Sunday, May 24, 2015

Livermore Trail - Easy Multi-use trail in the White Mountains

Stopping along the Livermore Trail in Waterville Valley
Sign off of Tripoli Rd directs you to trailhead
A couple weeks ago, Summit and I headed up to the Waterville Valley area to tackle Mt. Osceola - a popular 4,000 footer in the White Mountains range.  Unfortunately, when I got there, I discovered that although it was May 9th, the access road was still closed for "winter".  Hiking the road would have essentially doubled my hike, so I decided to try the Livermore Trail head, which I had passed on my drive up.  

My plan was to take the Livermore Trail and try to possibly summit South Peak of the Tripyrmids.  I felt the loop would be too challenging for the dog and on this day, hadn't allocated enough time to finish the loop.  As it turns out, I got bogged down by multiple stream crossings on the Mt. Tripyramid trail and ended up turning around.  On the bright side, I discovered that the Livermore trail is a wonderful family-friendly trail for hikers, bikers, and skiiers.  The wide-gravel trail proved to be a perfect day with the dog including multiple views of forests, streams, and cascades.  Read on below to recreate this adventure...

Livermore Trail is more like a road...
Adventure:  Livermore Trail in the Waterville Valley

Getting there: From Boston/Southern New Hampshire.  Take I-93 N to Exit 28 in Campton.  Follow Rt 49 East towards Waterville Valley.  Before you reach the town center, take a left onto Tripoli Rd.  You will pass Ski Area Rd on the left and soon after there will be a turn off onto Livermore Road Parking area on the right.  Turn here and park in the lot.  This is a White Mountain National Forest trailhead so you will need a National Park pass or $3 cash/check to pay for parking.  There are privy toilets at the trailhead.

Trail:  The Livermore Trail is more like a road than a trail.  This multi-use path is used as a ski trail for the Waterville Valley Ski Resort in winter and for hikers and mountain bikers in summer.  I'm not accustomed to seeing such wide, graded paths in the Whites and kept expecting it to narrow, but it didn't until it reached the Tripyramid loop.  The trail was a pleasant uphill and gradual climb.  It serves as a main vein for a number of smaller trails including Greeley Ponds Trail, Big Pines Path, Boulder Path, Kettles Path, and North Rapids Trail.  I stayed on the main drag - hoping to get to one of the Tripyramids.  Along the way, I enjoyed the hardwood forests and the many interactions with the Cascade Brook.  Summit enjoyed splashing in the water.  This trail had bridges and culvert crossings so no worries about wet feet!
      At 2.6 miles there is an intersection for the south end of the Mt Tripyramid Trail.  The Tripyramid loop is
Black Cascade off of Mt. Tripyramid Trail
not recommended for the casual hiker.  I've done this once before and it is a gnarly climb including a scree slope and plenty of bouldering.  I decided I'd take a right at the fork and see how far Summit and I could get up the South Tripyramid before we needed to turn around.   Right away, we had a wide river crossing across Avalanche Brook.  Unfortunately, the river was high and there were no dry crossings.  I gave it my best shot, but...SPLASH... I slipped on a rock and ended up submerged to my shins.  After wringing out my socks, I continued.  The trail narrowed and meandered up into the woods.  It was evident that the trail had not been frequented and was in need of trail work.  Heading up the path, I saw no blazes (unusual for the Whites), although on the decent I saw some.  Also, the deeper we hiked, the more moose droppings we encountered. At about 1 mile in, I think we encountered what on the map is labeled as "Black Cascade".  It was a beautiful spot - rushing cascades and small waterfalls.  I could see the trail on the other side of the cascade but with high/fast water I decided it wasn't worth the risk to cross (and then cross again on my return).  It was here that we turned around and hiked the 3.6-ish miles back to the parking lot.

Junction for Tripyramid Loop
Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 2.6 miles one way to Mt.Tripyramid junction.  I continued another ~1 mile on Mt. Tripyramid Trail before turning around at Black Cascade.  (~7 miles total)


- This is an easy climb and a nice wide/graded trail - perfect for families with young children or people who need an easier hike but still want to see the White Mountains.

