Partial Pemi Loop, NH

Here are some photographs from a partial Pemigewasset Loop that my wife and I hiked this 7-8 August.
We hiked the loop in a counter-clockwise direction from Lincoln Woods trailhead, over Bondcliff, Mt. Bond,
Mt. Guyot, South Twin Mtn, Garfield, Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, and exiting
down Falling Waters Trail from Little Haystack Mountain.
25 miles, 17 Hours in two days.

The first (roughly) 10km is pretty flat, on an old rail bed, and after a long but easy vertical kilometer, you emerge onto Bondcliff, In my head, I think of them as the Bond Cliffs, as they are on the shoulder of Mt. Bond, and therefore, I anthropomorphically ascribe ownership
of the cliffs to the body of Mt. Bond…in any case, here’s my wife in the classic cliche Bondcliff shot, but it’s an amazing spot everytime I go to it.

Standing out on the far rock is almost sure to make one take pause (it always totally terrifies me), and most people will not stand closer than about 1m from the edge.

Standing out on the far rock is almost sure to make one take pause (it always totally terrifies me), and most people will not stand closer than about 1m from the edge.

View from the Bondcliff "plank" ; from the hiker's perspective, it's not clear whether the far rock is held up by anything, and even though you know it is, there's a part of the brain that doesn't really trust the visual observation. I mean, one of these years, it will fall...

View from the Bondcliff “plank” ; from the hiker’s perspective, it’s not clear whether the far rock is held up by anything, and even though you know it is, there’s a part of the brain that doesn’t really trust the visual observation. I mean, one of these years, it will fall…

From Bondcliff, its uphill to Mt. Bond (elev 1,432 m), and then to Mt. Guyot (1,396 m), and then a 3 km walk through the woods to South Twin Mountain (1,494 m). From there, its a short but STEEP downhill to Galehead Hut, and then a slow but steady and then steep climb to Mt. Garfield (1,372 m). At the summit of Mt. Garfield there are panoramic views from an old fire tower’s foundation (from WhiteMountainHistory.org)

The 1938 Hurricane blew down thousands of acres of forest and many sections of the White Mountain National Forest were closed to public use because of the high fire hazard. Several new lookouts, guard stations, trails and roads were constructed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) at this time. The concrete foundation of the lookout on the summit of Mount Garfield is a stark reminder of that period. (Incidentally the outhouse for the Garfield Lookout is still standing and is a short distance north of the summit hidden by balsam fir trees. )

View of Owl's Head and the Franconia Range from the summit of Mt. Garfield.

View of Owl’s Head and the Franconia Range from the summit of Mt. Garfield.

From here, it was several kilometers unti the summit of Mt Lafayette (1,603.2 m) became visible.

First clear view of the Mt. Lafayette summit after emerging from the forested ridge connecting Mt. Garfield and Mt. Lafayette. Note the inherent fashionability of this NH hiker on his way to the summit.

First clear view of the Mt. Lafayette summit after emerging from the forested ridge connecting Mt. Garfield and Mt. Lafayette. Note the inherent fashionability of this NH hiker on his way to the summit.

Stunning views from the summit:

The view looking south along the Franconia Ridge from the summit of Mt. Lafayette.

The view looking south along the Franconia Ridge from the summit of Mt. Lafayette.

And then, a down and up to Mt. Lincoln before a final descent/ascent to Little Haystack:

Descending Mt. Lincoln toward Little Haystack Mtn.

Descending Mt. Lincoln toward Little Haystack Mtn.

All in all, a great hike in perfect weather conditions over two days — a rarity in the White Mountains!

Iceland, Post #1

I just returned from my first ever visit to Iceland, a trip I’ve been wanting to take for many years. I had a mixed mission to photograph and run up as many mountains & volcanoes as possible. But, alas, the weather conspired to make real running problematic at best. A day or two prior to my arrival, a blizzard deposited a snow all over the mountains and backroads of southern Iceland, making travel to trailheads via ordinary 4wd not possible.

Of course, if you had one of these, you’d be all set:

This is the vehicle you need to get around the backcountry in Iceland.

