Thursday, July 23, 2015

Loop 'de Moosilauke - July 11, 2015

Route: Tunnel Brook Trail, Tunnel Brook Road, Benton Trail, Carriage Road, South Peak Spur, Hurricane Trail, Glencliff Trail
Peaks: Moosilauke (4802', NH4K), Moosilauke - South Peak (4523', NH4K)
Mileage: 16.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 5100ft
Book Time: 11hr (actual 8hr 10min)

After finally picking a spot to go hiking for this weekend, I settled on knocking off some more straggler redlines on Mt. Moosilauke. I love this mountain for its great views, generally decent footing, and huge variety of loop hike options. This would be the biggest loop I've done on this peak yet, and it was probably my favorite when all was said and done!

For this hike, I parked at Glencliff in the trailhead parking lot, and walked down the road to Long Pond Road (which was gated less than 1/10-mile in) and down that to the Southern end of the Tunnel Brook Trail. This trail gently climbs through Tunnel Brook Ravine, passing several beaver ponds along the way. The trail is gradual, the footing very good for the most part, and it was a very enjoyable stretch of trail that I intend to revisit again someday! There are a few tricky-to-follow spots in among the beaver ponds, along with the usual mud and occasional washed-out section of trail that accompanies such stretches, but the views of the ponds, and across to the slides of Mount Clough and up to the South Peak of Moosilauke were great. Do note, however, that a few of the pond outlet/stream crossings, while not wide nor particularly deep, had minimal to no rocks or branches to cross on. One crossing I had to splash through 1-foot deep water, and I don't like wet feet, luckily my gaiters held out the water long enough to cross!

Off on the first of 3 new trails on the day!

About a mile in was this pond, complete with mini "boathouse", a concrete spillway, footbridge, bench, and 2 life rings!

A typical section of the Tunnel Brook Trail up to Mud Pond.

First views from Mud Pond

Mt. Moosilauke - South Peak from Mud Pond.

One of a few non-dangerous, but somewhat tricky, stream/pond outlet crossings.

Hmm, looks like a Beaver was here a while back.

Yea, beavers definitely live/lived here!

Mt. Clough

Mt. Clough
From the Northern trailhead (which is a bit brushy for the first 50-100ft from the parking lot) I walked ~0.9 miles down the closed-since-Hurricane-Irene Tunnel Brook Road (I'm not sure when, or if, this road will re-open) to the Benton Trail and headed up that trail to the summit. Just below the junction with the Beaver Brook Trail I ran into the first people I'd seen since I left my car, a group doing a traverse of the Beaver Brook and Benton Trails. I don't think the Benton Trail is going to be a favorite trail to the summit for me, but the grades and footing for the most part were decent. It was just a fairly boring hike in the woods, aside from one neat viewpoint partway up. The summit was mobbed (I haven't hiked a popular White Mountain peak in July in over 10 years, the last few years I've been in quiet corners of Maine), and the skies extremely hazy, but I found a spot and took a much-needed nap (OK, it was maybe 15 minutes at most) before having a snack and heading off for South Peak.

Short road walk done, off to the next new trail!

Lookout across Little Tunnel Brook Ravine

The Kinsmans from the Benton Trail

Done with the Benton Trail, now for some familiar trails for a few miles.

Approaching the summit.

Rather hazy, but still nice!

The Kinsmans behind the low ridge of Mt. Wolf, with Franconia Ridge in the background.

Mountain Sandwort was blooming all over the place.

The Tripyramids, with Mt. Tecumseh on the right.

It doesn't show here, but the summit was REALLY busy!

The Gorge Brook Trail as it reaches the summit.

South Peak from Moosilauke

Benton Sugarloaf (left pointy peak) and Black Mountain.
I had a decision. Head down the Glencliff Trail, or add about 3 miles to the day and head down the Carriage Road and take the Hurricane Trail back to Glencliff (which was the original plan). I opted for the latter (blasted red-lining!). The Hurricane Trail between the Carriage Road and the Glencliff Trail is described in the White Mountain Guide as being rough, muddy, and steep in places. But I found a lot of very new trail work on the way up to Hurricane Mountain, a bunch of new water bars, a footbridge over a crossing, and flagging marking spots that I assume means more work is coming. I ran into a trail crew about 2/3 of the way up the ascent and thanked them for their work. Yes, the trail got rougher, muddier, and steeper above there (and on the first part of the descent), but I suspect more work is coming. For the DOC it is a rough trail, but it's great to see it getting some tlc!

Off to South Peak.

View of Mt. Clough and Tunnel Brook Ravine from Moosilauke's South Peak.

Mud Pond from Moosilauke - South Peak. I was down there just a few hours ago!

Moosilauke from South Peak.

It's still busy up on the main peak!

Just before reaching the lower Carriage Road/Hurricane Trail junction was this bridge.

The bridge has a name!

Heading to the left of this sign, for the new-to-me 3-mile Western stretch of the Hurricane Trail.

