The Hancocks – finally done!
This past weekend was ridiculously hot for White Mt. hiking in May – I think it got close to 90 degrees on the trail. Saw my first NH rattlesnake! NH has timber rattlers, so I guess that what it was. Cute little guy who rattled when my hiking companion screamed and wouldn’t stop.
I had been planning on attempting Passaconaway and Whiteface again Sunday and Monday, but I couldn’t bear the thought of going uphill on a south facing trail with not that much water on it. So, I decided to do the Hancocks – lots of water crossings (10+) – and I just took my Teva’s along so I could slosh through the water to cool off. That part worked well. I hiked about a two mile stretch in my Tevas going in and 4 miles going out. My feet don’t seem to be worse for wear.
The trail up both the Hancocks is “relentlessly steep.” Not even my words, but from one of the guide books. That it was, although I was pleased that the trail up North Hancock didn’t actually go up the slide. Although it’s been hiked, it looked pretty scary. As usual, I was a very slow hiker. I camped at the last crossing of North Branch (of the Pemigewasset River). That left “only” two miles or so to the top of North Hancock. Left at 8:00 am – didn’t see when I hit N. Hancock, but it was about an hour between the two peaks and I hit S. Hancock right about 1:00. After spending only about 15 minutes there I headed down. I’m pretty sure I took at least two hours to do the steep section between the summit and the junction of the loop on the way DOWN. I wanted to be VERY careful. It’s a lot of miles to the road to even fetch help, and even then there is no cell phone service on the Kancamagus Highway until you are somewhere very close to Lincoln.
Things I did right: I tried out my wind/bug gear, and it worked well – on my legs only since I only wore the pants. They weren’t too hot, and did the job. Love them. Tevas were great for stream crossings. No plans to use them on the AT except maybe NH and Maine because that is where the bulk of the stream crossing are. I have lighter weight Croc thongs for camp shoes.
Things I did wrong: Apparently not putting on a bug net for the actual hike. The left half of my face has 7 or so black fly bites. I’m unfortunately allergic, so it may be some weeks before the ugly lumps go away. I have some on my arms as well. None on my legs.
Oh yes – almost lost the bear bag up a tree. I need to get better line for bear bags. After about 20 minutes of coaxing, I cut the cord, and the weight of the food finally dropped it after shaking the tree some. Hanging a bear bag in the Whites is NOT like down south – very few trees actually have horizontal branches about 20′ from the ground. Most of the branches in deciduous trees start much higher because the trees grow closer together. I lost control of the bear bag because the line whipped over another smaller branch as well as the one I was aiming for. There weren’t any trees close by that had better hanging prospects. Some folks don’t bother to bear bag, so I may go that route – just park the bag away from camp.
I also wasn’t very pleased with the camp site. The ground was packed HARD and not terribly flat. I tried out my new very lightweight Thermarest pad, and sleeping on it was the worst thing about the trip. I had to compromise though on site selection as so much of the Whites are very young forest – you really can’t count on a flat spot toward the top of any mountain, and what is flat probably has a lot of young trees on it. I would have hiked further up the mountain the first day had I finished the under quilt. I guess I’m more motivated now to finish it! I’m also not wildly happy about the backpack for hiking the Whites – you HAVE to carry cold weather gear with you no matter the weather. Although it was certainly warm and lovely yesterday for hiking, today is rainy and cooler. If something happens up there, you want to be prepared to survive.
Love the tarp and net tent set-up, which makes me think I’ll also like the Hammock once I get the under quilt done. Lots of ventilation, and no condensation on the under side of the tarp. The one I made is really too big for lightweight hiking, although it will be perfect for bike camping with Ric. I may need a smaller stuff sack for my quilt as well. Between the sleep stuff and food, the pack was pretty well jammed. Also, since I sewed the water bottle carried to the strap of the pack, now it tends to slip off the shoulder with the water bottle in it. THAT was just a pain the tail! Adding a chest strap would fix that.
Didn’t take a lot of pics as my cell phone wasn’t fully charged when I started the hi