Monday, October 26, 2015

Weekly Log: 10.12.15 - 10.18.15

Monday - 0 miles

My legs were shot from last weekend in New Hampshire so I content to take a zero.

Tuesday - East Providence, RI - 7.1 miles

Not much motivation today but I got myself out to the Ten Mile River Bikepath and did a mix of trails, path and pavement.  I ended up moving pretty well despite how lethargic I felt.

Wednesday - 0 miles

Legs are still sore and I had things to do so no running today.

Thursday - Johnston, RI - 8 miles

Got up to the Snake Den for an early morning run.  Crisp out there but I warmed up pretty quickly.  Instead of the usual Connector trail I took the road over to the power line trails.  This was a nice change.  I also discovered a well marked dirt bike trail.  Lots of orange blazes and orange arrows pointing the way.  It was barely a trail in places.  I wore the Hokas and I had to be really careful about rolling my ankles here.  I enjoy running in these shoes but they just don't work for me on anything remotely technical - they really want to roll on me.  Anyway the dirt bike trail was a lot of fun but the markings ended and I had to bushwack briefly to rejoin it.  After that I went up to the scenic vista before heading back via the Connector trail.  Just as I'm stepping off the trail I roll my ankle pretty badly of course.  Damnit!

Friday - East Providence, RI - 7 miles

Beautiful autumn day but I was aimless about where to go.  I headed over to Riverside and had the idea to attempt a segment around Bullocks Point.  It's a neighborhood loop of about 1.5 miles.  I pushed it as best I could.  I was happy to see 5:20ish on the watch for a while but then it caught up to me and I was over 6 minute pace by the end.  Unfortunately the segment began and ended a 1/4 mile farther up the road.  Whoops.  Still happy to see that I've got some speed in those legs - Strava says it was my third fastest mile at 5:36.  The rest of the run was meandering through coastal neighborhoods followed by some bike path to tack on mileage.

Saturday - North Kingstown, RI - 14 miles

I ran around N.K. for my weekend's long run.  Started at Wilson Park and first ran through Wickford neighborhoods.  Then I headed down to Rome Point. Ran into a friend pulling his daughter on Terre Mar and walked with him for a few minutes.  In Rome Point I was already getting tired but I did find a new trail that skirts the southern boundary which I really liked.  It spits you out at the old chimney in the woods.  I took Annaquatucket up to the old railbed and followed that to the library and then the car.  My legs were very tired by the end.

Sunday - Charlestown, RI - 2.1 miles

Took the dog out in the afternoon for a very easy jog.

Weekly Mileage: 38.4 miles
Year to Date: 1,556.8

A lower mileage week but my legs were pretty sore from all that hiking.  Overall I'm happy with my mileage lately.  I've hit 50 miles in six of the last twelve weeks.  Pretty good!  As you can see from the graph below, I've overtaken the progress from the previous years.  If I can keep it up, this'll be my highest mileage year yet.

Red is 2015, purple is 2014 and orange is 2013

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

3-Day Pemi Loop Attempt - October 8-10, 2015

Several months ago Amanda and I booked a stay at the Greenleaf Hut on the slope of Mt. Lafayette for October.  I was going to take us over the very popular Franconia ridgeline hitting all the summits from Lafayette to Flume.  Things change and Amanda was no longer going with me so that prompted me to expand this trip and turn it into a longer solo adventure.  With the hut stay on a Friday night, I thought why not try to tackle the whole Pemi Loop?  Not wanting to stay at the Guyot Campsite on a Saturday night (I heard it gets crazy busy) I decided I would do the loop counter clockwise, hiking to the Bonds and staying at the Guyot Campsite on Thursday night, following the Garfield ridgeline to the Greenleaf Hut for Friday and then finishing with the Franconia Ridgeline on Saturday.  The weather was forecast to be clear and beautiful for Thursday and Saturday but it looked like rain was definitely coming on Friday.  I was prepared to forge ahead anyway and trust that my gear was sufficient.

I drove up to Dover, NH on Wednesday and stayed with my friend Rob.  He was actually planning to do some hiking in the Whites on Saturday as well so we arranged for him to meet me at the Greenleaf Hut on Saturday morning.  He'd have to leave pretty early to make it from Dover to the hut at a reasonable hour but I knew Rob was the sort of stubborn guy to get it done.

