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...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Perfect Fall Foliage Hike

Chocorua Lake with Mount Chocorua in background
If you are looking for beautiful fall foliage, lake and mountain views, and a moderate hike, than Mount Chocorua is for you!  This peak has multiple ascents, but after a fresh rain the night before, I chose to adventure up the Champney Falls trail where I could get a view of the falls on the way.

Adventure:  Mount Chocorua via the Champney Brook Trail
Hiking on Mount Chocura

Getting there:  The trailhead is located on the south side of the Kancamangus Highway.  From southern New Hampshire, take Rt. 16 North, and turn left onto 112/Kancamangus Highway.  The trailhead parking lot is located 11 miles down on the left.  There is a small dirt lot.

Trail:  The Champney Falls trail started out with a small river crossing.  We continued up on an easy trail through colorful hardwood forest.  The trees were yellow, red, and orange.  After about 1.5 miles, we reached Champney Falls.  We took a break and explored the area, ate a snack, and rested.

Trail head to Champney Brook Trail
Continuing up, the trail turns into a steep set of stairs.  This leg burner continues for about a half mile and eventually returns to an easy-moderate grade.  At 3.3 miles, we reached the Piper trail/Champney Falls trail junction and continued up to the open rocky peak.  Follow the blazes and cairns over a moderate-difficult slab to reach the summit of Mount Chocura (3500 feet) at 4 miles.  There are amazing view from everywhere on the uninterrupted summit.  We enjoyed lunch on a small ledge that protected us from the wind and gave us a colorful view of the changing leaves below.  After lunch, we continued down the same way we came.  Watch the signs closely or consult your map...you wouldn't want to head down the wrong trail!

Some slab climbing required at the summit of Chocura.
Difficulty: The trail ranges from easy to moderate.  The hardest part is the summit's rocky slab which
has some difficult steps.  Take care...under wet or windy conditions. It could be very dangerous.

Distance:  4 miles one way.  8 miles out-and-back.





Fall leaves along trail

Champney Falls
Recommendations:

- This is a popular hike.  To guarantee a parking spot and avoid the crowds, arrive early.

- If coming from the south, make a stop at Chocura lake - I enjoyed early morning light on the beautiful lake and views of the peak.  Along the Kancamangus Highway, I enjoyed stopping at the Covered Bridge campground and also at Rocky Gorge along the Swift River.

- There are no bathrooms at the trail head.

- You need a White Mountain National Forest parking permit to park at the trail head.  The cost at the trail head is $3 per vehicle per day.  Bring exact change.





Covered Bridge along the Kancamangus Highway
Fall colors at Chocura Lake
For more fall foliage hike ideas...




Summit perched at summit

Please leave comments and questions below...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Guest Post: Best of the Best - Portland, Maine

As fall begins, consider squeezing in a visit to tourist-friendly Portland, Maine. Planning a trip after Labor Day ensures you beat the crowds. Here are the places you need to know for the best day experience.

Eastern "Prom" - Portland, Maine
Walk: Portland Trails*: Back Cove Trail

Distance: 3.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Parking: Free at lot across from Hannaford on Preble Street Extension

The Back Cove Trail is a loop trail (3.5 miles) which boasts beautiful views of the Portland skyline, the occasional marsh wildlife such as Great Blue Herons, and perfect for walking, running, and biking. The terrain is with mostly flat except along a stretch that parallels I-295. There are benches and water fountains (seasonal) along the trail.

*A network of trails in greater Portland, free for public access. Full map here: http://trails.org/our-trails/

Hilltop Superette Counter
Lunch with a View: Hilltop Superette @ 135 Congress St.
Fare: Deli style sandwiches, pizza ($1.79 slices), and hamburgers

The 80-year-old store has been recently raised back from the ashes as it was nearly destroyed by arson last year (previously Colucci’s). Now the local market (opened July 2014) is bustling in the Munjoy Hilll neighborhood. The menu boasts local produce and breads from Borealis Breads. I highly recommend the Italians, especially the Spicy Superette if you like a little kick. Grab a bag of chips to share, drinks, and walk down the street towards the Eastern Promenade for a picnic style lunch with a view of Casco Bay and surrounding islands.




Infinity Beer Barrels
Beer: Bunker Brewing Company @ 122 Anderson St.
Summer Hours: Thurs & Fri 5-8pm, Sat 12-5    Call before stopping by

This microbrewery was established in 2011 and has quickly made a name for itself. Nestled off Anderson St. in a 1920s era brick garage in the developing neighborhood of East Bayside. You will experience a small artisan brewery that founders Chresten Sorensen and Jay Villani believe to be the future of beer. If you appreciate a good pilsener try their Machine Czech Pils (flagship brew). The Peninsula Pale Ale is a local favorite. Feed your competitive edge and challenge your party (or locals) to a game of corn hole just outside the garage.


