May 2, 2022
Today's Sabbath Hike was on the Welch-Dickey Loop. In spite of being two peaks (Welch and Dickey) it counts as one hike for the "52 WAV" list. This is my 7th so far on the list. The trail is roughly 4.4 miles but one should expect to get a bit lost going up Welch thanks to the large amount of exposed rock ledging where the blazes (yellow) have worn off. There are a number of false trails on Welch where people thought they were in the right place, realized they weren't...and drift to the correct location. My one big suggestion comes from my experience with those ledges. Some of them are steep and could be treacherous in less-than-ideal conditions. Definitely go up Welch and down Dickey so that you are working against gravity on the worst bits. That said, be sure to pause a bunch and look behind. The views were constant.
I had a beautiful day for the walk. The threat of rain did not manifest until my drive home. I did--as you might have guessed--get lost a bit at various times on the open rock, but a combination of the map, the All-Trails app, and just keeping my head up pretty much did the trick. The first stop of import is an overlook on the way up Welch. Right before the view was a kiosk with a sign warning people (and their dogs) to beware the "crevice communities" living on the rock shelves. According to the sign "Crevice Communities are small pockets of vegetation that are uniquely adapted to thrive on the harsh conditions of rocky terrain on exposed mountain summits. They find footing in the thin soil in the crevices and depressions protected from the strong winds." The overlook had a fairly unique set of these communities so disturbing the vegetation is not a great idea.
In addition they put a number of logs around key areas. I respected them, of course, and took my time checking out the tenacious plots on the other side of the symbolic barrier. It was certainly a case of life finding a way. It was also a good reminder of our own obligations to live close to nature and understand our relationship with it. I am not entirely sure we learn that in the cities or suburbs where most people live. There may be a class from time to time. However, the way we move across the landscape and order our lives shows that we--influenced by our culture--believe nature is something to be managed or manipulated for our immediate benefit. The simple act of placing a log around a tiny ecosystem indicating to passersby that "this is not for you" may be the beginning of deeper understanding for some people. Of course, it may also just be ignored, right? Let's not be that guy.
I have been thinking quite a bit lately about how we interact with our environment and, frankly, it is depressing. That said, being out in the relatively remote environment of the White Mountains on the off-season was pretty darn restorative. I took my time and I suggest you do, too. The first overlook opens up a phase of fairly challenging hiking and scrambling, first to Welch and then through a lovely ridge filled with spruce trees and then up Dickey Mountain. Dickey's views from the top are pretty nice, but a bit underwhelming after what has gone before. That said, there is more to come! The descent passes over more open rock and more awesome views. Finally--after a ledge walk--the trail dips back into the trees for the walk to the parking lot. Looking back from the ledge one can see the giant bowl that makes up the loop itself.
The hike was awesome and I did not do it justice with the pictures here. I suggest you go try it out yourself. I will say that it isn't an easy stroll. The mileage is much shorter than--say--Mount Shaw, but that that means the inclines are steeper and in this case do require a bit of gumption. My knees hurt a bit when I got home and I used poles! I would also note that this is a very popular hike in-season so spring is a great time to get out there so you can have it mostly to yourself.
April 29, 2022
"One can do worse than be a swinger of birches" Robert Frost
Spring is finally here, even up north. Easter is over at church. Normally I take Mondays as my sabbath but this week it was Friday so I could head up Mount Shaw with Allison. Shaw is a member of the 52 With-A-View list. While I am certain that I have climbed some before. I do not remember them well, so I am starting over. Shaw's neighbor is Mount Roberts--#1 on this go-around. Shaw is #6.
Mount Shaw is reachable from the "Castle in the Clouds" park in Moultonborough, NH. The park name comes from one of the industrialists who used the area as a private playground in the early 20th Century. Mount Shaw is also named after one of those industrialists. During Shaw's time as owner, Robert Frost--through a complex of social and family connections--used to hang out there.
That is something to think about while hiking. The guy had a good eye for nature. He is worth examining a bit past the school curriculum poems if you have the time. In any case, this mountain is a poetic place.
