Thursday, December 26, 2013

Riding above the Clouds - Silcox Hut, Mt. Hood

View of clouds from Silcox Hut, Mt. Hood, Oregon
When Matt and I got engaged this fall, we looked for a venue that would fit our personality.

Where should two self-proclaimed alpinists get married?  

On top of a mountain of course!  

Even Grandma got on the Snowcat

Since my roots and family are in Oregon, we chose to get married on Mt. Hood - Oregon's tallest peak.  We found that the historic Timberline Lodge offers weddings at their warming hut at 7,000 feet at the quaint and cozy Silcox Hut.  To get to the location, the guests and wedding party will take a Snowcat machine from the lodge (6,000 feet) up an icy slope to the 7,000 feet elevation, above the clouds.  This spring, we will marry on the mountain slope - a perfect place for a mountain-loving couple.  

Since I was visiting family for Christmas, I decided to take the trip up to the lodge and hut to see the venue and discuss details.  Steve- the hut manager and our Snowcat driver - has run the hut for 20 years and provided an excellent experience.  If you wondering how you can visit this magical place - see the information below...

Staying at Silcox
Silcox is an overnight destination mountain hut available for groups (12 person min). Cost ranges from $140-$180 a person per night and includes your Snowcat ride to and from the hut, as well as delicious family style breakfast and dinner.  The hut books up fast, so reservations should be made months ahead of time.  It is also available non-overnight functions like weddings and parties.  More information can be found at the Timberline Lodge website.

Enjoying the sun

Roaring Fire in Silcox Hut
Snowcat at Silcox Hut
Please leave comments and questions below...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Featured in Backpacker Magazine


The Freelance Adventure is branching out!
If you subscribe to Backpacker Magazine, check out the January Issue!  I was fortunate to participate in their Reader's Choice panel representing the Northeast United States.  The magazine has chosen my favorite backpack, peak bagging backpack, and Massachusetts day hike as three featured hikes.  It's wonderful to share ideas and learn about other great hikes chosen by readers.  Check it out!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Urban Hiking - Forest City Trail in Portland, Maine

Forest Trail, Portland, Maine. 
Photo courtesy of Jenny Galasso
This time of year is hard for me.  The weather is unpredictable, the trees depressingly bare, and trails covered in wet, slick leaves.  I often curl up at home on the weekends instead of burning gas to go to the mountains.  The wait begins for the day that snow covers my favorite paths, and I can take joy in hiking again.  Fortunately, my friend Jenny got me out of this funk and out into nature despite my reluctance for late fall hiking.  This time, instead of heading to the hills, we went to the city and took a walk along one of the hikes in the "Portland Trails" network.  This little hike revitalized my affair with nature and was a great reminder that November is a great time to be outdoors. 

Here is how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure: Forest City Trail in Portland, Maine
Photo courtesy of Jenny Galasso

Getting there:  We accessed the trail from Summit Street in Portland's North Derring neighborhood.  There is a large trailhead sign (see photo) and street parking available.

Trail: The trail immediately drops into a hardwood forest.  When you get to the power-line swath, continue straight.  After the power-lines, you will come to a seasonal stream.  Continue along the path and it will wind along the stream bank.  This will take you to the Presumpscot River.  At the river junction, turn right and continue along the bank, enjoying views of rapids and flowing water.  The trail ends at a lookout of the Presumpscot Falls. 

Difficulty:  The trail is easy and mostly flat with a few up/downhill parts towards the river.  Fallen, wet leaves made the trail slick at parts.

Presumpscot Falls, Portland, Maine
Photo courtesy of Jenny Galasso
Distance: Approximately 1 mile one-way (2 miles round trip).

Recommendations:  This is a great little urban trail to see waterfalls, woods, and still be in the city.  It is a dog friendly trail.  Be prepared to see a lot of fellow hikers with their pups.  It's a great choice for children and families due to the easy terrain. 

Jenny and I enjoyed our stroll through the woods on this brisk fall day.  I recommend taking a hike when the shorter days and cold weather is getting you down. 

Friends enjoy a fall urban stroll

Please leave comments and questions below.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Farm to Table - Exploring Southern New Hampshire

Apple picking in NH
Matt and I decided to spend a Sunday morning exploring some local farms in Southern New Hampshire.  We drove to the town of Lee (1 hour, 20 minutes from Boston and 25 minutes from Exeter, NH) where we visited two farms - an apple orchard and a winery.  We wrapped up the date with a late lunch at the Stone Church Pub in Newmarket, NH. 

