Monthly Archives: December 2012

#50 & 51 Square Ledge and Hibbard: Excerpt

End of the road after a long, cold final hike together.

End of the road after a long, cold final hike together.

Our penultimate hike is taxing.

Try as we might, neither of us can shake the doldrums. We’re nearly finished. Even as we hike, arrangements are being made to celebrate the conclusion of our quest tomorrow. The weather is nasty, the snow is wet and a nine plus mile hike with limited views through the Sandwich Wilderness is leaving us ragged and surly.

But, this is it. I had selfishly turned down offers from hiker friends interested in making this traverse with us. I wanted Janelle to myself. Tomorrow would be a victory lap, filled with family and friends. Today, I wanted to share this one final hike with Janelle as we began, the two of us moving through the wilderness, learning, exploring, bonding.

But we are tired, and mostly just want to get it done.

Then, as darkness falls and the ache in our legs grows, something happens. The darkness forces us to slow down, to go inward as we search for blazes and work to stay on trail.

“I smell campfire,” Janelle says.

“Woodstove,” I say. “We must be getting close to the trailhead.”

“Oh,” she says. Do I detect a hint of melancholy?

Working our way over the ridge toward Mt. Hibbard.

Working our way over the ridge toward Mt. Hibbard.

Finally, 10 hours after we begin, we are at the car, bedraggled, hungry and cold. The Ferncroft parking area and trailhead sits right at the head of a vast farm field, the nearest house hundreds of yards away behind a grove of trees. There is no light and the sky is winter clear.

We pull the thermos of uneaten soup out of my pack, bundle up and sit on the back bumper to eat.

“Turn off your headlamp for a second,” I say.

There at the end of our personal journey, sipping soup, her legs dangling off the ground, in below freezing weather, the girl looks up at the sky for a long time. The stars this night are clear and brilliant, the Milky Way is a bright streak of white, like an artist dragged a paint brush across the sky. There is nothing and everything at once. It is like her and I are alone at the foot of the universe.

I fight the urge to speak, to tell her about the stars, to congratulate her on this accomplishment, to let her know how terribly proud I am of her. I have so much to say to her.

“I’ve never seen so many stars,” she says instead, saving me from ruining the moment. “Can we stay here a little longer?”

“As long as you like.”

She nods, and sips soup and stares up at the heavens, and we stay there in the cold just a little bit longer.

Square Ledge and Hibbard (11/10/12)

Heights: 2,620 and 2,940 feet

Location: Sandwich Wilderness through hike. I-93 north to Exit 32 to Route 112 (The Kanc) east to Oliverian Brook Trailhead on right.

Our trailhead: Oliverian Brook Trail to Square Ledge Branch Trail to Square Ledge Trail to Passaconaway Cutoff to Walden Trail to Wonalancet Range Trail to Ferncroft.

Distance: 9.6 miles.

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Categories: Press and Promotion | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

#49 Shelburne Moriah: Excerpt

A winter wonderland high atop Shelburne Moriah.

A winter wonderland high atop Shelburne Moriah.

The mountain gods are merciful today, a gift perhaps for all our hard work the weeks before.

If there is a single moment to take away from this whole journey, it is this one. We are alone, sailing along the Shelburne Moriah ridge, two travellers moving through the spectacular landscape; our breath strong, legs sure. Our stabilicers clack comfortably on the frozen granite. The wind is slight, the sky deep blue.

The girl moves ahead of me, as always, a small pink and red form. She rarely needs help with directions now. The early first hikes where she’d agonize over blazes or get frustrated at trail markers are long behind her. She sees like a hiker now. I watch her shift her poles this way or that, pausing nearly imperceptibly occasionally to seek out the next yellow slash or twist in the trail.

Above treeline, the blazes or cairns are what guide us as we wind our way toward the summit of Shelburne. The day has already been long and we both know we won’t make it back to our car before dark, but it doesn’t matter today.

We climb up a small hump and come to a vast clearing and Janelle does stop there. “Is that the summit?” she asks, pointing ahead to an outcropping maybe a quarter-mile away.

“I think so,” I say. “I’ve never been here so I don’t know if that’s a false summit or not. But it seems right.”

She shrugs. It makes no difference to her, or me, here, in this place above the clouds. She spins fully around, taking in the deep views and the soft white snow coating the pines. To our immediate west, Moriah and the Carters roll pleasantly in the shadow of the northern Presidentials.

“That’s Mount Washington,” I say and point with my walking stick to the Northeast’s highest point. The air is so clear, we can see the tips of the observatory and summit buildings glimmering like diamonds. Janelle studies Mt. Washington for a while, tilting her head as though she’s about to say something. But she keeps it inside. I wonder how long I have before we’ll be headed there. Next summer maybe?

The miles pile up, and we are fully burdened with winter gear and food. But it is also a day without worry, a day when we have come together fully, in a place that has cauterised our love of hiking and of being with each other.

We hope you enjoy the slideshow we put together to highlight this particular, wonderful hike! Join us next week for the final two vignettes of our amazing journey!

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Shelburne Moriah (11/6/12)

Height: 3,735 feet

Location: Gorham. I-93 north to Exit 35 to Route 3 north to Route 115 to Route 2, through Gorham to trailhead on right.