Thursday morning I left Dover at 6:30 AM, stopped at the White Mountain Visitor Center to get a week parking pass and was told by the old ladies there that it was going to be crazy packed with tourists this weekend.  Good thing I'm heading in early.  I parked at the Lincoln Woods lot which is a few miles down the road on the Kangamagus Highway.  I had a few false starts as I kept forgetting bits of gear in the car (I had already crossed the bridge when I realized I didn't have my sunglasses) but finally I was off and hiking by 9:15 AM.  

Lincoln Woods Bridge

Pemigewassett River runs along the trail for several miles

Peak foliage was in full effect

The first five miles were on an easy railbed

Some folks ride bikes for the first four miles which makes perfect sense
since these miles are mild and dull

Taking a break for twizzlers

The Lincoln Woods/Wilderness trail that begins the trip is very wide and gradual but it got boring after a while.  I dropped my pack off at an intersection to do a quick run up to Franconia Falls which was a nice break.  The pack weighed about 35 pounds but wasn't an issue, at least not yet.    I took breaks as needed and mostly just enjoyed the beautiful fall day.  Finally around mile five the trail changed direction and the climbing began.  I started to see folks descending at this point and was still making good time.  After four hours I finally reached the summit of Bondcliff and it didn't disappoint.  The views were incredible as was the famous profile of Bondcliff (being alone I did not get a shot of my feet dangling over the cliff and I doubt I would have had the stones to do so even if there was the opportunity).  

I took a long break here and had some lunch.  The climb from here to Mt. Bond was short but steep.  I took another break at Bond and a passerby snapped a picture for me.  I also had phone reception and was able to send out a text to my wife to let her know my first day was almost done.  Then it was an easy descent to the Guyot campsite where I was still paranoid about scoring a tent platform.  That fear proved to be unnecessary as the place was completely deserted - even the caretaker tent was gone.  I had planned to stay at Guyot because I was nervous about camping by myself and yet here I was.  Luckily a group of three showed up an hour later so I wouldn't be completely alone.

Happy to see this sign

Tricky to scale this with a heavy pack

Incredible views from Bondcliff

Just imagine I'm standing there on the cliff


View from Mt Bond - Washington and the Presidentials in the background

With my tent set up I ventured back up the trail to tag West Bond and enjoy the sunset over Franconia ridge.  I mistimed it badly and had to spend 45 minutes up there before it set.  But the views were enchanting and my synthetic coat kept me warm.  It also gave me time to reflect.  Then I returned to the darkening camp and made dinner in the "kitchen" using my whisperlite stove and one of those rehydrated backpacker meals (Beef Pho - good!)  With my belly full and complete darkness achieved at 7:30 PM I decided to turn in since it was going to be a cold night (28 degrees!)  I can't say I slept all that well.  I woke up every hour or so due to the cold and used some well placed hand warmers to keep my feet warm.  But overall I wasn't freezing and got a decent amount of rest.

I awoke at 6 AM as the first drops began to hit my tent.  I supposed I could have pulled up shop right away to avoid a wet tent but I was in no mood to rush.  Instead I cooked some breakfast (okay, I boiled water and poured it into a bag) and then spent a relaxing hour under the porch of the shelter, chatting with an older fellow who clearly has done a ton of backpacking over the years.  He and his son were also doing the Pemi Loop but as I set out their plan was to head for the 13 Falls Campsite instead.  I packed up under the cover of the shelter and by 9:30 AM made my way out into the steady drizzle.  While my start time was similar to yesterday, I didn't realize I was in for a longer day.

A long way from anything except the campsite

The Guyot Campsite Shelter

The "kitchen" (the tarp was helpful in the morning)

The spring was conveniently right next to the kitchen

Going into this trip I was nervous about bears and these signs did not help.
Glad to use the bear box rather than attempt to hang my food though.

I had my pick of the tent platforms

A very successful Day 1

The trails were flooded, almost all had standing water or streams.  I was moving slow but I was comfortable and the 50ish temp was no issue.  The wind above treeline was intense and nearly blew me over at times.  The summit of South Twin was crazy-windy and I was already feeling the effects.  From last year's trip I knew that it was a steep descent to the Galehead Hut and it took me a while to make my way down the slippery rocks.  I could hear the hut's windmill going crazy and I arrived at the hut two hours after I left the campsite, wet and with shaky legs.

