Monday, October 13, 2008

Columbus Day on the Rhode Island Coast - 10/13/08

We had planned to get back to NH to hike this weekend but it didn't quite work out. (Something to do with spending the day Saturday on ladders with a paintbrush, but that's another story). We wound up spending the day today on the East Bay Bike Path in Barrington/Bristol RI. Made me realize how lucky we are to be in New England in the fall and the we don't always need to be in the mountains to get some spectacular scenery. (Still want to get back to the mountains this fall though...)

Typical stretch of the bike path

Fall colors and textures

Bristol Harbor


Sumacs frame Hundred Acre Cove

Complete album here:

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Morgan & Percival - 10/4/2008

Got in a wonderful fall hike on Morgan and Percival yesterday. Just Nat and I went since our daughter had plans with friends and felt that this was more important than a hike with Mom and Dad. Fine, be that way - we'll enjoy the hike without you!

We debated up to the last minute (literally 10 minutes before the exit) between this and Cardigan but ultimately made the choice based on a presumably smaller crowd on a peak foliage weekend. The drive up from RI was great with very light weekend traffic. Left the house at 7:15 and was at the trailhead at 10:00. The 10 mile drive from Rt 93 to the trailhead was beautiful with much of being along the shores of Squam Lake and through pretty countryside draped in fall foliage. Parking lots were starting to fill but still plenty of space. This is a really popular spot since the lots are shared for the Morgan/Percival and Rattlesnake trailheads which are both popular fall hikes.

The weather was perfect for a fall hike. 51 degrees when we started and clouds just starting to drift into what had been a crystal blue sky all the way up. Got organized and on the trail quickly and stopped to take the customary trailhead picture. Turned on the camera and got the dreaded message - "No Card". What!!!??? My daughter borrowed my camera earlier in the week (which she isn't supposed to do). "Why'd you take my camera Jamie?". "Cause the batteries in mine were dead." "So why didn't you just put in new batteries?" "I didn't know we had any." "So does mine still have batteries?" " yeah ". Dad opens camera, checks batteries, verifies that they are indeed still good, admonishes teenager,.... But would it occur to me to check that said teenager had actually left the memory card in the camera? Why of course not. Not until the message at the trailhead anyway. OK, enough of the incessant whining - on to the hike. (Still ticked at the teenager...)

The trail was beautiful with a covering of early falling maple leaves of every color. Here's a picture of the - wait no camera - grrrrr. The bottom 2/3 of the Morgan trail is gradual and an easy walk. The last 1/4 mile or so begins to get steep until reaching the fork near the top - which is where the fun begins. The left fork is the main trail while the right takes the "ladder and cliff" route up. We chose the right fork and quickly came to the base of the cliff which starts with a series of three ladders. The transition from the second to third is particularly interesting since the third one is a couple of feet to the right and above the second. There is a small toehold in the cliff that you step on while swinging over to the third ladder. Not as bad as it sounds. (Some of the trip reports that I had read made this sound death defying and it is far from that - even for an acrophobe like me). Above the ladders there is an interesting climb through a small boulder cave and then over the top of the cave and across the edge of the ledges. Fun stuff! 

The views from the summit ledges of Morgan are awesome with all of Squam Lake and the mountains beyond spreading out below you and the views of the Whites to the north and Cardigan and Kearsarge to the west. From the summit of Morgan it is about a mile across the ridge line to Percival. I had expected this to be more open views but instead it is just a nice walk through the trees along the ridge. 

Emerging from the trees at the summit of Percival you are again treated to the beautiful lake and mountain views in all directions. We spent quite a while here eating lunch and soaking up the sun and the views. The day had stayed pretty cloudy and there was a chilly breeze, but it felt good after getting warmed up on the hike. 

There are two spurs that lead to the top of Percival similar to those at the top of Morgan. We weren't sure which was which and took the left branch going down. The upper portion was very steep and required some scrambling down the ledges and rocks (but nothing too tricky) and we thought that we must have chosen the cliff trail. A few hundred yards down though we came to the junction of the two spurs and found that we had taken the main path since the sign pointing the other way indicated "cliff/cave trail" the other way. We decided to check this out and were glad we did. Near the split the trail enters a large boulder cave through a pretty small opening. We left our packs outside and squeezed in feet first. Inside the cave opens up with probaby a 10 foot high ceiling. The exit out the other side is even smaller and we squeezed through and onto the jumble of boulders (man the size of cars) that leads up the cliffs to the summit.

