Friday, March 25, 2016

Exploring Pawtuckaway's Northwestern Corner

Two weeks away from the mountains has not meant two weeks without outings.  Last weekend Erick agreed to go somewhere new with us and we were lucky enough to also be sort of near Hannah's neck of the woods so she joined us for our first (overdue) visit to Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham, NH.

Based on a suggestion from a Facebook friend, we parked at the end of Round Pond Road.  Despite what the GPS says, it does not go through the park; there is a gate and if it directs you there via Reservation Road, it is leading you astray).  It was so busy, we had to park in the overflow area a little ways back towards the main road.  One of the reasons I wanted to go to Pawtuckaway was the ability to let the dogs off leash so as soon as we passed the gate, we released the hounds!

Frankly, I believe I am writing a report simply because it has been awhile since my last post because, despite having a loose plan to go up North Mountain via the Boulder Trail, we mostly wandered so I have very little helpful input for info-seekers.

The main trail we began on was perfect for a stroll: packed dirt and wide with no obstacles.  After skirting around Round Pond, we crossed a small stream the bore right at the first noticeable intersection (left indicated it was for the Round Pond Bypass).

If a challenge is what you seek, this isn't the trail for you
but it was perfect for our needs that day!
While the tree cover transformed into shade-forming evergreens, the trail continued with its easy, meandering style.  I mentally rejoiced at finding a place that engaged Erick, not typically a hiking guy.  All the while, Tango was upbeat and Ty was a joyful mix of her critter-chasing self, a perfect listener, and a new brand of puppy-like I don't think I've ever seen in her.

Round Pond

The trail descended after a few minutes and turned left to avoid one of the first massive boulders (glacial deposits, I believe) where there was an American Bulldog accompanying his boulder-climbing owner.  To the right and out of range of the bulldog were more massive boulders and I wandered off trail for photos ops and gawking.

A little blurry but I have to show off her parkour skills!
Finding our way to the pond
It would be awhile before we rejoined a trail because those rocks were super cool, which led me to other interesting rocks which led us down the hill to the swampy edge of one of the ponds.  Sitting on a shoulder-high rock, we watched Ty be the swamp thing for a long time while enjoying the sunshine and observing her in her "natural habitat" (Carolina Dogs are native to swampy areas in the south).

Can you spot her?

Lilo keeping watch
Awhile later, we made our way back up to a trail.  "A" trail because we didn't hop back on where we departed from.  This trail (perhaps the same one as before for all I know) followed the pond at a distance.

This trail had a little light scrambling that added some extra fun and entertainment because Ty was absolutely in heaven.  She would disappear up into the rocks and mysteriously reappear in the woods ahead of us.  It was at that point I realized how massive the park is.  So many cars in the lot but we hadn't encountered hoards of people.  Quite a few, but not a quantity difficult to manage with off leash dogs.  Many of them were there to climb/boulder.

Erick leading the way
A man and his dog <3

The trail we followed from the pond was narrower and more typical of a wooded path with some small obstacles (photos above).  We passed an intersection or two, all with promises of more boulders to marvel at and climb up, but we stayed the course and eventually landed back on the trail we started on that led back to the car.

Scooted up towards the tree with Tango. Ty did not approve.
Erick making his way back to the trail after giving me a hand.
Tango fared impressively well on his own!

We easily spent an awesome 2.5 hours wandering around and barely covered a small corner of the park.  It is massive and diverse; I cannot wait to bring the dogs back.  It is a park where anyone with a remote interest in being outdoors can have fun. Many of the trails are wide enough to walk side by side, enabling conversation in a way many of the mountain trails don't.  The boulders are fascinating and fun.  Even Tango enjoyed them and had my back when I scrambled up a steep hill that was more challenging than I had anticipated to get down from.  (Erick had to help and it's a wonder he's allowing me out again!)  My understanding is that the lake at the other end of the park allows canoeing but we enjoyed sitting on the pond's banks and taking in the experience.  And the woods are simply enchanting.  Despite the large number of park-goers, we saw bear scat right on the trail!  With the variety of interests between the six of us, everyone was a happy hiker; we wholeheartedly recommend this park to everyone! Hopefully we'll have a tale of paws on peaks in the near future but if not, expect some more local reports!

