Top 5 moments I totally lost it on the trail


5. July 9th 2018, Cohos Trail

“I may have had a tantrum going up Dixville peak. Pack throw down and all. Trekking poles went flying.
It may have been because first there was the steep climb out of Dixville Notch, then the ski trail up then the mud bog from hell and then another ridiculously steep climb up. And I may have let out a banshee cry because of the bugs. All in all a good day.”


4. July 18th 2007, Pacific Northwest Trail

“I finally make it to a clearing which seemed to have been used as a heli pad and am overwhelmed by the view. BEAUTIFUL! This is my camp site for the night. : )

Little did I know there was going to be a major thunderstorm. My poorly set up tent isn’t set up for this. It sags and touches my sleeping bag soaking it at the feet. I’m scared the lightning will hit me and feel the ground tremble a few times. Didn’t see this coming at all. I so wish I were camped somewhere else.

The storm goes on for hours. Just as I think it may have passed, another wave hits. The lightning is so bright! I hide my head in my sleeping bag pretending I’m not there. Needless to say I don’t sleep very well.

I do remember nodding off for a while because I dream about a bear attacking my feet. It wakes me up and I see my tent heavy with water touching my feet. I get rid of the puddle but the damage has been done.”


(But the view was nice)

3. August 18th 2012, Pacific Northwest Trail

“There is a note on the map about the Swift Creek ford possibly having high water and indeed it does. It terrifies me. I scout out different spots but they’re all deeper and swifter than I’d like. To calm my nerves I tell myself that if I go down I won’t die because there aren’t any giant boulders or cascades I can get caught up on. I throw some rocks to see how deep it is in an area that seems a bit calmer. Yeah, too deep. So I walk a bit further and finally take the plunge. Heavily leaning on my trekking poles facing the current I walk sideways telling myself out loud: “You can do this, you can do this, you can do this!”. I’m so freaking scared. When I make it across safely I’m almost hyperventilating.”

PNT 261

(It doesn’t look that bad when it’s not moving)


2. May 1st 2015, Te Araroa, Raetea Forest track

“I have a long day in dense bush on an overgrown trail with one hazy view. At times the trail is hard to follow and it goes over every little summit. Very tiring. I’m not liking it at all. Vines, fallen trees, logs on trail, spider webs in my face, getting cut up by grass, steep ups and downs, a lost cow, what a jungle, what a disaster. Never again! It feels like I’m suffocating in the denseness of it all and I can only keep my nerves in check by reminding myself of the hiking times mentioned on the trail sign. It can’t take longer than that, I will make it out! When the trail finally spits me out on a forest road I’m shaking.”



1.April 5th 2017, Hayduke Trail

“It’s frosty again this morning and my aqua socks are frozen. I thought about putting them in a plastic bag to keep them from freezing last night but realized I wouldn’t want to put them on this morning even if they were just wet. It took my feet hours to warm up last night, I did not want cold feet again in the morning. So I came up with the idea of putting my regular socks in gallon size ziploc bags and put my sandals on over that. It looked funny but worked great. Just a little slippery.

Bull valley gorge starts out pretty mellow and open, a bouldery wash with some pine trees. Very pretty. I read about this alternate in Wired’s journal and it sounded fun.

When the narrow section started I had already taken the ziploc baggies off my feet because it was warming up nicely. I soon regretted this decision as I had to wade through the narrows. It wasn’t deep but the water was icy cold. I had to keep stopping because my feet were getting numb. To make matters worse there were some deeper sections up to my knees and there were some challenging scrambles. I bet when everything is nice and dry these scrambles would be fun. Or when you’re out for the day with a small pack and a friend.

For me however they were quite challenging. Several times I would look at what I had to do and wonder how the hell I was going to pull it off. I would occasionally have a meltdown and a crying fit but then I would breathe, take my pack off, hoist it up to a rock or ledge and hope I wouldn’t drop it in the water on the other side. I had to use all my scrambling and some recently acquired canyoneering skills to make it through. Sure I can wedge myself between a boulder and a wall and somehow move up. No problem! Quicksand? Pffft! I must say that I surprised myself by some of the moves I was able to make. It was almost fun when I succeeded. At one point however I crawled up on a log and grabbed a rope that was attached to the wall. How awesome! A rope to hang onto! I’m almost to the top of the log using the rope to pull myself up when the rope comes lose! It was not attached where I thought it was! I lose my balance, fall off the log and land several feet below in the freezing water. Ouch! Thank goodness my backpack prevented my head from hitting the canyon wall and I come out of it with just a few bruises. Holy crap that could have been bad!

I regroup and just climb up through the waterfall instead, I’m soaked already anyways. For the exit climb out of the canyon I finally get to use the rope I’ve been carrying to haul up my pack! It’s another scramble and I don’t want to risk another fall. When I make it to the surface I am so relieved but I also feel incredibly empowered! I just did that! But let’s not do that again anytime soon.”







IMG_8924 (2)Things to Consider when Planning a Direttissima

Direttissima is a climbing term that means a direct climb to a summit. For hikers in the Whites, it means tagging all 48 4000’ peaks in one contiguous journey.  Last summer I set the Women’s Fastest Known Time (FKT) for a White Mountain Direttissima completing the trek in 8 days, 23 hours, 9 minutes!

This blog answers the “Burning questions” from Liz Dooley from the New Hampshire Women’s Hiking Group.

