Sunday, November 29, 2009

Long and Ell Ponds - Hopkinton RI - 11-29-09

Poor Rhode Island isn't much of a hiking state. To be fair, for those of us who love hiking in the mountains it’s hard to find great hikes in RI or much of southern NE in general - but this is definitely our favorite in RI.

Long and Ell Ponds are jointly owned/protected by the Nature Conservancy and the RI Audubon Society. They are in the midst of a surprising number of trails on the RI/CT border that are part of the Yawgoog Trails. There is a wonderful site with trail maps, descriptions, history and much more here:

The main trails around Long and Ell ponds are part of the Narragansett Trail. There are three access points - one off North Rd (a dirt road with parking for 2-3 cars at the west end of Long Pond, a large parking area at the east end of long pond on Canonchett Rd and one on Stubtown Rd at the eastern terminus of the Naragansett Trail. We’ve used all three and used the Stubtown Rd access for the first time yesterday. We liked the extra mile or so each way that it provided on the Narragansett trail with some nice brook crossings and interesting (if not somewhat slippery) ledges.

The weather was beautiful for a late November day with sunshine and temps in the mid-50s. This trail is great in the spring when the Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurels that line nearly the entire route are blooming as well as in fall foliage season. It turned out to be really nice with all the leaves down now and the extra lake views along the way.

It’s really hard to believe that this hike is in Rhode Island. The trail is a nearly endless series of ups and downs - some quite steep with minor scrambling involved - and very rocky (lots of large glacial bounders). It’s a lot like the trails in Blue Hills Reservation south of Boston and is the only place I’ve hiked in RI where I could swear that I’m in northern NE (with a conspicuous lack of summits). For much of the hike the trail follows the south shore of Long Pond on the ledges high above. After dipping down to shore level in the bogs filled with Rhododendrons and back up to the ledges it finishes around the western end of the pond on a beautiful set of ledges that require a fun scramble. The ledges are covered with beautiful scrub pines and overlook the length of the lake. This is always our lunch/snack and soaking in the sun and views spot.

Not far past the ledges is the northwestern parking area and trail head. Continuing past this area you go across the border into CT and many other trail options around a bunch of other lakes and ponds in the area. We turned around at this point both due to time and the fact that there was a huge tree that had fallen right down the middle of the path. It turned out that it fell on Saturday in the middle of a hike that friends of ours were taking. It was standing when they passed it at the beginning and down when they returned. Happily nobody was around when it fell. The other nice part about this hike is that even though it’s an out-and-back the character is totally different in each direction and we thoroughly enjoyed the second half return trip.

We were jealous yesterday knowing that many of our friends were out hiking in the snowy mountains in NH, but this made for a great substitute (at least for now). Hopefully we’ll be in those snowy mountains soon…
Full album here:…ondHike112909#

The Granite Sidewalk

This can’t be Rhode Island

Pines on the Long Pond ledges

Long Pond from the ledges

Rhododendron lined paths

Glad nobody was on the path when this fell!

Reflections at the end of a great hike

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Moosilauke Monday - 11/2/09

We really wanted to get in our first Moosilauke hike this fall but the recent weather combined with our schedules made it look like it might be waiting for next year. When we saw the forecast for this week and I realized that I could squeeze out another vacation day things started looking up! This was our seventh trip to NH this year (plus one to VT and one to ME) and day trips for hikes are now starting to feel normal. We hit the road in RI at 4:30 this morning and had smooth sailing all the way up (nice beating the Boston morning rush). We were at Ravine Lodge a bit before 8:00 and ready to hit the trail.

It was a frosty, clear morning with the temp at about 29 when we started. We headed up the Gorge Brook trail and quickly warmed up in the sun filtering through the trees. Within 1/2 hour I was down to my last layer - just a perfect fall day for hiking. The trails were in perfect shape - dry with just a few muddy spots that were easily avoided and no ice or snow. The Gorge Trail was a beautiful walk in the woods following the brook and wandering back and forth across it through the pine forest. Before we knew it we were heading into the alpine zone and on toward the summit. The skies were clear with just a few clouds drifting around and barely a hint of breeze. The views were amazing with all the White Mountains layed out to the east and the Green Mountains in VT to the west. Definitely one of the best 360 panoramas we've ever seen. We hung out on the summit for quite a while wandered out north on the summit ridge to check out the rest of the views.

