Friday, August 24, 2012

Day Trips Over Mount Hale, Galehead and Garfield

I'm up in beautiful New Hampshire on my last trip of the summer finishing up hiking all of the state's forty-eight four thousand foot mountains, and boy, it's pretty amazing so far.  Outside of waking up today with a really bad cold (hence the break today), I couldn't have asked for more: mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the seventies/ low eighties, success finding some pretty cheap campgrounds.  I even got to stop by a friend's lake house on the way up and catch up with a group of folks I hadn't seen in over a year.  While I'm physically feeling a whole lot better, mentally I'm still spent, so apologies for the scant amount of reflection in the rest of this post.  That said, there's definitely some epic pictures.

Two days ago I headed up through Crawford Notch to do a quick six-mile warmup hike over Mount Hale.  As you can see from the summit, it's less than impressive view, but the way back couldn't have been better.  I decided to head back out to NH302 via the Zealand Trail, which descends past both the AMC's Zealand Hut and Zealand Falls and levels off into an absolutely magnificent valley, my favorite in the White Mountains.

Summit of Mount Hale

Cascade at Zealand Falls

Flooded area in Zealand Valley
That night I camped at the Zealand Campground under a clear starry sky, with a site only costing me $16 for the night... both things which were quite beautiful.  I also had an amazing dinner at Cold Mountain Cafe, a place couldn't recommend strongly enough.

View from Galehead Hut
Yesterday saw me on a bit more ambitious hike over Mount Galehead and Mount Garfield.  The first leg of the journey up the Gale River Trail wasn't bad at all with a pretty moderate grade.  After briefing checking out a great view at the AMC's Galehead Hut, I quickly got up the Frost Trail to the once again unimpressive summit of Mount Galehead.  After heading back down to the hut for lunch and a bit of a break, I started across the ridge to Mount Garfield on the appropriately named Garfield Ridge trail... this was definitely the hard part and ate up a huge amount of my time.  My favorite part of this portion of the hike wasn't the scenery at all, but rather with a thru hiker named Laughing Dog who was heading south for Georgia on the Appalachian trail.  You can check out a great blog chronicling his journey here.  After finishing up my conversation with LDog at a trail junction, I climbed up to the steep summit of Mount Garfield and was treated absolutely amazing 360 views of the Pemigewasset Wilderness and nearby towns.  Particularly awesome was the view of Owl's Head Mountain at the heart of the wilderness area, a pretty difficult summit I attained not too long ago.  I got back out to the road down the easy but long Garfield Trail, and then had to unfortunately finish up the day on a mile and a half walk up the dirt road to my car. 

Garfield Ridge Trail

View of Owl's Head from atop Mount Garfield
When I have a bit more time, I'll post a 360 video from the top of Garfield to give a bit more of an idea what it looks like.  So wow, the next few days are going to be pretty nuts... some of my overnight gear isn't in the best shape and I have to work around changed plans for hiking with friends on Sunday, so I'm going to have to split up my Mount Bond overnight into two day trips.  Tomorrow will definitely be the most challenging, as I'll be starting a roughly twenty-two mile trip at sunrise over Mount Zealand, into the Bond peaks and then back.  Then Sunday I'll do a bit more modest hike to Mount Carrigain with some friends and finish up all of NH's big peaks on the Twins this Monday.  I'm hoping today has taken care of whatever ailed me this morning, as needing another day off might start putting me up against some tougher weather.

God's peace,

Dustin is a Masters of Divinity candidate in his second year of study at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin really likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Summer Full of Stories

Near Arapaho Pass, Colorado
Throughout my first month or so this summer, I made a bunch of attempts to write this post.  Eventually, I realized that being constantly on the road, constantly in new places and constantly submersed in the stories of old and new friends alike had made me pretty scatterbrained... outside of a few journal entries, writing at all was going to be nearly impossible.  Instead, it made more sense to sit back and ride through what promised to be an amazing summer, take some notes and pictures along the way, and let things gel until a time when I'd have a little more ground to stand still while.

