White Mountain Hikes

Keeping up with the madness!

Grand views at Lookout Ledge!

Grand views at Lookout Ledge!

Sorry for the long space between posts but Janelle and I have been very busy with events, school and, you know, life in general. The book is doing well, so right off the bat, thank you all for the support, enthusiasm and kindness.

If you’ve read the book, I would love and appreciate your support via a review on Amazon.

On Monday, Janelle and I were honored by the Over the Hill Hikers, the creators of the 52’er list, at an event where we presented our story to a packed house of very enthusiastic and kind hard-core hikers. And they gave us our 52’er patches, Janelle’s first! I’ll post a picture of that later in the week.

Over the Hill Hikers event

Over the Hill Hikers event

They fed us, and encouraged us and made Janelle feel very welcome. This is a very fine group of people and an emotional “home-coming” of sorts for us. After all, without this list, none of this would be happening. They have a website (Over the Hill Hikers) but if really want a history and stories about this group, there is a fun book written about them by Shirley Elder Lyons. Check it out here: Over the Hill Hikers book.

Then, Tuesday was primary election day in Manchester and you know what that meant? That meant Buffalo and Tough Cookie were on the trails. We headed up to Lookout Ledge in the Randolph hills to catch some mountain air and get some amazing views of King Ravine and the Northern Presidentials. This is a great family friendly hike, though we took the steep route. But even that only came to about 3 miles round trip. Up at the ledge, we ate lunch and bathed in the sun like two lizards. Soon, fall will be here, so we were thrilled to take advantage of one of the last days of summer warmth.

I’ve posted a couple pics from the hike below. Today, I’m off to Vermont for an event in Morristown. Tomorrow I’ll give a talk to the Manchester Rotary. Then, we’ll have a week off before the craziness starts again. Check our event schedule above, we’d love to see you! Until then, keep on hiking and peace!

Start of the trail.

Start of the trail.

Lookout Ledge!

Lookout Ledge!

Categories: Press and Promotion, White Mountain Hikes | Leave a comment

Hoofing it to Zealand Falls Hut

Hut #2 for Tough Cookie.

Hut #2 for Tough Cookie.

We stop for a long time on one of the wooden bridges that carries hikers over the swampy marshland near Zealand Falls and hut.

“Oh. My. God!” says Janelle. “Is that a leech?”

A huge leech, four inches at least, meanders peacefully through the mucky water below our feet. It looks like an eel. The creature is utterly revolting and completely fascinating.  Just a week earlier, at a wonderful event at Ragged Mountain Fish and Game Club, Janelle and Aaron got to swim in the club’s pond where they actually collected these things. For fun. This one is a giant. Still, her interest in creatures of the natural world that repel even me has been interesting to watch.

We hang out there for a while, basking in the sun, a decent breeze keeping bugs at bay. It’s been far too long since we’ve been on the trail. A window presented itself between gigs at White Birch Books and the Littleton Library and we weren’t going to let it pass without getting our boots dirty.

It didn’t take much arm-twisting to talk her into a hike to Zealand Falls and hut, two things she loves – water and cabins.

The Zealand Trail is mellow, beautiful and wide. We hike strong and sure, our enthusiasm for being back on the trail compensating for our flabby muscles and weak trail legs. Coming in between the hard work of planning and putting on two events, our original fear was that sandwiching a hike in there would tire us out. But the opposite is true.

Hiking with Tough Cookie, as always, is a joy, an elixir that refreshes and empowers us both.

Leech patrol along the Zealand Trail.

Leech patrol along the Zealand Trail.

The girl powers up the final rocky climb to the hut, and just spins for a bit taking it all in. “It’s like Lonesome Lake,” she says happily. “How many are there?”

“Like this one, eight.” I pause. “Yes, we can go to them all.”

She smiles, dumps her pack on the stairs and walks in like she owns the place. We feast on lemonade and snacks made by the hut croo called “Magic Coconut Cookies.” I try one first to make sure the “magic” part is something Janelle can eat.

After having our fill, we stroll over to the falls. We slip off our boots and socks, tuck our gear and snacks away in a safe corner and just play. The rocks are hot, the water is freezing and the sky is blue. We are in our playground, back in the place that started this journey, back in the place that gives us strength. Hikers of all sizes and ages come and go, including a fair number of girls Janelle’s age.

“Maybe we’ll come back,” Tough Cookie muses, her feet dangling off a rock ledge into the cool stream. “Maybe we’ll bring our bathing suits.”

Today is a day designed for playing in a waterfall.

Hut ahead!

Hut ahead!



Categories: White Mountain Hikes | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Grape Nuts and the river of slush, or The Moose makes us work for it

Getting our winter alpine on near Mooilauke's summit.

Getting our winter alpine on near Mooilauke’s summit.

At 2,000 feet, the trail is clear, the day warm, and we move in t-shirts unencumbered by gloves or hats or fleece. At 3,000 feet, one hour later, we are six inches deep in wet snow and icy rain blows off snow-covered trees and we are forced to wear heavy rain gear and traction. At 4,000 feet, at the ridge, we huff through ankle-deep slush that pours down off Mt. Moosilauke in a river of brown, deep mud. At the summit, 4,802 feet, the wind blows in 20-30 mile per hour sustained gusts and we must duck down behind the rime ice encrusted ruins of the old summit lodge to keep, it feels, from flying off the mountain.

