Category Archives: Trip Report

Trip Report – Acadia NP and White Mountains

We are just getting back from a wonderful celebration of our 23rd wedding anniversary and a whirlwind trip through Maine and New Hampshire. It combined the best of everything…a couple of nice bed and breakfasts along with hearty dinners, camping and day hiking in Acadia National Park on the rocky coast of Maine, and backpacking along the legendary trails of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  I’ll break this one into sections so you can scroll to the areas of interest…

MAINE & ACADIA NATIONAL PARK

The trip started off perfectly on our anniversary…we had a reservation in Camden, Maine (a quaint fishing village) for a night in a bed and breakfast as well as a great dinner at the B&B restaurant.  However, on arriving we found a Scottish pub right across the street.  My wonderful wife immediately cancelled our dinner reservations to allow me to partake of pretty authentic Scottish fare from my homeland at The Drouthy Bear (it means thirsty)!

We enjoyed an excellent Bacon Butty, an above average Sausage Roll, and the best Fish and Chips I have had in several years, washed down with traditional Scottish (Belhaven Wee Heavy) and local Maine beer (unfortunately I forgot which IPA but it was good!). I finished up with a decent dram of Scotch as well.  A perfect evening!

The next day it was off to Acadia National Park for our long awaited visit to this scenic spot.  We have learned over the years to maximize our enjoyment of an area by sacrificing convenience and highlights for quieter spots, so while planning the trip we were immediately drawn to the Schoodic Woods portion of the park and the hike-in campsites there.

The area did not disappoint…from the initial drive when we left everyone else turning right to go into Ellsworth and onto Mount Desert Island (main part of Acadia) and enjoyed a quiet drive up through Winter Harbor to Schoodic Woods.  Make sure to stop in at the JM Gerrish restaurant for some really good food (and great blueberry pie!) before camp!

The campsite we chose was the furthest walk (only about 5 minutes) from the parking area of those available, on a little knob of a hill.  We really enjoyed the peace and quiet, couldn’t see any neighbors, and just occasionally heard someone.  For those planning to hike-in camp here, I would recommend sites 2, 5, and 8.  Site 2 was booked but had a great view of Mt Desert Island, although it was a 10 minute hike up the hill.

After settling in, we went for a tour around the Schoodic peninsula and enjoyed the cold rocky coast and great views.

After dinner at camp we decided to head back to Schoodic Point and enjoyed sunset there with a few other folks.

Our next two days, we had planned to head over to Mt Desert Island by the ferry, and then go to a local wildlife reserve area for quieter hikes, but those plans changed as we settled into Schoodic.

Falling in love with this area and its peace and quiet, we immediately knew we would be coming back here and therefore didn’t feel the need to discover every corner or face the crowds in the main portion of the National Park in the summer, which we heard was pretty busy and would likely lessen our enjoyment.  We look forward to enjoying that in the off-season in the future and opted for a quiet couple of days.

Instead, we thoroughly explored Schoodic peninsula including taking the almost empty shuttle down to Anvil trailhead and hiking back to the camp, through the rocky hills with great views of Mt Desert Island…

and the Maine coast…

from The Anvil and Schoodic Head.  We then dropped into the beautiful woods and found bogs…

more hilltop rock outcrops…

and then more bogs with pitcher plants.

After that, we relaxed at camp for lunch and then spent the afternoon exploring the rocky coast areas and investigating the tidal pools.

This area really reminds me of Scotland and England where I spent my first decade…the life in the pools is dramatic and colorful.

We had a wonderful and relaxing day followed by dinner at The Pickled Wrinkle (decent food and a good beer selection) and still don’t regret skipping the main National Park area and saving it for next time.

NEW HAMPSHIRE & WHITE MOUNTAINS

Knowing we would be back freed us up to head out to New Hampshire a little earlier and do some last minute equipment shopping in Conway before heading into the White Mountains.  After picking up a couple of supplies and a (discounted) pair of hiking shorts with a mild/hot forecast, we enjoyed another night in a B&B and a hearty dinner and breakfast before heading to the Lincoln Woods trail head.

With her new ULA Ohm pack loaded up, my wife was ready for the trail!

An easy hike along the river on an old rail bed (Lincoln Woods Trail) was followed by a beautiful hike up the Franconia Brook Trail, past ponds and views of the hills we would be climbing. Our route led us to the 13 Falls and its tent site, which was an option for night one.

There were several groups at the campsite already.  As mentioned earlier, we are folks who like peace and quiet, so the idea of camping with a bunch of other hikers was not really ideal.  We gathered up water for the evening and headed up the Twin Brook Trail to look for a campsite off the trail in what looked like some flat areas on the topographic map.

