Month: October 2016

Mt Major, Alton, NH

Because the weather forecast indicated the day would be gloomy, gray, and rainy, and I would be hiking solo, I opted to hike a lower elevation mountain. I may have tackled a taller mountain, but snow has been falling in the White Mountains and I am not mentally prepared to tackle that on my own (yet).

Mt. Major in Alton, NH is a favorite hiking destination of a woman I work with. Amy loves to hike this 1,785’ mountain with her 8-year old son. She recommended hiking up the 1.5 mile blue blazed (Mt. Major Trail) and down the 1.8 mile yellow blazed (Brook Trail) which reconnects with the blue trail for the final .7 miles back to the parking lot. She said the blue trail is fairly steep and challenging while the yellow blazed trail is a gentler grade. I agree with her approach to ascend the more challenging trails, so that’s what I planned to do, too.

Earl laughed when I told him I was going to hike Mt. Major. He can sometimes be an elevation snob. He hiked Mt. Madison (elevation 5,367’) while I was cruising to Bermuda two weeks ago, and thinks these “hills” are too easy now. Perhaps it’s just because he is 6-foot-ahundred tall and I’m 5-foot-and-a-smidgeon tall; but I think a 1,785’ mountain still deserves respect. HA HA
Anyway… before I could hike the mountain (or hill, as Earl called it), I had to get there. I saw turkeys, 20 – 30 of them, in a field on the drive to New Hampshire. We frequently see turkeys when driving to a mountain, so I took this as a good sign for the day. I also saw a sign for a scenic viewpoint a few miles before the trailhead parking lot. I pulled over and caught a glimpse of the views the day would bring.
The mountain was all that Amy told me it was. The views were stunning. This misty, clouds hovering over Lake Winnipesaukee and the fading yellow and oranges of fall foliage were mesmerizing. More than once I stopped on the trail to watch the clouds moving over the trees.

The trails were fairly well marked, although there were a few times as I was ascending the blue blazed trail that I questioned whether I was going the right way. At one point, just below the summit, a copse of trees divided two wide, steep sections of wet granite. I couldn’t see any blue blazes painted on either section of granite, but I heard voices coming from the section to the right. I started climbing that way. In my mind, I wondered if those hikers had climbed up this section or if they had climbed the other section and hiked over to where they now were. As they came into view I saw a section of rock that would be difficult to scramble up. I was fairly certain that I would have to turn around and go the other way when I saw a faint patch of blue paint on the granite ahead of me.

“Dang!” I thought. “Now how the heck am I supposed to get up that?”

Being mindful that the rock was wet, but so far not slippery, I took a few steps to the right to see if there looked like a good place to climb on that side. There was not. I stepped to the left and saw a better, but still not appealing, option. I scrambled up the rock face and soon joined the four people who had stopped to enjoy the view.

Unfortunately, I was so caught up in looking at that view, I didn’t pay attention to which direction they went when they moved on. So there I was again, not sure which direction to go. HA HA

The obvious answer was “up!” so that’s what I did.

Except for the few times that I doubted I was following the trail, I made it to the summit without incident.

Descending down the shared blue/yellow blazed trail, I questioned why the blue blazes were still being shown. Soon I found the answer. The blue trail veers off to Mt. Straightback, while the
yellow blazed trail continues to the trailhead and parking lot.
It was still early in the day and the rain had let up. I decided to hike the .7 miles to Mt. Straightback. The views from Mt. Straightback were nice, but were more obstructed than those on Mt. Major. I could have kept hiking on the blue trail to Mt. Klem, but I decided to turn back.
I was pleasantly surprised to meet so many people on the trail when I was descending. Only a few of them wore rain jackets or carried small daypacks. Several wore blue jeans and I couldn’t help hoping the rain held off until they were safely back to their cars. Eventually the sprinkles that had started falling as I returned to the yellow trail grew into rain drops. I debated whether I wanted to stop and put on my rain coat again or just keep going. I never did stop to put it on, but the thought was always on my mind.

