Honestly I knew this would happen, even though I like my new job and once my finances are in order I'll be able to thru hike, it is a bit soul stealing. I have definitely found myself gravitating more towards reading Trail Journals and Appalachian Trials, I am returning to the same longing-for-the-trail rut that I was in before I left on deployment.
This was made a bit worse by my recent vacation to the Lakes Region. Walking the Flume Gorge in the Whites had me stop and think while I was staring up at Mt. Liberty. 'If I had started in February I'd be done, if I had started a bit later I could be right there.' The emotions this concept brought out in me made me realize I still have a true aspiration to hike the length of the AT.
All that being said, this is not a post about my feelings...it's a post about a walk I took through the Belknap Range.
I covered this briefly in my post 'Planning and Shamming' but I was turned onto the Belknap Range Trail (BRT) by my mom who wrote about the hiker patch for one of her classes. It is a 12.2 mile End-to-End trail which takes you across 8 of the 12 peaks needed to score the Belknap Range Hiker patch, and I love hard earned bits of thread (see: GoRuck Challenge)
So true to my initial plan I woke up at 0500 sharp (quickest I've woke up in a while) and drove to the parking lot for Mt. Major which was honestly just down the road from where we were staying on Lake Winnipesauke. I made this trek on the last day of vacation after doing quite a bit of swimming the day before while 'floating' down the Merrimack River, to drag peoples tubes back into formation in the current. So my legs were already pretty smoked and I really started to feel it as I pushed off from the Mt. Major parking lot at around 0530.
The climb up Major is a pretty simple one, but with my legs burning as they woke up to the notion of more physical activity today, it was a bit more painful than it would have been otherwise. Upon reaching the summit I was greeted with an amazing view of the surrounding lakes, which I stopped for a pack off break after screaming up the trail as I sent summit photo to my girlfriend at 0610.
I packed back up and got back underway listening to my iPod the whole way, while I appreciate being out in nature and love listening to the sounds of the birds and wind sometimes the soothing sounds of DMX and Slayer are just what a hiker needs (or the score to the Lord of the Rings movies that make you feel like you've been transported to the Shire). Which brings forward the question I pondered as I walked toward Mt. Anna.
Who barks more DMX or the Baha Men?
Right? You can't call it....and neither can I.
Anyways, most of summits in between Mt. Major and Mt. Klem were a blur, there was no fan fair or in some cases no signs...if there are no signs is it still a summit? Coming down from Mt. Klem the BRT hooks around Round Pond before the ascent to Belknap Mountain. Most of the trails had been pretty easy up until this point and there was a rough rock scramble to get to the summit of the highest peak in the range.
On top of Mt. Belknap is a Fire Tower that my Mom used to hike trash out for, she tells me the man that manned the tower in her day enjoyed anchovies. She told me her cloths and equipment would reek of fish for about a week after making a trip like this. The fire tower still stands there today and is featured on the Belknap Range Hiker Patch.
From just below the summit of Belknap you can see the top of the ski lift on Gunstock, at this point it was about 1000 and I had most of the trail behind me. The last remaining mountains are Gunstock and Rowe. The hike between Gunstock and Belknap is quick, on the top of Gunstock I shared odd glances with a bunch of people standing in line to use the zipline. I imagine they were laughing at me for having to walk down the mountain and I'm laughing at them thanks to South Park.
After sending a photo of the top of the ski lift to my folks and my girlfriend, I pressed onto Mt. Rowe on Ridge Trail. This was probably the easiest section of the hike that was mostly a gradual downhill path to the summit of Rowe which featured the lamest completion point of any hike ever, a post at the end of the trail that terminates into a radio tower and an access road, if it wasn't for the notion of beer at the bottom of the access road I would strongly recommend people hike this path the opposite way I did as it will end on Major which has the best views of any of the summits, though it might make for some challenging descents over the course of the trail.
I walked down the access road (falling 3 separate times due to the steep grade and loose gravel) past the under construction mountain coaster and into the outdoor patio bar known as 'The DropZone' I guess this is where the ziplining adventurers drink. I got a Tuckerman's Pale Ale and the aptly named Summit Nachos while I waited for my ride to come and regaled the bartender with my hike after she seemed impressed someone would walk 12.2 miles from Major to her bar (it's not impressive, I've heard some people walk 2,180 miles)
In short, it was a great hike and I would recommend it for an easy day trip for no other reason other than to get on your way to your Belknap Range Trail Hiker Patch. Also, since I was sending summit photos to my parents and they said 'We're following you on the map!' I think it's about time I got my SPOT GPS beacon up and running if I am going to be doing a Presidential Traverse soon, so my folks can follow me online.
