Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fun Building a Model Car and How it Relates to the New Hampshire Wilderness!

One of my buddies and I recently found that we both shared in a childhood hobby, building model cars! After discussing it for a while, and really getting excited about what we did so many years prior, we decided to dust of our modeling skills and have a car model build-off! The first model we are doing is one that he picked out. It's a 1940 Ford Panel Truck. It's a three in one kit, which means it comes with enough parts to make it stock, street rod or drag.

So how does this relate back to the New Hampshire wilderness or to this blog you ask? Well, I decided to try to make it look like a New Hampshire Forest Ranger's truck from that time period. Now, please understand, I have no idea what a NH Ranger's truck would look like in 1940 or if there even were Forest Rangers back then. I did this for fun and fun alone. In no way am I claiming any sort of historical accuracy!

I tried to make it look beat up and rusty from what may have been caused from driving it on dirt and salt covered mountain roads in the winter. Also, I made the decals look hand painted (which was obviously easier than using stencils) as I would have thought there would have been few of these vehicles and would have been labeled with a paint brush and paint can. One thing I did do, which was a customization, was adding spark plug wires to the motor. These are simple wires from an Ethernet cord which I inserted into the engine flatheads (after drilling holes in them). 

Let me know what you think!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Doubleheads with a Good Friend! Jackson, NH 05-20-13

The Doubleheads in Jackson, NH have always been a fascinating set of mountains for me. I’ve always wanted to hike them but can’t really recall what gave me that itch. Maybe it was just the fact that they were in Jackson. I recall the first time I was able to pinpoint them from a higher elevation. It was on the Lion Head Trail while hiking Mount Washington. They were perfectly shaped mountains. Not too pointy or too round. They looked like perfect twins in the distance…and they were in my favorite New Hampshire town!

Sign at the Doublehead Ski Trailhead

 The Doubleheads, as seen from the Lion Head Trail on Mount Washington in 2011

Everyone I’ve spoken to with regards to hiking them always said the same thing, “it’s a steep hike”! How steep could it really be, though? Could it be as bad as the Flume Slide Trail or the upper portion of the Holt Trail on Cardigan? Both of those are steep, but also tough due to rock scrambling. What about Mount Tecumseh Trail? The upper portion of that trail is steep too, covered with rocks and pretty much the same scenery all the way up. I’ve been on these trails and I would have expected the Doubleheads to be similar or less trying…so how bad could it be??? Well, let me tell you, it was bad!

My buddy Alex is having a baby soon (well, his wife is, but he’s certainly involved), as well as starting a new job next week. He was able to work in a little time off before the craziness begins so I decided to recruit him to do some hiking with me. Since I hadn’t been to the Whites for a while, I chose the Doubleheads as a good candidate to reintroduce my endurance to hiking. Alex agreed it would be a good spring hike and we set a date to tackle them.

We started our trip off at one of my favorite breakfast cafes, The Big Bean Cafe in Newmarket, NH. That great breakfast energized us and we grabbed a couple of fresh smoothies for the ride (they make the best smoothies!!!). The drive was a little concerning since it was cloudy most of the way and started to rain pretty hard when we got to Conway. We were thinking we may be rained out but when we hit the trailhead, the sun started to break through the clouds.

Private Road at Trailhead Parking

Ski Trail Exiting from Private Way on Right

Hikers Welcome!

Our original plan was to head up the New Path which ascends South Doublehead, and it  eventually meets ups with the Old Path. From there, we were going to head to the summit of North Doublehead, then backtrack to the col, and descend via the Old Path to the Doublehead Ski Trail (which welcomes hikers). From the the Doublehead Ski Trailhead, we were going to hoof it back to the New Path’s trailhead, 0.5 miles south on Dundee Road. However, when we got there, we realized the Doublehead Ski Trailhead is downhill from the New Path trailhead. Therefore, it made sense to do the loop in the reverse direction than what we had originally planned.

Hobblebush Flowers

The parking area is at the beginning of a private road and is large enough for approximately four cars. We geared up quickly, making sure we had enough bug spray to keep the lingering black flies and mosquitoes away after the earlier rain came through. We headed down the private road for a very short distance before there was a sign for the Doublehead Ski Trail exiting on the right. The sign indicated that the trail welcomed hikers, but users of the trail should keep in mind it is a ski trail and respect it as such.

Painted Trillium

Trout Lily Buds

Right away, a few steps into the trail, I noticed my favorite wildflower in full bloom, the Hobblebush. Jim Salge once told me, (or I read on his blog, can’t recall now) that the larger flowers on the perimeter of the cluster are actually “dummy” flowers and can’t be used for pollinating. They are actually there to attract bees for the smaller flowers in the middle. This is amazing to me. Two completely different flowers budding from the same plant and one is literally just a decoy!