Views of Cascade Brook
- The Livermore trail does not provide mountain views- although it had lovely streams and forest.

- Try one of the short offshoots to elongate your hike.

- Make sure to bring a National Park Pass or $3 exact so you can park in the lot.

Even though it wasn't the 4,000 footer I had planned on tackling when I got in the car that day, the dog and I enjoyed this forest hike among the trees and water.  It's always exciting to discover another trail.

Please leave comments and questions below.  Follow us on Facebook at The Freelance Adventurer. or on Instagram @freelanceadventurer.

You might also enjoy the following posts: 

Mt. Pemigewasset Fall Hike 

Sugarloafs - 2000 footers with amazing views

3 Great Spring Hikes in Northern New England

Summit and I enjoy a girls day out in the White Mountains!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mt. Moosilauke - Moderate Hike for Major View

View from Summit of Mt. Moosilauke
Approaching the summit of Mt. Moosilauke
It's been far too long since I wrote a post.  I partly blame the long winter that kept me from my traditional early spring hiking, but I also blame this wonderful spring weather we are currently experiencing.  The long-awaited spring weather caused me to fling myself into outdoor adventures and I've been reluctant to sit inside writing.  As a result, I've had quite a few hiking adventures this month and find myself having to "catch up" on sharing them.  Where do I start?  How about with last weekend...

Over the past couple months, I've been mostly hiking small, close peaks to my house - Pawtuckaway, Mt. Major, Mt.Cardigan, and Gonic Trails, but last weekend I told Matt I needed to get up to the White Mountains and tackle a 4,000 footer.  To ease into larger hikes, I decided to go with one of the easier 4,000 footers - Mt. Moosilauke.  I haven't done this peak in probably six years, but I remember it has a wide open summit and multiple choices for ascents - ranging from moderate to very challenging.  Read below on how to replicate my adventure...

The trail is well signed
Adventure: Mt. Moosilauke via Gorge Brook Trail

Getting There:  The Gorge Brook Trail leaves from the Dartmouth Outing Club's Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.  To get there from Boston, take 1-93 North and get off at exit 32.  Turn Right onto Rt 112 West.  This will take you into the town of North Woodstock.  After 3 miles, take a left onto Rt 118 South (we missed it the first time - so if you pass Beaver Brook parking lot you've gone too far). Rt 118 winds up the mountain. After 7.2 miles, turn right on Ravine Road.  Take the dirt/gravel road to the end and park along the road. Parking is free. Once parked, walk down past the lodge toward the river.  Here you will see signs for Gorge Brook Trail.  The drive took me two hours from southern New Hampshire (2.5 from Boston).

Trail:  Although there are multiple ascents up Mt. Moosilauke, we chose to go out and back on the Gorge Brook Trail because it is one of the easiest approaches as well as the shortest (3.7 miles each way).  The trail leaves from the lodge, crosses a bridge over the brook, and meanders up through hardwood forest. Due to it's high
Crossing Gorge Brook Trail
elevation start, the forest soon turns to evergreens.  The trail is easy to moderate as it climbs near the brook.  We discovered that it was re-routed onto the Snapper trail for a short piece but then reconnected with Gorge Brook Trail.
     Along the hike, you get a few peaks of views where the trees have been cut back.  As you climb, the evergreens get shorter and shorter. We were surprised to still have snow and ice on the trail over 4000 feet on May 17th!  Once above treeline, you can see the summit for the last quarter mile of trail.  Unlike most other White Mountain 4,000 footers, there was no slab hiking or bouldering near the summit.  It was a smooth hike (with some rocks and roots) but nothing technical.
     The summit is beautiful!  At 4,802 ft, you get 360 degree views of the surrounding valley and White Mountains.  The wind whips over the bald peak, but thanks to rock shelters, we were able to sit and enjoy our lunch with a view.

Difficulty:  Moderate

Distance: 3.7 miles one way.  7.4 miles out-and-back

- This is a perfect way to start back up on big hiking in the Whites.  The distance is substantial but the hike is
Still snow in mid-May!
only moderate difficulty.  If you had plenty of time, it would also be a great way to introduce a child or teen to big mountain hiking.  What's more, is that with relatively easy hiking, you get a top-notch view!

