Hancock Mountain, North & South Peak

  • Elevation: North Peak: 4,380 Feet, South Peak: 4,278 Feet
  • Location: Lincoln, NH
  • Dates Hiked: October 23, 2017
  • Companions: Stud
  • Trails: Hancock Notch, Cedar Brook, Hancock Loop

Stud and I debate whether or not we can motivate ourselves to get up and out early enough to see the sunrise on top of the Hancocks.  We have just hiked the Osceolas the day before and we are staying in a tiny cabin just 20 minutes from the trailhead.  We decide to get up early but not THAT early and we are at the trailhead by 6:45am.  The parking area is tucked inside the crook of the tightest hairpin turn on the Kancamagus Highway.  Its dark and spooky and we have to cross the highway but its easy cause no one is coming. We don our headlamps and we are off!  My headlamp is SIGNIFICANTLY dimmer than Studs.  I really got to change those batteries…

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Not long after we make our way into the woods, the trail lightens up enough to put away our headlamps…and since mine isn’t really working that great anyway., I happily tuck it away in my pack.  The trail is lovely and fairly flat and wide.  We walk along the North Fork of the Hancock River. There are some great camp sites and I take notes in my head about revisiting this area. We quietly pass some sleepy tents followed by their trash and food tied in a low hanging bush up the trail that basically yelled “come n get it bears and other ground dwellers!”

We pass by these bright red berries and I wonder about them.  Stud says “gut berries” referencing the youth novel Hatchet where this kid gets in a plane crash and has to survive in the wild and eats these “gut berries” that make him sick but hes so hungry that he continues to eat them until he figures out how to sustain himself.

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We check the map at the upcoming intersections and make our way deeper in towards the edges of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.  We take a big break when we arrive at the Hancock Loop Trail where the real ascent begins.  We eat and pee and hydrate and then start making our way up.  Its an intense .7 of a mile with over a thousand feet of elevation gain and we are feelin it!  Since we got such an early start, we take our time and take long breaks soakin up the balsams and the spruce.29CEF154-8099-462A-9A5D-17307DADF58D37D3E5D7-0057-4B3C-8DBA-0E64E23992FBWe push up and up until boom!  We see this sign!51A4781E-05CF-486B-A435-465A53017A6EWe make our way over to the outlook for North Peak and the clouds sit below in the valleys and its all just almost too much to bear.  We exclaim and curse and jump around trying to not fall off the mountain.  I take lots of pictures of a stick that I found along the way up and then lay it to rest near north peak as a gift.A3E1857D-6D8B-416B-89B0-4CECD124D5A179963BC3-1D40-42B7-A69D-9F20788F5918DB6B3AFC-61FB-4051-9BE8-3F7327CEBCB3F856DD5C-9A6D-435D-9488-242CC73DEA95

 

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We then head towards South Peak which looks impossibly far away.  I am always amazed how far away a mountain will look across a valley and can’t imagine that I could ever just walk there in an hour or so but we do.

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We dip into a scraggly mountain spruce forest and the morning light flickers between the trees like a film strip.  Its not even 11 and we’ve already had our lunch break and I feel so peaceful and present in this mountain.28CECF81-0EA9-42B8-9BC1-7C7E35C9EA3F98D29F20-8299-4455-B3AD-1D3DF6EA466EF285C422-8E7C-4C66-A3EB-7A302BD71CEB890FDAB5-5FC9-4521-8162-0A90C44FA1F9942DE4D5-8571-4411-9395-006E35BD1E28

Almost too soon we pop out on South Peak.  I am not ready to descend but that is whats next.  We sit and look out and talk about Mount Carrigain which looms off to the east. We talk about maybe saving that one for last on our NH48 list.  We try to distinguish the many peaks and then start our descent.D6B00A18-04EA-46E2-8714-52506C28AA92637F3418-5413-4004-A1EE-03348D4951F0

The descent is steep and brutal and we grunt and take breaks to rest our knees.  By the time we are back down it is only 2pm and we take a long leisurely rest on some benches at the scenic parking area where we are parked.  It overlooks the Osceolas where we were the day before and there are some informational stories and pictures about the history of peak baggers and hikers who use to be called Mountain Trampers who came up from the city just like us to find adventure and wonder in the White Mountains. Many of these mountain trampers were women.  I would like to read their journals.

