Friday, August 30, 2019

Isolation! August 25, 2019

The night before this hike, we had decide not to attempt Isolation. The Saturday weather had not been as good as forecasted, we were a bit tired from Zealand: the extended version. And REALLY, who wants to get up at ass o'clock every day??

So, when Eric got out of the tent at 6:45 on Sunday morning and said "SHIT. We need to hit Isolation today!" I was both excited, and freaked out because one would have planned on an earlier start.

But yes, the sun was shining gloriously and there was not a doubt in our collective minds. It was a day for some above treeline nonsense.

We managed to get on trail exactly 9:30- which is a hideously late start. Thankfully, sunset is still on the later side so were not too worried. I had heard wildly varying times for this hike but calculated that we should/could be able to do it in 8.5.

And off we went.

Not too gross after a couple days in a tent
We chose the Glen Boulder trail to start with, and it gains some serious elevation right from the beginning. However, it tosses in some switchbacks, and moderate sections (so as long as you don't go out habanero- you will make it. We certainly saw some humans around mile .75 who were DONE for the day. Don't be those guys.)

Just normal up and up
As the trail pops above the treeline for the first time, there is the only technical scramble of the day. Our typically fearless dog took a good look at this little rock slab and asked for a boost. She was then on her way and had no other issues (this is just good to keep in mind if you have a cautious/old/arthritic/non-athletic dog. they might not make it up this.)

The view looking towards Glen Boulder was stunning. It was a perfect weather day, in beautiful surroundings.

Just a small rock on a hill 

It's kind of amazing that such a large rock decided to settle in this exact place. Let's hope it stays put.

Ellie is like, 50 feet away for perspective
After checking out the boulder, we continued to go up. A stretch of above treeline hiking, then  transitioned into some more wooded path.
There is a spring off this stretch of trail: be aware, this is the only easy place to get water for the remainder of the hike. If you have a dog, make sure to bring a LOT of water!

On the way to the intersection of Glen Boulder Trail, and Davis Path, you pass over a summit which is called Slide Peak, or Gulf Peak depending on what map you look at. While it is right at 4800 feet, it doesn't "count" because it doesn't have prominence. BUT- it has some killer views.

Right at about 5100 feet, 3.2 miles in, you come to the intersection with Davis, and make the left turn towards Isolation. (by the way, this was Ellie's highest climb!)

Can't beat the weather, or the view!
And then. YOU GO DOWN.
Might as well enjoy it though. The sights just don't get any more gorgeous.

Isolation, here we come
The little above treeline stretch was just glorious, but luckily, we both really liked the wooded sections too. You really drop like a rock, losing over 1k elevation pretty damn quick. You're going to hoof along in the woods for about 2 miles- and they aren't bad miles at all!! Then, you'll come to a fork in the road and take the right hand trail towards Isolation. Only another 0.9 to go at that point...!

A pleasant trail!
There are some pretty muddy areas on the Isolation trail, and I imagine it is a gross mess in the Spring. But I didn't take any pics that weren't pretty, haha.

And just like that (well. after almost 4 hours) there is was!

Just a small climb and POP, above treeline you go.
To some of the best views you can hope for.

Just kidding. It was lovely.

Gotta get back up that, though
We could not have asked for better conditions. Save this one for a glorious day!

We made it!
We made it to the summit in almost exactly 4 hours. We did have to stop several times to water and feed the dog, and for minor outfit changes. Nothing major though.

After enjoying about 10-15 minutes at the summit, we were off again. Knowing we had a pretty solid climb in the way down was a good motivator not to dilly-dally.

The return trip was, honestly (and thankfully!) uneventful. Yes, there was a climb to get back to Glen Boulder trail. But: it was such a nice day, the surroundings were so fabulous, and we are in decent shape, so it was not at all horrible.
We retraced our steps, as I have heard that Rocky Branch is not in good shape. Plus, we don't always trust our hitchhiking skills.

Gotta take a few to check out the view.

Just out of the tiny woods
Shadows were beginning to fall by the time we made it back to the big big rock.

Casts a large shadow
It was a good walk down. We had braced ourselves for being really tired, which never actually came to pass. We braced ourselves for some level of frustration, which also never happened! The dog got a little crazy at the end, but saved it for the final stretch so that wasn't even an issue. We had prepared for a real level of struggle (especially after hiking 12 plus the prior day) but it never was that bad. We had some good laughs on the way down, the trail is impeccably marked so we never had the "oh shit where do we go" feeling, like we had on the Twins, and it was a fine ending to a truly fine hike!

