Dean Cerrati Photography: Blog en-us (C) Dean Cerrati Photography (Dean Cerrati Photography) Thu, 28 Sep 2023 14:07:00 GMT Thu, 28 Sep 2023 14:07:00 GMT Dean Cerrati Photography: Blog 120 62 My Journey, and what it meant to me. It was December of 2014, and it started as a New Year's Resolution.  I remember exactly what I said to my friend.  "I want to go on an alpine hike." I'm not sure why the word 'alpine' got in there, or what it even meant at the time. I think it was my way of differentiating a hike to a mountain peak from a hike in the woods. My good friend has hiked all over the globe, most of the Appalachian Trail, and plenty of times in the White Mountains. "I want to go on an alpine hike next year, and I want you to take me."

Fast forward to the fall of 2015.  I bought a cheap hiking backpack from Walmart the night before we left. I didn't need anything else. I already owned 'hiking boots' (so I thought), and warm clothes (so I thought). We made our plans to spend a few days in "The Whites" (a new term for me), and do some warm up hikes before hiking someplace called The Franconia Ridge, and hiking to the summit of Mt. Lafayette. My friend said it was one of the best hikes up there, who was I to argue.  I had never heard of it before. 

October 6th, 2015.  We drove up that morning and headed straight to Arethusa Falls. A short walk through the woods to a magnificent waterfall. Both of us enjoy photography, and waterfalls during autumn in New England are just something you have to take pictures of. The water level was a little low, but the weather was beautiful, and the colors were stunning. 

We also took a little side trail to the lower falls, a much less popular spot but worth the steep hike. 

Next, my friend said there was a quick hike to a great outlook that we should do. A short ride up the street from Arethusa Falls is a hike to the summit of Mt Willard. As you approach the outlook, you walk through a small tunnel of trees and you can see the light up ahead, and then it completely opens up to an amazing view facing south. 

I had successfully hiked 1-1/2 miles to a summit of about 2800 ft.  I was a hiker!

We stayed overnight in Lincoln and woke up the next morning, October 7th, 2015, and headed to the large parking area off Rt. 93 to the trailhead of the Falling Waters Trail. I ate a banana, did some meaningless, quick leg stretches... because you should stretch your legs before hiking I thought, and headed down the trail. I distinctly remember passing a sign that was all-but begging me to turn around and go back. I don't remember exactly what it said, but it warned me of the dangers of the trail, the severity of the conditions, potential unpredictable weather changes, asked me if I had heart issues and a bunch of other warnings. I also remember seeing this sign multiple times in the early going.  What the hell was I doing!?!?!

Well, what I was doing was hiking in one of the most beautiful, unbelievable places I had ever set foot on. I was also busting my ass! This trail was steep! And, the word "trail" is not what I expected at all. This is a pile of freakin rocks! 

It didn't take long to learn why the trail is called the Falling Waters trail. It spends much of the time following below, over and certainly right alongside of a large waterfall and stream.

I didn't know it then, as the peak called 'Lafayette' was our goal that day, but I had hiked over Little Haystack (not an official 4000 footer), and Mt. Lincoln prior to reaching the summit of Mt. Lafayette. I knew I was there because there were these old, beaten wooden signs on the top letting you know the elevation and what peak you were on and also some trail names that I paid little-to-no attention to. Upon reaching the summit, and the entire way since we broke through the tree line, the wind was howling, there was fog everywhere, and visibility was very, very low.  I felt like I was on top of a mountain, but I couldn't visually prove it. After spending some time eating, and taking a few summit photos near the sign, and hoping the fog would clear, we decided that it was time to head down. We just weren't going to have any views that day. My friend warned me that morning, views are not guaranteed in The Whites. We walked about 50 steps, and a big gust of wind blew and I couldn't believe what I was seeing! Even as the last of the fog was being blown off the peaks, the views opened up, and I could see forever back in the direction in which we had hiked.

I remember having my friend snap this quick cell phone picture below.

There I was. Hunting hat, painting pants, 'hiking boots', and my crappy backpack on the ground out of view. I was standing on top of one the most iconic peaks in all The White Mountains.  I had just reached my second New Hampshire 4000 footer. Mt. Lincoln was my first, the large peak in background to the right, with Mt. Flume in the distant background just to the right of my head. At the time, I didn't know any of this. I didn't know about any list, or even how many 4000 footers there were or that I was even standing on one that qualified.   What I did know, is that I had accomplished my resolution.  I had done an alpine hike, and I was 100% completely hooked!  

We stopped at the AMC Green Leaf Hut on the way down the trail back to the truck. I always loved this picture from inside the hut looking back to the ridge we had just hiked.  This was first time, but would not be the last, that I would look back to where I had just hiked in total disbelief that I had actually done it. 

The next day, I woke up and felt as though I fell off the mountain and not just climbed it.  I couldn't believe how sore I was!  And yet, after a huge breakfast at a local diner, we headed south and hiked Mt. Moosilauke. We experienced almost zero wind, blue skies and views that can't be described, and I still had no idea how special or rare that can be.  We headed home that night with three official New Hampshire 4000 footers to my credit, and still no clue.  

Once I got home, it was hunting season, and my hiking focus would have to wait till Spring. After all, no one hikes in winter anyway (so I thought).  Around March, I started to get the itch to go hiking again. My same friend suggested waiting at least another month, and he also suggested we do some backpacking this time.  Backpacking? Isn't that what we did last time? I had a backpack on.  No, actual backpacking. Hiking, and camping. Sure, lets do it. He suggested we go to the summit of Mt. Bond Cliff. He said just like Mt. Lafayette, it was another one of the most amazing places in The Whites, with unparalleled views and seclusion. Once again, I didn't know any different, and had never heard of the place. 

A place called "Bond Cliff" sounds amazing. It only took about 2 seconds and one Google search of Bond Cliff to see thousands of photos of hikers literally standing on a cliff. A very big cliff. It was also during those Google searches that I learned about the list.  A list of New Hampshire mountains that are at least 4000' above sea level.  There were 48 of them, and if you hike them all, you get a patch!  I had already hiked three, and was about to embark on hiking three more (Bond Cliff, Mt. Bond and West Bond was the backpacking plan). 

It was the third week of April 2016, and we set off for the Lincoln Woods trailhead to begin our two days of backpacking.

Well, I got my iconic Bond Cliff picture, but due to camping at too high an elevation and dealing with incredibly cold temps and high winds overnight, we literally didn't sleep at all and didn't have the energy, or daylight, to make it out to West Bond the next day. I had done very little research about these peaks, but I had done enough to know that leaving without summiting West Bond would make it very challenging to reach that peak again as it is one of the most remote peaks on the list.  However, what I didn't know then was how much of a blessing it would be to have to hike to it again someday. 

My Bond Cliff picture... with West Bond right behind me.

When I got back from this trip, I remember printing out 'the list' and crossing off five peaks. I also remember really liking some of the photos I created from these hikes. I thought to myself, hiking would be a great way to visit amazing locations and challenge myself to capture and share some interesting photos. Using hiking as a means to capture compelling images became my main focus and drive for wanting to hike more and more. While I'm at it, I'll just complete this list and get my patch, too. Oh, and I'm going to reach all these peaks before the age of 50 in March of 2019. Piece of cake!

I was absolutely enjoying every hike. I took my full-sized DSLR camera and sometimes up to three lenses with me, on every single hike. However, I could feel myself becoming more focused on getting one more peak done, and not solely focused on just enjoying hiking. 

When I completed my NH48 a few weeks ago, I looked back to past blog posts and photos and it reminded me what my original purpose was. It was only at that moment that the entire journey really started to set in, and I immediately had some great memories just by looking back. The act of looking back would be a theme for my entire journey.  I made it a point to always look behind me on my hikes as some of the best views on a hike are behind you.  Or, looking back to the summit or the ridge you had just climbed. And in the end, looking back at the past stories and photos to really help put the entire journey in perspective. In addition to the images in the beginning of this blog, the following images are some of my favorite photos, and memories, of my entire journey leading up to the final peak. 

It took me 29 hikes to complete all 48 peaks.  That includes one failed attempt to Mt Hale. Of those 29 hikes, I did 16 of them as solo hikes. My first solo hike would be my first hike following my backpacking trip to the Bonds. I hiked to the summit of North and South Kinsman. There are not many trails I hiked that I wouldn't love to do again someday, except the Fishin Jimmy Trail.  I vowed to not hike that one ever again, but I did get one of my favorite water pictures along a small stream next to the trail that day.


It was also the same hike that I first experienced Lonesome Lake. I visited Lonesome Lake on one other hike, but this was one of my best pictures from just below the hut, near the footbridge. 

IMGP8242IMGP8242 After taking these pictures, and especially after visiting Lonesome Lake, I made it a point to try to visit as many mountain ponds and waterfalls as I could even if it meant adding some extra miles to the hikes. 

On a solo hike to Mt Willey, Field and Tom, I would have my first gray jay experience. I took this with the camera sitting on the log next to me, and a wireless remote trigger in my right hand.

IMGP0185IMGP0185 In keeping with my goal to visit as many waterfalls and mountain ponds as I could, on my way down from Mt Tom, I visited Beecher Cascade.

IMGP0225IMGP0225 Another solo hike to Mt. Pierce, Eisenhower and Jackson took me past Gibbs Falls...

IMGP0258IMGP0258 I took this next picture on my way to Mt. Jackson.  This picture was actually featured as a full two-page spread in the AMC Outdoors magazine.

IMGP0343IMGP0343 On a solo hike to both Osceola peaks, I choose to go by way of the Greeley Pond Trail and hike past the trail that leads to the peaks, and first hike down to the ponds. It was well worth the extra miles. 

IMGP6075IMGP6075 When anyone has asked me what my favorite hike or hikes were, that is like telling someone who your favorite child is.  I can honestly say, I thoroughly enjoyed every hike.  They all had something unique, special and memorable.  Having said that, there's a few that do stand out for me.  My solo hike to Mt. Adams and Mt. Madison would be one of those hikes. I drove up the night before, slept in my tent, and got up the next morning and hiked the King Ravine Trail to Mt. Adams. Along that trail, you pass by Mossy Falls, and this is one of two pictures I've captured of that location. 

IMGP7145IMGP7145 The King Ravine Trail was one of my favorite trails, and locations, of all my hikes. I particularly liked this picture I captured in an attempt to try to illustrate the steepness of the trail.

After summiting Mt. Adams, I took a route to Mt. Madison that would take me past Star Lake, and got another favorite picture of mine with Mt. Madison in the background. 

On the hike down the Valley Way trail, a small detour to Duck Falls. I always loved the beam of sunlight shining right down the middle of the image. 

On my hike to Mt. Garfield, I would finally have the chance to pay it forward. I would be joined by five friends who, after listening to me go on and on about how awesome these hikes were, decided to come along with me and experience it for themselves. We were blessed with perfect views on a perfect early fall day in October. At the time I took this picture, I hadn't yet decided, or even started to think about, which peak I might finish on someday. This is far from one of my better pictures or even very interesting given the incredible setting. But this photo would become quite meaningful. 

This hike would also be my first time taking an unmarked, 'bushwhack' trail to visit Garfield Pond.

In March of 2018, I did a solo hike to Mt. Waumbek, peak #24 for me. Now that I had reached the official half way mark, I started to think about which peak I wanted to finish on. For the longest time, I thought I should finish on Mt. Washington. It was the tallest and most well-known, it should be the last. However, the more of thought about it, I decided I wanted my last peak to be on the summit of one where I had a great view of my first peak. From this point forward, I started to get very strategic about each and every remaining hike.

As I mentioned earlier, while it didn't seem lucky at the time, I was very lucky to only have one failed summit attempt. It was late April of 2018. Less than 48 hours after a dumping of snow, I had attempted to hike Mt. Hale via the Fire Wardens Trail. Another unmarked trail, yet one that many people do hike. I did my research and had a very good idea of the route. I didn't reach the summit that day.  I was never able to locate it and had to turn back due to time.  What I did get that day was some of my best winter photos, even though it was already officially Spring. 

The only trail I hiked more than once along this journey was the King Ravine Trail. I love this trail, and when two of those five friends from the Garfield hike wanted to hike Mt. Adams, I was more than happy to take them up there.  I did make sure we also hiked Mt. Jefferson on the same day, so I could cross another peak off. Another trip past Mossy Falls produced this image for me. This one is taken from below the main falls and I've always loved the small little peaks of sunlight in an otherwise shady scene. 

My enjoyment of visiting these mountain ponds was greatly rewarded on my solo hike of the Wildcats. I took the Lost Pond trail past Lost Pond and I was fortunate enough to be there with great morning light and completely calm waters. 

I descended the Wildcat hike that day down the Polecat Ski Trail. The day I hiked it, the trails were full of monarch butterflies. One of them was cooperative enough to pose for me in the foreground with the northern presidential range in the background. 

Remember that Bond hike, and failing to summit Mt. West Bond?  And that failed attempt to Mt. Hale? Well, my next hike would be an ambitious attempt to not only summit both of those peaks, but also North and South Twin and Mt. Zealand as well.  A two day, solo backpacking trip of about 21 miles, with five peaks. This is another one of those hikes that absolutely goes down as one of my most memorial. I had seen photos and heard of undercast before, but never experienced it. Undercast is when the clouds are below you, and the peaks are rising above the clouds. I had also seen photos and always wanted to experience a sunset or sunrise from a peak, but never had the opportunity.  On this hike, I had planned to hike over North and South Twin, set up my tent on a platform at the Guyot Shelter where I would spend the night, and make the short hike to Mt. West Bond for sunset. The entire plan worked to perfection, and I witnessed the most beautiful sunset, with undercast, from the summit.  

Mt. Garfield rising through the undercast

In this picture, I caught the sun just as it was setting behind Mt. Lincoln, my first 4000 footer, and the Franconia Ridge, all above the undercast. 

Mt. Garfield again, after the sun had set, with the undercast fading, and the colors getting even more vibrant.  Little Haystack, Lincoln and Lafayette (my first hike) and Garfield to the right, with the undercast just about completely dispersed.

The next day, I would summit Mt. Zealand, and finally Mt. Hale before returning to the truck.  Along the way, I would also make a visit to another falls and mountain pond. Zealand Falls and Zeacliff pond.

Mt. Hale, was my 35th peak. It was actually starting to become realistic that I might reach all 48 peaks. I needed to stay aggressive and keep hiking any chance I had with favorable conditions.  If I was going to reach my goal, there were certain peaks I needed to complete before the heart of winter arrived. Mt Washington was certainly one of those hikes. I didn't have the experience, gear or desire to hike the tallest peak, with some of the harshest weather on earth, during the most dangerous time of year. I pushed it out as far as possible to when it wasn't true winter yet, and the crowds would also be way down.  Oct 13th of 2018, myself and three friends would tackle Mt. Monroe and Mt. Washington via the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. Pictures do not do the beauty of this trail any justice. This hike was fantastic, and proves that October is most definitely winter-like on Mt. Washington. 

I hiked the Tripyramids in December, but I didn't hike at all in January, and figured that I would certainly not reach my goal. I still needed 8 peaks that would take a minimum of 5 hikes with less than 8 weeks to go. This past winter provided virtually perfect hiking conditions for both the trails and especially the weather. Fresh, untouched powdery snow, cloudless blue skies, and virtually zero wind. With the first opportunity to go, myself and two friends that would join me on six of my final eight hikes, took on Mt. Moriah. I really liked this picture from that hike.

Less than a week later, we would successfully hike all three Carters in even better conditions. We had two gray jays around us on the windless summit the entire time we were there.  This would be one of my favorite gray jay pictures of the entire journey. 

I then captured this image of the sunset behind Mt. Adams and Mt. Madison. 

I would solo hike Mt. Cabot on Saturday, March 9th, after driving up the night before.  I took this image from inside the Cabot Cabin.

The three of us hiked Mt. Isolation on St. Patricks Day for my 46th peak, and just two days later, with a weather window that was just too good to pass up, we made the trip back up for a Tuesday hike to reach my final two peaks. Mt. Liberty and Mt. Flume.

That's me, sitting on the well-known rocks of Mt. Liberty, peak #47. One more to go!

At last, the final peak! Mt. Flume. The peak to the far left, is Liberty, from the previous photo. And, just as I had hoped, I completed my NH48 on a summit in which I could look back at my first peak. Those two peaks to the right, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Lafayette.  

Here again, is that boring summit photo taken from the peak of Mt. Garfield. At that time, I hadn't yet decided on where I might want to finish, but you can see (from left to right) Flume, Liberty, Little Haystack, Lincoln and Lafayette - all the peaks from my first hike, and my last.

When I started to think how to approach the story about completing my NH48, it was very difficult. Since finishing, I've had weeks of mixed feelings. I honestly felt much more emotional on Mt. Liberty, #47, than I did on Mt. Flume. Being so close to completion, and knowing I was going to reach my goal, was much more satisfying than actually standing on that last peak. I thought I would and should feel overwhelming joy and pride. But I honestly didn't. After all, close to 14,000 others are registered to have completed the NH48, and there's no telling how many people have done it and not registered.  I just didn't feel that special. I thought I would be incredibly happy it was finally over and that I did it within my self-imposed deadline, and with 7 days to spare. But I just felt weird, because at the time, it felt more like an ending. 

I will only speak for myself, but the list, and most certainly my self-imposed deadline, provided the necessary motivation to drive an average of three hours one-way to most of these trailheads, as well as the satisfaction of crossing another one, or two or three peaks off the list. The list is the common question that almost everyone asks you, and you to them, on the trails.  "You doing the list? What number is this for you?"  Words I repeated, and had spoken to me, countless times throughout the journey. However, the list, and my deadline, also caused too many moments of stress for me.

It took me three years, five months and 12 days to complete the list. I went on 29 individual hikes, 98 different trails, slightly over 300 miles of hiking, and approximately 10,190 miles in a vehicle. After all that, I can honestly say that I still feel like a total rookie on the trails. And, that's the great thing about this journey. While I did successfully complete the list, there is no end to hiking for me. Long ago, standing on Mt Lafayette when those clouds finally cleared, provided me with an amazing feeling.  These forests, ridges, peaks and mountains have a way of always making you feel very small. These mountains do not care how experienced you think you might be. The sense of awe I felt on the peak of Lafayette was exactly how I felt on every single peak.  Mount Flume represented the completion of the list, and a monumental milestone for me, but by no means does it represent an ending or completion to my hiking.


(Dean Cerrati Photography) goals hike hike the whites mission accomplished new hampshire nh48 white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:48:18 GMT
And then there was one. On Sunday, March 17th, myself and my two friends that have joined me on several past hikes including all-but-one of my six winter hikes this season, made the long ride to the Rocky Branch Trailhead in an attempt to hike to the summit of Mt. Isolation. This summit is very aptly named, as it is one of the most remote peaks of the NH 48 and the second shortest at only 4003 ft. 

In winter, this hike involves a section that is referred to as the Engine Hill Bushwhack. A roughly 2-1/2 to 3 mile hike along an unmarked trail from the Rocky Branch Trail to the Isolation Trail. This route not only eliminates about two miles off the round trip hike, but it also bypasses several water crossings, which could be impassable in winter.

The early part of the hike was a very slow, gentle incline, on an extremely hard-packed trail. We only needed our spikes, giving our snowshoes a ride for the first 3+ miles. The air temperature was very cold, once again, but as was the case with all our previous winter hikes, we had perfect blue skies, a warming, rising sun and little-to-no wind, at least at these lower elevations. 

At approximately the 3-mile mark, you arrive at the start of the Engine Hill Bushwhack, marked by the "T" on the tree.

It is also easily recognized as the marked, Rocky Branch trail is no longer broken out, and the only evidence of previously hiked attempts head to the NW into what would be the bushwhack.   Now, because this is not a marked trail, and is just a general direction, we needed the trail to have already been broken out as none of us had ever done the route before.  Recent trail reports on New England Trail Conditions gave us the confidence we'd be able to follow the hikers from a few days prior. For the most part, it was fairly easy to follow, but we were at or around 3200ft at this point and the wind had really picked up quickly blowing in some of the older tracks.  As you can see in the picture below, when hiking along a winter bushwhack route, you'll commonly run into several off-shoot and trail attempts that sometimes dead-end as people attempt to pick their way through the forest. Also, due to that wind, and the fact that not everyone travels on the exact same route, the snow was much softer. The snowshoes would go on and stay on for the remainder of the day.

