climb higher, go farther, do more.

A few panoramas from last week’s trip to Zion National Park.

1) From the top Angel’s Landing, looking north into the Virgin River Canyon.

2) Surrounding landscape outside Zion, during our mountain biking trip on the Hurricane Cliffs Trail System.

3) The group pauses on the bridge across from the Grotto after coming down from our hike of Angel’s Landing.

Desert Bighorn Sheep. Not many in Zion, but we managed to see ten of them! Here’s one up on a hill, silhouetted against the evening sky. We were on our way to a good lookout for the sunset when we spotted a Bighorn on a small ledge on the side of the road. Went back to the spot and found not only one, but ten(!) Bighorn Sheep, a mix of ewes and lambs (maybe a male or two in there, too… hard to tell). I climbed up on a short ledge and took a ton of photos of them and this was the very last. A Bighorn had made its way to the top of the hill and we patiently waited for quite a while until it turned to give us this great profile. Metered for the sky and used a combo of small aperture / fast shutter speed to get the image. Processed the photo in black-and-white.

Desert Bighorn Sheep. Not many in Zion, but we managed to see ten of them! Here’s one up on a hill, silhouetted against the evening sky. We were on our way to a good lookout for the sunset when we spotted a Bighorn on a small ledge on the side of the road. Went back to the spot and found not only one, but ten(!) Bighorn Sheep, a mix of ewes and lambs (maybe a male or two in there, too… hard to tell). I climbed up on a short ledge and took a ton of photos of them and this was the very last. A Bighorn had made its way to the top of the hill and we patiently waited for quite a while until it turned to give us this great profile. Metered for the sky and used a combo of small aperture / fast shutter speed to get the image. Processed the photo in black-and-white.

Already missing Zion National Park. Here I am on an early-morning run up the Watchman Trail.

Already missing Zion National Park. Here I am on an early-morning run up the Watchman Trail.

Very creative photo set using two sets of viewfinders to capture the scene. I particularly love the depth of field, allowing the focus to lie mainly within the iPhone’s screen.

cjwho:

Through The Phone - New York by SamAlive

The creative view through the phone is truely amazing. I really like the DOF. Check his href=”http://instagram.com/samalive”>Instragram Profile too.

CJWHO:  facebook  |  instagram | twitter  |  pinterest  |  subscribe

The winter season is never complete unless I hike the Franconia Ridge Loop at least once. Conditions yesterday made for a great day in the mountains — clear, blue sky with plenty of sun hinted at spring, but low temps and a brisk wind, especially above tree line provided a gentle reminder that Old Man Winter has not quite departed yet.

Given the forecast of a northwesterly wind, I decided to ascend Lafayette first via the Old Bridle Path. The trail was packed down well and microspikes provided enough traction on the way up. I took refuge at the Greenleaf Hut to refuel and put on an additional layer before tackling the final mile to the summit. I always forget how deceiving the approach to Lafayette’s summit is: every time I think I’ve surmounted the final “bump” to the top, I realize that I have more trail to climb! The wind came at me hard and upon summiting, I immediately looked for a windbreak to catch my breath, eat some lunch, and snap some photos. Off to the east, the Presidential Range stood majestically, with Mount Washington completely clear of any cloud cap. It’s rare that we get days like this one.

From Lafayette, I began the trek over to Lincoln and Little Haystack, stopping on occasion to snap photos of Cannon, Washington, the Bonds, and the trail that lay behind and ahead of me. Across the Ridge, the wind continued to deliver blasts of frigid air, reminding me that I should not stop in one place for too long!

From Little Haystack down, it was easy going. Steep, snow-packed trails meant lots of glissading, and I made great time on the descent. Snow bridges are solid at this time of year, and the waterfalls were completely frozen over.

Solo hike for me, but I saw quite a few people on the trails today. I love that there are others out there braving the elements to get a taste of adventure and to witness the beauty of the mountains.

out for a romp in the woods today. decided to look up.

out for a romp in the woods today. decided to look up.

January 1, 2014: Spent the first day of 2014 solo hiking the Pumpelly Trail up Mt. Monadnock. Cold (15˚F at the start; 20˚F at the finish; cold at the summit) and windy with a mix of sun and clouds. Not many others on this particular trail, though I saw a number of parties going up and down the White Dot and White Cross Trails.

This was my first time hiking the Pumpelly — I’m in love! Finding the trailhead was not as tricky as I feared, though parking in winter can be a challenge; we’re at the mercy of those who plow. The first 1.5 miles are pretty gradual, with small rises and drops; easy hiking to warm up the legs and establish a good rhythm. Then, the trail kicks up and rises as steeply as some of the steep sections of the White Dot. With snow and ice over the rocks and roots, I did not have to worry as much about tripping over trail obstacles and I moved pretty quickly through this section, too. 

Once above tree line, the Pumpelly Ridge offers great views of the approach to Monadnock’s summit as well as the surrounding towns. Lakes and ponds dot the landscape in every direction, breaking up the monotony of the flat expanses (etymology lesson: “monadnock” is a Native American word meaning “lone mountain”). But beware! The ridge rises and dips, hardly following a gradual and linear approach to the peak. There are a few sections with good exposure; one wrong step would result in a good little fall. I’m excited to come back in warmer weather when the snow is gone to see what the scrambling sections really look like.

On a day like today, with cold air temperatures and stiff winds, I was grateful for the opportunities to duck back into the trees; it limited my exposure to the elements. It wasn’t until I passed the junction with the Spelman Trail that I found myself out of the trees (save for one final dip just beyond the junction with the Red Spot Trail), and at that point, I began to count down the steps to the summit, where I could seek refuge behind one of the large rock blocks.

