Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lonesome Lake 2-19-08

Lonesome Lake - 2,740'
3.2 miles, 950' elevation gain, 3 hrs
Mark, Nat, Jamie

Did this hike on a hot August day in 2006 and really enjoyed it. It's a short hike with good trails and moderate elevation. The views from the top of Cannon to the north and Franconia Ridge across the lake to the west are beautiful on a clear day. The sky was clear and blue when we were driving over from Crawford Notch but by the time we got to the trail head the clouds had moved in.

After the rain yesterday we were concerned that the trails might be in bad shape. Fortunately it got cold overnight and the trails were in perfect shape today. Lonesome Lake trail gets lots of use and was well broken. Could easily have bare booted but showshoes were still a good way to go.

Got to the lake quickly and headed around to the hut. Passed the AMC group that was heading to the hut to spend the night near the top. They met us at the hut and we had lunch together. As we went around the lake it started to snow pretty hard. It was really a nice addition to the hike. Nat and Jamie are obviously enjoying it.

We were the first ones at the hut for the day and had it to ourselves for a while before the AMC group arrived. It was surprisingly comfortable in there without heat and I wish we could have hung out for a while.

We ate lunch with the group before heading down.

We were looking forward to the walk through the bogs around the back of the lake but the caretaker said that the rain had probably made the trail pretty difficult back there. The bog bridges were apparently already tricky before the rain and we decided to just go back the way we came. This was sadly our last hike for the week but Nat and I had both pretty well wrecked our knees by this time so it was probably just as well.

Enjoyed the views to Franconia Ridge on the way down and the thoughts of being up there next summer.

Complete online photo album is here:
Lonesome Lake - 2-19-08

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Triple Cheat Day

I generally feel like I've cheated when I do an easy hike to someplace really spectacular. It should take more work to earn the reward. Today I did three of these hikes - a triple cheat. I have to admit that putting the three together into a long (and very enjoyable) day makes me feel like I cheated at least a bit less overall.

Today was our second day at Highland Center and Nat and Jamie went skiing because the forecast for tomorrow is rain. I didn't want to do a long winter hike alone so put together these three instead.

Started the morning with my regular pilgrimage to Red Bench. This spot seems to be a well kept secret and I hate to advertise it for fear of losing my solitude. The Red Bench Overlook is at the end of a spur path off the Around Ammonoosuc Lake trail behind Highland Center. It's about a 2 mile total loop that's almost completely flat so it's really more a walk in the woods than a hike. I had been to the Red Bench several times in previous stays before I realized what is special about it. On a clear day there is an absolutely spectacular view of almost the entire Presidential Range. The view spreads from Adams to Pierce with Mt Washington taking center stage. Once I realized this I began my morning ritual of going to Red Bench just after sunrise whenever we are at Highland Center. On the mornings that the summits happen to be in the clear the views of Mt Washington at first light are amazing. Today it was in the clouds and I waited for about 30 minutes but it just kept taunting me.

Later in the week I got the real reward with amazing views of the light playing on the top as it drifted in and out of the clouds

More views in my online Mt Washington album here:
Mt Washington

For cheat #2 I joined the group from Highland Center on a Bretton Woods Alpine Eco Tour. This is a snowshoe hike across the ridge at Bretton Woods ski area accessed via the lift (the cheat). We did this last year and it is really an awesome hike. For $7 you can get a lift ticket for snowshoers which takes you to the top on the Bethlehem Express lift (ends at Top 'O Quad) to access the trails. There are a set of dedicated snowshoe trails in the woods along the ridge line that are off limits to skiers. Today the trails were unbroken powder and the trees were coated with snow - a real winter wonderland

When crossing the ski slopes between the sections of woods the views to the Presidentials are gorgeous. The clouds had moved away since I left Red Bench this morning and the summits were now all in the clear.

At the northern end of the hike the trail leads over the back of the ridge line and leaves a sweeping view of the Pemi wilderness.

Overall hike was about 2 hours and a great way to spend the morning.
The rest of the photo album for this trip is here:
Bretton Woods Alpine Eco Tour - 2-17-08

Wanted to get in one more hike in the afternoon to beat the rain tomorrow. The clouds had already moved in and the temps were warming up. Decided to do Mt Willard as the third cheat of the day. We've done this hike several times before in both summer and winter. It has to be the best views you can get in the Whites for this little effort. The trail was well broken as expected and could easily have been bare booted but I kept the snowshoes on anyway as I find the downhills easier with them (and my bad knees).

There were a couple of people on the trail ahead of me that I passed just before the top and one person already out on the ledges with his dog. The clouds turned out to provide some interesting contrast and the lack of blue sky no longer seemed a negative.

I hung out and chatted for about 1/2 hour on the top and was still back at Highland Center in 2 hours. 90 minutes up and back on this hike is actually a pretty good workout - particularly on showshoes.

The rest of the Mt Willard photo album is here:
Mt Willard - 2-17-08

One last shot for the day of Crawford Depot wearing its winter clothes. Then back to sit by the fire with a beer and wrap up the triple cheat in style. Two wrongs might not make a right but three cheats add up to a good day...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mt Avalon 2-16-08

Mt Avalon - 3,442'
3.8 miles, 1,542' elevation gain, 3-1/2 hours
Mark, Nat, Jamie

Arrived for our February winter vacation at AMC Highland Center and decided to take advantage of the beautiful afternoon for a hike up Mt Avalon. We did this one before in October of '06 and the upper 2/3 of the trail was snow and ice even though it was a 50 degree fall day! This time there was about a 4 ft snow base (the White Mountains have gotten burried this year). Trail was well packed but must have been recent since a trail report from 2 days before on VFFT said that trail was unbroken that morning. Probably could have bare booted as long as you didn't get at all off trail. Snowshoes were a good idea anyway for the steep sections and since the spur path to the summit was unbroken. The temperature was in the mid-teens with little to no wind. Blue sunny skies. A perfect winter day.

Started out at about noon.

The trees were heavily snow coated. A real winter wonderland.

Trees were frequently hanging low over path between the snow load and depth of snow on the trail.

Jamie got cold hands about a 1/4 mile before the summit and didn't want to go on. I made a dash to the top while Nat stayed with her. The spur path to the summit was not broken and was a bit of a plod. The steep section along the last part of the summit ledge was quite slippery - top layer of snow sliding over the icy rock below. A few scrambles got me over the top. Forgot to get the camera out for a shot of this section.

The summit views were beautiful. Second time up here and can't wait to do it again. No place with better views for this amount of effort

This one looking down Crawford Notch is my favorite.

Had to get a shot at the summit but there was no place to put the tripod for the camera. Sat the camera on top of the pack and set the timer. On the first try I hit the shutter and then tried to step straight back. This doesn't work so well in snowshoes. The heels went into the snow, my knees folded together and I wound up staring into the camera from about a foot away. Deleted that one... This one turned out a bit better.

Came down from the summit after a few minutes to get back to Jamie and Nat. The spur path down was even more fun. Did something that was between a glissade and riding a mini avalanche most of the way back to the main trail. Wasn't sure I was going to stop!

Nat came up for a few minutes after I went back down. She and I both did a couple of more slides down the steep section of the trail.

Jamie was really suffering with very cold fingers and we really should have turned around sooner. Hopefully learned a lesson here. We made a quick retreat down and Jamie actually ran most of it without her showshoes. By the time we were down she had warmed up again and was back to her old self. Better results for her with skiing the next day and the hiking the rest of the week. Back at Highland Center in about 3-1/2 hours.

Complete photo album is here:
Mt Avalon 2-16-08