I anticipated baked goods at the hut and I ate them (coffee cake and a mint chocolate bar).  The place was empty save for a couple kids playing checkers and a few croo members cooking.  Outside the weather vane was howling and a glance at the weather forecast predicted 65-90 mph gusts late in the day.  It was 6.6 miles from the hut to the summit of Mt Lafayette.  I was going to have to reach that and then descend a mile to get to the Greenleaf Hut.  It felt very far away and much of my clothes were already quite wet.  I found their AMC Guide and began to read trail descriptions, feeling nervous about the journey ahead and worrying about wet clothes, food and conditions near the summit.  There would be about two miles of exposed trail that I would have to traverse on Lafayette.  Finally after 40 minutes of hemming and hawing I decided I had to press on.   Rob was going to meet me in the morning and I frankly had planned to eat the dinner/breakfast at Greenleaf so my foodstores were slim.  I would venture forth and if necessary, I could stop at the Garfield Ridge Shelter or take one of the trails out of the mountains.

The rain had pretty much stopped when I left the hut but the trails were still very wet.  The Garfield Ridge Trail is long with many short steep ascents and descents which made for slow going.  Not for the first time I thought about how amazing it is that some cats can do this entire loop in just over six hours.  Despite the dampness I was very comfortable.  Anytime I stopped I could feel the chill wanting to come on so I kept moving as best I could.  The climb up towards Garfield featured a very steep section with lots of scrambling.  I took a brief detour to the Garfield Ridge Shelter to check it out and sign their log book but I knew I'd be continuing on.  I was tired but otherwise in good spirits.  Another brutal climb was in store before I reached the summit of Garfield.  Very high winds were present, as well as a group of five guys, smoking cigarettes and preparing to head to Galehead for the night.

Garfield Ridge Shelter (built in 2011)

This was as dry as the trails got

Tired but nearing the alpine zone of Lafayette

The Alpine sign I'd been waiting for.  Getting close!

At the summit of Lafayette, exhausted but happy

My destination, the Greenleaf Hut, shrouded in fog

From here it was a true slog of three miles on up and downs along very wet trails.  Other than those Garfield smokers, I would see no one all day.    A light rain began to fall.  My pack began to feel really heavy.  I would trudge along and take breaks when it felt necessary.  Then the endless climbs to Lafayette began in earnest.  I was very happy to see the sign for the alpine zone as it meant I was finally close (or closer, I suppose).  Once I got above treeline, I was energized because it's so cool up there, even in the heavy fog.  But the fog disguised several false summits which grew dispiriting after awhile.  And as I went higher, the wind became more powerful.  Still I was close now and motivated.  I reached the summit around 4:20 and shouted for joy!  But I still had another mile of slippery descent to the hut.  Would I get there by 5 PM?  Was dinner at 5 PM?  The thought of missing dinner was horrifying.

When the heard the manic weathervane of Greenleaf I was beyond happy.  I emerged into a packed hut filled with comfortable people chitchatting and playing games.  I looked wet and haggard (several people confirmed this later).  After checking in (dinner was at 6 PM, yay!) I went to claim my bunk and get into dry clothes.  Unfortunately a great deal of my garb was wet.  The bunkroom was in the 40s and was only going to get colder.  There would be no drying tonight. Pretty much everyone at the hut was in the same boat with regards to wet clothes.  Thankfully I still had enough dry stuff to wear and my synthetic jacket survived the journey unmolested.  I enjoyed a hearty dinner and played cards for a couple hours with some funny folks before retiring for a mediocre night's sleep.  

We awoke to a frozen landscape.  Snow and frost covered the outside world and the summit was hidden behind grey clouds.   The weather report indicated that there were heavy winds at the summit with potentially a -5 degree windchill.  They weren't sure when the cloud cover would break.  We all enjoyed a filling breakfast but no one was in any hurry to leave the hut.  The volunteer trail steward who was supposed to head up to the ridge for the day opted to stay at the hut and recommend to hikers to avoid heading to the summit.  Much of my gear was still wet and my expectations were low.  At this point I had pretty much given up on completing the loop but was hoping to still do much of the ridgeline.  Now I wasn't sure of even that.

My friend Rob, aka the Manchild

I picked up this REI jacket on clearance a couple weeks back.
It was a lifesaver on this trip and kept me very warm.

