A Trio of Hikes for Spring Break! Hale, Carrigain and Piercenhower, 4/14

After a very busy first three weeks of April, I was more than ready to get back out on the trails.  With a week free from regular driving duties, I took the opportunity to get some hikes in.

Hale, Monday, 4.21.14

My friend, LadyDi, and I both needed this one for April, and Cameron was ready to get out onto the trails again, too.  Cameron and I were picked up at the usual spot and we headed up to hike the Firewarden’s Trail to Hale.  Cameron was definitely interested in hiking a new-to-him trail, and it would be easy enough for him since he hadn’t hike since last October to Carrigain.  He also had some new trailrunners to try out and break in for the summer season.

At the end of Little River Rd., ready to go with Lady Di.

At the end of Little River Rd., ready to go with Lady Di.

Our hike started at the end of Little River Road, on the bushwhack that would take us to Haystack Rd. and the North Twin Trail.  Fortunately for us, there wasn’t any snow on the ground, so we quick made our way to the North Twin Trail, where we continued mostly snow-free, with the exception of a few shady patches here and there all the way to the North Twin bushwhack and the Firewarden’s Trail.  Once we were up the embankment and onto the Firewarden’s Trail, we still didn’t encounter much snow.  We didn’t have to wait too long, and soon we were putting on some traction.  We weren’t too upset, because we had full sunshine and warm temperatures.  Warm enough to hike in short sleeves!  This was spring hiking at it’s finest – no leaves on the trees, so we had views, warm enough to enjoy the views, and firm enough snow not to need the snowshoes.

Spring hiking at it's best!

Spring hiking at it’s best!

Up and up we went and then the last bit to the summit.  Popping out into the clearing, we were greeted with a mix of snow and mud, not unexpected for this time of year.  After a nice lunch sitting around the cairn, it was time to head down.

At the very top of Hale.

At the very top of Hale.

Cameron took the lead and the rest of us followed on snowshoes, hoping not to posthole on the softening snow.  Along the way, we stopped for some photos, and then noticed an unusual building on a ridge nearby.  We couldn’t figure out what it was until Schorman got an extreme zoom on it, and took a look at the satellite images on the tracking app.

Hmmm . . . what is this thing and where is it?!?

Hmmm . . . what is this thing and where is it?!?

Our approximate position where the photo was taken on the Firewarden's Trail is circled in red in the lower left, and the object is circled in red near the upper right.  From this image, it is easy to see that it is in a ski area.

Our approximate position where the photo was taken on the Firewarden’s Trail is circled in red in the lower left, and the object is circled in red near the upper right. From this image, it is easy to see that it is in a ski area.

Extreme satellite image zoom, same lift structure.

Extreme satellite image zoom, same lift structure.

Turns out, we saw one of the lifts at Bretton Woods, but from the other side of the ridge!  With that mystery solved, we were back on our way.  More quickly than we had climbed up, we made it back down to the trail without snow and had to give up the snowshoes.  From there it was an easy walk back to the car.  It was a great spring hike, but April can be a bit fickle in the White Mountains, as I was to find out on Wednesday.

Carrigain, Wednesday, 4.23.14

With LadyDi closing in on April’s goals, we had a few choices for Wednesday, and Carrigain was chosen.  Cameron wouldn’t be with us, as he wasn’t up for the 14 miles hike (Sawyer River Road is still closed), and the weather wasn’t forecast to be the best.  Actually, it was to be cloudy on the summits and a bit windy, and hopefully, not rainy.  We started out and without too much trouble ended up at the actual trailhead, two miles down Sawyer River Road.  The road walk actually wasn’t too bad, even with patches of snow and ice in various sections.  We put on some traction and headed onto the Signal Ridge Trail.  Right away we encountered monorail and ice.  The situation never did improve.  It was just warm enough to where the snow bridges on the feeder streams of Whiteface Brook were breaking under our weight.  Whiteface Brook itself was running high and fast, just roaring with extra water from rain and snow melt.  The trail leveled out and the monorail was a bit more distinct, yet solid as long as we stayed in the middle.

The next challenge was the stream crossing, and we wondered, which way would be better, the old trail or the new relocation along the Carrigain Notch Trail?  We opted for the old trail, even though there were a few more crossings down the trail.  Luckily for us, that although the water was flowing fast and cold, it was only ankle to calf deep.  After a bit of prep, we plunged in one by one and made it across.  After the stream it was time for snowshoes, as we knew the snow conditions would not get any better.  Then began the long grind up to the Signal Ridge itself.  We moved along slowly, but steadily, knowing the task we had ahead of us.  Meanwhile, the small bit of sunshine and blue skies we had seen disappeared with the altitude gain.  Into the clouds we went and eventually we were greeted with the sounds of the wind in the trees. We finally made it to the switchbacks, where we were pretty happy, because we knew we were getting closer to the summit.  Somewhere in the switchbacks, less than a mile to the summit, I lost my confidence.  I’m not sure where my head was, but I mentally didn’t feel like I could continue on.  My companions were fine, my legs were tired, but not in pain, I had enough layers to stay warm, and I had enough food, but something wasn’t right.  I couldn’t really put my finger on what the problem was.  LadyDi said, just one step at a time, and so focusing on that, I made it to the opening on the ridge.  Once there, I knew we’d be facing the full force of the wind, but once out in the open, I was fine and confident again – very weird.  Maybe it was more the anticipation of ridge conditions than the conditions themselves?  I’m not sure, sometimes we can be fooled into thinking a situation is harder than it really is.