We head back to the cabin for a rest and then back into Lincoln to explore the gear shops.  We check out some hiking boots.  I ask to try on a pair of mens boots and the clerk ignores my request and tells me that she will go get the women’s equivalent boots.  I say I am not interested in that boot and she tells me not to worry because the color is very “neutral”.   I cringe a little at her assumption and then I ask again, politely, for the mens size.  She asks about my foot width.  I ignore her question and I ask her again for the boot I want to try on until I am exhausted by the exchange and we decide to leave.  In these moments I wish I had an index card to hand out that just lays it all out for people who just don’t get it.  Also, dear world, when you see a pair of butch dykes, tomboys, masculine appearing women, whatever, please don’t call us ladies.  Just don’t.  Here are some alternatives: ya’ll, folks, or just “hello” will do.  This slight effort will go so much farther and deeper than you can ever know.

 

 

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The Osceolas and The Step Of Truth

  • Elevation:  4,315 Feet (Mount Osceola) 4,156 (East Peak)
  • Location: Lincoln, NH
  • Date Hiked: October 22, 2017
  • Companions: Stud
  • Trails: Mt Osceola Trail

Stud and I make a spontaneous decision to turn off of 93 and head up Tripoli Road, a long and winding dirt road that neither of us are familiar with.  It will be closed for the winter and it feels exciting and unknown.  The foliage is blowing our minds and we spot all these stealthy campsites along the road with cute little fire rings tucked into the woods by streams.

We are ultimately headed to a tiny cabin in Lincoln for a couple nights with the intention to hike some 4,000 footers for a few days.  But we’ve been busy and we haven’t had time to plan or look at the maps before now.  All that was certain was the cabin reservation that Stud made for us.  The day is young and we are dressed for hiking and our packs are full and ready to go with water, snacks and the essentials.  As we cross from Massachusetts into New Hampshire we start tossing the question back and forth about what we want to do first.  Stud pours over the maps in the passenger seat and we talk through our options deciding to hike the Osceolas.  There are 2 approaches.  We decide at the last minute to hike in from Thornton Gap which is suddenly our next exit.  The tiny dirt lot is full and cars have started to park on the side of the road and we do the same.  Its a beautiful mild fall Sunday in the whites and this is a fairly moderate hike and there are lots of people out but we manage to not get caught up in a big leap frog situation.  The trail is well maintained and full of switchbacks which seem like a rarity in the northeast.  I love a switchback and am always delighted when they appear.  We climb steadily popping out on Mount Osceola within two hours.  The summit is packed so we don’t stop.  We snap a quick pick and keep moving.  The trail heads down from here over to the summit of Mount Osceola’s East Peak.E07585F8-A573-4C3F-BD50-C71A9484FD92We reach a fork and it looks to us to be a little rocky outcropping off to the side of the trail so we plop down and dig into our snacks thinking we are well enough out of the way.  We don’t realize that we are sitting on top of a section of the trail between the two summits known as the “Chimney”.  And there are 2 ways up or down the Chimney: the steep way and the steeper way.  Just as we are getting comfortable and shoving food in our mouths, a couple hikers are coming up this steeper side of the chimney which happens to be just below us.  Its sort of around a bend which is why we didn’t notice and the hikers rising up catch me off guard.   We cut our break short and move out of the way and decide to just keep moving.  We start our decent down the chimney.  There is a mom and her 2 young boys ahead of us and one of them is pretty nervous, hesitating for a long time before climbing down.  The mom gets nervous about us and keeps apologizing to Stud and I who are stuck behind this little guy while she tries to coax him down.  We don’t mind and I feel for the kid.

We climb down slowly finding the foot and hand holds and taking our time with it.  Once at the base its a leisurely stroll to the other summit and we arrive at Mount Osceola’s East Peak maybe an hour after having left the first summit.  The summit is in the trees and marked by a cairn and there is a really funny pair of women lingering.  We sit and eat and take in the scenery.  The funny pair move along and yet again we are blessed with a summit to ourselves.  We enjoy our quiet afternoon up here.  I have come to really love a summit in the trees.  I love the way the scraggly mountain firs fragment the sky letting in streams of light.BF4C94F6-6C7A-4D86-AF33-AB6202FF641548B9A3DD-B036-489E-BC1C-5186D50166A699519857-1874-41B1-9DE4-94C93960A7FC

Now we have to go back the way we came and we catch up with the funny pair of women climbing up the Chimney.  Its looks wicked steep from below.  We decide to go up the “steeper” way just for kicks.  Stud goes first and as I climb up behind her she acknowledges this one tricky step which I then name the “Step Of Truth” and we think this is hilarious.  02CECC07-47D7-4477-8677-176D79EE185F940C897D-CFC4-4523-924E-1BFDACB5B6712B8BCFA5-5141-4B93-BB5F-9C4C46E3CD06

I hereby dub this the “Step Of Truth”

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Just as I make my way to the top of the Chimney and am able to lift my gaze up again, I spot this perfect little toadstool under the mossy underside of the rocky trail.

