Dan Hikes Mount Major in New Hampshire with his Arizona State Bros 

ASU guys 2

Rich, Nobes, and Dan

Getting my boys (fellow 1969 Arizona State buddies, Rich and Nobes) up for a 6A departure to climb Mount Major proves to be easy peezy.  Willingly following my lead, we head north from the coast of Maine to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Click here for the background blog on my ties to Rich and Nobes.

MM at Farmer's Kitchen

Photo by Tiphanie one summer Sunday morning in New Hampshire

What’s a hike without a good breakfast out?  Looking online and finding the Farmer’s Kitchen in Farmington, NH on route 11, we hit gold.  Tantalizing blueberry pancakes this first Sunday in August set us up for our hike while owner/waitress Tiphanie brightens the morning with her engaging personality.

Driving a mere 20 minutes more to the trailhead of Mount Major, we find a spot in the parking lot, though 30 cars are already here at 8A.  It’s no surprise as Mount Major is indeed a family-friendly hike.  When Will was 6, Robyn 8 and Molly 10, our friend Steve Adler led us to this mountaintop on a late fall morning.

MM R and G on trail

Fearless hikers (Nobes and Rich) as the trail begins

As a member of the seventh grade team at Frisbee Middle School in Kittery, Maine, we teachers took 100 students here for this hike/climb.  My recollection is that every last kid made it to the top.

MM leisurely trail

Before the sharp left to the top, the trail is leisurely mellow

That said, this is no mere walk-in-the-park, but it gives the novice hiker the satisfaction of an Outward Bound, “damn-I-didn’t-know-I-could-do-it” challenge/experience.

MM rocky trail d n r

The trail turns rock-kay

The trail begins to climb immediately from the trailhead along a 12’ wide eroded path of stones and roots.  Stepping carefully, we have a warm-up for our climb to the summit.  Soon we are on a stroll-in-the-woods trail through the forest that is easy going and conversation inducing.

At the eight tenths of a mile mark of this 1.5 mile trail to the summit, we turn left, and the work begins.  Starting to bite into the 1100’ of elevation gain, we step carefully on a trail with boulders and roots.

MM Lake Winnepausakee

Lake Winnipesaukee from the summit

In time, the stone face of the trail emerges.  Watching the blue blazes (rectangular trail markers painted on trees and the stone itself), at times we use our hands to climb the steep stone faces leading to the top.  Other times, hikers step into the side woods to more easily make the climb.  It’s challenging, but that’s why it’s so rewarding.

MM D and R on top

Rich and Dan above Lake Winepausakee

Taking breaks to enjoy the scenery and views out to Lake Winnipesaukee, we take to the final stone face to the summit.  At the top there must be fifty others, but it never feels Disney World-esque.

Click here for more detailed information on the trail to the top of Mount Major.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MM G and D on top

Nobes and Dan atop Mount Major

I’m proud of my boys!

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Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire

Number one is Mount Fuji in Japan.  But the second most popular hike in the world is Mount Monadnock.  Here in little ole New Hampshire.  The word “monadnock” comes from the Abenakis meaning “mountain that stands alone.”  I think, How tough can climbing this mountain be if it is that popular?

mt m map

With a mid-September Saturday in New England predicted to be sunny and in the low 70s, with our friend Bill we leave our home in coastal Maine for a 100+ mile, two hour drive to the southwestern corner of New Hampshire.  Up at 5A, we are off before 6A so we can get breakfast on the road before the Saturday rush and hit the trail by 9A.

Joey's Diner - 50s dining at its best

Joey’s Diner – 50s dining at its best

Checking out online all the diners/cafes along our route west of Manchester, NH, Joey’s Diner jumps out thanks to Yelp reviews.  We had no idea we are in the for breakfast experience of our lives.

Arriving just after 7A we enter New Jersey circa 1950s: shiny red booths, mirrors everywhere and memorabilia celebrating Elvis and mid-century Chevy’s.  The décor and feel is cool, but it’s not the best part of the experience.

50s diner

50s diner

My two eggs over easy, home fries, rye toast and two pancakes prime me for the trail.  A good meal is important, but that’s not the best part either.

