Monday, February 6, 2017

Big Girl Winter Hiking


Again this weekend I wasn't supposed to have the kids but that changed to I would have them until Saturday morning. This sort of derails by mental game a little because I will drop my plan in a second if I have to for them but I decided to gingerly proceed with my plan. I wanted to leave super early again so I would have the beautiful morning sun and the maximum daylight. I think I left just before 5am.
I did a little investigation but really didn't find much Winter info on Mount Greylock. I asked in a Mass. hiking group I am in with out much response so I watched the weather reports for the Summit, picked up a new jacket and packed extra clothes and hot food. Shit, I'm just doing it.
The weather looked great but there seemed to be a possibility for wind at the Summit. Also as you can see there was a decent cloud cover at the Summit. The parking lots on West Mountain Road were open and plowed clear. I was the only car at the Cheshire lot when I arrived. There was snow on the ground but not much so just past this sign at almost 9am I put on my micro spikes and headed into the woods.
The Cheshire Harbor trail was one of the most direct routes to the Summit with an estimate round trip of about 6.5 miles. This is a long trip for me currently and I wasn't sure what I would find at the top with the wind estimate at 35mph. Luckily I had gained a nice bit of information about a shelter where I could take a break if needed.
The trail was loose packed by previous snowmobile traffic but I never encountered on one this trail. The snow and sun were beautiful and the trail switch backed a few times so the grade was never more than a steady trek.

At this sign the snowmobile tracks took a hairpin left and I took a right on a more boot friendly trail. This was a mile in at the first intersection. Another half mile or so I came to this sign. Huh? I think I might need this route if I decide to descend the Gould trail. Doesn't exactly look too user friendly now does it?

A couple miles up and I come to a road. Now I can walk the road or I can travel on the World Famous Appalachian Trail. You know there isn't a choice here right? I stripped off my spikes and put on my snowshoes because it doesn't look like anyone has traveled here recently.
I soon will admit I should have stayed with what I had because the shoes now feel clumsy and at one point I have a little grade to take maybe 3 steps up and my left shoe pops right off. Just as I call out Shit! I stop to fix it and a man comes silently up behind.
"Oh Hi, I didn't think I would see anyone else on this Mountain today." He came up the Money Brook Trail as he is from Albany. We share some chat and he is on his way.
I curse and get my snowshoe back on. Can I add I am getting tired, need to pee and thinking about lunch at this point.
There is another road crossing letting me know I only have .4 miles to Summit. This little 3/4 mile on the AT is almost the best part as it is closed in and the trees are heavy with snow. The sun is still bright but you can see the grey up ahead. The next photo is the road to the Summit and I swear it just looked like you could drive to Heaven. I don't think the picture does it justice as usual.






When I finally emerged from the woods I was behind a barn like structure with a giant antennae. There were 3 toilets but each had about an inch of ice on the stoop so the doors couldn't be opened.
This was the money shot for sure. It is now about 11:25 so I have been hiking for about 2.5 hours and I am pretty cold.

I decided to go right by the memorial in search of views and the Thunderbolt Shelter. I was happy to find it tucked down off the far left corner of the parking lot.

I wasn't exactly happy to open the door and be hit with the strong odor of beer. One of the stoves had empty beer cans and the floor had some random nips. Sadly, I am not surprised assholes are everywhere now a days. This shelter had windows all the way around but most were covered with ice so you couldn't see out. There were 4 wood stoves and 4 benches coming from a center chimney. The sign explained it was an emergency shelter but I was thinking a fire would have been nice at this point. There were pieces of firewood and large branches strewn about as if someone had shared my idea.
I decided to make a hot meal as I needed to warm up and I figured I could use the energy to get back down. The stove fired up fine and had water boiling in no time. While my Beef Stroganoff re-hydrated I heated up some coffee. I was soon joined by a couple who were skiing the area and they told me I was the only hiker they had seen all day. Then a group of 3 with 2 of the coolest and most energetic dogs came in for a rest and some water.
Before setting out again I decided to make some changes to help me stay warm. My hands were really the only big worry. I need to make a bigger investment in hand warmers for both hands and pockets. The butt is basically a Popsicle at this point.
I changed socks. Believe it or not I think my socks were too thick and my feet were sweating then in turn freezing. I love this new North Face hat but again all the work on the way up I was sweating so I hung it on my water bottle holder thinking it would dry out. Now I found it frozen. Same with the gloves I was wearing. Luckily I had thinner wool socks, 2 more options for gloves and a lighter hat.
And away we go.