DF14AA40-4226-4D40-9F86-B2D4F6C83501We pass some hikers who ask about the Chimney ahead and I really want to make some kind of comment about the “Step Of Truth” but I can’t figure out how to do it without being obnoxious but we joke about it after.  Once back at Mount Osceola’s summit we sit for a long time enjoying he views and enduring the little crowd of fellow city slickers and dogs.  We start to feel uneasy about some hikers getting too close to the edge so we make our way down to the car.  We feel great and its not very late so we head to our cabin and take hot showers flip on the TV and get lost in a marathon of American Ninja Warrior and become immediately attached to who we want to win.  We head into Lincoln for dinner at the Gypsy Cafe where I have the most aesthetically pleasing cup of tea ever.  Back at our tiny cabin we get sucked back into American Ninja Warrior until our eye lids get heavy. We each have our own little tiny room connected by a screened-in porch that hangs right over the Pemigewasset River which lulls us to sleep.532CFCA4-75C2-4F66-8241-0AC462746D5D0B1A837F-E262-4BBC-8F8D-1A559135F8DF

Owl’s Head – The Holy Grail of the NH48

  • Elevation: 4,025 feet
  • Location: Franconia, NH
  • Date Hiked: September, 23 2017
  • Companions: Stud % 5e
  • Trails: Lincoln Woods, Franconia Brook, Lincoln Brook

What makes Owl’s Head the Holy Grail of the NH48?  For starters, it is set deep in the middle of the Pemigewasset Wilderness on unmaintained trails far from any parking lot, established campsites or huts and sits far off the beaten path of the many other popular hikes in this region.  It requires multiple river crossings that can be seriously hazardous during high water.  One has be prepared to spend a night in the backcountry OR be able to hike big miles to summit this mountain.  The actual “trail” or “path” up Owl’s Head is basically a super steep exposed rock slide of sand and loose gravel and boulders that basically crumble under foot.  Once you get up top, you are in the trees and have to climb over and under downed trees to find the summit cairn which has been moved in the last decade to the “true” summit making the whole trip .4 miles further than it already was. Because of all these features, Owl’s Head is often put off and left last on people’s list who are attempting the NH48.

After much perseverating over routes and options, Stud I finally came to the conclusion that we would attempt to reach the elusive Owl’s Head summit as an out and back 19-mile day hike in late summer/early fall when the water levels were low.  This way we wouldn’t have to cross the rivers with full packs and just have a lighter carry overall. Typically I have zero interest in hiking big miles.  For me, anything over 15 miles is what I consider big miles and I prefer a nice 8-12 mile hike in the mountains where I can have time for extended breaks to take in the forest atmosphere and notice as much as possible beyond the ground in front of me.  I knew this hike would be hard and different from other hikes.

5e, Stud and I head into the Lincoln Woods at 7am wearing most of our layers and start hiking at a pretty good clip to warm up.  We figure that we have about 14 hours of daylight and we guess that our hike will take about 12 hours.  We have our headlamps, water treatment, extra food and all our essentials.  We are hiking on an old logging railroad so the terrain is very flat and the leaves are just starting to change and it is magical.  Our first 2 river crossing are over bridges and we scope the water and keep our anticipatory talk about the upcoming river crossings to a minimum but we know we are all nervous about them.  We leapfrog with a few other hikers.  Its a clear day and the parking lot had been pretty full but most hikers are not headed to Owl’s Head.  That said, we are not the only ones on this adventure and we are relieved to meet others headed that way knowing we will not be completely alone out there.IMG_2794IMG_2795

The walk is lovely.  A true walk in the woods.  Unlike other hikes that just head straight up, we are hiking many miles over the course of many hours just to get close to this mountain.  We reach the first river crossing and I feel super anxious.  Stud rock hops across like its nothing and 5e and I follow suit.  But I don’t feel  relieved when I make it to the other side cuz I know there is more to come.  We reach the next crossing.  Same thing.  And the next.  By our fourth crossing we are cheering and finally feeling relief about the water.  We keep our breaks short and eat often.  We are walking and weaving along the river and its so pretty and peaceful and its flowing babble just lulls me into a rhythm.  The few hikers we pass are very friendly and humble and the vibe on the trail is one that I really love.  Owl’s Head starts to come into view on our right and we figure we must be getting close to the slide path that goes straight up it and we start to look for it knowing it may not be well marked having read this in the guidebooks.IMG_2796IMG_2797

