Monthly Archives: December 2012

Urban Explorations: First snowshoe of the season at Piscataquog River Park

Janelle and Meena motor down through the new snow in Piscataquog River Park.

Janelle and Meena motor through the new snow in Piscataquog River Park.

The pull of fresh, unspoiled snow was too strong to resist Sunday so Janelle, Meena and myself headed out to Piscataquog River Park for our first snowshoe of the season, and Janelle’s first snowshoe ever! The half-foot of fluffy stuff was perfect and Janelle took to the different type of hiking fairly easily. We practiced turning and hill climbs, with only a minimal amount of falling face down in the snow. Here’s a little photo essay of our hike. If you’d like to see more pictures from the day, follow this link: Piscataquog Snowshoe Hike

If you go: Piscataquog River Park is a little known jewel in Manchester’s outdoors crown, but the park is getting more popular every season. A good starting point to explore the park is West Side Arena. From there to the Merrimack River, a paved and graded trail runs about two miles through woods and backyards. Plus, side paths lead down to the Piscataquog River from various points in the park.

Janelle practicing her hill climbing.

Janelle practicing her hill climbing.

Heading park the baseball fields.

Heading past the baseball fields.

Showing off her mad snowshoe skills.

Showing off her mad snowshoe skills.


Upcoming adventures: One of our New Year’s resolutions is to improve our running and track skills.

So, with that in mind, Buffalo and Tough Cookie (along with Meena and Aaron) will start 2013 by running in the Millennium Mile in Londonderry, a one-mile downhill sprint.

The race is a great way to begin the new year and we’ve love to see you there. Come run with Buffalo and Tough Cookie on New Year’s Day. The race is free for kids 11 and under, and only $15 for adults.

Hey, it’s only a mile! You can run a mile, can’t you? We’d love to see you. Here’s a link to the website and registration area: Millennium Mile

Come run with us!


Categories: Updates and Plans, Urban Explorations | Tags: | 9 Comments

Urban Explorations: Pulpit Rock Conservation Area

Tough Cookie relaxes atop the ruins of the old mill. Pulpit Brook cuts through the middle of the two retaining walls.

Tough Cookie relaxes atop the ruins of the old mill. Pulpit Brook cuts through the middle of the two retaining walls.

Ribbon ice crunches underfoot as we make our way over bog bridges along the Kennard Trail.

“How long has it been since we hiked,” Janelle asks. Christmas was good to her. She’s testing new gear; hiking poles, boots, a water bottle and most important of all, her first adult digital camera.

“About six weeks,” I say.

“Really? Feels like longer.”

Understatement of the year! The girl and I have been searching for a window to get to the woods and we finally found a couple of hours the day after Christmas to explore Pulpit Rock Conservation Area, a few hundred acres of trail-saturated woods in Bedford made famous for its natural amphitheater and gorge.

After the bridges, the trail swings west and passes by a campground just of the trail. We check it out, but the site is only one large, dirty platform. Garbage is strewn around the site, and graffiti marks some trees. We don’t stay long. But we are thrilled to find an enormous teepee, fashioned out of long thin tree trunks and insulated with tree boughs. It’s a perfect opportunity for Janelle to use her camera, so I lean back and breath deep and I can taste the cool moisture of the oncoming storm. I suspect this will be the last non-snow hike of the season.

Once satisfied that she has captured every angle of the teepee, we move on, up a small ridge and past a spur path that leads to a swampy overlook of Pulpit Brook. The gorge is formed out of this brook, but we turn left at a junction onto the Campbell Trail and swing around the east side of the gorge and down to a beautiful area of the brook where a series of low waterfalls cascade through the ruins of an old mill site.

Figuring out the layout of what used to be here is difficult. All that appears to remain are two, high, stone retaining walls. The brook cuts through the middle of the walls. It’s a fine place to relax as the brook veers wildly through the area forming various channels here and there. There’s ice underfoot everywhere though. The kid’s curious about the history of this place, but I’m uncertain what this mill was, perhaps a lumber mill?

After a bit, we head back up the valley, but hang a sharp left and begin our approach to the gorge from the Ravine Trail. We stop often, sometimes for pictures, sometimes to check out the icicles that swoop and droop over every rock surface.

Entering the Pulpit Rock area.

Entering the Pulpit Rock area.

“This is excellent,” Janelle says, running her hand over an enormous icicle that seeps out of a tiny crack in an overhanging rock and ends in a sharp point a couple of inches from the ground.

“Careful,” I say, but there’s no need to worry. She doesn’t want that one. Instead she grabs a smaller one, brushes off the snow and eats it like a popsicle. I almost tell her not too, but remember that I used to eat icicles as well as a kid. The girl loves anything to do with water, in any form, so I let her go her happy way and figure a little rock fungus can’t do too much harm.