Dinner: Corner Room @ 110 Exchange St.
Fare: Italian Kitchen & Bar
Happy Hour: Mon-Thurs  4-6pm (complimentary tapas to pair with drinks)
Late Night Menu: Thurs-Sat ‘Til 11pm
Corner Room Restuarant

An open kitchen restaurant invokes a warm and cozy atmosphere with house-made pastas, pizzas, antipasti, and artisanal breads made from local ingredients. Small patio available for dining. The Corner Room is one of the four “Rooms” restaurants owned by chef Harding Lee Smith.



Dessert: Bar of Chocolate @ 38 Wharf St.
Fare: Wine, Dessert, and Espresso Bar
Hours: 4pm-12am everyday


Walk down Exchange St. to Wharf St. and the Bar of Chocolate after dinner at the Corner Room. This the perfect place to visit after a nice meal and its hidden in plain sight! Wharf Street is in the absolute heart of the old port and is one of the few historic cobble stone streets remaining. The Bar of Chocolate is small and cozy and always has excellent locally made treats stocked in the dessert case ranging from flour-less chocolate cake to blueberry pie. Pair your desert with your favorite wine, cocktail, or tea/espresso for a wonderful cap to your day.





MEET THE EXPERT:  Jenny Galasso - Portlander
Jenny is a blogger and local to Portland, Maine.  She is an expert on Maine adventures, restaurants, and hidden gems.  View other posts that feature Jenny by clicking keyword "Jenny" on the side bar.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Blueberry Mountain - Short and Steep

Life on Bickford Brook Trail
Ebeneezer's Pub is a Belgium beer bar in Lovell, Maine.  It's been voted "Best Beer Bar in America" by
Beer Advocate and happened to be hosting it's Belgium Beer Festival.  Matt and I decided to double date with our friends Amber and Jason to the event.  Since we were already up north, we looked for a short local hike to try before we hit the bar.  Lovell is on the NH/Maine line close to Fryberg, Maine.  I found a hike in Evan's Notch to Blueberry Mountain (1781 ft).  This hike can also connect to Speckled Mountain to make a nice +7 mile loop, but on this day, we decided to adventure on a 3 mile out and back trek up Blueberry Mountain.

Here is how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Blueberry Mountain, Evan's Notch, NH

Getting there: The Bickford Brook Trail is located along Rt. 113.  It at "Brickett Place" - a small historical house/museum.  From 302/113 junction, take 113 north about 20 miles.  Brickett Place is located on the right, just after the Cold River Campground (on left).  There's plenty of parking (cost $3 cash per car or National Park Pass).  Privey toilets are available at the trailhead.

Trail Sign at Brickett Place
Trail:  From the back of of the Brickett Place parking lot, take the Bickford Brook Trail.  This goes through woods, crosses a beautiful stream (take the spur down to see the waterfall!).  This will gently take you to the junction of the Blueberry Ridge Trail.  Take a right on the Blueberry Ridge Trail.  This trail is surprisingly steep - ascending with rocky trail and partial slab.  A large open slab before the summit provided a great photo spot/lunch spot.  The actual summit was wooded and only provided partial views.  Blueberries carpeted the peak, a tribute to its name.  There is no marker at the summit.  From here, we turned around and returned to the car.  

Difficulty:  Moderate - I was surprised how steep some portions were for such a short peak!  

Distance:  0.7 miles to junction + 0.8 to summit = 1.5 miles one way/3 miles out-and-back round trip.

Recommendations:

View from lunch ledge 
- Take the time to stop at the stream crossing.  There is a short spur trail that will lead you down to a
beautiful waterfall. 
- Avoid wet slab on rainy days - it's dangerous
- Take your photos and lunch on the large open slab right before the summit.  The summit is wooded with limited views.  

Afterwards - If you are beer lover, drive the 30 minutes to Ebeneezer's Pub in Lovell.  They have 35 Belgium brews on tap and a great pub menu.   It is located at 44 Allen Rd. Lovelle, ME 04051.

It was great to get a little hike in with our friends and then visit the Belgium Beer Fest at Ebeneezer's.  I can't wait for next year, to do it again!



