Mt. Cardigan, 2011

The High Cabin wasn't available to rent this weekend, so I booked a camp site at the base of the mountain and convinced Jen and Ann to join me for a Perseids meteor shower camping weekend.

Friday August 12, 2011

I did a half day of work and rode home to wait for Ann and Jen to meet me there. I was bringing an extra sleeping bag for Ann, a two person tent, and my camp stove, fuel and pots, and coupled with last minute packing the night before, had a large pile of stuff to pack into the back of Jen's car. Ann walked from Central Sq and we hung out on my porch, helping a plumber retrieve his cell phone from one of the apartments, while Jen navigated traffic from her work place. We got everything into the car and then hit more traffic getting onto and north on 93. We stopped at the NH rest stop/liquor store for a bathroom break, snacks and drinks. I also popped into the liquor store and grabbed a cheap bottle of wine (Cupcake wineries Red Velvet, which went well with the "lush and velvety" Goliath Rex wine that Jen had brought) as well as some nips to accent our hot chocolate (Chambourd and Amarula).

Traffic cleared up a bit after there, and soon we were on the secondary roads through Bristol and Alexandria, and then on the dirt road to the AMC Cardigan site. I went in and got our camp site number and a trail map, and found out that they were doing a group Perseids watching thing, with a naturalist who "knows a lot about stars". That sounded good, and after buying a small thing of fire wood for our camp site, we loaded up our gear in one of the wheelbarrows and I hauled it down the path to site 4. This turned out to be in the middle of a rising meadow, a bit too exposed for my taste, but because the other sites in the meadow were below and above us, it wasn't bad.

Ann helped me and Jen get the tents up, and I think she ran back to the lodge to fill up the water bottles from the spout there. I got my stove set up and boiled the rice and flavour packets that Jen had brought. It was just dark as we were finishing up eating, we had a couple of dim lights on the picnic table. We did a quick clean up, and added some layers of clothes and walked back to the lodge in the dark. We found the sky watching group by their voices, and reached them just as a collective "aaaah" went up - we'd *just* missed seeing a nice big fireball as we picked our way to our seats. A woman told a story about seeing a really close fireball in Maine (sonic boom and everything), and the AMC ex-naturalist volunteer kept trying to interact with everyone (some kids made up their own constellations) and wandering off to look for Andromeda through his binoculars. When he came striding back to the group loudly exclaiming "isn't it peaceful here?" we all broke into giggles. We ended up being the last to leave, and it was peaceful by the end. We used some of the lodge blankets and stayed until the full moon was well up and washing out the sky (no clouds, but we were set up in the moon shadow of a stand of trees), at around 10:30pm I think. I don't think we stayed up too late talking that night, we did have some hot chocolate with Chambourd, but then just crawled into the tents and went to sleep. I had a bit of trouble staying asleep, I'd get chilly and then pull the sleeping bag over my head, then get too warm and pull it off again. I should have just dug out the hat I'd brought, I did that the second night and was fine.

Saturday August 13, 2011

Once it started to get light, I gave some though to getting up, but did a bit of napping instead. :) Eventually we were all up and I boiled hot water for tea and set out the granola, coconut milk and blueberries I'd brought for breakfast. I made up almond butter bagel sandwiches and parcelled out energy bars and we were soon off to the lodge to top up camelbaks and water bottles for the hike. I put the left over food in the bear box near the lower camp site, but tucked the bottle of wine into the shade of my tent. We backtracked a bit from the lodge to the Back 80 trail and were soon alone in the woods. We could walk abreast for a while, but eventually the trail narrowed down and we were in single file. We passed lots of evidence of animal activity (aka piles of poop), though we weren't 100% sure what was leaving them - herbivore for sure, at least. We skirted a beaver pond and saw quite a few trees that had been gnawed all around but hadn't fallen, but luckily we didn't encounter any pissed off beavers. We reached the intersection with the Elwell trail and took it to Mowgli's trail. A short debate led us to not go to the peak of Mowgli but instead continued on toward Firescrew, to return to the camp site via the Manning trail. It got a lot steeper, and we had to scramble a bit to get over some sections, so we were stopping to rest and stretch a bit more often. Then the blueberries started to show up, and waiting for the group to coalesce again at the top of steep sections got a lot more pleasant. :) There was one huge patch that I just wanted to throw myself mouth first into. Lots of huge dragonflies up there too, we stopped to eat our sandwiches on a rocky ledge just before the summit of Firescrew and they would fly close by so we could see their huge bodies. Lots of butterflies as well, and a few mosquitoes that were mostly discouraged by the quantities of DEET that I had applied. :)