Our waitress is.  Hannah and I began breakfasting out when we were first married early in the 1970s at Bill Johnson’s Big Apple Restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona.  We learned that refills for coffee were free and my eggs and hash browns could swim in a sea of barbecue sauce.  But in 40+ years of breakfasting out, we have never had a better waitress.  Upbeat and personable, she makes mere nourishment an experience.  I begin by asking her name and introducing us three.  Are you a local girl? is my follow up question and our conversation is off and running.  She willing engages with Mama Bear information.  Not too little, not too much.  She gets our decafs and tea, gives us time to order, and once we order comes back just before the meals are to be served to see if we want any more decaf or tea!  Attentive and cheery throughout the meal, she made the experience.  She alone is worth the trip to Joey’s Diner in Amherst, NH.

26 mt m sign

Fueled and so energized by the Joey’s experience, we drive 45 minutes more along routes 101, 202, and 124 to Mt. Monadnock State Park.

25 mt monad wood map

The ranger peers into the car, determines there are three of us, and charges $5 each.  This is a gold mine for the state of New Hampshire.  With 35 cars in the parking lot just before 9A we easily find shaded parking.

Bill and Hannah as the White Dot Trail begins

Bill and Hannah as the White Dot Trail begins

Told by the state park ranger that the White Dot Trail (2.2 miles to the top) is steeper, but the White Cross Trail has more obstacles and is longer, we learn he thinks them basically comparable.   Once done hiking  today we will feel very differently.

The gentle rise of the White Dot Trail

The opening gentle steady rise of the White Dot Trail

At Hannah’s suggestion we choose to go up the steep White Dot Trail and down the White Cross Trail as we join the legion of hikers.  Make no mistake about it, this is one popular hike.  But to me it doesn’t feel “busy.”   Right away we are climbing on an eight to ten foot wide trail filled with rocks.

The obsequious white dot along the trail

The obsequious white dot along the trail

The white dots guide us to the best way across the rocky terrain.  The white dots are everywhere and most helpful.  Our climb is steady and relentless; my shirt under my backpack is soon soaked and in short order sweat seeps into my eyes.

Rocks and more rocks on the trail

Rocks and more rocks on the trail

Bill and I use trekking sticks, and let me tell you they are a godsend on this rocky, steep terrain.  I can plant my sticks and push with my two arms as well as my legs to climb the rocky way, thus reducing the strain on my cranky knees.

Stone crawling on the White Dot Trail

Stone crawling on the White Dot Trail

As we hands-and-knee-it on the stone facades, we know that this is one demanding hike.  On these sharply angled stony faces, the trekking sticks can be a hindrance.  These are the times that my poles should be stored in my backpack.

With Mt. Monadnock in the distance, Hannah and Dan stand by one of the many cairns.

With Mt. Monadnock in the distance, Hannah and Dan stand by one of the many cairns marking the trail.

No lie.  This is a taxing climb, not a walk in the park.  It’s challenging.  It’s relentlessly up.   As my friend Mitch says, these are Adirondack switchbacks (i.e., the trail goes straight up).  But indeed it’s satisfying.  Having recently hiked Mt. St. Helens and at Crater Lake, I know nothing we hiked there that compares to how tough this climb is.

We are not alone at the top of Mt. Monadnock nor is it mobbed.

We are not alone at the top of Mt. Monadnock nor is it mobbed.

From the mountaintop

From the mountaintop

After one hour and a half of steady climbing with only one water break, we arrive to the celebratory mountain top which offers a 360 view.  Mount Monadnock is 3100 feet above sea level with the last 300 feet are above the tree line.  It’s windy up top and I can see how this could be a dangerous peak in cold weather on a trail that is open all year round.

Bill, Hannah, and Dan resting on top of Mt. Monadnock

“Three Musketeers”  Bill, Hannah, and Dan resting on top of Mt. Monadnock

Adding Bill to our hiking mix gives us quality extra interactions along the way.  We have hiked with him at the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick and he was our car courier when we biked across Prince Edward Island.  He’s good guy.  You’d like him.