Isn't that the coolest cloud ever? Yeah, I took this photo out in from of the Monument at record speed without much admiring. The front looked so beautiful but the back side looks a little like Antarctica with the grey looming clouds behind it.

I followed the path to the Bascom Lodge. It looked so grand on the website but more fitting to my expectations when I saw it. The snow drifted up to the door didn't help it's welcome factor. Anyone else thinking about The Shinning right about now?
The sky wasn't looking friendly either so I decided to get going. I came to the entrance to the Gould trail and after consulting my map I decided this would work. I could see a different route then cut back over to Cheshire to reach my car. Gould as it turns out ends down the road a ways from where I parked.
2 snow mobiles could be heard speeding up the road so I got out of their way and onto the trail. I wasn't walking long before I decided that this would be a great Summer trail. Small and wooded ( I know they are all wooded but I like close woods)
Again these trails are well blazed and good signage. I love markers with mileage as well.


Okay, now get your popcorn because this is where is gets interesting. So according to the map this is the trail I need to get back to the Cheshire Harbor Trail. I romanticize it a little thinking here I am on the road less traveled. Not a foot print in sight. The trail is excellently marked. You could see blue blazes frequently which is also good because in places I was thinking if not for them I would be lost. No well worn path here.

So I am sure that these photos DO NOT depict the actual grade of this. Let me point out I clearly need to work on my vocabulary-RAVINE was clearly stated on the sign. Now I have micro spikes on but I am having difficulty staying on tail. They aren't holding and the grade is steep. I am concerned as well about my frozen bum but have heard so much about butt sledding I figure it is the only way down. I sort of slide from tree to tree as I really didn't want to go speeding down to the water below. Now I am down and thinking that wasn't so bad.
I look ahead for the blazes which seem to go along the brook and cross it. Seems easy enough right?
Well the rest of this story you will have to use your imagination because I did not take an photos.
The below photo is the trail. It basically goes straight up the middle. The grade doesn't look like much all I can say is every time I got about 4-5 feet up I would slide back down. This occurred twice until I got behind that tree that you see on the right. Like behind as in it held me from sliding back down to the brook. So after 3 or 4 more attempts I needed a different route and I wasn't really wanting to go back the way I came because that was so steep I slide down.
To the right out of this photo was a large tree laying down. I literally crawled up using that tree as an anchor. Once to the top I crawled and used small trees until I got to some patches without snow and just leaves. Guess what that was? A brook. So yes I had a little more traction but I was sinking in the leaves until the water/mud was over toes of my boots. As a side note, this whole time my feet were dry and warm.
So I am balancing and dragging my ass up this hill and you want to know the 3 things on my mind?
1. I really just want to go home now.....that one was repeated a few times.
2. I am sorry for the damage I might be causing to plants and baby trees. I reminded myself the branches that didn't hold me and snapped were pretty dead already but that is not what hiking is supposed to be. You are supposed to leave no trace.
3. I never like to be off trail! I am not sure I will ever be a "bushwhacker" and if you are lost you really are never supposed to be off trail-LIKE NEVER!
Finally I make it to the top and I stop and drink, eat something and catch my breathe. I'm tired and just as an add I did all of this with a 25lb pack on.
So I knew that the blazes had run a diagonal to my left and I essentially went straight up so I started to make my way left. Eyes searching for that bright blue blaze and after about 2-4 minutes I was back on the trail. Surprisingly I was back to the Cheshire junction shortly after as well.

Beautiful ravine isn't it? I mean it really was and the trail wasn't even that long if I had maybe remembered my CRAMPONS! Idiot. I was thinking crampons for big ice, you don't need to blow this out of proportion.  Also hadn't occurred to me to put my snow shoes back on. They aren't big hefty MSR's for ascending mountains so I just remembered what the woman in my AMC class said-Oh, those are for recreation. Maybe I could have just tried them once.
Live and learn right?
So as I exited this trail and back to the wide snowmobile track I am not going to lie, I said a big fuck you to Peck's Ravine. You thought you were going to bust my ass but I do not think so.
I will be back in the Summer to see you in all your glory, drink from your brook and listen to the birds chirp while I eat my lunch because in fact I believe it will be one of the more beautiful places at Greylock.
Random twisted tree because after all that adrenalin I need to get back to why I come to these places. Mother Nature amazes me for one. And for two, because I can. I never could have imagined that I could travel miles by foot carrying (almost) everything I need to care for myself for a day or more.
An integral part to this whole hiking gig is to locate a diner or home cooking establishment because I am the poster child for Hiker Hunger. I generally eat and then eat again on my way home. Izzy's was kind enough to pack a doggy bag for the ride.
The entire trip up I was thinking about the possibility of something happening. I mean it could happen on any trip. Winter sure makes the issues more dangerous. A night out in August with your emergency blanket is one thing. A night out when it is 10-15 is a whole different ball game.
So be safe, learn and be better next time and always have fun.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Early morning at Blue Hills

