Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Bear

Entering the Bear 100 wasn't really my idea but rather one of Chris's many brainstorms that I absent mindedly agreed to a few months back.  With the opportunity to spend the previous week in the Wasatch Mountains--ooh, altitude training!--capping off the week with a 100 miler sounded like a cool thing to do... last spring.  The reality is that while I spent a lot of time on my feet over the summer, most of those were walking as opposed to running miles.  (And guess what the body wants to do if it's been walking all summer?)   Looking through my journal just now, I laughed to see that since finishing Laurel Highlands in mid June, my "long runs" consisted of a couple of 12 milers.  Not exactly an optimal training program going on here, folks.  I hoped, however, that the endurance base and muscle memory -- 25 hundred finishes from 1995-2006 -- were enough to pull me through this beast.
I'd heard mostly positive things about The Bear:  beautiful fall foliage, mountain scenery, challenging but not all-out ridiculous terrain, and an especially appealing low-key atmosphere.  I was also warned about course marking: "It's not if you get off course but when," hot midday temps, and probable sub-freezing nighttime conditions.  Accordingly, I carried the course directions and had plenty of cold weather gear both in my drop bags and with Chris, who did an excellent job of crewing and, I think, entertaining all the aid station volunteers.
The early miles were a joy:  I loved the first long climb out of Logan and spent parts of the first 30 running with fellow Coyote Cohort, H'ard Cohen, followed by two new friends, "the Larrys"--Hall and King--who were great fun with whom to pass the miles.  Somewhere around Mile 30 my usual iron stomach started rebelling, so the next 20 were passed babying it with mostly ice water. 
Thus I became locked in the cycle of food = nausea, nausea = no calories, no calories = no energy, no energy = I don't want to do this anymore!  Upon reaching the halfway point at Tony Grove, I announced my intention of stopping.  I was having a meltdown.  Chris wisely accepted my decision without trying to talk me into continuing--he knows me well--while waiting a few minutes, then plying me with instant mashed potatoes.  "Hey, those actually look pretty good..."  I love runny instant mashed potatoes!  After successfully downing 3 bowlsful and some soup over 2 1/2 hours (!) total at the aid station, and realizing that only my stomach was giving me issues--everything else (legs, feet, etc.) was fine--I decided that maybe I'd wait for my buddies Deb and Steve Pero and see about continuing on with them.  Upon their arrival, they annouced "We feel awesome!" so Team BL was born.  :)   Here we are, plus Sandy Sanger, about to leave Tony Grove.  (Yes, the Californian was cold.)
The night was lo-o-o-ng.  We walked and walked and walked and ogled the incredible full moon and walked and talked and laughed and told pirate jokes and walked and giggled and talked and laughed and spent waaay too long at the aid stations and laughed at Chris's jokes and moo'd at the cows and got off course for about 20 minutes and walked and walked and tried to keep warm and stayed together and had a grand old time.  Oh, and got off course another time and walked some more.  At Beaver Lodge we caught C2M'er (and TRT co-RD) George Ruiz, who joined our merry team.  At long last the sun rose, a welcome sight after enduring some hollows in the 20-30 degree range!  At Beaver Creek, mile 85, it was finally warm enough to shed some layers.  Yippee ki yi yippee yay!
There was only one more aid station at mile 92, the one with the best name:  Ranger Dip.  Deb is trying to get some calories into Steve; I am having no such problems now.  :)
Although I was tired and ready to be done, it really was fun and relaxing to complete a 100 miler this way.  No pressure, no hurry, just takin' it all in...   Thanks Deb and Steve!
                                              ...but the quads still hurt this late into the run--ouch! 
Chris spotted this guy at Bear Lake en route to the finish!  He's been working on his moose karma.
With about a mile to go, George and I attempted to break 32 hours.  We didn't quite make it (32:01), but at least I beat my best Hardrock time (gulp) by 6 minutes.  I wore the same shoes and socks the entire race and didn't get any blisters or foot issues.  I LOVE, Love, love my Salomon.Speedcross-2's!!
Deb and Steve weren't far behind.  This is the first 100 they've run completely together!
I stopped doing 100's a few years ago, mostly because of race burnout and an increasing desire to concoct my own trail adventures (fastpacking/running the Colorado, John Muir, Wonderland, Tuscarora, Ouachita, & Long Trails among other endeavors).  The Bear was my first 100 mile finish since the 2006 Heartland Hundred, and it was a great experience.  :)  I just may have to get back into doing these crazy things again!!  Ah-Ooooooo!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Long Way Home

We decided to return home via the northerly route through Quebec and Ontario.  Sure, gas prices are higher, but Canadian money is so much prettier, AND they have Tim Hortons.  Being a coffee junkie, I just love Tims.  :)  We dropped back down into the US at Sault Ste. Marie and drove across Michigan's Upper Penninsula, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota.  Most nights we camped in the Honda...

...But one night we stayed in a "covered wagon," enclosed in quotation marks because it had a hard top and electricity. ;-) There was just something not quite right about blow drying my hair in a covered wagon. This was at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota, and was way cool! Wilder authored the "Little House" series, and I was a hard-core LIW geek in 5th and 6th grade. It was really neat to be in De Smet, site of the "Little Town on the Prairie" and some of the other later books.
 From there, it was down to Badlands and Wind Cave National Park, where we had a PR run for wildlife sightings:  in 5 miles we saw pronghorn antelope, deer, a huge (close to 200) herd of elk, prairie dogs, and a buffalo!  Later that afternoon we hiked up Scotts Bluff in Nebraska.  Northwestern Nebraska was a pleasant surprise.  There are actually some hills there and we are definitely going back. 
A fierce little storm blew through but didn't produce much rain.
After a couple of days visiting Chris's pop in Rifle and a couple of days running the North Fruita Trails (including Zippity Do Dah and Chutes 'n Ladders) in Colorado, we blitzed across Utah and spent the night in Great Basin National Park.
I don't get up before my coffee...
We climbed Wheeler Peak which was super awesome.  It's over 13,000 feet and the 2nd highest in Nevada!
We made it!  I always have to check the summit register for people I know.  Didn't see any familiar names this time but usually do.  Not surprising since Great Basin is pretty out there.
We spent the night at Valley of Fire State Park and the next day climbed Mt. Charleston, north of Vegas.  It now ranks as one of my favorite mountains.  We did the 18-mile loop.  Had we known how runnable the trail was--and had we been better acclimatized--we would have been running instead of hiking!  Bristlecone pines, the oldest living things on Earth, were all over the place.  The photo below was taken just off the summit.