The wind on the ridge was strong, and right away Schorman and I got pushed into the scrub.  After righting ourselves and changing up our stance we continued on across, stopping to get a sight on LadyDi in the mist behind us every once in a while.  The crossing was quick and we were in the woods, sheltered somewhat from the wind.  We left our packs for the last .3 of a mile to the summit and quickly went up, knowing we’d tap the summit and make the u-turn right back down to the packs.  Sure enough, the wind at the tower was just as fierce as on the ridge, so we made a quick stop under the tower and headed back down.  Did I mention that the snowpack up there was still three to five feet deep?  It will be quite a mess when that all melts out!  Back at the packs, it was time for lunch!  My stomach was growling and when LadyDi said it was 2:00p, no wonder I was hungry, it had been a long trek out to the summit!

After a quick lunch, we started the descent, thankful for some warmer temperatures and to be heading down.  Down, down, down we went noting the landmarks of the trail along the way.  We then had to decide – the relocated trail or the old trail?  We took the new trail in hopes of an easier crossing of the stream, but no luck.  It was deeper than the old crossing, so we bushwhacked over the old crossing, just a few minutes away and once again, took the icy plunge, snowshoes and all and made it across.  We quickly continued on, hoping to warm up our feet and just wanting to get to the road.  We were never so happy as to see the road!  From there on, we knew the walking would be easier than having to concentrate on every step to stay on the monorail and not post hole deeply even with snowshoes.  We removed the snowshoes and with a few quick adjustments, we were happily on our way with an easy two miles back to the car.   What a trip!  We made it to the car, got ready and headed out to Rt. 302 for the ride home – just as it started to rain.  We never did get rained on, and for that we were truly thankful.  We were tired, but we felt a sense of accomplishment truly earning that peak!

Notice there are no pictures of this trek.  If you want to see some short videos of the conditions, go to Schorman’s Youtube channel, there are four videos from the day.

Piercenhower, Friday, 4.25.14

By the time I left the parking lot of Carrigain, I already had an email from GregYEAH! for a hike on Friday.  We settled on Piercenhower, since we could both benefit from it, and in my mind would be easier than the hike to Carrigain.  Thursday proved to be sunny, but very windy, so Friday was a good choice for being at or above treeline for a little bit.  Friday was sunny, and with a luxurious start of 8:30a, we headed up the Crawford Path at a good steady pace.  We weren’t tearing up the trail by any means, but it was a nice morning and we got caught up on the trips we had each made in the last month.  Sooner than I thought, we were at the Mizpah Cutoff, and soon after that, we were coming to the scrub near the Webster Cliff junction.  We continued on, deciding to pick up Pierce on the way back.  The trail was a mix of some bare rock and snow, but microspikes worked great.  That was good for us, because based on current trail we elected not to carry the snowshoes.  It was sunny and breezy and a beautiful morning, so we made good time heading over to Eisenhower and up the summit cone.  Meanwhile, I felt pretty good and the summit was in sight.  The weather was pretty mild, so we spent about 20 minutes on the summit, checking the weather (only 15mph winds!), looking through the binoculars and picking out peaks we’d been to on previous trips.

Summit of Eisenhower!

Summit of Eisenhower!

Early spring photo of Mt. Washington from Mt. Eisenhower.

Early spring photo of Mt. Washington from Mt. Eisenhower.

We departed the summit, and just in time to let the next hiker have the summit all to himself.  A hop, skip and a jump later, we were back at the Webster Cliff Trail and headed to the summit of Pierce.  After tagging that one, it was nice easy trip down the Crawford Path back to the cars.  Probably not our fastest trip to those summits, but an enjoyable day with great partner and nice weather!

Southern Presidentials from the summit of Mt. Pierce.

Southern Presidentials from the summit of Mt. Pierce.

Not bad for a spring break week!  Every hike had something good about it, and something to be thankful for.  It is easy to take the beauty of our mountains and the ability to enjoy them for granted, but I am grateful just to be out there and know that it is a blessing that may not always be there.

Special thanks to my partners throughout the week:  Schorman, Lady Di, Cameron and GregYEAH! and special thanks to Schorman and LadyDi for the use of some of their photos.

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