We headed down the Carriage Road intending to stop at the South Peak before heading down. When we got to the Glencliff junction we saw two paths heading off in parallel with no markers. Couldn't fingure out what that second trail was. After heading another 1/4 mile down the Carriage Road we realized that the second path was the South Peak spur. Duh! Oh well, another time. The walk down the Carriage Road and Snapper Trail were nice, fast and easy. The Moosilauke trails almost don't feel like being in the White Mountains (there just aren't enough rocks and roots ). We were back at the lodge a little after 1:00. This hike just did't feel like it was 7.5 miles and 2,600ft. Maybe because the trails are so great or maybe because every step of this route is so enjoyable. This is definitely one of the nicest hikes we've ever done. We also had the mountain to ourselves today - we didn't see a single soul the whole day (other than a couple of ravens and a very agitated red squirrel that was sure we were invading his space).

I had expected to pay the price for a weekday trip to NH with rush hour Boston traffic on the way home but we lucked out again. Since we finished so early we beat rush hour and hit nothing all the way home. We were back in our driveway at 5:00 after another perfect day in the Whites. One thing for sure is that we'll be back to Moosilauke again. And who knows, maybe there's still a fall hike or two left this year (not to mention winter...)

First views from Gorge Brook Trail

Starting up the summit ridge

Still frosty on top

Summit marker in view

At the top

Eastern panorama

Nat heading down the Carriage Road toward South Peak

Views west to the Green Mountains (Camel's Hump and Mount Mansfield in the distance)

Gorge Brook and bridge to Ravine Lodge

Complete photo album here:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mt Mansfield (cheating) and Camel's Hump - 10/11 and 10/12/09

We spent a wonderful 4 days in Vermont this week to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We had planned to get in more hiking but between the weather and wanting to see more of Vermont on our first time there we wound up limiting it. We had originally planned to hike the day we went up (Sunday) but changed out mind and decided on sightseeing instead. After a couple of stops in Waterbury and lunch in Stowe we found ourselves at the foot of Mt Mansfield on a perfect fall day. We drove past the entrance to the toll road but the pull of the mountain was too strong and we turned around and went back. Better to drive to the top and hike the ridge on a perfect day than to miss it all together.

I felt guilty all the way up as we drove instead of using our feet. Stopping at the first parking area and looking across the valleys in their beautiful autumn colors the guilt started to fade. Considering that this was the Sunday of a holiday weekend in peak foliage season the crowd wasn't too bad. Getting to the summit parking area we were greeted by an icy breeze and clear blue skies. We layered up, grabbed the camera and headed north on the ridge. The views were incredible - across Lake Champlain to the Adirondacks to the west and to the White Mountains in the east. There had been snow earlier that day on the summit and there were patches of snow and ice across the ridge. Beautiful! We hiked across the ridge and stopped just before the final ascent up the Chin to avoid the crowds on top. We can't cross this 4000 footer off our list yet - but we'll definitely be back to do it the right way! At least for today the cheating paid off...

Ski Lodge and summit ridge from auto road

Lake Champlain and Adirondacks in the distance from summit ridge

Snow on the ridge

Hanging out below the Chin

Green Mountains

Camel's Hump

Monday looked to be our last good weather day of the remaining three so after an early breakfast we set out for Camel's Hump. Following the wonderful directions provided by Google maps we wound up down a maze of dirt roads at a dead end. We flagged down a truck going by to ask directions. "Camel's Hump? Not out here...". Great!! After retracing our route and following the simple directions in the trail guide we got to the trail head by 9:00.

We decided to take the Forest City - Long Trail - Burrows Trail loop since we don't care for out-and-backs if there is an option. The Forest City trail up was in good shape with easy going most of the way. The trail gets steeper coming to Wind Gap and there is an open ledge with beautiful views just before the junction. At Wind Gap the Long Trail begins up the ridge to the summit. We kept looking for the view over the small pond with Camel's Hump in the distance from Wind Gap that we've seen so many times but didn't find it. We realized later that you have to go a few tenths down the Dean Trail. Next time...