Our whole Grape Nuts Fit Summit Sampler hike is a challenging workshop in contrasting conditions. We literally face every type of weather. It is a difficult day, and an amazing, beautiful one.

Showing off our Grape Nuts flags at the summit.

Showing off our Grape Nuts flags at the summit.

Above tree-line, the sun beats down on us from a deep blue sky as we struggle against the wind. Tough Cookie holds her arms out and laughs, wide-eyed, as the gusts threaten to lift her off the ground, flapping wildly against her pink jacket.

Janelle’s 2nd 4,000 footer (the 10th highest mountain in New Hampshire) throws it all at us, and we let it, grinning and working hard all the way up. On a day like today, you can’t fight against the mountain. We just shake our heads, and absorb what it sends.

Our job is to hand out Grape Nuts Fit sample boxes. We’ve stuffed Janelle’s new Grape Nuts pack full of them and half-expect it to be difficult to give it all away. It’s not. Perhaps it’s the nutty conditions that put everyone in a good mood. Maybe it’s just that getting free snacks on the trail is a welcome treat. But nearly everyone takes them, and laughs along with us at how preposterous it is that here we are – on behalf of Grape Nuts – giving away samples, on a day like today, out of this little girl’s black and purple back pack.

The day rolls on, and we take our time; partly because of conditions and partly because it’s been a while since we attempted a hike of this nature and are out of shape. Our muscles are slow to respond. But Tough Cookie weathers the happy ordeal in typical fashion. She’s by far the youngest hiker on the mountain this day and is greeted with a mix of awe and disbelief by fellow hikers.

I joke with Janelle, and tell her to not let it get to her head. “Let what get to my head?” she says on the way back down. “I’m really tired!”

Big drifts on the way up!

Big drifts on the way up!

She lets out a bunch of fake ughs and sighs and at one point during a break she even lays down on the comfy soil to rest. She is tired, but mainly she’s just being a ham.

By the time we reach the car, her pack is nearly empty of samples and we are all soaked and muddy. But we all grin foolishly at each other, share high fives and hugs and await the inevitable happy creep of sore knees and shoulders.

It’s summer now. In less than two weeks, Janelle and I will set out on a different kind of pilgrimage as we take our story to readers far and wide across New England. Days like this will be become more precious, and perhaps, rare. But 4,000-footer #2 is a good one. Moosilauke put on quite a show, and the Grape Nuts flowed like slush from a mountain.

For our full album from the journey, click here: Grape Nuts Moosilauke Hike

Short Step and Tough Cookie

Short Step and Tough Cookie

Categories: NH 4,000-footers, White Mountain Hikes | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Arethusa Falls casts a springtime spell

Happy to be back in the Whites again and on the trail to the highest waterfall in New Hampshire.

Happy to be back in the Whites again and on the trail to the highest waterfall in New Hampshire.

Arethusa arose

From her couch of snows

In the Acroceraunian Mountains

From cloud and crag

With many a jag

With her rainbow locks

Streaming across the streams.

– Percy Bysshe Shelley

Janelle stops mid-stride, digs in her hiking poles and takes a long, deep breath. “Yeah, we are so out of shape!” But she’s grinning, so I laugh.

We are half way up the Arethusa Falls Trail and have to fight through a mix of earthy snow and mud on the way to New Hampshire’s highest waterfall. The spring run-off from the mountains around us pours down into the valley creating little inlets and tiny, rushing streams that empty into the trail. Spring is working hard to break winter’s hold.

It’s been a while since Janelle and I set foot back in the Whites, but after the Boston events of last week, we needed badly to feel the mountains under our feet. At this time of year, going up into 4,000-footer territory would be a daunting task full of rotting snow and dirty ice. So, Arethusa got the call.

The trail swings us south over two wooden bridges, then turns west up a ridge thick with hard-pack snow before reaching a set of erosion stairs that leads us down for a quarter-mile into the valley where the falls roars. Through the trees, we can seeing Arethusa’s rushing water, the giant silver cascade breaking down over the remaining ice into a deep pool below. Janelle quickens her pace and I struggle to keep up.

Arethusa Falls stands 176 feet tall, the highest int he state.

Arethusa Falls stands 176 feet tall.

We break out into a clearing, maybe 50 feet from the falls, and she just stops, breathing heavy, her neck craning upward toward the sky. It would be easy enough at that moment to talk over the rushing water, to fill her head with tales of White Mountain waterfalls and the story of Shelley’s Greek nymph Arethusa who is transformed into a fountain. But I keep quiet, and let whatever may be in her own imagination fill in the spaces around this wondrous sight.

Janelle stands there a long time, saying nothing. I begin to wonder if she’s afraid, or tired? Finally, I say, “Do you want to go down there, closer to the water?”

