Because "Bear Related Incidents" are not often written up in the papers like, "In the fourth Bear Related Incident reported this summer, a small group of local hikers was given a rare treat yesterday along Galehead Trail. A trio of friendly, bow-tie wearing bears rolled out of the woods on unicycles just 20 feet away from where the hikers were taking a granola break. The bears juggled, played instruments, and made balloon animals for the hikers before heading back into the forest."
Bear Related Incidents are generally a bit more grim and contain fewer balloon animals and more carnage.
I saw this sign for what it was. A sign. A sign to abandon this silly notion of hiking along bear-infested trails. Julie–who is giddy with the prospect of completing her quest to summit all of NH 4,000 foot mountains within the next millennium–did not listen to my plaintive wails. She forged onward and upward toward the craggy summit, a scant 5 miles directly above our heads.
And she made me hike it twice.
I don't want to sound bitter about this, but I want to be very clear about the fact that I AM BITTER ABOUT THIS.
We climbed that bear-crusted mountain twice and it's all Julie's fault. Then, she had the temerity to berate me for not writing about the first time we hiked it.
Actually, she had the temerity to berate me for not writing about two other hikes, as well. So to get her off my back, I will cram 3 hikes and 4 mountains into this one, bear-filled post.
Long ago, we dragged my son, Alex along with us to hike North and South Kinsman Mountains. I had just purchased my very first pair of hiking boots and was delighted with their shiny awesomeness to the point that I included them in almost every photograph that I took on that hike. I didn't want the boots to get upset and give me blisters.
|Scenic View of My Boot.|
|Lonesome Lake. And my Boot.|
Arriving at the hut, you are greeted with a stairway to nowhere.
|Complete with Doorknob.|
"Sure, man," they'll say. "You can stay here for free. Just head up the back stairs and the first room you come to is all yours."
Then they climb back up on the roof for another 3 hour rendition of Truckin'.
I tried to send Alex into the hut this way, but that kid is way too smart for those kinds of shenanigans.
Plus, he could smell free food from about a mile down the trail. I tried to convince him that it was just the aroma of hippies, baking in the sun, but being a 13 year old boy, he can sniff out food scents at 1 part per bajillion in the atmosphere.
Heavy with pancakes and redolent of hippie stink, we headed onward toward the summit where we found a guy enjoying the splendor of nature by checking his email.
|If it's not on Facebook, it didn't happen. Better let everyone know where I am.|
His friend, who sadly does not appear in any of my photos because my boot was getting jealous, was hiking with an ingenious contraption that allowed him to broadcast Metallica from his backpack for everyone within a half mile to enjoy. It was the first hike I have experienced with a soundtrack, if you don't include the hippies singing the Dead.
Which I don't.
|I was visited again by the strange and terrifying Sweat Bunny.|
That kid is so gullible.
Someday he will appreciate how hilarious I am. That day has yet to come, however.
|Julie taking a picture of herself behind Alex and my boot. Metallica was still playing in the background.|
A delightful feature of the mountains we were on is the fact that they have more than one lake on them. Lonesome Lake, as I mentioned, is home to the rare and elusive Mountain Hippie. Much farther up the mountain is a tiny lake whose name I cannot remember and do not care to look up right now.
|Bonus, Hippie-Free Lake.|
Once there, Julie–perhaps addled by the thin mountain air–attempted to walk across the lake.
|Even the classic hand position did little to help Julie walk on water.|
She almost made it, too. She only had about 1,000 yards to go before she sank.
On the shores of Hippie-Free lake was a delightful little campground where you would be guaranteed not to find any obnoxious people "camping" in RVs with 72" flat screen TVs mounted to the outside.
The campground amenities included one water spigot, one pit toilet with the delicate suggestion that the toilet is available for "solid waste" and that "liquid waste" might be more effectively disposed of in the woods.
There was also a giant house-like structure on the shore of the lake where you could seek shelter from hippies should the need arise.
|My boot at the log cabin where President Lincoln was probably not born.|
It was a very cool place, although Alex was reluctant to take up permanent residence there, despite my claims that he could play his lousy music all the time and it wouldn't bother me any more.
The rest of the hike was a simple glide across several hundred miles of hellish terrain, followed by ice cream, as is the custom.
Julie, perhaps still suffering the effects of the oxygen-deprived atmosphere of the mountain, actually got Cappuccino Crunch and Play-Doh ice cream.
|I'm sure that you will all join me in wishing her a speedy recovery.|
Let us never speak of this ice cream abomination again.