Heading down the stony mountain

Heading down the stony mountain

After feasting on Hannah’s turkey sandwiches, snapping pictures with my iPhone, and providing a thankful hiker with band aids, we descend the bare steep rocky slopes below the mountain top.  I can’t imagine hiking in such rockiness in fog or light rain.  We’d be slip sliding away a la Paul Simon.  Below the mountain top, it feels ten degrees warmer.

Bill with the ever present white cross of the White Cross Trail

Bill with the ever present white cross of the White Cross Trail

We take to the White Cross trail which, though still steep in parts, is a gentler, kinder trail than the White Dot Trail.  It is no picnic, but again trekking sticks prove beneficial to a knee-compromised hiker such as myself.  I can place my sticks below me and use them to brace myself as I step down reducing the weight on my balky knees when I step down.  Multiple that by hundreds of steps and you can see how trekking sticks rock!

Rocks of the rocky White Cross Trail

Rocks of the rocky White Cross Trail

We learn 95% of all injuries happen on the way down.  Other than the scraped knee at the top, we see no twisted ankles nor bloody legs or hikers bemoaning beside the trail.

There are not too many people for me.  I love the interaction.  Sports is a great entre into conversation.  All the time I have wasted watching Sports Center is paying off.  To Red Sox fans (wearing the cap is how often tell) I say nice win last night to get the conversation going.  The Sox have comeback twice and beaten the Yankees this week.  To the one Yankee-capped fan, I sympathetically say tough game last night.  She laughs, but I know she is just hiding the pain and has daggers in her eyes for me.

Some of the many steps on the White Cross Trail

Some of the many steps on the White Cross Trail

Let me say that the trail creation and maintenance are phenomenal on both the White Dot and White Cross trails.   Regulary stone steps are placed conveniently as well as stones have been hewed out for safer foot placements.

Hannah’s solid choice to take the steep White Dot trail up and the less steep White Cross proves genius.  She is one good thinker.  We are glad to have had both trail experiences, but we disagree with the ranger if he thinks they are basically the same.

The climb down takes a good 15 minutes longer than going up.  Gabbing with people and the longer White Cross trail explains some of that.  Our weariness explains another part of it.  The three to four hour estimate to hike up and down is reasonable.

Shirts given to the first year students at Franklin Pierce University

Shirts given to the first year students at Franklin Pierce University after climbing the Grand Monadnock (another name for Mt. Monadnock)

The generous smorgasbord from FPU

The generous smorgasbord from FPU

At the bottom, I see adults folding shirts and wander up and ask them what’s going on.  It turns out they are from the nearby Franklin Pierce University and have brought the latest crop of first year students to the mountain to hike.  Having extra lunch food, they offer us sandwiches, salads, cookies, and bottled water.  Amazing what happens when we seek to initiate.

Lunch at Howard Memorial Park in Jaffrey, NH

Lunch at Howard Memorial Park in Jaffrey, NH

Fifteen minutes from the park on our way home, we lunch at Howard’s Memorial Park on route 12 in Jaffrey.  Leaving this morning at 6A gave us the time to make our day relaxed and unhurried.  We even had time for a little garage sailing.

Nobody does it better!

Nobody does it better!