1. Please explain “supported” vs “unsupported” regarding a Direttissima.

These are the definitions from the Fastest Known Time website:

Supported means you have a crew that meets you along the way. This can range from one person handing you water once, to an entire team that accompanies you the whole distance giving you everything (except physical assistance — FKTs are self-powered). Whether it’s just once or continuously, any support at all means it’s a Supported trip. Supported can enable the fastest trips due to the ability to carry less weight. To get a Supported FKT you also have to beat the fastest Self-Supported and Unsupported times.

Self-Supported means you may have as much support as you can manage or find along the way, but not from any pre-arranged people helping you. This can range from caching supplies in advance, purchasing supplies along the way, to finding or begging for food or water. Most long thru-hiking routes are done Self-Supported. To get a Self-Supported FKT you also have to beat the fastest Unsupported time.

Unsupported means you have no external support of any kind. This means you carry everything you need from start to finish except water from natural sources (public taps along the trail are acceptable, but if you get water from a store, even if free, that’s Self-Supported). This naturally limits the length of an Unsupported trip. If a person is accompanied or paced for any distance, it automatically becomes a Supported trip. Teams, however, can be Unsupported as long as they all travel and finish together. A mixed gender team can be Unsupported, but an individual traveling as part of such a team cannot claim an Unsupported FKT in their gender (they could claim a Supported – paced – FKT in their gender).

My summer direttissima was solo and unsupported. The winter one was with my partner and self-supported. I chose an unsupported manner since that makes it interesting for me. Otherwise it’s just a regular backpacking trip. Making it a fastest known time goal makes it’s a challenge. 

2. How do you approach route planning? Is there a preferred starting point? Is there a specific order for the peaks that is more successful? Do you aim to get tougher peaks out of the way first? How do you address mileage versus elevation?

For a regular (not winter) Direttissima there are usually two preferred starting points. Either start at Moosilauke or Cabot. If you start at Cabot you have to tackle a long roadwalk in your first 30 miles which can cause blistering on the feet. Then you have to traverse the northern Presidentials with your pack still full of food. But doing this section with nice cushy new shoes first is a plus, and you get to finish on Moosilauke which is very satisfying.
Starting at Moosilauke may be an easier start but you have to climb down the Beaver brook trail with a full pack (although most seem to do it as an out and back with a small pack, not me) and you end up hiking the northern Presidentials when you’re pretty sleep deprived. The road walk towards Waumbek can be terrible if your shoes are starting to fail. I also don’t wish the Kilkenny ridge trail on anyone for the last day. But Kinsman ridge may feel the same way in the other direction.
Psychologically I like to start with Moose because I like that mountain and it also means I get Owls Head over with earlier in the hike. I mostly don’t like Owls Head because it’s so far out of the way. Same with Hale. It’s a mental thing.
The current men’s fastest unsupported time took a different approach. He started at Passaconaway, added a long roadwalk to Moose and bushwhacked from the Hancocks to Carrigain.
There are a few variations along the route on how to get to Owls Head and Hale and Andrew Drummond for example included a lot of out and backs so he could trail run with a small pack and minimize having to travel with his overnight gear. My approach is the opposite, I prefer a more direct line, hate out and backs, and I don’t run.

3. How do you track your mileage? What device do you depend on to prove your time? What about GPS?

I have an ideal plan on paper which is based on how many days I hope to do it in. So I know ideally where I want to sleep every night. The hikes usually don’t follow the plan exactly but it gives me an idea on how I’m doing in regards to my goal. At the end of the day I calculate how much I’ve done by using the route planning feature on the Guthook White Mountains app. (in 2014 I would just use my paper map for that). I tracked my hikes with a Garmin Inreach and used the Guthook app to stay on trail in the dark and fog in the Presidentials when it was hard to see.

4. How do you track weather before you depart and while on trail?

My husband loves the weather so he actually told me that a good stretch of weather was coming up. Being self employed and not having any guiding trips planned I could take advantage of that and just go. While on trail nowadays you can pull up a weather forecast on your phone but it usually doesn’t mean much to me and most of the time I don’t bother. If you’re going for a fastest known time you have to keep on hiking if you can. And if conditions turn out to be unsafe you have to make a decision to set up camp and/or bail out to a lower less exposed location in that moment. The heavy fog and wind gusts I experienced in the northern Presidentials were not predicted for the time I was going to be up there. You just deal with it and hope for the best.

5. What clothes wear you wearing the day you departed? How do you layer?

Lightheart gear hiking dress
Spandits spandex shorts
Long johns
Ibex long sleeve baselayer
Melanzana fleece hoodie
Merino wool hat
TrailHeads convertible gloves
2 Pairs Injinji socks
1 Pair Darn Tough socks
Sunday Afternoon visor
Dirty Girl gaiters
Owl buff
Lightheart gear rainjacket
Lightheart gear pack cover hoodie
ULA rain skirt

Altra Lone Peak 4

I mostly hiked in the dress and spandex shorts. And layered over them as needed. During the monsoon afternoon/evening I hiked in my spandex shorts and bra with my rainjacket and pack cover hoodie over it. This layering kept me warm enough without drenching my other clothes which were stowed away. Even the best rain jacket would have eventually gotten saturated. Getting wet is okay as long as you are warm enough.