Instead, let's talk about the bear-filled mountain that Julie made me climb.
Yeah. Me too. We went on this hike, originally planning to summit Galehead and South Twin in one spectacular, thrilling climb. It was a long climb to Galehead Hut, then the trail split into a Y. We planned on going up one way, then back down and up the other way.
But we didn't and I'm not one to cast blame, but IT'S ALL JULIE'S FAULT!
We hiked up and summited South Twin and then went home. So we had to go back to hike Galehead a second time. The next time, we tricked Alex into coming along again by telling him that there would be more free pancakes.
There were not. Instead, there were bear warning signs and suicidal mushrooms and mud that looked like delicious chocolate cake.
Rather than write about two more hikes that were essentially the same hike, WHICH IS ALL JULIE'S FAULT, I'm going to combine them into one dizzying and confusing post.
Our hike started off with Alex, or without, depending on which one you're talking about. And I don't know which one I'm talking about yet, so we'll have to see how it all goes.
|Was Alex there?|
|Nice and easy.|
Before banking slightly upwards toward the sky.
The trial itself was littered with dozens of mushrooms that had decided that life as a mushroom was not one worth living.
It turns out that we were all wrong in thinking that, however. Seriously. Who ever heard of suicidal mushrooms. That's just crazy talk.
We eventually found out that these mushrooms had been destroyed by the evil Gargamel, who has prowled the woods of New Hampshire for decades in search of Smurfs. We know this because Smurfette herself told us.
|She even posed for a picture before Alex grabbed her and ate her. |
|More Free Pancakes!|
|He was not amused.|
Arriving at Galehead Hut, the taste of Smurf still burning Alex's mouth, he refilled his water bottle.
It may sound like a simple thing, but water is, it appears, such a precious commodity on the mountain that they guard it with an ingenious trap.
|Alex is desperate enough to wash the taste of Smurf away that he risks filling up at the Sink of Damocles. Please note the sword dangling precariously over his head|
|You'd better REALLY want that water.|
|The hut also provides a wide selection of books. And every single one of them is about hiking. Because after hiking all day, what could be better than reading about more hiking?|
The view outside the hut on the first hike was somewhat limited.
The second time, that same view was significantly improved.
On hike number one–did I mention that I had to do this hike twice BECAUSE OF JULIE?– we arrived at the summit of South Twin to find several thru-hikers making their way along the Appalachian Trail. The peculiar, stinging odor of thru-hiker is visible as fog on the summit.
|Thru-hiker stink clouding up the view from the summit.|
The climb to the summit of South Twin was brutal, something I will never admit to Julie, because then she will know that I actually didn't really want to do that second summit, even though we were this close.
|We only had to get to that little hill in the background.|
But BECAUSE OF JULIE, NOT ME, we had to come back a second day and do it all over again. The summit of Galehead was actually something of a let-down.
|Guidebooks refer to this as an "enclosed summit". I refer to it as a "rip-off".|
To keep people from demanding a refund, Mother Nature has thoughtfully provided a scenic lookout, easily recognized by this natural signal.
Once at the lookout, Alex and Julie were overcome with the desire to look like models from an ad for hiking clothes.
|Would you buy clothes from these two?|
Alex, however, kept trying.
|Alex attempts to model for an energy drink commercial.|
|And fails miserably by gagging, an activity that advertising people do not care to associate with their drinks.|
Before we descend to the cars and ice cream, Julie assures us that we are not, no matter what it looks like, in any way, lost.
|No. We are not lost. Julie just wanted something to read. A map was handy. That's all.|
And see that knee brace Julie is wearing? Sometimes during a hike, her knee bothers her, so she keeps that brace handy in case she needs it. The problem, of course, is that she failed to read the directions before putting it on. As a result, its usefulness has been compromised somewhat.
|Julie tries in vain to slip the knee brace on over her head. Duh, Julie.|
|Still not working right. Duh, Julie.|
We made our way down the mountain, Julie limping along and adjusting her knee brace every few inches and Alex complaining about how hungry he was. I directed Alex to some delicious, fudgy chocolate cake that some helpful person had left in the middle of the trail.
|He was not amused.|
We trudged endlessly through the woods, talking exclusively about ice cream until we came to the lair of The Bog Monster from a Scooby Doo cartoon.
We laughed heartily as it rose up from the murky depths and ate Alex.
|Nice knowing you, kid.|
|Yay! He didn't get eaten!|
|He was not amused.|