It's now mid-August, I'm sitting in my brand new (and awesome) little apartment in Queens' Sunnyside neighborhood, I'm starting the process of once again growing some roots and I therefore figure it's about the time to start sharing a general narrative of what I've been up to all summer, with more details to follow.  It's an overly self-important notion for sure, the idea that stories from my own journey are good enough to write down and share with the world.  So in a vain attempt to help me feel better about such vanity, I figured throw in a couple other great sources of stories I've been enjoying all summer as well.

After finishing up a rewarding but difficult second year of school at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, my fiancee Molly and I headed out to Colorado for a month of relaxing, hiking and frankly just to be tourists for a while.  We were blessed in meeting some of each other's friends on the way to our homebase in Boulder and found a great match for our journey in Steinbeck's Travels with Charley on audiobook.  Our other epic audio discovery from the trip was the The Dirtbag Diaries, a free podcast of outdoor stories and meditations produced by Fitz Cahall.  While I'll go into more detail in future posts, some highlights from Colorado included camping at Diamond Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness with our friend Nika, visiting the Celestial Seasonings factory and our ascent up Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado and the second highest in the lower 48 states.  The following video is from the top of Mt. Elbert, and outside of how high my voice oddly sounded, it's pretty awesome.

After an amazing time in Colorado, we decided to make a multi-day pit stop on our return drive... in Yellowstone National Park.  We'd been watching Ken Burns' series on the national parks while in Colorado, so we figured checking out one of the best was pretty necessary.  While we went in especially excited to see bears (which we did), it turned out the highlight for both Molly and I was the humble buffalo (bison is the more scientific term), who supposedly are attracted to the yellow lines in the middle of the road and thus create some pretty interested traffic jams.  On a less silly note, seeing the whole herd (it's the largest wild bison herd left in the world) grazing across Hayden Valley is alone absolutely worth the trip out to Wyoming.  The other highlight was the daily ranger talks, where we learned a great deal more about the park's varied wildlife... those darn Lake Trout are destroying Yellowstone Lake's indigenous Cutthroat Trout population, for instance.

Carter Notch, New Hampshire
Following the return to New England, I've had bunch of awesome hiking opportunities in New Hampshire, all interspersed with other great times back in the real world.  Molly and I got to spend a week representing Project Connect at Camp Calumet and helping the staff there discern what God is calling them to do in life.  I also was privileged to lead Calumet counselors in running a Vacation Bible School a few weeks later.  There were even a few awesome beach days in Maine relaxing, playing in the waves and even building some Adirondack chairs with close friends I hadn't seen in quite a long while.

Toward Mount Isolation, New Hampshire
One thing that struck me after hiking a while in Colorado was how absolutely lush the New Hampshire forests are... someone once told me the state gets as much rain as a rainforest, and it's definitely a possibility.  The lushness makes these forests feel somehow more inviting than their thinner, dryer cousins in the Rockies, although I'm certainly a bit partial.  Ever since I hiked Mount Pierce in 2005 though as a counselor at Camp Calumet, I've been on a bit of quest to hike every four thousand foot mountain in the state... there's forty-eight of 'em total, and after a great deal of work and early alpine starts, I only have ten remaining.  That might seem like a lot, but they're pretty much all grouped together on the northern rim of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, so with a little luck I'll be able to finish them all up in a week's time, as I'm leaving on one final trip for the summer starting tomorrow.  There's a bunch to think about on the trip... predominately how to best transition into my new internship at the Lutheran Office for World Community at the United Nations and St. Peter's Church which starts on September 4th, but also a bunch of other things... how to keep myself connected to the outdoors in amidst the concrete of NYC (it seems like it'll be easier than I expected) yet also how to satisfy my craving for time in the mountains without getting too selfish about it (more on than dilemma in my next post).  Most importantly though, it'll be a chance to connect with a few more  friends and follow my passion one last time before the season ends.  Expect some detailed stories and more pictures from the summer soon!

God's peace,

Dustin is a Masters of Divinity candidate in his second year of study at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin really likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.