when she wants to go on a camping trip that is. In my last post I mentioned that my sister, Tess, may have been bitten by the outdoor bug after our family camping trip. A few weeks ago she overheard me planning a backpacking trip and expressed that she wanted to get out into the woods again, so reserved this past weekend for another trip. During the time leading up to our excursion, I am happy to report that Tess was showing the symptoms of becoming a gearaholic. Weekly trips to REI were filling her closet with boots, hiking pants, and base layers. Good thing too because unlike the late summer weather we had last time the forecast was calling for temps flirting with the freezing mark and possible mixed precipitation.
Again, there would be a midnight exodus. I delayed packing as long as possible, this would be the toughest test for the suby, yet. Five people with camping equipment. It was a tight fit, beyond capacity even, but I did bring some extra cold weather gear in anticipation of someone being inadequately prepared.
Not sure when we finally arrived, but it was cold and raining/snowing. We walked in a circle all the way around the campsite searching for the bathroom, of course it was 3 sites down from ours in the opposite direction we were walking, IDIOTS! Oh well, beyond tired at this point- crawling into my sleeping bag in only my boxers and long sleeve poly shirt, was another bad move. I woke up freezing and tried to convince myself that I could create enough heat to warm myself and fall comfortably back to sleep. Of course this was never going to work. I flailed around for a while and found my long underwear and down sweater which bought me a few more degrees and some sleep.
Whence the morning came, it seemed everyone had been too tired to adequately prepare a warm enough sleeping system. Our fire architects quickly made a blazing fire… this is what should have happened. Everything was damp from the precipitation during the night and it must have been close to an hour before we had something decent enough to cook on never mind warm up with. There was plenty of dead wood to find and haul to the campsite, which served as an excellent warm up activity, literally.
We brought an axe, which was quite useful and fun. Too much fun for some, no one sliced themselves although was getting pretty nervous at times.
As we finished up breakfast I pulled out the map to see what kind of hike we could get in during the afternoon. East Osceola was the shortest hike, but Nick had literally done that the previous weekend, either North or South Hancock appeared to be the next best thing. We drove east down the Kancamangus to the trail head. The parking lot had some nice views of East Osceola and it’s slides, which i neglected to photograph. We hit the trail at 12:30 pm and quickly ran into mud and snow. “Why did I leave my gaiters in the car?” I must have asked this question aloud at least 15 times.
The trail followed what appears to be the North Fork Brook. All was well, until at about two miles in after a hairpin turn at the brook. The “trail” became much tighter and eventually turned into straight out bushwacking. It was clear we were not any trail. It was not difficult to retrace our steps back along the brook, and found and followed another path for a few hundred feet before turning back once again. Turns out this was a great area for setting up backcountry campsites and there were plenty of deceiving trails to follow. We reconvened at the crook in the brook where we originally lost the trail. We were about to just head back out, everyone perfectly fine with starting dinner early and relaxing around a blazing fire, but the light bulbs in our heads turned on all at once as we looked across the brook. The trail clearly started up again on the other side. A few balance beam maneuvers along logs lodged in the stream bed, and hops along rocks protruding from the water had us back on the trail. The trail crossed the brook 3 more times before we started gaining elevation towards the Hancock summits. (When we returned back to camp we opened up the AMC guidebook, and read that many people bushwack along the river to avoid all the stream crossings, so our initial diversion from trail was most likely following the steps of these previous bushwhackers.)
The most difficult crossing had two options. A dead tree had fallen across the run and provide a slippery bridge will broken limbs ready to impale you on your first misstep or some brush and rocks downstream. I chose the log bridge of death both times. No one fell in at any of the crossings, that would have been a mini disaster. Now if only I had worn those gaiters I could have just walked straight through all these crossings.
By the time we starting hiking upwards, it was already getting a bit dark on the trail, so we decided to turn back at the trail split between the two Hancock summits. I did spy slide on North Hancock, which looks like a good ski option from afar. Post trip research has informed me that the slide I was viewing is called Arrow Slide, but no ski beta to be found.
As we descended, much to my delight it began to flurry every so slightly. Bouncing along a trail just before dusk, a chill in the air, a roaring brook to my right, steeps to my left, and snowflakes falling all around me, ahhhhhhh, this is my eden!
Back at the car we treated our sore muscles with some of those famous Karen Pot Stirrers, todays flavors: German Potato and Lobster Bisque. The gentleman at the car next to us immediately vocalized his observation that we were all P90x participants, how acute of you….
Speaking of pot stirrers, our fire architects were very successful on their second go round. This fire had plenty of heat to cook up our Mac N’ Cheese, recipe courtesy of backpacker magazine. Amending that recipe and adding some chicken sausage to the mix was an excellent audible. With full stomach’s and fire tanned faces, we headed to our tents all having taken the time to ensure a warm nights sleep this time around.
The morning came, we packed up the Subaru, and zoomed back to Rhode Island, mountains in the rear view.