We manage our last crossing just before reaching a pair of cairns marking the Owl’s Head Path and I consider them a threshold to this myth of a mountain.  We pause and take a short break before heading up.  We chug our water and refill our liters and have a last snack.  As we start our ascent, I am very aware of how deep in the woods we are and how late it feels to just be starting up a mountain and how we’ve already been hiking for over 4 hours and the toughest part is yet to come.  We reach the slidy stuff and each step up sort of slides back a bit.  It is profoundly steep and the gravel and loose rocks crumble under foot and we are all scared.  Stud panic hikes ahead and 5e expresses her fear just below me while I try to keep steadily moving up.  We do our best to not loosen the rocks so that they don’t fall on each other but they fall everywhere.  I grunt and laugh nervously and we encourage each other until alas we reach the top of the slide and find ourselves on more of a trail with more solid rock scrambles which are fun and a relief. The steepness starts to level out and we have entered the mossy greenery and we can see the blue sky start to peak thru the wind blown spruces ahead of us.

We climb over and under and around the downed trees towards the “new” summit and reach the cairn and it feels fricken awesome.   It reminds me of how I felt when I reached the summits of Mansfield and Camel’s Hump on the Long Trail.  I can’t believe I am standing on Owl’s Head.  It is surreal.  It feels amazing.  We collapse and eat and chug water and then we are joined by another hiker who asks us if we would help him cheer for his friend who is coming along behind him.  He tells us that this is his friends 48th and final mountain in completing his NH48 goal.  We are pumped!  We hear him coming and we all stand up and start clapping.  He is shocked to hear us as we start cheering for him and I almost get emotional.  He looks to be in his late 50’s and I find out later that he’s from NY and has been chipping away at the NH48 for the past 7 years.  Its my first time being on a NH48 summit with someone celebrating their final peak and he is touched and humble about it.  His friend’s final mountain is Madison and they plan to hike that the next day.  We congratulate them and end our summit break a little early to give them some time alone on the summit.

Walking back Stud spots a big brown rabbit.  Its was huge and hopping around on top of this mossy summit and something about that rabbit just really got to me.  A message for sure.  As we begin our descent down the slide trail we are pretty freaked out about going down but its okay.  We slip and slide and we loosen rocks that knock each other behind foot and I even have a dramatic fall at one point but we are fine and we just take our time and talk each other down it and when we reach the bottom and cross back over the threshold between the cairns, we collapse by the river.  We lay on the soft pine floor and chug our liters, eat snacks, refill water and rest.  Its mid afternoon and we have a long hike out.  We feel great and we manage to get across all the river crossings just fine.  A couple hours later the light starts to fade and so do we.  We are exhausted and things start to hurt.  The last 2 miles are brutal and I just want to collapse but I just keep walking and we all start to just drag ourselves forward.  I keep drawing my attention away from my physical discomfort and try to focus the trees, the river, the leaves, the beings and I a, so grateful to be on this land.  I am delighted to see so much Balsam Fir.

We reach the suspension bridge at 6:30PM, exactly 11.5 hours and 18.5 miles later and we climb down underneath it to soak our feet in the cold river.  I attempt to get all the way in but its too cold and the light is fading and I don’t want to get over cold.  But I wash the dirt off my calves and splash water on my face and arms.  We hobble to the car and change into jeans and flannel and it feels so good.  We drive away from the Lincoln Woods as the sun sets over the misty blue mountains and we feel incredibly accomplished, exhausted, sore, and content.

 

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Queer Youth Mountain top cabin to cabin Adventure with The Venture Out Project!

IMG_2590IMG_2591IMG_2592IMG_2593IMG_2594IMG_2596IMG_2597IMG_2598IMG_2599IMG_2600IMG_2601IMG_2602IMG_2604We awake at first light on the front porch of Mount Cardigan’s High Cabin.  We tiptoe inside and quietly make coffee, trying not to wake the exhausted youth asleep in their bunks.  We bring our coffee back to the porch and sit in our sleeping bags.  The youth start to stir.  I venture off the porch to study the spruces and firs with this new tree identification book I got.

The youth are pretty wrecked from yesterday’s climb and adjusting to the backpacking gear and the late night of chatter and giggling.  Movement is slow.  Bear Bait encourages their packing up process along by frying up pancakes.