Elle is so embarrassed 
This was a great one.
Don't do it if you aren't in shape.
(good to note: there really is not a "bail out" option on this hike. so if you can tell it is not your day, head down earlier rather than later.)
Save it for a nice day!
Also, this brought us up to #28 on the NH48 list (I believe, the 21st one we have done in 2019!!)  I really have to appreciate the list for being a motivator to get out and do a hike like this. Otherwise, I might have said "11.6 miles for a little mountain?!? NO WAY!!" And thus, would have missed out on a really fun day.

Strava data: (we take this with a grain of salt) 
-elevation climbed: 5,007 (HELLO!!!!)
-miles covered: 11.6
-elapsed time: 7:58

Difficulty: Strenuous. Very long, lots of vert. But amazing!!!! Very exposed in places, not a great option for a bad weather day. This route avoids major water crossings, but it can certainly get very muddy. You are, indeed, isolated out there. No viable bail out routes that would help you in a bad situation, so you must be smart to do this one. I did find some cell service in a few places, but it's very spotty. 

Views: Unbeatable. Even if you only go to Glen Boulder. 

Bugs: Nope

Dog friendly trail? Ish. One tricky scramble, and very long with very little water. Our little buddy loved it, but she's nuts. 


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Training for Marine Corps Marathon Weeks 8&9

Week 8 was, as planned, a zero week. (this would have been the week of August 11th.)
Since it seems that my crappy blog will not allow me to comment on comments (dumb) here's my answer to why I like a nice, sensible, zero week.

Well... Possibly because I'm just not a high level runner? I am quite sure that if I was shooting for a big goal, a low key week would not be ideal (or maybe it would!) I find that taking a really massive cut back week, or zero week, allows me to fully recharge.
I have found myself in the position of being forced into a zero week for my past couple marathons. Maybe I get super sick, or hurt my stupid back. Whatever the reason, I seem to come back from a rest much better.
Maybe I should always rest, and never train....?

As it turned out, I would have needed to quit running for that week anyway, whether I had planned to or not.
Since my hobby (hiking) is pretty active, and my job can easily keep me on my feet for double digit miles a day, I had sustained some minor injuries.
I managed to turn my ankle pretty badly while WALKING AROUND, which is possibly the stupidest thing I have ever heard.
Add to that some shin crap that I managed to collect while hiking, and I was a gimp. I actually (unfortunately) had to extend the rest into week 9- which was not my plan. I saw my Chiro and got some major work done (all feet and ankle crap. so much of it.) That really helped, so I hiked almost 25 miles total last weekend, beat myself up, then got back to training.
I did make it out for a 3 mile run, but it never made it onto Strava because my watch is screwed up...

In the big picture, 2 weeks of no running are not ideal in marathon training. But, if I had not taken them I feel that the odds would have been against me and I'd probably be on the injured list later in this cycle. (or, NOW.) My hope is that the break, and the work I have done to rehab will get me to the start line.
(if I was a more serious runner, I would probably knock off the huge hiking weekends. but that is probably not going to happen.....)

Miles: 3 :-)
Hottest day: 90, while I was at a horse show. So this sucked. 
Longest run: 3!!!!!
Hiking miles- 24.2 Maybe this is good for marathons???


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Zealand: The extended version. August 24, 2019

Eric, Ellie and I went camping over the weekend.
Since we were already ON the Zealand Road, we concluded that it only made sense to hike Zealand.

It seems to be a little talked about Mountain- people seem to tie it in with Hale (smart) or snag it during an extended Pemi (less smart??)

We got up, the weather was decent enough (cold!) we drove a couple miles up the Zealand road to the Zealand Trail lot ($5, packed, typical) We parked in the Zealand lot which connects to the Zealand trail and takes you to the Zealand hut and Mt. Zealand, BECAUSE EVERYTHING AROUND HERE IS CALLED ZEALAND! I think this is very amusing.

And we made a STARTLING DISCOVERY!!!!!

OH MY GOD?!?!?! IT IS??? 
I admit, the Thoreau Bridge closed signs are mostly a joke between Eric and me (and maybe not even a funny one...) But Eric and I find it very amusing, every time we come to a bridge, to politely ask one another if it is the Thoreau Bridge. And then shout "IT IS OUTTTTT!"
We think we are funny.

Anyway. It was like 45 degrees and off we went. 
Zealand Trail was very polite.

Yes please
THEN. Zealand Trail went through a swamp, and I LOVE SWAMPS!!!