Soon, the gorge walls begin to close in around us and a series of slippery bridges leads us into the main amphitheater of Pulpit Rock. Rock walls, smoothed by the water that must accumulate here in the spring, surround us. At this time of year, Pulpit Brook tips into the gorge as a small ribbon of falls, pools at the bottom and worms its way downstream.

“Whoa,” Janelle says and her voice echos in the rock chamber.

“See up there,” I say pointing up to the rock that gives this area its name. “People would stand up there and talk to hikers and picnickers and give speeches.”

“About what?”

I shrug. “Whatever was on their minds. Religion, politics, topics of the day.”

“Did those people want to hear speeches while hiking?” Before I can think of how to answer that, she says, “I wouldn’t.”

There are a variety of ways to scramble to the top and we pick a steep, but stepped section of rock that leads us up to a picnic table and over to the flat overhang that is Pulpit Rock. We break out the tea and trail mix and the girl and I sit on the “pulpit” and watch as a large group of adults, kids and dogs scramble down into the amphitheater below us.

“Sometimes, it’s nice to just people watch,” Janelle says.

And so we do, there in a place where countless others have come to speak, to picnic and to escape. Amid the suburban cul-de-sacs and only ten minutes from Manchester, Janelle and I enjoy a little slice of rugged forest and listen to the voices of kids echoing off the walls below us.

A number of small, icy cascades rush down from the gorge along the Pulpit Brook.

A number of small, icy cascades rush down from the gorge along the Pulpit Brook.

If you go: The trailhead parking lot for Pulpit Rock Recreation Area is located in Bedford on New Boston Road, about 5.5 miles west of Route 114. It’s accessible during winter and would make for some great snowshoeing. Take the Kennard Trail directly to Pulpit Rock (about .6 miles) or take the Campbell / Red Tail to the old mill site. (Warning: Watch kids closely as the drop-offs around the rock are steep and happen suddenly.)

Our hike: Kennard Trail to Campbell Trail to Red Trail to Mill spur, back on Ravine Tail to Kennard Trail.

Our miles: About 2.5

Pictures link: Pulpit Rock Conservation Area

Categories: Urban Explorations | Tags: | 9 Comments

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Buffalo and Tough Cookie!

From the families of Buffalo and Tough Cookie, as well as Murray the Christmas Goat, to all our friends and supporters, may you have a wonderful Christmas. And if Christmas is not your cup of tea, we wish you a peaceful day. Take care of each other, find calm and be kind!

From the families of Buffalo and Tough Cookie, as well as Murray the Christmas Goat, to all our friends and supporters, may you have a wonderful Christmas. And if Christmas is not your cup of tea, we wish you joy and a peaceful day. Take care of each other, find calm and be kind!

Categories: Updates and Plans | 2 Comments

Epilogue and #1: Waumbek

Janelle with the amazing Herr ladies near the summit of Mt. Waumbek.

Janelle with the amazing Herr ladies near the summit of Mt. Waumbek.

Waumbek is a whisper.

Upon reaching her first 4,000 footer, after this past year of triumphs, open spaces and spectacular landscapes, Janelle stands for a moment at the viewless summit looking at the snowy cairn marking the top. Her friends Alex and Sage are already settling in, digging into their packs for snacks. They’ve reached many such summits before and are familiar with the satisfaction of a below tree-line goal.

“Congrats, kid-o,” I say, “you’re now 6 feet over 4,000 feet, the highest you’ve ever been.”

She wants to ask me where the heck is the view? Later, she will timidly ask just how many 4,000 footers are below treeline. Instead, for now, she smiles and says, “thanks!” The joy of the 52 With a View list is that every reward, on every hike, is external. There is some view, somewhere, waiting on every hike.

The 4,000 footer list? Well, let’s just say you have to find inner peace on some of those hikes. That’s another lesson for another time. And in the end, I don’t even know if Janelle is interested in pursuing the 4,000 footers. I suspect she’ll hike with me wherever I take her, but just as our quest for the 52 was a mutual project, I want our next “list’ to be mutual as well.

So, for now, the girls celebrate Janelle’s accomplishment with candy bars and cookies. And we all head down the trail a ways and do find a nice view near the summit. Gray Jays buzz above our heads, little blurs. For some reason, they do not land on our hands today. That’s a joy that will have to wait for Janelle.

The others leave us at this lookout, and I have a few moments to watch the girl as she tries to attract the birds, standing there atop her highest mountain, all 52 (plus 1) peaks behind us. I try to be in the now, but I fail. The future is calling.

“Ready to go?” I ask.

She takes a deep breath, wipes her gloved hands and turns away from the view. “Yeah.”