We hiked it on a clear, cold, windy day. The route we took was about 9 miles and meandered through leafless hardwoods (probably not many birches, actually) and over smaller hills on it way to the top. Spring is a good time to head up. The walk consists mostly of a network of snowmobile trails, which are busy in the winter. In addition, this mountain is very close to Lake Winnipesauke, which means in-season traffic and crowds. We were there before the chaos.
There were others on the mountain of course but we had our immediate area pretty much to ourselves most of the time. This was particularly true at the beginning. In fact, we had an early hike encounter with an adult Black Bear and two cubs. We stopped in our tracks and waited for them to make their way to wherever they were going. We couldn't get a clear picture and weren't about to disturb them. It was very, very, cool.
The color palate on the walk was mostly browns and grays with the occasional evergreen breaking the landscape a bit. The bare trees gave us some great off-season obscured views we wouldn't have had otherwise. The walk was relatively easy, with a few hard-working, sweaty bits--at one point we were walking up a rocky stream bed--but generally manageable. The one piece of advice that I think is pretty darn important is to either bring a map or take a picture of the one on all the kiosks near the bottom, or both. There is no direct route up Shaw. We hit five trails on our way. Each is color coded to the map so, if you have a map, you will ultimately make it.
We made it to the top for some fabulous views north into the White Mountains. There is still snow on some of the taller peaks. It was very windy so we tucked our way into a side trail for rest and snacks before heading down.
As we were on our way back we met and chatted with a retired couple previously from near where we live in Massachusetts. They live in NH now. They had done "the lists" and made their own to work on. I like hikers in the north. In the 'burbs if you say "hi" to someone on the sidewalk they usually react with fear or annoyance. As a Mainer it took me quite a while to get used to not talking to strangers when I am walking in town. This was a great opportunity to be back in northern New England and not feel like passing the time of day with a stranger is an imposition to them.
We took this hike to get in shape for things to come as mud-season fades. That said, it was a workout in and of itself. 9 miles on the flat will get to you. These ups and downs make it more of a challenge. That said, it was a great hike. It took us about four hours, including a slight detour to catch the lake view on the other side. Times may vary.
I am in the process of catching people up with some early hikes and other encounters with nature that I thought people might find interesting as part of a "How It Began" series. Mostly this will describe specific hikes and perhaps some lessons learned along the way...if there are any. They are meant to be short and, perhaps helpful in some way to other hikers or fellow-travelers. I will post the dates of when I hiked a specific mountain since these are NOT posted at or near the date hiked.
JULY 24, 2021
I hiked Mount Roberts to test my back a bit before going on to other things. Previously I had done smaller mountains on my way to rehab and things had held up OK. Roberts was the first of the "52 With a View" list, which served as a bit of a motivator as well. I had actually climbed a few of them before--like Monadnock and the Moats--but this was the first time I was aware of the list (and the first after surgery) so it was the first I actually counted. My wife had been (and still is) climbing the mountains on the slightly larger "New Hampshire 48" 4,000 footers list. I am too now, I guess, but in the beginning--and still--I was/am attracted to the somewhat more accessible but still challenging list of New Hampshire mountains under 4,000 feet that always promise a view.
A rather popular mid-sized mountain for NH, Roberts is 5.2 miles round trip with about 1,400 feet of elevation gain. The actual mountain is 2,584 feet tall, so fairly substantial with some guaranteed (by the list) views. Parking is also easy, and can be found at "Castle in The Clouds" which is not a castle, but a park located in Moultonborough. The hike, itself, is fairly straightforward although finding the trailhead can be a bit of a challenge. We ended up starting on the way to Mount Shaw but were set right by a local. I remember the grade feeling steep but doable. I may not have found it so rough today but, as I said, it was the first relatively substantial hike I took for my rehab. There were a few views on the way and a nice ledgey area to sit for a while. I remember being pleased to get to the top but a bit deflated when I realized that the group coming up behind us also trucked along some lawn chairs for a picnic. Aspirations right?
All told it was a good trip and I highly recommend it. The few other hikers were well behaved and we all gave each other space. The way up was manageable and the view was worthwhile. I had no profound revelations while I was up there but, still...worth doing again.