Here is how to recreate this adventure...

One peck bag at DeMerrit Farms

DeMerrit Farms - DeMerrit Farms is located on Rt. 155 in Lee, New Hampshire.  It is a GREAT place to visit if you have children and families because they have a country store, petting
zoo, playground, wagon rides, and around Halloween - a popular haunted house (in evenings) called "Haunted Overload".  Even though we don't have kids, we still loved walking through the orchard, picking apples, and petting the goats.  The staff was very knowledgeable and I was able to get a Peck bag and fill it for $15.95.  We got a diversity of apples including Honey Crisp, Empire, Cortland, Red Rome, and more!  So far, I've enjoyed them in pies, crisp, and just snacking.  I highly recommend a trip to DeMerrit Farms.

Moonshine from Flag Hill 
Flag Hill Winery and Distillery - Flag Hill is the largest winery in New
Hampshire (although very small by West Coast standards).  It is also located on Rt 155 in Lee, New Hampshire, and about 5 miles from DeMerrit Farms.  Flag Hill is also a distillery.  Matt and I arrived around 11:30 am and participated in a tour of the facility ($5 charge), followed by a tasting.  They allow you to taste up to six of their wines or spirits.  They make everything from "White Mountain Moonshine" to "Cranberry Liquor" to classic whites and reds.  The tour was enjoyable and the staff knowledgeable and friendly.  I have to admit, I left with a few bottles in my hand.  The property is beautiful and a must see if you are touring Southern New Hampshire.

Inside of Stone Church
The Stone Church - The Stone Church is just what it sounds like - an old church - except this church has been converted into a pub and music venue.  Their motto is "Craft Beer.  Live Music."  On this Sunday afternoon, we watch a German brass band play for their Octoberfest celebration while enjoying a delicious lunch off their pub menu and craft beers.  I highly recommend the venue for good music, food, and drink.  One note - beers are on the pricey side - at least $6 a brew.

We had a wonderful day exploring some local farms and wrapping up with music and lunch at the Stone Church.  It just goes to show that you don't have to travel far from home to find adventures. 

fallen apples

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Katahdin Climb

Thru-hiker "Belch" took this photo of us on the summit.
Having worked as a hiking guide, outdoor blogger, and  New England adventurer, I am frequently asked,
"Have you hiked Katahdin?" 
I usually blush and mumble "No, but I really want to." 

Mt. Katahdin is the tallest mountain in Maine and arguably one of the most exciting and challenging climbs in New England.  So when my adventurer guide friend, Sarah, asked if I wanted to join her on her first Katahdin climb, I jumped at the opportunity...and into her Civic.  From the complicated permitting process, to the epic climb up to the Abol trail, to the night hike down the Hunt trail, we loved our adventure from start to finish. 

Fall leaves were vivid in Northern Maine

Here is how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Katahdin Climb, Baxter State Park, ME. 

Getting there:  One of the reasons I'd never adventurered to Katahdin before is, it is a looooong drive to get there.  Mt. Katahdin is located in Baxter State Park.  It was a five hour drive from North Conway, NH.  To get there, take I-95 in Maine to Millinocket.  From here, follow signs to Baxter State Park.  Since we couldn't secure camping reservations inside the park, we camped at Penobscot Outdoor Center which is located just a few miles out of Millinocket and only two miles from the South entrance to Baxter. 

Trail:  There are multiple trails to Baxter Peak (highest peak on Mt. Katahdin).  You need a permit to park at the trailhead to any of them.  As a result, Sarah and I were at the mercy of whichever
Up Abol Trail/
trailhead permits were still available three days before our hike.  Originally, we wanted to hike Saturday and include the treacherous "Knife's Edge" into our adventure, however, due to our last minute planning, the only reservations available was on Sunday at the Abol campground trailhead.  We showed up at the park entrance at 8 am with our reservation in hand.  Unfortunately, we failed to read the fine print, and found out that after 7:05 am, all parking reservations were given away to other visitors.  NO!!!!!!  Fortunately, the hiking gods were smiling down on us, because there were just two permits left - this time for the Katahdin Spring campground and Hunt trailhead.  We grabbed our spot and headed to the trailhead.