Finally made it home just before Labor Day weekend -- 2 months, 10,000 miles & lots of great memories.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

NH48 in Under 5 Days

I had two trail/endurance-related goals for back East this summer, a thru-hike of the Long Trail and a fast’ish ramble of, again, the 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers. It may seem odd that while I now live in California, I am still drawn to the White Mountains. My folks are still in Vermont so I get back there quite often, and I LOVE these mountains... but still! Indeed, during the most recent effort I wondered why I didn’t more persistently attempt a fast 48 when I lived there. The reality is that during my last 10 years there I was focused on racing 100 milers and so was always either training for or recovering from one or another and had a hard time fitting in an obscure mountain speed record.
I did, however, actually attempt one speedy 48 in 2004, a few weeks after running and winning a fast (for me) sub 18-hour Vermont 100. Beginning on August 11 that year, I bagged all 14 of what I call the Pemi Peaks--Flume, Liberty, Lincoln, Lafayette, Owls Head, Garfield, Galehead, the Twins, the Bonds, Zealand, and Hale--45+ miles in 18 hours 26 minutes. The next day I climbed the 3 peaks of the Willey Range along with Carrigain, Cannon and the Kinsmans, 30+ miles in about 14 hours. Things were going well for me physically. Meteorologically, however, conditions were bad: that night it poured down rain… intense T’storm after intense T’storm continuing into the next day. I got rained out. I probably should’ve squeezed in another attempt back then, but isn’t human nature such that we oftentimes don’t seize an opportunity that’s staring us in the face, finding reasons why we can’t do something instead of why we should actually just go for it? Perhaps that is a reason why there was no women’s non-winter NH 48 fastest known time (FKT) until August 20 of this year.
I was pretty fatigued after the LT effort in late July and had decided to bail on the peakbagging idea. It wasn’t until the drive back from Maine on August 12 that I started having thoughts like “Maybe I should give it a shot… What have I got to lose?… May as well… Um, Honey…?”
Chris agrees to crew--I am a lucky woman! I decide to do it relatively fast but not all-out. As with all of my adventures, first and foremost, this is to be FUN, and I know that without enough sleep, it will not be. Ergo, I shoot for a modest goal of under 5 days.  I do not have a tight schedule but will take the Forrest Gump approach: when I’m tired, I’ll sleep, when I’m hungry, I’ll eat...  Since we want to be back home before Labor Day weekend and don’t want to have to rush, we decide that I should start on August 15 in order to give us a reasonable window. The weather forecast for the 16th calls for rain most of the day, but we don’t have the luxury of cherry-picking our days at this point.
Apart from buying some trail food, there really isn’t much else to do in preparation. Having climbed these peaks dozens of times, I know good combinations to string together and the basic order that I want to climb them. This isn’t rocket science after all.  Not one who enjoys or needs an entourage, I tell only my parents, my good buddy Al… and my friend "Neighbor Dave" squeezes it out of me, too. That’s it. Both Al and Neighbor offer to help, but I will do 45 out of 48 peaks solo. There will be no muling, no pacing, and no food or water caches.

Ready to go!