6. For your first attempt in 2014, your pack weighed almost 40lbs. In October 2019 you set out with your pack weighing just under 30lbs (including 13lbs of food). How did you cut that 10lbs of weight? What else did you change based on your previous experience.

I saved a few pounds from switching from a Granite Gear backpack to the Gossamer Gear Kumo. It was definitely top heavy in the first few days but it was totally worth it.
I also ditched the stove, pot and fuel. Cooking took too much time and I like crackers and cheese for dinner. With not cooking, I ditched the heavy pasta I carried the first time. I also carried less bagels. I also carried two beanie baby Monkeys which were replaced with feather light sock dolls. ; )

Gossamer Gear Camo Kumo

Gossamer Gear The One
Various stakes (10)

Sleeping System
Gossamer Gear Thinlight Foam Pad 1/8″
Therma Rest Pro Lite plus X-Small
Nemo inflatable pillow
Montbell Downhugger #1 800

1 Liter Platypus plus hose
2 Smart water bottles
Titanium spork
First Aid kit + Shoe goo
2 Anker Batteries plus 2 power cords
2 Head lamps Petzl + Black Diamond
12 extra batteries + 3 in one of the headlamps
I Phone 7
Leki Trekking poles
Tooth brush + Diva Cup
Toilet paper
White Mountain Map by Map Adventures
Gossamer Gear Quicksack

2014                                                         2019

7. Describe your approach to food and water. What was included in that 13lbs of food? Do you worry about going hungry? Thirsty? How do you stay hydrated?? Do you know if you are dehydrated?

I’ve done so much backpacking that I have a decent handle on what I eat although I do tend to over pack sometimes on long distance hikes when the hiker hunger kicks in. Having just finished two weeks of backpacking I knew exactly what to pack and it worked out pretty well. I go with a light breakfast like Belvita cookies, a light snack and a bar between breakfast and lunch, cheese and crackers for lunch, one bar, dinner. I have some floating snacks I can munch on throughout the hike, like potato chips, a bag of M&M’s, jar of Nutella. My favorite was fully cooked bacon with potato chips wrapped in a tortilla. I had packed supposedly for 10 days but my food was almost gone when I finished. The long days required more bars and those were all eaten by the end. I’m pretty good with staying hydrated. I added Nuun tablets to my water once or twice a day.

8. Do you plan for sleeping breaks, or just hope you find a safe spot to lay down your sleeping pad? You described in your blog post that you napped for a few minutes on the trail at times. How does that work?

In the morning I had an idea of how far I wanted to make it based on miles but also on where I think there would be a good spot to sleep. Sometimes I made it, sometimes I didn’t. But if I was close that was a good mental boost. I would basically keep walking until I got so slow and tired that it didn’t make sense for me to keep going. For the night or a nap,  I would just find a semi flat area to lay down a pad and sleep. I only set up my tent once and that was because it was raining. I wasn’t camping, I was just sleeping. I only needed a spot that fit my body and wasn’t too slanted.

9. How do you prepare mentally for the toughness of a Direttissima? What gave you an edge last August?

I did better this time around because I knew the route and I’m more used to the terrain. You just have to be stubborn, know how to pace yourself and hope for the best. The first time I did it was to test how far I could push myself. I made a bunch of wrong turns that time, stopped early one foggy day because I wasn’t as familiar with the terrain as I am now and did some other stuff that cost me time. This time I had the knowledge and the experience to improve.

10. Do you have a bail-out plan in case of an injury or adverse weather event?

Not particularly but I know most of the trails and tent sites/shelters and huts in the Whites so I know my bailouts by heart. I did have an Inreach and cell phone with me.

11. Speaking of weather, is there an ideal time of year to attempt a Direttissima?

It depends. If you can deal with heat and humidity summer would be good. There is more daylight then too. I hate the heat and humidity so a little later is better for me. Early October may still be okay but you don’t want to get caught in early snowstorms and strong winds. Spring could be tough with some of the water crossings and possible lingering snow. Winter?  I don’t recommend it. Hahaha

12. Anything you would have changed in retrospect? Any big “takeaways”?

Bring more batteries. Haha. I surprised myself by doing it in just under 9 days. I didn’t think I could with me not being a particularly fast hiker compared to those who just run up mountains. So that was cool.

13. Do you have a “luxury item” in your pack that you cannot hike without?

I had my little sock dolls which was fun and they don’t weight much. I also recently added a little inflatable pillow which was super nice.

14. For those of us trying to challenge ourselves with longer and/or more difficult hikes, do you have any pointers for how to get to the next level?

Just set a goal and work your way up to it. If it’s conditioning, just push yourself a bit more each time. If it’s something you don’t have the skills or knowledge for, read up on it, take a class or find someone to go with who is more experienced or up for an adventure to figure things out along the way.



How to set up a non free standing tent on a tent platform


I love my tent, I love sleeping in the dirt. But in the White Mountains National Forest of New Hampshire you can’t just set up your tent anywhere. The (sub) alpine environment is fragile and rough so established sites have wooden tent platforms. For years I dreaded using the those platforms. How was I going to set up my non free standing tent? Normally I use ten tent stakes to get a taut pitch so I had my doubts I could pull it off. 

