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Franconia Ridge Loop up to Little Haystack and across to Lincoln and Lafayette

There were three us who were itching to ski as Christmas was upon on us in two days. The eerie feeling of no snow that lie ahead was out of the ordinary. We chose to embrace the beauty that was within each step on this snowless day. Our friend Mike is 40-something deep into his quest of all 48 of the 4,000′ foot peaks in New Hampshire. While he has done these three a few times, it gave Dan and myself the chance to hit all three in extremely favorable Winter conditions. Topo of FR loop

Even with no snow, Micro Spikes were a must have for some sections of the up and down. Parts of this hike were revisited from my younger years and my immediate feeling was: why hadn’t I done this loop sooner!

We set out from the Lafayette Place Parking Lot just off 93 in Franconia Notch. Headed up the Old Bridle Path for .2 miles to the Falling Waters Trail which is 3 miles to the Franconia Ridge trail, part of the Appalachian Trail. While anywhere past the first sets of falls would be misery for kids under 11 or so years old, the first couple of swimming holes (about a mile up) are a realistic hike (away from crowds) and a great reward for the youngsters and parents alike.

Things can get a little tricky with water crossings thrown in before it gets steeper… Along with the ice flow coming down the the trail in some sections.

IMG_6364IMG_6370Again, this is where the Micro Spikes shined as we just stuck to the ice with ease before mellowing a bit prior to the climb out of the trees up to Little Haystack (4780′).

Once up to the top of Little Haystack the trail intersects with the Franconia Ridge trail providing inspiring views in every direction. It made for a nice lunch spot looking North towards Liberty (4,459′) and Flume (4,328′).

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North to Liberty and Flume

 

We then turned South to head towards Lincoln (5,089′) before heading onward to Lafayette (5,260′) to complete 1.8 miles across the ridge. Still in awe with the clear weather and the snow free ridge trail, we continued along like it was early Fall. We were all smiles as the clouds rolled by in a harmless manner. Certainly a rare Winter experience in the Whites.    IMG_6396 (1)

Up to Lafayette we went to finish off the uphill portion of our day. This is the part where you get that extra step regardless of how your legs may feel…gotta love adrenaline!

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Lincoln to Lafayette

We remained for a while on top of Lafayette taking in the spectacular 360 degree views before heading down the Greenleaf Trail back to the Old Bridle Path.

We made our way to the closed Greenleaf Hut (circled below) 1.1 miles for a quick snack. From the hut we had another 1.1 miles to the Old Bridle Path. What a 1.1 it was through some epic clouds that flowed over the trail and surrounding ridges. Seeing a bare Cannon Mountain on 12/23 was a little freaky…as of today though, they are 43 trails strong with fresh snow on the ground and more on the way.

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The steep, rocky descent was no match for us after coming down from the clouds. However, damn glad we had hiking poles. The remaining mile or so towards Franconia Notch was refreshing after the ups and downs of covering 8.3 miles over 6 hours. It could be done in less time but we were taking our time taking it in.

Any fairly active person, if not up for the whole loop, can make the hike up to Lafayette and back via the Bridle Path to Greenleaf Trail which is no easy walk in the park covering roughly 3 miles up and 3 back. If the weather is good, your good, and it’s still early in the day make it a loop.

This a hike to be revisited with friends and family in the years ahead.

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REMINDER: 

Always have a beat on the weather

Rock the right gear, hydration, & food

Stay within your limits

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013 Sierra Denali, best in class hauling machine

The 2013 Sierra Denali Crew Cab has a comfort range stretching from a city construction site to the countryside. This beast could most likely pull a tree out of the ground, but I thought it was in my best interest not to try while GMC provided me the truck for a week to review. It can, though, easily pull 12,000 plus pounds.  What I did try was taking my young family on an excursion to way upstate New York to a place called Black Lake…A body of water that freshwater fishermen come from far and wide for some of the best fishing in the state. Sierra lake side Sierra in town The interior of the vehicle was super spacious for my wife and two young girls plus their car seats. It was also extremely refined and included a heated steering wheel. Of course I tried it, although it was 65 degrees out. Other key features in the Sierra Denali model: 12-way power front seats wrapped in premium perforated leather, heated and ventilated front seats (can’t get over how great the ventilated seats are), woodgrain cabin trim, and Bose surround-sound audio system. I really like the USB port in the main storage console. On the outside, the Sierra Denali is equipped with additional chrome trim, heated power retractable side mirrors, side steps, and chrome wheels. Sierra The power plant of an engine offered for the Denali is a 6.6L Duramax diesel rated at 397 horsepower. The engine is B20 biodiesel capable with an Allison 1000 6-speed automatic transmission. It includes a Tow/Haul Mode as well as engine exhaust braking to better control speed on hills, and also to reduce brake wear. The standard 36-gallon fuel tank and engine efficiency moved us up to 640 miles between fill-ups. Upon breaking in the engine further on this brand new truck, I suspect it will get closer to 680 miles between fill ups. The Technology stack is pretty impressive as well. I was first sold on the USB port located in the center console and that was just the start. One killer option that was not active was the GMC WIFI. The truck has slick touchscreen for OnStar Navigation and Connection (1st 6 months no cost), Rearview camera, Sirius/XM and Bluetooth (a favorite for hands free calling and access to iTunes).

