Sunday, July 15, 2012

Northern Wapack-North Pack and Pack Monadnock

I decided to head back out on the Wapack trail again Saturday with a section I'd never done before which was Wapack North in New Hampshire starting at Old Mountain Road and then climbing North Pack Monadnock, Pack Monadnock, ending at Route 101 and then turning around and doing it all over again.

Instead of trail running it though, I'd hike it as my Wapack Bucket list has changed during the past year because I've come to the realization that running anything over 6 miles is too hard on my middle aged knees so if I want to see all of Wapack it won't be done running.

That's not to say hiking it is a piece of cake per say as the Wapack trail has a series of mountains all along  the trail and if you want to get a taste of what the terrain is like check out Adam's Blog and his experience with the Wapack and Back 50 mile ultra running marathon he completed this past May.

Anyhow, the hike would start out perfect under cloudy skies and a nice breeze which kept the bugs at bay.  For the first .75 miles or so, the terrain was fairly flat but soon enough some climbing was involved and I'd be very happy to see some rocks which are my favorite part of any trail because not only are they fun, but sometimes challenging as well.

It would be here that I'd hear a couple Blackburnian Warblers as well as some Golden-crowned Kinglets which I stopped for of course.  After some pishing I'd not only see an adult but an immature as well which would be a first ever for me so it was a treat (another reason why I'm liking heading north this year!)

Soon enough I'd get closer to the summit and stop for what else but blueberries!  I'm telling you Wapack is going to be a July ritual for me going forward just for these delicious berries which are perfect hiking fuel in my opinion!

Getting closer.  Notice the yellow trail marker in the rock cairn.  One of the nicest things about Wapack is how well the trail is marked thanks to Friends of the Wapack

There are other trails here as well including the Cliff Trail which is supposed to be a bit challenging and offer some nice views from what I've read.

Soon enough I'd reach the summit, which was modest but lovely and offered some nice views despite the cloudy skies, including Pack Monadnock which was where I was headed!

After stopping for a much needed water break I'd get back on Wapack again and make my way toward Pack Monadnock.

Including this interesting part of the trail. I would love to see what this looks like under a heavy rain.

Bird activity was a lot slower than last week when I was on Wapack in Massachusetts, but the Yellow-rumped Warblers and Dark-eyed Juncos were as vocal as ever which made for some nice practice along the way.

Interesting tracks here and there including these.  I'm lousy with tracks, but when I saw them the first thing I thought of was bear tracks (I think they're dog tracks though)!  I so want to see a bear as it would be a first for me, but I'd much rather not see one alone.  Yes, I'm brave but not that brave. ;-)

Getting closer.

And soon enough I'd be in Miller State Park and make my way closer to the summit of Pack Monadnock and couldn't wait as I was starving at this point.

I'd get to the summit and be very disappointed.  Views would be compromised and the place would be packed.  I've now come to the conclusion I just don't like summits with auto access.  Yes, I think it's great they exist for those unable to hike a mountain, but it's just not for me.  I love a summit for its raw, natural and rugged beauty.  Seeing a bunch of cars parked in the middle of it strips it of that  IMO.  I'd eat my PB&J at picnic table as quickly as I could and then head on my way.

   One of my favorite pictures of the day. :-p.  That's Mount Monadnock in the background.

Whatever dissapointment I had with Pack Monadnock would quickly fade as I made my way to my favorite part of this hike.

Spotted along the way.  How cool is that!!!  This is the area where I'd also hear a Blue-winged Warbler.  Go figure??  Maybe some open land nearby I couldn't see.

Whimsical and rustic stairs to make the hike more enjoyable.

 Soon enough I'd come to open land again and see the views I was craving since I first got out of my car.  I'd also be treated to some Turkey Vultures putting on a show.

After taking in the great views and watching the TVs for a bit, I'd hike down more and be very happy to get to the most challenging part of the hike with lots of rocks for a fun climb down.

I'd be about .2 miles from where I was going to turn around and be very happy to see this sign marker because I wanted to see how accurate my Garmin was compared to the 5.2 miles which is what I'd hiked already.