- Surprisingly, there was still significant snow and ice over 4,000 feet in mid May!  We were not prepared for this - and as a result got some wet ankles when we post-holed through the snowy trail.  It also made the trail slick.  In retrospect- trekking poles or microspikes would have prevented my three falls on the way down.

- The summit is completely exposed - bring multiple warm layers/windbreaker to stay warm.

- Before heading back home, stop in at Woodstock Inn and Brewery in North Woodstock for a beer and bite!

Lunch break on the summit of Mt. Moosilauke
Although it had been a few months since I tackled a 4,000 footer, I had no problem summiting Mt. Moosilauke.  Just as I remembered, the hike was pleasant and the views amazing on this beautiful New Hampshire peak!

 Please leave comments or questions below and feel free to like us on FACEBOOK!

Summit loved our hike!

You might also enjoy the following posts:

Mt. Pierce in Late Spring

Mt. Chocorua - Perfect Fall Foliage Hike

Mt. Monadnock - The 2nd most climbed mountain in the world

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Winter Walk in Gonic Trails

Isinglass River Waterfall

What a long winter it's been!  It's almost too much to take!  In order to escape the winter blues, I've been taking advantage of the deep power and sunny, cold days to get out and enjoy it.  My favorite little walk is located only a few miles from my house on the Isinglass River in Rochester, New Hampshire.  Trails are maintained and owned by Waste Management (sounds weird - but they're great), and are a perfect after work walk.  See below to recreate this easy trail walk.

Adventure: Gonic Trails, Rochester, NH

Getting There:  From Route 125, take Rochester Neck Road in Gonic/Rochester. The trail head is located in a large parking lot on the right about 1 mile down the road after a private home.

Trail sign in parking lot includes map.

Yellow trail headed down to river.
Trail: There are three separate trails that leave from this trail head.  All are well marked by color -
Red, Yellow, and Blue.  My favorite loop is to take the Yellow at first.  This trail leaves on the right side of the parking lot.  It soon veers left, and travels at a slight grade down hill through hemlock forest.  Continue straight until you reach the river.  An overlook allows you to see the Isinglass river. From here, the trail veers left to travel along the river.  You head downhill and can see the waterfall on the right.  Take a moment to enjoy the view.  Sometimes, otters are seen playing in the water.  Continue along the Yellow trail as it parallels the river.  After a bend, you will reach the junction to the Red trail.  The Red trail is a loop trail and this is where it turns around.  Take either path and you will go up a semi-steep incline for about 5 minutes before the trail flattens out again.  The Red trail is flat and unwinding, passing through pine and hardwood forest, until reaching the parking lot where you started.

Medallion identifying Barrington Woods
Difficulty: Easy - perfect for a casual walk or a family hike.

Distance: ~ 2-3 miles


- A large map/trail sign is located in the parking lot.  Take a photo with your phone before leaving to have access to a trail map.

- Dogs are common on the trail.  Be aware that some are off leash.  If hiking with your dog, be sure to remove waste.  There is a trash bin at the parking lot.

- There are no bathroom facilities along the walk.

- Parking is free.

Isinglass River.  Gonic, NH

I've enjoyed this trail all winter - it is the perfect way to escape my cabin fever and get a little exercise.  I can't wait to explore it in Spring!

Please leave comments and questions below...

Summit and Sadie love hiking the Gonic Trails!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Knife Edge Crossing

Kelly crosses the Knife Edge Trail on Mt. Katahdin, ME
Last year, I hiked Mt. Katahdin in Maine over Columbus Day weekend.  For my first ascent, my friend Sarah and I took the steep Abol trail up and the long Hunt Trail (AT) down.  This year, I decided to tackle it again - this time taking a stab at the infamous Knife Edge Trail to the summit.  This narrow and exposed ridge line has a reputation for one of the most challenging hikes in the Northeast, and was on my bucket list as a "must- try". My sister, Kelly, agreed to conquer the mountain with me.  It was an amazing adventure.

Here is a peek at our adventure...