The confidence inspired driving this All Wheel Driven rig is superior to all trucks in it’s class and light years ahead of these guys…Upstate NY Amish

Chaco Rex and Fantasia keeping a low profile

Chaco sandals have gone on a diet with their lightweight offerings this summer.  The Chaco Rex for Men and the Fantasia for Women.

I have been wearing the latest and greatest Chaco sandal, The Rex, for three weeks now. I have had them on pretty much everyday since I received both pairs (Thank you, Chaco). The Rex has a low profile sole unlike other variations of Chacos. While I still like the durability and stability of the larger Z soled Chacos, the Rex is now my go to. Comfort right away but you will need to find the feel of the webbing. The webbing isn’t quite like the Chaco of old. The heel strap was maxed out for a looser feel and my foot volume is not out of the ordinary. My wife, Leigh, cut off the end of her straps as they were way too long when cinched down

The Rex is a slimmed down version of the great Z soles that will find the heart of many. With that said, the Z soles are still the weapon of choice for burlier activities.

His & Her Chaco's Leigh, on her perspective on the Fantasia:

First off, I have to say that I like these shoes. I say that because I didn’t expect to. My first and only pair of Chacos are probably 3 years old, and I always thought they were a bit… clunky. Heavy, almost. These are much better! They still have the telltale toe strap, but the shoebed is much lighter than my previous pair. In addition, they have a really cute color design – soft green and brownish/grey – that seems to match everything. I have worn these around the city for day long excursions, and have been pleased with their performance. The only downside to these, I found, are the somewhat high arch. It’s not uncomfortable, but you do notice it. It took a couple of wears for me to get used to it. I found the arch a little distracting in the beginning. But once I was used to the natural feel, the high-ish arch doesn’t bother me anymore. That’s the only thing I don’t absolutely love about these.

I’d recommend these as an active shoe, when you plan on doing a fair amount of walking/outdoor summer activities.  They still have a rugged feel, but being a lighter version, they can look even cute with a casual skirt or summer dress.  All around a good pick.

Wearing these feels like a flip flop with way more support. If you haven’t tried Chaco products your missing out some great boots, shoes, sandals, and flops.

Exposed Seam solution for bike commuters

Exposed Seam is a Boston based company that makes the StaySharp Commuter Cuff . Made in the USA for bike commuters or anyone hopping on their bike around town.

Easy to use protection from the chain. It has a reflective strip down the back. A small feature that goes a long way.  I love any additional reflective elements anywhere possible when riding anywhere day or night.

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You see all types of solutions that are far more cumbersome then using the cuff. Do yourself a favor and pick one up. Always nice to use a product made for cyclists by cyclists. Jonathan and Jen will be at the Boston Cycling and Health Expo this weekend.

You can find them on Facebook and Twitter

Thank you to Jonathan and Jen for providing me the product for review.

Patagonia Mixed Guide Hoody and Patagonia Merino Wool

All Fall 2012 including reviewed pieces on sale now (up to 60% off) at Patagonia.com

Blaze orange and loving it. While this jacket is specifically made for ice climbers, I have found it to be a fantastic jacket to layer underneath as needed for dropping temperatures and at the same time a great shell in virtually every season.

Mixed Guide Hoody-PaintbrushRed

What I love about this piece:

The hybrid soft shell material and Patagonia H2No® Performance 3-layer nylon ripstop fabric with a waterproof, breathable barrier, bright color, lightweight, and range of use and range of temperatures. The soft-shell areas are made of highly breathable, wind resistant Polartec® Power Shield® keeping you cool at all times.