8/15  Presi Traverse & Isolation, Waumbek, & Cabot  ~44 miles
It is 3:55 a.m. I am fixing to get out of the car at the Webster-Jackson Trailhead to begin the south-to-north Presidential Traverse. However, there are two little foxes running around looking for handouts. We don’t give them any food but do take a few photos and that costs me a minute. :) I hit the trail at 4:01 a.m. This particular Presi Traverse has a bit of a twist: it includes the 5-mile out & back to Isolation. I top out on Jackson in just over an hour, Pierce, Eisenhower, and Monroe in another couple of hours, and reach Lakes of the Clouds Hut just as people are dispersing after breakfast. I fill my water bladder and make my way over to the Camel Trail and Davis Path. Even though it means losing many hundreds of feet in elevation, I love this trail. The Davis Path is much less trodden than the main routes to 4000 footers and reminds me of the Long Trail.  By 9:30 I’m standing on the summit of Mt. Isolation gazing up at the distance between me and Mt. Washington. It looks like a long way! Two hours later I’m ordering chicken ’n dumpling soup in the summit cafeteria and spend a leisurely 20 minutes eating and chatting with a family who has ridden the Cog Railway up the mountain. The rest of the afternoon goes well. I summit Jefferson and Adams and make my way down to Madison Hut for some more water before climbing the final peak of the range and heading down Valley Way. After climbing George via the Ammonoosuc-Jewell loop this morning, Chris is waiting for me at Appalachia. 
Next stop is the Starr King Trailhead.  I bring my headlamp just in case but am happy to do the entire hike before dark (and sadly notice, by the way, that the view from Mt. Starr King is getting more and more shut out by tree growth).  I feel pretty good and prefer to do Mt. Cabot in the dark anyway so decide to do one more peak for the day. Nearing the old firewardens cabin, I see light inside and turn mine off as I sneak by so as to not freak anyone out. I’m up and down in just under 3 hours, finishing at 11:10 p.m. We retire to that famous 5-star resort in Randolph--yes, that would be Altopia.
8/16  Wildcats/Carters/Mariah & Tom/Field/Willey   ~28 miles
It is 5 a.m., and we are eating a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast prepared by our fabulous host. We are also listening to a steady downpour outside. It has been raining for 2 hours. “I am NOT going out in that!!” I proclaim, producing laughter all around. I truly dislike hiking for hours in a steady rain. This is the bad weather that was forecast 2 days earlier. No sooner do I make the decision to bail on the whole attempt than the rain stops and I decide to press on. Chris deposits me at the Wildcat Ski Area, and I head up the Polecat Trail, umbrella in hand, at 6 a.m.  I discover that the Wildman Biathlon was held the previous day--the race signs and 3 aid stations have not yet been broken down.  Cool--aid stations! I chug a bit of water at each station conserving my own. The poor, neglected Wildcat Ridge Trail is in need of some TLC, specifically a good brushing out, and I grumble my way across the lower extremity “carwash” that is the passageway. The trail is muddy, slippery, rocky, and rooty. (Hey, this looks like the Long Trail, too!) With all the slime, I just can’t seem to get a rhythm going and resort to the lunge-and-lurch mode so common in the White Mountains. I pick my way steeply down to Carter Notch but actually make pretty good time going up the Dome. By this time of day, I begin to meet normal hikers. Everyone seems to be wet and sorry looking today, not excluding the crazy lady with the umbrella. One young woman is near tears on the ridiculously steep and rough descent of North Carter. She is carrying a full backpack and clearly not having fun (and so neither is the boyfriend). I try to give some encouragement “You’re almost done with the hardest section!” She kind of glares at me. Oh well... The weather actually turns out not as bad as was predicted; I open the umbrella just 3 times and then for just brief 10-minute showers. By the time I reach Mt. Moriah the sun is shining and I am happy to finally descend the Carter-Moriah Trail and be done with this Range. My total time for this leg is an embarrassing 8h40m!
Chris and I waste a bit of time here due to a miscommunication which is totally my fault but no biggie; since I am channeling Forrest Gump, I am pretty relaxed about this whole thing. We return to Altopia to pick up our stuff and head down to Crawford Depot. Al decides to hike the Willey Range with me but starts a few minutes later so skips Mt. Tom. We talk nonstop across Field and Willey and crack up at the crazy steep “trail” on the southeast side of Willey. We’ve both been here many times, but it seems steeper and rougher than ever. At the Ethan Pond Trailhead Chris is waiting for us, having spent some time checking out Ripley Falls. We give Al a ride back to his car and proceed to the Signal Ridge trailhead while I silently argue with myself: “You should really climb Carrigain tonight.” “But I don’t want to. I want to relax and get some good sleep.” “But it’s not even 8 o’clock yet.  Wimp.” “Hey, this is MY hike, and I want to have fun, and Mr. Gump wouldn’t do anymore today either. So there.” Chris makes us a yummy dinner while I use the solar shower and organize the Honda Element for the night. We are asleep by 9:30.
8/17  Carrigain, Passaconaway/Whiteface/Tripyramids, & Hancocks  ~36 miles
At 3:17 a.m. I throw on my clothes, down a Starbucks Doubleshot, and proceed up the trail while Mr. Goofball gets a few more hours of sleep. I feel good this morning and make it to Signal Ridge just in time for a beautiful sunrise! I climb the tower on this, one of my favorite White Mountain peaks, and have a long look around before turning around and heading back down. Just under 4 hours total for this peak, Chris has the car packed up and ready to go when I arrive. He hands me a steaming mug of brewed coffee with real half ’n half.  Aah!  I am spoiled and happy.  :)
We cruise over Bear Notch Road, pass Jigger Johnston Campground, and reach the trailhead just before 8 a.m.  I am taking the old Downes Brook/Passaconaway Slide Trail up Passaconaway, in my opinion the best--most fun, scenic and to-the-point route up this peak.  (Style points do matter after all.)  After crossing the top of the slide, I have a bit of trouble finding the correct route but shortly am back on track and stand on the summit 2 hours after leaving the car. For some reason I have never been a fan of the Rollins Trail so just put my head down and go... Whiteface doesn’t warrant more than a pause, and I happily scoot across the Kate Sleeper Trail. Even though it is littered with 49 blowdowns (I counted) it is another favorite for its beauty, ease, and solitude.  The South Tripyramid Slide is always fun, but I decide that the Farmer Direct route (see my winter record report from March) straight up to the summit from the KST is even better. The Tripyramids are closer together than I remembered. Yippee ki yi, that must mean I’m feeling really, really good! I turn on my tunes for the first time of this adventure and bee-bop down the Pine Bend Brook Trail, feeling happy and content.