Luckily, there was a couple hiking a few hours ahead of us, and their very fresh tracks provided a perfectly executed route to meet back up with the Isolation trail. Once back on the Isolation trail, and now out of the wind, it was a fairly quick last few miles to the summit. Snow, and trees - everywhere you look.  It really was a beautiful day to be in the White Mountains. 

The Isolation trail then meets up with The Davis Path. From that junction, it's only about one mile to the summit of Mt. Isolation. However, while we had experienced varying degrees of this on all our previous hikes this winter, that last mile would be almost entirely with your chest and head in the branches of the trees along the trail. This time of year, with the height of the snowpack, the base of the trail is anywhere from 3' to 5' above the actual ground. This results in your head and chest being that much higher than it would be without the snow.  For just about that entire mile, we had to push through, duck under, and climb over branches all the way to the summit. Eye protection is a must, and that doesn't prevent the constant pokes in the shoulder, thighs, ankles and head! However, like every hike I've been on throughout this incredible journey, the rewards far outweigh the suffering. In the picture below, you can see the opening in the trees in the lower right. That's the trail, as it finally climbs out of the tangle of branches, and above the trees to present you with the amazing view. 

That picture is looking back towards the north, towards the southern end of the presidential range. This next picture, is looking southwest, as we hiked the last few hundred yards towards the summit.

We were once again treated with beautiful skies and stunning views!  The only downside was, the wind had returned, and our time on the summit would be somewhat short-lived. We were blessed with 360 degree views, yet, the views back to the north were the best in my opinion.  The conditions were so clear, that the weather equipment and other buildings on Mount Washington were all easily seen from our vantage point. 

A close up view of Mount Washington and Mount Monroe, a hike we all did together in early Oct

This would be an out-and-back hike along the same route.  Once back at the vehicle, my GPS said we had hiked 12.8 miles in a little under 10 hours of hiking. I had successfully summited my 46th peak. My friends had completed their 14th, and 11th. With Isolation now in the books, that meant only one hike remained.  A final hike to reach both Mount Liberty and Mount Flume would be all that was needed to complete the New Hampshire 48.  I had just nine days left to reach my ultimate goal of completing all the peaks before my 50th birthday.  I was once again keeping a close eye on the mountain forecast, and those trail reports.  One last hike.

(Dean Cerrati Photography) bushwhack hike hike the whites Mount Isolation Mount Washington new Hampshire nh48 presidential range snow snowshoeing white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:48:12 GMT
All the way up for #45 On Saturday, March 9th, I successfully summited Mt. Cabot, my 45th peak on the New Hampshire 4000 footers list.  However, this trip would start on Friday, as Mt. Cabot is the northern-most of all 48 peaks on the list. Without traffic, the trailhead is just shy of 4 hours away for me. For this hike, I decided to stay overnight at the Top Notch Inn in Gorham, and then make the 30 minute drive to the trailhead in the morning. If you're ever in need of staying in that area, the inn was perfect.  Clean, quite, reasonably priced and in a real convenient location for lots of the northern peaks. 

The York Pond East trailhead is located at the end of a 7 mile ride down a plowed, yet snow and ice-covered road past the Berlin Fish Hatchery to a lot that fits two vehicles. I was the first car there on this day, with another truck pulling in shortly after. Proving once again that it really is a small world, after some quick introductions and conversations, the two hikers were from even further south than me, stayed at the same inn the night before, and were attempting their 44th peak, while I was attempting my 45th.

While this hike does begin on the York Pond trail, it is only for a short .2 miles until the junction of the Bunnell Notch Trail.

Even though it was only 7 degrees to start this hike, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the morning sun would quickly add some warmth on this day. The early portion of the Bunnell Notch Trail is along an old logging road, and other than a few fun stream crossings over some snow bridges, this is pretty much what it was like.

The trail makes a fairly abrupt left turn and starts to gently climb through a valley while also hugging the banks of a stream. A few more snow bridges and crossings are the only real challenges along the very deep established snowshoe bed. I don't think I saw a single cloud the entire hike, the skies looked like this in almost every direction.

I noticed this tiny piece of old bark curled up along the side of the trail and it really stood out against the pure white of the snow. 

This next photo shows how deep the snow depths are in most areas of the White Mountains right now.  Do NOT step off the trail!

Even the signs are getting close to being under the snow pack

The Bunnell Notch Trail intersects with the Kilkenny Ridge trail to the summit of Mt. Cabot. It is along this trail that most of the elevation gain is experienced. A little ways before the summit, there's a small sign on a tree that says "VIEW", and it was well worth the very short walk over to the edge.

About 1/4 mile from the summit, you'll see the outhouse first, and then you'll arrive at Cabot Cabin.

The cabin is located just below the clearing where the former fire tower used to be and now serves as a first-come-first-serve hikers cabin. A view from the porch...

I went inside the cabin to get out of the cold breeze outside, and to take a quick food and water break. This photo was taken from inside the cabin, looking back through to the view outside.

After hiking a few feet past the cabin, there's one of the best viewpoints of the day.

The actual summit really didn't have many views, at least not any which someone had broken the trail to already. The snow was really quite drifted and soft on the summit, and I wasn't too interested in being the one that attempted to venture into the unknown deep drifts.  I took a quick picture of the sign on the summit, then headed back down.

On the hike down, the skies continued to look exactly how they had the whole day.

Once I was back on the bottom of the Bunnell Notch trail, I noticed my lengthening shadow in the afternoon sun. The backpack in the shadow looks like it would weigh as much as my actual pack felt like at this point!

I had read, and therefor assumed, that this hike would be less traveled, and less busy than most.  I didn't think I'd see that many people at all on this particular outing even though the conditions were basically perfect. I believe I saw more people on this hike than I have on my previous three hikes combined. I ran into at least two dozen other hikers on this day as well as two super friendly dogs.  I arrived back at the truck at 2:20, exactly 7 hours and about 9.5 miles after starting.

Whether it's one of the more popular peaks on the list, or, what is for most of us, the furthest, most remote one to get to, every one of these mountains and hikes are so special to so many people. This hike was my 27th White Mountain 4000 footer hike, and my 45th peak.  Two more very special hikes remain to reach the final three peaks. 

(Dean Cerrati Photography) 4000 footers Cabot Cabin hike hike the whites Mt Cabot new hampshire nh48 snow white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:48:04 GMT
Winter hiking perfection on the Carters On February 23rd, I reached the summits of Carter Dome, South Carter and Middle Carter. These three peaks represented numbers 42, 43 and 44 in my quest to hike all of New Hampshire's 48 4000 footers. I would reach these peaks with the same friends that I've now completed the last three hikes with.  In December, we hiked North and Middle Tripyramid, and just last week - Mt. Moriah. Our weather the day we did the Tripyramids was cold, very cold towards the end, but essentially windless other than a little breeze on the summits. Last weekend on Moriah, the weather was even better.  Clear skies, a cold start, but once again - completely windless except a very slight breeze on the actual summit. Yesterday, on the Carter Moriah Range, the weather, and all-around winter hiking conditions, were literally perfect! A crisp 6 degrees to start, and fairly cold for the first few miles along the shady Nineteen Mile Brook Trail, but once we started to gain some elevation, and the sun rose higher, the temperatures warmed, blue skies prevailed, and as was the case the last few outings, we were experiencing completely windless conditions. And this time, the wind would remain nonexistent regardless of our elevation.

The Nineteen Mile Brook trail was fairly benign except for some pretty interesting snow, ice and water-flow patterns happening on the right side of the trail along the frozen brook for which the trail is named. However, after turning left onto the Carter Dome Trail and just before reaching the Carter Moriah Trail, we got our first 'goal post' sneak view of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range. 

To give you a good indicator of the current snow depths, these signs are typically around shoulder height. 

We decided against taking in Mt. Hight on this trip. The trail was barely broken out, nor were we sure that the loop that continued to meet back on to the Carter Moriah trail was broken out either. We decided to stay on the Carter Dome Trail, and head directly for the peak of Carter Dome.  It is about a mile from the sign in that last photo to the peak of Carter Dome.  Here's some images I took along the way. (in order of furthest, to nearest the summit)

Once on the top of the Carter Moriah ridge, the views to the west of the Presidential Range are simply stunning.  The range is basically across the street (route 16) from you, and it feels incredibly close. 

Once on the actual summit, we could not believe how perfect the conditions were.  Everything from the skies, to the temperature, to the completely calm conditions.  And then, things got even more perfect, and fun.

These two gray jays flew in as we were enjoying a snack on the summit. As usual, they made sure they were the focus of everyone's attention. 

The first photo shows how amazing and fun it can be to have a wild bird literally eating out of your hand. The second photo illustrates the unfortunate results of hand-feeding wild birds. This one flew in, landed on my friend's finger, and proceeded to start eating HIS lunch sandwich.  Thankfully, he was just about done with it.  And, I lucked out with a really cool photo as the bird flew off.

As we left the summit of Carter Dome, and headed for South Carter, I had noticed some really interesting wind drifts in the snow on the hike to the summit. I switched to a wider angle lens and tried to get some shots of the patterns the wind has created in the deep, powdery snow. 

We were now hiking back down the Carter Moriah Trail, which is also the Appalachian Trail (white blaze marks), on our way to South Carter. Along the way, the beauty and perfect conditions continued to be evident with every step.

In the photo above, you can now see our third peak for the day, Middle Carter, in the far background on the left. After summiting the final peak of the day, we continued down the Carter Moriah Trail, to the North Carter Trail.  Descending the North Carter trail, as the afternoon sun was setting, provided us with the final (daylight) views of this hike. Looking towards the east, we experienced the warm cast of the reddish setting sun on distant mountains and the forest below.

Looking towards the west, we experienced one of the best mountain sunsets I've ever seen as the sun dipped behind Mt. Adams and Madison.

This final image, would be our last daylight view, as we would finish this hike in the dark around 8pm. 

To complete our day of perfection, we ended up being able to locate and follow a faint bushwhacked trail from the Imp trail back over to the Nineteen Mile Brook parking area. This short cut would save us over a mile of hiking and over a hour in the woods and walking back along the road.  In the total darkness, yet under completely clear skies, we could see nothing except some lights on top of Mt. Washington, a sky filled with millions of stars, and the fresh snow in front of us being lit by our headlamps.

These three summits would vault one us from 7 to 10 peaks, another from 10 to 13, and myself from 41 to 44 completed summits.  It would take a departure time of approximately 3:30am with slightly over 7 hours and close to 400 miles of total driving.  It would take us just under 13 hours to hike the 12.54 miles, with the final two hours in complete darkness. It all resulted in zero regrets, and some memories that will last forever. 

(Dean Cerrati Photography) Carter Dome gray Jay hike hike the whites Middle Carter new hampshire nh48 snow snowshoes South Carter white mountains winter Winter hike Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:47:36 GMT
Magic on Moriah It had been over a month since my last hike. This was mostly due to weekend weather forecasts being in the form of either wet, white or dangerously cold with double-digit below zero wind chills.  Finally though, this past weekend appeared to be as I referred to it 'a good enough' forecast. 

The day was not off to a good start.  I opened my eyes, and looked at the time... 3:51am.  Which, would seem about right for a 3-1/2 hour one-way ride to the trailhead, unless your friends were scheduled to pick you up at 4:00am!! Thankfully, everything was packed and ready to go the night before. I got up, showered, got dressed, loaded my gear in their vehicle and we were on our way by about 4:10am. 

The forecast called for some clouds most of the day, with about a two hour window of "clear" in the middle, then clouding up for good in the afternoon ahead of the small storm coming though.  However, the ride up gave us clear skies, lots of stars, a huge setting moon, and a completely clear view of all the visible peaks on Franconia Ridge and the Presidential Range.

While cold to start, it wasn't cold by winter, White Mountain standards. Eight degrees at the trailhead, but more importantly, zero wind. The day would be defined by perfect light, zero wind, deep fall-like, blue skies and tons of fresh, powdery sparkling snow.  Lots and lots of unblemished snow.

This next photo was taken shortly after leaving the Carter-Moriah trailhead, but it could have been captured anywhere along the trail for the first few hours.  At every turn, the low angle of the morning sun cast long shadows and spots of brightness onto the white blanket of fresh powder. 

At roughly the two mile mark, you come to outstanding views of the northern Presidential Range, just below the actual (wooded) summit of Mt. Surprise. Mt. Surprise is not a 4000-footer, but at only about 2200 feet, the views are great! Your first real sneak of a view looks like this.

Just a short distance past that spot, you arrive at a vista with unobstructed clear views of the entire northern range. 

After leaving Mt. Surprise, we had about 2-1/2 more miles to reach the summit of Mt. Moriah.  In keeping with the theme of the day, the scenery, and sunlight, and skies were simply stunning.  And still not a hint of wind. This is either a tiny tree, or, due to the depth of the snowpack, I suspect it's just the top of a bigger tree, but it contrasted so well against the sky and the slope of pristine powder. 

More views from the trail as we made our way towards the summit.  As is usually the case, as we neared the summit, the amount of snow increased. Snow was caked on every twig, branch, tree and stump in even the thickest of forests. The images can't do it justice for how beautiful it really is. 

Roughly a 1/4 mile from that last photo, and about 4-1/2 miles from the trailhead, we reached the summit of Mt. Moriah. The summit marker sits embedded in a rounded rocky knob at the high point of the peak where 360 degree views provide incredible scenery in every direction. Looking to the southwest, you have some of the greatest views of the Northern Presidential Range I've seen on any peak so far. 

Close up of Mt. Adams and Mt. Madison Looking straight south, you see miles and miles of the snow-covered trees below

The weather on the summit was perfect.  Calm and almost non-existent winds, temps in the mid 20's, and lots of sunshine. After staying on the summit for at least 30 minutes to rest, take lots of photos and eat some lunch, we started our descent back to the vehicle.  By this time, the forecasted late afternoon clouds were thickening, and we caught this much different looking view back at the Mt. Surprise outlook.

On the way back, the late afternoon sun was now mimicking that of the morning light casting long shadows on the still unblemished blanket of snow. 

This would be peaks #7 and #10 for my hiking friends and #41 for me. Four more hikes to reach my remaining seven peaks. And, for the first time in my last three hikes, we actually made it back to the vehicle before dark! 

I will remember this hike as easily being one of my favorite, and definitely my favorite winter hike to date. A great, well-marked trail, with plenty of diversity and lots of viewpoints. We had absolutely perfect weather and conditions the entire 9 miles. We ran into very few other hikers on this day, but all very friendly and enjoying the same perfection of conditions we had. This is one peak that I will definitely be returning to!



(Dean Cerrati Photography) hike hike the whites Mt. Moriah new hampshire nh48 snow snowshoe white mountains winter hike Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:47:24 GMT
Appreciating the accomplishment This past week, I hiked Mt. Carrigain for peak #38 out of 48 in my quest to summit all of New Hampshire's 4000 footers. From on top of the fire tower on the summit of Mt. Carrigain, you get 360 degree views and you can actually see 43 of the 48, NH 4000 footers. 

The forecast called for 'cloudy' conditions, which does not automatically translate to no views. Sometimes, those clouds are really high, and I've had fantastic views on previously forecasted cloudy days. Not to mention, on the ride up that morning, I had cloudy conditions, yet perfectly clear views of Mt. Washington and it's neighboring peaks.  

The entire hike would be on the Signal Ridge Trail, off of Sawyer River Road. This road is closed in the winter months so I really wanted to get this hike in before that happens as it adds about 4 miles total to the hike due to the road walk to the winter parking lot off of Rt. 302. I would describe the hike in two basic phases. The first roughly two miles of the trail were a fairly flat, puddle-ridden, leaf-covered mud fest. The last 3 miles to the summit were relentlessly uphill covered in ice and more and more snow as you climbed. 

After having to remove my boots, gators, socks and rolling up my pants over my knees to wade through the calf-deep water crossing (sooo cold!!!), the lower, post-fall like section of the trail starts to transition into the early winter part of the trail.

Snow, mixed with running water, mixed with ice cycles flowing over a natural cascade along the trail. While the trail does make some switchbacks, and a go through a few flatter sections, it's essentially a never-ending steady climb all the way to the summit. On this day, I would run into one hiker at the very beginning of the hike going in the other direction, I suspect that person didn't want to wade through the stream, and I didn't see another hiker until reaching the summit about 5 miles later.  Prior to reaching the summit, the trail rolls along for about a 1/2 mile above tree-line with what appeared to be a massive drop-off on the right hand side of the trail.  

The snow drifts in some spots along this stretch were over waist deep, yet frozen solid. No snowshoes required as you can hike and walk on top of it without any issues at all. And, this next image was a first for me, and I didn't notice it until I was hiking back, but on the left side of the trail on the way to the summit, look what I saw. Or, more accurately, look what saw me...

Smile! Someone is watching hikers. A basic trail camera attached to one the stunted trees, slightly less than a mile from the summit.   Not long after you get your picture taken, you quickly drop back down into the forest, and as you approach the the final push to the summit, and the fire tower, this is what the trail and woods currently look like. 

Just before meeting up with three other hikers at the base of the fire tower as they were headed back down, the wind picked up considerably, and to no surprise, the temperature dropped dramatically. I put on a few more layers, left the backpack at the base of the tower, and started the icy, incredibly windy climb to the platform.  Here's what the fire tower looked like.  Check out those views from the top!! 

The wind was out of control on the platform! I was able to take about three photos and then the autofocus froze on my camera, the lens iced over and rime ice was forming on my legs all within about 30-45 seconds.  Time to climb down!

Under the fire tower, is the official summit marker for Mt. Carrigain.

At this moment in the hike, I was feeling pretty disappointed to have successfully made it to the summit, only to have zero views. I defiantly stomped on the rock as if to say "I still did it! Views or no views!"  I hiked non-stop for the next two miles back down the trail, and took a lunch break where it was much warmer.  At the end of the hike (or beginning) on the Signal Ridge Trail, Whiteface Brook runs tight to the trail and was really flowing hard on this day. One last photo on the way out of a small pour-over into a beautiful pool.

So, where does the word appreciation in the title come from? After all, it wasn't a particularly unique trail. I had to wade through an ice cold stream. I physically struggled on this hike especially on that final three miles of relentless uphill to the summit. I barely met any other hikers, and I had the worst views of any hike I've ever done, and I had a 4 hour ride back home in heavy traffic.  All that is true.  What is also true, is that I spent an entire day outdoors. While dealing with a greater than usual amount of physical struggle on this hike, I did make it to the summit and safely back to the truck quicker than I had planned. On all of my hikes, I can honestly say that I get a tangible feeling of pride and self-reward on the trip home. This hike would be no different. Views or no views, I did successfully summit my 38th 4000 footer. Views or no views, I did successfully get one peak closer to my ultimate goal. Views or no views, I absolutely do appreciate what I accomplished on this hike. 

(Dean Cerrati Photography) hike hike the whites ice Mt. Carrigain new hampshire nh48 rime ice snow white mountains winter Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:47:06 GMT
I think I can, I think I can... On Sunday, October 14th, myself and three friends made the ride up to take on Mt. Monroe and Mt. Washington. I had been putting this one off due to so many mixed feelings and comments regarding Mt. Washington. The experience and views and sense of reward can and should be second-to-none for hiking the tallest peak in the northeastern United States. However, that can be overshadowed by having to 'share' the peak with so many other hikers and tourists depending on the time of year and conditions.  The route I wanted to take was also probably the most popular. We would be hiking up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, and down the Jewell Trail. I was trying to time this hike so that I didn't attempt it during the summer with peak crowds. while also avoiding leaf-peeping season and Columbus Day weekend. Lastly, I do not have the gear, knowledge or experience to safely be up there in true full-blown winter conditions. 

About a month ago, I targeted October 14th as my Mt. Washington day and crossed my fingers for favorable conditions. As was the case with my last hike, if I didn't get this one completed before real winter sets in, the goal of reaching all 48 summits prior to my 50th birthday in March would be in serious jeopardy.  I started checking the weather about four days out and it appeared to look very clear, yet unseasonable cold, even for Mt. Washington. By that Friday morning, the decision was made  - the hike was on.