Thoreau bridge!!!! Nope...
OMG stop. I love it.

It was a bit cloudy though to be honest. 
Anyway. We chugged along on the flatlands for a few legit miles, and then the trail turned upward by Zealand Falls, and headed to the hut. The trail to the hut which covers 2.8 miles, literally goes up 700 something feet. It is the least hard thing you will do all summer.

The only steep stretch in the first part
After passing by the hut you transition to the Twinway (the AT) which continues to be very reasonable, although somewhat more uphill. You pass over some little flumes, along some pretty rocks and through a lovely forest.
There is a viewpoint just before the Zeacliff trail that should not be passed by! This is right around 3.7 miles, by a sign that says "view". The sign is correct.
From what I understand, this is "Zeacliff" which makes sense, as it is a cliff. This is a tad confusing, since on the actual Zeacliff trail is another perfectly good Zeacliff. who knows.

From there, the trail continued to be so enjoyable! Well marked, so obvious, perfectly maintained. Just delightful.

Doesn't get much better!
There were, as expected, a few uphill stretches but they were broken up perfectly by easier terrain. There were a couple (few) rock hops, the smallest of teeny baby scrambles, and one steeper section with a very doable little climb, and helpful ladder.

Mostly though, it was fun and straightforward.

Ellie approved
And soon: there we were!

A pretty low key peak.

Another one in the books
We met several very friendly and interesting hikers at the top, and spent a while talking about our shared  experiences. We were in no rush on this particular day and thus, spent a decent amount of time talking to fellow hikers.

Now one might think that the best choice for the return trip would be the same sensible, enjoyable, easy to follow, pristine trail that we had just taken.

But no. We wanted a view, and some rugged, wild, messy wilderness.
So we took Zeacliff....

It did not disappoint!!

In stark contrast to the friendly for all, almost Disneyesque features of Zealand Trail and Twinway, Zeacliff was a wild little adventure. Plummeting into a valley that leaves you staring into the face of whitewall, there is little question that you are taking the path less traveled.

Jurassic Park??
The trail is mostly easy follow but infrequent blazes should merit some caution. The trail is plenty full of adventure- and would be a cardio nightmare to ascend!

After plummeting into the lowest point on the planet, you go up a bit (steeply) cross a river, and come face to face with Whitewall Mountain (which I did NOT want to go up!)

Straight UP
After a bit of "find the cairn" and some rock-hoppity crap:

Rock Hoppity CRAP
...we ended up securely, as planned, on Ethan Pond Trail (actually passing by Thoreau Springs trail- don't tempt us to find the bridge vacancy!!!)

Ethan Pond trail brought us back to a very practical place on a totally sensible path. Very pleasant.

Very nice. 
Back to Zealand trail, back through the glorious swamp, and back to the campsite!!!!

This was a very enjoyable day. What a great hike!
While I hesitate to call any double digit hike "moderate" this is what a moderate long hike looks like, in my opinion. (probably a great idea to tag Zealand and Hale- another hill I like- together. But I'm actually pretty happy that we did them separately! They can be enjoyed in their own right!)
For the easy route, skip Zeacliff (the trail. not the scenic viewpoint. I know..... ) We had the time/fitness and it was fun. I imagine going up is good workout, and going down could be a bit gross if things are wet. Be mindful of where the trail is in the overgrown places!!

Strava data: (we take this with a grain of salt) 
-elevation climbed: 2,867 (not at all bad for so many miles!)
-miles covered: 12.6
-elapsed time: 6:47- includes all time chit chatting 

Difficulty: Moderate. But only if you skip Zeacliff and the extra mileage 

Views: Nothing from the summit (people hate this!) but a GREAT viewpoint 

Bugs: They seem to be gone

Dog friendly trail? Stick to the basic route- VERY dog friendly! Zeacliff has a pretty good sized slab/scramble/climb which, while very short, could be a pretty big question for most dogs. 


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Twins: August 11, 2019

After tackling the Cats the previous day, the three of us hit the road again to take on the Twins.

We had a pretty good plan, to meet up with Eric's sister on North Twin, hit the South peak as a group, crack some champagne to celebrate her birthday (while bathed in sun, and while enjoying the stunning views!!) Solid plan. Off we went.

It was a chilly morning, but the sun was peeking out. The (free) lot was full at the base of North Twin trail, and we were about the 10th car on the road at 7:45 AM. Busy day.

Upsettingly, it seems the Thoreau bridge is OUT. Who knew?

The trail started off pleasantly- and actually continued to be really nice and flat for almost 3 miles.