As we drive to the Hancock Overlook, Chris tells me about his hike of the Hedgehog loop and also of visiting the lovely Sabbaday Falls--Chris loves waterfalls and I'd told him not to miss Sabbaday. I describe the approach to the Hancocks, and--what a treat!--he decides to do the lower 2½ miles with me. I opt for a counter-clockwise loop only because last time here during the winter record, Farmer, Frodo and I went clockwise. (Although it would‘ve earned style points, I stay off Arrow Slide this time.) Jogging the last couple of miles--the only time I really approach anything simulating running during this entire thing is here and a bit coming down Mt. Waumbek; most of these trails are, and have always been, virtually unrunnable for me--I reach Chris at 6:25 p.m. and call it a day. We get a room at one of North Woodstock’s many funky establishments, inhale a surprisingly tasty pizza, shower, and hit the rack by 9.
8/18 Tecumseh, Osceolas, Moosilauke, Cannon/Kinsmans ~31.5 miles
Mt. Tecumseh is rather a blur because I am not really awake yet. I do know that I start at 4:12 a.m. and am done exactly 2 hours later.  15 Minutes later I start up the Mt. Osceola Trail from Tripoli Road. Wow, it’s been years since I’ve been on this side of the Osceola--SO nice to do the traverse instead of the usual out & back! Goofball picks me up on the Kanc 2h43m later, and we zoom off for Ravine Lodge after the requisite DD’s coffee stop in Lincoln.  The ascent of Moosilauke via Gorge Brook feels easy, and I pass many hikers today, giving them a smile and a quick, cheery “Hello!” I LOVE Mt. Moosilauke and hang out on the summit a few minutes to have a look around. This whole thing is so much fun!  :)
By 1:30 p.m. Goofball and I commence up the Kinsman Ridge Trail from the Tram parking lot. I regale him with stories of my first ever White Mountain hike, up this very trail with my dad on Father’s Day 1986! He is impressed that my dad hiked this very steep, ridiculously eroded trail. (Yay Dad!) We part ways at the ledge spur, Chris to check out the view, me to soldier on over Cannon and the balls.  And then a weird thing happens:  I remember there being just 3 Cannonballs, but there are now 7 or 8!  (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!)  I finally reach Kinsman Junction and, while lamenting the absence of the old “THIS IS KINSMAN JUNCTION” sign, am happy because the Kinsmans are easy from here. The out & back to the Kinsmans is, indeed, a cinch and soon I am descending the Mt. Kinsman Trail. I have always liked this trail and am impressed by the lovely relo of serpentine singletrack at its lower end.  I am done by 6:40 p.m. today. This evening we want to get as close to tomorrow’s start as possible. Parker’s Motel it is!
8/19  Franconia Ridge/Owls Head/Garfield/Galehead/Twins/Bonds/Zealand/Hale  ~42 miles
Chris deposits me at the AT crossing of I-93 at 3:55 a.m., and I groggily (too much sleep?) head up the Flume Slide Trail. My buddy Neighbor Dave is to meet me up on the ridge, somewhere between Little Haystack and Lafayette. Finally, around 8 o’clock (obviously not exactly blitzing), I spot him near the summit of Lincoln. Yippee! I drop my pack and do the short out ‘n back to Lafayette, then we head down Lincoln Slide which I haven't been on in many years. I like this route! At the first possible spot, I refill the 2 bladders that I carry this day, a total capacity of about 4 liters. Today, because it is a longer schlep of over 40 miles with no aid save for Galehead Hut, I am carrying my Osprey Talon 33 pack with extra clothing, 2 headlamps, extra batteries just in case, enough food, and all the extra water--to say, not exactly super-lightweight. (The previous 4 days I wore either a Nathan Intensity or Nathan Elite waist pack.) Neighbor and I perfectly execute the lower part of the Lincoln Slide ‘whack, coming out exactly where we intend. But instead of taking a right and heading down to the slide (the normal route), we cross the trail and head straight up the open hardwoods to the ridge. This is a nice route, one that I’ve never done before! We hit the ridge, take a right, and within a few minutes are standing on the summit. At this point we have options: we can descend the way we came up, via the slide route (lots more trail), OR we can bushwhack the entire ridge, “mostly open hardwoods” toward 13 Falls. Feeling adventurous, and because I always wanted to do that ‘whack, I opt for the latter! Although we don’t get, err, quite the open hardwoods we hope for, the route is pretty good and gets even better once we hit a really cool J.E. Henry tote road, following it all the way to the Lincoln Brook Trail and popping out about a mile west of 13 Falls. In the end, we do less mileage than if we'd taken the slide-trail route, but I think it costs us some time since bushwhacking is rarely faster than trail walking. Well, that was fun but I’m ready to get some miles in!
Reaching the 13 Falls area, oh my, the clear pools beckon, but we march on. For the same reasons I like the Davis Path and the Kate Sleeper Trail, I have always enjoyed the upper Franconia Brook Trail--because it is lightly traveled and feels more "wild." It is now past noon and the temperature is rising. Since I like the heat and Neighbor doesn’t, he urges me to go ahead. I know I will see him again on the return from Mt. Garfield, so I forge upward to the ridge. Chris said he might hike Garfield but is not there when I arrive. I turn on my phone and, oh no, there are 7 messages! I sit down and spend ~10 minutes listening to all of them and another 5 actually talking to him. In a nutshell, because of the bridge construction--and never having been there before and not knowing the status of trailhead signage--poor Chris gets screwed up on the location of the Mt. Garfield Trail and takes one of the USFS “foot travel welcome“ trails instead. Neighbor plans to descend the Mt. Garfield Trail, and Chris assures me that he is down there waiting to give him a ride. Neighbor and I say goodbye for the last time, and I continue over the bumps to Galehead Hut.
An hour and a half later I refill my empty bladders at the hut. Scarfing down a Hershey bar, I do the quick out-and-back to lowly Galehead Mountain. I feel good as I climb steeply up to South Twin and on the out-and-back to North (SO much easier than last winter!!). Along the Twinway I meet the final normal hiker of the day, who asks how much farther it is to Galehead. Up and over Guyot… I decide to tag Bondcliff before West Bond and drop my pack just below the summit of Bond for the 2½ mile round trip. Atop West Bond I sit for a few minutes happily mesmerized as the last light of the day fades over Franconia Ridge. As I make my way back over Guyot, it’s time for the headlamp. All that’s left is Zealand to Zeacliff to Hale! Off in the distance I hear rumblings of thunder, then see numerous strikes of lightning many miles to the north. As long as it doesn’t get closer, awesome! The descent from Zeacliff is annoying: I have had enough of the freaking White Mountain rocks and think about the smooth, runnable trails back in the Santa Monica Mountains. My feet have fared very well throughout this adventure in, once again, my favorite trail runners, but the knees begin to ache a bit.  However, I haven’t yet taken any pain killers on this journey and won't start now. At long last I reach the Lend-A-Hand Trail and see that my Sweetie has hiked in the Zealand Trail and left a Starbucks Doubleshot on the signpost! The caffeine kicks in within a few minutes, and I enjoy my very last easy climb to the top of Mt. Hale. I pause for a moment on the summit, then continue walking down the Mt. Hale Trail humming happily. I reach the trailhead “finish line” and my sleeping husband, sans any fanfare but with the contentedness that comes with having met my goal:  I did the NH48 in under 5 days and had a blast doing it.
The next morning we sleep in and pig out at breakfast.  :)   The end.