We all gathered our cold weather gear, and extra layers... and a few more extra layers, and we were headed north by 4am. Upon reaching Base Station Road and getting our first view of the snow-covered hills in front of us, I won't lie, it was pretty daunting at that moment to think we'd be headed up and actually make it to the top. After parking just below the Cog Railway upper lot, and gearing up, we started towards the Ammonoosuc Connector trail.  Prior to entering the woods, one quick look behind us would tell the story for the day.

The entire hike would be a mix of slightly past-peak, yet still beautiful, fall colors mixed with snow and clear skies and still plenty of green all mixed together. The best part of this view came to me only after I got home and looked on a map and noticed that it was South Twin and North Twin Mountain we were looking at in the background - two of the five peaks I just summited a few weeks ago. Once into the woods and heading up the Ammonoosuc, several other constants for at least the first half of the day showed themselves right away.  

First, water.  This trail basically goes up, along, through, over, around and everything except under a stream and mini waterfalls just about all the way to the Lake of the Clouds hut. 

The other constant, the Cog. The story of the Cog Railway is very interesting and can be read here.  For this day, the story of the Cog would be hearing its whistle, and seeing its smoke as it slowly and deliberately makes it up to the summit of Mt. Washington. A short way up the trail, we got our first look, and listen, to The Cog.

There it was. Through an opening in the trees. The little engine that could! The way the Cog chugs up the tracks to peak of Mt. Washington not only mimicked our own deliberate and consistent ascent on this day, but it also made me think of the bigger picture, and my entire NH48 journey.  One peak at a time, one hike and step and rock and root at at time.  As it disappeared over the distant peak, it was time to slowly continue to climb up this stream... I mean, trail.  A little under two miles into the hike, we arrived at the Gem Pool.  This is really an awesome spot where a small falls pours into a pool where the trail crosses over. 

I believe this lower section is referred to as 'lower falls'. Just after the Gem Pool, the trail starts to get quite steep. I had read that there was a sign that read "GORGE" a short distance from the Gem Pool indicating a short trail that leads to 'upper falls'.  We never saw the sign, but we did see the small side trail on the right, and followed it a short distance to one of the prettiest falls I've ever seen in The Whites.  This picture does not do it justice, and there's actually two sets of falls here.  This picture is of the one to the right, that had more water flowing down on this day.

Once we made it past upper falls, the trail really gets steep. Thankfully, there are many places to get off to the side, take a break, and look behind you at the stunning views and valley below.  Looking back towards the Mt. Washington Hotel.

Continuing up the trail, the views get even better.  I really like this next picture for how it accurately depicts our experience on the hike up. We had the beautiful fall colors in the valley below, the snow-covered green trees, and the seemingly constant stream and little mini falls surrounding us with every step.

And just when it appeared as if we were going to be hiking with views the rest of the way, we followed the trail back into the trees to another small falls pouring into a pool with a section of manmade stairs that continued the trail to the left. 

As we climbed higher, the snow and rime ice were starting to cover everything. It wasn't long before we were hiking up frozen sections of the stream and snow and ice-covered rock slabs. At first glance, it doesn't appear to be very steep, but notice how everyone is hiking with their hands and feet!

After passing the 'you're entering the alpine zone' sign, we would now be in for endless views the rest of the way up.  Speaking of views, what little clouds there were, cleared for a moment, revealing our first clear image of the summit of Mt. Washington off to our left.

And looking straight up, gave us the first look at hut.

The hut is closed for the season, but we were able to take a quick break on the back side out of the wind. We grabbed a bite to eat, and started our way up to Mt. Monroe.  You can see the peak here as our crew heads towards the short 1/4 mile hike to the summit .

A little more than half way to the summit, a look back towards the hut, the lake, and Mt. Washington in the distance. 

Back to the task at hand, Mt. Monroe. The group makes their final push up the steepest part towards what would be a false summit yet the real peak was only a short distance from what appeared to be the top.

We stayed on the summit for a brief moment to take some photos, enjoy the amazing 360 degree views, and then it was back down to the hut to change gear one last time, and prepare for the final ascent to the top of Washington. 

These next few pictures are great examples of the extreme contrast in conditions we would experience on this day. In all directions, while standing on a snow and ice-covered trail, the colorful valley below was always in the background.

The hike to the summit of Mt. Washington from the hut is only about 1-1/2 miles.  That 1-1/2 miles isn't overly steep, or technical, or even dangerous (on this particular day) but it sure does seem to take forever to get there. In the image below, we're about half way to Washington, with the summit of Monroe getting smaller and smaller behind us. 

At this point, we're only a 1/4 mile from the summit. That's only 'one lap around the track' I usually say to myself. If only the track was uphill, covered in snow and ice with the wind now blowing around 50mph. 

As we got to only a few steps away from successfully summiting, we got a first-hand example of how conditions can go from perfectly clear and cloudless...

... to cutting visibility in half within a minute.

And, as fast the clouds blew in, they were once again blowing away creating perfect summit conditions as you can see developing in this photo.

As you can tell from the photo above, we timed the trip perfectly. The weather had cooperated as good as anyone could have hoped for in mid-October. And, with the Cog only running about 3/4 of the way to summit, and the auto road closed, and the hut closed, we only ran into about ten other hikers for the duration of our time on the summit. The skies remained totally clear while we were inside the lodge, and for the full length of our hike back down to the truck.  Other than a few distant, faint clouds, from the moment we summited to the time we reached the vehicle, we experienced essentially completely clear skies. On our way down the Gulfside Trail, before arriving at the junction of the Jewell Trail, we hiked along the edge of the Great Gulf Wilderness, bordered to the west by the rest of the Northern Presidential Range (Clay, Jefferson, Adams, Madison)

On every hike, I am continually amazed at how the distant layers of mountains can look like huge waves coming towards the foreground.  The Gulfside trail literally crosses over the tracks for the Cog. Just as we passed over the tracks, a look back behind us shows countless peaks stacking up with a faint glimpse of the autumn colors in the valley now very far below us. 

And, as if to congratulate us on successfully reaching the summit of Washington, the little engine that could passed us by one last time.

Just about the time we reached the junction of the Jewell trail, a final look back provided us with a rewarding view of where we've been on this hike. The peak of Monroe, the Lake of the Clouds Hut, and the trails we've already hiked, all right before us in totally clear skies.

A look ahead at our final challenge for the day, the Jewell Trail. The trail was more challenging than I had anticipated and is steep and rocky for the better part of the almost four miles back to the parking lot. We remained above treeline for at least half the distance back and the views continued to be stunning. 

The only drawback to hiking this time of year would be that daylight starts to fade quite early.  We would finish this hike with the headlamps on for about the last hour. However, just before that moment, we were treated to a great sunset, and lucky enough to be in an area with open views as the last of the sunlight glowed on the snowy peaks, with the moon rising above them.  

About an hour after this photo was taken, and one more not-so-easy stream crossing in the dark later, our 'little group that could' had successfully hiked a little under 10 miles, and summited the tallest peak on the list, and Mt. Monroe. Most importantly, we all made it safely back to the vehicle and enjoyed a well-earned dinner on the way home.  Peaks #36 and #37 for me.  Only 7 or 8 hikes remaining to reach my final 11 peaks.  It's just now starting to maybe seem possible.

(Dean Cerrati Photography) Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail cog railway hike hike the whites Mt Monroe Mt Washington new hampshire nh48 rime ice waterfall white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:46:55 GMT
A fist full of peaks In April of 2016, a friend and I went on my first backpacking trip to ‘The Bonds’.  We summited my 4th and 5th 4000 foot peaks by reaching Mount Bond Cliff, and Mount Bond. However, due to an extreme drop in temperature after we had eaten and set up our tents, we spent the entire night shivering (literally) and not sleeping. A slow, late and cold start that next morning, and utter exhaustion, lead to not being able to reach Mt. West Bond while also making it back down to a safe elevation for the second night of camping.  Mt. West Bond would have to wait. This past April, I attempted to summit Mt. Hale via the Fire Wardens Trail. The day I hiked was the morning after over a foot of fresh snow.  With only one hiker and his two dogs' worth of tracks to follow up (the Fire Wardens Trail is unmarked, there are no tree blazes), I was never able to make it to the summit.  I was very, very close, but didn’t officially make it before daylight and safety won the day, and I had to leave.  That sad story can be read here

Maybe I shouldn’t hike in April in anymore!

Fast forward to this past weekend. My plan: A two day, solo backpacking trip that will allow me to reach Mt. West Bond, and Mt. Hale, while also bagging the Twins, and Zealand. I would start at the North Twin Trailhead at the end of Haystack road. Hike the North Twin trail to both North Twin and South Twin, then head to the Guyot Campsite to claim a decent spot, and drop more than half my gear before heading up to Mt. West Bond for sunset.  The next morning, I would head to Mt. Guyot (not an official 4000 footer) for sunrise pictures, and continue on to Mt. Zealand, the Zealand Falls Hut, the the Lend a Hand Trail to Mt. Hale, and finally, come down my nemesis - The Fire Wardens Trail - back to the North Twin Trail, and back to my truck.

I love to hike, I’ve rarely backpack.  They are NOT the same thing. For anyone who’s ever read the book, or seen the movie, Wild, I must have looked like Reese every time I pulled my backpack up. Even after several attempts to drop and shave ounces anywhere I could, my pack was still heavier than I would have liked.  I didn’t weigh it… on purpose! I simply didn’t want to know the number.

For the days leading up to this weekend, had Friday, Saturday and Sunday as “CLEAR” essentially all three days.  Even with a day's worth of pouring rain predicted at home on Friday, the mountain forecast was still favorable. And, overnight Friday was supposed to be much warmer than overnight Saturday, hopefully avoiding a repeat of my last backpacking freeze-fest. Saturday was forecasted to be perfectly clear all day - which I thought would work out great for sunrise pictures from Mt. Guyot.

I arrived at the trailhead at 7:30am Friday morning, I was hiking by 8:00, and the rain I drove through most of the way up had stopped at about 8:05.  Perfect!

The weather was weird, though. Even though the rain had stopped, the humidity in the woods was extreme, yet, the temperature was probably no higher than 55 degrees. It was a tough beginning to regulate clothing and comfort due to extreme sweating from the humidity (and a 400lb backpack), while being colder than normal due to being sweaty and it only being in the 50’s. Thankfully, the North Twin trail is Lincoln Woods-esque.  Flat, easy, with no real challenges, and it runs alongside the Little River.

You cross Little River about three times before beginning the ascent up to North Twin Mountain.  At the final water crossing, the last reliable water source before the Guyot Shelter, it was time to fill the water bottles. 

The route takes a fairly pronounced turn to the west as it heads up towards North Twin mountain. For the most part, this is your basic White Mountains trail consisting of roots, rocks, and mud.  Lots and lots of mud on this trip.  I always take special notice and appreciation of the man-made stairs and ladder sections and wonder how much work it must have taken to create these so deep in the woods.
The summit of North Twin is supposed to have decent views, not as good as South Twin, but on this day, the cloud cover was doing it's best to hide a lot of what normally can be viewed from here.

That white spot in the middle left in the photo above is the AMC Galehead Hut within close proximity to both Mount Galehead, which I summited this past summer, and South Twin, which I would be summiting shortly after taking this photo.

The hike between the peaks was short, about a mile, and actually quite easy.  It looks a lot like this...

Once you start to break through the shrubs, you can just barely make out the first of a bunch of boulders on the top of South Twin Mountain.

Now on the summit of South Twin, the views in one direction weren't all that bad, still a lot of clouds, but still a great view!

The views in the direction (south) that I would be heading, not so clear...

Leaving the summit of South Twin, I would be taking the Twinway trail (also the Appalachian Trail) towards the Bond Cliff trail and the Guyot Shelter.  This is a great section of White Mountain trail.  Super scenic, some ups, downs, a little of everything in here, including more mud.  

The next stop would be at the Guyot Campsite to drop my gear off, and claim a tent platform, and then head to Mount West Bond in hopes of catching a good sunset from the peak.  The Appalachian trail continues left at the junction of the Bond Cliff trail. I would be headed that way on Saturday, towards Mt. Zealand, but for this day, it was onto to the Bond Cliff trail, and the Guyot Campsite. 

I arrived at the campsite, choose a vacant platform and got everything set up and ready so that when I returned in the dark after sunset, there would be nothing left to do except slip into the sleeping bag.  My five-star accommodations for the night.

With camp set up, it was time for what would turn out to be the highlight of the weekend. Not only would this be some redemption from not being able to get to West Bond two years earlier, but I would be on a mountain peak for sunset for the first time ever. Upon arriving at the peak, the views towards the Franconia Ridge were completely cloud covered. However, the view to the east, was completely open. The view of Bond Cliff and the Bond Cliff trail with the late afternoon sun was spectacular! I was the only hiker on the peak to see this. 

And the view in between Bond Cliff and West Bond was a mix of cloud cover, with little pockets of sun and views of the valley below with some nice fall color peaking through.

About 30 minutes after I arrived, I was joined by a few more groups on the summit who all had the same hopes of sunset that night. Prior to anyone else showing up, I wasn't completely alone. As the night went on, the clouds got much thicker.  In addition to any views to the west still being totally blocked by clouds, the views of Bond Cliff and the eastern side were now completely gone once the other hikers started showing up. For anyone that's ever been on a peak waiting for a view, sometimes you only have to wait a matter a minutes for things to drastically change.   On this night, not only did the skies start to clear up, but they did so in a way that lead to another first for me. I had never witnessed undercast before this night. If you've never seen undercast from a mountain peak, stop reading this blog, go get a warm coat and drive to the mountains right now and hope you see it, I promise it will be worth the effort!  Here is Mount Garfield just starting to peak through the undercast.

A few minutes later, Lafayette started to show itself.

Then, the best parts of the night started to take form. The undercast continued to lower, exposing more and more peaks. The clouds under the undercast continued to disappear, exposing more of the valleys below. This was all happening while the sun continued to set, casting more warm light over the entire scene. 

What happened next could not be properly captured by any camera. The naked eye was the only way to truly appreciate this, but the clouds cleared enough to perfectly silhouette the ridge line just as the sun was dropping behind Mount Lincoln. 

As soon as the sun dropped completely behind the ridge, everyone left. I was once again alone on the peak.  Throughout this amazing show to the west, the east view remained completely clouded in. And, just like earlier, no more than 10 minutes after everyone left, all the skies opened up again in every direction.  This is an almost 360 degree video of how clear it was up there.

The following photos were taken as the sun finally went down for good.

Two more hikers showed up just before the show ended and took my picture with the amazing backdrop of Lafayette and Garfield.

After an easy headlamp walk back to the campsite, and some gear and clothing preparations for the next morning, I was in the tent and asleep by about 8:30pm.  That completed a roughly 9-1/2 mile day, with three more 4000 footers reached along with the best sunset views I could have ever asked for. The alarm was set for 4:30am, the forecast was for clear skies all day on Saturday.  The next morning, I would be off to Mt Guyot in the dark for some epic sunrise mountain pictures.

Up at 4:30, packed up and on the trail out of Guyot by 5:30.  I could see the moon, but I could also hear the wind and see lots of clouds blowing by really fast. But I remembered just hours earlier how quickly the clouds can disappear and offer amazing views, so I kept hiking. This was another first. Hiking alone, in the dark, in the White Mountains. Just as I broke above tree line, and struggled to walk even 20-30 yards without being knocked over, it quickly became obvious to me that this wasn't going to end up being the sunrise I had anticipated.  The wind was really blowing, the clouds were wet, and the temps were cold! It looked like this...

New plan: Don't die.  I decided to come back down below tree line again and wait for daylight.  I had to eventually walk through this, but I didn't have to do it in the dark and risk getting blown off the trail -  a trail that I couldn't see.  After enough daylight had arrived, I returned up the trail and was able to more confidently negotiate this weather. Still, it wasn't exactly a walk in the park.

Less than a mile later, I was on the AT again, and over the peak to the eastern side and free of any wind and bad weather. It was time to head towards Zealand.  What a difference a few miles can make in the trail conditions.

There are no views from the summit of Zealand, but there is this cool little clearing and summit cairn. 

My next stop would be to take in the views at Zeacliff. I had read many times that this spot was well worth checking out.  Prior to arriving at the cliff, I took a quick spur trail down to Zeacliff Pond, checking off another mountain pond of my list.

It was worth the 1/10th of mile walk down to the boggy shoreline.  I had hopes of seeing a moose knee-deep in the pond eating vegetation, but that didn't materialize. Back to the trail, and to the Zeacliff lookout.  If you're ever on this trail, do yourself a favor and follow the small signs for this gem of a view. The viewpoint is a few feet from the main trail, and offers incredible views!

Oh, and just so you know, there's plenty more mud on the way to this viewpoint. I have mentioned to a few friends that I think I only stepped on about four dry rocks over the 21 miles along this route. 

Prior to reaching the junction of the Lend A Hand Trail, which would be my route to Mt. Hale, I stopped for a few quick captures of the stream and Zealand falls

I was making decent time, even with my 30 minute delay waiting for daylight at the beginning of this day, and decided to stop at the Zealand hut to rest my feet and legs and eat a relaxed lunch.  A bottle of cold water, some cold, left-over egg/bread/vegetable thing from the hut, and a 2-day old squished turkey sandwich. I swear, this all tasted like a gourmet meal at this stage.

After a short break, and my amazing lunch, it was time for the final push to Mt. Hale.  The Lend a Hand Trail was really beautiful. A slow, easy rise in elevation through the open woods, dark woods, wet areas (more mud!) and eventually a tough, fairly steep final 1/2 to 3/4 mile stretch to the summit.  Despite feeling like I just could not get to the summit, the beginning sections were really pleasant and scenic to walk through.

Finally, FINALLY! The summit was in sight!

The summit of Hale has no views, unless you're 7' tall and stand on the top of the largest summit cairn I've ever seen! There used to be a fire tower on this summit and only the old cement and supports remain.

One last trail... the dreaded Fire Wardens Trail.  The only trail that I've been lost on in all my hikes and trips to the White Mountains. The ease to follow this trail, without snow on the ground, was mind blowing.  Without following previous footprints or having an accurate GPS with this trail on it, following it in the winter is next to impossible. Following it on this day, was as easy as any other trail I did all weekend. The birch glades of the Fire Warden Trail are just as awesome with or without snow as a backdrop.

The Fire Wardens Trail joins back up with the North Twin trail and it was less than a mile back to the truck. The last step at the truck completed an 11-1/2 mile day, making for a total of 21 miles over the two days. Those days includes lots of firsts for me, including a sunset experience that I'll never forget. The trip also resulted in reaching peaks 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35 out of 48. If all goes as planned, it will take only eight more hikes to reach those last 13 peaks. My next hike is already planned, and the weather watch has started.  Until then, I'll be reliving the memories of my first solo backpacking trip, that sunset, all that damn mud, and finally reaching the two peaks which had eluded me the most. 

(Dean Cerrati Photography) appalachian trail backpacking franconia ridge hike hike the whites new hampshire nh48 sunset west bond white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:46:40 GMT
Go west, young man Flash back a little under two years ago, a friend and I were talking about the fact that before we know it, we'll both be turning 50, and we should do something really special.  Vegas? Nah, been there, done that. How about a hunting trip? Sure.... but where, and for the what type of game? Deer hunt? Nah, we do that all the time.  Mule Deer hunt? Maybe. Hey, what about an elk hunt out west somewhere? Perfect idea, lets do it. 

The planning phase

Making the decision to 'go out west somewhere on an elk hunt' is a short statement followed by lots of planning. Elk can be found from New Mexico to Washington and beyond. Each state offering an overwhelming amount of choices for how to hunt to them.  Do we choose a hunt that requires traversing deep into the mountains on horseback and staying at a remote spike camp for a week, or, do we stay at a lodge and take day trips to our hunting locations returning to a lodge every night? No surprise, I wanted nothing to do with any horses. And, we both wanted nothing to do with sleeping on a cot, in a tent, with no shower for a week.  After some online searches of our own, and discussions with a few others that have done similar hunts, we had a better idea of what we were looking for, and ultimately ended up booking at hunt through Worldwide Trophy Adventures, or WTA TAGS. They take a lot of the legwork and guess work out of booking a trip, applying for licenses and tags. Most importantly, they work directly with hundreds of previously-vetted outfitters. Once we finished sifting through their various recommendations, we choose to hunt with Colorado Trophies, in southwestern Colorado. 

