Welch-Dickey loop

The days are getting short and the air is getting crisp… pretty soon I’ll be skiing down mountains instead of climbing them.

Last weekend may have been my last hike in the Whites for a while. I have races the next two weekends, then the Harvard-Yale game down in New Haven, and then it’s Thanksgiving. November is going to fly!

My friend Danielle is getting married in January, so we gathered this past weekend for a bachelorette party of sorts, albeit a low-key one. Our destination was D-Arces, a not-for-profit permaculture farm and educational homestead in Dorchester, New Hampshire. In addition to being a working farm, D-Acres also operates a low-key hostel, which is pretty fantastic. Rooms are clean, the meals are delicious, the lack of cell service enables you to truly get away, and common spaces like porches and fireplaces encourage group bonding.

We arrived late Friday after a rather arduous drive. Fortunately, we had wine and snacks to help us unwind. I stoked the fire and while Joey picked up a guitar… a low-key end to a high-strung week.

Saturday we were up with the sun. After a delicious homemade breakfast, we took a stroll around the farm. Our first stop was to see the happiest pigs on earth.


D Acres gets food scraps from a local college to feed their pigs. The pigs live in a large fenced in field, with a cozy house for shelter, and lots of room for roaming and rooting. Their meat is some of the best pork I’ve ever tasted.


The farm also has chickens, a hoop house, raspberry bushes, a playground, and a fire circle. There’s an extensive trail network and a couple of swimming holes nearby. Basically, it’s wonderful.

We left D-Acres at about noon and headed northeast to the Welch-Dickey Loop, a 4-mile trail that climbs to small mountains on the southern edge of the White Mountains. I chose the trail because it’s not too long, but is moderately challenging, and offers some spectacular views.


We made it to the top of Welch Mountain in just over an hour, which included some stops for picture taking and general goofiness. There were PB&Js and pumpkin bread to sustain us before we walked over to Dickey Mountain, where we nestled into some rocks and enjoyed a beer.



Not a bad way to spend a Saturday!

Hiking Mt. Chocorua

Last weekend, Amina, Sam, and I headed north. Our plan was to do a Bonds Traverse, but a spotty weather forecast had us rethinking that. We are pretty #weatherproof, but several hours on an exposed ridge in snow showers and 35 mph gusts didn’t sound like a lot of fun. So, I pulled out a map and looked for another option. Chocorua, with its close proximity to North Conway and many trails, was alluring. We could hike a good loop, and if the weather got bad, it would be easy to bail out.

We’d all taken Friday afternoon off, so we hit the road mid-afternoon and were in the Whites with plenty of daylight. “You guys want to go for a quick jaunt?” I asked. The reply was a unanimous yes, so we headed to Lincoln Woods.


Lincoln Woods is one of the most popular trails in the Whites, but we’d beat the traffic and had the place almost to ourselves. I kicked myself for not planning better and proposing it as a trail run, but Amina and Sam were happy to wander and chat. The trail is easy: flat and open, but also super pretty. The foliage was in it’s prime and the Pemigewasset River sparkled in the afternoon sun.

IMG_4962-2Fall foliage

Attachment-1-3Yes, I hiked in Toms. Not terribly smart. 

We kept things at an easy pace, and reached the bridge at Franconia Brook (2.5 miles from the parking lot) just as dusk was settling in. Pretty soon, we were walking in complete darkness, with headlamps to guide the way.

Normally, walking in the woods on pitch blackness would freak me out a bit. But with two friends by my side chatting about podcasts and running, I felt like I was out for a walk around the block. We got back to the car at about 7:30 and were eating pizza in North Conway before we knew it.


The next morning, we were up by seven. The day seemed pristine; a rainbow greeted us as we loaded up the car, and a clear blue sky hung over cloud-filed valleys. I wondered if we’d made a mistake scrapping our traverse plans. After a delicious bagel sandwich, we headed to the Piper Trailhead to begin our day in the woods.

Chocoura is an exceedingly popular hike, so I was surprised that there was plenty of space in the parking lot when we arrived at 9:30. Perhaps everyone had hiked the previous (holiday) weekend? Or maybe they were deterred by the forecast?

We had the whole day, so rather than hike straight to the top, I thought a loop might be more fun. We followed the route laid out here, going up Piper and then veering right to the Carter Ledge Trail. At first, I worried that we’d chosen something too easy. But things picked up once we were on the Ledge Trail and pretty soon we were scrambling over rocks and admiring the views.

Looking west 

After two hours of pretty heavy climbing, we stopped on a rocky ledge to catch our breaths and have a snack. Soon after, we were admiring the abandoned weather station at the top of Middle Sister. The weather had been pretty good until this point, but as we got there the winds picked up, the clouds rolled in, and it began snowing pretty heavily. The summit of Chocorua looked close, but it would take us more than an hour to cover the next steep and rocky 1.3 miles.

The summit


The snow tapered off, but the winds stayed steady as we reached the junction with the Piper Trail. Fortunately, the hard hiking was keeping us warm.

The last half mile was almost laughably hard. The yellow trail markers were faded and hard to find, and the winds were persistently strong. At some points we were heaving ourselves up rocks like clumsy billy goats. And after hours of seeing almost no one, all the trails on the mountain seemed to converge, placing us in a swarm of hikers, laden with babies, dogs, beers, and cameras. It was a bit chaotic.


Attachment-1-8Amina and Sam navigate the ledges

Finally, we were at the top (about 4.5 hours after we started). We took a quick photo and then ducked into the lee-side of the mountain about 20 feet below the summit for a peanut butter sandwich and Ritter sport picnic. Out of the wind, everything was gorgeous.

