Hike

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


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? 


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.


The innovative GeigerRig hydration packs

I was provided this innovative hydration pack, Rig 500 Ballastic, from the folks at GeigerRig. I was excited to review as I had traditionally used CamelBack hydration bladders for everything from hiking, skiing, biking, golf (bladder stashed in bag) and hitting the beach with the family.

This is a feature rich pack that changes my thoughts on hydration bladders I had used prior to GeigerRig. This pack is loaded with cool features including a dry stash pocket for your iPod and other pockets with just enough room for an extra set of keys, wallet, snacks for the kids and parent(s).  One tip that I recommend is filling just past a 1/4 full with water and put in the freezer the night before your activity to have cold water on the go for many hours. I have filled half way to provide even longer duration on the hottest of days. It’s become the go to for any family activity in which we need water. 

Here is what seperates these guys from the crowd (please see videos highlighted below for full feature explanations):

1) Pressurized  bladder- no more sucking, after a few pumps it can be sprayed into your mouth, your dogs mouth or even to clean the grime off your legs after a muddy hike or bike.

2) Filtration System– you can easily remove the regular tube and use the filtration tube for times you know you will need more water and have the luxury to dip into any water source without the hassle of using tablets, boiling, etc to purify the water. I do think that the pressured spray isn’t as strong but who cares when you are filtering primarily to drink.

3) Cleaning– if you have used bladders in the past you know that taste you can get after a few uses and it’s frustrating to not be able to clean the bladder better after every use. These bladders come with a plastic slider on one end allowing you to reach and a revers bladder for a quick cleaning or for a better clean the bladder is durable enough for the dishwasher.

While I have highlighted benefits in the warmer weather the GeigerRig’s also have insulated tubes which allow you to retrofit for Winter activities.

Never suck again and get yourself set up for the ultimate in hydration technology.


Wolverine Fulcrum Hiking Boots

While this boot has been out a while now it’s not losing it’s luster. Many folks including myself may have only known Wolverine (they also own and have been expanding Chaco’s line) as work boot but they have made a splash in the hiking department. I first used these right out of the box for an easy hike up Mt Monadnock with one of my daughters on my back to get a feel for stability and support with a load closer to 40 pounds. I went up the most direct route and was impressed with how the Vibram soles stuck to the steeper granite slabs along the way up and more importantly on the way down. To be fair, like most soles they didn’t inspire confidence when the surface was wet.

The ICS (Individual Comfort System) feature in which I thought was kind of gimmicky proved worthy. While cumbersome to have to take off the boot and take out the insole it to adjust there is a clear benefit on a longer hike. I thought I would have to change it out along the way more often but only did once…on the way up stiff and way down softer. The ICS feature is also a solution for those that overpronate or have high arch issues.

The Gore-Tex membrane doesn’t disappoint and I wear these other times when banging around in wetter conditions when needing to stay dry. I have tempted fate by standing in a few inches of water for a longer duration expecting to get soggy but they stood strong. I believe the lack of seams on this boot are the main reason other then the Gore-Tex lining that they with stood the water.

I find myself wearing these off the trail as well and like the throwback look. At the $200 price point they have a lot of competition but can be found for less and I can recommend picking a pair up if you are putting in some hours on the trail this Fall. Many thanks to Wolverine for providing these fine boots for review.

                                                                                                                                                                                

Pros

  • Retro look
  • Adjustability of support
  • Gore-Tex membrane
  • Vibram sole
  • no stink organic lining

Cons

  • could be lighter
  • breath ability

Give life to your legs with Spenco insoles

Spenco sent me a few pairs of insoles to try out as a way to reduce knee pain. Specifically I was sent the Polysorb Total SupportFLOW Warm, and FLOW Cool, which I have tried with several pairs of footwear and in a multitude of environments.

I have used the Polysorb Total Support in my ski boots to provide further stability of my feet. Honestly, I found it easier to drive ski tip pressure with my big toe on the outside ski- allowing deeper early turn initiation. I swap these right into any of my hiking boots. These insoles have bestowed an extended life with some of my older boots, while providing a lively bounce in all footwear. I also used the Polysorb Total Support in my Sorel’s which didn’t get enough time on my feet during our lackluster Winter. They really have become an everyday insole in my Blundstones- they were tested over a few weeks in different conditions, and I’m happy to report they have greatly reduced my chronic knee pain (which is a story for another day!)

I was a little skeptical of the FLOW Warm and FLOW Cool insoles… but have become a believer after using them in my winter boot Chaco Credence Wool Nurl boot (which, btw, you can almost steal from Zappos right now.) The FLOW Cool have been coming into play lately with the spring weather, and are better suited for running or cycling shoes. While I flip-flopped this winter between the FLOW Warm and Polysorb Total Support, the FLOWs are thinner and meant more for running shoes in cooler temps. I currently use and won’t go without the Polysorb Total Support in my everyday Blundstone boots.

Takeaway: using insoles other then the stock insoles provided with your footwear will provide longer life of your boot or shoe, while alleviating pains that you have just lived with.  A simple switch of insoles can help!


Polarmax Technical Base Layers and All Year Gear

Polarmax products are all 100% made in the USA and utilize superior green initiatives with packaging.  I had the opportunity over the last month to put multiple Polarmax products through their paces. Being a strong proponent of all things merino wool this was a true test as I didn’t use any of the Polarmax merino base layers straying from my comfort zone.

The Heavy Weight Comp 4 Max Stretch top and bottom are made of 90% Acclimate Dry Polyester and 10% Spandex. The super athletic cut of the fabric made the spandex a key component allowing for the necessary flexibility dropping the knees for my turns down the 7 inches of fresh at Cannon Mountain. Cannon was also the perfect venue to understand if they would keep me warm but also breath. Being an East facing mountain staying warm is paramount at Cannon. Once at the top and in search of fresh tracks we hiked over to Mittersill and both pieces wicked away the moisture from my skin keeping me comfortable on the way up. It was warm for Cannon being around 24 degrees but a wind chill making it feel like 12 degrees.  I can see why Polarmax is the official supplier of the National Ski Patrol as I never felt cold, wet, or clammy beneath these base layers.

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What I didn’t know before receiving the product from Polarmax was that they produce a year round product made of cotton. I did say cotton! This isn’t your everyday cotton though as they have developed a wicking and stink free performance cotton.  The “All Year Gear 365” (AYG) made of 96% cotton and 4% spandex giving that additional support and stretch in the boxer brief and their short and long sleeve crew tops. The shirts did run pretty long even though I have a longer torso. I think the AYG shirts could be tailored with more of the athletic cut found in the heavy weight base layers offered by Polarmax and the AYG boxer briefs. The AYG shirts and boxers are perfect for all day or more appropriately in the gym or other active pursuit as they provide a no stink, quick drying fabric.