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Seek The Peak

For the last few years I have joined over 1000 hikers for the Mount Washington Observatory’s annual fundraiser. Billed as the “Nation’s Premier Hiking Event”, hundreds of hikers from the greater New England area (and sometimes further) gather donations to help support the non-profit organization in its 3 fold mission to observe the weather, research, and educate, in one of the most unique places on the planet.

Because this day, always the 3rd Saturday of July, draws so many hikers on what is already a typical busy weekend day, I tend to use it as an excuse to seek out a trail to the summit I have yet to climb. The Great Gulf trail climbs 5000 feet over a long 7.5 miles, and would assure me a pretty secluded day with a dramatic finish right before the summit. However, a few days before the event I found out I would not have a sitter for Alex.

I would be lying if a small part of me did not jealously want the long alpine day and great workout that speed hiking this trail alone would have brought me, however it didn’t take long for me to get physced for another hike with Alex and I pulled out my map.

Liebeskind’s Loop Trail and Lila’s Ledge

I’d glanced over at these ledges countless times from nearby Square Ledge. I knew there was a small loop trail around them, but never got around to doing it. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to check this loop off the list. I could drop Mommy off at Great Glen to set up for the Expo event, Alex and I could hit this loop, and then join her for the award ceremony, catered dinner, and vendor village.

We left Pinkham at about 10:30. Within 100 yards we stepped off the crowded Tuckerman Ravine Trail and headed north on Old Jackson Road. Earlier that morning as I rushed to get everything packed I somehow overlooked my map. Those who know me know I’m a bit of a “Land Navigation” geek…  hiking without a map made me feel a bit lacking. But I studied the map briefly at the visitor center and I was fairly certain taking my first right would put me on my loop trail. I crossed a ski trail that was obviously not the “Crew Cut Trail” that starts the loop, and then took my next right. It only took a minute for me to realize the cars on Rt 16 were sounding a bit to close so I consulted my phone GPS Ap and realized I hadn’t quite reached the loop. However, it was a short distance to tag the road and cross this small section of trail off my map so I continued.

After returning to Jackson Road we found the beginning of the loop and were on our merry way. Alex was coo’ing and ah’ing in his typical manner and I started to breathe a bit harder as we gained a couple hundred feet of elevation. About 40 minutes into our hike we rounded a corner and arrived at a sign notifying us of nearby Lila’s Ledge.

The trail just before Lila’s Ledge

The view south through Pinkham Notch

After taking in the vista we retreated 50 feet back into a shaded grove of pines. The trail was open and flat here and the pine needle floor was soft and spongy, a perfect place to let baby out of the pack. We munched on little dehydrated yogurt treats and shared some water. Alex doesn’t get how the CamelBak works so I poured some in his sippy cup. It was such a tranquil moment I decided to try to capture it on my iPhone.

http://youtu.be/xpmXBzFIERg

During these quiet moments I spent some time thinking of my Aunt, Marjorie Collins, who I dedicated this day to and who finished her battle with cancer April 29th 2011. I am so happy she was able to meet my wife and dance at my wedding, and I know she’s watching Alex with the same love she watched me with when I was a baby (and throughout my life). I love you Marjorie.

Marjorie Collins May 14th, 1955 – April 29th, 2011

Before leaving I decided to test out a stroller mosquito net I had picked up on my backpack. While a bit oversized it seemed like it would get the job done if the bugs were decidedly vicious.

Kind of weird looking

Alex didn’t seem to mind it, and it gave him something new to hold onto and feel. It was however designed to fit over a 2 person stroller, so there was plenty of extra fabric. I also would like to find something more suitable in black netting, as it is much easier to see through. Anyone have a lead on that?

It was time to continue so I hoisted the pack and we were on our way.

Then something new happened.

He let out a long wail… I held my breathe for a second then he let out another. This was our 7th hike together and he had never let out a cry so I set the pack down in order to determine the problem. Maybe he didn’t like the netting, so I removed it. 2 minutes later he starts to wail again. I set the pack down and check for any pinching or other discomfort. Nothing. Let’s check the diaper. Slightly damp. OK, new diaper, back in pack… so far so good…. WAAAAAAAAAA!

Maybe he’s still hungry. Off comes the pack. After a tube of pureed banana and blueberries he seems happy. Great, back in pack, back on the trail…. WAAAAAAAAAA!