The preparation phase

With the planning completed and the trip booked, it was now time get ourselves ready. We both do our best to eat well, and stay in relatively good shape, but an elk hunt would require us to really ramp that up.  Every single website we researched, outfitter we spoke to, or magazine article we read all stated one thing as the most important factor in having a successful and enjoyable elk hunt - be in the best shape of your life.  We had one year to do so. We joked about being 'elk-ready' and in 'elk-shape' for while. However, as the date got closer, the joking ended and our commitment level increased. By the time we flew out to Colorado, we hadn't missed a single day in the gym or working out in some way for over 6 months, and we'd collectively lost 32lbs. We agreed that we were about as ready as we can be. The one thing we couldn't directly train for would be the altitude, but we had a plan for that, too.

The day finally arrives

What once seemed like a date in the far off distance, was all of sudden upon us. After a few anxious days wondering whether our pre-shipped gear would arrive on time, we received the confirmation that our boxes were safely delivered and waiting for us at the lodge.  The only thing left to do was to wake up early on Sept 9th, and get on the plane. We would be flying direct to Denver, and then driving straight to Vail. This had everything to do with getting acclimated to altitude and nothing at all to do with Vail Oktoberfest 2018. This is the only picture from Oktoberfest that needs to be shared.  Me... and a bratwurst sandwich.

Now, back to getting altitude acclimated. The following morning, we headed to the ski mountain to get in a quick 3 mile hike to see how this whole altitude thing really felt while hiking. I noticed it almost immediately upon ascending up the trail, and several times throughout the hike.  I was VERY tired, quickly. Obviously this had everything to do with altitude and nothing at all to do with a mis-remembered amount of German beers from the night before.  The scenery on this hike would only begin to prepare us for what we were in store for this week, but it was absolutely beautiful.  If the drive on Route 70 from the airport to Vail didn't convince us, this short hike surely did, we definitely were no longer in Massachusetts.

That image above represents the first ever mule deer (doe, and fawn just to the right) that either of us had ever seen before. A great way to end our time in Vail, and head off to hunting camp.  We returned to the car, and started the most amazing and scenic 4-1/2 hour drive I've ever taken. Our views through the Glenwood Canyon portion of Route 70 would be the highlight of the drive.  We arrived at camp late in the afternoon on Monday. Colorado Trophies hosts hunters at Wing Shadow Ranch, in Norwood, CO.

These photos below represents the view you get from the backside of this awesome log cabin lodge. Mountains in every direction.  And each and every morning, and dusk, those grasslands are full of mule deer. 

We spent the first few hours getting to know the other hunters, guides, chefs and hosts in camp, and getting our gear and belongings settled into our room. A short time later, we went through an informative orientation session on not only the lodge itself, but most importantly - elk hunting. Just about every hunter in camp (seven of us) had never hunted elk before.  Once orientation was over, it was time for dinner. This would be our first, and certainly not last, taste of what chef Jeff was going to provide us this week.  Our first night's dinner would be perfectly prepared filet, with creme brulee for dessert.  It sure seemed like a huge meal so late at night, and so different from basically eating like a bird for months in preparation for the trip.  Little did we know how much we'd need every single one of those calories. Our guide Jim instructed us that we would be going on an all day hunt the next day to a place known as Little Cone.  About an hour drive from the lodge.  We would be up early for breakfast and need to be out the door around 4:45am.

Day one: 'Little Cone'

There would be four of us on this day. Myself, my buddy, our guide Jim, and apprentice guide Michael. We arrived at 'Little Cone' (a mountain peak in this general area) in the dark, got our gear on, and our guide said "You guys ready? Let's go." For the next two miles, we walked with headlamps on down an old dirt road at a pace that was just shy of jogging.  Oh, and we were already at about 9000ft above sea level to begin. At the end of the 2-mile jaunt, we entered the woods, and started UP. With early sunlight now replacing the light from our headlamps, our guide let out the first bugle of the morning.  And then we heard it, about 30 seconds later, a bull elk answered back.  Very far away, but it was an answer, and the first elk bugle either of us had ever heard.  I wish I got a picture of our wide eyes and the excited looks on our faces at the sound of that bugle.  With the sun now just above the horizon, and our hunting party trying to close the distance with that bull, we entered a huge hillside meadow.  About half way up the meadow, we stopped so Jim could once again bugle to the elk off in the distance. I was lucky enough to time this moment just right by getting into position for a picture with the great view in the background. It was one of the first pictures I took on the hunt, and remains one of my favorites.

As if that view wasn't stunning enough, it looked like this when I turned around and looked behind me.

We would hear that elk, and a few others, on this day with only a quick sighting of some cows (female elk). Here's an image that will give you a sense of the terrain and how steep it really can be. Notice how everyone is walking on their toes.

What we learned about elk hunting is that you typically do not hunt them much in the middle of the day.  The winds are too unpredictable, and the elk are generally less responsive. The risk of scaring them out of the area due to swirling scent far exceeds the chance of getting one to answer and come to your calling.  So, what do you do when you're about 7 miles from the truck around 11am....

Yep!  Hammock time!  After we all sat together and ate some amazing sandwiches prepared for us that morning at the lodge, we each set up a hammock in the woods and caught up on some much needed sleep and some much needed rest for weary legs and feet!

My buddy quickly got the hang of it...

This day would end, in the dark, back on that 2-mile long slog on the dirt road back to the truck.  In total, we would hike/hunt 14-3/4 miles and arrive back at the lodge close to 10pm.  Just enough time to eat dinner, shower, get to bed and do it all over again the next morning. Here's a few more views from our first day hunting in Colorado.

Day two: Morning hunt, 'Craven Creek'

On our second morning, we ventured to a new location referred to as 'Craven Creek'. On this day we would once again be hunting with our assigned guide, Jim, and we would have another apprentice guide with us today - Josh. This location was a fantastic mix of dark woods, many grassy meadows and lots and lots of what Colorado elk country is know for, beautiful aspen trees. 

Whether it was aspen trees, pines, dark timber or meadows, this location really did have it all. 

Here's a great picture Josh captured as we made our way through another meadow early on that morning.

We saw a cow and calf elk early on this day, that responded to some of Jim's cow calls, but no bulls.  We went back to the truck and made our way to the cabin for another fantastic prepared lunch, and then headed out to our next hunting location.

Day two: Afternoon hunt, 'Hamilton Mesa'

I learned a lot on this trip.  For starters, I learned what a mesa is. And Hamilton Mesa was exactly as it was described to me.  A steep rise in the land with a generally flat top to it.  Here's a few from our vantage point on the mesa.  We spent a few hours glassing with our binoculars into the oak brush and aspen groves in the valley below.

Yes, those little black things in the bottom of the first photo are all cows.  Correction, cattle. All cows are cattle, but not all cattle are cows.  Like I said, I learned a lot on this trip.  We didn't see any elk at this location, but right at dusk, we did spot this big guy headed our way...

As we did each day we hunted, we hunted hard from dark to dark.  That means staying out hunting until it's dark, then starting our hike back to the truck.  This makes for many long hikes back in the dark, but it also makes for witnessing some of the most amazing sunsets I've ever watched.  On this evening, we could see the LaSal mountain range, in Utah, from our perch high on the mesa.

Day three: Morning hunt 'Groundhog Mountain'

On our third day, we would head to another new location, known as 'Groundhog Mountain'. These were big woods! Similar to our first location, but without any large expanses of aspens and open meadows, and far more dark, old timber mixed with smaller, protected grassy meadow areas.  We really took a liking to this spot. These woods also hold our record altitude for the week at 11,263 feet above sea level. We did hear a few bulls bugle back to us on this morning, again really far away, but as before, really exciting to hear!  We liked these woods, we liked the seclusion of this area, and we liked the potential to see a good elk here. About half way through our hunt, we did run into a few cows, a calf and a spike bull elk (too small to be legally taken).  This only added to how much we really did enjoy this particular spot.  As with every spot we went to on this trip, the scenery did not disappoint. 

As always, we arrived here in dark.  Our guide told us that the views on the drive in were some of the best in the area, and he was right.  Here's a few pictures I took on the drive back to the lodge for lunch that day.

Day three: Afternoon hunt, 'Cow Pasture'

As you can imagine, we were pretty tired and worn out by now. We had hiked and hunted over 32 miles by this point in the trip.  Many of those miles at about 10,000 feet. The elevation was definitely a factor for us. You would feel pressure in your chest, shortness of breath and it just seemed impossible to catch your breath a lot of times. Not too mention, 32 miles on our feet, with gear and packs, and mostly over difficult, rugged terrain.  The Cow Pasture location was about to add to this exhaustion.  During our morning hunt at Groundhog Mountain, the temps were in the 30's, and we had frost on some of the grasses.  When we began our ascent to the specific section of aspens we'd be hunting this afternoon, it was in the upper 80's.  We started the initial hike in t-shirts and sunglasses across slightly under four miles of, you guessed it, a cow pasture.

That tiny patch of woods at the very top middle of the picture above would be where we would begin the hunt.  The views behind us, really do look fake in pictures and even in person.

In order to get to that tiny patch of trees in the first image, we would first need to navigate up those hills and through many herds of free-range cattle. It's one thing to run into these things in the daylight, quite another to be dodging them when we would hike out in the dark at the end of a hunt.  

Once we made it to that distant patch of trees, it was nothing but aspens as far as you could see.

We did see a few mule deer in this location, but no elk. Now, about those sore feet and legs. This would 'only' be about a 6 mile hunt on this afternoon. However, the final 3 miles were severely downhill, and in the dark and through some extremely uneven terrain. Needless to say, this hike would take it's toll on us the next morning. Prior to realizing the true pain though, we were once again treated to another amazing sunset on the walk back to the truck. That super tiny white spec in the middle of the picture below, is the truck.

Day four: Back to Groundhog Mountain

It had been a slow week in camp for everyone, and especially for us.  We hadn't seen many elk, yet we'd certainly put the miles in.  We decided to go back to a spot that we not only enjoyed being in, but we did see four elk at and had a few bugle to us the day prior. This time, it would be another all day hunt, and yes, you guessed it, that means pack the sandwiches and hammocks!  We didn't run into any more elk on this day. To be honest, as much as I claimed to really not care if I got an elk on this trip or not, after the first day, it really became a secondary priority of mine.  I still hunted hard, hiked far and really high, but the scenery, the physical challenge of the hunt, the physical challenge of the terrain, getting to know our guide and the other guys in camp that week quickly all took over as most important. Here's a few more pictures from this beautiful location.

This log, is not a log... this is a picnic bench in the woods. This would be our lunch spot, very close to wear the hammocks would be set up on this day.

Day five: Final day of the hunt, 'Goat Creek', here we come

Much like our strategy at Hamilton Mesa, our initial strategy at this location would be to wait for the sun to come up and glass into the valleys from an elevated position.  The best parts about this spot, it was really close to the lodge which meant we could 'sleep in', and the walk from the truck to our perch, was only about a 5 minute walk!  Once the sun came up, the views were amazing!

We didn't see any elk from here, so we headed down into the valleys and up a few of the hills in search of them. A great view from this morning...
That mountain in the background is Lone Cone, and that side of the mountain that appears to have slid off is known as The Devils Chair. Here's a close up.
Also in this location, we came across an old sheep herders cabin and possible his old Ford.
I didn't get an elk on this trip, I only had one semi-close encounter on the final day, and I could honestly care less.  This was the hardest thing I've ever done. Our final total for the 5 days of hunting would be just over 60 miles. About 50 of which were either straight up or straight down. The teamwork and camaraderie developed in camp over the course of the week, the amazing meals, the scenery, watching our guide work his butt off for us, while simultaneously making it extremely enjoyable all combined to truly make this the trip of a lifetime. Colorado, I will be back.


(Dean Cerrati Photography) 50th birthday adventure birthday Colorado elk elk hunting get outside hike hiking hunt hunting mountains Rocky Mountains San Juan Mountains the west west Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:46:31 GMT
Two for thirty! On Sunday, September 2nd, I continued with my quest to hike all of New Hampshire's 4000' peaks by summiting Wildcat D and Wildcat A, peaks number 29 and 30 out of 48 for me.  Along the route, I also reached the peaks of Wildcat E, C and B, but only the A and D peaks count as official 4000 footers. 

When choosing which trails to take and which route to complete my hikes, I prefer loop hikes or at least some percentage of not doing a literal out-and-back on the same exact trail. I also really enjoy visiting mountain ponds and lakes whenever possible as they tend to provide amazing photo opportunities, as well as a welcome break to ascending and descending over countless boulders that is hiking in The Whites. I've previously visited Lonesome Lake, Garfield Pond, Star Lake and Greeley Ponds to name a few. On this hike, I would be incorporating Lost Pond, and the Lost Pond trail at the beginning of the hike. 

After just having completed my Owl's Head hike only 8 days ago, knowing how long of a ride it was for this Wildcat hike and concerned about having to deal with holiday weekend crowds, I have to admit, I came very close to canceling this hike. However, with such a perfect mountain forecast (rare!), and no real opportunity to hike again before mid-October, I decided to stick to the plan. The sound of the 3:15am alarm had me quickly rethinking that plan!  But, I did manage to get myself up, have the truck packed and be on the road by about 3:40am. 

As I got closer to White Mountains, the clouds really started to thicken. Visibility was getting worse, and it even started to sprinkle as I drove through Franconia Notch.  Then, as only it can seem to do in The White Mountains, I turned onto Rt. 3, and was greeted by blue skies, and a rising sun that was casting some great light for the rest of the ride to the trailhead.

Upon arriving at the Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch, I was actually surprised to find the lot just down the street only had a few cars in it. The first big benefit of getting up stupid early. After a quick walk down the road to the trailhead to Lost Pond, it took no time at all to see the real benefits of that 3:15am alarm. This was the view just as the trail starts across from the lodge along a small swampy area. You can still make out Rt. 16 in this picture.  

You soon enter the woods and start a silent hike up to (yes, up to) Lost Pond.  At one point, as you're going up a small incline, you can see the opening to the trees in front of you and know that the pond lies ahead.  The views that I had from the pond were some of the best I've had on any hike.  Completely calm waters, perfect early morning light, and clear skies. That 3:15am alarm was now the best thing that could have happened. I have said this before, but these photos do not do these views any justice at all.  They really were much better in person. 

I spent at least 30 minutes walking the eastern banks of this pond, shooting tons of images with Mt. Washington and the northern presidential range reflecting in the calm waters. This one above was my favorite from the morning. I also brought along a small zoom lens and was able to capture some close ups including this one of Huntington Ravine. 

I was honestly in no hurry to leave this beautiful spot, but I had miles of difficult hiking ahead of me, and the roughly mile long hike on the Lost Pond trail was also my warm up for the next trail - The Wildcat Ridge Trail.  This trail is known for climbing steeply and quickly right off the start, and that it did. Just after turning left at the intersection with the Lost Pond Trail the real hike starts!


While this was one of the more difficult trails I've ever hiked, I distinctly remember saying out loud "I love this trail!".  This was true for two reasons. One, I had read so much about how difficult this trail was,  I think I had convinced myself it would actually be dangerous - it wasn't.  And two, the views! Many sections of this trail are far better described as rock climbing, not hiking.  However, after just about every one of those sections, you ended up on a lookout of some sort that offered views that are on par with those from Garfield, and the Bonds and the Franconia Ridge.  As you can see below, difficult rock scramble to the right (yes, that's the trail), and amazing view off to your left. 

And your reward for completing the latest hard section....

After some time spent speechless at this particular view, it was on to the next difficult section of trail. The camera can't really replicate how steep this is... trust me!

Yet, as much as this trail takes out of you, the views continue to give back.

One final scramble up these wooden steps embedded into the rock leads to a ledge with the best views so far of this hike.

From the point at which I turned left onto the Wildcat Ridge Trail, it is only about 1.5 miles to the summit of Wildcat D. Just before reaching the summit, the trail exists the woods to a small clearing where the top of the gondola ride from the ski area drops people off. This next photo was taken with the gondola ride just off to my right.

It is a very short walk from where this picture was taken to the lookout tower on the summit of Wildcat D. Once again, the views did not disappoint.

 The summit was really busy with gondola riders so I only stayed here long enough to take a few pictures, and take a quick drink.  It was time to make my way to the second peak of the day, Wildcat A.  As much as there is written on the difficulty of the trail between the trailhead and this first summit, I honestly found the stretch between the two summits to be worse.  Immediately after leaving the lookout tower the trail starts off with an extremely steep downhill section, and for the next 2.5 miles the trail alternates from severely up to severely down over and over.

While mostly a wooded hike between the summits...

...there are several sneak-peak views along the way, such as this one of Mt. Adams.

Once at the summit of Wildcat A, there's a small ledge with a straight down view of the Carter Notch Hut. I was lucky enough to arrive just in time to snap this picture. Five minutes later, and for the next 30 minutes that I stayed on the ledge, the clouds in this valley never cleared again.  (3:15am alarm pays off again)

After resting my feet, eating my lunch, and enjoying the ledge, I made my way back to Wildcat D to start my descent on the Pole Cat ski trail. This trail is the outer most trail down Wildcat ski mountain.  In the summer, it's as wide as a road, covered in wildflowers, and has constant views with every step you take.

On this day, I was lucky enough to be here at a time when the monarch butterflies were everywhere!  While this ski trail seemed to be an easier way down, and something different, from the Wildcat Ridge Trail I ascended on, it is not easy on the feet or legs. Every single step you take is down. Which, makes sense, it's a ski trail, can't exactly have any flat or even small uphill sections. So, while constantly needing to take a break, mostly to stare at these views, but also to really give my feet some relief, I would just sit on the ground and let the monarchs land around me.  It made for some great photo opportunities I hadn't planned on at all.

I eventually made my way to the bottom, filled my now empty water bottle inside Wildcat Lodge, and began the slow mile-long road walk back to my truck. One other experience I had on this hike worth mentioning.  The Wildcat Ridge Trail is also the Appalachian Trail. And, at this time of year, in the northern presidential range, there's a good chance you'll cross paths with a thru-hiker. On this day, I ran into three of them - all destined for Mt Katahdin in Maine. The finishing point for any north-bound thru-hiker. It was amazing how excited they all were to 'only' have a little over 300 miles left to complete their journey. I also found it somewhat justifying that while I was catching my breath at around mile 5 for me, they confirmed that the NH section of their 1800 plus miles was by far the most difficult they've experienced. 

Once back at the truck, I decided there's no way to make an almost 4 hour ride home go by quickly. So, I stopped for a well-earned dinner, and took a scenic route back through the Kancamagus back to Rt. 93.  Not the fastest way, but absolutely the most enjoyable.

It's not too often you're thrilled to have woken up around 3am, but on this day, I was beyond thankful that I did.  

30 down... 18 to go.

(Dean Cerrati Photography) hike hike the whites mt. washington new hampshire nh48 pond presidential presidential range reflection views white mountains wildcats Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:46:14 GMT
Not all owls are cute! If you're attempting to reach the summit of all New Hampshire's 4000 footers, at some point, you'll need to hike Owl's Head. I've heard that many people wait to do it last. I've heard to just do it and get it over with.  I've heard "ugh, I'll never do that one again". I've heard, "there are no views, and you'll hate it, but you gotta get it done at some point."  Not exactly encouraging words for what is easily the longest hike for any peak on the list at slightly over 18 miles (without taking any bushwhack trails).

But, as stated above... at some point, I gotta do it.  There are optimal times, in my opinion, to tackle this peak. The classic route, which I would be taking, has 4-6 water crossings. Most are easy, yet at least two can be waist deep and downright dangerous depending on water level and recent rainfall. Also, while the vast majority of this hike is very to fairly flat, it's still 18+ miles.  For me, amount of daylight plays a role in the strategy. I figured August had the best mix of potentially lower water levels, and still long enough days to make it as good as time as any to get this one done. 

On Saturday, August 25th, I arrived at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center parking lot nice and early - around 6:40am.  LOT FULL. I would be parking down the street about 1/4 mile from the lot.  Great... added distance already and I haven't even left the truck!

After gearing up, and road-walking it to the trailhead, I eventually arrived at the 'gate' to the Lincoln Woods trail.  Many people know this bridge as the beginning of the death march.  The Lincoln Woods trail is as flat as they come, and as monotonous as they come for approximately 3 miles.  The bridge is the beginning of so many hikes (Flume, Owl's Head, Bonds, Pemi Loops) which is why so many people fill this lot, and so many people know this view.  