48 Summit Times

High-tech record keeping

Those are the scraps of paper on which I kept track of my summit times.  Until I pulled these papers out and did the math yesterday, I didn't realize how much I really slacked on this little adventure!  From start to finish, 116h 32m passed (4d 20h 32m).  Of that time, I was on the trail 77h 43m and not exactly pushing hard as evidenced by times recorded below.  This means that 38h 49m--almost exactly one-third of the time--were spent off trail, either finished for the day or driving between peaks.  By my calculations--and if you're still with me here and actually give a rat's patootie about any of this, then I am impressed--the current FKT'er spent 73h 25m on trail (but, as per the male NH48 tradition, his clock stopped at the top of the final summit while mine stopped at the last trailhead) and 14h 26m off trail.  What does all of this mean?  It means there is a lot of room for improvement for someone who cares more about their total time than about enjoying the experience.  If nothing else, perhaps it will provide some food for thought for the next man or woman who attempts this...

0401     Webster-Jackson TH
0511     Jackson
0608     Pierce
0641     Eisenhower
0732     Monroe
0928     Isolation
1133     Washington
1308     Jefferson
1412     Adams
1500     Madison
1635     Appalachia
1700     Starr King TH
1833     Waumbek
1935     Starr King TH
2013     Heath's Gate
2150     Cabot
2310     Heath's Gate
0600     Wildcat Ski Area parking

0712     Wildcat D
0814     Wildcat A
0929     Carter Dome
1023     South Carter
1055     Middle Carter
1311     Moriah
1440     Carter-Moriah TH
1610     Crawford Depot
1725     Tom
1801     Field
1838     Willey
1949     Ethan Pond TH
0312     Signal Ridge TH
0526     Carrigain
0708     Signal Ridge TH
0752     Downes Brook TH
0956     Passaconaway
1109     Whiteface
1232     South Tripyramid
1243     Middle Tripyramid
1302     North Tripyramid
1420     Pine Bend Brook TH
1448     Hancock Overlook
1628     South Hancock
1658     North Hancock
1825     Hancock Overlook
0412     Mt. Tecumseh TH
0520     Tecumseh
0612     Mt. Tecumseh TH
0630     Mt. Osceola TH
0742     Osceola
0812     East Osceola
0913     Greeley Ponds TH
0952     Ravine Lodge Road
1121     Moosilauke
1238     Ravine Lodge Road
1330     Cannon Tram parking
1449     Cannon
1632     North Kinsman
1655     South Kinsman
1716     North Kinsman
1840     Mt. Kinsman TH
0355     Whitehouse Bridge
0608     Flume
0642     Liberty
0759     Lincoln
0820     Lafayette
1111     Owls Head
1358     Garfield
1546     Galehead
1630     South Twin
1654     North Twin
1720     South Twin
1837     Bond
1905     Bondcliff
1934     Bond
2000     West Bond
2112     Zealand
2340     Hale
0033     Hale Brook TH

Friday, September 10, 2010

Maine: Deer Isle & Acadia

Goofin' off in front of our weekend digs.  ;-)
Next up was a few days at our friends' home on a quiet little penninsula near Deer Isle, Maine.  They had the coolest guest quarters:  a circa early 1970s Airstream!  Since we were so close, we spent an all-too-short half day at Acadia National Park.  Chris had never been there before, and I insisted it was a must-see.  We did squeeze in the super-fun Precipice Trail, about the closest to a European via ferrata here in the USA.  Apparently we lucked out, with the trail being opened to hikers just a day or two before; it is closed much of the spring and summer due to the resident peregrine falcons.  (We even saw one from the road!)
We are definitely coming back here for more serious trail time.  Think I hear coyotes howling.  ;-)
An Acadia tradition is to have popovers at the Jordon Pond House.  They were served warm -- delectable!
A quick drive up to ANP's high point Cadillac Mountain, then back to Vermont...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Presi Traverse

It took the lure of a Presidential Traverse on August 8 to reunite with our buddy Ultra Steve P. whom we had not seen since the 2007 Zane Grey 50 miler in Arizona!  Chris's only prior NH 4000 footer had been humble little Mt. Waumbek on snowshoes a year and a half ago.  He liked the looks of the Pemi Loop on the map, but I knew he'd enjoy the above-treeline views--but maybe not the rocks--of the Presidentials more.  Below, Steve and me on the lovely Brookside Trail--we ascended via Valley Way, Brookside, & Watson Path.

Here we are atop Mt. Jefferson with a fellow ultrarunner.  I never got his name, but Steve talked him up.  :)

Waving to the Mt.Washington "Cog" Railway, summit buildings in background.  This is actually one of the newer diesel trains.  They are still running one coal-burning train, according to their website, "for those who want the nostalgia of an antique steam train."  Ugh.  There is also a toll road to the summit.  To say, it can be quite a zoo up there at times...  on the other hand, they have PIZZA in the cafeteria!

The requisite summit photo, after eating our pizza.  Mt. Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast but not the highest on the East Coast; that would be Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina (with several other NC peaks over 6288 ft.)  
We didn't break any speed records today.  Since it was Chris's first time up here, he took lots of photos.  That's Lakes of the Clouds Hut, about 1.5 miles below Washington.  Steve was being very patient!
We debated whether or not to include Mt. Jackson at the end of the Traverse.  Since it is a 4000 footer, I always lean toward doing it.  Then again, it was not named after President Andrew Jackson but rather geologist Charles Thomas Jackson.  Steve opted to hike down after reaching Mizpah Hut in order to retrieve the car, thus saving us about 1/2 mile of road walking, while Mr. Goofball and I continued on to "CTJ."  He's so happy here, he could just... 

We had enough energy to check out the view down to Crawford Notch at Bugle Cliff, but I couldn't talk him into Elephant's Head. 
The next day our feet hurt.  The end.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Golden Anniversary!