heart cairn - photo by Sarah Audsley
Wanting to try a loop, we parked at Katahdin Spring and walked/hitched a ride down the 2 mile road to the Abol campground trailhead.  We signed in at the trailhead and headed up the Abol trail.  This trail is amazing!  After a half hour through the birch forest, we reached the slide.  Here, we spent 2 hours climbing up rock and boulder - ascending 3,000 feet in only 1.3 miles.  The climb gave us beautiful views of the valley below and through a bank of clouds to the plateau.  We took a break for lunch at the junctions of Abol and Hunt, then continued onto the Hunt trail/AT for the last mile to the summit of Baxter Peak.

The views were AMAZING at the summit.  On one side we got views of Chimney Pond, Owls Peak, and the Knife's Edge, and on the other, an ocean of clouds.  We were welcomed by a rowdy group of thru-hikers who had just finished their 6 month trek along the AT.  It was wonderful to see them celebrate the end of their journey and join in on the merriment. 

Sarah enjoys a snack break at the summit.  Looking at knifes edge.
After thirty minutes of summit awe and celebration, we descended on the Hunt trail back to our car.  This trail is one of the longer ones from Baxter peak (5.2 mi), and includes a technical 3 mile stretch down a rocky and exposed ridgeline.  The views were amazing as we lowered ourselves onto large granite boulders.  We caught the sunset as we dropped below tree-line into the forest where we finished the last couple miles in the dark - using our headlamps to find our way.  By the end of the hike we were exhausted and happy.  The day was a wonderful adventure filled with excitement and beauty. 

Hunt Trail/ Last mile of the AT

Difficulty Level:  Strenuous and Challenging!  The Abol trail was steep and challenging with many large boulders and straight up. The Hunt Trail was technical with large rock steps.  The Hunt Trail was also highly exposed and would be dangerous if the weather was bad. 

Distance:  + 9 miles. 11 hours including breaks.


Summit of Baxter Peak.  Photo by Sarah Audsley.
I think my biggest piece of advice is follow the first rule of Leave No Trace:  PLAN AHEAD AND
BE PREPARED!  This comes down to planning way in advance for trail and camping, bringing proper gear, knowing your route, and your capabilities.  If you follow this, you are bound to have a great trip.

Trail Permits - Reserve your permit in advance (you are allowed up to 2 weeks prior). Camping permits can be made up to 4 months in advance.  We were lucky to obtain a parking spot reservation with only one day's notice but didn't get the trail we wanted.  Read the fine print!  You will lose your parking permit if you don't get there by 7:05 am!  This happened to us and we were soooo lucky that we still got to hike!

Camping at Penobscot Outdoor Center

Camping - We didn't reserve in time to camp in the park, but we really enjoyed camping at Penobscot Outdoor Center.  The campground offers wooded, lakeside tent site, cabin rentals, and canvas tent rentals. They have hot showers, bathrooms, and free canoe rental.  The price was right (13 dollars a person per night) and was only 2 miles from the park's southern entrance.  Great place!

Hiking - This is a really challenging hike.  In fact, Sarah - an experienced guide - said it might be the most challenging hike she's ever done.  This is because the large rocks and steep elevation gain makes it just take a long time.  It's not good for someone who has bad knees or inexperienced. 
Hunt trail near summit

Gear - It's a long hike.  Bring plenty of water - I drank three liters and it was a cool day!!  Summer, I would need even more.  Bring lots of food, protection from the sun (lots of exposure on the hike), first aid kit, compass, map (and knowledge of how to use it), layered clothing, and a head lamp. 

Mt. Katahdin was an amazing experience.  Sarah and I experienced thrilling hiking, outstanding fall weather, and unforgettable views. 

Looking up the Hunt trail.

Please leave comments and questions below!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

5 Best Fall Foliage Hikes in the White Mountains

View from The Flume Gorge Hike.  Photo by Bruce Hansen
New Hampshire is well known for its beautiful scenery and stunning fall foliage.  Crimson and bronze leafs bring throngs of tourists to the Granite State.  Whether you're a Tough Mountain Climber or a Leisurely Nature Wanderer, this state has a foliage hike for you!  Here are the 5 best fall foliage hikes in the White Mountains for ANY ability level. 