The Long Trail up the ridge is beautiful and gets very steep approaching the summit. The final couple of tenths skirt the summit cliffs and require a bit of interesting scrambling. As we got out above treeline we were greeted by ice and snow and the need for watching our step on the slippery ledges. The summit was spectacular! Clear blue skies with clouds drifting over. With crowds starting to gather on top we headed down below the summit to a protected spot out of the wind on the ledges for lunch and more time to soak in the amazing views. As we headed out after lunch the skies were clouding over - perfect timing.

Heading down the ledges from the summit was interesting. There was a lot of ice on the rocks and even spots that appeared dry were often slippery but we got down without incident. I wasn't looking forward to what had to be a very steep 2 mile descent. Surprisingly the Burrows Trail down never was steep and it was a very quick hike down. We still can't figure out how a longer and steeper ascent on Forest City and LT could have such an easy way down ending at the same point. Going to have to study the topos to figure this out. At any rate, this was definitely the right way to do the loop and made for a perfect day of fall hiking! The first taste of Vermont, the Green Mountains and Long Trail have left us wanting more. We'll be back. So many mountains, so little time...

Worcester Range from ledges below Wind Gap

Camel's Hump summit above Wind Gap

Frosty summit approach

Nat approaching the top

Mansfield in the distance from the summit

Top 'O the Hump

View back to the summit on the drive home

Complete photo album here:

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Rattlesnake, Zealand and Belknap Medley - 10/2 - 10/4/09

If this year of hiking has taught us nothing else it is how to be adaptable. Very few trips have turned out as planned but all have turned out great. This weekend was no exception. Over a month ago we planned an overnight backpack to the Baldies with Tim, Val, Kevin, Judy and Emma for this weekend. As the weekend approached and the weather forecast got worse and worse we knew that this trip was out. Neither an overnight in cold rain or an "adventure" on the wet ledges seemed like a very good idea. Since we had already arranged a house/dog/daughter sitter for the weekend we weren't giving up though. Let's make some lemonade out of these lemons...

Tim and Val had invited us to come and offered to find alternate hikes to do with us regardless of the weather. Since Friday looked like the best of the days we decided to go early and sneak in an extra hike. We left RI mid-morning to avoid the weekday Boston traffic and had smooth sailing all the way up. 

West Rattlesnake and Five Finger Point

At 1:00 we were at the West Rattlesnake trailhead and ready to go. We picked this one since it was a) close to Tim&Val, b) one we hadn't done and c) hopefully nice lake views on a clear day. We weren't disappointed. We headed up the Bridle Path to West Rattlesnake and were greeted by beautiful views and a small weekday summit crowd. Didn't hang out too long before heading down the Pasture Trail which drops down very steeply toward the lake. We took the Five Finger Point trail out to and around the point and this was our favorite part of the walk. The trail runs right next to the water all the way around and there are several small beaches and swimming areas that would be great on a hot summer day. On the way back up we decided to take the Col Trail and skip East Rattlesnake due to time. The Col Trail was surprisingly steep as was the Ridge Trail back up to the west peak and we worked up a good sweat on the way up. One more stop to soak in the view and then back out to the car. The whole hike turned out to be really great and much more of a workout than expected. Will definitely do this one again and be sure to visit East Rattlesnake next time as well.

West Rattlesnake summit and Squam Lake

The views from Five Finger Point

Old soldier on West Rattlesnake

Friday night we had a great time hanging out with Tim&Val, enjoying the wonderful dinner they prepared along with an apple pie that Nat had baked for dessert (oh yeah, the start of a food weekend) and trying to come up with a plan for Saturday with a forecast that was calling for 2-3 inches of rain with thunderstorms. Turns out that we both had been thinking about Zealand Valley as one of the top "in the rain" options and decided to go with that as long as things didn't get even worse...