Last fall I had a trip planned to Nauman tent site for Redline Guiding near the Mizpah hut in the Presidential range so I had to bite the bullet. We arrived early and had plenty of time to figure it out. What I learned then came in handy last month when I backpacked with my niece and stayed at Kinsman pond, Liberty Springs, Garfield, Guyot and Nauman tent sites ($10 fee per person, discount available for AT thru hikers, ask the care taker).  All of these have wooden tent platforms and by the end of the trip we were pros at using them to get a good set up.

I’ve written down a few tips and included photos to share what I learned. If you have anything to add feel free to leave a comment. 

-You will often be asked to share a platform since space can be limited. It is okay to use the dirt around the platform to stake out your fly or guy lines ( I asked the caretaker). 


-Instead of using stakes to secure your tent you can use small sticks, rocks, or the metal rings on the side of the platform. Sometimes a triangular stake or thicker round stake will fit, skinny titanium ones won’t work. 


-The biggest challenge for us was to get the back end taut enough. This didn’t always work because of limited space but we were able to secure the guy lines using sticks and rocks so the tent was secure even if the fly wasn’t tight. 

-The toughest set up was when we had to share a larger platform with two other tents with guys we’d never met before. Be patient, be friendly and share anchors and possibly stakes, it’ll all work out. We didn’t get the best set up but I could have tightened it up a bit if it had rained. 


Dirt will always have my preference but the terrain in the Whites is fragile and challenging and now that I know I can get a good setup I no longer dread the platforms. And as a bonus there are usually bear boxes, privvies and a good water source! It beats having to dig a hole early in the morning. ; )


PS The tents we use are ‘The One’ by Gossamer Gear. (I believe they are currently sold out but should be back in stock mid August). 

Clothing review time!

Lightheart gear has come out with some women specific clothing that I’ve been happy to try out. I received a skirt and shirt for testing and feedback and when the first dress came out I purchased it. I also tested the pack cover hoodie.

What I liked about the shirt:

-The material feels like butter when you wear it. It’s soft and stretchy, and has some merino wool in it so it retains warmth well and smells less.

-The sleeves and torso are long and roomy. The shirt almost covered my entire butt so it didn’t ride up and leave my back exposed. The sleeves have thumb holes. The thickness of the material is great for shoulder season, warmth wise in between a thin base layer and a thin fleece. These pictures are from late January at Blood mtn and the Smokies. I used it as my base layer and would layer a fleece and a down jacket over it when it got really cold.

What I didn’t like:

-Only downside I can think of would be the price, at $65 it’s not cheap. But it is made in the US by a small business catering to women of all sizes (it goes up to 3X). And I’ve worn it several 100 miles without noticing any wear or tear so in my opinion it’s worth it.


What I liked about the skirt:

-It’s made out of light quick drying material.

-It has lots of pockets! I was able to stash my hat and gloves in the large cargo pockets which was great for winter when I would heat up or cool down. You could also put snacks in them or maps! It has six pockets total, the smaller ones can still fit loads of stuff like your cell phone or wallet.

-It’s flared so you can hike and scramble without a problem.

What I didn’t like:

-The snap/zip closure. This is a personal preference. I never wear anything that’s tight in my waist and my backpack hipbelt pushes up my belly fat (oh yay!) so the snap was a little uncomfortable. I should have probably gone up a size but in general I prefer elastic waistbands.

-The price is high. I understand why, especially with all the details and how functional it is but it’s up there.

Now on to my favorite, the dress!

What I like about the dress:

-I seriously love everything about it. It’s made out of lightweight stretch material so it dries quickly and is comfortable to wear. The only downside to this material/cut is that it will show your belly fat if you have any. I have plenty at the moment so when I tighten my hipbelt it shows. I don’t really care but some people are self conscious about it.  The material is slightly heavier than some of the rayon dresses I’ve worn before but it holds up much better. After 350 miles I have only a little rough spot on the side from where my pack straps rub near my hip. No holes yet even though I got it caught on branches several times. I managed to undo some of the bottom seam by hiking some extremely overgrown trails but that’s it.

-The skirt is flared and provides plenty of room for hiking and scrambling. The shoulder straps are wide to accommodate the backpack straps.

What I don’t like about the dress:

-Nothing. And at $35 it’s totally affordable.

Last but not least, the pack cover hoodie:

What I like about it:

-It keeps my head and shoulders dry in light rain when it’s just too hot to wear a rain jacket. I imagine it will also be great to layer over a rain jacket for serious winter hiking. It would cover that gap in your neck where the snow always dumps from the trees and keep the jacket from saturating. I chose the orange on purpose for possible hunting season hiking but there are many more colors to choose from.

What I didn’t like:

-When my pack was full the snap closure at my neck was a little tight but I believe that’s been redesigned to allow more room.

-It is heavier than just a pack cover but I like the versatility it offers especially combined with an umbrella.


PS: There is now also a dress with pockets. It’s made out of a slightly thicker material so the pockets won’t sag but otherwise fits about the same as mine. It’s on my wish list.

Their website is


Braving the wilderness trails

A while back my talented weaver friend Jean told me about her adventurous daughter Anne and how she would love for me to meet her. Now that I’m working as a guide with Redline Guiding she came up with the idea of giving her a guided trip as a birthday gift. What an awesome mom!