The hood itself is large enough to slide over a ski helmet as needed and the draw cords are well done.  the best thing about the hood is your vision is not impacted in the slightest. It moves with your moves…a rare but stellar attribute in a hood. A great pick up for year round utility.

What to wear under this shell? Fear not Patagonia has an impressive lineup of Merino Wool to keep you regulated no matter your activity.

Here is my go to baselayer on a cold day: Patagonia Merino 3 Midweight Zip-Neck Shirt – Wool…great for any multi sport activity of just under a sweater at the office.

Merino 2Pataagonia Merino 3 MidWeight Zip Neck

Patagonia Merino 2 Lightweight Crew Shirt – Wool…another excellent base layer that is great to wear alone next to your skin. Patagonia Merino 1 SW Crew – Long-Sleeve – a wonderful lightweight merino shirt that welcomes any training session.

While Patagonia has become a leading outdoor brand they have also become a leader in world wide conservation efforts. The companies commitment to sustainability is not only window dressing but common practice for employees and devout followers of the brand. This is demonstrated by the Uncommon Threads Initiative  partnership with eBay to make buying their brand more sustainable. Have you taken the pledge yet? 

Merrell’s Avalon jacket for women…warm, waterproof, and pretty

Guest editor, Leigh Curtis, providing her insight of the Merrell Avalon jacket:

This is an impressive jacket.  I would qualify it as a cold weather winter coat vs. a piece one might choose for a somewhat crisp fall day.  I tested this out during a recent autumn Nor’ Easter that brought driving rain, wind and very chilly temperatures.  It performed extremely well during this 2 day weather event, and kept me cozy when I braved the outside nastiness while walking the dog.  While my legs were wet and cold, my upper body was undeterred by the storm raging around me.
What I especially like is the detachable hood- so easy to zip on or off, depending on the day.  Today, for example, is sunny and cold, so I removed it and wore it as a parka.  However, in rain or snow or very cold temps, the hood is much appreciated to keep your head (and neck!) warm and dry.


Other features include zip up pockets – nice for people like me who tend to ‘drop’ (i.e. lose) keys, etc., as well as pit zips, for when you feel the need to cool down/air out a little.  The arm cuffs also cinch down with adjustable velcro, and there is a snowskirt giving this coat a ski jacket feel.
Finally, for it’s outward appearance.  I am a huge fan of the 4 feminine snap closures over the zipper, as this feature makes this piece really stand out among other standard cold weather parkas.  That, combined with the very subtle herringbone pattern, elevate this jacket to pretty.  And that’s not an easy feat because – make no mistake – this is a performer.  It’s warm and waterproof meant for serious weather, almost ‘burly’.  But those feminine features soften it and make me feel as though I can wear it on an icky winter day with jeans and boots or to a dressy holiday party with heels.
Well done, Merrell.

Chaco multi-sport Balmer shoe

As a longtime Chaco fan, I was happy to receive one of their new multi-sport shoes without exactly knowing their range of use. I easily found that range and it withstood like a hiking shoe, with the comfort of a sandal. The Balmer is very lightweight and flexible while offering a super stable foot bed.  I don’t recommend using this shoe for a long hike while carrying a pack, but it’s great for a relaxed hike of a 2-3 miles. Think of it as a regular Chaco sandal with better foot protection and more cushioning. Normally I am one to switch out insoles immediately- but these insoles are fantastic and also help absorb the additional weight of a daypack, child on your back or rock hopping a dried up stream bed.

My Achilles tendon sat comfortable in the rear of the shoe with an almost wrap-around feel from the upper. The lightweight quality comes from the mesh that is reinforced by leather just above the sole of the shoe.  Speaking of the sole, Chaco uses it’s ever popular EcoTread outsole featuring 25% recycled rubber. I’m a fan of the use of orange for the sole and laces. This shoe doesn’t scream “Take me for a hike” but more like “Go ahead and wear me on casual Friday.”

The breathability of the mesh lining is wonderful and a relief from some of the low cut hikers with Gore-Tex that tend to clam up. I have never been keen on low cut with Gore-Tex, because if you encounter any water over the ankle you’re soaked anyway. The breathability gives this shoe a true three-season use for going to a friend’s BBQ, short hikes, cruising around the urban landscape and wherever you may venture.

Thumbs up to the ever expanding line of Chaco shoes.

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