Picture is fuzzy, but it reads 4.88 miles.  Obviously my Garmin doesn't like trees.

I'd quickly make my way back toward Pack to be able to climb up the rocks in the picture above that I had climbed down a short time before hand.  This section would be my favorite part of the hike hands down.  I love climbing rocks as it brings me back to my child hood days, like jungle gyms and all the other fun things we used to do before we became adults.

By then the cloudy morning had soon turned sunny with increasing temperatures.

But it did make for some nicer views though.

It would start getting so warm that I'd quicken my pace in an effort to get back to North Pack as quick as I could where there'd be more shade.  I'd be on my 6th bottle of water at this point and that was doing nothing for me and I'd only have two thoughts in my mind at this point.  1.  Finding a nice stream of water to soak in-or, 2.  Ice cream, preferably chocolate but at that point I wasn't going to be picky.

I would see this leaf below which would remind me that I live in New England and soon enough, the lazy, hazy days of summer will soon be gone and then there will be cooler temps, sparrows and ducks to look forward to! While I got most of the birds I did last week along the Wapack I'd also get  2 adult Wild Turkey's with 4 young who were adorable as well as a Sharp-shinned Hawk and besides the Kinglets those would be the birding highlights of the day for me.

I'd finally make my way back to my car and check my Garmin which should have read 10.8 and instead read 9.57 which just goes to show how tree cover can impact reception with these devices.   I find the biggest mental challenge I have when I hike compared to trail run is to have lower expectations on my pace where I could do 4 to 5 miles an hour on the majority of the trails I ran.  I can still hike 3 miles in an hour if I work hard, but it's nothing like when you run I guess.  I had no regrets though because even after getting close to 11 miles my legs still felt so good I could have done more if it weren't so hot out which would have never been the case if I trail ran that distance.

I'd get in my car and the craving I had for ice cream had suddenly turned into a full blown obsession.  It wouldn't be until I was near the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border that I'd finally find a place that sold ice cream so I slammed on the breaks to get my fix.

You have no idea how hard it was not to order some fried clams to go with the ice cream, but figured it wouldn't be wise with the touch of nausea I had due to mild dehydration.

So then I'd look at the ice cream and love the death by chocolate.  Believe me, if chocolate could kill you I'd have been dead long ago, as I can live on the stuff seriously!

I'd finally decide on a chocolate frappe given the fact I could consume it while driving which one can not do while eating a sundae (believe me, I've tried!)

I'd finally make it home and be amazed at how much energy I still had after hiking 11 miles.  In the past when I ran this distance I'd be dead the rest of the day.  The hike had me energized though so I made a nice dinner to go with my beer for the night.

Which would be roasted sausage with onions and fresh peppers from the Farmer's Market as well as fresh tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to go with my Hopulent IPA.  It was really tasty but nothing like last nights beer which I'll get to later in this post.

I'd also bake a chocolate cake in an attempt to use up some of my zucchini that's been growing like mad this past week.  It's my basic chocolate cake recipe with  2 cups of shredded zucchini which replaces half the butter I normally put in my chocolate cake.  I know it sounds weird but it makes for an incredibly moist cake and to this day my adult children don't know I put it in there and I've been doing this since they were both in grade school!  ;-).  Similar recipe in case your'e interested.  I didn't frost mine or put it in fancy layers as I wsa too lazy, but not only is it tasty, but can be very pretty if you want to put the effort in which I didn't.

And now back to beer.  My running and beer buddy Lance has such a passion for beer that he blogs about it.  He'd introduce me to the Hopulent IPA (above) but also to the beer below.

And that would be Sonoran While Chocolate Ale.  Now he knows my beer tastes enough to know what I like but this was beyond expectations.  I've had my share of beer over the past year and a half but this hands down was the most unique and enjoyable of them all.  Seriously, if you see if offered somewhere GRAB it.  My son's girlfriend who isn't a beer drinker thought it was delicious as well so that's saying a lot!

So in the end, not a bad way to spend a summer's July day.  A little bit of hiking, ice cream and beer.  Yes I can live with that!

Take care all.

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