New Hampshire has been an extremely popular destination for hikers during the pandemic, attracting in-staters as well as many from Massachussetts and other parts of southern New England. As a result, my aim is to hike lesser-known trails, to hike on weekdays, and to hike early in the morning. Today I headed up to Franconia Notch (often an extremely crowded destination) and was almost the first car to arrive at the trailhead. I was soon on the trail to Mt. Pemigewasset, a tiny bump between the deep valley of Franconia Notch and the 4000-foot peaks to its west. I’d never been here before, dismissing this little destination as unworthy. But it has a wonderful view, and it makes for a pleasant 3.6-mile round-trip morning walk.
In the photo above you can see Mount Moosilauke – my hike from two weeks ago – in the distance to the left above my head. I had passed a father-daughter pair coming down just before I arrived at the summit – darn, I’d intended to be here an hour earlier – but otherwise saw no other hikers on the way up.
In the south-looking photo above you can again see Moosilauke in the distance. On the way down, however, there were several large parties coming up, mostly family groups, several with children or dogs.
In the photo above you see the Kinsman ridge, which John and I traversed a few years ago. I was back at the car by 9:30am and home by 11am, ready to get back to work. Nice way to start the day!
It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me, that I was back out on the trail early on my second morning out of quarantine. Not long after sunrise, I drove north along the Connecticut River and then hanging a right through the morning fog toward Moosilauke, my spiritual home in the White Mountains. This route takes me from the town of Lyme north through Orford and northeast to Warren, past the barns and pastures of riverbottom farmland, past the B&B Inns and historic sites that normally draw tourists, past the auto-body shops and driveways filled with pickup trucks. Today it was also striking to drive left to right through the political spectrum, beginning with the Black Lives Matter signs in Lyme and transitioning to the Trump-Pence campaign signs in Orford and eventually to the Trump 2020: No more bullshit sign in Warren.
I arrived early and parked at the satellite parking area – the road is gated because Moosilauke Ravine Lodge is closed due to the pandemic. Sigh; this adds a mile-and-a-half to the round-trip distance. Still, the sky was brilliant blue and the morning air was cool. I made quick time, up Snapper to Carriage Road, pausing to visit South Peak, and then on to the main summit. Only then did I see another person – after two hours and almost four miles of hiking. A light breeze blew across the summit, while the cool morning air forced clouds to form and then dissipate as the breeze passed over the higher peaks to the northeast. Four other hikers were already at the summit, sitting suitably far apart.
I didn’t stay long, and headed down the Gorge Brook Trail – thus completing the classic circuit in the opposite direction from my normal pattern. As expected, I encountered many more hikers on my way down. All were kind enough to step aside, or would thank me after I stepped aside; about a third would pop on a mask while passing by. (Personally, I don’t see a need for a mask while hiking outdoors, in a breeze, when the contact time is less than 10 seconds, and only make an effort to keep distance during passing.)
The terrain here is so different than Switzerland, but so beautiful in its own way, and so full of memories. A wonderful day.
The arrival of a visible comet encourages me to learn astrophotography.
This is my first blog post in a week, and the first since our return from Switzerland. I envisioned writing a reflective piece about transatlantic travel in the time of coronavirus or about the re-entry into US culture, but we’re stuck halfway through a two-week in-home quarantine and there is a far more photogenic topic to describe first. Read on, and check out the gallery.
Although it was tempting to think of Friday’s climb of Piz Palü as a grand finale for my time in Switzerland, today’s sunny summer weather just couldn’t be ignored. With only a few days remaining in Switzerland – a hiker’s paradise – I decided to maximize the opportunity. So this morning I hopped a train back to Braunwald, where in March I spent an intense day postholing my way across the high country toward Schwanden. It was quite different today! Read on and check out the gallery.
I grew up hiking in the Adirondack mountains of New York, and later the White Mountains of New Hampshire – places that are still near and dear to my heart – but ever since I was a young boy, leafing through pictorial mountaineering books from legendary climbers like Chris Bonington and Reinhold Messner, I’ve dreamed of ‘Real Mountains’ capped with snow and glacier. Yesterday, I finally had my chance and summited Piz Palü (3900m, 12,811′). Although relatively simple on the grand scale of mountaineering, it was nonetheless the most challenging mountain I’ve experienced in my 50 years of hiking. Read on and definitely do not miss the gallery – we were blessed with outstanding weather and snow conditions.
In November, Andy and I made a frosty climb to the summit of Bachtel, not far from Zürich, and enjoyed a brisk view and a hearty warm lunch below a gray sky. Today, I wanted a quick morning hike so I hopped a train out to Wald and walked back up to the summit under blue skies and amidst summer sights and sounds and smells. My climb reversed the path of our November descent, up through the outer neighborhoods of Wald and through the pastures of the hillside farms. From the summit I had a grand 360-degree view of Zürichsee and the Alps to the south and the rolling hills to the north and east. I settled into the outdoor veranda of the summit restaurant for a cup of tea while the sun slid across the southern horizon. I then picked a new trail down, ending up in the pretty village of Wernetshausen, where I could hop a bus and train and tram back home. Check out the gallery.
Hike stats: 8.8km with 510m gain and 389m descent; 2h14 moving time, 1:00 stopped time.
Tuesday’s weather was promising to be gorgeous, and I could not let such a day pass me by – despite an afternoon full of meetings. Waking early, and browsing the weather maps, train schedules, and hiking routes, I decided to return to Flumserberg – because it is close and offers many options. The catch?: the best train would leave in 13 minutes. Good thing I keep my backpack ready to go! Jump on the train with me, read on, and check out the gallery.
A beautiful hike past a massive UNESCO heritage site.
The Aletsch glacier is one of those must-see destinations in Switzerland. A UNESCO heritage site, it is the largest glacier in the Alps and is actually the combination of several glaciers draining the backside of major peaks I’d seen just two days earlier: Mönch, Jungfrau, Eiger, and their neighbors. I really wanted to hike this glacier valley before I leave Switzerland – yet I have very few hiking days left. So, I spontaneously decided to head for the Aletsch Arena instead of returning to Zürich as planned.
This is one of those hikes that is worthy of an extensive gallery – because the scenery is so dramatic I simply could not resist that shutter button. Check out that gallery and read on.
Seeking to maximize our final weeks in Switzerland, Pam and Andy and I headed off for another overnight trip. On Thursday we took a sequence of trains to reach Grindelwald, a delightful tourist town in the heart of the Jungfrau region, surrounded by stunning alpine peaks. Pam and I were last here in December – a quick trip on a stunningly beautiful winter day – and I hiked into Grindelwald after the incredible Faulhorn trek last fall. Check out the gallery and read on.
A spectacular hike from Mettmen to Leglerhütte and Unter Chärf.
Sometimes when you go for a long hike into the mountains, you never want to leave and come back. Today was one of those days – no clouds, no wind, no bugs, and spectacular views in every direction. In fact, I would rank this as one of the most outstanding hikes I’ve had in Switzerland – second only to that amazing night on Faulhorn last fall. Today I was inspired by a post from another blogger to return to Mettmen in the Glarus region, a place I visited for my first hike in Switzerland last fall. What an outstanding day! read on, and be sure to check out the gallery – today was a photographer’s dream.