Toad Number 1
Toad Number 2

The Doublehead Ski Trail was pretty muddy and waterlogged, but certainly nothing that wasn’t easy to make our way through. The first 0.6 miles went by very fast as we discussed things friends discuss, while admiring Painted Trilliums, White Violets, Trout Lillies (buds, not opened yet) and some hopping toads! We finally came to a junction where the Old Path trail went right and the Doublehead Ski Trail continued left. We took some photo ops at the trail sign and then we were off again.

Here Moosy, Moosy, Moosy! Moose Print!

As soon as we got onto to the Old Path, the trail conditions changed dramatically. We went from a nice wide trail that we could hike two abreast to one that was barely wide enough for one. Also, the moderate grade we had made such great time on was GONE! This trail was steep…I mean close to straight up…and it was brutal! This steepness was consistent for 0.6 miles and did not let up until we met the junction with the New Path at the top of the ridge in the col. There, we saw the first Purple Trillium’s of the day, which made the grueling steepness worth it.

Hobblebush Leaves!

Purple Trillium

We hung a left at this junction and continued on the Old Path. It was not long before that flat, ridge walk turned into the last, very steep (again) 0.3 miles to the North Doublehead summit. Just before the summit, we did find a small cairn, where there was a small spur path to an outlook. We followed it for a few hundred feet, but the path disappeared on us, with no viewpoint in site. So, we continued onto the summit.

 Hobblebush Again!

 Doublehead Ski Cabin on the Summit of North Doublehead

Sign on the Doublehead Ski Cabin

The Old Path trail leveled off very quickly and a log cabin appeared. It was the Doublehead Cabin, built in the 1930’s around the same time that the Doublehead Ski Trail was blazed. We noticed there were some heads moving around inside and found there were a few guys from Chicago staying in the cabin for a few nights. After chatting with them for a while, we worked our way around the back of the cabin to a viewpoint to the north. We had a quick snack there while watched fast moving fog move in and out of the valleys. After just a short time, the bugs motivated us to get moving again.

View from North Doublehead Summit, with the Fog Rolling Through

Some Little Pine Cones

We headed back down to the col and continued straight onto to the New Path and toward South Doublehead. The climb was by no means as steep as what we had endured previously. 0.2 miles after the col junction, we made our way onto a fantastic ledge with wide views to the west, which spanned from Carter Notch all the way down to South Moat and Kearsarge, North. The sun had made its way out with a few lingering clouds and view was spectacular. We thought this was a perfect place to drop our packs, eat some lunch, drink some coffee and soak in the views!

Black Mountain Ski Mountain

Carter Notch Emerging from the Clouds

After a long rest, Alex and I continued south on the New Path. We soon came to a trail sign which had been knocked to the ground. It didn’t look like a junction to us, but rather a sign letting people know the mileage to the different junctions and summits. We continued straight as we thought this was still the New Path. We soon came to what we thought may have been the summit. A large cairn marked the area with good views. We continued on further and came to “another” summit with two large cairns! I recall reading in the White Mountain Guide that there was as spur path that brings you over two knobs on South Doublehead with great views. I immediately thought this must be what we were on. That lead to the next question…where did we miss the trail turnoff!!!

New Path Sign Knocked Over...This is when we started getting lost!

Cairn on first knob on South Doublehead!

View over to the Moats and Cathedral Ledge

We turned around and double backed to the trail sign that was on the ground. We continued to look around and could not find a trail. We finally looked to our west, since that’s the direction the map told us we should go and made out what “might” be a trail. However, if it was, it was not heavily used! We continued down this path for a short distance and soon found that it must be the trail.

 My Buddy Alex and I on South Doublehead!

 Double Cairns on the Second Knob of South Doublehead!

 Look back on North Doublehead

Carter Notch Again

Remember when I said the Old Path was brutal and steep. The New Path was worse! I think it was steeper, had more slippery roots and did not have any blazes. Alex and I lost the trail multiple times. Also, it looked like it hadn’t been maintained in years, as washouts and mini-landslides had destroyed some sections. On one portion of the trail, there is a wide ledge. Heading down, it’s not clear which direction to go on the far side of the ledge. While looking around for the exit, I slipped and fell pretty hard on the slab. Again, something that I feel could have been avoided with some blazes, markers or cairns…I was very annoyed at this point.

Fire Tower on Kearsarge, North

Washed out New Path Trail

Historical Stonewall near the bottom of the New Path

After an extremely difficult and painful (literally) descent, Alex and I made it to the point where the terrain leveled off. It was finally easy going…but then, we had to dodge dog poop!!! Apparently, and this is just a suspicion on my part since we heard dogs barking form nearby dwellings, someone in the area must routinely walk there dog on the lower portion of the trail. This was not just one occurrence. We had to dodge twenty or more I would say. Needless to say, the New Path was not all that enjoyable for a descent. We did finally make it to Dundee Road, from which we headed back to the car for a relaxing beverage.