Short and Easy

Flume Gorge Trail, Photo by Bruce Hansen
Flume Gorge, Franconia Notch State Park - This two mile loop leaves from the Flume Visitor Center on I-93 in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire.  The easy trail offers views of the narrow gorge, brooks, and White Mountain views.  The walk also takes you through two iconic covered bridges, and over the pristine Pemigewasset River.  Although it is an "easy" hike by White Mountain standards, there are uphill portions, including stairs.  Parking fills quickly on weekends, and visitors should be aware that there is a cost - $15 per adult and $12 a child.  Still, the price tag is worth the view you get on this iconic mountain trail. 

Elephant Head, Crawford Notch State Park - This short walk offers a quick (and slightly steep) uphill stroll to the top of Elephant Head.  I recommend parking at the AMC Highland Center, crossing Rt 302 on foot, and walking around Saco "Lake" Trail (0.3 mile) first.  This connects to the Elephant Head Spur (0.1 mile).  From the top of the "head",  you get a view down the scenic notch.  This is a perfect place for a picnic.  Be aware, rock climbers climb the face below, so don't throw rocks or object over the cliff. 

Medium and Moderate

Summit of South Moat Mountain
South Moat Mountain, Conway - This 5.4 mile out-and-back hike takes you across streams, through forests of birch and maple, and summits the 2,770 ft bare peak of South Moat Mountain.  Since you never rise into the 3,000 foot boreal zone, the views from the summit are pure foliage bliss.  What's more, the last mile offers many viewpoints, where you can easily see the colorful forest valley below and surrounding White Mountain peaks.  To access the trailhead, drive north on Washington Street from Conway Village then take a left on Passaconaway Rd.  This turns into Dugway Rd.  The parking lot and trailhead is on the right.  There is a parking fee of $3 per car at the trailhead by cash/check. 

Hedgehog Mountain, UNH Trail
Hedgehog Mountain, Kancamangus Highway - This 4.8 mile hike leaves from the Downes Brook Parking Lot Trail on the south side of the Kancamangus Highway (Rt. 112).  Parking is $3 per car, per day.  Take the Downes Brook Trail to the UNH Trail.  This trail through hardwood forest, up ledges, and by water, offers beautiful views of the Sandwich Range as well as prime foliage forest.  It's also a loop trail - hard to find in the Whites!  Hedgehog summit is at 2,532 feet and there are multiple views on ledges along the way. 

Challenging and Longer

White Mountain Woods in Fall
Webster Cliff Trail, Crawford Notch State Park - This trail is stunning and the
perfect place to get continuous views of the multicolored Crawford Notch.  The cliff trail can be accessed on Rt. 302, just across the Arethusa Falls trailhead.  The Webster Cliff Trail (AT) scrambles a mile to the cliff and traverses over a steep and rocky cliff for another 2 miles.  This provides uncomparable views of Crawford Notch and surrounding mountains.  Hikers summit Mt Webster (3910 ft) before reaching a cut-off back to the road.  I like to continue on the AT, hiking 1.3 miles to summit Mt. Jackson (4052 ft), before dropping back to 302 on the Webster-Jackson Trail.  Hikers then have to decide if they are going return back the way they came or continue on the 2.5 miles to the AMC Highland Center where you'll need to get a ride back to your car.  As a straight hike from the trailhead to the Highland Center, it is 6.9 miles, but is much more when hiking out and back. 

For more information on fall hiking, check out former fall posts:

Fabulous Fall Foliage Family Friendly Hikes

Top Ten Things To Pack For a Fall Hike

Fall is a great time to avoid some of the 4,000 footers that take you into the evergreen-populated "boreal" zone and stick to some of the colorful lower peaks where maples, birch, and beech leaves are red, yellow, and orange. Please leave comments and questions below....

Franconia - Flume Gorge Trail

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pemigewasset One Night Backpack

Summit of Mt. Garfield, White Mountains
Jenny and I took off for a early fall weekend in the White Mountains.  Only having the typical work weekend, we searched for a one night backpack that would offer moderate terrain, AMC shelter, and a summit view.  Our prescription was filled by a one-night backpack up the Mt. Garfield trail.  This 10 mile round trip out-and-back hike took us through a unique hemlock forest, along rivers, and to one of the best views in the Whites - the summit of Mt. Garfield. 