Once we were on Firescrew we started to see other hikers, but we'd been alone on the Back 80 trail. We had a nice clear view over the landscape and over to the fire tower on top of Mt. Cardigan about half a mile away. We decided to head back to camp rather than going over there first and down, to save some time/distance. I triple checked that we were going down Manning and not Holt on our descent, the trail was really steep in places. My knee and Jen's ankle were not too happy, but a slow steady pace got us down to the flat section after a while. The landmarks on the map didn't get noticed while walking, so the appearance of the first camp site was a pleasant surprise.

Ann had ranged ahead a bit and reported back that we were close. She also went to get more water for dinner and came back saying that people were swimming in the pond. After a bit of flat time, we found enough energy to change into our swim suits and walk down to the pond. We walked around to the far side since lots of kids were trying to catch tadpoles on the near shore, and we might have pissed off a fisherman on the far shore, though we were in the water for a short time and away from where he was casting. I saw a tadpole with arms and legs floating in the water, and shoo'd it away before plunging in. We ignored the floating platform, just doing a quick dip and then sitting on the shore to dry off. Back to camp and I got water boiling and supper cooking. It was kind of novel to eat dinner at camp while the sun was still up. :) We cracked Jen's bottle of wine with dinner, and were a bit giggly/snarky when we went back up to the big fire pit next to the lodge for their S'Mores night. We sat through jokes, songs and stories but didn't get S'Mores until the group split up the the ex-naturalist took pity on us and gave us one. To share among the three of us. :) We popped into the lodge dining hall and bought a mug of hot chocolate to share back at camp. I put the Amarula in mine this time and it was delicious. I'd set up our camp fire and lit it with one flame (my match box was a bit damp and the striker surface was coming off instead of lighting my matches so I borrowed Jen's lighter). Ann kept it going while we sat around and drank my bottle of wine and talked. I was a bit tipsy by the time the fire died down, but successfully navigated the outhouse and got safely into my sleeping bag, with a hat this time. :)

Sunday August 14, 2011

The night before we'd been warned that there were rain storms forecast for around dawn, and we'd covered up anything we didn't want to get wet. I'd pretty much brought everything of mine into my tent, but when I was woken up by the sound of rain on the plastic (around 6am), I found that the lack of a ground sheet had let water dampen the floor of the tent. I stuffed things into my pack and piled things on top of it and went back to sleep. The rain tapered off and we took advantage of the break to pack things up and eat a quick breakfast. Ants had gotten into the bear box and colonised the blueberries and the coconut milk, so we had dry granola for breakfast, though with nice hot tea. The rain started again and we finished loading up stuff into the wheelbarrow that Ann had fetched and she rolled it out of there at around 9am. I popped into the lodge and got a diner recommendation, Gilly's in Bristol and we hit the road and found it easily enough. The big pancakes really were big, I could only finish one and got the second to go. They grilled my blueberry muffin, that was a bit of a surprise. I had iced tea instead of hot, and that probably didn't help with the staying away on the drive home. I had to make an effort to keep talking so Jen would have someone awake with her. Traffic was heavy but moving and we got home in half the time it took to drive north, even with dropping Ann off first, I was in my apartment by 12:30pm. I made an effort and draped my tent and fly over the clothes lines out back and they dried before the rain started again. I took a nice hot bath and did some stretching as sitting still in the car had stiffened me up again. I barely lasted through a birthday party for a 2 year old (in walking distance), getting groceries and making dinner, talking to my parents and then reading for a bit. I fell asleep on the couch and just ended up moving to the bed at 9pm or so. The sleep deprivation was the driving factor of my sleepiness, the hiking was done at a relaxed pace (thank goodness for hiking with people shorter than I am for once! ;) ) and despite some soreness, I can still take stairs without much thought the day after getting back. :)

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