Time: 6 Hours
Avg. Speed: 2.03 MPH
I am back from vacation, with that return comes the not so stunning realization that the star-dusty sheen has worn off my new job and I have returned to spending much of my work day staring into the abyss and reading trail journals of thru hikers. Don't get me wrong I knew this moment would come I just wish it hadn't come so soon.
Fortunately my vacation offered me a respite from all of this as well as an opportunity to get out on some trails myself. I even ended up getting in an uphill walk close to the AT in with my girlfriend, which was more than I was expecting to get over the course of my vacation.
Uphill walking? You mean hiking right?.....no, I mean uphill walking.
The Flume Gorge is like a step into the set of Jurassic Park (which is fitting seeing as the Gorge was supposedly formed during the Jurassic Period). It's a massive slice into the side of Mount Liberty that has a fairly elaborate walking path that will take you past 100 foot waterfalls and through the gorge. I walked the path with my girlfriend who was amused by the fact that the visitors center warned about stairs and 'Uphill Walking'.
We couldn't have picked a better time or a better day. It was hot and the Gorge was filled with tourists, but the air channeled through the gorge was cool and we beat the rush and had a relatively un-interrupted walk through the Gorge and back down to the visitors center.
I would really recommend this trip for families and just about anyone that can handle the 'stairs and uphill walking' that they warn about at the visitors center, for such a small amount of effort this $18 dollar trek is well worth it for the pay off you receive of multiple waterfall views including one that is about 100 feet tall.
After getting out of the Gorge we turned around in a parking lot with signage suggesting access to the AT and headed to neighboring Lincoln NH to eat at a resurant known as Gypsy Café. It has a great atmosphere and the food was amazing, I had a Himayalan Hamburger Pita coupled with a Woodstock Inn 4000 Footer IPA (Which happen to be three of my favorite things). It was a great way to cap off our morning spent 'uphill walking'.
Time: 2 Hours
Avg. Speed: 0.6 MPH
Why Hello there again...as you can see since announcing the Ocho I have been sitting on my butt playing MechWarrior and falling on it playing Roller Derby. So as you may have noticed very little actual hiking is getting done, but that's okay because it's about to change. My folks have rented a cabin up in Laconia New Hampshire and I have taken a week of vacation to just relax in the Lakes Region.
While there it's my plan to hike the Belknap Range Trail End to End. The route is 12.2 miles long and spans eight of the twelve required peaks for the Belknap Range Hiker Patch. My mother was the one that turned me onto this peak bagging collection goal ( Hi Mom), as she reported on it as a type of digital badge for one of her Master's Degree classes.
Now I have no idea what a 'digital badge' is, though I am familiar with hiking and peak bagging...so I'm gonna guess a digital badge looks something like this:
The route I'll be taking spans from Mt. Major to Mt. Rowe. Even though the route's final peak is Rowe the End-to-End trail still terminates in Gunstock Ski Lodge Parking Area. I have picked this route for a very particular reason.
So as to not abandon Hannah (the girlfriend) with my family for too long. Sorry babe...you'll survive. I am going to start very early in the morning, probably between 0530 and 0600 at the Mt. Major Parking Area. Knowing that my hiking pace is approx. 2MPH under my pack (which I'll be bringing with all the backpacking accessories...because how can I claim it's training otherwise) on this kind of terrain I'll be able to be standing in Gunstock's parking lot around lunch time.
Which is really great as my folks know right where that is to pick me up, and they also have a great bar at the ski lodge named the Powder Keg where I can get some victory brews. Now the downside to End-to-Ends like this is that there is no bailout trail and I really haven't hiked a distance like this in a while. However I have a good track record on my pace on both the Pemi Loop and a down and back on Monadnock. I should be okay, it's just been a while.
I am considering this Belknap Range Trail End-to-End preparation for finally attempting the Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains. This far longer and far more difficult End-to-End that will cover some sections of the AT. There are also more logistical issues in regards to this hike, I will have no family to pick me up from a bar at the end. However there are shuttles that go between some of the different parking areas in the Whites.
So the Traditional Presidential Traverse covers seven of the peaks included in the forty-eight 4000 footer list, with an option to grab four more if one is feeling enterprising. The route is around 23 miles from The Appalachia Trailhead to Crawford Notch. Now in my research I found that the Crawford Notch shuttle stop is at AMC Highland Center, which is a brief road walk from where the trek will end. I was able to find a hike shuttle/taxi that would make the trip as well, so that will be a decision point for me at the end of the trek.