Here is how to recreate this adventure...  
Hemlock Forest - first mile of trail

Adventure:  Mt. Garfield One Night Backpack

Getting there:  The trailhead to Mt. Garfield Trail is located off Route 3 in Bethlehem, NH.  We drove up I-93 through Franconia Notch State Park and took exit 35.  From here, we took Route 3 about 5 miles to the first right.  This is the Gale River Loop Road.  Take the loop road (closed in winter) about 1-2 two miles to the trailhead parking area.  The trailhead is marked by a "hiker" sign and trail map.  There is no charge for parking and there are no bathrooms at the trailhead. 

Trail: This is the perfect 4,000-footer for a timid backpacker, family, or person with bad knees.  The hike lacks many of the rocky climbs and steep ledges of its other Presidential counterparts.  The trail begins by climbing a gentle, needle-padded trail through a forest of large hemlocks.  I love this part of the trail because it reminds me of the Oregon trails of my childhood.  The trail here is easy and pleasant.  At around 2 miles, you have a fun little river crossing.  On the way up, Jenny and I easily crossed the gently brook, but after a night of torrential downpour, we had a hard time finding a path back across.  As a result, we got some wet toes, but it made a fun little challenge. 
Stream Crossing on Garfield Trail

After the river-crossing, the trail ascends gently and easily through the typical hardwood forest of New England.  The trail is even and steady - with a few stones in the trail but nothing horrible.  The last 0.2 mile of the hike is really the only part I'd call "moderately challenging".  Here, you reach the junction of Mt. Garfield trail and the Garfield Ridge Trail (AT).  Jenny and I dropped our packs and scurried up the last 0.2 miles to the summit of Garfield.  This bare peak at 4,500 ft offers 360 degree views of the Pemigewasset, or "Pemi" wilderness.  To the east, the Bonds, scraped and scuffed by rock and glacier, give me a glimpse of one of my favorite White Mountain Hikes.  To the west, the Franconia Ridge rises magnificent, with many of the tallest peaks in the area.  In the center of the bowl is Owl's Head Peak - another one of the beloved 4,000 footers. Lastly, to the northeast, you can even get a glimpse of the summit of Mt. Washington. 

View from summit of Mt. Garfield - Pemi Wilderness
Jenny and I enjoyed a reward of "trail mix cookies" on the summit, took photos, and reveled in the view.  We sought shelter behind the rocks and in the old foundation of a fire tower since wind gusts were reaching 70 mph!

After our well deserved break, we descended back to the AT junction, grabbed out packs, and detoured onto the Garfield Ridge Trail.  This rocky path, takes you down another 0.2 miles to the Garfield Ridge Campsite where we spent the night. 

Our morning hike was just the reverse of our previous day, taking us back down the 5 miles of the Mt. Garfield trail to the parking lot. 

This is an easy to moderate trail - and in my opinion, the easiest 4,000 footer ascent in the White Mountains (although not the shortest).  It was the perfect pick for a leisurely hike to a magnificent view. 

70 mph gust winds at summit
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate - the only moderately challenging section is the last quarter mile
to the summit. 

Distance:  5 miles to summit/ Total backpack was about 11 miles. 


Trail - This is an easy to moderate trail.  I recommend this as an excellent first time backpacking trip for someone looking to get into the hobby.

The stream crossing was probably the most challenging part on the rainy descent.  It was very helpful to have trekking poles here to steady myself across. 

Campsite - The Garfield Ridge Campsite is excellent.  This large AMC site offers tent-platforms, views, water, bear box, privy, and a superb four-sided shelter.  Jenny and I decided to stay in the shelter to reduce pack weight and avoid the predicted evening storm.  We were very comfortable inside - sharing the space with eight other people.  We loved the experience of meeting the other hikers.  One group of over-50-year-old-men were tackling the Pemi Loop, while the other group of the three were from upstate NY and had decided to forgo the Adirondacks to experience their first White Mountain hike. 
Comfy Hiker Shelter at Garfield Ridge Campsite

The Garfield site is manned by an AMC shelter caretaker through Columbus Day weekend, and we had to pay $8 a person to stay there.  Since we were visiting in September, the campsite had plenty of space for all, but having been there in August in the past, I can advise that the beloved site gets crowded and even fills up in the summer.  If you are planning on staying here, it's best to get to camp early or plan on finding alternative camping in the busy summer months. 