Two days after I finished the LT was my folks' 50th wedding anniversary.  They were married on a very hot July 30, 1960, in New Athens, Illinois, where my mother was born and raised.  My dad had just returned from serving 13 months in Saudi Arabia while in the Air Force.  I think they are adorable in this photo.  :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Long Trail in ~9 days

This story really begins in the summer of 1989 when I was 23, not yet a runner, and setting out on the first big backpacking adventure of my life: an intended thru-hike of Vermont’s 272-mile Long Trail, the oldest--and, some say, mile-for-mile the toughest--long distance hiking trail in the USA, running along the spine of the Green Mountains from Massachusetts to Quebec. Not having much of a clue what I was undertaking and making a few rookie mistakes, I called it quits after 100 miles, rescued by my fiance at Killington ski area. However, the seed had been planted: I loved being outside in nature 24/7, loved the simplicity of the trail, and loved the idea of completing an entire long-distance trail. I finished the LT the following summer by doing a series of section hikes, mostly long weekends where I’d tackle a 40-60 mile stretch at a time. I so enjoyed the long distance trail life enough that 5 years after that initial experience on the LT, I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

Fast forward 20 (!) years. It is the 100th anniversary of the Green Mountain Club, and we will be in Vermont for part of the summer. I am homesick for the green hills of my home state and think it would be super cool to overdose on Vermont by thru hiking the Long Trail. With a few other obligations on the calendar, and because I enjoy doing big miles, my idea is to do the Trail fast. Not record-setting fast but comfortable, self-supported (mostly), ultra-lightweight fast. With nearly 6 dozen shelters along the route, I can go without carrying a tent. Since temps are relatively warm, I decide to get by with a light emergency bivy sack instead of a sleeping bag, and is a pad really necessary for a hardcore mountain girl? No, it is not!  I do decide to splurge and bring the stove; a hot meal once a day is a luxury I’m willing to carry. With raingear (this ain’t the Sierras), extra layers, hat, gloves (I have Raynaud‘s - yuck), headlamp, food, water, and cell phone (so I can call my Sweetie every night) my pack ends up weighing around 15 lbs., give or take, but I never weigh it so don’t really know for certain. Because of the pack weight and the gnarliness of the trail, I will strictly be walking as opposed to running save for 3 road miles going into Jonesville. From Lowes I purchase a few 5-gallon buckets w/lids, hoping they’re animal proof. In each bucket is food, soymilk (crave the stuff!), Starbucks Doubleshots, clean clothes, toiletries, bug repellent (never used), batteries, and a gallon of water. I stash one about every 40 trail miles.
Saturday, July 17... County Road, first crossing of the LT… After 6.2 miles round trip to the Mass. border and back, Chris sees me off on my adventure before leaving to catch a flight to DC. He gets to work this week while I get to walk many, many miles through these beautiful woods. I pass Congdon Camp, Glastenbury Mountain, Story Spring Shelter… and flash back to those early years on this section of Trail. This flashing back will be a constant recurrence as I happily reminisce, thinking of the friends with whom I shared miles, that particular stage of my life, and how certain things change but others remain constants in our lives. I relish the contemplative time alone, all the while getting in some serious mileage on Day 1. While I don’t have a set-in-stone schedule, I don’t want to run out of sustenance before my next food cache. Fortunately this is never a problem because as usual, I packed way too much food. By late afternoon I make it to my first cache at Kelly Stand Road, exactly 40 miles since leaving County Road 14 hours or so earlier. The bugs are bad here and I feel good so decide to continue another 7 miles up and over Stratton Mountain and down to the pond, where there is a shelter. About a half mile below the summit, my progress is stalled by a moose and her two calves, she on one side of the trail, they on the other. This is really awesome but I also just really want to get to the pond! “HEY MOOSE… PLEASE MOVE!” These huge creatures are often as docile as cattle--I’ve had many encounters--but I am cautious about walking between a mama anything and her babies. After a few minutes the calves cross the trail, and I can finally proceed. As I near Stratton Pond, I hear rumblings of thunder in the distance. It is almost dark as I say hello to the GMC caretaker, Meredith. She informs me that the shelter is almost full but that I’m welcome to share her tent platform if I’d like. Yippee! Meredith is an ‘08 AT thru-hiker and an aspiring ‘11 PCT’er. Confused by the small size of my pack, she asks if I‘m thru-hiking the LT. Usually hesitant to offer up such information, I answer her questions about ultrarunning, fueling and the like. She seems genuinely interested and stokes my ego with incredulous “wows.” The thunder and lightening storm that night is multi-cycled and intense. Thanking Meredith profusely for the shelter, I offer to help her out on the PCT in California next year and we exchange email addresses. 47.5 miles of walking today. I am tired.