Tybee approved!
(And Tango too but I have a regrettably small number of  crisp photos of him.)
Click here for Pawtuckaway's website.  Scroll down for the pet-related rules.
Click here for the official map (which I managed to struggle with and wish had more description to match trail signs)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Bluebird Day at Tuckerman Ravine

Route: Tuckerman Ravine Trail
Distance: 6.2 miles RT
Duration: Irrelevant 

Another perfect, bluebird day and happy trail dogs as we hiked up to Lunch Rocks at the base of Tuckerman Ravine today to watch the boarders and skiers with Linda, Hannah, and Lilo.

Tuckerman Ravine Trail is a popular and oft-described hike so I will try to keep this short, sweet, and focused on conditions.  Mainly because, if I don't, it'll become a journal entry listing in excessive detail all the ways in which today was incredible!

We donned traction just behind the visitor center.  While the ground was still flat, it was icy.  Ty treed some chunky chipmunks while she waited.  Through the couple switchbacks, the ground was generally crunchy but warming ice and packed snow.  In a couple spots such as near Crystal Cascade and bridge, it was more bare ground/mud.

The incline then began at a sharper rate than I had recalled.  One thing I love about this trail, at least with some snow on it (we have yet to do it otherwise), is how excellent the footing is.  Smooth rocks jutted out of the snow here and there and of course I managed to step on many of them in my new-ish Trail Crampon Pros despite the trail being as wide as a Suburban.

The trail was mostly hard, crunchy ice and packed snow but as the day warmed, slush became more prevalent.  All along the way, the shadows, perfect blue skies, and richness of the evergreens' needles were a wondrous gift to the eyes from the nature gods.

The grade eased up as we neared the bridge that crosses the Cutler River and continued at a more leisurely pace than I' remembered to the turn for the Harvard Cabin.  The grade was an easy moderate and still crunchy, packed snow/ice up to the lean to's and Hermit Lake Shelter.

Lots of attention for the pups today!

The shelter deck was quiet and after adding a layer, we pressed on for the final .7 mile to Lunch Rocks.  We passed Hermit Lake and wove through the trees on flat ground for a couple of minutes before the steep, slushy ascent began.  Micros were sufficient but poles or crampons were helpful to lessen the huffing and puffing.

Clear view of the runs at Wildcat
There were a few spots where it evened out briefly and with the stunning views of the ravine walls surrounding us, we made quick work of that last leg of the ascent.  As the trail flattened, the full awesomeness of the ravine was revealed.  The Rocks were claimed so we set up shop along the edge of the floor.

Words have escaped me for just how fun it was to hang out and watch the skiers and riders.  The temps were in the mid to upper 30's with only sporadic wind gusts and the skies remained perfectly clear.  We saw quite a few runs before Ty and Lilo had it with the wind.

Obscene number of photos:
The tradition continues - Tango's greeting to Washington

Not many photos of skiers/boarders; they're awfully small!
Chillin' -  pibble style!
The steepest parts of the ridge down to the lake made for some fun glissading on the way back to the shelter.  There, the dogs were doted on by a group from the AMC's Youth Opportunities Program and we were especially proud pet parents and humbled that admittedly cautious members wanted to meet them.  Moving on, Linda and I made a quick detour to see the Harvard Cabin (add .6 mile total) but were too lazy to undo our traction to go inside.  Hannah and Lilo had another engagement near home and headed down ahead of us.  Shortly after returning to the Tucks Trail we made a new friend, Kelley, who we lent our spare pair of microspikes to.  In return, she kicked up our pace and we made great time back to the trailhead, where we basked in the sun before departing.

Today's hike earned a perfect paw-friendliness rating.  The weather was in our favor in every way.  While Ty isn't overly fond of violent-sounding wind, it was intermittent and she coped.  The snow and ice underfoot complemented the warm air for Tango and helped keep him relatively comfortable.  It's only our second time taking this trip but both times, the upbeat energy and welcoming nature of others was palpable.  In regards to drinking water, there wasn't too much drinkable runoff and the river itself was very strong and not accessible but they hardly needed water anyhow.  The trip falls perfectly in my "moderate" category and it can be a quick hike or one can easily make a day of it watching the skiers and boarders.  My only woe is the fuzzy quality of some otherwise special photos due to moisture on the lens (as the country song goes, "I've got nobody to blame but me.").  But with that being my only "complaint," it was a stellar day for all.  

For more details about the trail, you can check out my post from our last visit here.