Just before summiting, a guy passed me running down the mountain. He stopped abruptly and asked me if he was on the White Dot Trail — nope! Good thing he checked; otherwise, he would have had a long run down to Dublin before realizing his mistake! I met several other parties on the summit, most of whom had hiked up the White Dot and White Cross Trails, though a few had opted for the less-traveled Red Spot. After a quick lunch and some photos at the summit, I began the trek down. About nine miles, 4.5 hours total, up and down with the lunch break. Awesome way to start the new year!

Trail conditions: Not much snow on the ground yet; an inch or two packed down over ice. Microspikes were definitely helpful, though bare-booting probably would have been fine. Maybe this storm system coming in will drop some more snow on the trails!

December is never complete until the Nobles Outing Club makes its yearly trek up north to attempt a complete loop of the Franconia Ridge hike: ascending Little Haystack via the Falling Waters Trail, crossing the Ridge over Lincoln and then to Lafayette, and then descending via the Greenleaf Hut Trail and Old Bridle Path. As fate would have it (for the umpteenth year in a row), trail and weather conditions kept us from completing the full loop, limiting us to a summit of Little Haystack and a short exploration of the Franconia Ridge before we turned around to head back to the bottom.

Following two storms earlier in the week that left new snowfall, we found ourselves breaking trail for most of the hike, slowing us down as we slogged ever upward. About two-thirds of the way up, two hikers passed us, having climbed rapidly in our wake; I was pleased to see them slow significantly once they took the lead and broke trail for us! As we neared tree line, the howling wind became more distinct and we layered up just before emerging from the slow scrub pines, a great idea given the driving winds and the small chunks of snow and ice that pelted our bodies as we scrambled the final 200 yards to the summit of Little Haystack. As usual, the winds came from the west and northwest, and we took refuge on the far side of the summit, behind a small outcrop of rocks. In some years, taking shelter here allows us to forget about the crazy ridge conditions altogether, but this was not one of those days; the wind continued to find its way to us even as we hunkered down to take some photos and create our game plan. 

Despite the high winds and gray skies, we had great (though diminishing) visibility up high, able to look north and south along the Ridge to see Lincoln, Liberty, and Flume, and west across the Notch to see Cannon and the Kinsmans. I snapped a bunch of photos of the group and the surrounding terrain before tucking my camera away.

Cold and tired, our students agreed that they would hold off on attempting a full loop, not wanting to push our margin of safety on a day like this. We ventured out onto the Ridge for about 300 yards just to give them a taste of life above tree line before turning back and heading down to our van. 

On the way down, we took the short spur trail out to Shining Rock, a large sheet of ice at this time of year. Descending in the powder, we moved quite rapidly, everyone’s spirits high as we expended less effort in much calmer conditions. For many in our group, this was their first trip with the Outing Club, and for most, this was their first winter summit. For me, this represented another opportunity for me to share my love of outdoor adventures with colleagues and students, perhaps creating in them a lifelong attraction to the often-undiscovered rewards that Nature offers during this time of year. 

Photos from my post-Thanksgiving solo hike up to North and South Kinsmans in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Starting from Lafayette Place Campground, I hiked up the Lonesome Lake, a fairly easy jaunt. A thin layer of snow covered the ground, well-packed by hikers in the days before my trip. I knew, however, that at some point, trail conditions would change. With early winter comes lots of ice, especially on the steeper sections of trail, where rain and snow-melt freeze and re-freeze as temperatures hover around freezing point. It had rained mid-week and then a cold front entered the region, sending temperatures plummeting into the single digits. It was only 3˚ or so when I started my hike, with highs forecasted in the teens. Sure enough, as I began my climb up to the Kinsman Ridge from the Lake, I found the ice.

Travel slowed down a bit as I navigated these sections, and at times, I ducked into the woods, opting to weave in between trees rather than try to hike up the middle of the trail. I ran into several other hikers who made the same decision, and together, we marveled at the rivers of ice that covered the trail. With microspikes on my feet, I felt pretty stable for most of the hike, but there were times when I wondered whether full crampons would have offered better traction and peace of mind. I didn’t dwell on this for too long, though, as I had left the crampons behind in the car.

Above tree line, I found clear, blue skies and views all the way to Mount Washington and beyond. I parked myself at the summit ledge of North Kinsman, and immediately put on the elephant hat I recently bought at T.J. Maxx. The Franconia Ridge, with Mts Flume, Liberty, (Little Haystack), Lincoln, and Lafayette rose majestically across the notch. While eating my lunch of leftover Thanksgiving dinner and marveling at the blessing of this beautiful day, another hiker came out to the ledge and we chatted for a bit. I didn’t remember my elephant hat until after he left; I wonder if I thought I was a complete weirdo. 

After finishing my turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, I packed up and made a quick trip to South Kinsman, before turning around and making the trip back down to the parking lot. Making my way back down was even trickier than going up, with every step on the ice rivers potentially leading to a long, sliding fall. I ran into a pair of hikers that I had passed very early in the day; they had turned around after tagging North Kinsman, and given that they hadn’t seen me since 9:30 am or so, they were relieved that I was okay. I had been wondering about them all day, too, and again, i made note of the small blessing of this moment, the blessing of strangers taking care of one another as they pursue a shared love of the outdoors.

I made it back to the car around 3:00 pm, six hours after I left the campground lot. The sun had begun its dip behind the mountains, casting a faint light in the notch and leaving a chill in the air as night began moving in. I climbed into the car, ready for the journey home, excited by my first winter hike of the season and two new 4000-footers bagged, already looking ahead to the next outing.

My colleague, mentor, and good friend, Nick, showing us how to have some fun on the trail!

My colleague, mentor, and good friend, Nick, showing us how to have some fun on the trail!