Driving into Baxter State Park
Abol Campground, Baxter State Park
Permits - Baxter State Park requires visitors to have a permit to enter, stay, and camp in the park. Maine residents get dibs on early reservations.  Read your reservation carefully.  Day reservations must be claimed by 7 am on the day or they are given away.  Camping reservations ensure your spot for the day as well as a parking spot.
 Reservations can (and should) be made ahead of time.  Even trying one month ahead, we did not get our first choices on campgrounds.  Try MULTIPLE months prior to ensure you get your site.  Rules and cost about reservations can be found HERE or by calling park headquarters at (207) 723-5140.

Lil' Abol Falls near Abol Campground
Camping - We arrived at Baxter State Park on Saturday mid-day.  It was about a 5 hour drive from southern New Hampshire.  I had made reservations to spend our first night at Abol Campground.  We arrived at Abol, set up camp, and took a few small hikes around the park - Lil' Abol Falls and Elbow Pond.  These were pleasant short hikes with awesome views.  The second night, we spent at Roaring Brook Campground.  This is where we hiked to-and-from our Katahdin climb.

Both Abol and Roaring Brook Campgrounds had roomy, nature sites with fire pits.  There is no running water available.  Campers can treat river water or drive in their own. Firewood can be purchased from the camp ranger.  Outhouse/Privy toilets are available as well.  We stayed in a tent site at Abol and a lean-to site at Roaring Brook.  Both were spacious and comfortable.  I highly recommend the campgrounds.

On the Summit of Mt. Katahdin

Route - The goal of our trip was to tackle Mt. Katahdin from the Knife Edge trail.  This notorious trail is a highly exposed 1 mile stretch of ridge between Pamola Peak and Baxter Peak (highest point on the mountain).  This ascent should only be attempted under fair and dry weather conditions.  During October, while it felt like fall at the base, it was winter above, so adequate cold-weather gear was an additional necessity besides water, food, map, compass and first aid.

Kelly and I got up at 5 am, packed up at Abol campground and drove to the other side of the mountain.  We arrived at Roaring Brook Campground, in the dark, at 6 am.  After securing our packs, and signing into the ranger station, we were on the trail by 6:30 am - just as a sun was rising.

Cold summit of Mt. Katahdin
We took the Helon Taylor Trail up.  The trail was rocky and moderate as it ascended through the woods.  At 2 miles we passed the treeline and were rewarded with amazing views of the fall foliage below.  Rocky slab made for a tiring but still-moderate climb.  At 3.3 miles we summited Pamola Peak (4,902 ft).  This peak gives views of the Knife's Edge all the way to Baxter Peak.

The Knife Edge begins by steeply descending onto the base of the "Chimney" - a rocky point along the relatively smooth ridge-line.  From here, the climb just gets harder.  And it is...A CLIMB!  All extremities were needed to then climb up and then back down the steep outcrop.  In addition to the technical climbing (no ropes or anchors available), the exposure makes the experience that much more harrowing.  I'll be honest - I was terrified during the chimney portion on the climb.  After the first half mile, the trail becomes less steep but still very exposed.  Although scary, this trail awards its climbers with the most amazing views on the mountain and peaks.  From Pamola Peak, the Knife Edge is 1.1 miles to Baxter Peak - the summit of Mt. Katahdin (5,269 ft).

Looking over the Knife's Edge, Mt. Katahdin
It was a relief to reach the summit. The peak was crowded with hikers.  We took a photo at the iconic Mt. Katahdin sign and ate a quick lunch.  The cold weather, crisp wind, and sweaty clothes made us both cold, and it was uncomfortable sitting for long.  The year prior, I had worn a light sweatshirt and spent over an hour on the summit on the same weekend.  Now, ice and frost covered the rocks and alpine plants.  Its was a harsh place.

From the summit, we continued onto the Saddle Trail.  This 2.2 mile section took us to Chimney Pond junction.  The trail started with a gradual descent across a plateau.  Afterwards, a steep 0.2 mile section took hikers down what essentially is a slide.  Although less-technical than Knife's Edge, this section was still challenging and strenuous.  Watch for falling rocks.  After the slide, the trail became moderate once again, eventually leading us to the Chimney Pond and camp.