A brook provided background music to the short conversations I had with several small groups of hikers. I’m sure the trail was named after it, and it was a lovely brook deserving of such an honor. The water was clear and was I am sure very cold. The perfect water source for thirsty hikers!

Soon my three-hour excursion was over. I was back at the parking lot and discovered that my observation about the number of people hiking was not inaccurate. The large parking lot was almost half filled. I’m sure during the height of summer and fall, this trail is overcrowded. I am glad that I chose a gloomy, gray, and rainy day to experience it!

Trail Info:

Trailhead: On Rte 11 in Alton, NH. Large parking lot.
Portapotties at trailhead.

Total distance: 5.4 miles
Total time: 3 hours
Weather: Cloudy, light rain, 39 degrees Fahrenheit

Ribz Front Pack Review

Super excited to share my first gear review video with you!

If you’ve been curious about the gray front pack I wear when hiking, now you can learn all about it. It is the Ribz Front Pack.

Check out my YouTube video review.

Disclaimer: I purchased this Ribz Front Pack with my own money. I do not have a business relationship with any businesses/link in this review.

One of the challenges I had when hiking was limited access to items that I needed while hiking. The small pockets on the hip belt of my pack were too small and too difficult to reach. My short T-Rex arms just couldn’t reach and maneuver the zipper comfortably. I purchased two small pouches and threaded them onto my hipbelt. This helped, but they were still small, and when I switched packs, I also had to unthread and rethread these pouches onto the other pack.

Last fall as I was anticipating winter hiking here in Maine, I started looking for a better solution. I wish I could remember what search terms I used or where I first read about the RIBZ Front Pack. I wish I could remember how long it took me from learning about this amazing product until I actually purchased it. Typically I am not a spontaneous shopper, so I am certain I contemplated making this purchase for a week or more before actually hitting the purchase button.

I do remember that when my RIBZ Front Pack arrived, I was super excited. I immediately tried the front pack on and adjusted the straps. I stuffed food and supplies in the two main pockets. I admired the pack in the mirror; and checked to see how the straps lay across my back. I donned my larger pack to see how the double straps felt on my shoulders.

My excitement grew!

It would take me several hikes to determine what items I wanted to carry in the RIBZ Front Pack and which I would carry in my regular pack, but now my front pack remains at-the-ready for whatever hike we want. I keep many of my basic needed-for-every-hike items (like a spoon!) in my front pack. Maps are carried in my front pack. A hat and gloves and snacks are kept in the front pack.

As for the technical specifications for the RIBZ Front Pack:

  • It is made of 210d water resistant ripstop nylon. I have used this pack while hiking approximately 200-250 miles in the year I’ve had it. The fabric and webbing straps still look like new. We’ve hiked in the rain several times and I don’t recall being aware of wet items in the front pack. Having written that, though, I typically zip my rain jacket over the front pack, so that would definitely protect the pack. But when hiking in light rain or warm rain, I don’t typically put on my rain jacket.
  • It weighs about 11 oz. Yes, for weight-conscious hikers, that might seem like a significant amount of extra weight to carry. For me, the convenience the RIBZ Front Pack offers far outweighs (pun intended) the 11 oz that it weighs.

I definitely recommend the RIBZ front pack to anyone who wants to have easy access to their small, but important items.



Scarborough Marsh – Eastern Trail

We were both awake at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning. As we lay in bed we considered our options. We decided to get up, drive to Old Orchard Beach to watch the sunrise. Then we would drive to the Scarborough Marsh and walk a few miles on the Eastern Trail.

All was going according to plan until we opened the front door. The much needed rain that was not supposed to reach Maine, had defied the meteorologists predictions and was gently falling from the sky. Earl and I looked at each other with questions in our expressions. Still want to go?

The answer from both of us was yes! We grabbed our rain coats and headed out to the car.

