Saturday, November 21, 2015

Flags on the 48 2015 - West Bond - 9-12-15

Every year, hikers sign up to carry American flags to each of New Hampshire's 4000-Footers and fly the flag on the Saturday closest to 9-11 in remembrance of the attacks on that day. This event, known as Flags on the 48, is an event I've participated in with a group from the Hike-NH hiking forum for 4 years now. In prior years we've manned North Twin, Flume, and Lafayette. For 2015, we drew West Bond, which is a terrific peak with great views, but it meant a long, 16.5-mile day in addition to being on the summit for 2.5 hours to fly the flag. As the weather has not been great for the previous 3 years we have done this event, we were hoping very hard that we would finally have nice weather.

Going into the hike, the weather forecast was looking good, with just enough wind to fly the flag, a decent bit of sun, and mild temperatures. Meeting early at the trailhead for the Zealand Trail, we set off for our out-and-back hike out to West Bond. The first 2.5 miles are flat and fairly good footing-wise, and so we made good time up to the base of the climb to Zealand Falls and the Zealand Falls Hut.

Tons of spiderwebs were glistening in the early-morning sun.

Zeacliff from the Zealand Trail beaver ponds

This tree was glistening with dew in the morning.

Zealand Falls

Marlie poses at Zealand Falls

After a quick break, we dug into the main climb of the day: getting up to Zeacliff above the hut. While fairly steep, this stretch has decent footing overall, and eventually our band of 7 reached the spur to the outlook at Zeacliff. This spot is not to be missed on a decent (or especially on a terrific day like we had at the moment), as it offers a tremendous view into Zealand Notch and the Eastern side of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. We took a nice break here before heading off to Zealand Mountain.

Dueling cameras at the Zeacliff overlook - Mt. Carrigain dominates the horizon in the center.
Mt. Bond from Zeacliff

Pano from Zeacliff

Carrigain and Carrigain Notch

The Osceola Range behind the Hancocks

Whitewall Mountain from Zeacliff

Welcome to Mt. Zealand. Here is your view of a sign.
Though no one in our group "needed" it, we all took the quick trip on the spur over to the unexciting summit of Zealand Mountain, before continuing on to Guyot. Crossing Guyot, we picked up the Bondcliff Trail, which we took as far as the West Bond Spur, reaching the summit of West Bond around 11:30, a perfect amount of time to get the flag up by noon.

Bond (L) and West Bond (R) from Guyot.

West Bond awaits.
Flagpole brigade

Slides on the side of South Twin

The lumpy Owl's Head, with Franconia Ridge in the background.

Lincoln and Lafayette - Franconia Ridge

Off to West Bond we go (on the right)

Spruce grouse in the woods en-route to West Bond
Once the flag was up, we all spread out and enjoyed the views, as the weather was perfect for lounging for a long time on a mountain top this day. The Bondcliff flag was up and visible by eye by the time we had reached the summit, and with the help of camera zoom lenses, we were able to eventually spot flags on most of the peaks ringing the Pemi. The flag atop Bond was a little delayed in rising, but it too was up and naturally was easily seen as we were less than 1 mile away. Many people stopped by, including the Guyot Campsite caretaker. We also enjoyed the company of Whitney and Chris, as they stopped by for a while and brought us some baked goods to munch on, yum!

Bondcliff and their flag flying nicely (and early)

South Twin. The flag is just left of center.

Mt. Garfield. The flag was flying, though it isn't really visible via my camera.

Mt. Lafayette, with the flag on the summit and a glider overhead.

Mt. Lincoln. You cna just barely make out the flag on the summit.

Mt. Liberty.

The Presidentials in the distance.

Team Hike-NH, 2015.

Bond and Bondcliff

The tower atop Mt. Carrigain. The flag is strapped to the left side of the tower.

Mt. Bond. Can you find the flag? ;)

Bondcliff again.

Guyot from West Bond

Once 2:00 was reached, we took down the flag, disassembled the pole (leave no trace!), and retraced our steps back out to the cars. The day concluded with a group meal at Black Mountain Burger in Lincoln before we all headed home (it was due to rain fairly heavily overnight and through much of Sunday, so no one was staying up to hike the next day). This is a terrific event, and every year we get tons of thank yous from everyone who sees the flags flying. But really, it is the least we can do, to fly a flag in remembrance. Our group will be back at it again next year. For more information about the memorial event, visit the Flags on the 48 website.