The top 2000 feet were frost and ice

Powerful winds buffeted us as we neared the top

The summit sign is a little harder to make out a day later

We made it!

Then my friend Rob suddenly appeared.  He strove in through the kitchen, wearing a raincoat and shorts.  I think he shocked people.  Well he's a shocking man.  With his arrival I knew we would at least try for the summit of Lafayette.  Buoyed by his energy, I packed up my gear, bought a dry hat from the hut store and we set out.  It wasn't too bad under the cover of trees but once we made it about 1/3 of a mile we felt the full effects of the wind.  The rocks with snow provided some traction but there were many covered in ice that were very treacherous.  It was a slow climb and the wind was very powerful.  Finally after about an hour we reached the summit.  There were a couple folks already up there.  Once we got up there I made the decision that we should head back down rather than tackling the ridge.  I was wearing my old Cascadias and while they were performed dutifully up to this point (even in yesterday's rainfest) I could feel my feet begin to get cold and I was very nervous about almost two miles of exposed ridge in these conditions.  Rob hesitantly agreed and we descended.  

There was a steady train of folks that we passed, most of whom had stayed at the hut last night.  After about fifteen minutes of descending, the clouds finally cleared and we were afforded incredible views of the ridge and valley.  Curses!  We should have done the ridge after all.  Rob was really bummed and so was I but I know it was the right call at the time.  We returned to the hut which was now mobbed with people.  Day hikers had packed the place in our absence.  Still wanting to hike, we decided to take the Greenleaf Trail down and perhaps hike up Cannon Mountain instead.

The views finally came 15 minutes too late

Our great regret: not attempting the ridgline to Mt Lincoln

Cool rocks on the Greenleaf Trail

2.5 miles of flatness to go

The Greenleaf trail was pretty steep near the top and over the course of it we passed maybe 25 people, a decent amount but nothing like the madness of the Bridle Path trail.  By the time were were halfway done we scrapped the Cannon idea as I was exhausted after three days with the heavy pack and Rob's knee was giving him issues.  The Greenleaf trail is actually really cool with some huge rock formations to enjoy.  We finally reached the highway but had another 2.5 miles to walk to Rob's truck.  This was a mix of bike path and the mild Pemi trail.  Franconia Notch was an absolute madhouse with leafpeepers.  Every parking lot was overflowing, people were parked all over the sides of the highway and there were several miles of traffic to get into the Notch.  Crazy.  The town of Lincoln turned out to be even worse but we braved it to get burgers and beer (also it was the only way to get to my car at Lincoln Woods).

After Rob dropped me off I ended up doing another couple miles of easy hiking along the Pemi River in the hopes that the traffic towards Lincoln would ease up.  It didn't and as the sun set I joined the masses for the slow ride to my motel.  But I didn't care.  At this point I was exhausted and completely pleased with my journey.  I didn't complete the loop as I had planned but between the weather and the state of my legs I have no complaints.  Overall I was happy with the gear I brought and learned a few lessons for next time.  Four more peaks are now checked off my 4000 footer list which brings my total to thirty (eighteen to go).  Looking forward to my next adventure!

Until next time New Hampshire

Monday, October 19, 2015

Weekly Log: 10.5.15 - 10.11.15

Falling behind on the weekly blog reports.  Looks like the blog blahs have finally hit me.  I'll try to get up to speed as I had a big adventure in the second half of this week up in the White Mountains.  Three days of backpacking the Pemi Loop!

Monday - Cranston, RI - 6.5 miles

After work I returned to the Cranston Middle School to explore the trails that run alongside I-295.  After studying the map last time I knew where I had gone wrong and so this time I found the trails along the top of the canyon easily.  Great views up there of the highway below.  Definitely a party spot.  I followed the trail as it led down alongside the highway and there's a brief sketchy section of trail where you're basically running next to the freeway.  Then a guardrail appears and you descend and are able to cross under the busy roads.  The other side of the highway was the marquis event with a long stretch of dirt road, a hilly powerline section, more good views of the highway and a twisty singletrack network.  I explored for a while but darkness was approaching so I returned to the car.  Glad I brought a headlamp as I needed it towards the end.  Fun place and I'm looking forward to returning.