The next thing you see, shortly after crossing the bridge and turning right, is this.

And you see this for what feels like 100 miles.  The trail goes on and on and on and on and on.  To be fair, there are a few really nice river and distant mountain views along the way.

After a little over 3 miles of sameness... you arrive at another bridge. Which, depending on which way you're going, is either the end of the monotony or beginning. Although, the immediate trails beyond this point represent more of the same, only different.

At the other end of this bridge, I would be taking the Franconia Brook trail for a little over 1-1/2 miles, to the Lincoln Brook trail for approximately 3-1/2 miles, to the Owl's Head slide trail for approximately 1 mile to the summit, then retracing those steps for the return trip.

Soon enough, it would be time for the first major water crossing.  I had invested in a cheap pair of water shoes specifically for this hike.  It just seemed easier and not worth risking wet shoes (and therefore blisters) and especially on the way in.  Surprisingly, the water was quite refreshing to wade through. Never really any worse than knee-deep across this first crossing. 

The rest of the way, this trail stays close to the water, and I probably passed at least a dozen perfect White Mountains swimming holes, like this one. Deep, clear pools, perfect for relaxing and cooling off on a hot day.

After one last rock-hopped stream, and a short hike, you'll arrive at the beginning of the Owl's Head Slide Trail.  It's not marked by much, but there is a new bear warning sign at the entrance to the trail now.

Within yards of this cairn, the trail immediately begins to climb, and do so steeply!  The steep trail lasts about 3/4 of mile, and is extremely challenging over very loose scree rock even with the occasional mini stream running down the middle of it, just to make things that much more interesting.

For a more detailed look at the footing on this trail, look no further than this picture.  This represents what 90% of your steps will be trying to grip to. I quickly realized why it's called the slide trail.

Now, back to all those comments that Owl's Head has no views.  Sure... Owl's head summit has no views. However, as miserable as that slide trail is, if you just turn around, you'll see this...

Not only is this a great view, but it's a very unique view of the east-facing side of the Franconia Ridge.  I was very pleasantly surprised at how great this view really was.

Finally, after about an hour of strenuous climbing and sliding (and swearing), the trail does eventually flatten out at the site of the old summit, leaving about a 1/4 mile to the real summit.

And then, after over 9 miles of hiking, crossing streams and rivers, looking over your shoulder for bears, climbing straight up the slide trail, you are rewarded with this incredible summit!

Yep... that's it.  The summit of Owl's Head in all its glory.  However, I have to admit, I didn't think I could be so happy to see 10-12 rocks stacked on top of each other!  The summit of Owl's Head is listed as being 4025 feet above sea level.  While holding my new watch about a foot or two over the summit marker, I'd say the watch is pretty well calibrated!

The hike back along the same route would prove fairly uneventful.  I'm not a huge fan of out and back hikes, I greatly prefer loop hikes, but that's not an option for Owl's Head (at least not that I'm aware of).  I do make sure to try to notice things I didn't see on the way in, or spend some more time along the stream in certain spots knowing I was doing good on time and daylight.  I make sure to change my socks, take care of my feet, and I did spend a little longer wading through that stream on the way back.

Right before arriving back at the second bridge (first one on the way back), I was able to snap a photo of this red squirrel.  There's something about this section of the wilderness they must like because I saw a million of these little guys on this hike.

Once I arrived at the bridge, and began the 3+ mile hike back to the parking lot, I immediately met up with another hiker.  He was just coming down from the Bond Cliff trail and let me know he had been hiking since 2am, completing his third Pemi Loop hike (approximately 30 miles!!).  It sure did make my 18+ miles seem rather insignificant! However, talking with that other hiker saved me from walking that 3 mile stretch alone and focusing only on the pain my feet we were in!

As I had discussed with him when he asked me what I thought of Owl's Head, I honestly think it gets a much worse reputation than it deserves. And, I'll even add that Owl's Head appears to be that one hike, that has it all. Do you like long hikes?  Hike Owl's Head. Do you like water crossings? Hike Owl's Head. Oh, you love great views? Hike Owl's Head.  If you like solitude, a challenging hike in distance, and elevation gain, great swimming holes - hike Owl's Head.

Now, I won't be doing this hike again anytime soon, but I would love to do it again, and try the Black Pond trail route, or hike it with more water at the crossings, or have the confidence that I had the daylight left to relax and indulge in a few of those perfect natural swimming pools!  

Thank you, Owl's Head.  I'll definitely be back!

28 down..... 20 to go.....


(Dean Cerrati Photography) hike hike the whites new hampshire nh48 owls head Pemigewasset Wilderness white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:45:45 GMT
Muggy and buggy for #27 On July 2nd, with a forecast that seemed plenty good enough to commit to making the trip, I reached peak #27 out of 48 by summiting Mt. Whiteface in the Sandwich Range.

I primarily use Mountain-Forecast for deciding what to expect on the peak I'm planning on hiking.  This site is updated constantly, as the weather in the mountains changes so frequently, and it provides valuable data such as wind speed, direction, temperature and forecasted weather at elevation.  However, Mountain-Forecast does not supply relative humidity data, and of course there's no way for any site to predict how the bugs might be on any given day.  I can confirm that both were as bad as anything I've ever experienced, in the White Mountains, or anywhere. I can also confirm that their forecast of 'CLEAR' by 8am through 5pm wasn't exactly accurate either.

Here's how clear it was upon starting my hike around 7:30am.

As for the bugs... this next photo is the exact spot that I made the decision to start up my Thermacell (which actually works quite well). The problem being, in order to get it started, it meant stopping to remove my pack, insert the cartridge and turn it on. In those 3-5 minutes of kneeling and being stationary, I was probably bitten a minimum of two dozen times. I now believe the holes in this tree are actually made by the mosquitoes in this area, and not birds.

I would be taking the Blueberry Ledge trail all the way to the summit. The trail is listed as one the additional, elective trails on the Terrifying 25 list. For the first three-plus miles, I really didn't understand why or how it could be on the list - maybe because of the mosquitoes?  The trail looks like most other White Mountain trails. Roots, rocks, roots and rocks, more rocks, some steep, some not - nothing that really stood out to me as unique in any way. 

Typical White Mountains trail.

Prior to reaching the lower ledges, which are very easy to negotiate, especially compared to the upper section, I reached a point that offered a small view through the trees. This was as 'clear' as it would be on this entire hike. 

After seeing (or, not seeing) this view, and losing the constant bug battle, it became apparent that today's photo mission would need to shift from being one of sharing great views and vistas, to one of quickly snapping images of the details of the journey.  This is not necessary a bad thing at all.  These sort of days force me to enjoy the nuances of the trail, and other small details, that otherwise would be glossed over while seeking out the next best lookout.  As for lookouts, the first large ledge and real viewpoint you come to offered me the best view I would have on the entire hike.

Those distant clouds, very quickly filled the area for the rest of the day.  Shortly after leaving this spot, I could even see clouds slowly blowing through the trees on the wooded trail. 

Soon enough, after hiking through some much more challenging stretches, I arrived at that the section that earns this trial its place on the Terrifying 25 list. While not for very long, and probably why it's only an elective trail and not one of the actual 25 required trails, the severe angle and sheer rock ledges and rock scrambles made this one of the hardest lengths of trail I've hiked to date.  Photos will never do it justice, and stopping to take picture means more bites, but you can sort of get a sense from these pictures what you're in for if you choose this route. 

Dont slip.....

Once you clear these sections, the route to the summit is relatively easy.  Now... as for the summit. The actual summit cairn is NOT located near where my maps and GPS list the peak of this mountain. After walking in circles for close to 45 minutes searching for the summit marker, adding at least a mile to my total for the day, and a dozen or so more bites, I was able to find a spot with a cell signal and do a little research.  Apparently others have had the same issue and the actual summit cairn is located further down the Rollins trail towards Mt. Passaconaway.  A 3 hour drive (one way), about 8+ miles of round trip hiking, relentless mosquito insanity - all resulted in elation in reaching this little pile of white rocks.

A few images from the trail on the way back to the truck....

Just before arriving back to the parking lot, there's a short span of walking along the private dirt road.  For most of that way, these butterflies were making short flights from sun to shade to the grass edges   

Upon arriving back at the trailhead, and looking back to Mt. Whiteface, things were still very cloudy up there...

I've yet to reach one of these peaks without feeling as if I've earned it.  Some peaks much more than others. I've also yet to have a hike where I didn't see at least one thing that stood out as unique for that particular hike.  

Great views are not guaranteed nor even available on all 48 of these peaks. They are also not required in order for a hike to be considered 'great' or 'worth the effort'.  For me at least, my hike to Mt. Whiteface yesterday confirms that reality.  Now, back to scratching these bites!

(Dean Cerrati Photography) hike hike the whites Mt. Whiteface new hampshire nh48 Sandwich Range white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:45:32 GMT
Working overtime for #26 Around this time last year, I had just summited Mt Adams, and Mt Madison via the King Ravine Trail. (read that blog post here) After showing some friends the photos and telling my story of that hike, a few of them instantly said they would love to try it, and asked me to take them up there and I promised them I would.  On this seemingly insane quest for the 48 peaks, I've always vowed not to repeat a hike, until I've completed all 48.  I don't now how many more miles these knees have in them!

However, a promise is a promise (Forest Gump, 1994) and with the added (arguably selfish) goal to tag Mt. Jefferson after retuning with them to Adams, a date was selected and we set out early on the 27th to tackle the two northern presidential peaks. 

We do not live close to the Appalachia trailhead, so the 4am pick-up meant we began hiking a little before 7:30.

The first real photo opportunity on the Airline/Short Line trail route to the King Ravine trail is Mossy Falls.  The falls were as beautiful as I remembered them, and on this trip I decided to capture a shot a little further downstream from the actual falls.

As mentioned in my blog from my original King Ravine experience, the hike is fairly benign up until the falls. After a full refill of the water bottles in the freezing cold falls, within less than a minute, the warm up portion of this hike is over, and you begin some serious rock scrambling. 

Within a short distance, you have the option (which we all did) to scale up one of the largest boulders in the lower section, for a mind-blowing first real view of the ravine.

For those of you who recognize this view, you know that the real fun is about to begin. For those of you who do not, as myself and so many others have said, pictures do not do this trail justice.  It is steep, but it is a ton of fun.  It is one of the toughest challenges in The Whites, even if only for a short distance, but it is very rewarding. My second time up this trail and it did not disappoint.  My hiking companions killed it on this day, too. We made sure to take plenty of rest breaks on the way up, and most importantly, look behind us to take in the views.  My first time up this trail was a solo hike.  Using the timer on the camera, I was able to get a few shots of myself climbing up the headwall. On this day, I'd hike ahead and get some better pictures as they hiked up to meet my position. 

When you reach the top of the King Ravine trail, you technically arrive nowhere except a little over a 1/2 mile from the summit of Mt. Adams, or a little under a 1/2 mile from the AMC Madison Spring Hut. We didn't have any reason to head north towards Madison, so we made a bee line for the summit of Adams. The King Ravine trail will wear anyone out, and we were no different.  The slightly more than .6 miles to the summit of Adams was steady, but a little slow.  Slow enough to allow a great photo opportunity with Mt. Madison and Star Lake as the backdrop. 

Not long after that picture was taken, I turned more westward to get a view of the ravine we had just 'conquered'

Next, to the summit of Mt. Adams. New Hampshire's second tallest peak, at an elevation of over 5700' which, apparently is ideal if you're a moth, mosquito, black fly, regular fly or any other flying, swarming insect.  Needless to say, it was celebratory summit photo time, and then quickly time to the hike towards Jefferson with the bugs winning this virtual windless day.

The summit of Mt. Jefferson is just about 2 miles from the summit of Mt. Adams.  However, it looks and feels like so much more. In the photo above, that is Mt. Washington on the left, and Mt. Jefferson on the right.  In the photo below, after already descending quite a ways down Adams, Jefferson still appears to be much more than slightly less than 2 miles away. 

That white spec approximately in the center of the picture above, is one of the last remaining snow patches that linger on the Presidential Range.  Some time later, our chosen trail would pass right through the snow. 

On our approach to Jefferson, a look back at where we had just hiked from.  

We finally arrived and stood on the summit of Mt. Jefferson and made use of the self timer for their 3rd 4000 footer, and my 26th.

Our hike back to the truck would take us down Jefferson towards Edmunds Col, and eventually around to the Randolph Path, Gray Knob trail, Hincks Trail, Spur trail back to the Randolph path and eventually back to the Short Line and Airline trials.  On that return trip, the scenery is just amazing. 

One of the themes for today would be that even though it wasn't a washout, it was very humid and hazy.  So while you don't get those million dollar clear views on days like this, you do get great mountain layers type views all day long.  Such as these.

And the final image I took on this day with a touch of pink from the setting sun over these layers of mountains. Taken from the Gray Knob trail, a mile or so from the Gray Knob Cabin. 

If you're scratching your head and looking at a map and wondering if we're still a mile from the Gray Knob cabin at this time, and we need to get back to the Appalachia trailhead, that it's going to be dark before we get there - you'd be correct. I had under-estimated the timeframe on this hike. Between three GPS watches, several iphones, an online app and two paper maps, every device and measuring unit had our route at anywhere from 11.22 miles to 14.6 miles, most closer to the 14 mile mark. 

Needless to say, lots of lessons where learned on this day.  Having a pre-planned route with specific trails mapped out, having the ability to read a map and contour lines,  use a compass, trusting a GPS with confirmation of your paper map, having pre-planned water sources along the route, and having the necessary gear in case you do have to spend the night, all allowed us the confidence to swiftly move from trail to trail without one wrong decision. Sure it was headlamp time about an hour prior to reaching the truck, but we got back to exactly where we planned on, without a single error or injury along the way. 

The last lesson learned is pay attention to those WATCH FOR MOOSE signs. Only a few minutes after leaving the trailhead, it started to pour. And about 3 miles from the trailhead, a massive bull moose stepped onto to Rt 2 right in front of us.  We barely saw the black 1000+ pound animal in the darkness of night with the pouring rain.  A beautiful animal, but a car-wrecker for sure!

Twenty-six down.... twenty-two to go.


(Dean Cerrati Photography) Adams hike hike the whites Jefferson Layers Mountain Mt Mt. new hampshire nh48 Presidential Range white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:45:19 GMT
A classic February hike... in April On Saturday, April 21st, I attempted to summit my 25th New Hampshire 4000 footer.  I say 'attempted' because I didn't officially reach the summit. I decided to take a less-traveled, unmarked route via the Fire Warden's Trail because it was supposed to be more scenic.  I have nothing to compare it to, but with all the fresh snow from the last two nights, it was absolutely scenic! 

On the lower part of the hike, the snow was only about 3-5" deep of all fresh powder.  

There's a few large ledges along the route, this one was covered in ice.

One of the most talked about aspects of this route is a section referred to as the 'birch glades'. I didn't see any skiers today, but I can understand why it would be so amazing to hike up and ski down through here!!

As you can see, the snow was getting very deep, making the snowshoes a necessity for me now. There was only one other person on this route/trail today ahead of me and he didn't have snowshoes.  I followed his tracks exactly how he told me (we crossed paths on his way down), but I still wasn't able to locate the true summit. 

As I got closer to the peak, the snow depths were well over a foot, and covering every tree, branch and twig.  

Just as I was approaching the edge where there are some stunning views of the snow-covered presidentials, I came to this spot and would not have been surprised if Sam the Snowman came around the corner with Rudolph singing 'Silver and Gold'.

Now, on to those great views.  The mountain peak is said to have no views, a summit cairn in the middle of a small clearing surrounded by trees.  While this isn't the only peak without views, I'm amazed at how great the views are on some of these hikes from just below or off the summit.  A view is a view! Doesn't have to be from the official peak in my opinion.   That tallest peak in the middle/right is Mt Washington.  It was in and out of the clouds on this day, but I was able to catch of glimpse of the buildings and weather stations up there a few times. 

Someday, when just a few more of these dead trees give in to the brutal weather up here, this view is going to be even more breathtaking!

After searching multiple times, and not being able to follow the other hiker's tracks to the summit, I decided it was time to head down. The snow was very deep on top, I was the only one up there from what I could tell, my phone was dying, and the spruce traps were everywhere.  After one last attempt to walk in the direction that I could see where the summit had to be, but not being able to move through the snow and trees, I ended up back on my same tracks.  Doing an unintentional circle, alone, at approximately 4000' in close to 2 feet of snow was warning enough for me to call it, and give this peak a try some other day.  Defeated, but I knew it was the right thing to do.  

On the way back down, the top of this tree made me laugh a little. It immediately looked like Mt Hale was giving me the middle finger!

One last little peak of Mt Washington through the snow-caked pines...

Once back at the river, it was time to eat some food, refill the water bottle and take some pictures while waiting for the drops to treat the water.

The long, solo three hour ride home has both it's detriments, and benefits. While it was long enough to fuel my frustration and have me continuing to second guess my decision to abort the hike so close to the summit, it was also long enough to relax, and put the day in perspective.  I've always wanted to see 'The Whites' immediately following a fresh snow.  I've always wanted to do a hike where I didn't run into another person all day. (close enough, only saw one on this day).  And, most importantly, Mt Hale is still there.  I can hike it again another day in totally different weather, with totally different conditions for a totally different experience. (and cross it off the list this time!)


(Dean Cerrati Photography) hike hike the whites mt hale new hampshire nh48 white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:43:33 GMT
It's all downhill from here! (plus a LOT more uphill) It's official.  I have successfully summited 24 of the 48 peaks on the list of New Hampshire's 4000 footers. On Saturday, March 24th, after reaching the summit of Mt. Waumbek, I had exactly as many peaks remaining, as I had now previously stood on. 

This is an unusual time of year in the White Mountains. If you were to look anywhere around you, there's still plenty of snow.  It seemed as though every other vehicle on the ride up in the morning was either a truck with a snow mobile trailer, or a vehicle with skies on the roof.  There were even light flurries as I approached the trailhead.  Yet. as of around noon time on Tuesday March 20th, it is actually no longer winter. Gone are hikers trying to complete or add to their official Winter 48 lists. Combine that, with Waumbek not being one of the most popular hikes on the list, and as I arrived at the winter parking lot across from the trailhead, I was only the third vehicle in at 7:30am.  This time of year is void of the deep greens and rushing streams of spring, the variety of colorful flowers, mushrooms and lushness of summer, and the vibrant colors of autumn. Knowing this, and that the views on this hike would be somewhat limited, I made the decision early on to focus on photographing and sharing this experience entirely in black and white. 

As you leave the winter lot, and walk the short distance down Rt 2 to Starr King Road, this is the view of the snow-covered, presidential range looming in the background. 

Thankfully, the trail had been previously broken out, and it was mostly well-packed down the entire journey.  I did wear the snowshoes the entire time, partly to assist with continuing to improve the trail, and partly to not carry them! While the sun was in a battle with the clouds all day, the early morning sun angle made for some great long shadows and light coming through the forest. 

At one point along the trail, before reaching the summit of Mt. Starr King, I finally found where all the warmer weather must be!

Even though this area hasn't had a significant snowfall in days, the snow depths and amount of snow still clinging to the trees would make you think otherwise. This photo was taken shortly before reaching the summit of Mt. Starr King. (Mt. Starr King is not on the official NH 4000 footer list but offers stunning views of the presidential range and immediate area)

I was fortunate enough to be at the viewpoint from Mt. Starr King early enough before the clouds really rolled in. The snow-covered, presidential range and the low clouds hanging over each of them, feel incredibly close. After only a few minutes of being there, as seems to always happen in The Whites, the clouds covering Mt. Washington parted enough to be able to see the peak, and various weather apparatus. (far middle/right of photo)

Just to the left of where I'm standing in the photo above, there's the remnants of an old fireplace from a shelter that used to be on this piece of property.

And, just to the right of the fireplace, in case you weren't sure which way to proceed....

When I reached the actual summit of Mt. Waumbek, as well as the lookout point just a short way down the trail past the summit, the clouds had really taken over any views that might have been there. On my hike back, I noticed the interesting texture on one of the many yellow painted trail blaze marks. Throughout the return journey back to the truck, I made it a point to try to capture some images of other interesting blaze marks, unique tree barks, and an example of the moss that wraps itself around so many of the trees in this area. 