"Easy" part of the Saddle Trail
The Chimney Pond trail took us the last 3.3 miles back to Roaring Brook.  This easy- moderate trail
travels through Maine woods wilderness.  We hoped to see a moose, but alas, they stayed in hiding.

We returned to Roaring Brook Campground at 3 pm.  In total, our 9.9 mile hike took us nine hours.  It was great to get back, set up camp, eat some dinner and crash for the evening.

The next morning, sore and happy, we packed up and returned to New Hampshire.  We had achieved our goal.

Katahdin Views
Advice -

- Book your reservations WAY in advance!   We originally wanted to spend the night at Chimney
Lake near entrance of Baxter State Park
Pond Campsite, but a month in advance was not enough to get a spot - even on a cold fall weekend.  

- Know the rules about parking and permits.  Last year, I lost my reservation because I entered the park after 7:30 and my permit had been given away.  Check the website and rules!

- Be prepared for all kinds of weather. Last year I wore a light shirt and summer hiking pants.  This year I was donned in full ski gear.  Bring multiple layers of clothing and remember - Cotton Kills!

- Bring plenty of water or a way to treat water in the park.  The water source is the local streams and rivers and should be treated to prevent water-born illnesses.

- Don't count on Millinocket meeting all your shopping needs.  It is a small town and does not have many amenities.  You can only buy firewood in the campgrounds ($3).  

- Watch the weather.  Knife Edge can result in a deadly climb if attempted at bad weather.  Check in with the Rangers for up-to-date trail conditions before you climb.  

- Explore other parts of the park.  The lakes, waterfalls, and hardwood forest is incredibly pristine and beautiful!

A great hike up Mt. Katahdin
Please leave comments and questions below...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Guest Post: Mt. Pemigewasset Fall Hike

Mt. Pemigewasset Summit Views.  Photo by Bruce Hansen.

Trail Sign for Mt. Pemi
It may be hard to pronounce, but this hike is a must-do for people who love amazing views and are capable of making the moderate 3-mile round-trip trek.

From the summit, hikers are rewarded with vast scenic vistas of the White Mountain National Forest located near the high peaks of the Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges.

On this hike, expect a varied trail leading under Highway 93, up a pleasant, flat path and ending with steepish bowling-ball to beach-ball sized rocks covered with tangled tree-roots.  Along the trail hikers can also expect some charming creek crossings and forest views.
After a rain, there could be mud in places.
Follow the Blue Blaze

Along with the view on top, hikers will find a genuine New Hampshire granite drop-off with no safety fences.  This is a wild and beautiful place.

Busloads of tourists come for the flume gorge hike, but walk right past the trailhead for this wonderful view-hike.  If you drive to Franconia Notch State Park, you'll have access to free parking and flush toilets as well as trail advice from park rangers.

It's best to park in the highest of the three lots and head towards the bike trail.  Quickly the footpath to Mt. Pemiewasset will be clearly marked with painted ablue blazes along the wooded trail all the way to the top.

Photos of fall colors on Mt. Pemigewasset hike
We saw people hiking with shorts and sneakers, but suggest Nordic walking sticks, ankle-supporting hiking boots and other standard hiking safety equipment, water and snacks.  It seems no one forgets to take a camera on this hike.  Afterwards you can tell your friends that you hiked to the top of Indian Head since only locals can pronounce Mt. Pemigewasset 
  1. Golden Rd, Millinocket, ME 04462

Contact info:
Franconia Notch State Park
Flume Gorge
Daniel Webster Hwy
Lincoln, NH 03251
(603) 745-8391

Bruce Hansen
Meet the Expert : Bruce Hansen
Bruce Hansen is a world traveler and writer.  He is a frequent contributer to travel magazines including Rider and Canoe and Kayak.  His experience as a freelance motorcycle journalist has taking him on adventures around the world including long rides through New England.  His book Motorcycle Journeys Through the Pacific Northwest is available from Amazon and White Horse Press in Conway, NH.  

White Mountain Fall colors

Please leave comments and questions below...