Tuesday - East Providence, RI - 7.7 miles

I needed an oil change so I dropped the car off and ran back to the office.  Then in the afternoon I did a run through the East Side of Providence before looping back and picking up the cart.

Wednesday - 0 miles

Thursday - Lincoln, NH - 13 miles

Day one of Pemi Loop hike.  Report forthcoming (hopefully)

Friday - Lincoln, NH - 12 miles

Day two of Pemi Loop hike.  Report forthcoming (hopefully)

Saturday - Lincoln, NH - 12 miles

Day three of Pemi Loop hike.  Report forthcoming (hopefully)

Sunday - Waterville Valley, NH - 4 miles

I'll try to detail the adventures of the first three days in a separate post.  On my last day in the Whites, I decided to tackle a smaller mountain before heading home.  I drove down the Kang and hiked up to Mt. Potash.  Trail wasn't too difficult and the views at the top were well worth it.  Foliage in full effect.  I met a couple guys briefly on the way up but there was a steady stream of folks I passed on the way down.  By the time I returned to the parking lot it was packed with cars.

Ledges near the Potash summit

View of the Sandwich region

View of the Pemigewasett Wilderness

Weekly Mileage: 55.1 miles
Year to Date: 1,556.8 miles

Sure most of this mileage was actually hiking but it was still hard work and with over 12k feet of elevation you'd better believe I'm counting it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Weekly Log: 9.28.15 - 10.4.15

Things are in flux.  In my life and in running.  I have a feeling this will be a lower mileage week as my legs have been feeling it.  A rest is probably needed.  I'm still considering the 6 Hour Ultra in November but I'll probably wait until the last minute to decide.

Monday - 0 miles

After yesterday's blah long run it was easy to shirk off any running today.

Tuesday - West Greenwich, RI - 7 miles

175 push-ups (standard/diamond/wide) 30/20/35/30/20/40

RunningWarehouse had some trail Hoka's on sale and I was in need of some trail shoes so I pulled the trigger.  This was the maiden run - the cushioning is definitely nice and helps on the downhills.  I went to Big River, parking at Hopkins Hill lot but heading west towards the quarry.  I was surprised that I found the Secret Lookout with no problems.  Then I took Elephant and the Azalea trail over by the hunting club before heading back towards the car.  I liked the shoes but they had a tendency to roll on me, I'm guessing due not being used to the extra cushioning.  I had one bad roll which was frustrating as this ankle just can't heal up.  I need to put that ankle brace on for any trail run now.

Wednesday - Cranston, RI - 4 miles

After stopping at REI in Cranston I had the idea to check out some trails I have long thought about.  There are trails along the "canyon" of I-295 and I knew there was a path underneath the highway to reach them.  I parked at a middle school and was dismayed to hear a shitload of gunfire coming from the hill I had planned to climb.  Turns out the Cranston Police Academy was next door.  After a brief road section where I considered my options, I found a trail than ran alongside the hill opposite the Po-Po.   This was a fun little climb and it eventually led to a two lane road.  At first I thought this was 295 but then realized I was off-course.  I ventured on and discovered some trails that appeared to be part of a camp.  It was already getting late so I retreated to the car.  After I uploaded the run I realized where I went wrong.  Another time.

Thursday - Exeter, RI - 7.5 miles

Early morning run in Arcadia.  It was a crisp fall morning - perfect!  I stuck to dirt roads for the bulk of it and then took the trail around Breakheart Pond and went back towards the car via the J B Hudson Trail.  I wore the ankle brace yesterday and today which seemed to help, though it was hard getting it into the Hokas.  A fun run and I really liked running in the Hokas again.  The only problem was the calf soreness which is still creeping up towards the end of these runs.

Friday - 0 miles

Saturday - 0 miles

Sunday - Smithfield, RI - 3.5 miles

In an effort to give my legs a chance to rest I took a couple days off.  Today instead of running I decided to take Ezri for a hike.  Originally I wanted to hit up Wachusett Mountain but that didn't pan out.  Wolf Hill in Smithfield was an excellent substitute.  We hit up most of the points of interest on this one and had a good time.  I wore a 30 lb backpack in preparation for a White Mountain excursion next week.  Okay so this wasn't technically a run but from now I'm considering hiking as a perfectly acceptable "time on feet" alternative that gets added to the weekly mileage.

Weekly Mileage 22 miles
Year to Date: 1,501.6 miles