After squeezing back through the cave and getting our packs we headed back down the Percival trail and across the Morgan-Percival connector to the trailhead. The way down was an easy walk - nothing too steep and hard on the knees. There are several nice stream crossings on the connector trail which is a nice way to end the day.

We were back at the car at 2:30 and now the lots were full and there were cars on both sides of the road as far as the eye could see! Definitely a popular hiking spot. Since it was early we decided to take Val's suggestion and drive out to Cardigan Orchard and were really glad we did. The drive out to Cardigan is even more scenic than it had been to Morgan. More lake shores with mountains framed behind them and pretty country roads. A jug of cider, a bag of apples and an awesome homemade apple pie in hand we headed home. Such a nice day that we may try to repeat it next weekend with a Cardigan hike.

On arriving home we discovered that our daughter's day with friends had included apple picking at a local orchard and she had come home with about 1/2 bushell of apples and another pie (at least it wasn't apple). Figures...

Since I didn't have any pictures to process and post this time I took the opportunity to convert the GPS track log and play with it in Google Earth instead. So here's some "virtual trip photos":

Complete route - Morgan Summit at top left and Pervical to the right

View over Squam Lake from summits (Percival on left, Morgan right)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Crawford Notch Weekend, Mt Jackson Flags on the 48 - 9/12 - 9/13/08

Spent the weekend in Crawford Notch with the Narragansett AMC chapter group. The plan for the group was Webser and Jackson on Saturday and a TBD hike on Sunday with Friday and Saturday night at Highland Center Shapleigh bunkhouse. I decided to extend the weekend a bit by coming up early on Friday and getting in an extra hike. So...

I left RI at 5:00am on Friday to beat the traffic and hopefully get an early start on a hike since rain was forecast for the afternoon. Decided to do Frankenstein Cliff and Arethusa Falls based on the forecast rather than the original plan of Avalon/Tom/Field. Missed all the traffic and was at the trailhead at 8:30 - record time. It was a cloudy damp morning but comfortable for hiking. Headed up the Frankenstein Cliff trail (which is definitely the best way to do this loop since this trail is steep, slippery and root-filled - a bad combination for going down). There was lots of deadfall on the trail - looked like some fairly recent - lots of climbing over and around. 

Got to the top of the cliff in less than an hour and found that the views of the notch were still beautiful with the clouds and fog.

Had the trail to myself most of the way - met only 2 other groups. Got down to the falls and had an early lunch and then headed out and was back at the car in about 3 hours. 

Arethusa Falls

After going to North Conway for a couple of hours I headed back to Highland to check in and ran into Tom and Aaron from our AMC group who were just arriving. They had decided to sneak in an extra hike as well and I wound up joining them to do Mount Willard. The weather held and it was another nice hike with a bit more limited views than from Frankenstein in the morning.

Tom on Mount Willard

Saturday morning the weather was cool, damp and cloudy with fog hanging in the valleys - but the forecast was promising.

Saco Lake

Headed up the Webster Jackson Trail and the Webster Branch. Lots of steep, rocky climbing like this section at the crossing of Silver Cascade brook.

By the time we got to the summit of Webster the blue sky was showing and the cliffs were floating in the clouds.

A short break for a snack and to soak in the views and then on to Jackson. The Webster Cliff trail to Jackson provided a break from the steady steep climb to Webster. The final steep section provided some nice scrambling to the top where we found that the flag (for Flags on the 48) was already flying.

There were lots of people on the summit including a couple of other AMC chapter groups. I was also surprised (and happy) to find Trish and Alex there. We had a nice chat and Alex gave us an overview of her conquest of 4000 footers this year - it was awesome! Hung out at the summit for quite a while having lunch and enjoying the amazing views. The sky had really cleared now and the views were amazing. The flags on Eisenhower and Monroe were flying as well and it was a really cool sight.