Hurricane Trail, check!
Despite the hot (low 70s on the summit, thankfully a nice teens to low 20s breeze), and humid day, and being off the trails for almost a month, I did the 16.8 miles in just over 8 hours, which for me is a very fast time. That includes 30 minutes lounging on the summit! It was also pretty neat netting 11 miles of new red-lines on a mountain I've now summitted 6 times (and 5 of those times used at least some new trails)!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Alpine Garden, and a Grid Finish! - June 14, 2015

Route: Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, Crawford Path, Tuckerman Crossover, Tuckerman Ravine Trail, Alpine Garden Trail, Huntington Ravine Trail, Nelson Crag Trail, Gulfside, Jewell Trail
Peaks: Washington (6288', NH4K)
Mileage: 11.55 miles
Elevation Gain: 4350ft
Book Time: 8hr

It was a gorgeous day coming according to the weathermen. A hiker I've hiked with a few times, Ed, was finishing his grid on Mount Washington (hiking all 48 4000-footers in each month of the year - 576 summits in all!), and the alpine flowers were supposed to be blooming. What to do? Hike Mount Washington via the Alpine Garden of course!

A small cascade at one of the several stream crossings on the lower Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.

The first view up the headwall of the ravine towards where I was heading.

Gem Pool. Now the climbing begins in a hurry!

Shortly above Gem Pool, there is a 1/10-mile side path to a couple cascades.

I headed off earlier than the grid group, as they weren't going to the Alpine Garden. I parked at the USFS lot for the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail (I needed to redline the lower sections of both that and the Jewell Trail), and headed up to Lakes of the Clouds. Tired, and running a little late to make the grid finish on Washington, I skipped Mount Monroe, a mere 1/2-mile away, and took the Tuckerman Crossover (yup, another redline!) to Tuckerman Junction and headed through the Alpine Garden. The blooms were limited through the garden, a lot of the Diapensia was done blooming for the year, but there were still some very nice pockets. If you catch this on one of the few peak days of the year, it must be spectacular!

1/4-mile to the hut claims the sign. Only it's actually a fair bit longer than that in this case...

Mt. Washington

Mt. Monroe from just below Lakes of the Clouds Hut.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut. I haven't been to this hut when it was open in 14 years, today I got to go inside!

Washington from Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Pano from the hut.

There is an emergency shelter under the hut. In the winter, it frequently gets blocked in by ice and snow. Here is it mid-June and there's still a big chunk of ice inside!

Mt. Monroe behind an air quality sampling station.

One of the namesake Lakes of the Clouds

A small patch of Diapensia.

On to the Tuckerman Crossover!

Mt. Monroe, there's still a small patch of snow on the East side!

Hikers descending Monroe.
Here comes the cog! The engines are now all bio-diesel, but the first train of the day is still run with the old-fashioned coal engine.

Cairns lead the way on the Davis Path over to Boott Spur.

Swinging around the summit.

Pano from the top of Tuckerman Ravine.
The trail up the headwall of Tuckerman Ravine usually doesn't open until early July due to the massive winter-time accumulation of snow leading to unsafe conditions on the trail.
Heading up a short part of the Huntington Ravine Trail to the Nelson Crag Trail, I ran into gridders John and June for yet another time (I've run into one or both of them a lot the last year or so), before making my way to the summit. Ed and company were a little late getting to the summit, so I relaxed amongst the madness of Mount Washington in summer (actually fairly calm considering it was a beautiful day on a summery weekend, the cafeteria was only about 1/2-full, but it was definitely still busy!). Ed arrived in the company of Ed Hawkins (5 full grids and counting!) and several other grid finishers, pictures, congrats, and issuing of the patch were had. Ed's wife and grandkids and some other friends had come up the auto road with cake and other goodies, and so a small celebration was had.

Beginning on the Alpine Garden Trail were a bunch of Alpine Bluets.

There's still a decent amount of snow in Tuckerman Ravine!

Mount Washington from the Alpine Garden.

Mountain Aven
A few days earlier I bet this expanse of diapensia was all blooming and was magnificent. But most of the flowers had died off for the year.

More Diapensia. This is a very rare plant to see South of the Alpine Tundra in Northern Canada.
A marshy section halfway through the Alpine Garden.

Rhodora I am told.

A short (~10-15 foot) stretch of the trail was lined with flowering Alpine Bluets. Awesome really.

Alpine Azalea

Mounts Adams (L) and Madison (R)

Nelson Crag

Approaching the summit via the Nelson Crag Trail.

For the descent I hiked with the gridder group, meeting and chatting with several names I knew but had never met before this day. We descended via the Gulfside and Jewell Trails, finding a very nice, large patch of diapensia along the way. When we reached the bottom where a spur heads over to the cog railroad, I broke off from them (their cars were at the cog lot) and hustled along the lower part of the Jewell Trail (a very nice stretch of trail too!) to my car, met them for a short post-hike celebration, then had the 3-hour drive home. Congrats again to Ed for finishing the grid! You sure picked a heck of a good day for it!

Northern Presis from Mt. Washington (Jefferson through Madison)

Smile for the camera! X marks the spot!

All aboard!

Ed reaches summit #576 on his grid!

Heading down the Gulfside toward the Jewell Trail. A wonderful view of the Northern Presis across the Great Gulf.

Looking down the Great Gulf toward Spaulding Lake at the bottom of the headwall.

A huge field of flowering Diapensia along the Gulfside Trail.

Mt. Clay from the Gulfside Trail.

Mt. Clay and the Northern Presis