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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Northern Presi Night Hike

This weekend, Dane and I traded the Hut to Hut traverse for 52 with a view peaks to beat the rain. By the end of day Thursday, we got Potash Mountain under our belts. After a beer at Black Mountain Burger in Lincoln NH, we checked the weather for Friday night into Saturday and saw that a big day-long storm would pass around 7pm. So we planned to do a Presidential Range Traverse night hike. My friend Kate asked to join too. We met at 10pm and entered the woods at 11pm. What was supposed to be cloudy weather and high wind gusts turned out to be clear skies, mild temps and little wind. We nearly had the range to ourselves. It’s incredibly rare to have such nice conditions up there, and I’m so glad I shared it with good company! We only made it to Mt. Washington because I promised my uncle and cousin I’d meet them at 11 for another hike. Great trip!

Friday, July 23, 2021

Pemigewasset Loop

Running on four hours of sleep, I woke up at an AT hiker filled Notch Hostel at 3 am to start the Pemigewasset Loop at Lincoln Woods Trailhead. Storms had sucked the moisture out of the air over the past two weeks, and the stars and sun would finally be out. The "Pemi Loop" is 31 miles, 10,000 ft in elevation gain, and eight 4,000 ft. mountains that surrounds much of the pristine Pemigewasset Wilderness in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It’s rated as the most difficult day hike in eastern North America, typically broken into a two or three day backpacking trip. I pushed it all day to finish in 10 hours (moving time). After climbing all of the northeast 115 4,000 footers, including doing the Presidential Traverse, Bond-Zealand Traverse, and Great Range Traverse, this hike caps off an incredible past few years in the northeast highlands. There's something special about looking out at all the tallest peaks in a region knowing you've been on top of them all, each with their own set of hardships and memories. Feeling recharged and fulfilled, it's time to head south again. #Cheers

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

My. Success Plane Crash Site

Today I drove north to hike Mt. Success - a 52 with a view peak - to see the crash site of a plane downed in 1952. On the way up, I heard black-throated blue warblers, black-throated green warblers, thrushes and a winter wren. The crash site was eerily well preserved. This 8-mile hike was not very difficult and I will be taking a zero day tomorrow in prep for a grueling single day Pemigewasset loop on Thursday, 31 miles, 11,000 feet of elevation gain and 8 4,000 foot mountains.


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. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Hunter Mountain Virgin Forest - Catskills

Today, I hiked Hunter mountain for my second and final Catskills 4k footer. I broke trail all the way up, passing bear claw marks on a beech tree and clues of the “mountain’s” creation such as crossbedding in the 350 million year old sandstone geology. The Catskills as a range were not created by a mountain building event, but rather they are the product of millennia of erosion of the once level Allegheny plateau. My favorite part of the trail was finding virgin forest toward the top, as well as large sugar maple-ash forest below. 6% in counting of the Catskills are virgin forest, with nearly all of it reserved above 2,500 feet. Trees are contorted, gnarled and stunted from harsh winds, time ice and short growing season. In all my travels, I’ve never seen such large red spruce, yellow birch, and sugar maple in one place. I estimate the red spruce to be over 250 years old, and the other species over 400 years. The fire tower was closed for winter, but I climbed to the top without accessing the inside. The glissading (aka mountain sledding) on the way down was second to none! The imprint of hikers on trail contrasted with the height of deep surrounding snow effectively created a bobsledding course down the mountain. It always takes a couple strenuous hikes to drain the toxins and forget about work, and this was that hike for me. To top the day off, I finally got “The Catskill Forest: A History” by Michael Kudish! Off to the Adirondacks to finish the Northeast 115 4,000 foot mountains!