Waterfall on  Bickford Brook Trail spur
Please leave comments and questions below...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Olympic National Park Beaches

2nd Beach, La Push.  Photo by Bruce Hansen (c) Mt. Hood Press
There are many reasons to visit Olympic National Park in summer - hike stunning ridgelines of tall, glacier
2nd Beach, Olympic National Park
capped mountains, explore wildlife-rich riperian zones of blue, glacial water, and walk among giant trees, dripping with ancient-looking moss.

Still...the number one reason I wanted to visit Olympic National Park was to walk the coastline, explore life-filled tide pools, and gaze at enormous rock monoliths in the pristine beaches of northern Washington State.

In my short, four day stay, I was able to visit three beautiful beaches.  Details about our itinerary are available on the Four Family Friendly Days in Olympic National Park.  Since my favorite part of the stay was the beaches (as well as the reason I came), I decided it was appropriate to do an additional post of these magnificent spaces.    Below is advice, descriptions, and directions to three of the most spiritual beaches of the region.

Ruby Beach on a cool, foggy morning
Advice:

1.  It's Cold - Don't expect Santa Monica sunbathing.  Even in August, these beaches are cool, cloudy, and have freezing water.  It's part of what makes them unique and home to abundant wildlife.  Enjoy the beach as a place to walk, explore, and photograph, but leave your beach towel and bikini at home.

2.  Check the Tide - Check a local tide chart.  It's best to explore the coast at low tide when you can poke around the pools and walk more of the beach.  

3.  Go Early to Avoid Crowds - None of these beaches will reach SoCal type crowding, but after noon, expect to see families and tourists exploring the beach. For a pristine, empty beach, get there early...or better yet, camp out on the beach!


My adventures - Three Olympic National Park Beaches and how to get there...

2nd Beach - La Push, WA

It's unfortunate this gorgeous shoreline has the un-romantic name of "2nd Beach".  It doesn't do it justice.
Little Girl finds Sea Star home
While 1st beach can get crowded due to it's easy street access, and 3rd beach is the the first crowded parking lot from La Push Road, 2nd Beach is tucked away between it's sisters.  It's the perfect escape.  After a short, wooded hike through giant, ancient trees, I emerged onto a open (and empty) one-mile stretch of beach.  Sea stacks and small rock islands pierced through a sea of fog, and as I walked, the wave of cloud would move, revealing and hiding new rock monoliths.  This was a great spot to explore tide pools.  I was relieved to see groups of healthy sea stars - not yet struck by starfish wasting disease.  It was exactly why I had wanted to visit this park.  It felt magical. 

Get there:  We drove 2 miles north on Rt. 101 to Rt. 110.  Turn left (West) on Rt. 110.  This will turn into La Push Road.  Travel about 13 miles on 110/La Push road.  You will pass the parking lot for 3rd Beach and the Quileute Tribal Office before coming to the parking lot for 2nd Beach.  

2nd Beach, La Push

2nd Beach, La Push


On the jetty at First Beach
1st Beach - La Push, WA

This is one of the easiest beaches to access in the park - No Hiking Required.  This beach sports a long jetty covered in large and battered driftwood.  I climbed on the largest piece of driftwood I've ever seen - a uprooted and weathered tree that had a root system still standing at least 25 feet high!  Rocky islands and needles rise offshore and create a unique coastal landscape.  I visited this beach to watch the sunset and even though it was foggy, it was amazing to watch colored sky peek through the cracks in the clouds.  

Get there:  We drove 2 miles north on Rt. 101 to Rt. 110.  Turn left (West) on Rt. 110.  This will turn into La Push Road.  Take 110/La Push Road to the end and you will enter the town of La Push.  Follow signs to 1st beach parking.



Ruby Beach - Olympic National Park

We were fortunate to reach Ruby Beach at low tide where I could get a hands-on experience with
Rock Needles at Ruby Beach
the many tide pools.  Large green anemones carpeted the rocks, rough blue mussels clung to the stone, and hand-sized orange and purple sea stars cooled in the pools.  We enjoyed the morning fog and many rock needles rising out of the sand while we wandered.  Our 9 am walk left us one of the only people enjoying this heavenly piece of nature.  It was the perfect way to end our trip in the park.

Get there:  From Forks, take Rt 101 south 27 miles to Ruby Beach parking area (there is a sign on the right).  Walk a quarter mile trail to the beach below.  

Although I loved every part of the park we explored, the beaches were my favorite.  The rock islets, foggy days, and enormous tide pool organisms create a place of wonder and peace.  It calms my soul and makes me yearn to return.  


Sea Stars in Olympic National Park

Ruby Beach

You might also enjoy...





Please leave comments and questions below...