Category Archives: Hiking

Mount Major was Minor

In keeping with my goal to hike at least twice a month, K and I set out to hike Mount Major last Saturday. Mount Major rises a majestic 1,786 feet above Lake Winnipesaukee. You can almost see it through the trees.

Oh dear. I seem to be turning into a mountain snob like my husband, which is pretty rich when you consider that South Moat kicked my rear last week.

There are two trail options on Major: Boulder Loop and Mount Major trail. If you take one up and the other down, your roundtrip hike will be about 3.8 miles long. Boulder Loop is 1.6 miles long, a bit steeper and a not as well-marked, while Mount Major is 2.2 miles long with a slightly prettier terrain. The latter is a great trail for kids and dogs because there are a lot of single boulders to climb on but the trail itself is pretty easy footing – and there is a fairly panoramic view of the lake from the summit.

This probably should’ve been our first hike of the season, followed up by South Moat. So I did things backwards. Sue me.

If you plan to hike this mountain anytime in the near future, my first piece of advice to you is this: do not, under any circumstances, use Google maps to get your directions. The directions we got were so wacky and skewed that we must have turned the car around about 12 times – once only about a quarter of a mile from the trailhead, if only we’d known it – trying to find our way. Finally, a cop who was directing traffic at the half-marathon flagged us down. I sweetly told him we were looking for Mount Major and he pointed us back up the Route 11.

We pulled into the parking lot and I was instantly wary. It was packed with cars, people, kids, dogs, hiking equipment and I think I saw a goat. For a minute I wasn’t sure whether I was at a trailhead or the Fryeburg Fair.

One of the things I like about hiking is the solitude. I like to pretend I’m hundreds of miles from everyone and everything, even if it’s not remotely true. I think this is one of the reasons I prefer to stay away from the smaller mountains. As you start getting up into the three, four and five-thousand footers, you meet fewer and fewer people.

So I’m a hermit. Sue me.

K had the best quote of the day: “Hiking was awesome, before everyone started doing it.”

Roger that, girl.

However, we gamely laced on our boots. To the right of the parking lot, when facing the back, is a well-worn path leading up a steep hill. We each grabbed a wad of toilet paper out of my pack and headed up to the huge boulder at the top, behind which was the community bathroom. After taking turns at guard duty and burying our TP, we headed back down the trail to sling our packs and get Owen out of the back where he was waiting not-so-patiently.

At the back of the parking lot was the trailhead, marked with a slightly weathered sign.

Mt Major trail sign 

“Which trail do you want to take up?” I asked K.

“I was thinking we’d take whichever one everyone else doesn’t,” she replied. And this is just one of the reasons I love K.

We watched two groups take the right side trail, so we headed left, up Boulder Loop. One of the trail descriptions I’d read online indicated that hikers would cross two wooden bridges before the trail forked. Almost immediately we crossed a small wooden bridge and then another that wasn’t much more than a few planks tossed across the next bend of stream.

“Were those the two bridges?” I asked. “It seemed more like one and a half.”

K shrugged.

“And is this the fork? That doesn’t really look like a trail,” I said, pointing to the right. What looked like a deer path wandered vaguely in that direction. There were no other indicators, so we followed the more obvious path for about thirty feet before we decided it was leading dead away from the mountain. We turned around and headed up the road less travelled. Sure enough after a few minutes of walking we spotted an orange blaze.

I hate bad trail descriptions.

I swear we’ve had way more than our fair share of unmarked trails and inaccurate directions. Remember this:

Little K on Cranberry Peak 

Fortunately, from that point forward there was little doubt. We began to encounter signs such as this:

more trail signs 

Here you can clearly see that we are supposed to turn right and that Nick is a loser.

Towards the top we had to scamper over a couple of small boulder fields (or around, in Owen’s case) and up a couple of short rock scrambles, but no big deal. We reached the top in just over an hour, even with our temporary off-course veering, and sat down to have a snack.

Owen on Major 

It took a bit to find a secluded spot on the top of that ant hill, but we managed to carve out a little corner to rest and rehydrate. We hung out there for a while, taking in the boats on the lake and watching the gathering gloom.