We make our way down Mount Cardigan chatting about family, gender, oppression, identity and all the isms and social justice stuff that queers talk about.

It was hot, and when we get to the base there is a pond and some of us go swimming.  Swimming can be complicated for trans and gender nonconforming folks.  Fortunately we have the pond to ourselves, but even in a queer bubble, undressing and swimming can be loaded.  Having a body can just be an edgy thing.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

We dry off, eat snacks, refill water bottles, load up and drive north into the White Mountains.  Its a two hour ride to Jackson, NH, and we take the scenic Kancamagus Highway with its mountainous views and windy curves.  We find our next trail head and eat lunch on the side of a dirt road before heading up.

We start climbing Doublehead Mountain, and despite our best efforts to keep our youth hiking together as a group, they start to fall apart.  We sense the agitation and it becomes clear that our facilitation isn’t working.  We take a big pause and circle up on the trail.  Perry gracefully facilitates an honest check-in about feelings and it all comes out.  That beautiful moment has arrived whereas the adults (Perry, Bear Bait, and myself) must step back and pass the leadership baton to the youth who will then come up with their own plan for getting themselves up the mountain together as a group.

Perry, Bear Bait, and I linger behind giving them the time and space they need to figure it out.  We reunite with them at the Doublehead Cabin at the top and the morale is good.  There is a universal feeling of accomplishment and connectedness.  We enjoy a celebratory dinner of backcountry pita pizza.

The thing about queer youth is that they are so fricken compassionate, caring and patient with each other.  I’ve been hanging out in queer youth spaces for the past 8 years and its downright heart melting to watch how a group will open their hearts and circles to make room for that wild card who maybe was rejected everywhere else.  On this hike I watched folks slow down so that no one had to feel like they couldn’t keep up and I watched folks listen to stories that maybe weren’t welcome at school or at home.  When I say I feel inspired by queer youth and feel hopeful it’s cuz the youth are the future.  I feel pretty awesome about the future knowing some of the queer youth leaders I know will grow into adult leadership roles.  I was also inspired watching my fellow TVOP Instructors navigate that space between nurture, leadership, and letting go.

On our last afternoon I guided a Forest Bathing Walk on a flat stretch of trail between the summit of Black Mountain and the Black Mountain Cabin.  I invited all of us to take in the forest atmosphere just a little more deeply.  We moved very slowly thru an alpine conifer forest, circling up along the way, sharing our observations thru our opened senses and our tree companions.  We found metaphors in the forest reflecting our strengths and our deepening connections to each other and the more than human world.  We closed with a tea ceremony where I offered an infusion of Purslane Tea that I had brought from Jamaica Plain.  Purslane is a rugged and relentless plant that grows between sidewalk cracks and has the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids among all plants.  It’s also got iron and vitamin C.  We smelled and drank our tea, taking the forest into our bodies and then made our way back down to our cabin.

Its been a few days since we got off the trail.  I miss our incredible group and I wonder how their transitions home have been and if and when I may get to see them again.  Grateful.

 

 

Mount Hood

Drove up to Timberline Lodge and the sun was out and the sky was clear and the snow banks were 15-20 feet high on the side of the road.  Mount Hood loomed ahead.

We “split” our boards and put the skins on which are these long strips that stick on the bottom to give you traction so you can “skin” up the mountain.  We clipped in and headed up.  We started at 6000 feet and a mile and an hour later we were at 7000 feet.

We found a flattish spot and and sat and ate our pbjs and chugged water and chatted and tried to take in the endless views for about an hour unaware that our faces were burning.  The summit looked so close…but it was like an optical illusion cuz it’s over 11,000 feet and super steep and getting up it requires ropes, ice axes, crampons and technical mountaineering skills and I have zero of these things and zero interest in mountaineering.I did have an interest of continuing up the glacier but I felt weird from the altitude and Travis said even though it looked really gradual that it was actually very steep and this was my first time doing something like this so we decided to descend.  We peeled the skins off, clipped the board back together, moved the bindings and strapped in.  Oh the awkwardness of riding down on a rental.  I could hardly control the board and had trouble turning so I stayed close to the groomed Timberline area which is a ski resort  with lifts which we were basically next to.  Travis dropped into this gulley that looked really fun but I stayed up top since my board felt so weird.  I giggled all the way down stopping to do a face plant somersault which made me laugh so hard I wasn’t sure I’d be able get down.​We explored Timberline Lodge which is full of history describing how this massive place built in the 30’s on this giant active mountain volcano  where people ski all summer long.  We took advantage of the heated outdoor pool and jacuzzi.  We lounged by the gigantic fire places.  We smothered our sunburnt faces with fancy hotel lotion. We watched The Shining in our little bunk room where the windows were covered with snow.  We ate the infamous breakfast buffet.  We woke up to tons of snow and had to put chains on the tires – a new experience for me.  Of course the road was then clear so we pulled off to take them back off.  A fun adventure with chains. Once below the snow line we went for a little hike on the foothills of Mount Hood in the rainforest where there were old growth Douglas furs covered in electric green moss.  We hugged them.  Travis described them as Dr Seuss trees.  We walked long this raging river and it was intense how powerful that water felt.  Tomorrow we head to the coast!

