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August 28, 2008
Thanks for tuning in... Following is the rather long & complete tale of my first backpacking trip with my son Lewis, a.k.k the kiddo. So Wednesday dawned as a bluebird perfect day. Of course we got a later start than originally planned, not leaving the house until 9 AM and headed up to the AMC Pinkham Visitor Center. We had to make our reservations for the Hermit Lake lean-to from there as they wouldn't take any reservations by phone, even on the day of the trip. A little inconvenient, but not terribly so.
Lewis had a smallish day-pack and I had my large Lowe-Alpine pack that I've used over the years for Presi-Traverses and the like. He carried his own sleeping bag, a RMI 20 degree down bag, my older 3/4 Thermarest pad, a few of his own clothes and 1 water bottle. I carried the stove, my bag & pad, the rest of the clothes, including cold weather and rain gear for us both, all the food, 2 more full water bottles and everything else. I didn't weigh it, but with everything loaded my pack was significantly lighter than my winter ice climbing pack! SWEET...........
We got on the trail almost exactly at 10 AM and pretty much from the beginning Lewis kept us going, making short stops at every thing that looked the least bit interesting. There was a pause to examine the water and throw sticks in the water at each of the bridges and of course we had to peruse and discuss all the trail signs. That of course made the time pass more quickly, interspersed with detailed discussions of the last several Star Wars movies he had seen!
He made some interesting, and not always flattering, observations about our fellow hikers, those going up and down the trail. There were young and old hikers, well equipped ones, ones who were not equipped at all and families with 2-3-4 and even 5 kids of all ages. Near the intersection with the Huntington Ravine Trail we saw a lady in a white pant-suit, with sturdy hiking boots, smoking a cigarette while trailing a poodle on a leash! I think that was the most unusual sight and one that kept us talking about it for some time. Some time around 1 we arrived at Hermit Lake. While we had heard the wind howling as we hiked, it was quite plesant.
However as we came out of the trees at the shelter we became aware of just how windy it was. The deck at Ho Jo's was filled with people of all shapes and descriptions but we found a spot up against the wall to plunk down in the sun and have our third, or maybe it was the fourth, snack of the day. I checked in at the caretaker office but he was out making his rounds. The weather station console showed gusts of over 30 MPH and a general temperature in the low 50's! Still, in the sun it was nice.
When I went back outside Lewis was already chatting with some other kids. Funny how that works, isn't it? Put a couple of kids together who have never met and the next thing you know they are sharing their lunches. We finished up our snacks and decided to check out the Bowl in Tucks. As he skis, he had heard about Tucks but not been up yet. He was pretty impressed with the waterfalls pouring over of the headwall and the wind howling. We grabbed a couple of windproof shells and headed off, leaving our packs on the deck.
The hiking up into the Bowl of course is much steeper than the trail, but Lewis made short work of it, almost leaving me behind at times. He was quite impressed as I pointed out the location of all the popular stuff like the Lip, Sluice, Hillman's Highway, Left Gully and the like. I actually got the impression that he was considering what it would be like to come up here and ski. We got to the rescue cache fairly quickly, only stopping a few times when the gusts threatened to blow him off the trail. There were more people coming down than going up. Several commented that the wind in the Alpine Garden was quite high and I was actually happy we didn't go up there. To answer a common question, no we didn't see any snow...
About 3/4 of the way up the trail he decided that he'd had enough of fighting the wind so we headed back down, stopping briefly to refill a water bottle at the pump.
By the time we got back the Caretaker had returned so we checked in and he pointed us to the loop by Hermit Lake containing the shelters. As we were leaving we chatted with a woman and her daughter that were hanging around waiting for someone. They seemed nice, but apparently weren't camping that night.
Looking over all the lean-to's Lewis decided that the last one before the intersection with the Lion's Head Trail was the one that was the most sheltered, so we emptied our packs and set up our stuff. By now it was about 4:30, still a long time before nightfall. Looking over our water supplies I realized we would need to get more to cook our mac & cheese dinner and have enough to make powdered-milk for cereal for breakfast. We headed back up to pump another round of water and ran into the woman and her daughter huddled together on the steps . I asked them if they were OK. The woman replied that their daughter and her boyfriend had gone up Lions Head around 3 PM and were supposed to have crossed the Alpine Garden and planned to meet them on the Tucks Trail several hours before, however they hadn't shown up and her husband had gone to try and find them. As she had talked with the caretaker about the situation and I had my own responsibilities I wished her luck.
Back at our lean-to I started putting together dinner. I'd brought 2 boxes of Annie's mac & cheese and 4 hot dogs to cook up for dinner. Not normally my favorite, but I wasn't going to be fussy after a day of hiking. While I was cooking the kiddo wanted to poke around so I let him go off down the trail with the admonition to come right back. Needless to say he wasn't back by the time dinner was ready, it was getting to twilight and of course I was worried. Just as I was getting ready to go looking for him he walked up from the other direction. He had walked to the main trail, back up to Ho Jo's and come back around the shelter loop! Talk about giving me a bit of a shake up. Lost on Mt. Washington - now that would be the last thing I would want him or me to go through. Fortunately we had dinner to eat to take my mind off the "what if".