I will also need to consider food and water and how much I will be carrying. The time I am thinking of for this attempt is still a little far out, so I'll probably have another post that I hash out that stuff. In the mean while I am trying to focus on the BRT and getting back up in the regular hiking saddle. As you wait for that Trail Report....check out the stuff happen on my other blog 'The Ocho'
I am getting all settled in my new home and I am more established at work. I haven't been able to get out hiking as most of my weekends have been tied up in running around gathering up furniture to have a livable place. My girlfriend and I also got a puppy Shiba Inu, named Koji.
Yeah...he's pretty adorable. Anyways, in the past I have written about what's going on in my life even when I wasn't hiking on this blog. Now I find it important to keep blogs focused to keep the readers attention...however I like writing about the things I enjoy...and I don't want to manage like 7 blogs. So I have decided to add a second blog page to the site that will likely see more post right now that focuses on whatever I want named 'The Ocho' after the fictional sports broadcasting channel from the movie Dodgeball.
They claim 'if it's almost a sport - we have it' and looking at the types of activities I engage it I felt it was an appropriate title, the last time I played anything close to a relevant sport was when I did a season of rugby Fall 2015 semester (and even then...this is the US of A...Rugby is hardly relevant here). Despite that, all the things I do are, for the most part, active and physically engaging and I consider them in their own way preparation for my eventual AT trek. To support this effort I retooled the site a bit, adding a 'Blogs' page splash screen featuring links to both the AT prep blog and 'The Ocho'. There will be a button to bring you to the introduction post over there that will highlight some of the things I'll be talking about on 'The Ocho'
Being settled in and the summer finally being upon us, hiking plans are definitely in the works (and have been in flux). I will be picking up my gear from my folks house this weekend so I can get out on the trail soon. I will be reattempting the Wapack Trail, hopefully without the freak snow storm and ice , sometime soon. This has been pushed back a couple times due to stuff for the house but I think the time is almost here.
I also am still planning on the Presidential Traverse and Belknap Range Trail End to Ends this summer. Details to follow on those, especially the Presidential Traverse which will have some substantial planning involved. I also plan on starting chasing the forty eight 4000 footers of the White Mountains, as well as the twelve peaks of the Belknap Range, which you can get patches for.
The lists of my completed peaks will be kept in the new 'List' Tab. I have decided to do this as an obtainable goal as I wait to start the AT. Also despite having hikes some of these peaks in the past I am starting from a blank slate because why not, and it make for more blog content right?
If it is not obvious by now, I am not on Trail. This is not because I decided against hiking or because I got scared of the commitment I was going to be taking , but instead it was decided based on a tough personal choice. I have been with my girlfriend for a long time and I love her very much, she has wanted out of her parents house since returning from college. I chose instead of hiking the AT this year to seek out a job and get us a place and honestly it's taken me this long to come to terms with it and be willing to post it online feeling that I made the right choice.
If you have any interest in our antics or Mid Century Modern design we'll have a blog up soon at shootingfromthehip.org, I'll post when it goes live.
This was a very hard decision for me, but since making it things have been working out great. We are about a week out from moving into our new place and I have a great new job. So I have jammed the reset button on the funding for a full thru as moving into and furnishing a new place is expensive. The silver lining here is that my new company pays pretty well, has good benefits, and a really great sabbatical program. So once I have the money saved up again I can go.
So, read my lips (or digital lips anyways), this is still an AT prep blog...it's just not a journal of a thru attempt...yet. I will be out on Trail in the next few years.
With the heavy stuff behind us I have not been existing in the hiking-less bubble since deciding not to attempt the AT this year. I made a short, ill fated attempt at End-to-Ending the Wapack Trail in Southern NH with a friend. We thought that there would be no ice...so we didn't bring spikeys...there was ice, and it snowed. We ended up bailing out but it was a good lesson in preparedness. I may attempt the trail again when it's warmer.
I am still playing Roller Derby and I am having a great time with it, I would really recommend it to anyone looking to play an organized sport after college (or hell even after High School). Coming up soon I have 2 major hiking events planned in attempt to hold myself over for the year since I cancelled on the AT.
The first is the infamous Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains, this will make a great follow up to my Pemi Loop before my last deployment and the other one is an End-to-End of the Belknap Range Trail in NH. Not quite the AT, but it will do for the time being as I build back up to getting to Springer. I plan for the blog to be more active from here on out...hopefully people will still be interested in reading despite the fact the AT is still a little ways out for me.