Monday, June 9, 2014

Day Hiker Extraordinaire

I'm sad to say that I haven't slept outside in several months.  I still hike frequently, generally every weekend but at the end of each day there's the car, the long drive home and the hot shower.  It's a very different mentality from through hiking.  Rather than a vague number of days to reach a road for a hitchhike with innumerable campsites in between, now I need a set course, a turnaround time, and time allotted for travel has to be incorporated.  Want to go for a 20 mile day hike? Better be up driving by 5 am and you won't be home until at least nine pm.  If it's winter, you'll be in the dark.

The other big change has been hiking with the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).  When I returned to "normal" life in my new city of Boston, I decided to make my outdoorsey activities more social.  AMC had a volunteer run winter hiking and backpacking program starting about a week after I began my new job, so I signed up.  I already knew most of what they were teaching but it was a good way to meet some folks and do some hikes I wouldn't have done solo.  The course culminated in an above treeline workshop with a winter summit of the highest peak in the northeast - Mount Washington.  We used crampons and ice axes to work our way up the remarkably steep Lion's Head route, then up to the summit in 40-50 mph winds but at a balmy 20 degrees.
Summit of Mount Washington in February

Afterwards, I hiked with an old friend-of-a-friend on a moosileake ski in and hike up and Osceola summit.  I alternated my time between winter hiking, XC skiing and snow biking on my new 4-inch wide tire'd fat bike - a Surley Pugsley.  This was an excellent winter for XC skiing, we had a solid month of weekly snow storms to build a solid base of snow and create perfect skiing conditions on the weekends. No fun for driving to work during the week but perfect for skiing!

By early May the snow began to melt and hiking up north meant post holing a slushy monorail all day, which is no fun so I kept to some lower elevation hikes.  I took the spring leadership class through the AMC and can now co-lead hikes, basically assist the leader with logistics and help make sure no one gets lost. One of the AMC leaders I had met, Pam invited me to a few hikes afterwards too.  We ate sandwiches (and lasagna) on the sandwich range and a week or two later did 12 out of 13 mini-peaks on an 18 mile day in the Belknap range.  I then co-led my first AMC hike with Pam and a few other leaders up Mt. Cannon in the White's.  It was a beginner hike, so we took the "fast" group and it was nice to see people who are new to hiking enjoying a perfect day up to their first 4,000 foot summit.
View of Franconia Ridge from part way up Cannon

Last weekend brought another, bigger, AMC day hike.  I originally hiked the northern 13 miles or so of the Wapack trail and back as a training hike for my PCT through hike but missed the southern 9 miles or so.  A while back I saw a trip listing with the AMC for a full day traverse - 21.4 miles and about 5,000 feet of climbing.  A single traverse like that isn't easy solo since you have to get back to your car somehow. Camping isn't allowed along the Wapack, except at the middle in a lean-to at my favorite XC ski spot which makes a two day out-n-back too long.  The single day traverse went well, and as usual there was the typical range of hiking speeds in our group of 12.  It seems no matter how accurate the trip description there are always a few who bite off a little more than they can chew, but there's nothing wrong with that if they don't mind losing the ability to walk the next day.  We had a slow start with too many breaks at the beginning but eventually things sped up after most of the climbing was done over North Pack Monadnock. I finished with the lead group at around 7 PM but we were waiting until 7:45 for the rest.  It was a good hike and I even met an AT 2012 through hiker who's aspiring to do the PCT in 2015, so it was fun nerding out about the PCT with her.

The Wapack was perfect training for this weekends big day hike - a Presidential Traverse.  We'll be going over 10 of the Presidentials in a 20.6 mile hike with 8,600 feet of elevation gain.  That may actually be more elevation than my biggest days on the PCT, which seemed to top out around 7,000 feet in a day but had more miles.  This is a highlight of hiking in the White's and I have barely spent any time in the Presi's, so I'm looking forward to it.

I don't plan on staying a day hiker for very long though.  I'm planning an overnight trip with a friend and another solo trip both in the Whites.  The next big trip is right around the corner as well...

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