All day the wind had been howling, and it was the same as we got ready to crash. I was tired and so was he, but the wind kept him a bit wound up. We talked, he read his book by headlamp for a while and I held his hand until he went to sleep. I dozed off and was awoken by him making a movement. I looked over and he was bolt upright with his eyes wide. It was totally silent, the wind had died. A similar thing had happened to me years before when I was trapped in the basement of the Lake of the Clouds during a horrible storm that caught us on a Presi traverse. It was startling for sure. We decided to take the opportunity to go to the bathroom. The temperature was a lot warmer than expected and the lack of wind made it seel almost balmy. When we snuggled into our sleeping bags once again I hugged him for a few minutes and within no time he drifted off to sleep again.
We awoke at almost the same time and it was already after 8 AM, the sky a cloudless blue with nothing but a light breeze. A perfect morning for what we had planned. We quickly polished off a quick breakfast of cereal and bananas, topped off our water bottles from the pump, repacked our stuff and headed down the main trail to the Raymond Path. I've often used it to cut across between Tucks and Huntington in the winter, but never in the summer. It was mossy and a bit humid but generally pleasant enough, and pleasantly downhill. It had the air of an enchanted forest in places and he liked the look of it. Hanging a left up toward Huntington Ravine at the intersection it was a very obvious difference between it and the Tucks Trail. The trail was really a footpath - narrow and almost obscured by bushes in places. There are obviously are far less people who use this trail during the summer.
At the Harvard Cabin we dumped my large pack around back and I showed him the Avalanche Danger Board. He was intrigued, asking a lot of questions about the snow rangers and what they did. We continued up, over the bridges and past the first and then second caches. At the Dow Cache we took a few minutes to talk about what was stored there and about Albert and what happened that sad night. I am a member of the local Mountain Rescue Service and he has some sense of the service the volunteers perform.
I also told him about the giant avalanche that several years ago had pushed the cache down the hill and covered all the trees and boulders in the ravine. We were passed by a hiker while we were at the cache. It was the first person we had seen on that trail. At the large boulders we again paused by the plaque commemorating Stradmuller and Griffin. All of these little things made me realize just how many things there are to tell him about. All the tidbits of history and trivia that reside in my brain that I feel need to be passed on.
At the V notch boulders I climbed up on top of the boulder and soaked in the view while he played around in the various caves and bouldered almost everything in sight. The panoramic view up into the Ravine was truly spectacular. The weather as perfect as I have ever seen, and I could see several parties making their way up through the boulder-field. Occasionally another would pop out of the trees and another would disappear. I thought I saw someone on Pinnacle Buttress but I didn't have any binoculars so I couldn't be sure.
After about a half hour we decided to get back on the trail again. We met a few others as we hiked down, but not too many. When we got to the Harvard Cabin we stopped for few minutes to savor our last PB & J. I can never get him to eat peanut butter sandwiches at home, but it's amazing what people will eat when they are hungry!
We reached the intersection and headed down, Lewis leading the way. Once again there were a lot of people of all sizes and shapes going up and down the trail with us. Only stopping for a few minutes at the cascade near the Visitor Center we made great time - making it down from the Harvard Cabin in just about 90 minutes. About a half hour into the hike he made a comment about his legs being tired, followed immediately by an apology for complaining. Indeed it was the first time over the two days that I had heard him whine or even complain. Believe me that was a real blessing.
You know - I'm not sure if this is something that he really is going to take to, or just a fleeting thing. However I'm going to go with it as much as I can to see if we can keep it up. In fact we are off today to hike Chocoura - truth be told it was both of our idea. I certainly don't want to push him, he doesn't seem to be too interested in climbing, and of course I would love it if he found as much enjoyment in it as I do. Still, in my opinion there is nothing more binding between a parent and a child than a shared experience such as a love of the outdoors. As a child I spent many fabulous hours with my grandfather hiking and scrambling around in the North Georgia mountains. It made us as close as any two people can be. It would be a wonderful thing if he got into it too. I guess time will tell...
PS - There is a great trip report posted in the NEClimbs Forum about a father/daughter hike up Mt. Washington about the same time. It's well written and worth checking out... http://www.neclimbs.com/smf_bbs/index.php?topic=4222.0
Come camp with us at Campton, New Hampshire, in the western White Mountains. Campton is located near wonderful and varied climbing, including Rumney, Cannon, Echo Crag and Artist's Bluff. For information on camping, Saturday night dinner and price contact Eric Engberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Service of the Boston AMC Mountaineering Committee
With the breeze we've had the bugs have been minimal on the cliff. However in the woods they are brutal. Strangely enough I've even seen black flies around, and they are biting! Keep that bug dope handy folks.
If you are looking for a place to eat-drink-and be merry over the upcoming Labor Day Weekend, the Wildcat Tavern in Jackson is just the place for you. Good food, a large selection of beverages and what I think is the best music in town by Sounds Clever and the Valley Horns. Music is from 8:30 - 11:30. I hope to see you there...
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:
Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.
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The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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