Reuniting and a fun event!

Next week I am flying out to Portland, Oregon to reunite with Bear Bait who I have not scene since we finished the Long Trail in September!  Bear Bait has created an amazing itinerary of fun adventures to take me on when I get out there including:

This event cosponsored by Unlikely Hikers and  The Venture Out Project!

We are going to share some pictures and stories about our thru-hike of The Long Trail, the oldest long distance trail in the country.  We will also talk about how we planned for our thru-hike and answer any questions that anyone might have.  If you are near Portland, Oregon I hope you will join us!

Voluntary Hike Safe Card

I finally got myself a Hike Safe Card from New Hampshire Fish and Game.

For a measly $25, the money goes directly to NH Fish and Game who spend thousands of dollars and hours often risking lives in order to rescue hikers and outdoor enthusiasts who get into trouble out there on those rugged White Mountains and deep woods.

The card also keeps you from being liable for costs associated with a rescue mission.  For example, if you go out on an aggressive hike totally unprepared (like wearing jeans and carrying no food or water or map) and then something happens and you need a helicopter evacuation, than yes, you will get a bill for that and have to pay for your negligence.  You can still be held accountable even with the card (like the example I gave) but I think the idea of the card is more about that act of buying the card.  It shows that you are thinking ahead and making the extra effort to be prepared out there.  This is something I think about and talk about with my hiking companions when I go on a hike.  I consider how I might be evaluated if I were to be evacuated by a helicopter…like if NH Fish and Game looked in my backpack upon rescuing me and discovered that I only had 8/10 of the Ten Essentials, what would be the ruling if I forgot my whistle or compass?  Having the card simply helps me remember my whistle and compass.

I feel proud to carry one now…like I’ve made a commitment to hike more and be more safe and more prepared.  You might say I’m engaged with the White Mountains now.  Remind me to show you my shiny new laminated Hike Safe Card.

You can get your own Hike Safe Card here:
Hike Safe

North & South Kinsman

North Kinsman

  • Elevation: 4,293 Feet
  • Location: Franconia, NH
  • Date Hiked: October 2016
  • Companions: Stud
  • Trails: Fishin Jimmy Trail/Appalachian Trail

South Kinsman

  • Elevation: 4,358 Feet
  • Location: Franconia, NH
  • Date Hiked: October 2016
  • Companions: Stud
  • Trails: Kinsman Ridge Trail/Appalachian Trail

Sometime over the summer I proposed to Stud that we hike the NH48.  Even though I have already hiked almost half of them, I never considered myself much of a peak bagger and I never bothered to keep track until now.  I’ve always been motivated up mountains for the sweet smell of the pine trees, the fresh air, the exercise, the quiet and the magic of the forest.  I love a view and I do enjoy a summit very much but I’ve always been cautious about letting myself get too focused on summiting.  I don’t want to miss out on the journey and I also want to be safe.  My first attempt up Katahdin was thwarted by fast moving dark clouds and hail just as I was less then a quarter mile from the summit.  I took a cut off trail and headed back down.  I’m not trying to die on a mountain.  I go up mountains to live!

All that said, I was inspired by these women to allow myself the goal of hiking all the NH48 and I decided to ask Stud to do it with me.  I often hike the same trails and the same mountains and I have spots in the White Mountains that motivate me to plan trips around but the idea of trying to complete this list of the NH48 brings so much new adventure. There are mountains on the list that I have never heard of and there are sections of the Whites that I have never even been to!  There are so many ridge lines to explore that I might not explore otherwise.  I am really excited about this longterm goal with Stud.  We are thinking of it as a 5-year plan.