After much searching to get a legal site (below tree line and 200 ft from trail or stream), we settled on a flat area a little elevated from a relatively spongy saddle.  While initially I was worried about the amount of bugs in the area, it turned out to be a nice little site that we left relatively untouched except for the usual dry patch of ground after some overnight rainfall.

We enjoyed a dinner of chicken and dumplings then a good night’s rest knowing that we had already shaved a bit of the next day’s climb from the itinerary.   The bugs weren’t bad and respectfully retired at sunset.

Day two in the Whites found us climbing for an hour to the Galehead Hut…

in time to buy a piece of fresh baked Mocha Cake that fueled my wife for the climb up to South Twin.

The trail lived up to expectations – a straight line rocky hop…

that led to some wonderful views…

Since this was our first experience in the Whites and my wife, while in great shape, was not as used to mountain trails like this, we decided to skip the out and back hike to North Twin and make for the Guyot campsite early enough to get a good spot.  We passed through some more great views on Guyot…

and a pretty fern forest…

before reaching the newly rearranged campsite (the site numbers below don’t match the wooden camp signs and several new platforms seem to have been built).

This turned out to be a great plan as we were the first to arrive as rain started coming down.  As  usual, we chose the tent platform furthest from everyone and holed up there for the next 15 hours as the rain pretty much fell continuously.  We socialized a bit in the cooking area with a late afternoon snack, but generally kept to our private platform while the camp filled up with tired hikers.

The camp host came by and recognized the Trailspace logo on my hat.  I think this bought us instant trail-cred and she OK’d us LNT cooking at the platform in the rainstorm (no crumbs – just boiling water for tea and coffee and a boil in the bag meal) since we had a bear canister along for the wild camp nights.

An evening in a tent in the rain talking and playing cards with your best friend is hard to beat! (No photos of camp as it rained consistently from mid-afternoon to the next morning.)

Our last day, we got a decent start and had a few views on the climb to Mount Bond…

although the mosquito squadrons were out in force well up to the heights…

and the top of Mount Bond was shrouded in mist.  My wife is pretty convinced that I wasn’t the first person to come up with “Bond, Mount Bond” upon reaching the peak, but I am going with that theory until proven otherwise!

I really enjoy walking through the clouds and fog, but we also wanted to take in some views.  Luckily the wind picked up and we got the best of both worlds along the Bondcliff Trail with periods of white out…

followed by breaks with incredible views.  I would put this section of trail up against any other for scenery and pure enjoyment of the terrain.  Walking along Bondcliff with the clouds rolling in and out added to the atmosphere…

and even the valley views were impressive.  I didn’t have the camera out enough for the peak views but we got a good share of those as well.

Bondcliff itself was shrouded most of the time with occasional views of Franconia Ridge, but we had little company as we traversed this incredibly striking rocky terrain.

Then we began to meet the weekend crowds as we descended along Bond Brook down to the valley below.

After a steep (knee aching) drop down Bondcliff to the Wilderness and Lincoln Woods trails, we hiked out with a couple of snack breaks.

The trip totaled 25.5 miles with some decent climbs, and my wonderful better half handled it all and really enjoyed the trip.  We dried out in a hotel in Concord before heading back into the warm south.

Like I said earlier, we will be back in the off-season some time to spend about 5 days in Acadia, and I know I will be back in the shoulder seasons to really explore the White Mountains in more depth, but we couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary celebration!

Trip Report – Back to Mt Rogers, June 2017

Thrilled to be back on the trail!

FINALLY!  See my previous post for the frustration of being kept off the trail…

My work schedule had me in Winston-Salem on a Friday afternoon and the better half had a busy weekend, so I threw the pack in the car and took off for the closest high ground to get out of the early summer heat…Grayson Highlands and Mt Rogers again.

Brier Ridge
AT – The Green Tunnel is coming back!
First pony sightings.

I expected a ton of people at the outset and planned to spend little time on the Appalachian Trail in order to avoid the crowds.  Turned out that it wasn’t really busy at the Elk Garden Trailhead (I am sure Massie Gap was packed!).  I trotted in about 4 miles or so starting with some nice views and then the green tunnel of the AT (a lot different from my last trip here). Around 5:30 I diverted off the AT to Brier Ridge and a wonderful first night campsite…

Brier Ridge Campsite

The new Tarptent Stratospire 1 was a breeze to set up and allowed for wonderful views.  I didn’t bring a ground sheet on this trip so was very careful in campsite selection and despite my adherence to LNT principles I removed a couple of small briers from under the inner tent footprint.I could post the 10 or more photos I took of the Stratospire, but will save most of those for a future gear review.