While we were finishing lunch a couple of visitors showed up.

They hung around for a long time and paid a personal visit to many of us. Of course I'm sure that they were just being friendly and weren't interested in snacks...

The way down provided some more interesting scrambling. Maybe this would have been easier going up...

One last rest stop on the way down on the rocks at the final brook crossing where we hung out with the Maine AMC chapter group. This is our whole group (except me). Great group of people and a thouroughly enjoyable day (and weekend). I look forward to hiking with them again.

When we got up Sunday morning it was raining hard and the forecast was conditions to worsen over the day so we unfortunately decided to cancel our hike for Sunday. It was still a great weekend though and the mountains will be there next time...

Complete photo album here:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Week in Acadia August '08

Here we go with another long trip report. Tried to keep this one shorter than our STP week report but it is hard to cram in a short description of a packed 6 days...

We had another fantastic week in Acadia this year. Stayed at the Mount Desert Campground which is at the head of Somes Sound (the fiord that runs up the center of MDI) right on the water. There are about 30 waterfront sites with tent platforms – some actually handing out over the water on the rocks. If you are looking for a place to camp on MDI it doesn’t get any better than this. Very short drive to most of the trailheads for hiking and the carriage roads for biking and you can drop the kayaks in from your campsite to paddle the harbor and the sound or keep it tied up to the 350’ long float/dock that gives access at all tides. Awesome place!! More info and pics here: 

We were once again blessed with amazing weather. It rained a little the day after we arrived and after that we had 5 straight days of clear blue skies and 70 degree temps with nice cool nights. We got in at least one hike each day along with either a bike ride on the carriage roads, a paddle or both! 

We planned to get some new hikes in this year and hit a few of the mountains that we hadn’t gotten to in the last couple of trips but we wound up doing many of our past favorites again (and weren’t sorry that we did – I could hike these trails many, many more times and not get tired of them). The best part about hiking in Acadia is that you have nearly continuous views almost everywhere you go. You can start at the base of a mountain, hike for 15 minutes in the trees and emerge onto the first ledges which just continue to the top. It’s like hiking above treeline in the Whites all the time except that the ocean and lakes are constantly in view on the horizon (or at your feet) and you are way less exposed if the weather turns (at least in that you can get down to shelter much quicker). Here’s a quick overview of each of the hikes and "other activities". 

The complete photo album is here:

Penobscot Narrows Observatory
On the way up to Acadia we stopped at the new Penobscot Narrows Observatory (part of the new bridge to Bucksport). One of only 3 bridges like this in the world. Very cool! 

Observatory at top of first tower

Views from the top - Bucksport and the mountains beyond

Cadillac Sunrise

Being only 20 minutes from Cadillac summit makes it hard to resist going to see the sun rise in the first place in the US. Getting there about 45-60 minutes before sunrise (about 4:30 this day) gives the best views. Sky is most beautiful before the sun comes up. Amazing colors this day when the sun went back into the low clouds right above the horizon 10 minutes after it came up. The pictures definitely do not do it justice - you have to be there.

Sky catching fire an 45 minutes before sunrise

Somes Harbor

The paddling in Somes Harbor is beautiful and it literally takes 5 minutes to get the kayaks in from the campsite. The harbor is protected and very smooth most of the time while Somes Sound has a nearly constant stiff breeze that keeps the water pretty rough and the paddling more interesting than we prefer in our open cockpit boats. If you hit the 60-90 minutes on either side of high tide you can paddle under the bridge across the road to a beautiful tidal inlet (which we managed to hit the timing for this year.

Tidal inlet under the bridge at high tide

Typical sunset on the cove from the campsite

Carriage Roads

There is no place better to ride bikes than the 50 miles of carriage roads in Acadia. Perfectly maintained and reasonable grades (even going up a couple of the mountains). The views everywhere are incredible whether in the woods or along the lake and pond shores (including the path high above Jordan Pond). We did 3 trips this year. 5.5 mile loop from Eagle Lake carriage road lot around Witch Hole Pond, 6.5 mile loop from the same lot around Aunt Betty Pond and the western shore of Eagle Lake and our favorite ride - a 12 mile loop from Jordan Pond House around Day Mountain, along Bubble Pond to the south shore of Eagle Lake and then down along the western shore of Jordan Pond. Spectacular views on this whole route and great places to stop on the shores of the ponds for snacks and lunch.