I asked Anne what she wanted out of the trip and she mentioned that she had heard people talking about the challenging wilderness trails in the Whites. She wanted to explore those but didn’t feel confident enough to do so by herself. I immediately thought she would love the Dry River wilderness. I actually hadn’t hiked the trails in there yet when I came up with the idea so as soon as I could I planned a long day hike to explore the loop I wanted to hike with her. That day was challenging and wet with threatening thunder storms. How different this weekend was! Beautiful weather, a leisurely pace, and lots of laughter.

Day one started at the Dry river trailhead, we would follow the Dry river trail to Nauman tent site taking the Mt Clinton trail up. Along the way the trail was often obscured by fallen leaves and since there were no blazes to follow I would point out what to look for when you’re not sure where the trail goes. Various signs of human impact would give it away. Anne quickly learned what to look for, a great skill to have.

IMG_4191  IMG_4195  IMG_4197 IMG_4194  IMG_4190   IMG_4199

At nauman camp site we found a platform in the back to set up our tents. I figured we would get there with plenty of day light left so I finally mustered up the courage to bring my single wall non free standing tent which normally needs ten stakes for a taut set up. Anne’s tent had a few more tent poles but also needed to be staked out. The strong gusts gave us an extra challenge but we both eventually figured out how to set up our tents securely. Success!! I was quite surprised how useful those metal rings on the side of the platform turned out to be. After dinner we enjoyed some reading in our sleeping bags. Having hiked in shorts and t-shirts most of the day we were now wearing most of our layers. We sure were glad we brought our hats and gloves.

IMG_4203 IMG_4202

Day two had us pack up and stop by the Mizpah hut to scoop up some of the breakfast leftovers. Free pancakes? Well, if you insist…

We then proceeded to climb up to Mt Pierce. It was another beautiful day and the views were great. While I was trying to take a picture of my mascotte ‘Red’, Anne was striking an excellent ‘look at me on top of the mountain pose’ effectively upstaging Red. There were no hard feelings.


We continued on to Mt Eisenhower with the beautiful new cairn. We were now catching some of the predicted wind force and didn’t linger. On to Franklin and Monroe we went! Monroe was a fun extra for Anne since she’s working on summiting all of the NH48 4000 footers list and this one would be number 30 on her list. Congrats Anne!

IMG_4229  IMG_4226

IMG_4240   IMG_4236

At the Lakes of the Clouds hut we found a protected spot and enjoyed our lunch. I also did a brief map and compass overview. Topo lines, magnetic north, all that good stuff.

We then headed down back in to the Dry River wilderness. The trail got slightly more challenging with some rock scrambling and muddy sections and one or two confusing spots. Excellent training for Anne.

IMG_4246  IMG_4256  IMG_4248IMG_4253

We both loved this quieter wilder area. Sometimes we’d walk in silence mesmerized by our surroundings.  But there was also lots to talk about. Our conversation topics ranged from hiking the Appalachian trail to staying on trail to knowing when to turn around, to pee rags and whether to carry deodorant or not.

Since it had been so quiet on the trail we were surprised to see five men at the shelter where we planned to stay the night. Four were taking up all the floor space, the other had set up a tent. Luckily we found two spots for our tents and quickly settled in.

The next morning we headed out to complete the Dry River trail. We stopped to admire the Dry River falls and explored some spur trails that led to old shelter sites. We looked at our map and discussed the pros and cons of bushwhacking. From one site we could’ve done a short cut back to the trail but the steepness of the little ravine separating us combined with a number of blow downs made us decide that in this case following the spur trail back was the smarter way to go.

We had our lunch break next to the bridge, on the side of the river. Soaking up the sun, enjoying the scenery eating tasty snacks, what more could we wish for? We lingered but eventually had to move on making our way back to the car. I’d say we had a pretty good time. It was cool to introduce someone to new experiences. Anne had never backpacked more than one night out, crossed her widest river yet and had always planned her trips to not include high wind days. Teaching new skills and seeing someone gain confidence is great fun!




Backpacking 101 or 2

Some time ago I noticed several posts in a online women’s hiking group about wanting to go out backpacking but having no or limited experience. I thought it would fun and rewarding to take a group out and help them feel more comfortable to stay out overnight. I planned a beginners group and got a request for an intermediate as well.

The beginners group consisted of five women ranging in age from fourteen to late forties. I chose a mellow route of about four miles to the Eliza Brook shelter. Getting to the trail head was a little rough and we parked in the lot just before the actual trailhead because I knew there were big rocks at the turn off. Rachel was running late and I was afraid she wasn’t going to make it but she pulled in just as we were ready to get started. I don’t doubt she would have caught up to us being a pretty speedy hiker but having her with us from the start was much better. This being in the White Mountains there were of course a few steeper inclines but everyone did great. It seemed that all the ladies had looked at the pack list I had put together before hand and nobody was carrying a monster pack which is always helpful. I only had to give out one virtual penalty to Emma, the teenager, who was wearing a cotton t-shirt. Thankfully she did have other layers with her which were non cotton so we didn’t have to fire her from the group. We had one decent view on the ridge and just as we were about to take a group shot a gentleman walked by. We jokingly asked him to join in our picture and he totally seized the opportunity to photo bomb our shot. So funny.