Off we go on a nice flat path!!
There are several river crossings, most of which are very poorly marked.

One of several crossings
Overall- this trail is not always the best marked, PERIOD.  Luckily, after a few steps on a perfectly decent washout you can usually sort things out (on the uphill stretch anyway.) There are many moments where it is very apparent that people took the wrong route- so you really need to have your eyes open.
The second river crossing on ascent is a problem- the trail confidently veers off to follow some blue surveyors tape hanging from trees. Luckily, I had just read someone's trail repost that mentioned that following this tape takes you the incorrect way.
*from what I understand, there is a bushwack that meanders along the river for about a mile. I'm really a fan of the actual trail, so while I sure this is totally valid info, I only bushwack when it is absolutely necessary.*
On decent- it is the final river (so, third) crossing that will get you. And the vast majority of your friends, from the looks of the trail. Go left. That's all.
I imagine these rivers would be significant in the Spring, or during a wet summer. On this particular day, they were very rock hoppable.

Around mile 3, the trail began to go up.

Just a normal up though
The ascent is not the madness of the Hancocks, where you mosey along a flat path for miles and then go STRAIGHT UP LIKE HAND OVER DAMN FIST. But the final two miles certainly gains some elevation.

Eric and I were not offended by the terrain, although both of us felt a bit less than fresh after getting beat up on the friggin Cats the previous day. Everything on this mountain is doable though, and would be downright pleasant on a pair of new legs.

The weather began to get pretty cold, windy and crappy as we neared the summit. This was a bit of a bummer- the second socked in day in a row. UGH!!

We popped above treeline, to a place where the obviously is a great view on a nice day. Evidently, when it is clear one can see Garfield, Lafayette, and the summit of South Twin easily.
On this day we saw nothing.

However, steps later we did see Eric's sister Jyoti, and her friend Mia, who had made it to the Summit of North Twin, just a short distance away. Since the weather was crap, they decided to save South for another day. Wise, wise women. We gave them some tiny bottles of champagne to enjoy at home, and completely forgot to take a photo. BOOOO.

So, on we hustled to the actual summit. It was a great little path.

I love tiny trees
Actual Summit
Then, we continued on another 1.3 miles to towards the South peak.
It was a very pleasant walk, in trees and ferns and greenery. There was one somewhat rocky section, which I hesitate to call a scramble, because it was really very minor. Overall, we really enjoyed this section of the hike. (there were a few places where we had to hip-hop over some mud- but it was not catastrophic!)

And then, the second summit.

Ellie is zero percent amused
Evidently, on a nice day, one would have an amazing view of Guyot, the Bonds, and a great deal of the Pemi wilderness. On this day.... just a cloud.
Can't win them all.
It wasn't nice out so we got back on trail quickly.

Down into the tiny trees

Ellie and I love the tiny tree forest!!!!!
The walk down was generally uneventful. Steep enough in places to merit attention, but nothing disgustingly challenging.
At one point, we almost got a view!

We'll take it!!!
By the time we got to the flat section, we were all feeling a bit overcooked (we blame wildcat D)
At the final river crossing we were honestly irritated by the unclear trail. While it was so minor in the big picture (we have a map, there was plenty of daylight, we are prepared) it was VERY annoying at the time to feel disoriented. Just a good reminder to always have a map, and that every trail is not as clear as one might wish for.

We made it down, to find warm, warm sunshine......

Overdone Bradlowski Family
We were a bit wrecked. My ankles and left shin had been taking a beating all summer, and this was the final straw. This was really a perfectly enjoyable hike, but the whole group of us were feeling crabby.  So we had a beer and got over it. A tough weekend hiking is still a better weekend than most people get to have!!

Why is it so nice out now?!?
So, the moral of this story is that North and South Twin are not bad mountains at all. Mind the path, and know it is going to eventually get steep (and pick a sunny day) and you'll really love it.
It's a long one, and I would never suggest a high mileage hike for a first attempt at a 4k footer. It is easier than the Hancock's and MUCH easier than the stupid face Wildcat range. (still mad, haha.) I have a feeling that the views are probably outstanding on a good day-this might be one that we choose to do again.

Strava data: (we take this with a grain of salt) 
-elevation climbed: 3,744
-miles covered: 11.4
-elapsed time: 6:45

Difficulty: Difficult. It is long, there certainly is some incline to deal with, and I imagine the river crossings are challenging/impossible in high water season. 

Views: Tough to know

Bugs: Nope

Dog friendly trail? Yes.