A Quest for Summits – Summer Hikes 2016

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to pick back up a few things that I used to enjoy doing in high school, but haven’t had the time or resources to do for the past few years. Specifically, one of these activities was hiking. I used to go hiking almost every weekend with my family until I started track and field, where every weekend was pretty much devoted to meets. Oh, and then I got a part time job. And my siblings also had their activities like soccer games, horseback riding lessons, swim practice, and the list goes on. Life got busy and we stopped hiking.

Years, and a few outdoor adventure books, later, I wanted to rekindle my love of hiking and the outdoors. My Iceland trip was a great start – with two drastically different hikes. I won’t include these, because I’ve already written about them in previous posts. If you’d like to take a look you can find the Snæfellsjökull Glacier Hike here and the Reykjadalur Geothermal River Hike here. Once we returned to the good old U.S.-of-A., summer was upon us. What better time to start hiking again than now, coming off a great, active vacation with the motivation to continue exploring, right near home!

Hike 1 – Mt. Orange (2684′), 5/28/16

Mt. Orange was relatively close to home so we decided on this mountain for a nice little day hike. It is right next to the more popular Mt. Cardigan, and you can actually “peak-bag” both of these summits in the same hike. For you non-hikers, the term “peak-bagging” is used when you summit a collection of peaks in the same hike. The peaks are usually in a row and are easy to reach from the other peak. This time, we decided not to peak-bag.

The view from the top of Mt. Orange

I went on this hike with my boyfriend, Mike. We started at the AMC Cardigan Lodge and took the Woodland Trail to the Clark Trail to the Vistamont Trail. This last trail took us to the summit of Mt. Orange. It was about a 6 mile round-trip hike. The trails were well-maintained, with the exception of one freshly fallen tree on Clark Trail. We had to do a bit of bush-whacking to get around because it was a huge tree that we couldn’t climb over. There were also a lot of black flies on this hike. Apparently late May/early June is the height of black fly season and we had to keep moving or else we would be swarmed to death! Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but those flies sure were annoying, and their bites hurt! They also were present in many of our pictures.

Swatting away flies

A suggestion, don’t do this hike during black fly season unless you plan on not stopping. We didn’t even stop at the top to eat lunch because of the swarms!

You may notice a blurry speck in the sky – that is a fly

Hike 2 – Mt. Monadnock (3,166′), 7/4/16

If you are from Eastern Massachusetts, chances are you’ve hiked, or at least heard about, Mt. Monadnock, also called Grand Monadnock. It is a relatively easy “mountain” to get to, with breath-taking views for a minimal amount of effort (in comparison to some of the higher mountains in New Hampshire). I put “mountain” in quotes, because Mt. Monadnock is not actually a mountain – it is a monadnock – hence the name Mt. Monadnock! It is widely known that mountains are formed when two tectonic plates push together (convergent boundary) and the edges of one or both plates are pushed upwards. In contrast, a monadnock is an isolated “mountain” that was formed by the erosion of the surrounding, softer rock, leaving the harder rock exposed. And that’s all for my geology lesson in this post. 🙂

A little bit of scrambling – with a great view

I’ve hiked Mt. Monadnock countless times over the years, but it never ceases to amaze and humble me. My favorite ways up and down are the White Dot Trail (up) and the White Cross Trail (down). Round trip this is approximately 4.5 miles. I like going up the White Dot because there is a lot of scrambling over and climbing up rocks. I would not recommend going down this trail, although plenty of people do. I personally value my knees and my life.

I went on this hike with the family and Mike. It was a great 4th of July activity and the summit was packed as usual. On our way down, we saw someone carrying up a full-sized American flag to the top. What a great idea, and I’m sure they got some amazing pictures!

Happy 4th of July!

Hike 3 – Mt. Webster via Webster Cliffs (3,911′), 7/16/16

Most New England Hikers have heard about the “4,000 Footers Club”. There are a total of 48 mountains in New Hampshire that are over 4,000’ in elevation. If you hike all of them, you can join the 4,000 Footers Club by filling out an application, which includes listing out the date you hiked each 4,000 Footer. My goal is to eventually be a part of this club, so for this hike, I wanted to peak-bag Mt. Webster and Mt. Jackson (4,052′). However, things did not go as according to planned, mainly because I was over-optimistic and failed to thoroughly read the trail maps. So in reality, we came up 89 feet short of a 4,000 footer.

I went on this hike with Mike and two friends. We were double-date camping for the weekend in NH, and left for this hike straight from our campground. No need to find trail-head parking, which can sometimes be a royal pain! From our campsite in Crawford Notch State Park, we took the Dry River Connector Trail (0.5 miles) to the Sacco River Trail. Now this is where my map reading failed me. The add-on from our campsite was actually two miles to get to the Webster Cliff Trail (one way), when I had thought that it was only 0.5 miles (i.e. just the Dry River Connector Trail). We realized this once we got to the Webster Cliff Trail, where we decided to nix the plan to also hike Jackson. This ended up being a spectacular idea because the Webster Cliff Trail was extremely taxing!!

The view from the Webster Cliff Trail

From the Sacco River Trail, we took the Webster Cliff Trail all the way to the top of Mt. Webster and boy was it STEEP! I tend to be overconfident in my hiking shape, mainly because I am young, active, and have short-term memory when it comes to discomfort associated with athletic activities. After this hike, I will now always believe the hiking guide books when they say the level of hike is “strenuous”. I said that last time I decided to hike Mt. Jefferson without looking at the elevation gain in comparison to the length of the trail – but, different story for a different time.

Regardless of how much exertion it took us to get to the top, we had a great time and enjoyed some really great views from the cliffs and the summit. We were even in the clouds for a short period of time! While there were no Pokemon at the top, we did see a really cute, fat mouse while we were eating lunch! We named him Rattata, and then we all discussed (argued) over how this Pokemon’s name is pronounced.

And the clouds rolled in

From the Dry River Campground to the summit of Mt. Webster and back the same way was about a 10 mile hike. This was by far the longest and hardest hike I have done in awhile, and not one I will soon forget.

Hiking is a great way to get some exercise while enjoying the great outdoors (if you’re into that kind of thing). Hikes can be long and strenuous or just a nice nature walk through the woods. The options are endless, and I bet you have hiking trails way closer than you think! You don’t always need to drive a few hours to the highest mountain! There are probably trails right out your back door! Unless you live on the 4th floor of an apartment building, in which case, please go out your front door. Now go and find your mountain!

Happy Hiking and Happy Life!!




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