Return to Worcester

What a difference!

Rugged trail, straight up the fall line, on Worcester Mountain.

“It sure does look different in the winter”, said the hiker I met on this trail back in January. He had lost the trail just a couple hundred meters shy of the summit of Worcester Mountain, despite having climbed this trail “dozens” of times. After thanking him for his advice, I pressed on and experienced the most exhilarating hike of the season [read that story].

So today, a warm and muggy day in early June with the trees and shrubs almost fully leafed out for summer, and nary a snowflake left anywhere in New England, I decided to head back and see if Worcester Mountain really is “different in summer”. I got an early start, reaching the trailhead by 7:30am, but there were already three cars in the lot. Read on, to see what I found!

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Boston Lot

Still life with ice.

One of the upsides of the current situation is that I’ve tended to look closer to home for outdoor opportunities, and that means I’m returning to some of the local gems I’ve not visited in a decade or more. Yesterday I took a walk around Boston Lot Lake, a small pond in West Lebanon not far from the river at Wilder Dam. Its network of walking and biking trails are popular with local runners and bikers, even on this gray Saturday morning.

Ice and reflections on Boston Lot Lake, NH.

The lake was skimmed with ice., though the temperatures were beginning to rise above freezing, so it would not last long.

Ice and reflections on Boston Lot Lake, NH.

In one spot, some kids had been clearly been tossing rocks at the ice – some of which went through, and some of which were trapped in the ice.

An interesting still life with rocks and ice.

Mount Allen

Mount Allen is another one of those remote, viewless summits that people really only climb because it’s on the 46er list of Adirondack peaks over 4,000′.  It’s an 18-mile round-trip day-hike climb from the trailhead, so I decided to break up the hiking (and the driving) over two days.  I drove over on Friday afternoon and headed into the woods around 4:30pm, planning to follow the marked trail to the point where the herd path begins, then a bit further to where the map shows it crosses a brook and where I hoped I might find a spot to camp.  I queried the outbound hikers for clues about where they may have seen campsites along the way, and got a few tips.  I reached my intended location only to find that a pair of other hikers had had the same idea and were camped in exactly that spot.

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I’ve been hiking in the Adirondacks for well over forty years – or so I like to think. Actually, I can count on one hand the number of Adirondack peaks I have summited in the past quarter century – all but one of which are small viewpoints outside the classic canon of the ADK 46, the elite group of peaks over four-thousand feet in elevation. (A historical curiosity, three of the peaks on the list of 46 have since been re-surveyed and found to be shy of 4000′ elevation, but remain on the list for ol’ times sake.)  I spent the summers of the 1970s hiking these peaks with my family, and the winters of the 1980s exploring the snowy backcountry with my high-school and college buddies. My last backpacking trip here was in 1990. Recently, I found myself drawn back to these ancient peaks – for they are far older than the Appalachians, and reside deeper in my own past – with an eye toward notching off the final dozen peaks on my own list of 46. I set aside three days on my calendar and struck out at dawn on Friday, with three specific summits in mind, and was rewarded with breathtaking scenery, fond memories of trips long past, a rekindled appreciation for this beautiful wilderness, and lovely photos. More after the break.

Heart Lake near Adirondac Loj.
Heart Lake near Adirondac Loj.

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Fall colors, fall hikes

This month is shaping up to be a beautiful example of Fall in New England. This weekend I managed to spend time out in the woods on both Saturday and Sunday.

Fall colors around a meadow in Lyme.
Fall colors around a meadow in Lyme.

On Saturday I bushwhacked around the property boundary of  a conservation easement in Lyme Center, on behalf of the Upper Valley Land Trust.  This beautiful patch of forest and meadows, a mix of hardwoods with some pine and fir stands, weaves up and down over the rolling terrain between the Connecticut River valley and the steep hills of east Lyme and the Skiway.  The colors of Fall were just beginning to peak in a few species, and the woods were peaceful with the sleepy conditions common to late summer and early fall.  The deep farming history of this region was clear as I scrambled over old stone walls, past barbed wire long absorbed into the border trees, and old blinds used by generations of Lyme hunters. The bluebirds flitted between sugar maples and apple trees on the edges of the meadows overlooking the Grant Brook valley. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

Fall colors from summit of Cardigan.
Fall colors from summit of Cardigan.

On Sunday I led a small group up the western slopes of Mount Cardigan, a bit further south in Canaan.  The colors here were further along, as we climbed toward the bare summit of this popular peak.  Although the sky was cloudy and the wind brisk, the group’s spirits were high as we enjoyed the 360-degree view of multicolored hills rolling off into Vermont, New Hampshire, and beyond.

More photos on SmugMug – watch this gallery for more as the Fall progresses!