Zealand Valley, Thoreau Falls

On Saturday morning the forecast had improved and it looked like the really bad stuff wouldn't come till later in the afternoon. We headed out after stuffing ourselves with the great breakfast that Tim prepared (I would definitely need to hike more if he was providing breakfast all the time or I'd gain 20 pounds) and were at the Zealand trailhead at 9:00. The walk out to Thoreau Falls was beautiful. The colors were really nice and the clouds, mist and occasional drizzle provided a nice touch going through the ponds and bogs. The rain held off and didn't really bother us at all. After a nice break at the falls we headed back and up to the hut with another break for lunch and a hot cocoa to warm up. The only really hard rain happened while we were hanging out at the hut (more good timing) and had let up by the time we headed back out. The walk back to the car was nice and I couldn't believe that we'd actually done 10 miles when we were done. Day 2 was now more than successfully salvaged!

Zealand beaver pond

The view from Thoreau Falls

Zealand Valley from the hut

Marching in the mist

Saturday night we went to the Common Man and enjoyed our own little Ashland Booze and Vittles night. The heavy rain arrived and stayed for the night and we started to wonder if our luck was running our for Sunday. By the time we got back to the house and checked the forecast things were looking up. Cloudy with clearing by mid-morning and rain starting later in the day. Could we really luck out again? Val got in touch with Kevin and Judy and they said they'd join us on Sunday and suggested a hike over Gunstock, Belknap and Piper - one that the rest of us hadn't done before. We all agreed that this sounded great.

Gunstock, Belknap, Piper

By the time we got up Sunday morning there were already signs of clearing and things were looking good. After a somewhat smaller breakfast (which included leftover apple pie) we headed out to meet Kevin, Judy and Emma at the Belknap Carriage Road trailhead at 8:30. By the time we got there everything was totally socked in with fog. Bummer. We started up Gunstock and reached the top quickly managing to avoid any big slips on the many greasy ledge sections. The summit of Gunstock was totally socked in and we could barely see the ski lift when we arrived. While we were having a snack the sun started to show through and before we left the summit fog had burned off and we were under blue skies! The view to the lakes was still non-existent but things were definitely looking up on top. 

We dropped back into the trees and through some beautiful sections with the sun streaming through the mist on our way to Belknap. The greasy ledges took their toll several times between Gunstock and Piper and just about everyone managed at least a minor slide down one of them - but happily there was nothing worse to show for it than moss stained rear ends. Climbing the tower at Belknap we were greeted by a spectacular undercast that covered the lakes with both the surrounding peaks and the summits beyond the lakes sticking through. We hung out for quite a while watching various peaks drifting in and out of the clouds below and marveling at our good fortune for another spectacular day. After another snack break (gotta eat on every peak, right?) we dropped back down into the trees for the mile or so ridge walk to Piper. 

We arrived on the Piper summit to find clear skies with the surrounding peaks drifting in and out of the clouds that were starting to gather again. The summit of Piper is really unique with it's large area of open ledge, scrub, grass, etc and the collection of "rock sculpture" including various "chairs" and a "throne". Another long break for lunch and to enjoy the wonderful spot which we had all to ourselves. The hike back down to the car was quick with only a few more slippery ledges that we managed to negotiate without incident. We all went our separate ways at the parking lot after vowing to get back together soon to do one of many of the possible trips we'd discussed on the way as well as scheming a way to get in that Baldies backpack that had eluded us this time. 

Foggy views from Gunstock

Preparing to feed the wildlife

The sun breaks through on the way to Belknap

Belknap Range breaking through the undercast

On Piper summit

Views from Piper

Piper "alpine garden"

For what seemed to have been a failed plan a few days before I can't think of a better way that we could have spent the weekend! Great hiking, great weather (even the Saturday drizzle), great food and great company!!! Thanks Tim&Val for the wonderful hospitality and giving us the opportunity for another great weekend in the Whites and to Kevin, Judy and Emma for suggesting and leading us all on a great new hike that will definitely be one we repeat!

Complete photo album:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Frozen Shot of Franconia Ridge With a Lonsome Lake Chaser - 9/19 - 9/20-2009

After the early exit from the Pemi Loop in July we've had our sights set on Franconia Ridge. Couldn't be that close and not make it this year. This weekend all the stars seemed to be aligned. Our daughter was sleeping over at a friend's house, the weather forecast was great - perfect! We got a reservation for Saturday night at Lafayette Place (which turned out to be a good thing since they were full by the time we checked in). Our friend Mary who has been trying to get into hiking had also been thinking about going up North this weekend and decided to join us. Everything was set! 

