The Trail Less Traveled

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

Early part of the Al Merrill Loop

Heading out this morning for my planned hike, I didn’t know what to expect.  I hadn’t really thought about anything outside of picking a hike that I felt like hiking.  When planning my trip, I knew I wanted to summit a 4k on this hike and I also wanted to work on a region where my redlining percentage was fairly low to boost it up.

Starting with the redlining criteria, my options were the Northern Presidentials, the Moosilauke Region, or Northern New Hampshire.  I knew I wasn’t ready to summit the northern Presi’s with their huge elevation gains in short miles at this point.  Maybe in another hike or two.  The Northern New Hampshire region wasn’t going to get a lot of progress unless I wanted to hike a large section of the Kilkenney Ridge Trail, or piece together several small trails.  This left the Moosilauke Region.

View from the 10th Mountain Division Memorial Outlook

I started looking at some loops that I could hike and redline some significant miles and focused on a couple of different hikes.  That’s when I realized that I really wanted to summit a 4k, so I started looking at the various routes up Mt. Moosilauke.  After some time, I settled on hiking up the ridge to the east of Moosilauke and around to the summit, hiking up Al Merrill Loop to Asquam-Ridge Trail to Beaver Brook Trail to the summit.  I would follow most of the same route back, except I would hike the lower half of Asquam-Ridge Trail on the return, instead of Al Merrill Loop.

I read up on the trail descriptions in the AMC White Mountain Guide, then went to newenglandtrailreports.com to check out some recent trip reports on those trails to see if there were still lingering snow issues or anything else I should be aware of.  I was quite surprised to find almost no trail reports containing Asquam-Ridge Trail over the past year, and I don’t think I saw a single report with Al Merrill Loop in it.  I like quiet hikes, so this suited me just fine, other than not knowing if there are issues on the trails that could complicate the hike.

Moose Track from the upper section of Al Merrill Loop

I drove into the Dartmouth Outdoor Club’s Ravine Lodge parking area and was somewhere around the 10th or 12th car in the day hiker section at that point in the morning.  There were probably another 6 to 8 in the camper section.  I got my boots on, gear packed and quickly sprayed my legs with bug spray before heading up my trail of choice.

It was a nice easy to moderate grade and fairly steady throughout.  I thought several times to myself that this was such a nice trail to follow that I’m surprised there aren’t any people posting trail reports that include it.  The only thing I can think of is that it is one of the longer routes to the summit.  It can’t be rocks, because most of the trails up Moosilauke are pretty rocky anyway.  At one point, I was following the trail through a muddy section and I saw lots of moose prints, but no boot prints.  I guess the trail just isn’t used much by hikers.

View of Jobildunk Ravine from Beaver Brook Trail

I followed my planned route and after almost five miles, I finally ran into another hiker.  He had already summited and was on his way back down to the Beaver Brook Trail parking area.  He had thought there was a hut down Asquam-Ridge Trail, but I informed him that the only thing was the DOC’s lodge which was several miles down the trail.  That was far more than he wanted to go and definitely not what he thought it was.  It turned out that someone had handwritten “hut” on the junction sign and may have been referring to the lodge.  At the point when I met him, we were only 100 yards from Beaver Brook Trail.  We walked back to the junction together, chatting a bit before we separated; me heading up Beaver Brook Trail and him heading down.

As I climbed closer and closer to the summit, I started meeting numerous hikers, both day hikers and backpackers, coming down from Moosilauke.  Some I chatted with, others we just greeted each other in passing.  Overall, I think I passed 15 or 20 people coming down the trail in that 1.5 mile stretch before getting above treeline.  It was very busy for mid-morning, particularly compared to the 5 miles I had hiked completely alone.

Beaver Brook Trail just after it exits tree line on Mt. Moosilauke

I know Beaver Brook Trail is a popular trail up the mountain, so I didn’t think too much of the number of other hikers, especially considering the lousy spring weather we’ve had and the beautiful day today was.  I knew it was bound to be busy.  I just didn’t know how busy it was going to be.

