Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pemi Loop

On October 6, Nathan and I embarked on a ridiculously ambitious one-day endeavor. We had decided to attempt the Pemigewasset Loop, a 31+ mile day hike over 10+ 4000 foot peaks.
We arrived at the Kancamagus highway late on the night of the 5th, hoping to find a spot to camp at the trailhead, the Lincoln Woods trailhead. We arrived at Lincoln Woods to find posted restrictions on camping for miles around. We would have had to hike in for over a mile and a half (it was after 10PM at this point) to reach a viable camping zone, and we were not prepared to carry backpacking gear on the entire loop.

So we set out to find a spot to spend the night. The surrounding campgrounds were all at capacity, so we drove up the road a few miles. We found a parking lot for a kiddy nature walk called the Discovery Trail. There was an unpaved overflow lot that was barricaded off, around a corner and hidden by trees. Perfect! We covertly gathered our gear and set up camp in my small backpacking tent, right on the corner of the gravel lot. Nathan remained pensive over the arrangement throughout the night, but we had a few good hours of sleep before the big day.
On the morning of the 6th we awoke at 5:30AM or so. We quickly packed up and returned to Lincoln Woods.

Lincoln Woods trailhead, around 6AM

After following Franconia Brook for several miles, we ascended the first peak of the loop - Bondcliff.

Bondcliff - this was one of the highlights of the trip

The Bonds would make an excellent (sensible) day hike by themselves.

the summit of West Bond

After the Bonds (Bondcliff, West Bond, Bond) came Mt. Guyot, South Twin, Galehead, then Garfield.

the wooded summit of Galehead

Galehead from the summit of Garfield - there is a storm rolling in...

The halfway point was between Galehead and Garfield. After Garfield came a long and grueling ascent to 5260 ft. Lafayette, a mountain that we had summited many times, but never from this approach (and never as a passing peak in the middle of a 33 mile day trip).

The weather turned after we summited Garfield, and by the time we topped Lafayette we were very cold and wet. We did our best to layer up and keep moving,

and the weather soon let up.

My favorite picture of the day. Wet air would flow to the top of Franconia Ridge (from the left), hit the cool summit air, and barrel over into the valley to the right as fog.

We were now on familiar turf, the Franconia Ridge Trail, which we had hiked many times, but it was getting late. Before reached the last two peaks of the ridge, Liberty and Flume, the sun set.

We had some difficulty keeping the trail on the open fields of the mountain summits, but otherwise it was pretty smooth night hiking.

After we summited Flume we descended a trail that was new to both of us, the Osseo Trail. Descending an unknown 4.5 mile trail in the dark in wet conditions was an uneasy prospect, but we soon discovered that the trail was extremely groomed, wide, and safe.

Wooden stairs! (Note the stylish headlamp courtesy of Nathan.)

Nathan in the dark.

So we made it! The last leg of the hike, all down hill and through the woods, seemed to take an eternity, but we at least knew we were in relative safety and heading in the right direction.

We made it back to the car at 10:20PM or so. 33 1/2 miles and just under 10,000 ft of elevation gain in little over 16 hour. We had completed a loop that was named the second hardest day hike in America (you're next, Mt. Hood!) and even added a couple of detours to bag some peaks not included in that assessment. It was an accomplishment that neither of us will soon forget, and it puts other area challenges that we've yet to attempt, such as a Presidential Range traverse in perspective.

Nathan has a Picasa album with all of these photos and more, each with captions and his own summary of the hike here.

Aurora Borealis in Bucksport!

Last night Kimberly and I were driving back to her parents' house after visiting my family in Bucksport when we saw a peculiar glow in the sky.  Having seen the Aurora Borealis one other time in my life (coincidentally on the very same road that we were driving on then), I recognized it fairly quickly.

(This is actually a picture of an Aurora Australias from Wikipedia... It was the best approximation to what we saw that I could find.)

The sight was obscured by trees that surrounded the roads we traveled.  We decided that we would keep driving past her parents' house until we could get a clear view of the sky.  As we drove down the hill that leads to the house, however, we found that the Aurora was in clear view from the driveway!

We saw something very similar to the red/orange glowing vertical lines in the picture above.  Once or twice per minute the bright green/white flash of an addition flare-up would be seen.  The weather was cold and we were tired, so we didn't stay long (and unfortunately our little digital camera wasn't able to capture anything worth sharing).  

Doing a little research this morning, I'm discovering that we were incredibly lucky to have chanced upon an Aurora Borealis under the circumstances.  Several things that made the event unlikely:

-Bucksport is a few miles south of the Bangor/Brewer metro area, which is the biggest source of light pollution in central Maine.
-Aurora activity in temperate latitudes is most likely at the peak of the sunspot cycle or for the next few years that follow it.  We're actually at the very beginning of a sunspot cycle -- the peak won't be until 2012!
-The most likely time to view the event is the middle of the night, around midnight.  This occurred at 8:30PM and was gone in the next half hour.
-The full moon is today, so we were just a few hours off from the brightest night of the month.  Auroras are most easily viewed during a new moon.

The event was an amazing, unlikely little additional treat for our awesome Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, November 9, 2007


I miss blogging. It seems that life is too busy lately. I used to blog during my lunch break, but lately I've taken to eating while working instead :-/ I'll try to set aside some time to chronicle some of the notable things that have happened while I've been on hiatus.

Right now I'm on the couch. Kimberly dosed off beside me. We went to Best Fitness, our new gym three minutes down the street from our new place in Chelmsford, for the first time today after work. When we got home we worked together to cook an amazing meal of chicken with pepper jack/parmesan cheese sauce, fingerling potatoes, and romaine lettuce with homemade garlic peanut sauce!

After that we watched a very interesting independent film called "The Girl from Monday" about a near future US society ruled by a mega-corporation and capitalist ideals, covertly invaded by subversive extra-corporeal extraterrestrials.

Tomorrow I have to go into the office for a bit to do some time-sensitive work but then we have dinner plans with friends on both days this weekend. I'm really looking forward to a couple of days of rejuvenation.