Lake Winnipesaukee 

K found the summit marker so we took the traditional picture…

Mt Major summit marker 

…and started back down on Mt. Major trail.

I immediately ran into trouble with Owen on the downward rock scrambles. He likes to jump down them quickly, but ends up dragging me with him. We only have a six-foot leash and he’s not an off-leash kind of dog. It’s not a behavior problem: he’s very friendly and mellow; he doesn’t jump and he gets along well with other dogs. The problem is that he has selective hearing in regards to the “come” command.

Very selective.

I could be holding a bacon-wrapped New York sirloin in my hands and calling his name at the top of my lungs, but if he got it in his head that he wanted to check out something else first (like a bird or a bee or a porcupine), it wouldn’t make a difference in the world.

Even once we got past the boulders he continued to pull me, which is odd for him. I worked for months with this dog on loose-leash walking and usually he’s a champ. Not this time. This time he was frustrating me to the brink of either sitting down to weep or just letting go of the leash altogether.

It is so exhausting to walk down a mountain while trying to pull a dog back up it.

The good news is that Mt. Major trail was quite well-marked.

obvious trail sign

You can’t quite make them out in this picture, but not only is there a sign pointing out the trail’s rather obvious location, there are also a total of four blue blazes along this straight stretch. Four.

Even K and I don’t need that much help. But hey, I guess I’d rather have an over-marked trail than an under.

We made it back to the parking lot just as the first few drops of rain were starting to fall. As we drove off, the sprinkle turned to a downpour, so our timing was pretty good.

Best of all? I wasn’t at all sore the next day, so I got back a little of my self-respect. On to the next mountain! Right after Owen and I do a little review of “easy”, “wait” and “stay”. “Come” is just hopeless, so why bother?

How about you? What commands do you have a hard time teaching your dog?

Say, “Moat”!

The hiking meal of preference for my husband is a sandwich. And not just any old sandwich. It has to be a sandwich from Subway.

Clearly, if you bought a whole wheat sub roll at the store, stuffed it with some sliced chicken breast, spinach, banana peppers and Dijon mustard, that would be inferior to say, a Subway sub roll filled with ham, cheese, spinach, yellow mustard and banana peppers.

I’m just not sure how.

Regardless, this is his MO. So I go along with it. I’m supportive that way.

This is how it was that on Sunday morning we found ourselves in the Subway parking lot. Much to Owen’s dismay, they don’t allow dogs in the sandwich shop, so we waited in the car while “Daddy” got his lunch for the day.

Owen waiting at Subway

Waiting for Daddy

Happily, once T came back out with his Subway sandwich, we were able to proceed to the trailhead of South Moat mountain where we met our friend, WB.

South Moat trailhead

South Moat is a modest mountain of just under 2,800 feet. The trail, roundtrip, is about 5.4 miles long and the total elevation gain is a respectable 2,000 feet. I thought it would be a great starter hike. Or, more accurately, a great “first hike of the season” hike. We usually start a bit smaller than that, but I decided to go for it this time.

The first part of the trail was full of hemlocks with little undergrowth. Instead, a fragrant carpet of pine needles lay on the forest floor. To the right was a gorge ripe with spring melt off. We marched up the trail and over a wooden bridge spanning the rushing water.

South Moat trail bridge

Crossing the bridge put the water behind us and the trail quickly turned almost sandy. There was a decent incline almost immediately, though it was interspersed with flatter areas. None of us quite had our hiking legs yet, but it was a short hike and we were in no hurry. We were content to stop often and enjoy just being outside after a long winter.

Taking a break

I got some love from Owen while the boys talked.

Love from Owie

Because it was so early in the season, the black flies weren’t out yet, which was a blessing. What I didn’t anticipate was the sun. Normally, this would be a nicely shaded trail its early stages, but with the trees just barely budding, there were no leaves to screen us from the rays. It got hot fast.

Fortunately, Owen is good at finding the shade.

Owen finds shade

Owen's shady spot.

Soon we started hitting ledges where there was open rock face and some nice views. Here’s what Chocorua, which I hiked last summer with a fellow MilSpouse, looks like from across the way.