This is the vehicle you need to get around the backcountry in Iceland.

As it was, I had to drive 25 km on supposed main roads to get to the cottage I rented, and the wind had already begun drifting over sections of the road. When I took the side “road” to the cottage, I got stuck off the road, and had to dig out the snow from under the truck with my mittened hands. Finally I made it to the “R50″ cottage (just a name, not an insulation value)—it had a nice view of Hekla:

This is the little cottage "R50" that I rented. Cheaper than the car rental, and a great view of Hekla about 20 km away. It's super hard to gauge distance without trees as a reference. (Note the two trees attempting to grow in the from of the cottage.)

This is the little cottage “R50″ that I rented. Cheaper than the car rental, and a great view of Hekla about 20 km away. It’s super hard to gauge distance without trees as a reference. (Note the two trees attempting to grow in the from of the cottage.)

The hill on the left looks to be the same height as Hekla, but it’s not; as you can see in the view from a different vantage point:

Hekla is a famous volcano in Iceland (due to erupt soon supposedly)---it the 1500 m peak in the center. Since I couldn't even hope to make it to the trailhead via car, and because I did not bring skis, it was too far given the snow to do in one day. As it was, I was post-holing through thigh high snow just to summit the hill on the left.

Hekla is a famous volcano in Iceland (due to erupt soon supposedly)—it the 1500 m peak in the center. Since I couldn’t even hope to make it to the trailhead via car, and because I did not bring skis, it was too far given the snow to do in one day. As it was, I was post-holing through thigh high snow just to summit the hill on the left.

My first day, I went for a nice 12km run to explore the first hill; it was obvious that running shoes would be iffy at best due to the ice, snow and steepness as one approached the summit, so I resolved to come back in a day or two with my crampons and ice axe. More about that in another post.

On my second day, I ended up having the good fortune to have picked up two hitchhikers from Reykjavik University—they were headed to Seljavallalaug — a small pool built into the mountainside of the mountains by Eyjafjallajökull (that’s the volcano that erupted in 2010), a fifteen-minute walk (over rocky streams and under basalt turrets) off the end of road 242. I’d have not found this pool if they had not been hitching a ride when I drove by. Here’s the pool:

Nice thermal-fed pool built in the 1920's. I gave a couple of hitchhiking  students from Reykjavik a ride here, and they told me that when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, this pool was filled with volcanic ash, and it was dug out (by hand?) in order to restore it to use.

Nice thermal-fed pool built in the 1920’s. I gave a couple of hitchhiking students from Reykjavik a ride here, and they told me that when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, this pool was filled with volcanic ash, and it was dug out (by hand?) in order to restore it to use.

and here’s a picture of steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside:

You can see steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside, and the colorful green slime that grown in the scalding hot water.

You can see steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside, and the colorful green slime that grown in the scalding hot water.

On the way back to the “ring road” (rt. 1), I came by this house, and made my favorite image of my trip (click any image to view it larger):

House placed at a somewhat precarious location at the base of a steep slope.

House placed at a somewhat precarious location at the base of a steep slope.

A few things I’ve learned about traveling to Iceland: (1) if you come in March or April, bring SkiMo gear (this is an awesome place to ski tour, and sometimes, the only way to cover the distances over snow needed to reach trailheads, (2) don’t even think about seeing the whole island in a week. You need time, and the weather may not always cooperate, (3) Iceland’s weather is like that in the mountains of New Hampshire or Maine, it can be very windy and significantly colder than at the lower elevations.

More in my next post.

Track Meet at Scarborough Maine

Now that I’ve finished teaching the Spring Semester and am into summer school, I was able to go to my oldest daughter’s track meet, which was held in Scarborough, ME. It was a gorgeous day, not too cold, not too hot.

A lot of standing around occurs as events are run by grade level, so I spent my time photographing mostly students from King Middle School. It’s way more interesting to photograph track events now that I feel like I consider myself a runner at this point. The long jump was especially interesting, as the camera affords one a glimpse of each runner’s form in a few thousands of a second that the eye has no chance of seeing.