July 18... 4 a.m.… I quietly depart Stratton Pond before the songbirds awaken. Not being exactly a morning person, I am surprised that this becomes my favorite time of day during this trek. The first bird begins singing just before sunrise, others quickly chime in. What a wonderful serenade! The mostly flat 10 miles to Route 11/30 pass quickly. I climb Bromley Mountain and take a break in the ski hut which is generously left open for hikers. Mad Tom Notch… Styles and Peru Peaks… Griffith Lake… My feet are starting to really ache and I pop a couple of ibuprofen tabs. I usually prefer to remain completely drug free during these types of things but decide that the temporary numbing sensation and resulting attitude adjustment are worth it.  (One mistake I made was in choosing an old pair of trailrunners, ones I was hoping to finally "kill" on the Long Trail.   It worked.  I definitively killed them.  Unfortunately, they also did a job on my feet.)  I am very happy to be out here, hiking through the Vermont mountains and forests, this place where I feel the most comfortable in the world. Shortly after Griffith Lake are signs directing hikers to use a bypass route due to replacement of the Big Branch bridge. The bypass adds 3+ miles, and south bounders report no problems with the river crossing: “Rockhopped it with dry feet!” is the common response to my query. Great! I don’t take the bypass and don’t regret it because it means I get to climb over rocky Baker Peak, one of the gems of the southern LT. Sure enough, Big Branch is running low and the crossing is a lark today. Little Rock Pond is next and is as lovely as I remember. The weather has been beautiful and I am full of gratitude as I traverse White Rocks, smiling at all the weird cairns and rock art. Upon reaching my second food cache at Rt. 140, I notice that the container is missing--oh no!--but then chuckle with relief as I see that it has been dragged just a few feet, the plastic unsuccessfully chewed on by some hungry critter. The last 3.5 miles to Minerva Hinchey Shelter are through beautiful hardwoods, but after just over 40 miles for the day, I am ready for some rest. There is a nice young couple and their black lab sharing the shelter tonight. They are taking a month to thru-hike the Trail and having a blast.
July 19... Once again I depart by headlamp, cross the Clarendon Gorge bridge, and reach the Lookout just as the sun starts to rise. As is the case with all the early morning hours, the miles pass quickly and smoothly. Morning is when I feel the best and make the best time. I easily ascend the flanks of Killington Peak and reach Cooper Lodge just as the skies open up with another thunderstorm. Perfect timing! As I sit in the shelter waiting out the storm while watching a chubby chipmunk scurry about scrounging for crumbs, I find it increasingly difficult to ignore what I know awaits at the next road crossing: the Inn at the Long Trail and McGrath’s Irish pub! I start rationalizing and making deals with myself as I fantasize about crashing there for the night even though it means only 22.5 miles for the day. My feet hurt and I’m hungry, dammit, and a Guinness sure would be tasty, and, oh my gosh, a shower would be heavenly, and isn’t this adventure first and foremost about having FUN? Screw it, I’m going! The rain stops and I continue past another moose, this one quite drenched, and down the new-to-me section of LT--the one that’s pretty but takes the hiker through chest high stinging nettles, the one that deposits the hiker a whole mile from the Inn at the Long Trail (as contrasted with the old route, whereby hikers passed right by it). Grrr! As was my experience on the AT, some relo’s seem to make very little sense. But enough whining. Shortly I’m there, I get a room, I take a shower, I eat (a burger, apple crisp, and a beer), and I call Chris who laughs when I tell him where I’m staying. I am happy. If only our everyday wants could be so simple.
July 20... It rains through the night. Heavily. I am SO content snuggled up in my warm bed--a REAL bed--and am almost sorry that the rain stops before my self-imposed 4 a.m. departure time. I remember the next 20-mile section of Trail well even though it’s been many years since I last hiked it. It is known by some to be the most “boring” stretch, with limited views save those of Chittenden Reservoir. Twenty years ago I found this to be the case; today I do not. Based out of arid southern California for the past 4 years, I am in awe of all the plant life, all the green, the water running everywhere, and the mushrooms which are freaking amazing!! Within a few hours I am sitting next to the kiosk at Brandon Gap, picking through Cache #3 before tackling the Great Cliffs of Mt. Horrid. It’s a bit of a misnomer; the climb isn’t difficult but is followed by Cape Lookoff Mountain, Gillespie Peak, and Worth Mountain.--the Trail is getting more up-and-downy. I cross Middlebury Gap and do the last few climbs of the day: Burnt Hill, Kirby Peak, Mt. Boyce (where I see yet another moose), Battell Mountain, and finally, Breadloaf Mountain. I am psyched to reach both the halfway point AND Emily Proctor Shelter because I stayed here 20 years ago and have fond memories of watching a spectacular sunset from the shelter. The sun is going down as I reach the empty shelter, but where is the view? To my dismay, it is obscured by a thick wall of tall evergreens. Lamenting the loss of the sunset view, I think “if this were my adopted shelter, I’d go nuts with a saw…” 37.1 miles for the day.
July 21... I sleep badly. Without a pad, the shelter floors are hard, and my bivy bag doesn’t breathe very well: every night I awaken multiple times sweaty and clammy. The tradeoff is that I’m much more comfortable on the Trail during the long days. Still, my feet continue to hurt, and there are many, many wet and muddy spots, some of which cannot be avoided. The worst section seems to be in the so-called Vermont Presidentials over Mts. Roosevelt, Cleveland, and Grant. Good grief, no wonder this Trail is jokingly referred to as “a footBATH in the wilderness.” After Lincoln Gap the drainage and my attitude both improve as I traverse the lovely Mts. Abraham and Ellen. As with Bromley Mountain, Mad River Glen allows hikers to use their warming hut, Starks Nest, a large, warm, enclosed cabin. My intention is to pop in for a short midafternoon break, especially since it has just begun to sprinkle. I no sooner step inside than the sprinkle turns in to a deluge, complete with thunder and lightening. Hmm, perfect timing yet again! Four rounds and an hour later, I somewhat reluctantly opt to crash here for the night after only 19.5 miles for the day. A few more rather exciting (read: lightening strikes) rounds throughout the night convince me this was the right choice. Realizing that the footing is going to royally suck for a couple of days, and that my feet really, really hurt--and will only continue to hurt if they remain wet and rotting (trench foot anyone?) the next few days--I decide to call my folks to see if they’ll come rescue me. They are both retired and live only about 90 minutes away so are sweet enough to pick up their crazy daughter. The next morning I descend 2.5 miles to Appalachian Gap and soon am happily whisked back to Mom and Dad’s.