The best peanut butter sandwich in the world

Leaving the summit proved a bit confusing. My map clearly showed a trail to the Jim Liberty cabin from the summit, but an older gentlemen on top insisted that I had to go back the way I came and then pick up the Liberty Trail. We did, but then came to a junction after about a half mile that clearly went to the summit. I’m still not sure where I went wrong.

The hike down was much easier; steep, but no rock scrambling. My legs felt great, and hiking with poles made the descent much easier on the knees. We picked up the Weetamoo Trail, which brought us back to the Piper Trail and were back at the car in about two hours.

Trip details:
Length: 10.5 miles
Time: 7 hours, 6 hours hiking
Temp: ~30 degres
Gear: heavy base layer, ski shell, hat, buff, gloves, and poles.
Other stuff: space blanket, extra layers (top and bottom), water, snacks, headlamp, first aid kit

Dateline: Reykjavik

After the winter we just had, I’m not entirely sure why Iceland in June seemed like a good idea, but something about a land of volcanoes, ice, and elves appealed, so a couple weeks ago, I unearthed my ski socks, down jacket, and mittens, and packed a bag for Reykjavik, where the average June temperature hovers below 50.


My plan for this trip was to do some serious hiking in southern Iceland (more on that later), but before getting out of town, I spent a day exploring Reykjavik. Europe’s northernmost capital was smaller than I expected, more akin to a seaport like Gloucester or Annapolis than a bustling European capital. Which is appropriate: Reykjavik was founded in 870 A.D. by seafaring Vikings, and for centuries operated as a seaport. Until the 20th century, there were few roads linking communities on the island. Instead, people travelled by boat.


Though Reykjavik is relatively small, I managed to walk 15 miles in the city on the first day. I couldn’t help it: the small streets and picturesque houses make it a very walkable city. The city was hosting a color run the morning I arrived, which made for a pretty hilarious spectacle with hundreds of fair-haired people running through clouds of neon dust. I spent the rest of the day passing people with rock-star quality hair and crossing blue and pink tinged streets.

Rather than give you a play by play of the day, here are a few highlights:

My first stop was at Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik’s iconic church. It was about 8 a.m. when I arrived, and the city was just waking up, so the church wasn’t open. I walked around and snapped some photos and then headed into town in search of coffee.


Reykjavik has a great cafe scene, I don’t think I had a bad cup of coffee the entire time I was there, regardless of whether I was at a quaint cafe, a mountain hut, or a gas station.

Harpa Concert Hall
After breakfast, I headed to the coast and found myself near the Harpa Concert Hall, another of the city’s iconic structures. Of course I had to go in for a gander. Built of steel and glass, the structure reminded me of a giant honeycomb, overlooking the harbor.


Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
I never would have sought out hot dogs in Iceland has I not read this story in Conde Nast Traveller. Iceland’s culinary history is colorful (to be generous). With a short growing season and long winters, food preservation was important: smoking, drying, and brining meat and fish is pervasive. But while whey brined shark (hakarl) is an acquired taste, hot dogs hold more universal appeal. So, I headed to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (translation: the best hog dog in town) to try one of the famous Icelandic hot dogs, made mostly from free-range organic lamb wrapped in a natural casing (with a bit of pork and beef thrown in for good measure).

There was a line when I arrived, but it moved quickly. At 400 krona (about $3), they were a steal, so I got two, with everything. Everything was raw onions, fried onions, sweet mustard, and “remoulade” a mayonnaise-based sauce. The hotdogs were served in a perfect, soft, white bun, with the onions underneath and the sauce in two neat lines over the top. The casing crunched satisfyingly, and the actual sausages weren’t as salty as their American counterparts. All in all, it was a pretty great lunch.

The harbor
The day I arrived was also the start of the Festival of the Sea. Every Icelandic ship was in the harbor, and all the sailors had a day off. I walked from the Harpa Concert Hall along the water, reading displays about Iceland’s maritime disasters (there are many), admiring boats, and looking confusedly at an exhibit of Icelandic seafood that featured real, slightly decaying specimens.


It was a great way to learn more about the history of Iceland, and if you’re hankering for a fishing or whale watching excursion, this is the place to go. There are also a host of seafood restaurants overlooking the water, as well as a maritime museum.


When your homeland has a lot of volcanic activity like Iceland does, you also have some pretty awesome geothermal resources. Icelandic communities have capitalized on this by building a host of outdoor, heated, community swimming pools, and making swim lessons compulsory for all school children.

In Reykjavik, the biggest of these pools is the Laugardalslaug, located slightly east of downtown Reykjavik. It was about a half hour walk from my hotel downtown, but the pool is also accessible by public bus (routes and schedules here).

Icelanders use minimal chemicals in their pools, so a cleansing shower (with soap, no bathing suit) is required before you get in. The wet walk from the locker room to the outdoor pool was something of a shock (it was 45 degrees the day I went), but the warmth of the hot tubs made it all worth it.

Iceland17Fortunately, the pool didn’t look like this on the day I visited. In addition to several hot tubs of various temperatures, the facility features a lap pool, a huge children’s play area, floating chess and waterslides. With admission about $5 (plus another $5 to rent a towel), it’s a steal. For the best people watching, go when work gets out and Icelanders are enjoying time with their families.

Reykjavik is also the culinary and shopping hub of the country, so if you’re looking for a good meal or neat souvenirs, this is your spot. I had a traditional tasting menu one night featuring smoked puffin, seared mike whale, reindeer, arctic char, and skyr… it was a different, but delicious experience.