She doesn’t even acknowledge me, just starts to move, picking her way carefully over the wet, icy rocks. I follow and hold her hand as she crosses onto a snowy island in the middle of the Bemis Brook. She finds a fine rock, dead center of the brook, and sits facing the falls. I pull out some snacks, crouch down next to her and we eat lunch, the occasional spray from the falls drifting over toward us.

Half of the falls’ rock face is still coated in ice, and it simmers like hot diamonds in the sun. Spring melt roars over the top, 176 feet above. She finally says, “This falls is the tallest in New Hampshire?”


She nods, and after a while more hikers show up, including a couple young kids, and whatever reverie Janelle is in is broken. We back away from our perch to let others explore and take pictures, but she’s not ready to leave yet. She finds another rock, flat and warm, facing away from the falls and we finish our lunch there.

It’s an odd day, calm and humbling there under the Arethusa. We speak of small things – homework, approaching summer, sibling rivalries. The epic questions of life and love are best saved for a breathtaking summit. Here in the wind of a waterfall, with the ice-encrusted snow still clinging to the underside of our rock, we whittle the afternoon away lost in the mundane, fearful perhaps of larger thoughts being washed away by the great water at our backs.

Nothing like a peanut butter bagel on a warm rock in the middle of a creek.

Nothing like a peanut butter bagel on a warm rock in the middle of a brook.


Photo album: For our complete photo album of our hike to Arethusa Falls (and some smaller hikes the day before) link here: Arethusa Falls

If you go: We took the standard route, the Arethusa Falls Trail from Route 302 in the southern part of Crawford Notch. Trailhead and parking are on the west side of the road. Drive up the parking road to the tracks. The trailhead is just to the left of the house. The trail is moderate and gains about 900 feet of total elevation. At this time of year, the trail is also wet, muddy and still laced with rotting snow and some monorails.

Miles: Round trip is about 3 miles. (Caution: the Bemis Brook is very high right now and care should be taken on the rocks and snow islands around the falls.)

Categories: White Mountain Hikes | 4 Comments

Lonesome Lake and the draw of the ice

Janelle power over Lonesome Lake under the massive bulk of Cannonball Mountain,

Janelle powers over Lonesome Lake under the massive bulk of Cannonball Mountain,

Janelle sits on the frozen pond, slowly scraping away the frosty snow until she reaches the ice.

We’re having a bluebird day on Lonesome Lake, surrounded by mountains; the Kinsmen to our west and the Franconia Ridge towering above the trees to the east. The huge hump of the Cannonball rises like a camel’s back to the north, the mountain’s ledges pour ice down toward the lake.

A scorching wind whips over the lake in relentless bursts, picking up the fine snow-ice and flinging it in tight swirls over the hard surface, like a white desert wind storm.

But the girl does not care. She’s bundled tight and turns her back to the wind. This hike to the lake and then to Lonesome Lake Hut has been a long time in the making. It’s her first time to an AMC Hut, and her first time walking over a frozen lake, both experiences she has begged for and looked forward to. And now, the day after a major storm, the mountain Gods have given us a perfect morning. It’s cold, but not frigid. Small wispy clouds lend the lake basin a true mountain feel. And the trail up to Lonesome Lake is well broken out and mellow.

Tough Cookie's first AMC Hut!

Tough Cookie’s first AMC Hut!

I’m not sure what she’s doing, but there’s no need for us to hurry. So I just lift my collar against the wind and sit down next to her, there in the middle of a lake, and enjoy the day.

“Ice,” she shouts after a few moments. “I found the lake.”

She brushes off all the snow and creates a one foot or so circle of pure milky blue ice. Then she lower her eye to the ice, a couple of inches above the surface.

“What are you looking for?” I ask.

“Water. How deep is the ice anyway.”

I shrug. “One, two feet,” I guess. “You won’t be able to see the water below.”

“Whoa, that’s deep.”

Later, after she has fully explored the hut, she casts her verdict on these new surroundings.

Of the four-person bunkhouse: “We could come back with Aaron, Ian and Meg and the four of us could stay in one room.”

Of the outhouse: “I can use that, it’s clean!”

Of the hut kitchen: “They cook here? It’s like a restaurant.”

We sit together at the table, sipping tea and soup, devouring cheese slices and granola. The warm sun streams through the big windows, and I watch Janelle watch the hut master, an energetic young woman with a ski hat and large, blue sunglasses.

After a moment, she asks softly, “How old do you have to be to work here?”

Playing on the ice, Franconia Ridge stands sentinel behind.

Playing on the ice, Franconia Ridge stands sentinel behind.


Photo album: For photos from our Lonesome Lake adventures, follow this link – Lonesome Lake and Hut

If you go: We took the standard route to the hut, The Lonesome Lake Trail. It begins on the west side of the I-93, but can be reached from the east side as well but walking through a tunnel under the highway. The trail is packed down and wide, a superhighway of a snow trail. It’s also moderate and beautiful. Micro-spikes or Stabilicers will get you there, but wear snowshoes to prevent post-holes.

Our mileage: About 3.4 miles, give or take a few tenth as we hiked over the lake instead of around. The hut is open year round, on a self-service basis in the winter.

Ready to go

Ready to go

Soup and tea

Soup and tea

Which way?

Which way?

Categories: White Mountain Hikes | 9 Comments

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