By the time I reached the summit, the people I passed who were going down Beaver Brook Trail had easily passed 30.  There was a crowd visible as I crossed the ridge crest toward the summit sign.  The wind was fairly strong at the summit, so I didn’t realize how large the crowd was until I actually got there.

There are old stone foundations from an inn that used to be on the summit plateau.  People used to take a horse and carriage up an old road from Warren back in the early 20th century, maybe the late 19th century.  There were lots of people hunkered down inside those old foundations using them as a buffer against the wind.  Other people were milling about the summit sign, waiting turns to take pictures, while even more were on the south side of the summit, down behind a ledge, shielding themselves from the wind.

A view of the final section of Gorge Brook Trail as it approaches the summit, taken from the summit

I didn’t count, but in all there were easily 50 people on the summit, and maybe as many as 100.  For every person that left down Gorge Brook Trail or the Carriage Road Trail, more replaced them.  As I sat to start eating my lunch, I snapped a quick picture of the final stretch of Gorge Brook Trail as it approached the summit.  Counting the people in the picture after I got home, there are 18 in the photo and there’s more trail to the left of the photo edge before it reaches the summit.

I quickly ate my lunch and snapped a few pictures, trying unsuccessfully to get photos of the view without other people in them.  I took one last picture of the summit sign as I left, then headed back down Beaver Brook Trail.  About half way back to tree line, I stopped and took a panoramic photo of the White Mountains to the north.  I’ve posted it to the HikingtoCenter Facebook page since Facebook has such a nice interface for panoramic photos.

As I descended the trail back to the Asquam-Ridge Trail junction, I think I passed another couple dozen people ascending.  Today was just too many people for me and I was ready to get back to my “private” trail again.

After returning to the car, changing my boots, and starting the drive home, I had time to reflect on my hike for the day.  The only summit I’ve been on that had that kind of crowd was Mt. Washington.  That’s not entirely comparable either, since you can drive up Mt. Washington and that’s what most of those people had done.

Today was the third time I’ve summited Mt. Moosilauke.  The first two were both via Gorge Brook Trail.  After my time on the summit today, I’m so very glad I chose the trail less traveled.  I was able to enjoy some peace and quiet on the trail for most of the hike and got a good number of miles of trail redlined in the process.  Overall, for a 12.9 mile hike, excluding the middle four miles on Beaver Brook Trail and that 100 yards near it, I saw a whole two other people on the trail, and they were hiking together.

Baker River from a footbridge on Asquam-Ridge Trail

It was a day that has made me reassess my plans for the Appalachian Trail.  Not whether to do it or not.  I still want to section hike it.  It was more an assessment that I need to consider the when of section hiking each section.  I’m not sure that I want to hike the southern terminus section in the spring when the major northbound bubbles are starting out, but I also have to consider getting that section done before the summer heat sets in as well.  Avoiding the largest bubbles or crowds on the AT may be possible, but I think it may force me to reconsider the sequential sections I had originally wanted to do.  Maybe it will be best to pick the dates for sections that work best and avoid the major heat and crowds.

This isn’t something I’ve seen discussed on boards and websites.  Section hiking also doesn’t have the breadth of resources available that through-hiking has, so this is just something new to consider and I’ll need to figure out what my planning priorities are going to be.  There’s so much to learn and plan that it’s both overwhelming and exciting at the same time.

Summary:

Hike Date: Saturday, June 8, 2019
Location: Mt Moosilauke, White Mountain National Forest, Warren, NH
Trails: Al Merrill Loop, Asquam-Ridge Trail, Beaver Brook Trail
Total Mileage: 12.9 miles
Redline Mileage: 9.0 miles
Redline Progress: From 30.5% to 31.2%

Hobbies New and Old and Some Lessons That Tie Them Together

I’m not sure that my hiking is a hobby at this point, but it’s the best word I can come up with for my level of interest combined with my level of activity.  I’m probably classified mostly as a “weekend warrior” since I get to hike once a week, provided family commitments don’t prevent me from getting out one day during the weekend.  Occasionally, like this past Friday, I’ll take a day off from work to go hiking when the weekend schedule doesn’t work out for me.  However, I want to take it beyond this.

