained over 1000 feet in 0.7, it was really just... "up." Nothing out of the ordinary at all.
Up on Wildcat A, we looked back down at the Notch before continuing over Wildcat Ridge Trail, which was ridden in traction-caused scratches for good reason. The constant ups and downs of the trail weren’t physically demanding but certainly fell into the annoying category. Though snow was still plenty visible on the Lip in Tuckerman’s Ravine, it was a warm June day and it was only growing hotter once we got onto the ridge.
Once we finally got to the Wildcat D platform, I laid down with a bag of dried mangos and remained there for a considerable time. And unless Liz had ushered me along so soon, I could’ve laid on that sun-kissed wood all afternoon.
Even though I’d told myself the hike was over once we completed the WMNF trail portion, we still had a good three miles of grassy meadow ahead of us. Oh, and did I mention it would all be a downhill shin destroyer? Polecat might be rated a green ski trail, but this means nothing by hiker standards.
With a majority switch-backed walk down, we got to my car in the parking lot in about an hour. Not so bad, but I prefer to ski my ski trails.
via Hale Brook Trail
Here began my week of desperation to push out peaks 41-48. With a date for my finish arranged among three people with three schedules, I had to hustle to catch up to Liz so that we could both finish on Bondcliff. To prepare, I began by pushing the limits on sunset and rushed up to Route 302 after my serving shift. Having gotten out of work at 3, I was only able to start at 5 pm and immediately began running. It was… a lot more difficult than I had assumed it would be. Hale gains very purposely at a mileage to a thousand-foot ration of over 1:1. Hale Brook Trail, which was my less preferred ascent of Hale compared to Lend-A-Hand, is just 2.2 miles long yet gains 2,300 feet along the way.
I recall stopping at one point on my run, worried I was going to choke on my fruit snacks, and suddenly took in how fired up my calves were. At that moment, I slowed to a fast walk, constantly checking my watch being sure to beat the sunset. Because, of course, I did not travel with a headlamp at the time.
As I kept waiting on the summit, the trail eventually leveled after all the switchbacks and gave way to a massive cairn with a friendly little snake inside of it. On the descent, the switchbacks felt all the more noticeable as they continuously ragged on my knees. When I went back down the same trail more recently, for my first post-sprain 4K, the switchbacks hit just as hard as I remembered.
When it was all said and done, I had gotten back to my car just before 7:30 making Hale my fastest 4K competition of my first round. Afterward, I loaded up the car and pushed west to Littleton where I would get a quick rest in before yet another 4K.
via Bunnell Notch Trail & Kilkenny Ridge
After my younger brother neglected to join the rest of his friends on Willey, I was thankful to have him along for the ride on Cabot along with Colby, Nick, and Justin.
Unlike our last “boy's hike” up Willey, Cabot isn’t “interesting” by default. From what I could tell at the time, it was remote, moose-filled, and spooky, and all crowd-sourcing suggested it wouldn’t be anything to write home about.
So when we pulled up, on a rainy July morning, I was prepared to experience just that. Yet, I didn’t feel that way at all. At the beginning of Bunnell Notch Trail, there is a beautiful pine hallway to walk through, various streams with small waterfalls in the midst, and cob-web covered trail signs that echoed a spookiness we all enjoyed.
The grades were never tremendous and there was constantly something to look at in the forest, despite seeing no trace of the rumored moose. So, when we got up to the cabin in what felt like no time, it was a pleasant surprise to see everyone excitingly rushing inside to see what was at the time a disheveled looking under-construction building. Naturally, we paused for a snack and then proceeded to the viewless summit, where we collectively drank 11 Tropicana orange juices, following up on a goal we’d made to finish the 24-pack in 24 hours.
Coming off of Cabot, we all agreed to do such a hike on an otherwise dreary day was the way to do it. More recently, I completed Cabot (see October 2022 Trip Log) on a sunny day with a different route and loved it just as much. Don’t discount this one, there’s a lot to discover in those woods… just don’t hike down the abandoned Mt. Cabot Trail when you come to that bend on Bunnell Notch Trail.
via Signal Ridge Trail
After two pleasant days of hiking, I finally crashed. Though I had an invite to stay in Littleton overnight, I had volunteered to drive back to Southern New Hampshire so I could carpool with my hiking partner for the day. So, after a long day of travel when I got the text that she had to cancel, I was tempted to take it as a sign to bail. But, with two weeks to the finish and the following week being a family vacation, I was either doing Carrigan or finishing my 48 on it. But that wasn’t happening.
I started my drive at 4:30 in the morning, feeling less than entertained by myself, which was not promising for a full hike alone. When I got to the Signal Ridge lot, I was surprised to find such a full lot but still found a spot and pushed up Signal Ridge. As promised, the beginning of the trail was flat and ran alongside the pleasant Whiteface Brook for the first mile or so.
At the junction with Carrigan Notch Trail, where Signal Ridge diverges left, the intensity picks up as the trail begins to gain the 4,665-foot peak. Up until the ridge opened up, Signal Ridge was a regular 30% grade type woods trail that wasn’t quite eroded, but certainly showed us. But, around 3,800 feet the views that opened up across to Vose Spur and of course Carrigan on the left made my odd day feel more natural.