When we arrived at the shelter we set up our tents on the group tent platforms, it was cozy but we fit them all in. Initially I had planned for those interested to go up to South Kinsman to tag a 4000 footer but the weather wasn’t great and it turned to drizzle and rain soon after we got to the shelter. Here’s where Laura and Dolores came in, our two social members of the group. They kept conversation going and Laura asked questions like which musical artist we would choose to listen to if we were stranded on a deserted island and had to pick just one. Other entertainment was provided by Appalachian Trail hikers stopping in for a break and others stopping here for the day as well. Most were fun to talk to but one of them was terse and later wrote in the shelter register that he stopped in to hear the sewing circle cackle. We thought this to be rather rude.

After dinner we continued chatting for while and figured out that the older man in the shelter wasn’t ignoring us on purpose, he just couldn’t understand us. Thanks to Veronica we found out he’s from Spain and hiking the AT. She had a nice conversation with him in Spanish while I added my lame basic phrases I remembered from college. Two other guys came in and decided to stay in the shelter for the night. They were very nice and changed our name from cackling sewing circle to Team Ovarian Steel. That sounded much more hard core, we liked it!

In the morning we were all happy to see that our gear held up in the rain and after breakfast we headed back down the trail. The down hill and creek crossings were no problem for anyone and we were back at the trail head in no time. The first overnight was a success! : ) (and no, we didn’t know we were all going to wear aqua shirts lol!)


The intermediate overnight was this past weekend and ended up just being my friend Anna who I had invited for fun and my facebook friend Rachel who I hadn’t hiked with yet but I knew she was a strong hiker. Rachel was the only one who hadn’t backpacked before so both Anna and I were telling her what stuff she could take out of her pack and leave in my car. I knew the two of them were strong hikers who could probably walk circles around me so I picked a redline for me and a challenging AT section for them. We were going to climb Goose Eye mountain and then hike the so called ‘hardest mile on the Appalachian Trail’, the Mahoosuc Notch. We were impressed with the view from the Outlook on the way up the Success Trail and had a nice break there.


We continued on but took it easy and chatted up a storm. Before we knew it we were on the ridge and our ascent mellowed out a bit. I was sweating buckets because it was so hot and grabbed some emergency water along the way, it’s a fairly dry ridge but we found some water next to a bog bridge. I was happy when we found a better source a bit further on and I could dump the giant piece of moss that was floating in my bottle.

We climbed up to Goose Eye Mountain using ladders and metal rungs and again had amazing views! We’re so lucky! We only saw one hiker on the trail the entire day, and its pretty quiet at the shelter site.

At the Full Goose shelter we set up on the group site platform. Well, the girls did, I was too lazy and slept out. It didn’t seem too buggy but it only takes one buzzing insect to drive me crazy. Luckily the buzzing stopped and I slept well. In the morning Rachel tested out the different sleeping pad options and we discussed the pros and cons of hammocks and the different types of tents. After the luxurious morning coffee we set off to scramble through the Notch. We saw a several AT hikers and a few section hikers that day and had fun negotiating the boulders and caves. There was still some ice left which made it nice and cool for such a hot day.

We had a leisurely lunch at a stream, made sure to hydrate and started up the Mahoosuc Arm. We took our time and chatted away and before we knew it we were on top! After that we took the May cutoff and headed down the Speck pond trail back to Anna’s car.

It was so much fun hiking with all these ladies, I may have to make this a yearly tradition. And I’ll definitely hope some of this years’ participants will join me again, or organize their own trips. : )

Gordon Pond and Dilly Trails

In my quest to redline the White Mountain trails I set out to hike the Gordon Pond trail on Friday. By biking down hill from the Beaver Brook trail parking lot to the Gordon Pond trailhead I planned to make a loop connecting up with the Kinsman Ridge trail and descending the Dilly trail which I also still needed for the redlining. This was a great plan except that I couldn’t quite figure out where the trailhead was from looking at the map. I naively plugged in Gordon Pond trail in the google app on my phone and started biking towards it. If my morning brain had been a little bit more functional I would have realized that going uphill towards the trailhead really didn’t match the map at all but I continued walking my bike up (because who bikes up hill anyways?) until Google said I was at the trail.

I was a little confused not to find a parking lot and headed left. I crossed underneath some powerlines, saw a few confusing signs and proceeded to park my bike behind some trees. It was then that I checked my Gaia app and realized I was supposed to head uphill and that I had missed the bottom part.  Oops!

Still slightly confused I follow the Gaia track, and ignoring the trail signs at the powerlines again I continue straight across the road, park the bike and come to another trail junction. I turn left but that doesn’t jive with my map or the Gaia track (downloaded forest service map, which isn’t always correct btw) so I turn back and continue straight. I’m following some blue blazes and think I’m on the right track now (I’m discarding the Gaia track at this point because it’s nonsense). I turn left onto a road bed and soon follow along the creek. It’s pleasant walk to where I have to cross the creek. It’s a fairly easy boulder hop across just below where the trail crosses and I continue on. It’s starting to climb a bit now but it’s all pretty gentle. I’m enjoying how green everything is.

I don’t enjoy the little garter snake when I see it at first because snakes always startle me at first. It’s not moving at all so I can take a nice picture of it and hike on. Poor guy is probably cold.

I can hear Gordon Falls as I get closer and enjoy a nice view from the top of them. Crossing right above you have to watch your step since the rock is pretty mossy but it’s a pretty sweet area. Not too much later I cross it again and a little further it gets  muddy with some eroded trail and a mud pit. My poor shoes are getting sucked in a few times. Eventually I make it to the spur trail to Gordon pond. There is a big boulder with a small cairn on it marking the turn to the left to stay on the main trail but if you continue straight you’ll get to a nice spot to view the pond and if you’re lucky you can see Mt Wolf. There are some mediocre campsites in the area as well. I enjoy a little break eating some cookies, testing out my rain jacket in the drizzle. Just past the pond I startle a porcupine waddling up the trail, he climbs a tree to get away from me. They’re such cool animals!