In the Pack - the shelter offers a privy, bear box, and water source, but first time visitors should be aware that the tentsite does not offer toilet paper nor "filtered water".  Plan on purifying your water with chemicals or by boiling, and bring some TP for the privy. 
This one mile backpack offered easy to moderate trail, great views, and comfy camping accommodations,- all while ascending over 3,000 feet and hiking over 10 miles.  It's a great choice for a weekend in the Whites. 

Another great friend trip in the wilderness!

Please leave comments and questions below!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Baldface Mountain Weekend Backpack

Matt summiting South Baldface Mountain

When the extra blanket makes it onto my bed and the window fans are removed from the windows, I know that that the best backpacking season has arrived. That magic time when the summer tourists have left the Granite State and the leaf peepers have yet to arrive, is in my opinion, the best time to go backpacking.  Matt and I decided to take advantage of the fair weather and weekend freedom to do a one night backpack on the Baldface Mountain Loop on the eastern edge of the White Mountain National Forest.

First Trail Junction of Baldface Loop Trail
Although I've hiked most of the peaks in the Whites, this pair - the North and South Baldface - had somehow escaped me.  Matt proposed the hike since the last time he tackled the hike was when he was 10 years old!

This one night backpack included everything a good backpacking trip should - stream crossings, 360 degree summit views, ridge walks, and a technical rock scramble.  I recommend this adventure for those hikers looking for a moderate to difficult one night backpack in the White Mountains with access to an AMC lean-to, privy, bare summits, and free parking. 

Here is how to recreate this adventure...
Follow the yellow blazes

Adventure:  One night backpacking in the Baldface Mountains, NH.

Getting there:  The trailhead to the Baldface Mountains is located in Conway, New Hampshire.  We took 302 to 113 North about 30 minutes from Center Conway and parked in the lot on the right across from the trail head. A brown hiking sign marks the Baldface Loop Trail.  Parking is free and there is an outhouse at the parking lot. 

Trail:  On the first day, Matt and I crossed Rt 113 from the parking lot and took the Baldface Circle Trail 0.7 miles to the first junction at Emerald Pool.  Here, we admired the pristine waters of the stream and ventured on about 2 miles the South Baldface Shelter. 

We arrived at the Shelter around 4:30 pm and were the only hikers there (another sign of fall!)  The campsite offers a generous lean-to as well as a few impacted tent sites.  The site also has a privy (bring your own toilet paper) and trickling stream for a water source. 

Tent set up in South Baldface Shelter
Matt and I set up our tent inside the lean-to and settled into our comfy, dry clothes.  A few hours later, another group of three showed up and joined us at the lean-to.  We all fit comfortably in the shelter and enjoyed swapping stories and conversing before settling down for the night.

In the morning, Matt and I arose and began our ascent up South Baldface.  This is where the trail got exciting!  The one mile section between the shelter and the summit of South Baldface is technical and challenging.  At one point, Matt and I even abandoned our strict LNT code, and bushwhacked through partial alpine vegetation in order to avoid the steep and wet rock scramble.  At points, the slab and rock reminded me of White Horse Ledge - a favorite multi-pitch climb in North Conway - except that when I tackle that section, I'm harnessed and roped up!

The summit of South Baldface was clear and magnificent.  Photos and words cannot express the beauty of the 360 degree views on this crystal-clear day.  I delighted in the clarity of two of my favorite and most recognizable peaks - Mt. Washington to the north and Mt. Chocorua to the south.  It was the perfect place for us to sit, soak up the scene, and enjoy our breakfast. 
Morning fog below from  Baldface Loop Trial

From here, we continued onward 2 miles to the summit of North Baldface peak, where another
majestic and clear view greeted us.  We took a short respite, then started our descent on the Bicknell Ridge Trail.  This 3.2 mile trail travels through ridgeline and forest, providing multiple views back at the ridge we had recently conquered.  It is a moderate trail that eventually evens out into an easy wooded stroll. 

At Emerald Pool, we reconnected with the Baldface Loop Trail with an adventurous river crossing and retraced the 0.7 miles to Rt 113 from the day before.

This one night backpack was a wonderful adventure for those looking for clear views, a peaceful lean-to, and a challenging hike.  