On the other end of the “hobby spectrum” is blogging.  This one is new for me, or at least a new attempt.  I’ve previously blogged briefly and failed miserably to keep it going.  My original blog, done a few years ago, was going to be a hiking journal with some pictures to keep family and friends included in my hiking adventures.  It didn’t last long.  This one is already more developed than that one was and is going much better in my mind.  Some part of that is the increase in social media connections and another aspect is that my mindset has been much different going into this attempt.

A small stream crossing Bickford Brook Trail

Obviously, there is a connection between these two hobbies, which is that the blog is an extension of my hiking, my goal to hike the AT, and the preparation to achieve that goal.  There’s also a connection between my two blogs (outside of the hiking theme).  I’m at that point where outside influences are taking priority over my desire to write blog posts at a reasonable frequency.  This was the death knell of my original blog.  Summer started and family time became a higher priority.  I didn’t have the motivation to spend time in front of the computer writing a blog post immediately after my hike and after I was a few hikes behind, it just seemed like a total waste of time to continue blogging at all.

I’ve hit that point again.

Sort of.

I took this past Friday off work to go hiking due to a combination of weather and family activities over the weekend.  With a busy weekend followed by a couple of days at work that has kept me significantly occupied, I have had the desire to write a new post, but not the motivation to actually do it.  Every night since my hike I have sat in front of the computer thinking about writing a post about Friday’s hike.  Each time I ended up doing something else instead, whether it was catching up on paying bills, or playing a game, or surfing internet sites on hiking or other topics.

Despite continuing to try to avoid snow, there was still this patch along the trail.

I felt like I was spiraling into the same trap as last time.  I was getting too far removed from the hike to write a good blog post about it.  Then I was going to go on another hike this weekend and would trap myself into the mindset that I couldn’t write about that hike until I’d written about the previous hike I’d skipped writing about.  Then, I got to today.

I don’t know what happened.  Sometimes the mind processes things in strange ways and makes connections that you’re not even considering.  Today, I realized that I haven’t been having a hard time motivating myself to write a blog post.  If I’d forced myself to do that, it was probably going to be a standard-type trail report:  Trails hiked, miles hiked, trail conditions, interesting things seen, throw in some pictures, and so on.  This was the reason I hadn’t written it.  It wasn’t what I wanted to read, so it wasn’t something I wanted to write.

The survey marker at the summit of Speckled Mountain.

What I needed to realize was that I wasn’t interested in a typical trail report.  The hike was wonderful with beautiful weather in Evan’s Notch that day and I have pictures to prove it.  However, while the hike was fun and interesting, a trail report wasn’t going to capture the spirit of the hike nor was it going to be interesting to myself looking back at it, let alone most readers.  Instead, my subconscious brain forced me to consciously realize more important lessons which will hopefully lead to a more interesting and longer lasting blog site than my previous endeavor.

First and foremost:  This is Hard.

I’m not a writer, I’m an Accountant.  At least, that’s according to training and education.  I can be a good writer and I can be a very creative person under the right circumstances.  I would be a horrible reporter or anyone else who had to write on a routine schedule or a deadline for a living.  My writing doesn’t seem to work that way.  I’ve always been able to write excellent papers when the spark hits me.  It’s like a spigot fully open with creative ideas, interesting imagery, and extensive vocabulary.  The problem is that I can’t voluntarily open the valve, or at least not close to fully open.

One of the many feathered friends hanging around the summit.

I think it’s one of those skills that good professional writers have.  The ability to tap into that creative pool of ideas and language, as needed, is a gift.  It’s a gift that probably gets refined and honed through use and practice, like most skills, but it’s still a gift.