Because of the wonderful rain, and the clouds that produce rain, we skipped going to the beach because we knew the sun would not be visible as it rose in the sky. Instead, we headed straight to the Scarborough Marsh/Eastern Trail parking lot on Pine Point Road in Scarborough, ME.

It was still dark when we arrived at the trailhead at 6:09 a.m. We started up the trail and quickly wished we had changed into our rain pants. Fortunately the outside temperature felt somewhat mild at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and our nylon hiking pants didn’t become weighed down with absorbed water. For a few minutes my thighs felt the chill of dampness, but soon the heat generated from walking was enough to alleviate any discomfort.

As we walked the mostly flat, gravel trail, trees and trail signs became more visible. We passed a park bench, spotted a mile-marker sign, and discovered the golf course that borders the trail.

“Is that a coyote or a tree stump?” Earl asked, pointing to the golf course. “Or maybe a fox?”

“I think it’s a coyote,” I said. We could see what looked like ears and both had the sense that there was face beneath those ears even though we could not see it. We kept watching, but there was no movement.

“It must be a stump,” Earl finally said. He took a step forward and stopped again. Watching. Still no movement.

We were both fairly sure by this point that we were fascinated by a tree stump, when the object moved. It loped away from us, then stopped again, waiting and watching us as we watched it. Finally, it broke contact and headed off across the brightening fairway. We won the staring contest!

We continued walking until we reached the parking lot off Black Point Road in Scarborough. A sign indicated that the trail continued to the right, off through some tall grass. This was a new section for me. The last time I had visited that parking area, the trail continued on using paved roads. This new off-road section was exciting to see!

Because we were now walking through grass, my shoes quickly became as wet as my pants. My Merino wool socks kept my feet warm, though I could feel they were wet.

Eventually the trail met up with a road. There were no signs indicating which direction the trail headed. We made a best guess which ended up being wrong. We walked through some nice residential neighborhoods. We even saw four turkeys chillaxin’ in someone’s yard. For us, a hike isn’t a hike unless we see turkeys!

Eventually we pulled out Earl’s cell phone to check our location on Google maps.

We retraced our steps a short distance until I noticed what looked like a trail heading off to the left. Earl wasn’t convinced this was the correct direction, but I reminded him that it didn’t matter if it was wrong–we were “out adventuring together”.

This time, we were not wrong!

Once we returned to the spot where we originally lost the trail, we stopped to see how we had gone awry in the first place. Hindsight, of course, is much clearer than normal sight.

If I may paraphrase Robert Frost for a moment–two paths diverged in a neighborhood, but one went unnoticed due to poor lighting and low hanging tree branches. We took the one most traveled by, and that made all the difference. That is how we ended up walking through sleepy neighborhoods on a Sunday morning.

Once we were back on the wider, gravel trail, with the salt marsh visible on either side, we stopped to enjoy the beauty around us. At that moment in time, I was so grateful we braved the weather to traipse off-road as we did. We were tired from walking 6-7 miles. We were wet from the constant drizzling rain. We were happy to have shared the experience.

If you’ve ever let bad weather keep you inside, I invite you to don your rain gear and step outside. With the exception of the Wicked Witch of the West, a little rain never hurt anyone!

I hope you enjoy these photos of the Scarborough Marsh on a soggy Sunday morning!

Saco Heath Preserve, Saco, ME

An Indian summer day, that’s what we were calling it at work. But apparently, we were wrong. According to the Farmer’s Almanac there are very specific conditions that need to be met for beautiful autumn days to be considered “Indian summer.” In reality, it was just another ordinary, beautiful fall day here in Maine.

As the work week progressed and promises of warm, sunny days were met, I started thinking about ways to spend the few hours after work outside enjoying the weather. I ended up working late on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday became my running day because I wasn’t able to run on Tuesday. I looked to Thursday as my opportunity

I am blessed to live in an area of Maine with a number of hiking trails. These short, fairly flat trails, are quick getaways into the woods. A person can leave the sounds of traffic and civilization behind. On this particular day, I decided to visit the Saco Heath Preserve.