View of Chocorua 

The last stretch to the top was rough. My legs were sending me urgent “you’ve been lazy” messages, so WB and I took frequent breaks while Mr. Mountains-of-Afghanistan plowed steadily ahead with Owen. During one such break, WB turned to me and said, “Oh, man. Wait until you see what’s coming down the trail. This is going to make me feel even more like a pansy.”

It wasn’t the brown lab that came panting down, eyeing us with friendly curiosity. Dogs were not an anomaly on this trail. They were all over the place. No, it was the elderly woman who came after him decked out in a sweater and hiking boots and picking her way steadily along the trail with her poles. She had to be in her seventies. She was amazing.

We were slightly less inspiring. Eventually, though, we made it to the summit.

South Moat summit marker

South Moat summit marker

We took a look around and explored for a bit.

View from South Moat

Ignore the awkward leash position.

Then we settled in for lunch.

Me at Lunch

WB found the perfect little nook to make his hot cocoa.

WB's hot cocoa 

Can you imagine a better view for cocoa drinking? Or a nicer place to read?

WB and Owen reading

T manned our stove so that I could eat my soup.

T at the stove 

In all honesty, it was a little too warm for it, but I was hungry. Probably should’ve gone with Subway.

Owen found a shady spot for a while, but then perched on an outcrop to watch the birds. It’s pretty cool when you can see a turkey vulture fly by at eye level and I guess he thought so, too.

Owen on South Moat 

A fellow hiker saw us snapping photos and kindly offered to get all three (well, four) of us. “Say, ‘Moat’!” he said and we all laughed (except Owie).

Say "Moat"!

Say "Moat"!

After a nice, long break we packed up and made the trek back down. We didn’t stop as often, so we made decent time and came out around 4:30 p.m. It was a good day’s work and a nice – if slightly aggressive – starter hike.

Even Owen was tired.

Owen sacked out

Sacked out in the back.

Snowy Willard

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My window is a black and white photograph of a snowy winter scene. Oh, there are colors, of course: the dull French gray of tree trunks spiking up out of endless white; a darker green peeking from under snowy pine branches; and the paler green of a moss whispering, Spring is not lost forever.

But Old Man Winter is letting us know he’s still in control today and the chaos of blowing snow sheens everything colorless.

It’s beautiful.

T likes summer with its vibrant blues and greens, but winter is so…sophisticated in its starkness. The stars are sharper, the moon is brighter and the trees are pointedly dignified.

(I’m trying to put more description in my writing. Is it working?)

And best of all, I now have someone to help me shovel.

T shovelling

Owen, too, loves winter. With his heavy white coat and padded neck, this dog was built for snow. Don’t tell me it wasn’t Fate that rescued him from the deep South and brought him up here. Some things in the world have to make sense.

Owen in the snow

He likes to play tug-of-war with himself.

tug-of-war in the snow

Because he’s a freak. He also likes to eat snow. Clean snow. Dirty snow. Soft snow, crunchy snow. A lot of snow.

Owen eats snow

Because he’s a freak.

Anyway…

The fluttering flakes instantly inspired a trail tribute.

So, here is a post I should’ve posted long ago:

Snowy Willard

We did our first winter hike! Back in December, when T first got home, we spent a few days up at Bear Mountain Lodge. While we were there, we took a few hours one afternoon to hike Mount Willard.

Willard Trailhead

All 2,865 ft of it. Okay, fine. The elevation gain was only 900 ft. But the views were as good as some of the 3,500-footers I’ve been on and the trail itself, with its snow-blanketed trees, was almost as lovely as anything I’ve ever seen.

T on Willard

It was a good pick for our first winter trail. The slight slip of the snow gave a little extra challenge to a 3-mile roundtrip hike and, though we carried our snowshoes, we never needed them on the packed trail.

Which is good, because I hate snowshoeing. It’s way too much work.

The incline of this trail had me sweating pretty good, though. I was stripping off layers at every turn. By the time we reached the top I was down to my polypro shirt and microfleece and I was carrying my hat and mittens.

T commented that the snow overhang made it feel like we were walking in a closed corridor. This was true and never more evident than as we broke through to the summit.