We were on the road at 4:30 Saturday morning and were in the trailhead lot at 7:50. No traffic to worry about at that time. The skies were clear and blue all the way up - right until we got to Franconia Notch that is. Some clouds were moving in from the West and were covering the ridge when we started. Signs of things to come. The OBS higher summits forecast the night before had been for temps in the low 30s with 40-55mph winds and clouds clearing as the day progressed. We geared up accordingly and hit the trail. 

It was a bit windy and chilly but comfortable going up the Falling Waters trail and we made pretty good time. Just above Shining Rock we met a couple who were coming down from the ridge and commented that it was "28 and frosty up there". Frosty - hmmmm. As we reached the beginning of the trees just below treeline we were greeted by everything covered in a nice fresh coat of rime. Beautiful (but a bit surreal for a nice September day). We took our lunch break in the trees and put our extra layers on before hitting the ridge. We ran into a bunch of groups going past us with people in shorts and t-shirts with maybe a cotton sweatshirt for extra warmth. Many were grumbling about the cold but none were turning back. We told several what the forecast was but that just produced more grumbling.

When we ventured out onto the ridge we were greeted with a truly surreal landscape. The rocks, trees and everything vertical was covered in rime or "ice feathers". Visibility was only a hundred yards or so much of the time. The temp was probably around 30 and the wind was blowing 40-50 (a guess). As bad as that sounds it was just beautiful! We kept hoping that we were going to get the clearing that had been predicted so that Mary could get her first views across the ridge, but no such luck. We made it across without hurrying and stayed reasonably comfortable. We were able to get on the lee side of the rocks and stay out of the wind at least part of the time. My new Seek the Peak polar fleece did a great job of wind blocking and warmth (over a couple of other layers). I can't imagine how some of the "shorts and t-shirt crowd" made it across though.

We were on the summit of Lafayette at 1:00 (2 hours across the ridge) and found a nice spot in the rocks out of the wind for tea and snack to warm up. As we were finishing the clouds started to lift and soon everything to the West was in the clear. We never did get a view into the Pemi though. After a short stay on the summit and some summit pics to celebrate we headed for the hut. We had incredible views all the way down with some really wonderful ones back up to the ridge with the rime now gleaming in the sun. 

We stopped at the hut which was packed to overflowing with other day-hikers. We lucked out and got some great soup that they had made for the extra crowd. Warmed up inside and out we headed out after taking some time on the porch to soak in the views of the ridge now completely under sunny skies. The hike down the Old Bridle Path was great and we enjoyed more awesome views from the ledges on the way. We were back at the car at 5:30 after a long and wonderful day. We checked into the campground and quickly got our tents pitched and celebrated with a glass of wine (thanks Mary) before heading out for a fantastic dinner at Gypsy Cafe. We all slept great burrowed into our sleeping bags on a very cold Fall night. 

We woke to beautiful blue skies and the wind has disappeared. After a quick breakfast and coffee by the fire we did a whirlwind pack-up and headed out for a quick hike up to Lonesome Lake to finish off the weekend. The hike up to and around the lake was beautiful and the views across the lake to Franconia Ridge were spectacular. I reminded Mary of the fact that what she was looking at was the complete route that she had done over the last day and that she should be pretty proud for her first real significant hike after getting back into hiking. Hats off Mary!! We had a great time sharing this with you! 

We finished off the trip in the best way possible - with lunch on the patio at Woodstock Station. All in all an absolutely perfect weekend!!!

Cloudland Falls

The new fleece preparing to take on the cold

Ice Feathers

What Lies Ahead

The Frozen Version of "What the Hell Rock"

Frozen Landscape

Mary and Nat Crossing Lincoln

Cold, Windy (and slippery) on Mt Truman

Clearing on Lafayette

Happy Hikers!

Mary Joining the Lafayette Celebration

Frosty Cairn

Garfield Ridge Emerging 

Franconia Ridge Finally Out of the Clouds

The Agonies and Lafayette from the Old Bridle Path

Sunday at Lonesome Lake

No clouds, ice or wind on Franconia Ridge now...