July 22-24... Chris returns from DC. We hang out at my folks’, get in a couple of short runs, eat, drink coffee, rest. It would be easy to stay here, but I am determined to finish the Trail.
July 25... Chris brings me back to Appalachian Gap--this time with my favorite Salomon trailrunners--then drives around to the west side of the ridge, hikes up the Forest City Trail, and we meet at Montclair Glen Lodge. We climb one of Vermont’s most well known mountains Camel’s Hump together, but the summit is completely socked in so there is to be no view over 25 feet today. The trail is rocky, rooty, and wet. I say “This is what the White Mountains are like” to which he responds “This sucks!” so spoiled is he by smooth trails. Chris descends the Burrows Trail, then drives around to meet me at the foot of Camel’s Hump on Duxbury Road. I throw my pack in the car and run the 3-mile road section to Jonesville. Oh, the luxury of being crewed! After doing 5 more to Bolton Notch Road, I call it a day at 30 miles, and we retire to a neat little rental cabin named “Moose” at Little River State Park in Waterbury.
July 26... 3 a.m. arrives too quickly. Chris has to catch another early plane, this time to Dallas, so drops me off back at Bolton Notch Road to begin one of the most difficult days of the trek: over Bolton Mountain, Mts. Mayo and Clark, Vermont’s high point Mt. Mansfield, down to Route 108 where I have a food cache, steeply up Spruce Peak, Madonna Peak, Morse and Whiteface Mountains, and finally to Bear Hollow Shelter, my destination for the night. My pack is a little bit heavier: my sleep has been utterly insufficient due to the hardness of the shelter floors, so I schlep a Thermarest this time. (Not such a hardcore mountain girl after all?) The wind on Mansfield Ridge is cold and brisk and knocks me around a bit, but I am happy that overall the weather is very good. The trail both up to and down from the main ridge is even gnarlier than I remember: I would go so far as to call them Class 3 scrambles, but it is great fun! At Sterling Pond I meet a young orthodox Jewish couple, both too clean and dressed too formally for hiking; they must have taken a chairlift up. He asks where the Trail goes and is not amused when I answer “Canada.” He rolls his eyes. “No really, I‘m serious. It’s 272 miles long and starts in Massachusetts.” The woman’s eyes light up and she seems intrigued. I spend the next mile or so wondering whether a long-distance hike is an option for someone like her, what her life is like. At long last I reach Bear Hollow and meet my shelter mates for the night, a couple about my age who are section hiking the LT. Like Meredith at Stratton Pond, the woman is curious about my hike and asks many questions to which, in my depleted state, I try my best to answer thoughtfully. She tells me she runs 3 miles a day and wants to know how to run further.  It turns out all 3 of us graduated from Burlington’s Champlain College in the 80s and we laugh about the “Champlain Beavers,” perhaps not the best choice of mascot for a predominantly female school. We also discuss our favorite bars--anyone remember Rasputin’s? To think the drinking age was only 18 then!   Total for the day is 30 miles (but felt like 40).
July 27... I try to be very quiet and whisper my apologies for leaving the shelter so early, but my Champlain comrades are very understanding. Since last passing through these parts, the Green Mountain Club has constructed a beautiful bridge over the Lamoille River necessitating a relo that eliminates a bit of road walking along Highway 15. Now this relo makes sense! I pass by the new-to-me Roundtop Shelter and appreciate the sparkling clear water from a water pump! This particular day turns out to be my favorite. The weather is absolutely perfect, I feel good, the surroundings are peaceful and beautiful, and there are very few people on the trail. I particularly enjoy the stretch from Corliss Camp to Devil’s Gulch--just a very lovely stretch of trail. “I could spend the rest of my life doing exactly this,” I think. My final food stash is at the Rt. 118 crossing, and then all I have to do is climb Belvidere Mountain and go 2.8 more miles to Tillotson Camp… but not without working for it. The section of Trail between Belvidere and Tillotson is the most in need of TLC; it looks like this stretch hasn’t been brushed out in years. In sharp contrast to every other night on the Trail, Tillotson Camp is FULL. Dang. Looks like I might be sleeping under the stars. As it turns out, though, some of the hikers are tenting, so there is a spot for me inside. Yay! 30.6 awesome miles today.

July 28... Today is my last day on the Trail which makes me mostly happy but also a bit sad. Because of big, aggressive mice making a racket trying to get into food bags, I don’t sleep well and end up departing even earlier than 4 a.m. I gather all my stuff very quietly and walk up the Trail a bit to load my pack without waking anyone. This final day on the Trail doesn’t go quite as smoothly as the previous one. The trail is rough, and there are numerous small mountains to traverse: Haystack, Bruce, Buchanan, Domey’s Dome, Gilpin, Jay, Doll, North Jay, Burnt, and finally Carleton. In between are extra rocks, roots, mud, and moose droppings over endless steep little ups and downs. Aah, the wild and wonderful northern end of the Long Trail. I call my folks from the top of Jay Peak and tell them I’ll be done around 7 p.m. They have agreed to pick me up at the end of Journey’s End Road. I cross the last road, climb the last mountain, pass a sign marking the 45th parallel, and finally reach Line Post 592, the northern terminus of the Long Trail, exactly the way I started: completely and happily alone. I don’t linger, however; it begins to rain immediately after I reach the border, as if to say “Your luck’s run out, lady!” I giggle and hustle the last 1.3 miles to my parents’ waiting vehicle.
I am so thankful to have been able to thru-hike the Long Trail 20 years after completing it for the first time. I did end up experiencing Vermont in a most wonderfully intense way:  on the Long Trail, to quote the plaque on Springer Mountain, “A footpath for those seeking fellowship with the wilderness.” This Trail is very special to me, perhaps the most special of them all. A huge thank you and happy 100th birthday to the Green Mountain Club! My plan is to thru-hike the Long Trail again in another 20 years. But I plan to take a month to do it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Road trip - Summer 2010

Amarillo, Texas

Chris and I had a great summer!! We're finally back home after two months, 25 states, ~10,000 miles, and the best summer road trip ever. Our destination was Vermont, the main occasions being my folks' 50th anniversary and my stepson's wedding. Leaving California on July 5, we stopped that afternoon for a nice hike up Bill Williams Mountain in Williams, Arizona, before spending the night at our buddy Ian’s place in Flagstaff. At Amarillo, we got off I-40 and onto secondary highways, angling down to Lafayette, then New Orleans, Louisiana. Admittedly Louisiana usually isn’t a normal midsummer vacation destination--as expected, the weather was incredibly hot and humid (and when have we ever been accused of normalcy?)--but we got to visit our good friend Mark as well as Chris’s daughter Meghan.
A seven-mile “death run” (both temperature and humidity levels around 100F--ugh) with Mark in Chicot State Park inspired the creation of the Cajun Coyote to be held on December 4, with event distances of 100K, 67.293K, and 34.917K (roughly 60, 40, and 20 miles). Check it out! As with all Coyote events, this one is sure to be a fun time for all.  Don't worry:   it won't be that hot in December.

Mark and me at Avery Island, home of Tabasco sauce.  The sheen is due to the incredibly humid air!

After four days in Louisiana, we hightailed it up to New England stopping for a leg stretcher on the C&O Canal Towpath in Williamsport, Maryland. Arriving in Vermont July 14, I performed a quick gathering of supplies for Part 1 of the summer’s goals: the Long Trail…