Towards Willard summit

(Look familiar? See blog header for reference.)

Once we hit the ledge on top…

Willard Summit

Did I mention that the views were amazing?

Still on the emotional high that comes from reuniting with a husband who had been in a war zone for nine months, every day of which I feared for his safety, I cried tears of awe and joy as I looked out over this scene. Hiking with T infused me with more happiness than I thought I could feel again and it overwhelmed me in wave after wave.

Me & T on Willard

Once we had looked our fill and were starting to feel chilly, we started back. On the way down, we came across a gray jay. Gray jays are pretty much blue jays, only slightly bigger and, um, gray.

gray jay

They also differ from blue jays in that they have no fear. Whereas blue jays are screaming pansies that shy away from chickadees at the bird feeder, gray jays will perch lightly on your hand to peck daintily at a proffered crumb.

 No really.

gray jay on Mt Tom

Mt Tom (shown above) is the only other place I’ve seen gray jays. T, Denis and I spent a chilly afternoon one September in 2007 feeding them portions of our lunch.

Seeing them on Willard was like seeing an old friend. Everything about this hike was perfect.

Or maybe I was just seeing it through rose-colored glasses.

T+S

But I’m okay with that.

Hiking Hedgehog

On Saturday I hiked Hedgehog Mountain with two of my Leo friends, M and WB.  Hedgehog Mountain, besides having a cute name, is a nice little loop hike with some very decent views – especially considering that at 2,532 ft., it is dwarfed by most of the surrounding White Mountains.

Why is it called Hedgehog?, I wondered. Check out the picture of the peak on the Seacoast Dayhikers overview.

Makes more sense now, doesn’t it?

M and I were late to the trailhead, so we didn’t get started until about 10:45 a.m. The trail is only 4.8 miles roundtrip, so we weren’t too worried, except that WB had to wait for us. Fortunately, it was a beautiful fall day, so he lounged on the tailgate of his truck and caught up on some of his flight school reading.

The first stretch of trail (0.1 miles) is almost completely flat. Good warm-up. Then we hit the trail juncture, which is marked by a signpost.

Trail juncture

M & WB at the trail juncture.

 According to the sign, Hedgehog mountain is located in WB’s armpit.

Because it is a loop trail, it didn’t really matter which way we went, as long as we didn’t take the X-country ski trail (marked by blue blazes). We took the left-side trail, which was marked with yellow blazes. It was a slightly longer route to the summit, but more gradual.

The next 1.8 miles took us longer than it should have because we kept losing the trail. There were quite a few downed trees, most of them in the middle of the path. A couple of times we followed a footpath into nothingness, before retracing our steps and finding the trail again.

Eventually, we came to the East Ledges – hands down the best views of the hike.

Approaching East Ledges

The view as we approached East Ledges.

It’s hard to believe it was already past peak out there.

The ledges provided not only a majestic view, but a royal throne from which to enjoy it.

The throne

WB on the throne.

It was the perfect place for a little rest, so we took off our packs and pulled out our snacks. It was then that the chipmunks came out in such full force that I thought we should consider renaming the place Chipmunk Mountain.

But probably the AMC wouldn’t go for it.

Nature lesson

WB schooling M.

Hiking with WB is like having your own personal guide to the White Mountains. He spent a lot of time out there in his college days and originally studied forestry. He can tell you the history of the trail, the scientific names of certain trees and a whole lot about lightweight gear.

It’s very cool.

We got on our way again and found the last bit to the top was more strenuous. But we lived through it.

We set up camp at the top (not really) and I proceeded to take approximately 52 minutes to figure out how to put the damn hiking stove together. T or Denis have always done it in the past and though I’ve tried to watch and remember, I’ve never done it. So I didn’t remember.

It wasn’t even really cold out, but I was determined to have hot soup or die in the attempt. After cursing the stove, T (for not letting me do it on my own) and WB (for having already boiled water 25 minutes ago), I finally got the thing together. I lit it, put the water on top and waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Then I realized that I never turned the gas up, which is why it was taking so long.

Good thing it wasn’t the dead of winter.