Stud and I hiked our first 4000 footer together in 2013.  As of yesterday we have done 8 of them so far.  I have done 24 of them over the past 6 years with various friends but I am going to re-hike them all with Stud so we can complete the list together and support each other in reaching a shared goal.  Stud is totally into it and even made me this amazing journal to keep track of our adventures in!

Yesterday we day tripped into Franconia Notch where we headed up to Lonesome Lake and then hopped on the Appalachian Trail on a section called “Fishin Jimmy Trail” that intersects with the “Kinsman Ridge Trail”.  We summited North Kinsman (4293ft) and South Kinsman (4358).  It took us about 8 hours to go just under 10 miles.  The trail was steep and rocky and rugged and brought back sweet memories of the Long Trail.  It was cloudy in the morning but by the time we got to our first summit the clouds started to dissipate right in front of our very eyes and the Franconia Ridge revealed itself in all its massive glory with Mount Lafayette dominating the range with its summit hung in a cloud.  The foliage seemed to be peaking down in the valleys with large areas of reds and oranges and rusts.  The sun burned thru and warmed us just enough to be able to linger on the summits without cooling down too much although we did cool down fast and had to keep moving.  By the time we were descending the skies were clear and the commanding views made it hard to watch our steps down the wet craggy rocky path.  Legs are sore today!  Even though North and South Kinsman are our 7th and 8th 4000 footers together, this hike felt like our official NH48 kick off climb since this was our first hike since we decided to do the NH48 together.  Only 40 more peaks to go and if the weather allows us, we may try to bag another 3-5 next weekend.




Franconia Notch

Despite having spent my whole life in New England, the fall foliage still blows my mind every year.  Ayla and I decided to join the other leaf peeping tourists this weekend and head to the White Mountains to stretch our legs on some trails and take in the rusty hues.

We threw a bunch of camping gear and some snacks in the car and left at 6am driving up into Franconia Notch.  Our first stop was the Flume which is a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. The granite walls  rise to a height of 70 to 90 feet and are 12 to 20 feet apart and there is a boardwalk built onto the side of the rock wall the goes over the water running thru the bottom of the gorge.  There is also a tiny cave that we crawled thru.  No other adults dared it.  Just us and the kids.  I was just barely able to squeeze myself thru a tiny hole at the end of it by like doing a belly-flop-face-plant type maneuver with my legs up in the air behind me while I dragged myself toward the light.  We dusted ourselves off and continued across a little covered bridge overlooking a massive deep natural pool and some other viewpoints.

After a short water and snack break at the car, we were able to walk to another a trailhead that goes up Pemigewasset Mountain which is a little mountain that opens up to some bald rock ledges overlooking some breath taking foliage.  The summit was hopping.  Not only was it a lovely Saturday of Columbus Day Weekend but it was also a Canadian Holiday and Franconia Notch was packed.  Fortunately we did our hiking adventure early and were leaving the area before the place was totally blown out.  I expected hikers to be out and about but I was shocked when I discovered LaFayette Campground was full.  We stopped in Franconia Village to pick up some supplies before venturing to a more remote area of the White Mountains where we could find a quieter place to camp in the National Park called Wildwood Campground where there was plenty of spots.  I put up the tent and Ayla started a fire.  I chopped up an onion, a seitan sausage that Tracy had made and some mushrooms and tossed them in the tiny dutch oven with some olive oil and let it simmer in the fire.  After that was done we poured in some leftover butternut squash soup we brought from home which heated up quickly in the hot cast iron dutch oven and we poured it over our mushroomy mixture.  We toasted some sour dough rolls we had made at home and walla!  Campfire Dinner!  Later we boiled some water for fancy hot chocolate and just sat talking and watching the embers warm our feet until it was dark enough to get in our sleeping bags at 7PM.  We were just dozing off by 8 when the rain gently began hitting the tent.  Perfect timing.

Woke up around 6 and waited for the rain to slow down before exiting the tent.  It always sounds more rainy in a tent then it actually is outside and once I was up and out, it was barely raining.  We threw everything in the car and meandered down the lovely Daniel Webster Scenic Highway which was very scenic indeed.  So many mountains and the leaves were just miraculous.  We stopped at a diner for coffee and pancakes and then continued on this little highway that weaves in and out of 93 going thru lots of quaint little New England villages.  We stopped at almost every little Country Store and ate olde timey candy and admired the local crafts.  We found a farm stand and bought lots of squash from a nice fellow.  I got a blue hubbard. My favorite. We also bought a spagetti squash, a buttercup, a curry and a cute little pumpkin for Tracy.  We took a short detour into Weirs Beach where we played some pinball and other classic arcade games before finally giving in to getting on the main highway and driving home.  I so needed this little adventure with Ayla who I call “The Cherub” since there really isn’t a word for “my partners daughter”.  I’ve known Ayla since she was 11.  She is now 20.  I am not her step parent but I’m not just her friend. We are family. I’m her Tam.  And she’s my Ayla aka “The Cherub”.   And we have fun hanging out together and it was so nice to get away and just be spontaneous and see stuff and talk about life and all that.