Our trailhead: Rattle River Trail to Kenduskeag Trail to summit, out and back.

Distance: 11.2 miles.

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

#48 The Horn: Excerpt

Tough Cookie heads up into the snow and The Horn.

Tough Cookie heads up into the snow and toward The Horn.

Time is running out.

We’ve explored the base of the summit rock now for ten minutes, fully exposed to a bitter valley wind, our sweat freezing to our fleece. We are six feet from the top, but it’s six feet up and our stabilicers are not up to the task.

The Horn has a unique distinction. The mountain’s summit is one very large, very steep rock. In the summer, it’s possible to scramble up that rock from several different points. Now, however, as Janelle and I hover around the summit rock, its icy flanks might as well be Mt. Everest.

Six feet. If we reach up with our poles we can touch the summit. But it looks like our feet aren’t going to make it.

“We’ve been here too long, kid,” I say close to her ear, over the howl of cold wind. “It’s too dangerous.”

I could, I suppose, heave her up there. But then, how would I get her down?

“We’ll have to come back!” She says this not as a statement or question, but as a dreaded exclamation. Neither of us want to miss a summit. We won’t have enough time to come back. It’s now or nothing.

“Are you warm, every part of you, are you warm?” I ask.

“Yes.”

There is one chance. The western side of the giant boulder is split near the bottom, forming a wedge about two feet wide and ten feet long. I have no clue what’s on the other side of that wedge. Perhaps more impossible-to-negotiate rock. Perhaps a pathway to the top. “Can you fit through there?” I know she can fit. My question is designed to see if she wants to.

“Yes!” she says again, nodding her head to add emphasis. There’s no hesitation, no claustrophobic fear. She’s excited.

“Ok,” I say. “We’ll take one last shot. Follow me. Do as I do. If I say turn back, we just shimmy back the way we came, ok?”

And so, at nearly 4,000 feet, amid the ice and snow, fully engaged and ready for anything, the girl and I squeeze into the void to search for a path to the summit.

The Horn (11/5/12)

Height: 3,905 feet

Location: Stark. I-93 north to Exit 37 to Route 3 north to Route 110 (Groveton) to Mill Pond Road to the end and trailhead.

Our trailhead: Unknown Pond Trail to Kilkenny Ridge Trail to The Horn Spur, out and back. (Warning: Mill Pond Road is not maintained in the winter.)

Distance: 8.4 miles.

_________________________

Hiking big miles meant staying focused. Here, Tough Cookie contemplates South Baldface from the summit of Eastman.

Hiking big miles meant staying focused. Here, on the longest day hike of our journey, Tough Cookie contemplates South Baldface from the summit of Eastman.

We have a winner! On Sunday, we asked you to guess how many total miles Buffalo and Tough Cookie hiked to complete the 52 With a View list. We had some great guesses, you all must have gotten the calculators out! The winner will get a postcard from us and be entered into a drawing to win a reader’s copy of the book. So, here are some numbers from our journey:

Total day hikes: 41

Overnights: 1

Time: 371 days

Longest single hike: 13.7

Shortest single hike: 2

And the number you’ve all been waiting for, TOTAL MILES HIKED: 225!

That means Melissa is our winner. She guessed 230. Nice job Melissa. We’ll be in touch to get your mailing info. Thanks to all who guessed. We love your support and enthusiasm! More contests soon.

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

Adventure is what we make it

I am lost. Fortunately, Janelle has been here before. I knew the day would come when I’d need to depend on her for our safety, to get us out.

If she’s not up to the task, if she breaks down or takes a wrong turn, we’re cooked. But despite the long day, and the heavy task ahead, she is sure of foot, weaving deftly to avoid the worst obstacles. It’s familiar turf for her.

I can only follow. “But I thought the parmesan was with the rest of the cheeses,” I say, hopelessly.

“No, it’s by the deli. The other cheeses are there.”

“The deli! Oh no, how do we get there?” I ask, desperate to make myself heard over the din of carts. It’s December, and the shoppers crowd around us. They all talk at the same time, background static jumbling my nerves, and my patience. We’ve been in snowstorms, thunder rain, ice and sweltering heat. We’ve hiked dozes of miles. But this. This is madness!

“It’s ok,” she says. “This way. I’ll lead you.”

And she does.

Tough Cookie boldly leads through the terror of the grocery store.

Tough Cookie boldly leads through the terror of the grocery store.

A job well done, we make our way out of the chaos!

A job well done, Tough Cookie make her way out of the chaos!

Fine, not all adventures are in the mountains. But after being apart for weeks, Janelle and I found ourselves with some “us” time after the Santa Shuffle on Saturday and decided to, you guessed it, grocery shop! Hey, we’ll take adventure anywhere we can get it!

As promised, we wanted to have a little contest for our readers and subscribers. So, let’s try the miles guessing game again. Guess how many miles Janelle and I hiked over the course of the 52 With a View and we’ll send you a card and signed photo of thanks. Plus, we’ll put your name into a drawing for a signed, reader’s copy of the book!

Just type your guess into the comments section below and we’ll announce the winner on Tuesday morning when our next excerpt drops. It’s that easy.

Until then, keep hiking your own hike my friends, even if it’s to the grocery store!

B & TC

Categories: Updates and Plans | 8 Comments

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