A couple weeks ago, I mentioned in my hiking column how returning to hikes over and over is commonplace in the White Mountains, and that the ever changing seasons adds spice to each time you go back.
For me, and for many others, this is especially true of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail on Mount Washington. Hikers, climbers, skiers and many others start up this wide trail from Pinkham Notch to get to a variety of locations at different times of year on the east side of the mountain. Not surprisingly, the first trail description in the AMC White Mountain Guide is the Tuck Trail.
Also, the infinite variety of conditions on Mount Washington was again revealed to me this Tuesday, when I climbed the mountain via the Tuck Trail and Lion Head Trail. A number of things made the hike unique.
Last Updated on Friday, 06 December 2013 05:31
There is a freedom in hiking on a chilly morning this time of year. First, you are motivated to move swiftly to keep warm. Sweating is not much of a problem, and with the right balance of clothing and effort, you can motor uphill at a pace that fits you.
Last Saturday, cold weather was moving in, which would culminate the next day on Sunday, when it was a challenge to just go outside. Saturday was chilly with a steady wind in the valley, yet there was a small measure of radiant heat as the day progressed.
That morning I decided to climb Mount Chocorua, venturing briefly into winter above tree line. But I didn't decide on the mountain first and then pick a trail. Quite to the contrary.
Last Updated on Friday, 29 November 2013 04:47
In New England, doing the same hike over and over will always yield different experiences, and the main reason for that is the ever changing seasons and the consequent weather. For example it is interesting how the phenomenon of list hiking has expanded upward from the original 4,000 Footer Club — where one gets to experience 48 different hikes — to the Grid, which is doing each of these 48 mountains every month of the year in different conditions.
On a much less grand scale, when you live a distance away you can still feel obliged to do a different hike every time you come here. Generally, for those who live here that pressure can be considerably less, and you probably have some favorite hikes.
As someone who tries to get out every week to have a hike to write about, I can't say I have a favorite hike — there are just too many. At this point I could say I have a favorite hike every week.
Last Updated on Friday, 22 November 2013 04:37
When the weather cooperates, "stick season" is a hauntingly beautiful time of year. Except for evergreens and hearty forest floor plants, the green world has literally died off. Nature has become spare and elemental to face winter.
Natural light easily penetrates the canopy, and a hiker starting up a mountain early in the morning can witness golden alpenglow lighting up a deciduous forest.
Higher up, passing precipitation can leave an inch or two of snow, and freezing temps will leave ice flows on ledges. Bringing "light traction" such as MICROspikes is a wise move, though a hiker may decide to only use them for part of his hike depending on how treacherous the conditions are. Expensive traction devices are dulled quickly when moving on an off rock. Still it's better to be safe.
Early on Wednesday morning this week, I started descending from the fantastic South Ledges lookout near the top of Mount Paugus (3,198 feet) just before 8:30 a.m. I wore MICROspikes, having just put them on at the lookout.
Last Updated on Friday, 15 November 2013 04:33
By Ed Parsons
I was lucky to get out on a gorgeous Tuesday this week. I went west and climbed Welch/Dickey, off NH 49 near Waterville. The amazing bare summits of Welch (2,605 feet) and Dickey (2,734) offer a consistent unfolding of great views both up and down on this 4.4 mile loop.
On the way there I stopped at the Museum of the White Mountains in Plymouth, where there were two ongoing exhibits of the 19th century's White Mountain School of Art.
As an inveterate hiker, so far I haven't made a trip exclusively to the museum, but have instead combined it a couple times with a distant hike. Still I value what is there, and enjoy being exposed to that "intangible" that 19th century White Mountain painters strove for. Whether that intangible has soaked into me or not doesn't really matter as much as simply putting myself in its path.
What do these old landscape paintings represent or have to offer? Recently at a White Mountain art opening in Jackson, I heard an elder collector verbalize his ideas on the matter. One of the northeast's important art collectors had come up for the opening with his wife. Standing next to me in the crowd, and looking closely at a painting, he said that the 19th century landscape artists strove hard to capture "God's beauty in the American landscape — never quite achieving it, and trying hard to again and again."
I think I am more of the post-modern school that applies Peter Schickele's mantra about music — "If it sounds good, it is good" — to visual arts: If it looks good, it is good. Still I appreciated what the elder art collector had said to me, and a couple weeks later, after a half hour of soaking in the colorful landscapes by the likes of Champney and Shapleigh at the Museum of the White Mountains, I headed out of Plymouth and north on I-93 toward Welch/Dickey.
On the drive to the hike I briefly wondered about the similarities between what we experience today in the pastoral mountains and what was experienced by those 19th century painters in a less complicated society before the cultural and scientific explosions of the 20th century, and the electronic explosion of the 21st.
Luckily it was only a passing ponderance, and soon I was at the trailhead and heading up the trail to Welch Mountain. In 1.3 miles I reached the well known south facing ledge with its fantastic view across the Mad River valley to the bumpy ridges of Sandwich Dome. Then I turned and headed up the steep trail over smooth ledges and through the shrinking forest. Jack pine dotted ledges as I neared the summit of Welch. It was the perfect summit of be on as the afternoon light increased in intensity. A cool breeze blew from the west.
I dropped down to the saddle and started up Dickey Mountain as the light continued to intensify, and when I reached the open ledge near the summit, it was good to turn around and see the classic view of the summit cone of Welch Mountain, and the world spreading out below.
On top I briefly walked over to the northern view towards Mount Lincoln and Lafayette, the latter capped with snow.
From there the trail descended the long flat west ridge of Mount Dickey. I moved in and out of the forest, occasionally coming out on wide flat ledges that were a pleasure to walk down, with the maturing day all around. It was specially enjoyable when the trail wound down smooth ledges next to an eastern drop off, with Welch Mountain across an intervening steep ravine.
Finally the trail entered the woods and dropped quickly toward the parking lot.
Later, unlike the artists of the 19th century, I drove out to a variety store in Campton, and bought a cup of coffee for the ride home.
For those interested, check out the extensive website of the Museum of the White Mountains at www.plymouth.edu/museum-of-the-white-mountains/. The wwebsite is so extensive with archived collections about the history, culture and environment of the region, that you might be tempted to stay home rather than going to their physical location in Plymouth. That would be a mistake.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 04:47