 Purple Violet

New Path Trailhead Sign

This was a memorable hike because I had wanted to do it for so long and even though I had been told it was steep, I did not expect it to be as difficult as it was. Quite frankly, it kicked my butt! Regardless of the steepness, one foot in front of the other did get us to the summit. We saw some great wildflowers and some toads. We also got to explore some trails we had never seen before and made a loop out of it, even getting lost at times. However, the best part of the day was spending it with a friend that I have not hiked with in a very long time. Hiking in the Whites is therapeutic when with a friend. You can catch up on what’s new and where you’re heading in life, while also reliving glory days that your everyday thought’s have forgotten. That’s exactly what Alex and I did, and I look forward to doing again on another mountain in the very near future.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Lylah's First Hike With Her Own Two Feet!!! Stratham Hill Park

We were pretty busy this past weekend, but managed to get outside a bit. I started the weekend off with a 4.5 mile run on Friday afternoon, which I had miscalculated the miles for as I had only planned on running 3.25 miles. The extra mileage was tough for me, but I felt good after accomplishing it. On Sunday morning, I decided to get back out for another run. This time, I took the baby in the BOB stroller. She was much more excited than I was and after I got her all bundled up and started up the driveway, she started yelling, “We’re running, we’re running”. That of course put a smile on my face and motivated me to run 2.5 miles. I must say, pushing the stroller up hills while running, definitely adds to the workout.

My little munchkin hiking, for the first time!

Later Sunday afternoon, Jill and I decided to bring Lylah to the park. I had noticed recently that one of my favorite outdoor locations, Stratham Hill Park, actually had a small playground. So, we brought Lylah there as we didn’t believe it would be that crowded on a Sunday. It wasn’t crowded at all and she had a blast sliding down the big slide and swinging on the swings. We didn’t have plans to climb the hill, but I figured I’d ask Lylah if she wanted to go to the top. I was surprised when she said, “yeah”, although I don’t really know if she knew what I was asking her. She answers “yeah” to just about any question these days. What was most astonishing was that she voluntarily walked away from the swings.

The Lincoln Trailhead

Trailhead Sign

Jill and I started up the Lincoln Trail which is gravel covered, but nicely graded. Near the beginning of the trail, I spotted a wildflower and decided to put Lylah down to snap a shot. You see, I had just assumed we’d have to carry her up the hill since she still pretty little, and under two years of age. However, as soon as we let her down, she started marching right up the trail. She’d stop every now and then to pick up a rock that she thought was pretty, but for the most part, she seemed more determined than Jill and I to get to the top. It was really amazing to see the munchkin walk steadily uphill and it was great to see her having so much fun while she was doing it. She had a smile on from beginning to end!

 The munchkin again!

 Wood Anemone

Not sure what kind of flower this is. If anyone knows, please comment.

View of the fire tower as the trail flattens out.

When we started to peak over the top, the fire tower came into sight. It looks as though they’ve recently put a new roof on it and painted it. I also notice they have a new dish antenna on the side, which is much more noticeable than the other antennas that have always been there. I brought Lylah to the top and she seemed to love the views. She wanted to get down and walk around, so I let her…but kept a strong grip of her so that she couldn’t get near the sides. The trip down the tower was a bit nerve racking. At that point, my little “almost two year old” wanted to get down and do the stairs herself. She was squirming all (and whining). Those stairs are small and steep and it was tough getting down them with her acting like that. I finally made it, however, and we decided to head down Stratham Hill. Not before we got a good summit/foot shot on the USGS Benchmark, though!

Fire Tower, looking great after a paint job and a new roof!

Lylah having fun on the landmark-mileage finder...probably not for standing on, but I don't think she hurt anything!

Jill, Lylah and I headed down the back side of the hill, which isn’t so steep. I figured that would be better for her since she seems to build up momentum that she can’t stop on steep, down hills. When we got to the bottom, she headed right back for the swings and slide. We let her play for another 20 minutes or so and then told her we had to go. That’s when we got the attitude because she didn’t want leave. I won’t bore you with the details of her little tantrum!

Having fun on the swings after an exhausting hike!

I can’t tell you how excited and proud I was of Miss Lylah on Sunday. I didn’t think she was old enough to climb a steep (for her size) hill, but she did so very well. She really dominated that tiny mountain. It gave me a good outlook on a couple things. I always worry that she won’t like hiking. If she doesn’t, I’m fine with that. I want her to be happy doing whatever she wants to do. But I would obviously love for her to love hiking, because I hope we can spend time day hiking together…until she’s a young teenager at least, at which time she’ll be “way too cool” to spend time with her parents! Her face, while hiking, helped reassure me that she may just have been bitten by the hiking bug. Also, I worry that I’m going to have to carry her around in the Kelty child carrier until she’s five or six. I can’t explain to you how uncomfortable it is having a heavy kid on your back…and Lylah’s only two (almost). Seeing her make her way up Stratham Hill showed me that I can rely on her to do “some” hiking on her own while she’s younger…maybe not the whole hike, but some anyway.

It was really a great weekend and it gave me an awesome feeling regarding the future of Lylah’s hiking career!