I know Mt. Waumbek doesn't get the praise and notoriety of many of the other well-known hikes on the list. However, if you take a moment to simply enjoy the beauty on the ride to the trailhead, take in the views from its neighbor, Mt. Starr King, and make an effort to focus on the details during the entire hike, I think you'll enjoy this one as much as I did.  

(Dean Cerrati Photography) black and white hike hike the whites mt starr king mt waumbek new hampshire nh48 white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:43:17 GMT
Solo hike to Mount Hancock and South Hancock Entering 2018, I needed to summit 28 more peaks in order to reach my goal of hiking all 48 of New Hampshire's 4000 footers, before turning 50 in March of 2019. I successfully summited the smallest of the peaks, Mount Tecumseh, in January, and on this day, my sights would be set on Mount Hancock, and the unofficially named "South" Hancock peaks. 

As I have done many time in the past, I would be hiking solo on this day.  I get asked a lot why I would ever hike alone. Most question the decision primarily from a standpoint of safety, and others simple wonder if I'll be bored or miss the opportunity to share the experience. When looking over all the peaks I've reached so far, I've done just about half of them as solo hikes. And while I absolutely loved the hikes I did with others, and will definitely do more of them in the future, solo hiking (for me) has some advantages I've yet to find when hiking with another person or in a group.  When I solo hike, I hike at my own pace.  I'm not the fastest hiker on the trails, and combined with numerous stops for photos, not having to worry about keeping up with someone adds to my enjoyment of the day.  Once reaching a summit, or a lookout point, deciding how long to stay, regardless of conditions, is solely my own decision. Lastly, as I would do numerous times on this hike, just stopping and listening and sometimes even closing my eyes and resting my head on my hands and trekking poles - can be done whenever I feel like it. This quest for the NH48 patch, can make a person focus on nothing except crossing another peak off the list.  I've read about, and talked to plenty of other hikers who, like me, constantly find themselves having to consciously stop... and enjoy the journey.  My first, second, and even third hike - this was all I did.  Then I heard about 'the list'.  The goal of summiting all 48 peaks can act as a great motivator to keep hiking and continuing to experiencing all the benefits of doing so. Yet, when the alarm goes off at 3:45am and there's a three hour ride ahead of you on a cold February morning, It can also quickly become just another task, something that you feel you 'have to do' versus something you want to do.   On this hike, I would regularly remind myself to enjoy the journey.

No... 3:45am alarms are not enjoyable.  Arriving at the trailhead at 7am to the truck thermometer telling you the outside temperature is 8 degrees, is not very enjoyable. However, clear blue skies, only two others cars in the lot, and essentially no wind to speak of, is enjoyable and makes for a great beginning to the hike.  The first leg of this journey, slightly under 2 miles, is very flat.  With zero wind, no other hikers in sights, and my own footprints being the first to hit the trail on this morning, it would be an extremely peaceful first few miles through an endless pine forest. 

As I reached the first of two trail junctions, the sun was now just rising high enough to peak through the trees. 

While there are a few very minor elevation changes, the first 3+ miles of the hike is essentially flat.  I didn't see or hear another hiker until after taking the left to ascend the north peak first at the loop junction. For just about that entire stretch, each side of the narrow trail is lined with a curtain of pine trees, all with a fresh blanket of overnight powdery snow. 

Once on the trail for the final push to the north summit, the real work begins.  Even though it is thankfully 'only' .7 miles to the summit, it is an unforgiving grade gaining about 1000 feet of elevation over the final half mile.  The picture below, is the view you get if you stop, turn around, and enjoy what you've just accomplished.  That is the south peak in the background, which would be the next target, after summiting the north peak first. 

 Just a few feet from the actual summit, there's a cluster of a large rocks that create a perfect lookout point and offers an amazing view of the surrounding layers of mountains in the distance. 

The other theme of this day, and is usually the case with these specific peaks, would be the gray jays.  These tolerant birds with an appetite that seems impossible to satisfy would be thrilled to see the first group of us hit the opening with some fresh trail mix. Cashews always seem to be their preference.  I was lucky to catch this one in mid-flip as it rotated the cashew to just the right position in its beak. 

As increasing crowds of hikers started to pour down to the lookout, it was time to leave. On to the south peak.  The south summit is a little under 1.5 miles from the north peak. The trail rolls along the ridge line between the peaks through more snow-covered pines offering several glimpses of mountain views along the way.  Once reaching the wooded summit, a short hike down to the lookout position offers an amazing long distance view on such a crystal clear day. 

Not unlike the north peak, the jays would be waiting, impatiently at times, for any and all food you would offer. And, not unlike the north peak, cashews also seem to be in high demand here as well. Yes, that's THREE cashews in his mouth at one time. 

Just a short walk down from the summit, you get one last amazing view before entering the tall pines again. Well worth the photo, and a short break before the long hike back to the truck.

After less than a mile, you'll find yourself back at the loop junction. From there, it was a repeat of the very flat, but peaceful beginning to this hike.  It would be more alone time on this day, as I didn't see or hear another hiker from the time I left the south summit until about 1/2 mile from the end.  Just me, the sound of my own steps, a touch more wind, and views like this.

Once back at the truck, having now officially summited peaks #22 and #23, a three hour ride back home awaited me. A total of about nine miles of hiking, in a little under seven hours. Add to that, approximately six hours of total driving time and it equals about 13 hours of alone time today.  No complaints at all.  Don't avoid alone time, as a matter of fact, seek it out!  I think you'll like the experience.  Peak #24, the official half way mark, is next in March. 

(Dean Cerrati Photography) hike hike the whites mt hancock new hampshire nh48 south hancock white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:42:55 GMT
Sharing the experience This past Sunday, October 1st, I reached my 20th New Hampshire 4000 foot peak. For more than half of these peaks, I have reached the summit while on a solo hike. For the other half, it was with other hikers who were as, or much more experienced, than myself. Sunday would be different. For the last few months, a few friends have asked to join me on my next hike. They have all either never hiked in The Whites, or haven't hiked in a very long time. One thing lead to another, we picked a date far in advance, and hoped for decent weather. 

It would be my responsibility to pick the peak. I wanted to pick one that I haven't done before. One that would be challenging - but not too challenging. A peak with a trailhead within a certain one-way distance from our home town. There are many 4000 footers that fit that criteria, but after a little self-deliberation, I settled on Mt Garfield. For a month I shared emails, links and information on what to wear, what to bring and what to expect. 

And, while our original date was Saturday, on Friday afternoon we switched it to Sunday in favor of a much better forecast. As the photos will prove, this really was the best decision, and a major contributor to making sure everyone really enjoyed the experience. 

We arrived at the Garfield Trailhead at approximately 7:15, and we were on our way shortly after 7:30. For those of you who have hiked this route to Garfield, you've experienced this easy, gentle ascent to the summit. Other than a tiny bit of elevation gain at the very end, the trail is wide, well-maintained and never steep. Here is what most of the slightly under 5 miles looked like. 

There are several places along this route where the trees are covered in moss. I haven't seen this before on any other trails so far in my previous hikes. 

And, as is the case with most White Mountain trails, you start to get those sneak-peak views past a certain point.  I've always loved how just around the time I'm getting really tired and wondering where the summit is, the mountains give me just enough of a view to help boost my energy to reach the summit. 

Shortly after this picture was taken, we arrived on the cold and windy summit of Mt Garfield. While I was once again blown away by the beauty of a view from a New Hampshire 4000 peak, I also somewhat knew what to expect. There are many things I enjoy about my solo hikes, but the looks on my friends' faces when they looked south to Owls Head and the Pemigewasset Wilderness, west over to the Franconia Ridge or east towards the Twins and Bonds, was absolutely priceless. As I'm trying to convince them to add those hats, gloves and warm layers I begged them all to pack, they just couldn't take their eyes off of the amazing views. As you can see from these few shots, the skies were perfectly clear, allowing for layered mountains to be seen for miles in all directions.

Once we moved to the south facing side of the summit, there was essentially no wind, and plenty of warm rocks to hang out on.  We enjoyed some much needed food, rest, and of course, some red wine, courtesy of the surprise bottle one of our friends had bubble wrapped and stashed in his pack!

And as if the day could not have been perfect enough, we were treated to a visit by a few Gray Jays. This would be my third time experiencing these awesome birds, but another first for all my friends. 

I decided to take a small detour on our way back and lead the group down the AT towards Lafayette with the intention of visiting Garfield Pond.  These high-elevation ponds fascinate me, and never disappoint in providing another great photo opportunity.  This photo was taken on the north side, looking back to the south, with the Franconia Ridge just barely visible over the trees in the distance.

An unmarked trail leads around the pond, and meets back up with the Garfield trail, and ultimately back down to our vehicles. 

Our round trip would be about 10 miles long and take about 7 hours, including breaks and quite a long time enjoying the summit. 

This was the first time I was able to act as the experienced one in the group, and lead others on an amazing day-long adventure and introduce them to what can only truly be appreciated in person. I still love my solo hikes, and I will be doing another one soon, but I also will definitely enjoy paying the experience forward again someday. 

(Dean Cerrati Photography) garfield pond hike hike the whites mt garfield new hampshire nh48 white mountains Wed, 23 Sep 2020 00:42:35 GMT
Puffin adventure on Machias Seal Island (Warning, this blog is very picture heavy.)

About two years ago, I had read a story about photographing puffins off the coast of Maine somewhere. After a little research, I discovered that there's only one US charter that can take you to this specific island, and actually get you on the island, for the real up-close experience. The tour is so popular, their very limited spots book up in January for the mid-May to Mid-August trips. After two years of unsuccessful attempts to book a trip, I was fortunate enough to be able to secure two spots, one for me, one for my dad, for this past July 17th.  That took place back in the third week of January. 

After half a year of anticipation, preparation and questions, the day arrived and dad and I headed north to Cutler, Maine. Prior to booking this trip, I had never heard of Cutler, Cutler Harbor, or Bold Coast Charters. The ride to the motel took about five and a half hours.  Cutler Harbor, where the boat leaves from, is another 30 minutes north. 

The night before the trip, after checking into the motel, we took a ride out to the harbor. The afternoon was a little foggy, and much more so as we got closer to the water.  

A short ride later, we arrived at the coast and parking location where we would depart from the next morning.  

Or, more accurately, hopefully departing from. The trips are 100% weather and sea-condition dependent, which is completely understandable.  Machias Seal Island is approximately 10 miles off shore from Cutler Harbor.  In addition, actually getting to go ashore to the island, is a multistage process.  First, weather and sea conditions must be favorable for at least a 4 hour minimum window, to allow you to board the Barbara Frost. This is the boat that takes the 12-15 puffin enthusiasts, and captain and crew to just outside the island. 

Upon arrival at 6:30am the following morning, we were greeted by incredibly thick fog.  I took a few photos, but honestly, there was nothing to see!  After all the participants for the day showed up, we got the word that the sea conditions would be favorable to at least head to the island.  Going ashore was still a game-time decision at this point.  After taking a smaller boat to the Barbara Frost, we set out of the harbor.  It was about an hour boat ride, but it went by very fast. Captain Andy provides a brief safety speech as well as lots of historical and educational information about Cutler, the surrounding area, puffins, and the other birds we may also encounter on the island, such as razorbills, common murres and arctic terns.

About 45 minutes later, and the only reason we knew we were getting close to the island, we started to encounter some birds. Then, we all saw it, the first puffin rapidly buzzed by the boat in and out of the fog - but unmistakingly - a puffin.  You could definitely feel everyone's excitement level jump a notch as for most of us this bird only existed in pictures to this point. 

Now, back to that multistage process.   Below is the boat that is towed behind the Barbara Frost and takes you to the island.  The captain does an exceptional job of making this transfer as safe as possible. However, you are still climbing over the gunnel of the larger boat, into the smaller boat while carrying your gear, wearing a life vest, and attempting to instantly have the sea legs to successfully do so.  The small boat only has the capacity for about half of us at a time.  

Here's a picture of the first group heading to the island into the fog.  The island can just barely be made out through the fog, and I have to give a shout out to the puffin that decided to fly into the frame on the right as I took the shot. 

Once we safely boarded the small boat, and made the very short ride to the island, we were once again assisted off the boat by the captain, and the crew working the lighthouse on the island. After going ashore, you are escorted up to a staging area for some more instructions and information about our time on the island.  There is only one other tour allowed on the island, and they come from Canada. Once their time was up in the blinds, we were escorted in groups of three and four to one of the four wooden blinds. As you walk to the blinds, there are birds everywhere!  They do scatter a bit upon your entrance into the blind, but within seconds of the door shutting behind you, and before you open the little window and turn the camera on, thousands of puffins are back within a few feet of where you're standing, and it's time to get shooting!

This isn't one of the better pictures, but it's special for me as it was my first shot taken once I opened the little wooden shooting window that morning. 

This particular puffin waddled up the rock and peaked his head over to gaze into the blind and see the newest crew of photographers and birders that would be intruding on him, and thousands of others, as they work to raise their one chick.  Puffins are sea birds, which literally means they live at sea. They only come to land once a year, to dig borrows under the rocks and in the soft dirt to lay their one and only egg.  For more detailed info on puffins, check out this page

My photography goals for the day were simple, yet ambitious. I wanted to get the few classic shots that everyone tries to get of these amazing birds. The holy grail of puffin shots is the close up of the head with them holding fish in their beak that they'll be bringing to their chick. I wanted at least one, full body shot. I also wanted to get a shot of a bird in flight, some group shots, a super close up portrait, and especially a perfectly straight on close up portrait. And then of course, the 'candids' - puffins are known for being quite animated at times.  I also hoped to get some pictures of the other species on the island, but that was secondary to puffin pictures. The foggy conditions were exactly what I had hoped for. This meant no harsh shadows, no blown out highlights creating lots of feather detail in both the white and black parts of the bird.  I was able to get most of what I had hoped for, falling short with great in-flight shots and great fish-in-beak pictures. 

In no particular order, here's what the entire puffin looks like.  About the size of a crow, maybe a little larger. Incredibly colorful beak, bright orange webbed feet with little black claws for digging those borrows. 

Puffins are also very vocal. Here's a great quick video illustrating the noises they make.  They sound like a cross between a cow, and chainsaw.  While they did spend a lot of time on their own sleeping or preening, they also spent a lot of time interacting with each other.  

Many times, there were several birds all sharing the same rock or outcropping together.  These next two images were taken seconds apart, and you can see the crowd growing from shot to shot.

While mostly active the entire time, puffins also appeared to take quick little naps, even if only for a few minutes. 

Another thing puffins, and the others species spent lots of time doing, was preening. Just about every bird upon landing on a rock, spent some time preening themselves.

Now, for some fun, how about a few of those candid shots...

The only other species I was able to capture a few shots of were the razorbills. They are a little scary, borderline mean, looking birds.  They're a little bigger than the puffins and shared the same space, shared the same rocks a lot of times, but also spent their fair share of time alone or with other razorbills. 

I had really hoped to be able to capture a crystal clear close up a puffin with fish in its beak, as well as a great in-flight shot.  I only managed a few marginal photos of both.  The speed at which they fly in with the fish, and immediately dart into the borrow, is amazing! It would definitely take some serious focus, and luck, to be able to anticipate, prepare for and see the bird coming first, in order to nail that perfect shot.  Here were my best attempts. 

Lastly, one goal I did succeed in, and based on how close these birds actually get to you, it's something I'm sure everyone succeeds in, was getting those classic close up puffin portraits.  I honestly lost count at how many of these types of shots I purged, and they were all really good, but these few made the not so short list of the best ones. 

 And my favorite, and not actually the sharpest image, but definitely the most impactful with the dark background and water droplets on the head.

We were allotted about 90 minutes in the blinds.  They time went by incredibly fast, but we had reached our limit on the island.  After getting back on the Barbara Frost, the captain took a short ride over to Gull Island which was populated with gray seals resting on the seaweed-covered rocks.  I love how comfortable the seal on the left looks!

Our last stop on the way back, while there was just a little less fog, was a view of Little River lighthouse. You can actually book an overnight stay at this place. From other photos I've seen, it's extremely picturesque... when you can see it!  

Moments later, we were back at the harbor, back on the small boat to shore, and in the truck heading back from an adventure that will be very hard to top! We passed this little church a few miles from the harbor and it was just begging for a picture.

When I looked at my image count on the back of the camera, I had taken over 1500 pictures while in the blind in a little less than 90 minutes. From a photographic standpoint, this trip is entirely worth every penny spent, mile traveled, and stages required to finally end up in the blinds. The sweet spot for length of lens seemed to be about 300mm.  Most of my pictures were taken handheld (no room for tripods or monopods in the blinds) with my 150-450mm lens. A few with the fixed 100mm, and many more with a fixed 300mm. Zero photos taken in the blind with the wide angle lens.

If you're looking for a really special wildlife experience, whether you're into birding or even own a camera, this trip would be absolutely worth it.  Contact Captain Andy, and Bold Coast Charters, you will not be disappointed. 

(Dean Cerrati Photography) birds Bold Coast Charters Cutler gray seals Lighthouse Machias Seal Island Maine Puffin Puffins Razorbill seals Sun, 22 Jul 2018 18:02:01 GMT
When your 19th is also your first On Sunday, I hiked my 19th New Hampshire 4000' peak.  I now officially have under 30 peaks remaining to complete all 48. However, this hike would be notably different than all the previous ones.    On this day, my daughter, and her boyfriend, joined me for her very first 4000 footer.   We started out at the Lafayette Campground, on the Lonesome Lake trail, to the Hi-Cannon trail.  The happy couple were still all smiles at this point. 

The Hi-Cannon trail starts out and stays mostly moderate and never really gets too difficult - relative to The Whites.  Along the way, we put Amber in 'root jail'.

Easily one of the highlights of this trail would be the 15 step ladder section that ascends up and alongside a rocky ledge. I'm guessing this feature is why this trail is listed on the Terrifying 25 list, but, much like the ones on the Wiley Range trail, this ladder is extremely stable and safe to climb.  Once I made it to the top, I turned around and captured some pictures of their trip up. 

After the ladder section, yet before the junction of the Kinsman Ridge trail, there's a great lookout ledge with views back down to Lonesome Lake. I really wanted to venture out a little further for a slightly better angle, but this rock is sloping very sharply away to the left. This view will have to suffice. 

From the junction of the Kinsman Ridge trail, to the peak of Cannon Mountain, and the lookout tower, it's a fairly short and uneventful hike. The trail stays fairly flat and goes through some very mossy, forested areas until reaching the summit. I had taken along my new macro lens for just this sort of terrain. 

The real payoff comes from the views from the lookout tower. The views are 360 degrees, but in my opinion, the best views are of the awesome Franconia Ridge to the east. Mt Lafayette, Mt Lincoln, and Little Haystack stand very tall and proud in the distance. Yet, they feel so close from this vantage point.  For us, this ridge is even more special. Back in March, we named our black lab puppy "Lincoln" after my first ever 4000' peak I hiked.  So, having "Lincoln" in our background for much of this day was an added bonus. 

Our attempt to illustrate her 1st, and my 19th...  it sort of works.

Now, the trail that should be on the Terrifying 25 list, or at least the section from Cannon down to the junction of the Lonesome Lake trail, is this section of Kinsman Ridge trail.  WOW, that was a seriously steep decent. Thankfully, only a little under 2 miles. 

We walked around the lake, and into the AMC Lonesome Lake hut for a quick break and water refill and then back down to the truck. Before heading out, one more epic view of the ridge, this time reflecting into Lonesome Lake. 

My daughter's first mountain ever hiked, our first hiked together, our first beer together after the hike, and we had "Lincoln" looking over us the entire way. While I think this ranks as my shortest hike in total distance, and time, it ranks at the top for most memories made. 

(Dean Cerrati Photography) cannon mountain first 4000 footer franconia ridge hike new hampshire nh48 white mountains Tue, 29 Aug 2017 01:41:40 GMT
Patience pays off for #17 and #18 Since my last hike, I’ve had my mind made up that my next hike was not only going to be Mt Adams and Mt Madison, but I would be ascending via the King Ravine trail. An above tree line hike, by way of one of the more difficult trails in that area. I canceled my plans for this hike the last four consecutive weekends due to risky, or downright dangerous, forecasted weather conditions. This past weekend, I was given my window of opportunity, and took full advantage. Choosing to drive up and tent camp the night before to get an early start proved wise as I was able to get a good nights sleep, and still arrive at the Appalachia Trail Head at 5:45am. Even at that time, on a beautiful Saturday in July, the parking lot was completely full, and I was forced to park along the road with dozens of other would-be hikers. 

