Monday, December 8, 2014

Redlining Complete!

photo taken in Zion National Park, Nov '14, NOT White Mtns!

On November 29 I completed "redlining" the White Mountain Guide, 29th edition, which means I have now traversed all 608 trails and 1440.4 miles covered in the guide book.  Punctuated by numerous fits and starts and a 6-year hiatus while living in California, for the past 25 years or so I have been half-heartedly pursuing this list... or "keeping track" at least.  This past May I finally printed off the list and decided to tackle the last ~300 miles and ~200 trails once and for all. My intention was never to finish by year's end (as evidenced by some of the goofy trails that were left for last) but somehow it got down to the last 75 miles, then 50, then 25... such that the miles got too low not to finish!  For me, the joy is always in the journey, so I am kind of sad that it's over now.

Most of the trails were interesting and fun, and I really truly enjoyed every single one of them, even giggling at the absurdity of the hobblebush whack that was Three Ponds Trail and the "blazed bushwhack" that was Middle Mountain Trail in Shelburne. I enjoyed exploring the WMNF beyond the heavily trodden 4000 footers. The only thing I did not enjoy was all the driving which is why I tried to be as efficient as possible when tackling a particular area - for example,  covering 25 miles on Chocorua in one day, 31 miles around Ferncroft on another, and a few overnights in the Evans Notch-Speckled Mountain area.

Once deciding to pursue finishing the list, my first hikes were Peaked Hill Pond, Stinson Mountain, and Rattlesnake Mountain (Rumney) on May 13. Between then and November 29, I covered 309 redlining miles and 196 redlining trails. Total mileage required between May 13 and Nov 29 solely for redlining purposes - not including other, nonredlining hikes- was 566 miles (and countless other trails).

Some highlights of the last 196 trails:

Favorite hike: Bicknell Ridge-Emerald Pool-Baldface Circle-Baldface Knob-Chandler Gorge-Slippery Brook loop on Sept. 30. Spectacular display of foliage in Wild River Valley. One of my all-time favorite hikes anywhere!
Least favorite trail: Cold Brook Trail because it's mostly an unmarked road walk - boo.
Pleasant surprises: (Much more enjoyable than expected) southern Pemi Trail, Red Rock Trail, Mill Brook Trail, Black Cap, lower East Branch Trail.
Most hobblebush: Three Ponds "Trail" (bring navigational aids!)
Most miles hiked for least redline miles: Grafton Loop (west) Trail, 17-18 miles for 0.3 campsite spur redline miles. Also opted for a Mahoosuc Traverse in order to claim Trident Col Campsite Spur, 31 miles for 0.2 redline miles.
Amazing ledges: Iron Mountain and East Knob of Red Rock Mountain!!
Best via ferrata: The Eyebrow
Wildlife sightings: Large bear on Scudder Trail, June 11. Large snapping turtle, a first!, on Bickford Brook Trail, June 19. Very territorial, tail-slapping beaver at Fourth Connecticut Lake, June 29. Mama and baby moose at Mountain Pond, October 30. Many, many crazy grouse that seem to get their kicks by charging me.
Best blueberry pickin': Speckled Mountain on July 17 and Albany Mountain on July 22.
Trails I can't believe I'd never done: Champney Falls, Doublehead Mountain, Cathedral and Whitehorse Ledge trails.

I'd planned to finish on Diamond Peaks Trail in honor of Jadwiga Rosenthal, the first female redliner, since that was the trail she finished on, but due to weather and logistical factors it ended up being third from last. A very good friend of mine has a 35-year-old annual tradition of hiking Mt. Washington the Saturday after Thanksgiving. With imminent winter weather, we wanted to snag The Eyebrow during the last good window (talk about getting lucky last Wed pre-storm!). Since Diamond Peaks and Magalloway River Trails were sort of in the neighborhood, we combined them w/Eyebrow and opted to do Southside Trail with the annual Mt. Washington trip.

The Mt. Washington Observatory's weather forecast for Saturday called for cold temps and some wind in the 20s but also for clear, sunny skies and that made all the difference! As our group of nine reached the Lion Head-Alpine Garden Junction, Chris and I headed for Tuckerman Junction while the others climbed to the summit. Coming off the Lion Head highway, footing on western Alpine Garden, upper Tuckerman and Southside was rather treacherous - an unpredictable combo of styrofoam, soft, and hardpacked snow with frequent postholing onto hidden rocks. Poles were a godsend but we could have also used snowshoes here! As we neared Tuckerman Junction, the wind picked up over the lip, and we headed straight into it, still traversing the ankle-twisting mine field of a trail such that it was. Finally I tagged the sign, laughingly raised my arms for a photo, turned around, and got the heck outa there!

Huge thanks to Chris for indulging me in this endeavor, for selflessly acting as taxi driver so that my out-and-backs were few, and for being such a good sport and trail companion. 

Onto the next thing...!!