I do have this interest in getting my boots on the trail to see the sun rise. I got a little closer Sunday but my bed was so comfortable. Lilly and I left the house about 6:30 and I did get to see the moon over the Train Bridge and the brightening sky towards the Sagamore. 
After we trucked up and over the first hill the feeling of the sun just waking up was great. 





This little rock scramble is hard to see clearly but the top photo is from the bottle looking up and the bottom is looking back down. It's hard to see but due to the recent snow, melt and drop in temperature it was almost like a little ice waterfall down the center.
This portion of the trail had a few places like this so Lilly wasn't on a leash. I needed to use both hands and she was getting caught up so it seemed more dangerous. This allowed her to find her own way up rocks.
Unfortunately this little scramble below kicked her ass. She literally almost slid off it and I had to grab her by the harness. While trying to get her turned around and directed up the channel that didn't have ice and keep my own footing I let go of her and she ran back down.
I climbed up and directed her on the other side safely up.



I was very worried this was enough to end our trip but we were at least a mile from the car so I helped her up the next few  steps and we took a break at the Tower. Shared some water and cheese and she laid down while I climbed up to get some pictures of the view.









After consulting the map I found a flatter route back to the car that would keep us off the Skyline trail with all the rock scrambles and stone steps.
Funny but when the Blue blazed trail crossed ours she would stop and look like shouldn't we be going this way and I would explain that old ladies need a break sometimes.

Ice, Ice Baby

I am itchy to get out. Did I mention that in the last post?
Well maybe it was the last hike that made it worse. I am also trying to be safe and smart. Winter isn't ust a walk in the woods especially when you venture over the Bridge.
A funny side story-A non-hiking friend tells me I thought I had a hike suggestion for you but it turns out it is like 10 minutes long and for 5 year olds. Hmm, Sometimes I am 5, talk to me.
He says Mount major is supposed to be a good hike. I know the views from the View point are great. ( The view point is a little turn off on the side of the road that faces the lake)
So I start to do a little homework. As it turns out this 5 year's hike is a basic 3.8 mile lollipop loop. It has some trails off of it to other non-view Summits if you want to get crazy but the view from the Summit of Major is supposed to be great.
I'm a sucker for a great view.
I also want to be safe so a 5 year old's hike is exactly what I need. Don't want to be all crazy on Mount Washington just yet.
A few days before I plan to leave I find out I will have my kids but my sister graciously volunteers to take the kids bowling and says-GO!
I want maximum time in the woods but still want to be a good Mama so I leave my house at about 4:15am Saturday and go straight through Boston. Quickest route. I am at the Zakum Bridge by 5am and trail head by 7am.
 This little nugget of information was posted on the map board. It was a great description of the trails. I took a photo and read it at the forks to help make the decision. When I headed out I was the sole car in the lot. The sun was like a baby just waking up with sleepy eyes. It was about 32 in the lot and clouds were breaking up to show blue sky.

  I decided to go up blue. It looked like the tougher trail and I had microspikes on almost from the parking lot so if I was going to have a tough time I would rather be going up than trying to come down a steep trail.
I do not think you  can clearly see but far up the hill are beautiful frozen water falls of ice. I think this is the trail but the blue blazes are few and far between. The trees that so have them are almost worn off. The picture to the right below has a blaze. No, really it does, look close. Seriously if it hadn't been for a mild frozen track I would have had a very slow go of it.

 Luckily the trail swung left and around those rocks above but none of it was ice free. The picture below is another place where the blaze was confusing and I stood for a minute or two thinking I can't be going that way?!?
Luckily after hunting with my eyes I saw a blue blaze to my left and the trail took an hairpin turn away from this view but places looked this icy and they were the trail and they went up.
 My poles were almost useless on some of the inclines as they just slipped away but surprisingly the spikes held me. I learned not to side step but just climb straight up and step firm. It made for more noise than I am used to but the crunching was worth the safety for sure.