I soon make it up to the Kinsman ridge trail and have a fairly easy jaunt over to the Dilly trail. I meet four thru hikers along the way and wish I had brought more extra snacks to hand out. One of them had taken a picture of my car in the parking lot with the excessive hiking and triple crown stickers. Haha.

The Dilly trail is listed as a very difficult trail so I was wondering how hard it would really be. I would have preferred to do it uphill but with the way I made this into a loop I didn’t have that option. In the end it wasn’t all that bad. Yes, the trail was steep, rocky and rooty. But it was dry and I just stashed my poles and took my time. I had an okay view from the ledge and made it down to the closed sign at the trailhead safely. I even walked the nature trail at the bottom but it wasn’t all that exciting. I thought about visiting the lost river gorge but wasn’t willing to pay the $19 to get in so I walked up the road back to my car.

Of course there was still the mystery of the missing mile on the Gordon Pond trail so I finally did what I should have done in the first place and pulled out my White Mountain Guide. It perfectly described where the trail starts and where you can park. It isn’t odd that I missed it since it’s unmarked parking next to a restaurant (don’t park there after 4pm) and you have to walk up a private driveway past a garage to turn onto a rail road grade. You’ll eventually see a gate, walk around it and get to the powerlines I saw in the morning. Instead of continuing straight like I did, the trail actually turns where the signs are which I didn’t pay attention to in the morning. It then continues uphill and turns again to join the trail I followed in the morning. Now the confusing junctions all make sense. Haha. I guess that White Mountain guide book is pretty useful if you actually read it! Duh.

Grafton Loop Trail

May 28-29, 2016

To avoid the Memorial Day crowds we decided to head up to Maine and hike the Grafton Loop Trail. It’s a 38.6 mile loop going over Bald Mountain, Stowe Mountain, Sunday River Whitecap and Old Speck on the western side of the loop and going over West Baldpate, East Baldpate, Long and Puzzle mountains on the east side. It’s a lightly travelled loop and we saw about 30 hikers the entire weekend of which most were on Sunday River Whitecap and Old Speck mountains.

We had an early start on Day 1 and soon were huffing and puffing up Bald Mountain. The scenery was lush and pretty and the trail wasn’t too rough but the unexpected heat combined with the exertion of climbing rather steeply near the summit made me feel pretty miserable and slightly nauseaous. After making a conscious effort to hydrate and eat a small snack I started feeling better and we eventually made it up the Sunday River Whitecap. We only saw two other hikers on their way down and two adults and two kids and dogs on the summit. We were wondering how many people would be on Franconia Ridge right now.

The views from the summit were amazing. We enjoyed a nice little break and looked around at what we just hiked and what was up ahead. We could see our entire loop from here.


On our way down the black flies came out in full force and I hadn’t planned for them. I made do with my fleece lined buff tucked underneath my visor so at least they wouldn’t buzz my ears. In one of the worst sections they were dive bombing my face and I wished we had brought a head net or Deet. Near Slide mountain campsite we met another hiker who offered us Deet and even though I hate the stuff I happily put some on my arms.

We tanked up on water and continued hiking up Old Speck. We were both feeling poorly and low on energy. Greenleaf stopped to snack and drink some more and as a last resort put some music on. I passed him but sat down on the trail not much later. I suddenly felt really miserable. Downing some more water and trying to eat another snack I just sat there for a while hoping not to get nauseous again. When I finally got up I didn’t feel all that much better and even a little shaky but I didn’t have that much climbing left to do and figured I’d stay on the summit until I felt better.

At the summit I found Greenleaf taking a break. It was clouding over a bit but he was still sitting in a semi sunny spot and it was hot. I laid down knowing I should be in the shade but I was too out of it to move. We added Nuun rehydration tablets to our water and ate several electrolyte bites. I  felt some energy coming back but my body still needed to cool down so I finally did what I should have done earlier and moved over to a shady spot. This instantly helped. I didn’t care that I was laying in wet dirt with some possible moose poop. I felt a hundred times better than I did 30 minutes ago. I even felt ready to climb the fire tower but I didn’t feel the views were worth the effort at this time. It had gotten pretty hazy and the view from the last summit had been so amazing it wasn’t really going to add much to our hike. Plus we’d already been up there several times before.

With renewed energy we hiked to the junction with the AT and met a thru hiker on his way down. He started mid February to stay ahead of the crowds and had had a rough time through the Whites. I noticed that he had a PCT patch which prompted me to start up a conversation about the different long distance trails. I love talking trail! Greenleaf and I pulled off for a second to grab some more snacks and I discovered an extra brownie. Now the chase was on! I wanted to give it to the thru hiker. I needed to catch him soon since we were planning on hiking the Eye brow trail instead of the AT. Luckily I caught him just in time. The brownie was successfully handed over and we continued on our separate ways.

The Eye Brow trail was an interesting little trail. It had a few slab sections with rebar and cables and  a steep down hill lined with cables too. It had some nice views along the way but we were glad when we made it to the parking lot and sat down for dinner. It was a buggy spot but we covered up and ate.