For me, when the valve is open, the writing comes easily.  I’ve received lots of positive comments on my writing from people who have read my work when this happens.  Teachers and professors have said I should write more.  When the same teachers and professors read other papers written for a deadline which didn’t have that spark behind it, the reactions are definitely more muted and then the constructive criticisms come out about structure and grammar and voice and other “English Class stuff”.

From front to back are the Baldface Range, then the Carter Range, and Mt Washington poking up behind them all.

My second lesson learned really goes back to a saying, of which there are lots of variations:  “Nothing worth doing is easy.”

There are lots of paths I could follow to tie this lesson into hiking or blogging.  Hiking is hard and to me it is worth doing.  On the surface, I initially wouldn’t have made the same statement about blogging.  I looked at blogging as something that would journalize or document my process and learnings about preparing for an AT section hike.  I hoped it would be useful to other people as they prepared to do the same thing.  However, I thought it would be fun and easy and something I could look back on after my AT experiences as a bit of a memoir.

Boy, was I wrong.

In the beginning, the energy and enthusiasm for the blog was there, making the writing and posting easier to do and interesting like most new endeavors.  Looking back at the past couple of posts, the rote of trail reports has infused itself into the posts and while it helps to provide a timeline of my hiking and a basic story along with it, the post doesn’t convey any sense of life to the story it is trying to tell.

Looking north to the Mahoosuc Range.

This spring has been a series of personal growth moments for me, which is something I haven’t opened myself up to for a long time.  Apparently, I’ve got some catching up to do. 

For a long time, life has been a lot about family and work responsibilities, with hiking mixed in for recreation.  It was just a “grind through life” mentality.  I’ve now made the conscious decision to balance life more, or bring myself to the center of it.  Work will take a lower level of priority overall, with my family and my self increasing in priority, hopefully to a relative balance of the three.  Making that decision was the first step in the growth process.

Kezar Lake (I think) from Blueberry Ridge Trail.

Once I made that decision, I followed it up by deciding to attend the AMC 4000 Footer annual meeting.  I’d been hemming and hawing for months since I submitted my completion application and received the information about the meeting.  My wife and I are both definitely introverts and large gatherings with lots of people we don’t know aren’t really our usual scene, but I finally got off that fence and decided to go.

As I posted back in April, about that meeting, this was a continuation of that growth.  It was an opportunity to realize what hiking meant to me overall, but also what other people have gained from hiking.  Some of them gained far more than I have and had much harder journeys to completing their lists than I did.  It further reinforced the decision I made earlier in the year to finally start section hiking the AT, but more importantly, the presentation opened my eyes to the fact that while I am a goal oriented person, I could change my outlook and make goals that were more flexible, allowing me to enjoy my hikes more.  No longer did I have to make the summit the goal.  I also didn’t need to have a finishing time as a target.  It was going to be about the hike, the enjoyment, and the experience, rather than the time or the distance, specifically.

Shell Pond from the Blueberry Mountain ledges.

Now, I’ve extended that lesson to this blog.  I finally realized that I don’t need to blog each hike to be successful at this.  The important thing is to write something worth writing, which isn’t necessarily going to be easy each time.  If it is worth writing, then I hope it ends up being worth reading for more than just myself.  However, as long as it’s worth it to myself to read, then that’s all that really matters.  If I take care of making it worth writing, then things should just take care of themselves and all the readers after me will hopefully enjoy and learn from what I write.  Hopefully, this will help me practice opening up that spigot and I can start getting better at doing so.

And that ends up leading to the next (and maybe most important) lesson learned so far.  Take care of the most important pieces for the right reasons and in the right ways, and all the rest should fall into place.

Bickford Brook from Blueberry Ridge Trail just before the southern junction with Bickford Brook Trail.