Part 2 - Acadia Hikes
Champlain Mountain

The Precipice Trail goes up Champlain east face but that's not happening with my acrophobia. Starting from Sieur de Mont Spring and going up the Beechcroft trail to the summit. Took the Bear Brook trail south from the summit for about a mile to a set of ledges looking down over the Beehive and the Bowl. Beautiful spot. Back up across the summit then down the Bear Brook trail to the loop road with a short walk along the road back to the car for about 5 total miles.

Lots of nice steep ledge walking 

Frenchman's Bay and the Porcupines from Champlain summit

A little advertising for Seek the Peak

Penobscot Mountain

This was my favorite of all the Acadia hikes (before did the complete Bubbles loop this year). Over half the route is walking over the open ledges up and down the ridges. It is best when combined with Sargent Mountain (up Penobscot, through the col to Sargent and down the Sargent East Face trail). We skipped Sargent this time because my daughter had a sore foot from cutting it on the rocks swimming the day before. Route is from Jordan Pond House up the Spring Trail and Penobscot Trail to the summit. Down the Deer Brook trail to the north shore of Jordan Pond and then along the western shore of Jordan Pond back to the start. 4 miles and 3 hours with lots of delays to soak up the views along the way. Sargent adds another mile.

Long open ridge walk after the Spring Trail

Mountains reaching to the sea

Beautiful tarn at the summit

Jamie claims the summit

Returning on Jordan Pond trail

The Bubbles

We've done the South Bubble several times in the past and this is one of the parks most popular hikes (meaning lots of traffic). This time we took the long way starting at the Bubble Rock parking area and going south on the Jordan Pond Carry Trail to the South Bubble trail then up the South Bubble (great steep climb with a bit of fun scrambling) and over to the North Bubble then down the open ridge to the carriage road below Eagle Lake (most beautiful part of the hike). From here the trail loops up and over Connor's Nubble - a beautiful open ledge overlooking Eagle Lake - and down to the shore of the lake. From here the Jordan Carry Trail follows the shore of the lake with lots of climbing over the jumble of boulders along the shore and then back through the woods to the parking area. 5 miles and 3.5 hours at a leisurely pace. This has now replaced Penobscot as my favorite Acadia hike.

Classic view of the Bubbles over Jordan Pond

Jamie claims the first tough scramble

Looking over Jordan Pond from North Bubble

First views to Eagle Lake from North Bubble

Eagle Lake with Connors Nubble in view (to left of lake)

I didn't know that there were any swimming animals that knew how to windsurf...

Bar Island

You can hike out across the sand bar to Bar Island right off Bar Harbor for about 90 minutes on each side of low tide. Nice trail to the high spot on the island with views back to Bar Harbor. Total hike is 2 miles and about and hour or so. Just don't stay too long and get stuck - it's a long time between low tides...

The Beehive and the Bowl

By far our favorite short hike in Acadia. Pushes my acrophobia to the limit with the narrow ledges and iron rungs/ladders to aid the scrambles up the face. This was my 4th time and it's starting to get a bit easier. Views from the top and on the way up are incredible. We always take the trail over the back of the Beehive down to the Bowl (beautiful mountain lake), along the shore and then back down the Bowl trail. Best to do this one early in the day while it is still possible to get parking at Sand Beach. Total hike is 2 miles and takes about 2.5 hours when you linger on the summit ledges and stop at the Bowl to harass the frogs  

The route up the Beehive - straight up

Assistance from iron rungs and hand rails make the scrambling more reasonable

Jamie at her favorite leaning spot taking in the view to Sand Beach

Champlain, Dorr and Cadillac from Beehive summit

The Bowl is reached after crossing the Beehive

One of the local residents of the Bowl

Lunch on Otter Cliffs with a view back to Sand Beach and the Beehive