The  evening was not too warm and I even slipped on a wind shirt while enjoying a wee dram of scotch after a filling pasta dinner (Knorr pasta mix with fresh supplemental ingredients from home).

Slainte mhath!

A great night’s rest in the high country, followed by waking in the pre-dawn to watch the sunrise.  Can’t beat this!

Sunrise over Wilburn Ridge

After a breakfast of instant coffee and Packit Gourmet West Memphis Grits Souffle (delicious!), I packed up camp and took my usual photo of the site to see how little “impression” I left.

Just a trace of camp left

I headed back along Brier Ridge and around the west side of Mt Rogers onto the spur trail down to the Lewis Fork Trail. This is a muddy horse track but a good test to see how fast my new boots would dry out!

Brier Ridge pony
Mt Rogers trail forest
Blooming rhodos on Pine Mountain
Reaching the crest again

I took the high route (there are two choices on the Lewis Fork Trail as it does a big U) to avoid the killer climb of Cliffside Trail since I hadn’t been out in a while. I quickly found myself back on top of Pine Mountain…one of my favorite areas. After watering up at the reliable spring near the Crest Trail, I headed east and found a shady spot with a good view south to Stone Mtn for a lunch break.

Pine Mtn looking southwest
More rhodos and views

After lunch, I had no real plan so headed through Scales, which had a large group of campers and some backpackers resting up, and up onto Stone Mtn. My planned campsite that night was going to be near the Bear Pen Trail with a view back to Wilburn Ridge, but I got there really quickly and decided to hoof it along the rest of the trails in the area and spiral back toward camp. I have done much off trail diversion in this area, so kept it easy on the AT, Scales, and Bear Pen trails just to add some miles and see if I cold find water down slope of the campsite.

AT and ponies on Stone Mtn
Flame azaleas on Stone Mtn

The campsite I had picked out on a previous trip lived up to my expectations…a nice flat area for the Stratospire and a great view of Wilburn Ridge and sunset. The only down side was unexpected heat…it got to over 90 in the tent that afternoon. I addressed that by sitting in the shade of the rocks where it was about 70 and watching a few of the ponies grazing for a couple of hours. Very peaceful!

Bear Pen Trail camp looking at Wilburn Ridge

Camp at sunset

I lugged a couple of liters of water up from a spring near the Bear Pen Trail -more than enough for dinner and breakfast. Dinner was my new staple on trips….Packit Gourmet Texas State Fair Chili!

Texas State Fair Chili with toppings!
TSFC – it tastes even better than it looks!

In my opinion, there isn’t a better way to a spend a couple of hours than sitting on a rock in the wilderness and watching the sunset while sipping on single malt whisky. This trip it was Lagavulin 16 to celebrate getting over my health issues and back on the trail!

Selfie with the Stratospire I

After a very restful night I packed up camp and headed back over Stone Mtn and along the Pine Mtn Trail. The rhododendron were in full bloom all weekend along with the flame azaleas.

Post camp photo
Grayson longhorn
Pine Mtn rhodo tunnel

Overall it was a fantastic trip…I put 26 miles under my belt from Friday at 4 to Sunday at 12. This gives me confidence that my back and leg are doing well and future fun is ready to be had!

I’ll leave you with a few more photos…

Looking south from AT near Thomas Knob Shelter
Cloud shadows!
A look back at Wilburn Ridge and Rhododendron Gap
Trees and rocks along the slope of Mt Rogers
Still feeling good after 26 miles
Crest trail and Whitetop in the distance
View after view!
More cloud shadows!
A last short walk to Elk Garden

Trip Report from Grayson Highlands on a cold February weekend (finally)!

I just posted a new trip report from last weekend’s excursion to Grayson Highlands in VA and adjacent wilderness areas.  Highlights include:

  • Cold and windy weather with lows near 10 and wind chills to -15
  • Beautiful views and clouds rolling through
  • A lost boy scout
  • An off-trail excursion through thickets and bogs
  • Horses, and more horses

Enjoy!

ULA Ohm 2.0 Review & Uwharrie National Recreational Trail Report

I just posted a review on Trailspace (and updated my Gear Review page) of the ULA Ohm 2.0 after a year of solid testing.  I really appreciate this pack for its light weight, versatility, and ease of access that it provides.  Only downside is the typical sweaty back syndrome common to many packs.  Highly recommend the Ohm and it has taken its place as my number one pack on trips up to 5+ days.

Another update can be found on my Trip Report page – a description and bunch of photos of a wet weekend trip along half of the Uwharrie National Recreational Trail.

Here ends January 2017, and looking forward to some winter hiking in February after a mild start to the year!