I would start out by taking the Short Line trail, to the King Ravine trail.  From the parking lot, all the way to Mossy Falls, this is one of the easiest sections of trails I’ve ever been on. The easy part abruptly ends at Mossy Falls.  A beautiful falls that has been accurately described by so many before me as looking like something out of Middle Earth. 


From Mossy Falls, the trail gets serious. After a few short scrambles, and steep climbs, you break out into the ravine and get your first views of the day. When you turn around, you get an amazing view to the NW with the ravine walls starting to build around you. 


More impressive, is when you look in front of you, and see the headwall and what will be your route to the ridge, eventually joining back up with the Airline trail. The snake-like string of boulders just slightly left of the center of the wall is the trail. 

I would forego experiencing the Subway and Ice caves section of the King Ravine trail, as I was solo hiking today, so I stayed on the 'easier', elevated route. 

As treacherous and unforgiving as this area of the White Mountains is, the wild flowers still seem to flourish throughout. 

I know for a fact that it takes me longer to hike than the average hiker due to how often I stop for photos. That may have never been more true than on this day.  Combine perfect weather, and stunning scenery, and I was unable to resist taking it all in on numerous occasions.

When trying to take some photos to illustrate how steep this trail really is, the images just weren't doing it any justice.  So I decided to demonstrate...

You definitely do not need your trekking poles on the King Ravine trail... your hands need to be free to grab on with just about every step. Looking up towards the top of the trail, you get a great view of the final push.

And just when I thought I had reached an area of the world where nothing could possibly survive, I came across another large bed of wild flowers smack in the middle of someplace that looks like it's on another planet versus just a few hours from the roadside.

The very end of the King Ravine trail has you hike right along the edge of a near-vertical rock face. Once again, the wild flowers didn't seem to mind living here. You do not climb this wall, although I'm sure some people have, the trail ascends along the edge of this. 

Looking back down from the top of the King Ravine trail (with the ledge from the previous picture now on the left of this image).

After such a major accomplishment, your reward for conquering the King Ravine trail, is about another half mile of hiking over a pile of jagged boulders until you actually get to the summit of Mt Adams. The trail junction below, a short distance from the summit, also gives a great view of the next peak on target for this day - Mt Madison looms in the background. 


And looking back towards where I started the day, the edges of King Ravine can be seen in the distance now. 

Once on the summit of Adams, #17/48 for me, a view to the south reveals Mt Washington.  You can clearly see the auto road on the left side of the image. 

As I left the peak of Adams, I took the Star Lake trail which follows around to the east side of the summit and then curls north towards Madison.  The views of Madison, Star Lake and the Madison Spring hut are simply amazing. 

Once I reached the base of Mt Madison, there was an awesome view of the summit from Star Lake.

After a much-needed rest inside Madison Spring hut, and an awesome piece of carrot cake (thank you AMC crew and cooks!!), I headed up to the summit of Madison for #18/48 for me.  The peaks of Washington (left) and Adams (right) are framed by the summit cairns on Madison.

 I didn't spend much time on Madison as the wind was really howling up there on this day.  I made my way down the Valley Way trail to the Lower Bruin trail to Duck Falls. There was this magic beam of sunlight shining down right where the falls enters the pool below. It was a great photo to end the day on. 

I passed a few other falls on the way out along the Brookside trail, but nothing that could tempt me from delaying returning to the truck to rest my aching feet, knees and legs. The total miles on this day would be approximately 10-1/2 to 11 in about 10-1/2 total hours from start to finish.  I ran into lots of great people on this hike, had amazing weather and witnessed incredible scenery and natural beauty of all kinds. It was absolutely well worth being patient in my attempt to reach my 17th and 18th peaks. 

(Dean Cerrati Photography) hike king ravine mt adams mt madison new hampshire nh48 presidential range white mountains Sun, 23 Jul 2017 19:26:41 GMT
Sweet 16! Greeley Ponds and the Osceolas On Saturday, May 27th, I would attempt to summit my 15th and 16th New Hampshire 4000' peaks. When I looked at the two options for reaching these peaks, I noticed two secluded ponds on the eastern side of the ridge - Upper, and Lower Greeley Pond. After seeing some images of these two beautiful bodies of water, I decided to ascend from the Kancamagus Highway side, and the Greeley Pond Trail, to the Mount Osceola Trail and hit the East peak first.  I had read that this was the more difficult of the two options (the other being by way of Tripoli Road) but I really wanted to investigate these ponds, so my decision was made.

I anticipated much higher than average weekend crowds as this was the first official Saturday of unofficial summer.  I arrived at the Greeley Pond Trailhead at 6:30am, and amazingly I took the final parking spot in this small lot. 

The trail from the parking lot, all the way to the both ponds is very easy going. The trail is wide, well-maintained, and at this time of year, your entire path is surrounded by blooming wildflowers. 



The decision to take a small detour past the trail to the summit and visit these ponds was well worth it.  It's a short, easy hike and the views did not disappoint. 


With my curiosity about the ponds now satisfied, it was time to hike back to the trail to reach the summit. Once at the junction of the Greeley Pond Trail, and Mt Osceola Trail, the sign indicates 1.5 miles to the peak of East Osceola, and 2.5 miles to the peak of Mt. Osceola.  How hard could it be?

The lower part of this trail is fairly simple.  A few bog bridges, a few small 'ups', but mostly a nice warm up for what's in the immediate future. I remember taking this photo, and looking ahead thinking "I guess the easy part is over".


I took many pictures to try to capture how insanely steep this trail is. One switchback after another, steeper and steeper, made even more difficult by the previous two days of rainfall coating the ledges and rocks that make up the trail. None of my pictures even remotely illustrate how steep the relentless incline really is. Thankfully, the weather would cooperate today, and on the few lookouts the trail gives you on the way to the east peak, I'm reminded why the pain of the climb is so worth it. 

IMGP6100IMGP6100 IMGP6148IMGP6148

In the picture above, that is the trail, and one of the only photos that came close to showing the reality of this route. 

The summit of East Osceola has zero views. I tapped the cairn and made my way to Mt Osceola. The highlight (for me) of this section of the trail would be to experience the infamous 'chimney' section.  It is described as an almost vertical 40-50ft rock scramble. And, at least on the way up, not as difficult as it looks.   This photo was taken from the top, looking back down.


After this section, the summit of Mt Osceola is a few challenging pushes away.  I arrived at the summit at approximately 11:30 - perfectly timed for a summit lunch. And while I didn't see many people along the trail, I found them all on the summit! I was able to find a small corner to myself to enjoy my lunch and the views back in the direction I had just hiked.

IMGP6119IMGP6119 IMGP6125IMGP6125 IMGP6133IMGP6133 After a good rest, and some much-needed calories, it was time to take on the inevitable task of hiking back down the nightmare that I just climbed up. Views like this greeted me for the next 2-1/2 hours of slow and slightly painful decent. 


With the steep sections behind me now, and a contrastingly easy hike on the lower section back to the parking lot, I took some extra moments to focus on my final image while crossing a bog bridge over a clear reflecting pool of water. 


I started my hike at approximately 7am. Including my detour down and around the two ponds, and back up to both peaks, the round trip mileage comes in somewhere around 8.5 miles. Two peaks closer to what continues to feel like an impossible goal for my quest to reach all the New Hampshire 4000 footers. Sixteen down... thirty-two to go...

(Dean Cerrati Photography) . Greeley Pond Trail Greeley Ponds Hike Lower Greeley Pond Mount Osceola Trail New Hampshire Osceola Upper Greeley Pond White Mountains Sun, 28 May 2017 15:28:11 GMT
The eagles have landed (again). Last spring, I was lucky enough to locate an active eagle's nest, and access into the location, and was able to successfully photograph them on two separate outings.  Knowing that eagles start repairing or building their nests as early as March, I was eager to get back there, to see if this site would be active again this year.

Along the way of my short paddle to the nest, a few other birds were willing to pose for the camera on this gray, cool and rainy morning. Wood ducks were all over the area today.  I kept hearing the distinct noise of a hen wood duck, and I was able to just catch a quick glimpse of her as she passed through the one opening I had in the bushes.


The next bird to pose this morning is extremely common. Usually, most people think of the grackle as just another black bird.  However, up close, they're anything but!  Check out the colors on these birds.


Now, on to the star of the day. When I first looked up at the nest, it was empty, or so I thought. I then paddled around for a different angle, and a closer look, and there it was! It didn't jump out at me at first, but just to the right of the center of the nest, you can see the white head, and that ever-recognizable eye.

IMGP4181IMGP4181 After securing a decent spot in the brush to hide my presence as much as possible, I was now officially on 'eagle stake out'. I was waiting for some action, movement, anything that would make for more interesting pictures. And then... it started to rain.  The good news is, the camera gear is 100% weather-sealed. The bad news is, I am not.  Not expecting any rain, my rain gear was not with me today.  However, shortly after it started to rain, another adult eagle flew into the nest, while carrying a headless fish in its talons.  
IMGP4188IMGP4188 This second eagle landed, screeched a few times, and flew off again, with the fish, and parts of the nest in tow. The 'Peal call' of eagle is another extremely distinct sound.


After a very short flight, the eagle returned without the stick, but still holding its fresh kill.

IMGP4254IMGP4254 The rain finally stopped, and both birds shook of some of the water, then the fish-catcher took off once again.

IMGP4390IMGP4390 IMGP4401IMGP4401 I stayed for an another hour, hoping to witness a return flight with a second catch-of-the-day, but it was not to be. I left the single eagle to tend to the nest, and presumably, to protect their newly-hatched eggs.

IMGP4452IMGP4452 With continued luck, I'll be able to share pictures of their new chicks over the next few months. 

Stay tuned!



(Dean Cerrati Photography) Eagle grackle nests River Whitinsville Wood duck Sat, 22 Apr 2017 20:47:50 GMT
Passaconaway, #14/48. Make a plan. Make some friends. Make a trail. On Saturday, February 18th, I planned on hiking my first official winter 4000 footer to Mt. Liberty.  I had obtained all the necessary equipment.  I had planned and shared my route, departure time, and every other detail and aspect that goes into hiking a high peak.  Then, the night before, I received some reports that were less than favorable for being able to have enough confidence to safely summit Liberty on my own.

Plan B: Hike Mt. Whiteface. It was within driving distance for a day hike, and I had at least one report of someone breaking trail the day before. New map, new plan.  Upon arriving at the parking area off of Ferncroft road, there were only three other cars in the parking lot.  This was not a good sign for either being able to join up with other hikers up Whiteface, or at least have the confidence that others had already started in that direction.

Plan C: Sheepishly invite myself along with the three women I met in the parking lot as they were bootin-up to hike Passaconaway.  After a few quick introductions, I headed off with Jackie ('Jack Rabbit'), Diane ('Little D') and Andrea ('Socks') on our way up to Mt Passaconaway. The peak can be seen in the far right upper corner of this picture from the beginning of the hike.


We would be taking the Dicey's Mill trail, to the Rollins trail over to the summit, and then back down on the same route.  We were all very happy to see that we weren't first on the trial. While the snow was still incredibly deep, and still a bit loose, we were all smiles to be on our way, and not breaking trail.   The morning's sunrise refused to quit on this day, and it was still showing off an orange glow in the background as we began our ascent.


The joy of not having to break trail was very short-lived. After we came to the camp site of the snow cave campers who had broken trail to this point the night before, it was now our turn. We alternated positions in our line, and took turns breaking trail through knee-deep, and even waist-deep drifts, while also doing our best to locate the blue trail blazes. Most of the blazes were unable to be seen as they're marked on the trees at a point of which is now below the snow depth.


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Jack Rabbit - Blazing the way up to Passaconaway




Little D - in the unenviable first position on the trail.


We had fairly difficult time finding the logs and rocks under several feet of snow in order to safely negotiate this stream crossing.


Here's a good example of how deep the snow is.  These trail markers are at approximately chest level without any snow.


Different than my other hikes, there was very little opportunity to explore and look for those little-seen details along the way.  One step off of where the trail was, and you found yourself over your waist in snow. However, there are always interesting sights along the way, if you stop and look around.  Some shelf mushrooms hanging around through the winter, evidence that even the mice have to break trail, and many trees showing the signs of recent moose peelings along our ascent.

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Back to the hike. From this sign, to the summit, is slightly under a mile.  And, as with most summit approaches, it's the hardest mile of the day. Especially in such deep snow. 


Yes... that's the trail in the middle of the picture below.


The other similarity to most hikes, during the last painful mile, just when you've got the feeling that you can't make it another step, the mountain begins to dish out the rewards in the background.


I've been asked on too many occasions to count, "why bother?", "why do you put yourself through it?".  The words 'worth' and 'value' will always be subjective to us all, but for me, views like this have absolutely always been well-worth it!

Franconia Ridge in the far background.



Tripyramid peaks as seen from the lookout from Mt Passaconaway IMGP2584IMGP2584

My three newest BFF's!  Celebrating their amazing accomplishment.  We were rewarded with clear skies and amazing views for all our hard work, and trail-breaking suffering.


Group hug on the summit.  It was a true team effort to make it to this point.


After some much-needed nutrition, it was my turn for a photo with the view (photo by 'Jack Rabbit'!)


The afternoon light on the hike back down was beautiful.  Here's the ladies are enjoying a little rest on the way back. "Trail spa"


It took us 7 hours to do the 4.6 mile hike to the peak and approximately 3 hours to descend. Once back down, the same orange glow and beautiful skies that sent us off that morning, greeted us upon our return.

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You will often hear the term 'the hiking community'.   I have experienced this first-hand on every hike I've been on.  However, yesterday was the purest form of the definition of that term.  We all have met, and will continue to meet, great people along our travels on the trails. On Saturday, I made three new friends. It could have been very easy for them to not accept my self-invite on their hike. Instead, they welcomed me into their group, we worked together for a common goal, and laughed and struggled our way to the top (and back down!).  Thank you Jackie, Diane and Andrea for making this my most memorable accomplishment in The Whites.  Here's to many more hikes together.   


(Dean Cerrati Photography) Hike Mt Passaconaway New Hampshire NH48 snow snow shoeing White Mountains Winter 48 Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:58:38 GMT
A baker's dozen On Saturday, September 24th, I reached the summit of my 11th, 12th and 13th peaks on my quest to reach all of New Hampshire's official 4000 footers.

This would be a day trip only, so with the fear of not finding a parking space, and daylight hours drastically shrinking, I left the house at 3:40am, arrived at the trailhead at 6:40 and was hiking on the Crawford Connector Path Trail slightly before 7am. While there isn't much water flow this time of year, the quick side trip to Gibbs Falls was still worth it.  I can imagine this must be a great falls in the late spring.


It was a brisk hike this morning. When I left my house, it was 55 degrees, at the trailhead, it was 33. However, with little-to-no wind in the morning, and clear skies, the sun quickly warmed things up as I continued along to the Crawford Path Trail, the oldest and continuously maintained trail in America, on my way to my first of three summits - Mt Pierce. The hike along the Crawford Path was quiet, dare I say fairly easy. I didn't run into a single hiker from the falls all the way to summit of pierce. This equates to roughly 2.5 miles of no wind, no people and only the sound of my own steps and the occasional click of a trekking pole.

As if almost on queue, any remaining morning mist and clouds had just about burned off (or blown off!) the peaks by the time I reached the summit of Pierce. My sights now turn to the brownish, bald peak in the distance of Mt Eisenhower, as seen from the summit of Pierce.

IMGP0290IMGP0290 The map says it's 'only' slightly under 1.5 miles between peaks.  It looks close.. until you start walking, and walking and walking! In the picture below, I'm taking a break, almost on the summit of Eisenhower. I spent a lot of time on this day, looking back.  Looking behind me, viewing where I had come from, and not always focusing on where I was trying to get to.  Just to the left (in the photo) of my head, is the first peak of the day, Mt Pierce, the brownish ground in the middle of the green peak.


IMGP0305IMGP0305 The summit of Eisenhower is unbelievable. Words and photos will definitely not do this majestic peak its justice. At a height of 4760' the peak is completely exposed, providing 360 degree views of the Northern Presidentials, the Mt Washington Hotel, parts of Crawford Notch, parts of Pinkham Notch, and beyond! It's also completely exposed to the wind.  I'm not a wind expert, but I would guestimate the sustained winds around 40mph, with higher gusts.  It wasn't terribly cold, but cold enough and windy enough to not be able to have lunch up there as I had planned.  Before heading back down, I snapped some shots looking towards Mount Washington (tallest peak on the far left of this picture).  It almost looks like I'm on a different planet. What an amazing sight.

IMGP0309IMGP0309 Once again, I made a conscious effort to keep looking back on this day. What views or sights had I potentially missed while hiking along more focused on my footing than on the surrounding beauty? Here's one prime example of a view I missed on my way to Eisenhower along the Webster Cliff Trail (which is also the Appalachian Trail)

IMGP0323IMGP0323 After hiking back over Pierce (my first peak), I headed down to the Mizpah hut for some much needed lunch and to rest for about 30 minutes. The temps were definitely starting to fall, and the winds were steadily increasing, even off the peaks. The 30 minutes inside the warm cabin were welcomed.  After leaving the hut, I would continue down the Webster Cliff Trail (AT) on my way to my final peak of the day - Mt Jackson.  Once again, not only focusing on where I was going.... (Mt Jackon in the distance in this next shot)


... but also focusing on where I had been.  The tallest peak in the far distance (middle/right of picture) is Mt Washington. The sun-lit, bald peak of Eisenhower to the left of Washington, and the green peak of Pierce to the left of Eisenhower.

IMGP0363IMGP0363 Almost to the summit of Jackon now, and in this next picture you can clearly see the Mizpah hut (white building below the peak of Pierce). Eisenhower and Washington are still very visible in the distance.

IMGP0369IMGP0369 The summit of Mt Jackson wasn't as completely exposed as Eisenhower, however the wind had increased quite a bit by this point. Thankfully, I was able to hide behind a rock right before the top and put on the wool hat, gloves and extra layers on top.  The wind chill was easily in the 20s and the wind was relentless.  As were the views. Looking northwest up Route 302, the Mt Washington Hotel is that tiny white building with the red roof. You can also see how much the fall colors are already changing in this area.  Columbus Day weekend is usually the peak leaf-peeping time in these parts and I would suspect they are easily a week ahead of schedule.

IMGP0379IMGP0379 Upon my decent of Jackson via the Webster Jackson Trail, my little friends from my last hike showed up...

IMGP0397IMGP0397 Two gray jays followed me for about 1/2 mile down the trail. I sat down for a water break, and they literally flew and landed on the ground next to me. I know they can't speak, but they looked at me as if to say "um... food... now... please".  Gray Jays area also getting very selective. Sunflower seeds and almond slivers are for the other birds. They only wanted cashews or dried cranberries.

IMGP0413IMGP0413 One other observation from the trails I took today would be the word "LUSH". No, not from the standpoint of too much alcohol, but from this standpoint...

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Healthy moss and green ground cover was abundant all day long. I would also hike long stretches and be overwhelmed by the smell of Christmas trees. 

From Mt Jackson to Route 302 via the Webster Jackson Trail it is about 2.6 miles to the road, then a short-ish road hike back to the truck. The totals for the day would be three more peaks, a little over 11.5 miles of trails, and more amazing scenery and memories. The White Mountains are truly a special place.  We are blessed to live to close to this paradise.

Peak #14, here I come.

(Dean Cerrati Photography) Hike Hiking Mt Eisenhower Mt Jackson Mt Pierce New Hampshire White Mountains Sun, 25 Sep 2016 16:57:56 GMT
The quest for 48 continues My quest to reach the summit of all 48 of New Hampshire's 4000' peaks as officially reached double digits. This past weekend, I climbed Mt Willey, Mt Field and Mt Tom, peaks number 8, 9 and 10 for me. (I know, still a rookie. But you've got to start somewhere.)