Oh no… we are almost halfway around this loop and he is melting down. Let’s try a song. After butchering an old camp song I couldn’t really remember the words to I realized I don’t really know the lyrics to any kid songs. That needs to change. In desperation I launch into “99 bottles of beer on the wall”… by the 12th verse I am ready to start crying with him…

What to do? I start to sing/hum one of his favorite songs from a Renee & Jeremy album he’s listened to since birth. He quiets for a few seconds… ok, I got it… WAAAAAAAAAA!

I’m sorry Alex… I am a terrible singer and way off key. I know his song would calm him, sung by Renne & Jeremy, not me. Then I have a revelation! My iPhone! It has the album on it! I grab it and quickly locate his favorite song “It’s a Big World” while Alex hits 10 decibels in my left ear (remember, kid carriers keep kiddo right behind your head).

For a second I wonder if introducing this kind of technology on a hike is a good idea, and then Alex lets out a shriek so loud it clears the surrounding forest of any wildlife for over a mile.

I hit Play. Within 3 seconds his demeanor changes from red-faced upset to quiet contemplation. A few minutes later he lets out a few coo’s. 2 minutes later and he’s asleep. Ahhhhh… thank you Renee & Jeremy (and Apple).

We finish our hike and join Mommy at the Expo.

She’s busy meeting and greeting the hundreds of  MWOBS supporters so we play with our visiting friends from Quebec and flirt with the Subaru girls (Alex, not me). A highlight comes when we get to meet Alex and Sage, the two youngest people to have hiked the 48 four-thousand footers, and subjects of their mother’s recently published book, Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peak Bagging Adventure. Alex and I sit with them in the grass for a few minutes. They had climbed Washington via the Lion’s Head Trail, and kindly sign my copy of their mother’s book. While most the folks who climbed Mount Washington that day were resting their bodies these two girls were doing summersaults or chasing frisbees every time I saw them the rest of the event. Not to surprising giving what they had already accomplished. We say our goodbyes with informal plans to share a hike together in the future.

I would be extremely remiss if I did not finish this by thanking the gracious folks who supported my Seek The Peak hike with their contributions. The Hofmans, Jeanne, My Mother Janet Lottmann, Marilee, Mechanical Chris, John, Viet, Ralph and Besty, Mark, Jeffrey, Sydney, Lara, and Michelle N, and 1 anonymous donor.

Only 13 people responded to my pleas yet you all helped me raise over $500. I am humbled and thankful for your contributions. Thank you.

Coming soon, a detailed review on my Osprey Kid Carrier (I promise), and a trip report on “What not to do”. You should seriously consider subscribing if you haven’t already. The “What not to do” article is sure to entertain.

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Quickies but Goodies

The last couple weeks I’ve enjoyed a few quick trails with Alex as I re-discover how much fun hiking for the sake of hiking (vrs. to get to a technical climb) can be. Below is a quick recap of some easy short hikes that are perfect for infant and new dad alike!

Pudding Pond Loop

Pudding Pond Loop

This is a great 2 mile loop within walking distance of North Conway Village. Just off the North South Road and Artist Falls Rd it provides a little quiet relief from the busy Rt 16 less than a mile away. The flat 2 mile loop took us just under an hour. An unusually wet Spring must have raised the pond’s levels a bit as sections along the pond itself were temporarily re-routed a bit further back from the wetland area.

Alex seems to do only one of two things while riding in the pack. Coo and sing “ahhhh ahhhh ahhhh” constantly or sleep… his vocalizing is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard…

Echo Lake State Park

Echo Lake State Park

This state park has a lot of trails packed into a small area, but most people stay right at the beach area on Echo Lake so you don’t need to walk far to find a little solitude. Simply walking around the lake will probably take 20 minutes but there are dozens of side trails to explore with interesting things in the woods, from old foundations to a 1940’s car body… seems like NH woods are always filled with history!

http://www.nhstateparks.com/echo.html

Somewhat outdated website, but this is a very friendly area to wander around in. As long as you don’t hike up hill more than 200+ feet you shouldn’t even need a map *GASP* (I can’t believe I just said that being the map & compass kinda guy I am).

Rocky Gorge, Falls Pond Trail

Falls Pond Trail

I’d stopped at Rocky Gorge before but hadn’t taken the loop trail around this beautiful mountain pond. This little area gets 5 stars as a quickie type destination as it has great geology, ecology, and informational signs depicting some of the natural processes happening here. A total gem!