Post hike

It’s been just about two weeks since I finished hiking the Long Trail. I reunited with my awesome and incredible partner who picked me up in Northampton at The Venture Out Project Headquarters where Bear Bait and I were hanging out after generously being picked up by Perry in North Adams.

Talk about a sight for sore eyes!  I’ve never been away from my partner for this long in the 8 years we’ve been together. In the 4 years we’ve lived together I’ve never been away from home for more than 10 days. Infact the last time I left Jamaica Plain for this long was 15 years ago when I spent a month at Haystack in Maine and then drove with my friend from Boston to Santa Cruz, CA via the Deep South following a map I saved from a skateboard magazine detailing every skatepark in the US and trying to skate as many as possible along the way. (This was before internet)  Before mountains inspired me to adventure, outdoor skateparks with concrete bowls led me to almost every state and up and down both coasts on many road trips.

Even after two weeks of being home I am still enamored by running water, flush toilets, the kitchen and the stove with its endless-seeming gas flow, chairs, vegetables with their water still in them. I enjoy the little things like the opportunity to wash my hands and I love making toast and real coffee.

I was extremely tired when I got home and was mostly grounded but there was definitely a crash.  I drove to Vermont with my pal Seven and picked up a Long Trail hiker on the side of the road in Johnson and drove them back to the trail which soothed some of my post trail grief.  We also drove thru smugglers notch and saw rocky craggy caves on this notch road. Then we went to the Green Mountain Club Welcome Center where I ritualistically handed in my journal and Long Trail End-To-Enders Certification Application which will formally put me in the archives with others who have hiked the trail and also award me a patch!  I also bought myself a hat.


After a week I feel like I finally recovered from a month of unrestful sleep and adjusted back to my urban environment. It’s very loud where I live. I’m on a Main Street directly on a major city bus route and a block from a fire station. Lots of sirens and squeaky breaks and engines of large vehicles. It’s overwhelming sometimes.

I finally went back to work this week as I have spent all my money. I am happily self employed. I was reminded of hiking down the forehead of Mansfield today at work as I have my ladder set up on top of some sketchy scaffolding of wood planks over a stairwell.  I actually think I was more comfortable and less afraid as a result of some of the sketchy steep spots I climbed in Vermont.  It feels good to work again but it’s emotionally challenging being out in the world surrounded by the chaotic energy of stressed out people rushing around chasing shiny things.  I’m booked solid for work for the next 3 weeks which feels both oppressive and relieving and I’m grateful for the work.

While I did wash my backpack and aired out some gear, my stuff is still exploded in my room. I think part of me is in denial that the hike is over and I don’t want to put anything away.  I’m looking forward to some fall hiking in the White Mountains in October after I catch back up on my finances this month.  I hope to hike more and do less and make my life simpler thus stay more connected and present to the stuff that matters most like the sky and love.

I do feel that I released something while walking  n the woods for a month. I had a self esteem boost that has enabled me to be more free. I’m just shocked sometimes when I realize I’ve been internalizing negative messages reflected back to me by a mainstream culture where bodies like mine aren’t enough. I am just that much more committed to this lifelong practice of self love and self acceptance as a hairy female bodied, pot bellied,  masculine mannered, male presenting (while not intending to pass and ridden with a lifetime of bathroom anxiety), sometimes slightly scruffy bearded, short, queer, butch, soft core, breastless 38 year old woman person human!

I met marathon runners who couldn’t handle the trail. I met conditioned athletes who have done all kinds of remarkable physical things but they could barely hike in the Northeast.  I saw people with fancy expensive ultralight gear and fit looking bodies who complained and wanted to quit. The Long Trail of Vermont is rugged.  The White Mountains of New Hamshire are rugged. I hike these ridge lines with great joy and sheer determination and I often give my mind all the credit.  But I must give my body some credit too.  I am strong. I may not look it but I am. And I am tough as nails.

Coming soon: A gear review and how my $35 New Balance trail runners faired the 272+ miles and how I missed my boots thus my overall footwear dilemma.