Long jump---nice form!

Long jump—nice form!

ScarboroughMay2014-9

ScarboroughMay2014-11

100 Meter

100 Meter

Boys 100 m

Boys 100 m

My Daughter in the long jump.

My Daughter in the long jump.

More photos are posted at my google+ page

Mt. Madison, White Mountains, NH

It’s a little early in the season for proper trail running in the White Mountains,
but I decided to try for a Presidential Traverse this past weekend.

(The Fastest Known Time (FKT) was set last September by Ben Nephew in a crazy time of
4h 34min; a time I have no hope of achieving)

In any case, I started at 5 am with a breakfast of 4 eggs, sour cream, bacon, and a coffee with heavy cream.
I then ran to the dock to catch the 6:15 ferry off the island.

Gear from my run (Yaktrax in pack). Shoes are MT110 by New Balance.

Gear from my run (Yaktrax in pack). Shoes are the excellent New Balance MT110’s.

Then, it was a 2.5 hour drive to Pinkham Notch, and after a quick talk with the AMC about weather and trail conditions, I headed off to the Appalachia trailhead. On the way, there was a nice view of the Presidential range from the Mt. Washington Auto Road:

View of the Presidential Range from Rt. 16, just north of Pinkham Notch.

View of the Presidential Range from Rt. 16, just north of Pinkham Notch.


Finally, I started from the Appalachia Trailhead at 9:40 am. That’s really too late a start (IMHO) for a Presi-traverse, but here I was, finally ready to go:
Start of the traverse attempt...took Valley Way to Madison Hut.

Start of the traverse attempt…took Valley Way to Madison Hut.


The first 3 km were pretty straightforward running—okay, that’s really not quite true, because the average grade from the trailhead to the summit of Mt. Madison is 20% (about double that of the UTMB). But there was good footing and no snow. However, around 3km, the trail turned to serious amount of snow and ice which continued until Madison Hut. To top it off, every other step would involve post-holing, and it was plain slow going. There were even a few frozen waterfall sections (which would have been impossible without my Yaktrax)—just to make things more fun. I made it to Madison Hut in about 2 h 17m:
Madison Hut and Mt. Adams. 3 May 2014

Madison Hut and Mt. Adams. 3 May 2014


Now it was much easier going (snow-wise anyway) and I made it to the summit of Mt. Madison in 2h 49m.
View from the summit of Mt. Adams. Mt. Washington on far left, Mt. Adams dead center. The weather starting to look sour now.

View from the summit of Mt. Adams. Mt. Washington on far left, Mt. Adams dead center. The weather began to deteriorate by this point, with increasing wind and visible precipitation approaching in the distance.


From the summit of Mt. Madison, it was clear that the weather was changing for the worse (as predicted), and I didn’t want to summit Mt. Adams with the potential of a thunderstorm. I therefore headed south along the Gulfside Trail to Thunderstorm Junction, at which point I could re-assess the weather and either summit Adams and continue, or bail down the Spur Trail with a stop at Crag Camp.

Unfortunately, as soon as I descended Mt. Madison and arrived back at Madison Hut, I began having cramps in my quads that forced me to stop and stretch. This happened to me back in November on a 35 km run, and it eventually went away. But this time, the combination of iffy weather (forecast to definitely get worse) and persistent cramps made the decision to abandon the traverse pretty easy.

Well, at least the decision was straightforward. The descent on the spur trail was a blast through a snowfield by Thunderstorm Junction, but then turned into a slow post-holing and icy descent on a super steep ice covered Spur Trail down to Crag Camp. By the time I arrived hail had begun in earnest, and I was psyched to have a respite from the weather. You can see the sleet/hail beginning to fall on the porch of Crag Camp:

View of Mt Adams (in distance) and Mt Adams (in the clouds now) shortly after arrival - you can see sleet/hail on the deck.

View of Mt Adams (in distance) and Mt Adams (in the clouds now) shortly after arrival – you can see sleet/hail on the deck.