After a particular tough ascent I stopped to catch my breath and turned around to get a picture of the trail I had safety maneuvered and was shocked. At times like this I am glad I am alone because I would be embarrassed by my own reactions but I just laughed out loud and said-Holy Fuck, that is awesome.
 I went back to work following the trail after this with more time in and out of the trees, keeping a vigilant eye for the blazes. I didn't get a picture but at the beginning of this trail there was a pretty stern warning about people easily getting lost and that it would be my responsibility if I needed rescue.
 Just shy of the Summit I could feel the wind pick up so I stopped and put on a fleece and my heavier hat but left the thin running gloves on because I could still do shit with them. I crested the Summit and was in awe. Beautiful all the way around. I took a video and some photos. Quickly I could feel pain in my hands so I checked out a few cairns and this structure for a Summit marker and then just headed towards the yellow/blue blaze. My hands were hurting pretty bad so as soon as I got behind a tree I dug out a couple hand warmers and my big gloves. The rest of my temperature seemed okay but I didn't want to have a hand issue. I figured I could look up the meaning of this rock foundation at home.


 In little time I was tucked back in the woods. Now I was headed down but at a more gradual grade. Being careful but learning to trust the spikes more and more.  Again not sure you will get the true gist but below is ice with rocks poking out. They had some snow overnight in this area so there was also a slight amount of granulated snow on top which along with the early morning made travel pretty good in my opinion.
 A short time later I came to a fork in the trail. A little ways down the trail on my left was a big sign firmly stating THIS ISN'T THE TRAIL TO THE PARKING LOT AND ROUTE 11.
Ok then. We go from squinting for a blue blaze to a stern talking to. As it turns out this trail would bring you over 5 Summits and 12 miles and I guess they wanted it to be clear. I considered a little side trip but I also knew it had no views ( thanks again to the info on the parking lot kiosk) so I kept right on the Brook Trail.
 I love a brook and the sound of water. I also like funky trees.
 I have yet to have had this many water crossings. This was the largest at maybe 15 feet across. Mostly you could go rock to rock or step on leaves piled up and thank God you have waterproof boots.

 I made it back to the car about 9:40. Passed 3 people towards the end just getting started and shared some trail info with 2 women headed on the Belknap Range Trail (Otherwise known as the "stern warning trail").
The lot had about a dozen cars by the time I was off loading my pack. A little aggravated to see 2 groups of teens/20 year olds with sneakers and Dunkin' Donuts cups head off into the woods but hey Hike your own hike right?
I was in the neighborhood of a friend so he met me at the Good and Plenty Diner for a fantastic breakfast to kill this hiker hunger.
Now you would think this was a terrifically full day but it was really only about noon so I hooked up with my girls at Ikea in Braintree for some shopping.
Step goal toast!









Race Results

09/07/07 Main Street Mile 11:44
05/18/08 YPD 5k 52:57 17:05
06/14/08 Walpole Village 5K 35:27 11:26
06/21/08 Mashpee Fun Run 34:21 11:05
07/19/08 Mashpee Woodlands 36.49 11:52
08/10/08 Falmouth Road Race 1:29:31
08/25/08 Women Running Wild 35:40 11:30
10/25/08 Mashpee Firefighters 37:47 12:10
05/02/09 Cape Abilities 5K 34:59 11:17
05/17/09 YPD 5K 36:41 11:50
08/09/09 Falmouth Road Race 7mi 1:37
10/31/09 Mashpee Firefighters 5K 37:15 12:00
09/11/11 Main Street Mile 12:31
10/29/11 Screech to the Beach 5K 39.13 12:20
08/12/12 Falmouth Road Race 1:34:24 13:29
05/18/14 YPD 5k 44.25 14:17
06/1/14 June Jog 4mi 1:04 16:00
08/17/14 Falmouth Road Race 1:42:04 14:35
09/27/14 Girly Girl 5K 37:24 12:02
10/26/14 Pell Bridge Run 4mi 48:41 12:10
11/27/14 Turkey Trot in VA 5K 35:22 11:23
12/06/14 Jingle Jog 5K 34:42 11:11
03/29/15 Thomas Guinta Memorial 5K 34:14 11:03
04/19/15 St. Margaret's 5K 31:11 10:21
05/17/15 YPD Blues 5K 34:58 11:17
06/07/15 Newport 10 Miler 1:56:09 11:36
06/20/15 Mackenzie's 5K 33:55 10:54
08/17/14 Falmouth Road Race 1:33:51 13:24
10/31/15 Screech at the Beach 36:19 11:40