The alarm clock woke me at the usual time: 4:38 a.m. Rather than hitting the snooze button, I rolled out of bed–not my usual practice! But I had extra things to do to get ready for the day. If I didn’t get them done, my plan to escape into the woods could be jeopardized!

Those 10 minutes were used to pull my pack down off the wall; stuff it with my hiking clothes; stuff a snack in my Ribz front pack; and fill a water bottle. I also grabbed my camera and tripod.

Our gear room
Our gear room
Our gear room is coming together nicely–except Earl seems to think everyone is 6-foot-a hundred like him. I had to use the step ladder and strrrrrreeeettttcccchhhh to reach my day pack.

The work day passed with the usual stressors. I kept glancing out the window to see if it was as sunny as I hoped. It was. I kept asking people as they came in from outside if it was as warm as it looked. It was. I counted the hours until I only had minutes left to be stuck indoors.

After giving the shift passdown, I changed into my hiking clothes and was on my way to the trail. Fifteen minutes later I was parked at the trailhead. Convenient, eh?

Saco Heath Trailhead parking lot on Rte 112 in Saco, Maine
Saco Heath Trailhead parking lot on Rte 112 in Saco, Maine
Saco Heath information kiosk
Saco Heath information kiosk
Besides being outdoors on a relaxing jaunt thru the woods, I also had another purpose for choosing the Saco Heath Preserve for my adventure. I have wanted to start recording video segments of hiking tips, gear reviews, and general thoughts about the joys of hiking.

I admit to feeling silly wearing my Ribz front pack, my day pack, and a tripod on this 2-mile hike. I met a few people and can only imagine what they thought of my gear load. The reality is they probably thought nothing of it.The first bit of trail is on a wooded path. The sounds of the road can still be heard. Although lovely with yellow ferns mixed with the greenery, this area was too dark for a video. I knew the boardwalk would be a lovely area to shoot a video, but hoped it would be wide enough to set up my tripod without blocking the path completely.

I stepped on to the boardwalk. I began to doubt my plan. The boardwalk is somewhat narrow. If there were a lot of people, I would have to move the tripod to allow them to pass. There had been three cars in the parking lot. I had only encountered two sets of people. I thought the occupants of the third vehicle must still be ahead of me.

Saco Heath Preserve – 1

I kept walking with my doubts until I found the perfect spot!

Saco Heath Preserve – 2

Saco Heath is a lovely two mile out-and-back hike on wooded trail and colorful boardwalks. The terrain is easy to walk on, the trail is well marked.
If you fall off the boardwalk, just look for the trees with the yellow blazes to find your way back to the trailhead!
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the things going on in your life, take a short walk in the woods. Be prepared to be soothed by the sights and sounds of nature.

Gearing Up for Winter Hiking

New England is showing her colors and we are planning ahead for the winter to come. Last winter we continued to hike but ran in to icy conditions that required us to turn around several times.

We did have Hillsound crampons on our feet which provided decent traction on icy trails, but we were not prepared to handle the steep granite slabs near many Maine summits.

Last week Earl researched ice axes and ordered one. I have been doing my own research (sometimes what a woman needs is slightly different from what a man needs for gear) and plan to wait to check out Earl’s Petzl Summit 2 ice axe before making a final decision.

Funny thing is (at least to me), last winter I researched ice axes and considered buying one. When I mentioned this to Earl, he poo-pooed me, saying we didn’t need them; we didn’t know how to use them; and they were just extra weight to carry.

After the icy conditions of last winter, he has changed his tune. We do need them. We can learn how to use them. The extra weight just might save our lives!

While we are still enjoying our fall hikes, we are also planning and preparing for winter ones. I do love this year around activity!