Dan and Hannah Celebrate Their 40th Biking to New Castle

Hannah and I have always loved to exercise.   Since forever.  We met on the tennis courts as first year students at the College of Wooster in Ohio.  Though somewhat coordinated and athletic, we were definitely not fit.  Never ran, never exercised at a gym, just played sports that required a modest amount of hand/eye coordination.  Though the Sixties in the public schools were not friendly to female athletes like Hannah (it would be 1972 before Title 9 became the law of the land), she learned to excel at various sports at Moss Lake Camp in New York State: waterskiing, tennis, canoeing, distance swimming, archery, riding, riflery, and dance.  Three years into our marriage in the mid-1970s, we weren’t doing much cardio-vascularly so we took up running.  Relatively cheap (the price of running shoes) with no need for going to a gym, running on the canals and along railroads of Tempe, AZ was how we knocked off 30-40 miles per week.  At Arizona State University, I loved being the one experimented-upon in the Human Performance Lab to determine aerobic capacity as the speed of the treadmill was increased and the incline rose.  Call me crazy, but I loved feeling spent after physical activity.
After 30+ years of running, our knees said No Mas.  So walking, biking, and hiking became our new physical activities of choice.   So I ask you?  Given that background, what do I do with the athletic woman of my dreams to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on the first of July?Why a big time bike ride on the coast of New Hampshire!  Into symmetry, we thought we’d bike 40 miles for 40 years of marriage. With our sister-in-law Becky down for the weekend from Portland, we rode 20 miles on the back country roads from York to and from Kittery on the Saturday afternoon before our anniversary so we had a mere 20 left to do this Sunday anniversary morning.
Setting the alarm for 515A so as to be on the road before the Sunday summer beach traffic gets heavy on this first day of July, we grab a quick banana, hydrate, and set out for Portsmouth, NH.  Stuffing Becky’s road bike in her Mom’s SUV, we use our Saris Bones 2 Bike Rack for Hannah’s bike and mine.   With no room for sitting in the back, Hannah sits on my lap for the ten mile trip over the I-95 Piscataqua River Bridge to Portsmouth to park by the mill pond just off the center of town.
Hannah and Becky at the Mill Pond
Leaving the mill pond lot at 615A, we indeed have the road to ourselves as we first pass the Portsmouth City Offices, formerly the Portsmouth Regional Hospital, where our son Will was born back in 1983.  (His sisters Molly and Robyn were born at Desert Samaritan Hospital in Mesa, Arizona.)  At this early hour, we pedal onto nearly empty Route 1B into New Castle, NH.
Crossing into New Castle
In typical New England fashion the exact same main road that goes through this town is called Portsmouth Avenue, Cranfield Street, Main Street, and finally Wentworth Road in the space of two miles.  The why of such naming escapes me.  New Castle is a classic New England sea port community with many 18th and 19th century houses built right to the road with very little place for parking.  It is the smallest town in New Hampshire and the only one located entirely on islands.  It’s as New England-y as you get.
Hannah rolling by the marshes
Passing tidal rivers and marsh lands, we are fortunate to have Becky in our lives; for many reasons.  One being that there are few people we know our age, who would eagerly get up at this early hour to ride with us and relish a ride of such distance.
Becky rolling by those same marshes
Passing the Wentworth by the Sea Marriot Hotel and Spa we cross an open grate draw bridge on our way to Route 1A and the Atlantic Ocean. Though busier than Route 1B through New Castle, Route 1A at 645A time means there is still very little traffic.
Passing Odiorne State Park
Once past Odiorne State Park and the Seacoast Science Center, we are greeted by the sun already up above the Atlantic Ocean.  At this point on Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A), the bike path is wide and riding side by side is safe and friendly.
Ocean Boulevard
Faster bicyclists roar by us, usually with head down and pedaling vigorously on a mission to maximize their workout.  Our mission is a little more modest: to ride 20 miles and catch up on each other’s lives.
Further south on Ocean Boulevard
It’s summer vacation as we roll past Rye, NH with housekeeping cottages, rentals, and small summer homes on the marshes across from the beaches which can go for under $1000 to over $4000 per week during the summer season.  We first pass Wallis Sands State Park, then Ray’s Seafood.
We make Rye Harbor our turn around point.
Pedaling by Rye Harbor
Shooting for an hour of biking out and an hour back on our morning ride, we spin easily by lobster boats and small yachts.  Morning guests in mansions along the ocean wave as we head for home as traffic picks up along the shore road.   It’s biking central for serious bicyclists.
Passing Odiorne State Park on the return trip, we are approaching 20 miles with energy still in our legs and a look forward to Hannah’s homemade bread at breakfast.   By the time we return to Portsmouth, we’ve biked 25 miles in the early Sunday morning on a day that’s going to 90 degrees.
Back to Portsmouth Harbor
It’s a memorable 40th morning with the girl of my dreams.
When you next visit York and Seacoast Maine/New Hampshire, consider an early morning ride to New Castle, then stop by Dan and Hannah’s for coffee and toasted homemade bread with us.
We’re serious.