Challenging section from shelter to summit of S. Baldface
Difficulty: The difficulty depended on the section of hike we were tackling.  See below:
Baldface Loop Trail from 113 to Shelter- Easy to Moderate
Baldface Loop Trail from Shelter to South Baldface Summit- Challenging/Difficult
Baldface Loop Trail from South Baldface Summit to North Baldface Summit - Moderate
Bicknell Ridge Trail from North Baldface Trail to 113 - Easy to Moderate

Distance: 9.5 round trip.


Enjoying the view from South Baldface
Gear - Early to mid September can be chilly.  Matt used at 20 degree sleeping bag, but I chose a 30 degree below bag to ensure warmth.  We carried 3-4 liters of water each in addition to food, warm clothing, first aid, an AMC White Mountain Map #5, compass, rain gear, and a camera. 

More info - I recommend making sure to hike these peaks during clear, dry days.  Even though the summits are only 3570 ft and 3610 ft, the slabby rock and open peaks simulate a mountain far higher in altitude.  The steep, treacherous section near the summit of South Baldface is intimidating and could be extremely dangerous under poor conditions.  Take care.  I recommend hikers have a basic rock climbing/scrambling skills before attempting this section with a large pack.

Summit adventures

This is the perfect weekend backpack for hikers looking for open summit views, varied/challenging terrain, comfy AMC shelter camping, and no crowds.  Because this hike is not one of the peak-bagging 4,000 footers, it gets far less foot traffic.  It is the perfect one night trip for those seeking solitude in the natural beauty of the White Mountains.  Happy hiking.

Please leave questions and comments below...

River Crossing at Emerald Pool

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hampton Beach Bike Ride

Taking a break at Hampton Beach
If you have never been to Hampton Beach, it is a large, sandy beach located on New Hampshire's brief, but beautiful, coastline.  The area is well known for the extensive sandy beach, a bustling strip of arcades, t shirt shops, and fast food vendors.  It is the perfect place to people-watch, sunbathe, and party.  Try another beach if you are looking for a peaceful ocean stay.  This place is high energy and made for fun!

Matt and I decided to save the gas of driving to the Whites and find an adventure closer to home.  We hopped on our bikes and rode the 10 miles to Hampton Beach from our house in Exeter.  The bike ride was a pleasant one - mostly flat, with a few hills and fair weather.  Even though there isn't much of a bike lane/shoulder in Hampton, the trek is frequently traveled by cyclists and the traffic seemed accustomed to bikes on the road. 

If you are looking for a town-style bike ride to get exercise, food, and beach viewing, try this jaunt from Exeter to Hampton Beach and back.  It is the perfect adventure for able bodied adults who love weekend bike rides.  I don't recommend this one as a child's trek since there is a lot of traffic on the route and little shoulder for safety.

Here's how to recreate this adventure....

Stopping for friend dough on the boardwalk. 
The Adventure:  Hampton Beach Bike Ride

The Route:  It's a "straight shot" from Exeter to Hampton.  We took High Street/NH-27 from Exeter.  Continue on 27, and after a mile or so, High St turns into Hampton Rd.  Stay on this road, and as you cross over the I-95 overpass, NH-27 turns into Exeter Rd.  You will cross a light at Lafayette Rd and continue onto High Street.  This road brings you to the beach.  We turned right and rode along the beach on Ocean Blvd.  Along Ocean Blvd we made stops to grab fried dough, enjoy the beach, and on the way back, get a beverage.  We returned to Exeter the same way making our full bike ride over 20 miles.

Ending the day with a beverage and snack at
North Street Bar and Grill.
Difficulty:  The bike ride is easy as far as terrain goes.  Gradual hills make it a pleasant and easy ride.  I do not recommend it for families or children because the NH-27, although not too busy, does not have much of a shoulder and could be dangerous.

Distance:  10-11 miles one way, 20-28 round trip depending on your stay in Hampton and starting point in Exeter.

Recommendations:  Bring at least a liter of water per person, a rain jacket, and sun protection for the ride. Matt and I enjoyed friend dough at Fry Doe on Ocean Ave, and on the way back, an afternoon beverage and snack at North Street Bar and Grill on the corner of High Street and Ocean Ave.

We loved our break from hiking and enjoyed the exercise and fresh air the bike ride provided.

Please leave comments and questions below...

Shops on the strip at Hampton Beach, NH.