A moment of reflection near the summit of Mt. Waumbek.

A moment of reflection near the summit of Mt. Waumbek.


What’s next for Buffalo and Tough Cookie: Janelle has already expressed interest in the Terrifying 25, and I have Trish, Alex and Sage to thank for that. This is a list of 25 of the most difficult and exposed trails in the White Mountains. In the year that we have been hiking, Janelle and I have hiked only one on the list, The Percy Peaks Trail. The list was developed by Trish and her girls, and I suspect Janelle is interested because of them. There’s nothing wrong with that, her friendship with Alex and Sage has been a positive force in her hiking and her life. But, she’s a long way off from tackling some of those trails. You can read about the list on Trish’s blog, here: The Terrifying 25

For now, winter has arrived, Janelle’s first for big mountain hiking and we have several goals for this winter season.

Learn how to snowshoe: In order to do anything else on the winter list, this has to be a priority. There’s plenty of local parks where we can practice, that is if it ever snows in Manchester again.

Lonesome Lake Hut: Janelle has never visited a full-on AMC Hut AND she wants to hike across a frozen lake. So this hike is a no-brainer.

Flume Gorge: We both love frozen waterfalls, and she wants to see ice climbers. So, a hike down to the lovely Flume Gorge is on tap.

One winter 4,000 footer: She’s done one and there are several 4,000 footers out there where the views and hike actually improves in the winter. Tecumseh. Tom. Pierce. Perhaps even Moosilauke. They are all within her ability.

Urban exploration: We both love exploring the unusual and off-the-beaten-path trails around Southern New Hampshire. Adventure is where you find it, and we plan on looking hard.

The book: It’s all hands on deck now as we prepare for the release of the book and (hopefully) all the events that will come out of that. Stay tuned here and on our Facebook page for updates and info on presentations as we’d love to meet you all!

Our supporters, friends and fans: Thank you! You all have energized us with your support and we can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend. Find peace, and keep hiking your own hike!

Ever onward! Photo courtesy Tish Herr.

Ever onward! Photo courtesy Tish Herr.

Categories: Excerpts and 52WAV Mountain Stats, Updates and Plans | Tags: , | 8 Comments

#52 Starr-King: Excerpt

The sun sets on our journey, from atop Starr-King. Photo courtesy Tish Herr.

The sun sets on our journey, from atop Starr-King. Photo courtesy Trish Herr.

mn015946We stand alone, just below the summit of Starr-King with only 100 feet left to conclude our quest. Wet snow drips like rain from the branches above us. Steam rises from our clothes.

“What are they doing?” Janelle asks.

Alex and Sage have joined us on this final hike. The two left for the summit a few moments ago, along with their mom, Trish, and our friend Steve.

“They’re putting together a special summit welcome for you.”


There’s too much to say to her. After more than a year, after all this quest has cost us, after all we’ve grown and changed, to be steps away is nearly too much to bear. She is bursting with energy; jittery, unable to stand still.

I only have a few seconds, but I simply cannot form the right words.

So, I get down on my knees in the snow, and turn her toward me. She’s smiling, icy snow dripping off her eyelashes, cheeks beet red. I pull my hiking partner to me and hug her. With gloves and over full packs, the hug feels clumsy. Snow sitting atop our shoulders and hats runs down our backs, but I hold on for a little too long and thankfully she lets me.

I straighten up and take a deep breath. “This is it.”


“How do you feel?”


I pause and she looks at me, waiting to be released. “Ok, go get it…”

Tough Cookie turns back to the trail, and forges ahead, confident, strong and sure; my powerful spider monkey moves away from me and up into the sun.

Mt. Starr-King (11/11/12)

Height: 3,907 feet

Location: Jefferson. I-93 north to Exit 35 to Route 3 north to Route 115north to Route 115A to Route 2 through Jefferson, trailhead at end of Starr King Road on left.

Our trailhead: Starr King Tail up and back, including Waumbek. (Warning: During winter, you may have to park in lot a few hundred feet west of dirt road.)

Distance: 7.2 miles.

At the summit of Tough Cookie's first 4,000 footer, Mt. Waumbek.

At the summit of Tough Cookie’s first 4,000 footer, Mt. Waumbek.

Well, it’s been quite a ride, and the good news is that the adventure is just beginning!

Join us on Thursday for an update. Where are we? Where are we heading? And what’s next for Buffalo and Tough Cookie.

We’ll also have a report on Janelle attaining her first 4,000 footer, Mt. Waumbek.

Until then, on behalf of Janelle and myself, thank you all for being part of this quest. We can’t wait to turn the page and get going on the next chapter! We hope you’ll all join us!

Categories: Excerpts and 52WAV Mountain Stats | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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