After taking a rest and getting out my pack cover and proper raincoat, I headed out down the Spur Trail. I figured I had about 300-400 meters of ice and snow, and eked my way down another long steep icy-snowy-ending-on-slushy trail. Finally, after making it to the Amphibranch, I could run the rest of the way to the trailhead. This last section was super fun, and was in fact the best running of the whole day. Strangely, the cramping was really not bothering me anymore.

By the way, there’s a great excellent article about cramping over at iRunFar. You should read it. Seriously, it’s quite interesting. I especially like the part about how apparently the taste of pickle juice on the tongue somehow convinces the brain to stop the cramping in your leg. See. I told you that you need to read the article.

So, now it’s two days later and my quads are still sore. Funny though, I can tell they’ll be fine in a day or so, and I’m already psyched to get out for another run. Next time maybe I’ll try something more runnable until all the snow is gone.

Catherine Mtn to Hog Bay Run 19km

For the last year, I’ve been meaining to run the 4 local mountains close to my rental house in DownEast Maine. I’ve run up and over Schoodic Mtn many times,
and today, after being dropped off by my wife at the base of Catherine Mountain, I ran all 4 peaks. Here’s the gps track:
TopoMap
and here’s the elevation profile (absolute height should be lowered by 100 meters since I fogot to calibrate my watch at beginning.):
elevationProfile

After a week of rain and cold, today was finally a nice sunny day. Got a late 8 am start, ran over Catherine Mt, and then to Caribou Mtn where one has this
view of Black Mountain (with 2 (or 3 depending on your criteria) peaks):
BlackFromCaribou
From Caribou Mountain, it’s down the cliffs then down to the valley, and then up to the west summit of Black Mtn (in the woods) and then down to the col and up
to the bare east summit, which affords a nice view back toward Catherine and Caribou Mtns:
CatherineFromBlack
From here, we can also turn around and see the forested west peak of Black, and the bare summit of Schoodic Mountain (and in the distance, the Mountains of Acadia National Park):
SchoodicFromBlack
I was thinking I could run all the mountains in 3 hours, so I brought no water but did bring about a half dozen prunes and a few pecans to keep me from bonking.
Alas, I took 3 hours to get to the base of Schoodic Mountain, and by this time, the temperature was rising, and I was pretty much running out of steam. Managed to push to the summit and run slowly the rest of the 5km home from the summit. Legs were pretty beat today.

I’m glad I did this “run” but don’t think I’ll do it again, as it’s not really very runnable. The trail is pretty technical (rocks, roots) but too brushy to confidently see your footing ahead. Consequently, I could not really get into a running rythm. On the other hand, there’s over 1000 m of vertical in this 19km
section, so no matter what, your legs get a pretty good workout.

For trail runnning in DownEast Maine, it’s really hard to beat Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. Lots of vertical and nicely runnable trails.

Blueberry Barren, Franklin, ME

BlueberryBarrensFranklinME

At the top of the dead-end road is a blueberry field owned by my neighbor. The field is rented out to some (presumably) local blueberry farmer. I run by this field almost every day on my trail run up Schoodic Mountain. This morning I took our dog out for a few full-on sprints up to the top of the field, and was treated to a simply wonderful crisp, clear, vibrant spring morning.

As I walked along the top of the field, I just basked in the gorgeous views and of next thing I new I was composing photographs and thinking visually about the compositions I was mentally composing. So, I ran back home grabbed my camera, 40mm pancacke and a 70-200mm and spend some time making photographs.
BlueberryBarrensFranklinME01

BlueberryBarrensFranklinME02

Mount Desert Island from Schoodic Mountain

Went on a nice 13 km trail run with my sister-in-law Charlotte Clews (proprietor of Wild Open Heart Yoga). Ran up and over Schoodic Mountain and back to Franklin, ME. Finally the snow is gone most of the DownEast peaks, and normal crampon-free trail running can resume.
Charlotte’s photo was taken with her iPhone5.