We continued going up to the Baldpates with the idea to get over East Baldpate tonight to enjoy the cooler temperatures. Instead of staying on the AT we took the Table Rock side trail which had a short bouldering section. I thought it was fun but Greenleaf was a bit grumpy because it was slow. The view from Table Rock was cool, we could see all the peaks we climbed earlier today.

Making our way back to the AT we concluded that going any further than the Baldpate Lean-to wasn’t in the cards for us tonight. The heat took a lot out of us today and pushing any further would have just been miserable. At the shelter we found the AT hiker fast asleep so we set up our tent and called it a night. It had been a tough hot 20 mile day with over 7000 ft of climbing.

Day 2 was a very different story, we woke up in the clouds and it was so much cooler. We loved it! Sure we didn’t have amazing views but these temperatures were such a relief from yesterday. We climbed easily up to West and East Baldpates to the junction where the AT and the Grafton Loop trail split up.


This section of the trail was much softer and felt not as well traveled as the other side. There were multiple stream crossings but they were all rock hoppable. At times it felt as if we were hiking in Vermont, it was so green and lush. There was even a nice section where we could totally cruise. I loved it! It was only when we got closer to Puzzle mountain that the temperatures rose and the bugs came out again. They made me very grumpy for a bit but luckily disappeared again and my mood improved. The trail only hits the west peak of Puzzle mountain but it has some decent views. We couldn’t see the tops of the mountains we climbed yesterday but we had that view yesterday from Table Rock. I’m glad we did that little side trip after all.

Descending Puzzle mountain was indeed like a puzzle, following small cairns and occasional blazes we found ourselves descending steep slabs and rocky sections. We were relieved when it mellowed out and we could hit a stride again. After about 18 miles and some 5000 ft of climbing we found ourselves back at the car, eating snacks and planning our next adventure. This was a great loop and besides the near heat exhaustion and annoying bugs we really enjoyed it.

Some redlining in the White Mountains

I started actively red lining the trails of the White Mountains last year, meaning I’m trying to cover all the trails described in the AMC White Mountain Guide. I’ve hiked many miles in years past but never really kept track all that much. Once I downloaded the ‘worksheets’ with all the trails and started checking them off I realized I hadn’t hiked as many as I thought. I wasn’t even half way done! Since then it’s been a fun game to string some trails together, preferably in a loop minimizing retracing trails I’ve already done.

This Saturday I had a craft fair which ended at 2 pm so that meant I couldn’t get to the mountains until late afternoon. But looking at my maps I found the Copper Mine trail which was only 2.5 miles long and had a shelter at the end. Perfect! It was an easy hike on the west side of Kinsman ridge and I made it to the shelter just before dark. The next morning I took the time to explore the falls nearby. A little scramble got me to the bottom of the upper falls to a nice swimming hole. This would make a great destination in the summer.

The hike down was quick and I soon found myself getting ready for my next hike. I wanted to hike the Reel Brook and Mt Kinsman trails but instead of doing two out and backs I figured I could make a loop out of it by connecting them with the Kinsman ridge trail. Only problem was that I would end up at different trail heads. Since I didn’t have a car spot I thought I could bike from one trailhead to the next. That sounded a lot easier than it was! I haven’t biked in several months and there were a few small up hill sections. I soon found myself panting and sweating, this is harder than the hiking, haha. The dirt road to the Reel Brook trail turned out a bit too much for me and at some point walking my bike made more sense. I was relieved when I got to the trailhead about a half an hour later and parked my bike behind a tree.

There were three other hikers starting at the same time but they were planning on going towards Kinsman Notch and I soon passed them anyway. The Reel Brook Trail was nice and gradual, a bit muddy at times but otherwise pretty sweet and I reached the Kinsman ridge trail pretty quickly.

I wanted to scout out the Eliza Brook shelter for a future trip and I was pleasantly surprised, it was in great shape with several campsites and a bear box. After perusing the shelter log book and eating an early lunch I continued on to South Kinsman. That was a tough climb but I had some company of a dad with his daughter and her friend. The views from the Kinsmans were pretty impressive. We could see rain coming in from the distance and an impressive cloudy sky. A little further along there was even some hail just as another hiker asked me to take a picture of him at a view point. I asked him to return the favor and ended up with a picture of me in my summer dress trying to catch hail! It got even better when mother nature decided to throw in some thunder and lightning! I was happy to reach the Mt Kinsman trail to head down from the ridge to safety.


This trail had a few patches of ice left but it was mostly avoidable. It seems like the ice is finally disappearing from the Whites, this makes me very happy. And seeing all the trees leafing out is wonderful too. It’s finally starting to look like spring! I reached the Bald peak spur trail and .2 miles later had another sweet view. Not much later I took the short spur trail to a flume gorge. It was pretty impressive. Back on the main trail I made good time once the tread mellowed out some more and I enjoyed the green tunnel.

It was only 5pm when I got back to the truck and I figured I could do another short hike. After picking up my bike at the Reel Brook trailhead I headed over to the Jericho Road trail, except that I couldn’t find it and continued on to find the Cobble Hill trail instead. This turned out to be rather boring walk on an old muddy dirt road with a seemingly random turn around at the national forest boundary. Oh well, it’s another red line I can check off my list and in the end I saw a tiny little eft which was cool.