Heading down from West Bond

Climbing up to the Southern knob of Guyot

On the way out, we did not re-visit the summit of Zealand

Descending the short ladder section near the Zealand summit.

Last look from the Zealand beaver ponds.

16.55 miles, 4375ft elevation gain in all.

Hiking Down to Isolation - Sept. 6, 2015

Route: Glen Boulder Trail, Davis Path, Isolation Spur
Peaks: Slide Peak (4760', TW72), Isolation (4004', NH4K)
Mileage: 12.15 miles
Elevation Gain: 5300'
Book Time: 8hr 45min (actual 8hr 5min)

There are a couple ways to head to Mount Isolation, but none of them are short. The usual route involves about 14.5 miles of total hiking, heading up the Rocky Branch Trail from Route 16. This route has the least elevation gain, but involves a lot of walking along an always-wet, muddy, and rocky trail, and there are 5 stream crossings along the way that can be tricky. The other normal route to Mt. Isolation involves hiking up to just over 5000 feet before descending down to a little below 3000 feet for the final climb up to 4004 feet. This route does have the shortest mileage and best views, and it was the one I decided to do for the first time on this trip.

The Glen Boulder Trail doesn't mess around. It starts climbing almost immediately, steeply and rocky, before reaching treeline about 1.5 miles up, just below the namesake boulder. Glen Boulder is a giant glacial erratic seemingly precariously perched. It looks like it will tip over at the slightest bump, but it is actually very solidly there (for now). The views from here to treeline on the Davis Path are tremendous in all directions as it travels along the side of the Gulf of Slides, and I took numerous "views appreciation" breaks along the way. Thankfully, a little ways above Glen Boulder the trail grade eases up. It then enters the trees for a short ways, passing a signed Spring along the way, before re-emerging above the trees shortly before the cairn-topped peak known as Gulf (or Slide) Peak (on the Trailwrights 72 list).

Pinkham Notch from treeline on the Glen Boulder Trail

Glen Boulder as viewed from treeline

Glen Boulder. Several people could stand beneath it and be sheltered from rain, it's that big!
Looking over to Boott Spur

Spring along the Glen Boulder Trail above the boulder

Summit of Slide Peak. Yes, it does not have a lot of prominence.

Boott Spur from Slide Peak
There is still several hundred feet of climbing, as the end of the Glen Boulder Trail, at the junction with the Davis Path, is around 5200 feet above sea level, but the final climb isn't terribly steep. From here, the Davis Path South runs above treeline for a short way, almost immediately entering the Dry River Wilderness, before dropping into the trees and steadilyu (but terribly steeply) descending down to below 4000 feet. Just before the first of 2 junctions with the Isolation Trail, the Davis Path climbs up to near the summit of "North Isolation", which is another Trailwrights 72 peak, but I didn't bother with the short bushwhack to the high point on this trip.

Davis Path/Glen Boulder Trail junction

Follow the cairns. Isolation off in the haze dead center.


The remnants of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 made a mess in a few spots, including along the Davis Path North of Mt. Isolation

Reaching the Isolation summit, it was time for a nice long break on the ledges near the summit. There were a number of people leaving just as I got there, and for most of my lengthy stay up top there were only 1-2 other people, and nice views and a light breeze to enjoy. Looking North, I could see the climb awaiting me, nearly 1500 feet of total elevation gain yet to go to get back to my car. So, eventually I tore myself away and set off on the trip back.

Monroe (L), Washington (C), Boott Spur (RC) and Slide Peak (R) from Mt. Isolation

Washington and Boott Spur. The wooded peak in the center is "North Isolation".

Wildcats and Carters

Summit of Isolation

The climb actually went fairly smoothly, despite it coming at the tail end of a lot of climbing on the second day of the weekend. The good footing and steady but not excessive grade had a lot to do with that, and in surprisingly decent time I was back up above treeline, and turning back onto the Glen Boulder Trail to head down. Descending the Glen Boulder Trail wasn't much easier than ascending it, at least once getting back to the steeps a little above the boulder. The worst part is a scramble right at treeline though, so once below that things eased up a little, and I did make reasonable time getting back to the car before heading home for the weekend. This is a tougher, but more rewarding route than the usual summer route, but I still prefer this mountain in winter, when one can snowshoe through the awesome birch glades on the side of Engine Hill. Still, it was nice to mix it up for my 6th trip to this mountain, and it was a terrific hike.

Eisenhower (C) and the Southern Presis from treeline on the Davis Path

Looking back at Boott Spur from above Glen Boulder