If things work out, my family will be living on Peaks Island, ME this fall, in which case I’m really going to miss being able to run from my doorstep over five different mountain peaks. On the other hand, we’ll all be living together in one house, the White Mountains of New Hampshire won’t be more than 2 hours away (yeah), and the convenience of walking or running to work will be pretty sweet.

Mount Desert Island from Schoodic Mountain. Photo by Charlotte Clews.

Mount Desert Island from Schoodic Mountain. Photo by Charlotte Clews.

Next day, took my kids for a quick hike up Tunk Mountain on a gorgeous blue-sky day. Still chilly on top, but from the vantage point below, you can see Catherine, Caribou, Black and Schoodic Mountain. Click on either image for a larger version.

View ESE from Tunk Mountain.

View ESE from Tunk Mountain.

Perfect Camera for Trail Running: Any Recommendations?


The relative dearth of photos recently is a result of having become somewhat obsessed with trail running. I’ve never been a runner, but have done my share of distance touring, hiking, and swimming. Having decided that I don’t feel so safe bicycling on roads with swerving cell phone texting drivers, and because it takes at least 30 minutes to get to the nearest pool to swim, I decided to start running back in May 2012.

I don’t really like running on roads, but I absolutely love being in the mountains, so trail running was a natural for me. Mind you, I have never really run before aside one a very brief stint in graduate school when I ran for a few months. I say it was a “natural” but certainly not an easy progression to covering any significant distance without stopping. At first, I couldn’t even run up the first small hill (100 m) that starts 1 km from my house, and had to walk sections of a small 4 km loop. I would get totally out of breath and had to run and walk to complete the loop.

But, interestingly, once I let go of the judgement that walking was bad, it only took me about 5 tries till I could run the whole loop. Then I gradually began increasing distance, until an unfortunate night run when a previously rolled ankle decided to let me know that it had enough. It took 6 weeks of downtime when all I could do is cycle and swim to keep up the aerobic base. But come August, I’ve been able to run again, the longest run being a 20km run over on Mount Desert Island. Took me 3 hours and 4 gels, but it was a lot of fun.

I live in Franklin, Maine, in DownEast Maine, just bordering on the hopping town T10SD (which means Township 10 Southern Division, for those of you not familiar with this highly underpopulated part of Maine). There are five 300+ meter peaks in my backyard, and I’ve been working up to running all 5 in one go. I often go out on a run up Schoodic Mountain (that’s the peak in the above photograph)
or along the Sunrise Trail, and at this point, I’ve run the whole network of trails over all five peaks, and I’m ready to try a single end to end run that ends at my house.

What does this have to do with photography? Well, I still want to photograph, and since I run in places I normally would hike to in order to make images, I naturally want a camera that I can run with. My full-frame dslr is WAY too heavy to comfortably carrying while running, and I’m very interested in seeing what I can carry that still has outstanding image quality. The iPhone4s has a reasonable P&S camera, but it just doesn’t have the dynamic range and image quality that I wish it would. So, what camera would be easy to carry, yet have outstanding image quality?

View from Schoodic Mountain, Maine


So far, I have a few candidates, an Olympus Pen (the newer one with the OM-D Sony Sensor), Fuji XPro-1 (or wait for the XPRO 2?), or …well, I’m not sure what other cameras I should consider. Are there any trail runners out there with good suggestions?

I see two problems with this scheme. First, I’m already forgoing a tripod—something I’d never do with my dslr, and second, carrying anything goes against the whole minimalist simplicity I love about running. So, I’m somewhat puzzled, and cannot seem to come to any resolution, and I just keep running with my iPhone.

Tunk Mountain Trail, Maine

Tunk Mountain Trail, T10 SD


It’s been an unusually warm fall and winter in Maine, as evidenced by above freezing temperatures on January 1, 2012 when I went on a short 7.5km hike (round trip) with my 6 and 10 year old daughters. We hiked up Tunk Mountain, which has a fabulous view of the surrounding terrain. Tunk Mountain is just outside Franklin, ME, but is in T10 SD (I think that’s Maine speak for Township 10 South Division). There are few enough people living here that it’s apparently not worth forming a proper town.

Click on the image for a full size view.