To finish up, I don’t want to leave out those people who were checking in to see what trails I’ve hiked since my last post, so here’s a quick trail report summary of Friday’s hike.  I’ve interspersed pictures from that hike throughout the post with captions about what the pictures include.

Hike Date: Friday, May 31, 2019
Location: Evan’s Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Stow, Maine
Trails: Bickford Brook Trail, Blueberry Ridge Trail, Blueberry Mountain Loop
Total Mileage: 9.1 miles
Redline Mileage:7.4 miles
Redline Progress:From 30.0% to 30.5%

Maybe the next post will be more trail report than philosophical reflection, but we’ll see what comes out of the spigot next time.

Redlining Day

The weather is finally starting to really turn toward spring/early summer.  It’s been so cold and wet for so long that everything is starting late.  The leaves are mostly out in the lowlands, but there is still very little cover in the mountains.  There are still plenty of trail reports with 2-4 feet of snow above 3,500 feet, so I decided to continue redlining the lower elevations this week.

Earlier this week, I updated my redlining list from the 29th edition to the 30th edition of the AMC White Mountain Guide.  Due to the various reroutes made over the past few years as well as almost 14 miles of additional trails added to the guide, my percentage of completion dropped from 29.6% to 29.2% prior to this weekend’s hike.  I also have some research to continue doing on some trails I’ve already done which had changes and I need to determine whether reroutes and other changes would require me to re-hike the trails or sections of trails I’ve previously done.  For now, I’m keeping them completed as-is, but have noted the ones I need to do additional work on.

Since the Moosilauke Region was so nice last weekend, and it’s also one of my lowest completion regions, I decided to go redline some more trail in that area and boost it up the list a bit.  My original plan was to hike Hubbard Brook Trail on an out-and-back, followed by some portion of an out-and-back on Three Ponds Trail, which both are served by the same parking area.

I started out following the old forest road up an easy grade to the official trailheads of both Hubbard Brook Trail and Three Ponds Trail.  They split at this point and I continued following the forest road which is Hubbard Brook Trail at this point.  As it reaches the top of this incline, the trail turns right, into the woods on a fairly nice foot bed.  It’s basically level at this point and follows a small stream which runs parallel to the trail on my left.  I stopped to take a picture of the brook and as I packed my phone away I realized that the blazes indicated the trail turned here and crossed the stream.  It’s obvious that many people have missed that turn, or perhaps the trail straight ahead at this point is an old trail section that was rerouted.

I soon found the reason for the possible reroute.  Beavers have dammed up the stream and created a pond.  The current trail skirts around the pond and meanders through the woods.  A second dam and pond appear up ahead and this one must be newer than the trail reroute because the trail goes right through the pond, although along one edge.  A short, minor bushwhack was needed to get around this section.

The trail continues through the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest for a while, eventually passing through an area which was probably an old logging camp.  I found evidence of this in the form of an old metal bucket on a moss covered rock.  It’s obviously been there for a very long time, but it’s pretty common in the Whites to see remnants of the logging history on hikes through more remote stretches of forest. You just have to look carefully.  Sometimes it is old rail sections, or railroad ties.  Other times it is abandoned camp items or rail car remnants.

After hitting the height of land on this trail, it descended a bit and I ran across another area where beavers had been very active and built another dam.  This section is going to need a major reroute due to the flooding and I had to more actively bushwhack around the flooded sections.  Eventually, I got back on the trail and didn’t have any significant issues after that point.  I even found a nice little cascade to take a picture of.

After dealing with the beaver activity and bushwhacking, I decided I would change my plans and make this a loop instead of two out-and-backs. Once I reached the eastern trailhead, I followed the forest road for 1.4 miles, where I reached a side road leading another 0.5 miles to the Mount Kineo Trail.

The Mount Kineo Trail ascends moderately from the parking area in a reasonably straight path toward the height-of-land between Mt Kineo and an unnamed mountain. It was fairly wet and several old bog bridges are in disrepair, needing replacement. Waterproof boots are definitely a good option in the Whites, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts.