I approached this hike with three specific goals.  First, and most obvious, was to reach the double digit mark on my quest for all 48 summits. Second, I had seen many photos of the Willey Range Trail wooden stairs.  I wanted to climb these myself, which meant I needed to make this a south-to-north trip reaching Mt Willey first, and Mt Tom last. My last goal was mostly out of my control, however, I had also read that these three peaks were some of the most common to see a gray jay.  After seeing numerous photos and videos of other hikers feeding these jays right out of their hands, I had to experience this.  As an added challenge, I hoped to capture a self portrait of me, and a gray jay, using my wireless remote trigger. 

So, with the alarm off at 3:30am, and a three hour ride to the trail head behind me, I entered the parking lot of the Willey House at approximately 7am... and 49 degrees!  I pulled into the lot just as two other cars entered. After a brief conversation, I learned that the other two people were dropping one car off, and heading back to the AMC Crawford Notch Highland Center, and doing the exact route as me, only in reverse.  They offered to take me with them, to save me the three mile road walk at the end of my trip, but... those stairs! I just had to go up, not down, those stairs.  

We said our 'good lucks', they drove off, and I began my hike on the Kedron Flume Trail, located behind the Willey House. The Willey House is the historic site of a tragic land slide which claimed nine lives.  Mt Willey is said to be named after the family.


A relatively short distance into the hike, and I came upon a very dry Kedron Flume.  Not much water flowing through here on this August day, but it was an awesome spot with a great view, and less than an hour into the day.


After the Kedron Flume Trail, I took the Ethan Pond Trail a very short distance to the junction of the Willey Range Trail. I was getting closer to seeing the string of nine wooden staircases, but not before I had to ascend this section.


Before long, the first of nine wooden staircases was in front of me.  I would love to shake the hands of the people who worked on this section.  It is incredibly steep, yet, incredibly easy to climb thanks to these structures. Once I reached the top, and looked back down, I was very happy that I decided to climb up, and not down, these stairs!


Too often I hike with my head down and forget to actually enjoy the journey. I wanted to take some extra time today to not just check summits off a list, but to consciously enjoy the hike itself. I wanted to take notice of the small things, and actually look behind me every now and then.  Such as this spot.  Simply stopping for a moment and turning around, awarded me with this view.


The staircases are not exactly near the summit. However, with several very steep and challenging sections behind me now, I reached the look-out ledge of Mt Willey (just below the official summit cairn).  The view on this day was amazing.  Looking out and to the left, I had a clear view of Mt Washington (first peak on the right) and the presidential range.

IMGP0026IMGP0026 Looking more to the right, you can just barely make out Route 302 (where my truck is!), and the railroad bed as they carve south down Crawford Notch.

IMGP0014IMGP0014 One down, two to go.  On to Mt Field. The hike to Mt Field, from Willey, has a few ups and down, but is extremely easy overall. Here's a few pictures of some of the small treasures along the way.



IMGP0058IMGP0058 Before reaching Mt. Field, I passed through the section of the trail which had been damaged during either Hurricane Sandy or just a microburst.  Either way, the trail maintenance was superb!


When I reached the summit of Mt Field, there were several groups of people enjoying a snack, and the view.  Without much space to myself, I snapped this photo from the look-out point with the Mt Washington Hotel in clear view below, and then headed along the trail to Mt Tom.

IMGP0051IMGP0051 On my way to Mt. Tom, I passed two other hikers going the opposite way.  They asked me if I had any food.  I thought that was an odd question, but maybe they were really hungry. I told them I had some, and asked why.  They said that Mt Tom had about 3-4 gray jays up there, and they were just eating out of their hands and landing on their heads!   I was fairly tired, and in contrast to the early morning temps, it had been a very warm day.  I wont lie, this kind of news definitely re-energized me.

A very short distance down the A-Z trail I reached the Mt. Tom spur trail.  The sign read .6 miles to the summit. I no sooner arrived at the top, and the trail splits. Not knowing which way to go to find the summit cairn, I went to the right, followed it through a maze of pine trees, where it abruptly ended in a tiny clearing. I looked back where I had come from trying to get my bearings and decide where to go next when I saw one... then two.. then three gray jays, all following me to the clearing.  Before I could sit down, take off my pack, and find my trailmix, three gray jays were sitting in branches and dead-tree perches within feet of me.  I know I'm probably about the 9-millionth person to experience these little birds and their tolerance for people, but that doesn't take away from how cool it was to experience this.  And yes, after a little trial and error, I got my gray jay selfie!

IMGP0109IMGP0109 IMGP0185IMGP0185 For what it's worth, don't believe most of the stories you'll read about the limited or inferior views from Mt Tom.  No, they're not 360 degree, wide open views, but in my opinion, with very little effort walking around the summit, there are some great views, like this one.

IMGP0201IMGP0201 One of the other reasons I choose this route, and not to just retrace my steps back, was I wanted to see Beecher and Pearl Cascades near the end of the A-Z trail.  I knew the water levels would be incredibly low, but I was still happy to make a stop at each of these on the way out.

Pearl Cascade

IMGP0217IMGP0217 Beecher cascade

IMGP0225IMGP0225 Within minutes of leaving Beecher Cascade, I was at the Crawford station/Highland Center on Route 302, and it was time for my awful, but inevitable three mile road walk back to the truck.  I filled my water bottle at the faucet, started to put my pack on and begin walking, and there was my 'friend' I had met in the morning.  He had already made one trip back to the WIlley House, and was about to make another and asked if I wanted a ride.  I sure do!  And five minutes later, I was back at my truck. One miserable road walk avoided!

Three more peaks reached, and my three goals of the day successfully accomplished. My hike was complete.



(Dean Cerrati Photography) gray jay Hike Mountains Mt Field Mt Tom New Hampshire 4000 footers New Hampshire 48 White Mountains Sun, 21 Aug 2016 23:54:42 GMT
Hiking North and South Kinsman mountains It's good to have goals in life. Some goals are easily achievable.  Some... not so much. Some goals even border on being unrealistic. I have one of those borderline unrealistic goals of hiking to all 48 peaks on New Hampshire's '4000 footers' list. Forty-eight mountains with a peak elevation over 4000' above sea level. How hard could it be, right?

This past weekend, I checked off #6 and #7 off my list (there is no specific order) by hiking to the peaks of North and South Kinsman.  In the past year, I've hiked Mt Lincoln, Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Moosilauke, Bond Cliff and Mt. Bond.  However, this hike to the Kinsmans, would be my first solo hike.

This particular hike begins off Rt 93, at the Lafayette Campground. After a short, but moderate 1-1/2 mile hike, I arrived at Lonesome Lake.  I then took a trail that follows the east and north perimeter of the lake.  The majority of this trail is marked by wooden planks that allow hiking even when the marsh and swampland around the lake are at their wettest.

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This portion of the trail brought me past a quick moving stream with small brook trout visible along its banks. I also passed many different species of wild flowers, including these tiny, carnivorous plants called sundews.


In addition to the carnivorous plants, there was plenty of colorful wild mountain laurel.


The other plant that I saw along my route up and down these mountains is called Bunchberry or Creeping Dogwood. Carpets of these flowers aligned lengthy sections of the trails.


Once I finally got to the waters edge, the thick morning clouds were hanging right along the Franconia Ridge in the background.


This duck has the most amazingly beautiful backyard!


After leaving the area around Lonesome Lake, I started my ascent to the North peak of Kinsman Mountain. I knew it was bad news, as the first 1/4 to 1/2 mile of the trail that leads to the summit was severely downhill. 

The trail entered into some really deep, dark woods. It was still very cloudy, so I was in no hurry to reach the peak, and I took some time to capture a picture of this small stream pool.


Remember I said it was bad news that I was going downhill to start my ascent?  This is why... at some point, you have to make up for that if you're ever going to get to the top. This trail finally did go up, and it did so with some serious teeth!  These photos below illustrate the easier parts of the trail.  The camera didn't come out while I was literally rock climbing up the wet, sheer rock faces that came into play quite frequently almost the entire way to the summit.

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When I reached the summit, the clouds and fog were rolling in even more than earlier in the morning.  At one point, I could see no more than 50 yards.  I had made it to the summit, and I had zero view.  A great view is not guaranteed, but if you wait long enough, as quickly as the fog and clouds roll in, they can also roll out.  This day would be no different. After about an hour of relaxing, resting my feet and eating on the summit, the waiting paid off.


In this picture below, you can barely see the edge of Lonesome Lake in the far right distance. Kinsman pond is straight below the ledge I was sitting on. This vantage point really provided me a sense of scale of where I started, and how far I had hiked to arrive at this spot. IMGP8279IMGP8279

The skies remained clear, and when I made it back to Lonesome Lake upon my hike back, I was able to get a much clearer view of the Franconia Ridge Line providing an amazing backdrop to the lake.


What I liked most about this hike was the variety of scenery and different types of trails and terrain. Lakes, ponds, wildflowers, natural trails, man-made trails, summit views - all part of this one hike.

The total distance hiked on this day would be slightly over 10 miles. That's 10 miles closer to achieving my goal.  Only 41 more peaks to go.


(Dean Cerrati Photography) hike hike the whites kinsman mountain kinsman pond lonesome lake new hampshire trails white mountains wildflowers Mon, 18 Jul 2016 01:40:04 GMT
The making of a photograph When most people see a photograph, rarely do they spend much time wondering what might have been involved leading up to the moment the shutter was pressed. Unless you're very into photography, you see a picture, you may or may not have a strong emotional reaction to it, and you move on.

Last week, I had the rare opportunity to be out shooting in a new place, and I was joined by my life long friend, Troy, who is a very accomplished photographer. I was unaware of it while it was happening, but he was taking pictures of me... taking pictures.  When combining his photos, with mine, you get a true sense for what went into the final image.

Lets start at the end. Here is the final image.


We had observed this Great Blue Heron from a distance while he hunted for small fish.  This bird is not rare.  I think everyone has probably seen one at some point in their life.  So, in order to capture an image of one that people would find interesting, I wanted something unique, and ultimately I had hoped to catch him with a fish in his mouth.  Mission accomplished. 

As you can see from the picture, there is hardly any visible water surrounding the heron.  Both Troy and I are using our Poke Boats in this wetland area.  They are a light-weight, sneak boat, most closely resembling a kayak.  They only weigh 28lbs though, and we can get to places that most other boat can not.  Prior to getting into position for this shot, we had to get in and out of the boats to carry them over two beaver dams, paddle though a channel created by the beavers that was narrower than our shoulders and surrounded by head-high grass, followed by a short paddle through a rare patch of open water where I began my stalk to get closer to the heron.

(Photo by Troy Gipps)


Shortly after Troy took this image, I was into the endless carpet of lily pads and in only a few inches of water. I would push my paddle into the mud and push myself forward a few feet at a time, waiting for the bird to look the other way, or be so focused on his prey, that he didn't notice my struggle. 

Each time I got a little closer, I would take advantage of the distance I had covered, and take some shots.

(Photo by Troy Gipps)


This image below was shoot during the sequence I was shooting in the picture above.


On the way out, some evidence of this heron, or others, that call this pond 'home'.


I'm sure many of you are thinking that the final image was not worth all that trouble, and to be honest, for a blue heron, I have a hard time disagreeing with you! For me though, this is far more than a picture of a heron with a tiny fish in his mouth. This was a day to enjoy nature, to get some exercise, to be outdoors in a place I've never been before, to practice with the camera, and to enjoy some time with a friend.  It was well worth it in my book.

(Dean Cerrati Photography) birds feather great blue heron green lily pads poke boat wildlife wildlife photography Sun, 17 Jul 2016 15:58:29 GMT
Opportunity, and time I've had people ask numerous times "How did you get that picture!?" Sure, some images require a certain level of experience, or piece of equipment. However, the common denominator in my best photos, or any great image, is creating the opportunities, and being in the right place, at the right time.

On this morning, I would be attempting to photograph American Kestrels. If you're not familiar with the American Kestrel, they are the smallest member of the falcon family, and their numbers are in decline in this part of the country.  Several organizations, including a local one I continue to assist with, the Grafton Land Trust, are doing their part to help bring these amazing birds back to our area.

I arrived at my location at 5:40am. Within minutes of leaving my truck, I had my first of many surprises on this morning. A lone doe walking through the tall grass.  The interesting part for me about this image is not the image itself. The light wasn't great, the sharpness isn't perfect, and the setting is fairly standard. What amazed me most is what you can't see.  When I saw this deer, my camera was off, my tripod was slung over my shoulder, and I was standing in the middle of a trail.  This doe hardly moved, while I turned on the camera, removed the lens cap, adjusted the settings, extended the tripod legs and moved around for a better shot angle. Only after I managed a few photos did she calmly just walk off into the grass and woods.


After getting set up, and waiting for the kestrels to return to their favorite perch, I can hear a rustling in the bushes getting louder and louder.  I'm sitting down, with grass and bushes higher than my head. My visibility, other than towards the kestrels, is no more than a few yards!  I finally located the source of the noise, and see a great looking bird with a bright yellow eye.  And, just like the deer, instead of flying off, this bird watches me completely contort and reposition myself and camera to get a few pictures. I looked this bird up when I got home, and learned all about Brown Thrashers.


Back to today's original mission - the kestrels. They too, did not disappoint. For the several hours I spent taking pictures, and observing them on this day, they displayed just about every known behavior and trait that makes them so unique. 

While one of the chicks has already fledged, the other chicks remain in the nest box, and will be leaving soon to join their parents, and sibling, in the 'family dead tree perch'. Until then, they're content to take turns peaking out of the box.


If there's one thing I've learned about kestrels, it's that they're amazing little hunters.  Their diet is vast, but in my experiences, if you're a small mouse or vole, and happen to live within a few miles of a hungry kestrel, you are in big trouble!  On this morning, I watched the adults bring back 2-3 mice per hour.

In this first photo, the dad (bottom) has returned with a fresh kill. The mom (top) is sitting this one out, while the new chick (left) is very excited about breakfast arriving.


In this next image, it's the mother's turn to do the mouse hand-off to the newly fledged chick.


This last kestrel image shows the happy family all together. Dad, supervising on the right, mom in the middle with yet another fresh mouse, and the chick on the left.


After having secured a fair amount of kestrel images, and my own hunger now getting the best of me, I packed up, and started my walk back. Along the trail, I noticed several dragonflies on the ground, so I decided to try to get a picture. Once again, as with the deer, as I repositioned myself, the camera and tripod, and literally laid on the ground within feet of the dragonfly, it never flew off, not once. I've photographed these types of dragonflies before (Halloween pennants) and I swear, they look like they're smiling!


Having arrived back at my truck, and unpacking my gear, I could hear the kestrels making lots of noise overhead behind me.  I figured it was their way of making sure I was leaving.  When their calls persisted, I turned around and noticed what they were doing. Each adult kestrel was hovering and then quickly swooping into the branches of a huge pine tree to try to scare off an immature red-tailed hawk.  The young hawk screeched back a few times, but otherwise, wasn't bothered at all by its small, annoyingly loud neighbors.  For the last time on this morning, an animal I had no plans of seeing, allowed me to get all my gear back out of the truck, set everything up and take lots of pictures. I walked around this tree and got as close as I wanted to, and I think the young hawk maybe looked down at me a total of three times.



Opportunity, and time.  I created my own possibility for photographic opportunities by simply getting out of bed early.  The incredible amount of time each of these animals allowed today, was unprecedented for me, and made this a morning to remember.

(Dean Cerrati Photography) brown thrasher dragonfly halloween hawks Kestrels nature photography pennant thrasher white-tailed deer wildlife Sun, 03 Jul 2016 23:17:51 GMT
A return visit with the bald eagles of Whitinsville It's 5:30am, Sunday morning, and the alarm is going off... on purpose.  If you want the best wildlife and nature pictures, that means taking them during the early morning hours (my preference) or close to sunset.  The photography term for this time is day is known as "The Golden Hour". I knew this nest site would set up much better for a morning shoot versus an afternoon attempt, as was the case with my first visit.


After having gathered all my gear the night before, I was quickly out of the house, and on the water by 6:00. Within 20 minutes of paddling in the perfectly calm back-water channel, I slowly approached the same long-distance surveillance spot as last week and observed the adult eagle perched on the identical branch as before. Once again, I could also make out the movement of at least one of the immature birds still in the nest.


I paddled as slowly as I could to get to where I wanted to spend a few hours taking pictures.  Today's additional gear was a gimbal head attachment for my tripod for added stability, and a teleconverter, which extends the range of my current telephoto lens by 1.4x. It was my hope that with the upgrade in gear, an already-established ambush location, and mother nature's serving of awesome morning light, I could greatly improve upon the quality of the pictures I shared on my first visit.  All in all, I consider the mission a success.  Below, I've shared my best images from today, as well as a short video showing one of the young birds feeding on some old food (looks like a small fish) in the nest.

Thank you all for taking the time to read, and enjoy, this latest post.  I'll try to keep them coming as regularly as possible.



The adult eagle calls up to the nest, as it seems to do regularly. The quality and direction of the light this morning was a huge difference maker compared to my first attempt to photograph these amazing birds. IMGP6482IMGP6482

In this next picture, I caught the eagle just as it was leaving the perch


In this last image of the adult bird, I captured that true, intimidating eagle stare.  Love this one!


Now, on to the young eagles.  As I mentioned last week, these birds are huge. I would estimate they are only slightly smaller than their parent.


Here's a picture of both birds on the same side of this massive nest.


Lastly, here's a short video showing one of the young feeding on what appears to be a small fish 'left over' for breakfast.


(Dean Cerrati Photography) bald eagle birds eagle immature Poke boat raptors Whitinsville Sun, 26 Jun 2016 18:48:09 GMT
Bald eagles in Whitinsville It is no secret to most people from this area that we have at least one resident, nesting bald eagle here in Whitinsville.   I have seen this eagle on at least four separate occasions, and always without my camera.  The many times I have driven around with my camera, with the single purpose to getting some photos of it, I've never seen it.


A few months ago, after locating the nest, I started a mini quest to someday get a great photograph of this symbol of America, right here, within a few miles of my house!  Not surprisingly, this nest is located in a spot that isn't very easy to get to.  Last night however, I decided to make my first attempt.


I launched my Poke boat (kayak-like, tiny boat) at around 7pm.  My research had shown that this nest is located in a spot that is far more ideal for a morning shoot, rather than an evening. However, I had some spare time last night, and I really wanted to get out and take some pictures, so I rationalized I could make it work with afternoon light.  I was half right.


Luckily, once I made the paddle to where I could see the nest, I noticed the adult eagle sitting on a lower branch, and two chicks in the nest. However, these can hardly be referred to as 'chicks' anymore.  I believe until they've officially fledged from the nest, they aren't technically considered immature eagles, but these birds were flapping their wings, and hovering in flight about a foot above the nest.  They are very, very close to leaving the comforts of home.  Yet, as large as these young birds are, if they weren't testing their wings, or standing up in the nest, I could not see them at all.  Needless to say, this nest is a deep, massive structure, at the very top of the tallest tree.


From a safe distance behind some branches, I watched as the adult eagle first called up to the chicks, as if to say "I'll be right back!", and then flew off.  I assumed for more food.  Once it was out of sight, I made my move to get as close as I could.  I backed my fully camouflaged boat, and my fully camouflaged self, into the grass and reeds about 75 yards from the shore where the nest was located. For the next three hours, I watched the adult come back with a fish, I watch he/she constantly calling up to the chicks, I watched it fly off several more times being chased by starlings and other small, annoying birds, before it always returned to the same lower branch, behind the tree the nest is in.


At around the time the sunset was giving us another awesome show last night, I started to paddle back to my truck.  I did manage a few so-so photos.  I will definitely be returning for more, very soon.  I consider this a successful first attempt, and the next time I go, I will have some different gear, I will set up in a slightly different spot, and I will definitely make this a morning shoot to take full advantage of the best light for this location.


Stay tuned for more Whitinsville eagle posts.

Thank you all.



This first image was taking from my initial location.  The young bird is taking a moment to practice his flapping, as mom (or dad) watches from below.


In this second picture, the adult was just taking off from the nest, and I was able to catch it in flight.  Look at those talons!!


In this last image, the adult is calling up to the young in the nest above.  It did this repeatedly, over a span of three hours, almost remaining in constant communication to the younger birds. Although I never did hear them call back. 


(Dean Cerrati Photography) bald eagle birds eagle Poke boat raptors Whitinsville Tue, 21 Jun 2016 00:41:32 GMT