Rocky Gorge. Be sure to read the informational sign nearby by explaining the historic reason why swimming is not allowed there. It should give you goosebumps…

Falls Pond. Apparently this pond is making the slow transition to wetlands -> forest. I think you’re OK if you hike around it in the next decade or two though…

Black Cap Trail

Black Cap Trail

While I feel like I am cheating a little bit slipping this one in here as Alex was not with me, it definitely qualifies as a “Shortie but goodie” perfect for infants and toddlers. In fact while on the trail I came across some good friends descending from the small peak with their 2 month old swaddled and asleep in mommy’s wrap. Pure awesome!

Will pinpoints his location on the map using “re-section”

I was teaching a Land Navigation Workshop for the Mount Washington Observatory’s educational series. I’m teaching it for them one more time on August 4th, details here.

Diana’s Baths

Diana’s Baths

Located off of River Rd only 10 minutes from North Conway Village this is probably the most popular “shortie” in the area. Expect to share the trail with many hikers/swimmers/picknick’ers’. A very well graded trail .7 miles long leads to some beautiful small falls and water holes with a few picnic tables scattered along the trail. Until you reach the actual “baths” the trail is flat enough to be considered wheel-chair accessible.

The bridge just before reaching the “bath’s”

Staying cool in the mist of the falls

So there you go, 5 quick escapes, all under 2 hours in length to some beautiful spots around Mount Washington Valley. Each has a unique natural feel to it and is well worth the effort. You could easily fit 2,3, or even all 5 of these spots into an adventurous day. But why cram them all into one day? I see kids enjoying the woods when not rushed or held to a schedule. They see things we often over look, and hiking these trails with Alex is definitely opening my eyes to the natural world again.

Coming soon, Osprey Poco Premium Backpack Review, a few book suggestions, and much more. If you enjoyed browsing this post please subscribe at the top right of the website, it’s free, and it motivates me to keep writing.

And finally, I welcome comments. So any kid friendly hikes in the Whites you love? Or in your hometown? Please share them by leaving a comment below.

Happy Trails,

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Boulder Loop Trail

This was actually Alex’s 2nd attempt on the 3.1 mile loop trail as he had been carried in his mother’s womb almost half way around the loop before we were beaten back by ferocious mosquitos during July 2011. Two months later Alex would come into the world and my life would never be the same.

The last 9 months have flown by. We’d become parents. We learned how little sleep we needed. We’d learned about diapers, wipes, breast-feeding, formula supplementation, sleeping patterns, and all the other amazing (and sometimes scary) day to day facts of early parenthood. Before I knew it, Alex was 9 months old, and I hadn’t taken him on a single hike yet.

It was time. I started researching child carriers and after settling on one (review forthcoming), I choose the Boulder Loop Trail. I wanted his first hike to be something a bit more substantial than a stroll to Diana’s Baths, but nothing as serious as a 4,000 footer. It turned out to be an excellent choice, as I found out a 44lb payload certainly slows me down a bit. A trail that would take me about an hour by myself, took just over “book time”; 2 hours.

Arriving at the trailhead we waited for Alex to wake from his drive induced slumber. It was a perfect 70 & sunny day, with low humidity and no signs of any of those mosquitos from our last visit.

Strapping In

Ready for his first hike

We took the traditional clockwise route around the loop and only saw a handful of hikers on the trail. Shortly after passing our turn around point from the previous year we arrived at the short spur trail leading to the ledges.

The halfway point has an excellent view up the Swift River valley

The views west up the Kancamangus Valley were perfect, and Chocurua stood proudly to the south. I pointed out the rock climbing areas of Sundown Ledges and Lost Ledge to my wife. Lost Ledge would certainly be a place to bring Alex when he is a couple years older as it has an abundance of very easy low angle slab rock climbing (ropes required).

After a nice break for nursing, diaper change, and food for mom & pop we loaded back up and finished the loop. Alex almost stayed awake for the whole hike.

This post marks the start of this blog. My main goal of this blog is to chronicle the hikes and climbs Alex and I have over the next decade. I’ld also like to make it a useful resource for other dads and moms with young kids they wish to get hiking. Over the next week I’ll be adding trip reports for the other half dozen short hikes we have gone on in the last 2 weeks. I’ll be adding some in depth gear reviews along the way, links to other helpful resources for families hiking with small children, and more. If this sounds like something you’ld like to read from time to time please subscribe using the link all the way at the top of the site on the right hand side.

I hope to inspire some, but knowing someone out there cares to read what I’ve shared is very inspiring to me. Feel free to comment on posts, and I’ll do my best to respond to any questions. Just keep in mind half the typing I am doing these days is one handed as I bounce a baby boy in my lap…

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