There was lots of recent moose activity evident as I approached the high point, as well as for a half mile or so after. The south side alternates between steep descents and side-hill level sections. Eventually, Mount Kineo Trail meets up with a network of snowmobile trails. The two types of trails share the path from that point until you reach Donkey Hill Cutoff, which splits off to the right immediately after a bridge while Mount Kineo Trail splits left at the same point, off the snowmobile trail.

I took Donkey Hill Cutoff to reach Three Ponds Trail. It skirts a pond and weaves along the side of a hill, so there is some small up and down activity, but no significant elevation change overall. There is one blow down which will need a sizeable saw or chain saw to remove near the middle, but a bit closer to the Mount Kineo Trail side. Otherwise, the trail is in very good condition other than overall wetness.

Upon reaching Three Ponds Trail, you cross the remnants of an old beaver dam and start an easy climb through the forest toward Foxglove Pond. At one point, about a quarter mile from Donkey Hill Cutoff, there is a herd path that goes straight while the trail takes a hard left. The path leads to a view of a pond with a mountain ridge backdrop. It also appears that this area has been used for camping often in the past, with a fire ring and a blind built to shield the view of the fire from the water.

Continuing on the trail, when I reached Foxglove Pond, the path went right into the water, appearing to cut across a corner of the pond. Either beaver activity has raised the overall water level, or water levels are still high from the spring melt. If it is beaver activity, a reroute should be cut and blazed. After another short bushwhack, I reconnected with the trail on the other side of the pond and continued toward the climb along Whitcher Hill.

At one point, the trail crosses another branch of the snowmobile trail network, but continues immediately on the other side. The trail climbs steadily upward at moderate levels until reaching the high point before leveling off along the top of the ridge line for a while, before the decent to the trail head.

Overall, the trails, outside of the overlap of snowmobile trails and forest roads, has the feel of a wilderness area. The northern halves of these trails appear to be low traffic and as such the vegetation is growing in and obscuring the trails. Also, the yellow blazing on the Mount Kineo Trail, north of its height-of-land, is fairly faded and makes it difficult to find the trail in a few places where it is marshy or eroded from spring runoff.

Donkey Hill Cutoff is well maintained, other than the single blow down, and easy to follow. However, Three Ponds Trail, north of Donkey Hill Cutoff, is overgrown in many places and blazes are very hard to see. The growth makes trail finding difficult at times and when combined with the lack of easily seen blazes caused me to backtrack a couple of times to try to find a faded blaze to verify I was still on the real trail.

On the positive side, someone had been through Three Ponds Trail fairly recently with a saw and cleared a ton of blow downs and large and medium obstacles in the trail, which provided some evidence at times that I was still on the trail.

Overall, this was an excellent day out with some big miles for me, particularly this early in the season. Some added elevation gain due to the change in the route was an added benefit for my long term progression.

Buttkicking for Goodness (Sake)

It’s been a long couple of weeks since my last hike.  Spring fever hasn’t been completely eliminated yet and the itch to get out on the trails continues to hound my days at work. Last week wasn’t conducive to hiking being Mother’s Day weekend.  Saturday was a family day for my wife’s Mother’s Day recognition while Sunday was spent traveling to visit both of our mothers.

A couple of hiking related things did come out of the trip to visit my mother.  First, I was able to get my father’s copy of the AMC White Mountain Guide from 1972.  It will be interesting to compare the maps and trail routes and how they’ve changed, opened, and closed over the 45+ years since that edition was published.  Abandoned trails are a big thing among a small group of bushwhacking hikers in the Whites and some of the old guides are in popular demand.  While I may never attempt to hike those abandoned trails, I find it interesting to see how the current trail network has evolved over time.

The second item was that my mother mentioned that she thought my brother-in-law would be interested in joining me on the AT if I began it.  I’ll be checking in with him soon to verify and start to connect some plans with him if he is interested.  The great part is that my brother-in-law retired last year, so we wouldn’t both have to coordinate work schedules which would complicate the logistics of section hiking or else stretch out the time required to complete the trail. We just have to schedule around my work schedule.  I’ll keep everyone updated on how that proceeds.

