Thursday, August 26, 2010

White Moutains, NH (The "Bonds") 8/20-21

More times than not, when I have asked hikers what their favorite hike (and views) in New Hampshire's White Mountains is, the answer has often been "The Bonds". These 3 peaks (Mts. Bondcliff, Bond and West Bond) are in the heart of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, on the north side of the Kancmagus Highway. Last Friday Karin and I decided make the journey and hoofed it in 11+ miles, stayed at the Guyot Campsite/Shelter area, and returned on Saturday.

The classic pose on Bondcliff (West Bond is in the background), the photographer (Carl from Pa.) had just told us of a co-worker's relative, who'd fallen to her death when she took one step too far back during a photo opp. in Egypt. Not what we needed to hear before stepping out on the ledge!

This hike begins on the Lincoln Woods/Wilderness Trails (off the Kancamagus Highway) then onto the Bondcliff Trail. The first 5 miles follows an old railroad bed, which was once used for logging. This section, along the rail bed, is easy and follows the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River for much of its length.

A view up the E. Branch of "The Pemi" river, I believe thats our destination in the distance.

The next 4 to 5 miles, along the Bondcliff Trail, gain elevation at a steady rate, several stream crossings (that posed no issues, but would in high water conditions), some mud here and there and a steep (but managable) "scamble" just before breaking above treeline and reaching the summit area of Bondcliff. With clear crisp weather, the views were indeed ..... all directions!
Looking SW toward Loon Mountian ski area, the E. Branch of the "Pemi" cuts a rocky ribbon through the forest far below.

The view east toward Mts. Flume, Liberty and the south section of the Franconia Ridge.

West toward Mt. Carrigan

North toward Mt Bond, the nest 1+ mile is above tree line, the trail can be seen as a narrow ribbon along the exposed ridge.

Looking WNW Mts. Flume, Liberty, Lincoln and Lafayette (from L to R), with Owl's Head below center. Its called Owl's Head, but to me it looks like a giant sleeping six legged reptile (its head to the left, legs, back and tail to the right).

The view NE toward the presidential range, with Mt. Washington just left of center.
After hiking along the ridge we continued onto the Guyot Shelter/Camp site, and after a bit of confusion as to the proper protocal we ended up staying in the shelter. There was a nice group of hikers (and dogs), some we'd already met on the summit of Bond and Bondcliff, and we a good time visiting and getting to know them.
I had a relatively sleepless night, note to self "move ear pluges closer to the top of the priority list", as one hiker's snoring may have registered on some geologist's rictor scale.
On Saturday morning we hiked to West Bond and enjoyed more spectacular views, it was nice to know we'd follow the previous day's route back. The views while passing back over Bond and Bondcliff would offer a slightly different perspective as we'd have the morning sun vs. the previous day's mid-day sun.
From West Bond looking north to South Twin Mountain.

This stand loose Balsam Fir let in the sun rays, often the Balsam is very thick and nearly
impenetrable to both sunlight and hikers.
The view from Bond down to Bondcliff and open ridge that connects the two mountains.

Mt. Garfield to the north west, was looking spectacular!

Some "alpine" vegetation, the trails are marked well to help prevent hikers from tramping these plants.

This growth was most interesting, I believe its some type of coral fungus.

After hiking back below tree line the hike out seemed longer than the hike in, while the distance was the same and down hill, the cumlative effect of our over night packs was having its effect, particulaly on the feet. The thoughts of "Pemi Ale' at the Woodstock Inn helped us keep a brisk pace despite the aching feet!
For a more detailed perspective of the hike to Bondcliff, check Steve D. Smith's account HERE. Steve owns a book/map store in Lincoln, NH ("The Mountain Wanderer) that caters to Hiking and other outdoor activities, his store is always worth a visit whether to browse books or ask for advice.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sterling Peat 8/18 (Wilson's Phalarope)

While running an errand early this afternoon, I stopped by Sterling Peat where low water has been attracting shorebirds. I was pleasantly surprised to find a basic plumaged Wilson's Phalarope among the bunch.

On the water

Near Lesser Yellowlegs, there were a 1/2 dozen Lesser Yellowlegs and they tended to harrass the phalarope frequently.


a plain pose
an acrobatic digi-bin shot as it flew toward me.
The previous evening I had a very poor look at shorebird over Wachusett Reservoir which seemed to spend a good deal of time over the water, coursing about. The thought of Northern Phalarope had crossed my mind and I left with the feeling a "big one" had gotten away. That certainly maybe why I had Red-necked on the brain today....IF it had been a phalarpe at all....
***Origianlly I report this as a Red-necked Phalarope, of course it is indeed a Wilson's soon as I realized the error the phone rang and the emails came through...saying "Hey Tom".

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Franconia Ridge (NH) 8/7

Karin and I hiked a favorite "loop" in the White Mountains this past weekend, that being the Franconia Ridge, high above Franconia Notch. We made a steep accent up the Falling Waters Trail at a steady pace, but taking time to enjoy the scenic water falls in route.

This small waterfall is within a 1/2 mile of the trailhead....

...this one just a bit further up the trail.
Despite the temperatures being in the low 40's (f) overnight and still remaining very cool for August, it didn't take long to work up a good sweat! But, after just under 3 miles of steady climbing that "sweat equity" began to pay dividends, as the next 2 miles of trail are above tree line along the spectacular Franconia Ridge, which passes over Mts. Lincoln (5069') and Lafayette (5260').
The view of Cannon Mtn., just as we broke above the tree line.