With this push of motivation, I got up to the summit observation deck at a quicker pace than I’d been working the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I was not able to stay up there long due to the aggressive summit winds taking a toll on my fear of heights atop the swinging deck. After I came down from the deck, I ducked into the trees to eat lunch when I was passed by a couple asking me how to get to Vose Spur. Though I’ve yet to do it, I knew damn well you don’t do that Bushwhack off Carrigan unless you know exactly where you’re going. They seemed displeased when I told them they should do it from Carrigan Notch Trail and continued away from me. However, they came right back, wordlessly, in about 5 minutes.
When I started my descent, my quads were noticeably fatigued and my knees shakey. Before I even dipped below 4000 feet, I took a twinge on my ankle that could not even be masked by adrenaline. While I could continue to walk on it in a way that did not suggest a sprain or twist, something was wrong and all signs went back to immense fatigue from a combination of three days of wanting my all and three days of giving myself nothing in terms of self-care. At two separate points, I pulled aside on the rocks to cry.
Nothing was truly wrong, but I was just too spread thin all on my account. When I got to my car that day, I was thankful, hungry, and ready to take a few days to get some sleep and eat nutritious food. Of course, I was a whole Kancamangus drive behind someone with Florida plates to my sandwich though. That may have been the hardest part of the day, to be honest.
Zealand, W. Bond, Bond, Bondcliff
via Silly Pemi (Pemi East Side, Wilderness, Shoal Pond, Ethan Pond, Twinway, Bondcliff Trail, Lincoln Woods)
As I closed out the chapter on my NH48, I opened a new one as I went on my first backpacking trip. The trip encompassed 33 miles over 2.5 days, starting and finishing the journey at Lincoln Woods to complete what I now refer to as “The Silly Pemi.”
With a crew of three, Dave, Liz, and I began at Lincoln Woods on Sunday, in the pouring rain, and headed down the Pemi East Side trail. I was not extensively involved in the planning so was surprised to see how flat and isolated the trails felt, for this was my first off-the-beaten-path hike. Once we arrived at the intersection of Thoreau Falls Trail and the Wilderness Trail, we took a quick break and ran into the Franconia Brook Tent site caretaker, Quentin, who politely asked where we were heading.
Though we initially planned Thoreau Falls trail, we had to change our plans and extend down the Wilderness Trail, as the water levels were completely unforgiving that July, and the bridge above the falls was gone. But, while we’d gotten away from one obstacle, we found another along the Wilderness Trail. The narrow trail weaved in and out from the rushing brook crossings which eventually led me to succumb to crossing in my boots, as the traction was crucial to crossing two-feet deep rushes.
Shoal Pond, though a maintained trail, was the most remote I’d ever felt in the Pemigewasset Wilderness by this time and I loved it. While the rotting bog bridges challenged my balance as my soaked boots attempted to grip them, the stealth site we found a ways off the trail made it all worth it. We had a perfect stream nearby, a lovely log bench to sit on, and the rain even broke just enough at dusk for us to see a Moose down by the pond. Come morning, we made our way to a brief section on Ethan Pond and arrived at Zealand Hut in time for the downpours to get even worse. While we waited, I opted to warm up by drinking 6 full cups of hot coffee in about 45 minutes while looking over the laminated maps to pass the time.
By the time we departed the hut, I was at first rejuvenated and warm but soon sunk into a relentless crash that had me pale, shivering, and out of it for the rest of the afternoon. At the Zealand Spur, I consumed about 1000 calories and put on all my layers. Still, the three of us got to Guyot (aka, the G-Spot) and got set up for the night ahead. Kevin, the caretaker at the time, got reeled into the drunken comedy show that occurred at our tent platform that night and we easily made conversation with the mere 8 people at the campsite that night… a simply unheard-of visitor count at one of the busiest walk-in sites in the Whites.
While the night ahead would be cold and full of fear that a pine marten would rob me, waking up to a neon sun peeking through the clouds was worth it all. After pack-up, we hit West Bond good and socked in, Bond as the clouds began to lift, and finally Bondcliff, where we were granted views into the Pemi and across towards the marveling slides on West Bond. Watching Bondcliff come into view while traversing the ridge is something I didn’t think could exist outside of Switzerland. Yet, right here in my home state, I got to see the most unbelievable topography develop in front of my face with cliffs I didn't think possible for the East Coast. It was so striking, that the same topography profile now lays in ink on my leg forever.
Coming off of Bondcliff, save the brief chimney that was a tough spot with an overnight pack, I couldn’t help but feel sad I was done something that I’d worked so much on for the last year. For a moment, I’m embarrassed to say I felt like I’d done it all like there was nothing left to accomplish. Though it was silly, this brief moment of ignorance to the sheer size of the forest was what motivated me to take on my more current, much larger objectives. The forty-eight was just the start for me. And now, I get to take joy in watching my friends work on the same goal, with just as much enjoyment as I had in mine.