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Monday, May 31, 2021

Chocorua with Erin

For our first adventure together up north, Erin and I hiked Chocorua mountain, which is as close to a 4,000-footer as you can get. The hike ended up being 8.5-miles with 2,782 feet in elevation gain. We heard black-throated green warblers, black and white warblers and blackburnian warblers. We heard white-throated sparrows up top and saw a raven. Rhodora, pink lady’s slipper, and bilberry were in bloom and we saw an abnormal formed four-flowered painted trillium! I was worried low clouds would obscure the 360-degree views but they broke right as we reached the top. This was Erin's first big mountain and she crushed it! It’s been a while since hiking a big mountain with a beginner; it made me slow down, enjoy the journey and think back to how difficult my first big mountain was. So glad we got it done together!


Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Northeast 111

    3 years, 54 hikes, 17 road trips, 4 states, 5 mountain ranges (White, Green, Adirondacks, Catskills, Longfellow), 191,202 feet in elevation gain, 622.8 miles hiked, 19 hiking partners, dozens of sleepy towns, 5 hostels, and 115 of the northeast's highest mountains summited. Last week, I finished my last 4,000 ft. mountain in the northeast, earning myself a membership in The Northeast 111 club, which actually contains 115 peaks due to modern surveying corrections: The 67 New England 4,000 footers, 46 Adirondack High Peaks, and Slide and Hunter Mountain in the Catskills. 

    This project gave me rain, sleet, snow, ice and sunshine - from mud season to bug season - every range and every hike was different and illuminating. Words can't describe how much I learned along this journey. What started as short weekend trips to re-center from work, get some exercise and be in nature manifested into longer personal growth retreats where I would eventually become more mindful of myself and life. The big mountains and painfully long hikes taught me how insignificant I am, and how unimportant day to day drama is in the grand scheme of things. The sweat, aches, pains, spruce traps (chest deep snow cavities concealed by baby spruce trees), persistent mosquitos, and poison ivy taught me to find comfort in being uncomfortable, and that the most rewarding points of view require endurance. These cheap weekend trips - often spent camping in the trunk of my SUV - gave me an outlet to recharge and explore the old growth forests, ancient geology, waterways, and sleepy towns of New England on a shoestring budget. Grounding experiences like these have a way of bringing awareness to what is meaningful and true in life and, most importantly, what is not. To all the magnificent sites seen, friendships forged, deep thoughts contemplated, and memories made along the trail - I'm forever grateful!  AMC48, ADK46, NE67, NE111!

Mt. Marcy, Adirondacks, NY - Photo: Kinley McCracken

Friday, February 26, 2021

Adirondacks 46er

Today, after nearly a year, I crossed off the final two peaks (gray & skylight) to finish the Adirondacks 46 4,000 ft. peaks! I hiked 8 days straight across 81.2 miles and over 24,000 ft. in elevation gain to get it done in time before heading back from vacation, and my muscles are screaming for it. This hike had everything you could want for a final peak. It was a bluebird day with no wind (the first in 8-days). I saw people only on the way out, mostly backcountry skiers. I had to break trail in deep snow for about 5-miles; I certainly had to work for it. Dozens of spruce traps, including some 6-foot holes. To top it off, a large full moon rose above the mountains on the way out viewed from lake placid. What a day, and what a journey! I learned so much, and I’ll be sure to post about the entire journey soon. 


Sawteeth Mountain

 Yesterday, I completed Sawteeth mountain. I stopped by Rainbow Falls, and then discovered a giant hop hornbeam tree. Anytime you see this slow growing understory tree approach 1-foot in diameter, you know you’re in virgin forest.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Colvin, Blake, & Indian Head

 After five consecutive days hiking mountains totaling 49.4 miles and 14,518 ft in elevation, I took my time getting up this morning. I was sore to say the least. I woke up in the parking lot of a trailhead in Keene. After making tea and eating breakfast, I drove to Huberts trailhead. There were only a few cars in the lot by the time I made my way up the trail. I first hit Indian Head lookout, then Colvin and Blake. Blake was really tough with a near vertical incline and fresh snow. I climbed the last stretch on my hands and knees. I saw a pair of deer. It’s the first time I’ve seen deer here- they are smaller in stature but heftier. They almost look like a subspecies. Along the trail, I noticed some very large hemlocks and scattered old growth sugar maple and yellow birch. I really huffed it on this hike for a good workout.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Mount Colden

 Today was a doozy. 14 mile hike to Mt. Colden and back through high winds, whiteout conditions and low temps. At times there were 65mph wind gusts. I passed some small old growth maple-beech forest on the way up. A highlight of the day was snowshoeing across Avalanche Lake at high elevation, fully protected from the elements as high winds rushed through the mountains like a wind tunnel.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Big Slide Morning Hike

 On trail by 4:00 am, walking under pitch black sky and bright, scintillating stars toward Big Slide mountain - my 40th (out of 46) Adirondacks 4,000 foot mountains. Out of all the mountains I’ve claimed, this might be my favorite single peak hike. There were views all along the way, and giant sugar maple, ash, American beech and eastern hemlock virgin forest below on Phelps trail. I made it to Big Slide just in time for the sun to rise. What a day! I completed the hike in just under 4-hours.