Looking west at the peaks of South Kinsman Mtn (left) and North Kinsman (center) and Lonesome Lake (about dead center).

Looking northwest down onto Cannon Mtn. , I 93 can be seen left just below center.
Looking east, the Presidental Range (far horizon), "The Bonds" (next middle ridge line) and the north "slope" of Owl's Head (the low closest ridge).
The view south from Mt. Lincoln, the trail "follows" the ridge, the two cone shaped peaks are Mts. Flume (L) and Liberty (R), you can see a little of the upper slopes of Loon Mtn. Ski area between the two.
Not only is this area extremely popular for hikers, but sailplanes can been seen riding the ridge lift and thermals off these mountains.
Still hooked on, but soon to be set free.
The plane below cruised by below eye level, at close range too close in fact to get a digi-bin shot, but a I got a few shots once the aircraft was further out.

Of course the magnification of digi-bin shot makes this glider look as if its more precariously positioned than it really was.

It appears if these folks may soon meet accidentally but, the sail plane was soon soaring over the summit in a thermal (below).
Hikers and pilot enjoying the summit of Mt. Lafayette.

While the pilots work their sailplanes with skill and precision, they are no match for the Raven. The above bird nearly landed on our heads, so we were told be a near by hiker, the ski slopes of Cannon Mountain are way below.

To complete the "loop" one hikes down the Bridle Path Trail from Lafayette back to the trailhead to complete the "loop" which is just under 9.0 miles. The AMC Green leaf Hut is just off the Bridle Path Trail and is well worth a visit for fresh water or a snack. This loop can be hiked from either direction.

A multi-dimensional view, the Kinsmans (2 peaks to the left), Lonesome Lake below the Kinsmans, Cannon Mtn (and its spectacular cliffs to the right) and the Bridle Path follows the ridge line in the foreground.

Lichen growing on the foundation of Greenleaf Hut.

A nice sunset , back at the Water Rest Campground at the days end.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hardwick...NE Quabbin 8/4

It was unfortunate circumstances that brought me to the Quabbin region today, to pay respects to Chris Ellison who passed away very unexpectly last week. His love and admiration of the Quabbin Reservoir watershed maybe matched by a few, but not surpassed.

About 40 people, from near and far, attended a nice memorial at Chris' home in Hardwick Center. Some of his poetic essays, both birding and music related, were read by his sisters and a close friend. Others recalled their fondest memories and notable "Ellison-isums" that were both touching and hallarious.

Certainly some of you are familiar with Chris' well written , entertaining and lengthy essays from his trips afield, but for those of you that are yourself a favor, take few minutes to read some of his writings HERE.


After the memorial I took a walk into gate 35 to bird and reflect along the north east shoreline of Quabbin. Chris always attended the Forbush Bird Club's early November field trip at this gate, usually showing up about 2 hours early and had "everything scoped out" ahead of time!
Birding activity was fairly slow, the heat and humidity were oppressive but the scenery was still worth the sweat.

Looking south toward Mt. L and Zion.

None of the recent inland rarities (such as Common , Black and Caspian Tern or Whimbrel) found by Carrol and Lynch, over the past several weeks were seen, despite scanning the waters at length. A few distant juvenile Bald Eagles were soaring over Snell Island and a distant adult was perched on the Phragmities island. I was not able to get any decent eagle shots, but the Osprey below passed by before I noticed it, I gave a series of answered...and circled back!
Chris we hope your flying high....

..and watching over The Quabbin.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Seawall Beach (Mid-coast, Maine) 8/1

Seawall Beach must be one of the few eastern beaches where a "crowd" is considered about 50 people on a 2 mile stretch of beach on a summer afternoon. The two most popular routes of beach access are either to wade across the Morse River, from a crowded Popham State Beach (at low tide), or take the 2 mile (mosquito infested) walk in from the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area parking area (which holds about 30 cars). We, my friends Thom and Sue, along with Sue's 5 year old grand daughter, took the walk in and where rewarded with one of the finest beach days one could hope for.

The tern show was great, noisy begging juveniles were being tended to by adults, we saw a dozen or so Roseate Terns but missed a previously reported Royal Tern despite a good effort scanning over the course of the day.

A young (right) Common Tern begging as its parent looks on.
Another young Common Tern "begs on" as the adult "stares blankly" out to sea.

Another young C. Tern

digi-bin flight shots of another juv. C. Tern

An adult Roseate Tern, note the leg bands, each Roseate seen close enough was banded.

A close up of an adult C. Tern.
The water and nearby islands had large numbers of the common gull species (Herring and Great Black-backed and fewed Ringed-billed Gulls). Hundreds of Common Eider were also present, one female eider had a single newly hatched chick in tow, most other young were near adult in size. The were a few dozen Black Guillemots in breeding plumage, some of which could be seen flying to burroughs on an island well off shore, where they likely nest.
Thom and Sue have had some nice numbers of shorebird at this location in past years, but that "peak" has yet to be reached. However, we did see a few hundred each of Semipalmated Sandpipers and Plovers along with a few Ruddy Turnstones, Short-billed Dowitches, Sanderlings and Black-bellied Plovers.
The mid-coast Maine water was fairly comfortable and we enjoyed some good swimming too.