Franconia Ridge traverse

Franconia mapOn a warm day in early June, I joined Aarathi and Shrirang for a traverse of Franconia Ridge from Lincoln Woods to Lafayette Place, summiting Flume, Liberty, Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette. Total 14.5 miles, 5325′ of vertical gain, 10.5 hours, 258 photos. A beautiful day!  The alpine flowers were blooming, the sun was shining, and the wind was cool. The only downside is that several hundred other hikers also realized it was a great day to hike Franconia Ridge!

Check out the photo gallery on SmugMug.

Pebble Time, Fitbit Flex, and Apple Watch.
Pebble Time, Fitbit Flex, and Apple Watch.

I also decided to test four activity trackers on this hike: iPhone 5s (i.e., Apple Health app), Fitbit Flex, Pebble Time, and Apple Watch 42mm.

Test conditions:

  • I left all four devices in their charger overnight.
  • As I left the house, I put all three trackers on my left arm.
  • I did almost no walking until reaching the trailhead.
  • At the trailhead, I put the iPhone in Airplane mode, enabled Bluetooth, and stored it in a shoulder-pad holster (thus attached to torso).
  • All three trackers had Bluetooth enabled.
  • At the end of the hike, I checked status of each device.


  • Fitbit Flex: 30,572 steps, 14.04 miles, 3394 cals, 5h5m active; battery 100%.
  • Pebble Time: 22,073 steps, 12.4 miles, 2233 cals, 3h35m active; battery 90%.
  • Apple Watch 42mm: 32,449 steps, 14.30 miles, 1156 active cals, battery 7%.
  • Apple Health (iPhone 5s): 32,354 steps, 14.71 miles, battery < 20%.

Apple Health (via Watch? I’m not sure) counted more steps, but close to the Fitbit. Watch and Fitbit had the best distance estimate. Fitbit had best battery life, followed by Pebble.

Mount Carr

Ice skims the surface of trailside puddles after a cold March night.
Ice skims the surface of trailside puddles after a cold March night.

A lovely day for a hike up Mount Carr, an unassuming 3,400′ bump to the southeast of Mount Moosilauke. I had never visited this peak, so when a friend suggested we try it out I was ready to hit the trail.  The lower slopes were bare of snow but it is, after all, still “winter” so none of the trees or undergrowth have started to leaf out.  The overnight cold formed a skim of ice across all the puddles and many of the smaller streams, their fascinating patterns glinting in today’s bright sunshine. (See photos!) The upper slopes held a crusty but shallow snowpack, and rippled ice floes.

The Presidentials, with a fresh coat of white snow, dominate the view from Mount Carr.
The Presidentials, with a fresh coat of white snow, dominate the view from Mount Carr.

At the rocky summit we could climb on the footings of the long-since-removed fire tower and see the white-capped Mount Moosilauke, Franconia Range, and Presidential Range.  I hope to return to the neighborhood and explore the other peaks in the Wentworth-Rumney area!

Mount Mansfield

Jen, Lelia, and Lars at a Lunch stop at Taft Lodge on Mount Mansfield.
Jen, Lelia, and Lars at a Lunch stop at Taft Lodge on Mount Mansfield.

Over the past week I was beginning to think that winter was a bust – with just a handful of great winter outings to show for it.  Today proved me wrong.  With Mount Mansfield as our goal, Lelia and I set out for Stowe, Vermont and soon met up with Jen and Lars. The parking lot was nearly full of hikers, backcountry skiers, ice climbers, and others eyeing the pure-blue sky and crisp views of the snowy peaks.  Heading south on the Long Trail, we climbed steeply up a well-packed treadway smoothed by several groups of skiers skinning their way up ahead of us, and criss-crossed by the carved turns of skiers and snowboarders who left the groomed trails of Stowe for the hardwood glades of the Long Trail. The snow was fairly fresh, with perhaps six inches of powder on top of a firm but not  icy base.  We reached Taft Lodge for lunch, basking in the startlingly warm March sunshine with a group of three younger skiers, another group of four older Quebecois, all sharing the happiness that comes from bright sunshine, blue skies, soft powder, and fresh air.  More below the break.

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Ascutney and Gerry Falls

This winter has, so far, been pretty much a bust.  Virtually no snowfall, with plenty of warm weather and rain to ensure that the little snow doesn’t stick around. I decided to head for one our closest big-mountain neighbors, Mount Ascutney, an hour down the Connecticut River, because the trail passes some nice waterfalls.  If there’s no snow, at least there will be ice.  I spent about an hour at the falls, enjoying the indirect lighting as the rising sun illuminated the open woods to one side of the stream. One nice feature of an icy stream, I discovered, is that you can stand on the ice in mid-stream and explore many angles you might find to be too wet in summer. Got some nice photos!  More to say below.

Gerry Falls, along the Windsor trail up Mount Ascutney.
Gerry Falls, along the Windsor trail up Mount Ascutney.

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