My plan was to make this weekend a lower elevation redlining weekend and avoid snow on the trails.  The goal was to cross off some non-AT trails in the Moosilauke region.  My first trail was the Stinson Mountain Trail up Stinson Mountain, which is part of the 52WAV (With-A-View).  It’s located in Rumney, NH and the White Mountain Guide has it as a 1.8 mile trail out and back (3.6 miles RT) and approximately 1,405 feet of gain.

The 52WAV is a list maintained by the “Over the Hill Hikers” Group (overthehillhikers.blogspot.com) and is made up of 52 summits which are all under 4,000 feet but have excellent views.  The list was first created in 1990 and over the years two mountains have been removed and replaced.  The list can be found at www.franklinsites.com/hikephotos/nh52withaview.php and each mountain name can be clicked to see a picture of the mountain, a description, and links to trail reports.  While I’m not actively tackling this list, I have added my current status to my About page.  I’ll be knocking most of them off over time as I redline the whites.  There are a few that are outside of the White Mountains, but I can check those off here and there.

Despite trying to pick trails without snow, there was one last patch near the summit of Stinson Mountain.

Stinson Mountain Trail was a well-defined trail with a fairly rocky foot bed.  It was easy to follow and a couple of times it crossed or followed a snowmobile trail which also led to the summit.  I found the trail to be in pretty good shape.  The overwhelming wetness of the spring has diminished on this trail, but there is still a significant amount of mud and water to deal with.  There are some very well maintained water bars, but there are also several that are significantly deteriorated and a couple near the summit that have failed and erosion around the log forming the water bar has taken place.

My second trail of the day was Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, which is also located in Rumney.  It’s a lollipop trail that is a 2.3 mile hike with 964 feet of gain.  For redlining purposes, it is 1.7 miles of unique trail.  It has some nice views of the region as well as views of Mt Moosilauke and the Waterville Valley area summits.

The trail was in excellent condition and had a wide, mostly smooth foot bed.  The climb was steady and ranged from moderate to steep at times, but not difficult.  The trail became wet in places near the split for the loop at the plateau of the trail.  The views were excellent with high clouds mixing in with sunshine.  A pair of birds of prey (hawks I think, but maybe falcons) were on the hunt while I ate my lunch on the summit ledges. On the decent, there are still some patches of fall leaves which make it slippery in places, particularly when it’s steep.

I don’t know why, but these trails kicked my butt today.  The first half of Stinson Mountain Trail was fine, but my legs just struggled to climb this trail and it slowed me down.  I still managed to summit in less than book time (1 hr 35 mins).  Rattlesnake Mountain Trail was about the same.  I had the time off my feet from the drive between trails (about 15 mins), so the first half mile wasn’t bad, but again, the steeper section really took the strength out of my legs today.

I know that it probably wasn’t good to do a significant hike up most of North Kinsman, followed by a two week break before another hike, but I didn’t expect the result from today.  On the plus side, I did complete both hikes and got to check the trails off the redline list (+0.3% complete) as well as marking Stinson off the 52WAV list.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get away from work during the week or hike next weekend and see if the time between hikes was a factor.  Either way, I need to push myself into much better climbing shape for the AT.

Aside from planning my hike for this weekend, I’ve been working on the blog site as well.  I’ve gotten a bio written as well as a Progress Tracker page for the AT.  While I won’t be updating it for a while, it’s there for reference.  I’ve gotten the listing of all the shelters and summits along the AT (courtesy of www.sophiaknows.com).  I’ll be updating the mileage to reflect 2019 distances and each year thereafter for incomplete sections as the annual Data Book is published.  I’ve also put up a Reference Links page where I’ll put URL’s of various places I find or use on the internet and you may find useful or interesting.