As we were eating, a few more friends came out to visit.

chipmunk

Our lunch guest.

Also, as we were eating, the following conversation took place:

WB: Anyone want an Almond Joy?

M: I will.

Me: I like Mounds better.

WB: I like Mounds too, but no one will share them with me.

M: I will! I just haven’t finished eating yet!

Me: What?

M: Oh. I just realized what he said. Never mind!

Me: (laughing hysterically)

Before we headed down the other side, we took the traditional summit shot:

summit marker

The three of us. Or our feet, anyway.

The way down was a bit shorter and a bit steeper, but we laughed and joked and philosophized merrily about all that is wrong with the world and how we wished we need never go back.

About half way down the trail, I passed under a “widow-maker” – a dead tree leaning precariously across the trail. This one had actually been cut and was perched on its stump.

“Widow-maker,” I called back to WB and M. “That’s a bad one. Someone should really shove that over.”

CRASH!

I looked behind me to see M scurrying away from the falling tree.

The fallen tree

WB and the (former) widow-maker.

WB had given it the requested shove, though he tried to blame it on M. Now there was a tree blocking the path.

Oh well. It certainly wasn’t the only one on that trail and at least now the tree wasn’t going to fall on someone’s head.

Consider it trail maintenance.

I think we should have gotten our parking passes validated for that.

A Baldfaced Lie

I’d like to be able to say, “Last Sunday we hiked Baldface Loop,” but it would be a lie.

Well, it wouldn’t be a complete lie. More like a not-quite-half truth.

Baldface Loop is a 9.8-mile roundtrip hike that includes summiting both North and South Baldface mountains. Neither mountain is a qualifier – both are just under 4,000 feet – but the trail is difficult and the views are spectacular. Especially at this time of year.

Denis and his daughter A, and my friend K and I started out at about 9:30 in the morning.

Baldface signpost

The trail starts at just a slight incline but gets increasingly steeper. After two and a half wooded miles, we reached the shelter and stopped for a well-earned snack.

Baldface shelter

Try not to be blinded by our over-exposed and ghostly white legs.

After a short rest, we hit the trail again.

trail sign

Now that’s my idea of a well-marked trail. Why couldn’t we have had that on Chocorua?

A rock stair led us out of the woods and onto a series of open slabs. Then things got interesting.

rock scrambes

The next half mile or so was slow going. Rock scramble after rock scramble had us climbing with hands, feet, knees and a few prayers. If I remember correctly, I even called for my mommy once.

It felt a little like Katahdin, but on a smaller scale.

We stopped for another break on the rocks of an alpine garden. It was the kind of place where you expect to see Heidi tripping along the path following several goats. We looked at our watches.

1:30 p.m.

Those rock scrambles had taken a lot of time off the clock and a lot of wind out of our sails. We were still about a half mile from the top of North Baldface, the first summit.

It was decision time. It gets dark early these days and I hadn’t brought my headlamp (stupid, amateur mistake). I really didn’t want to be navigating down the rocks in the dark, or even through the wooded trail. We decided to admit  that our goal for that day might have been a tad aggressive and turn around just shy of the summit.

But we took a few pictures first.

South Baldface

That peak to the right is South Baldface, the second summit. North Baldface is just out of sight to the left. The ridge above Denis is where we would have been ridge-running between the peaks. Just looking at the picture makes my soul ache to be up there.

Bicknell Ridge

The ridge of dark green running from the upper center of the picture out through the righthand side is, I believe, Bicknell Ridge Trail, where we would’ve come down the loop.

It’s pretty cool when you’re at a vantage point that allows you to see your full route at an almost bird’s-eye view.

On our way out, we stopped at the shelter again for a long lunch. Denis fired up the stove and made us soup. Nothing better than a hot lunch during a fall hike.

We also took a little side trail to visit a spot with the romantic name of Emerald Pool.

Emerald Pool

K’s daughter, Little K, jumped off this rock into the pool when she was at camp a couple of years ago. She was the only girl to do it at the time. Go Little K!

Trail's end

We marched out at 5:00.

So we didn’t summit our mountain. I can live with that. It gives us an excuse to go back sometime. We still hiked a respectable 6.4 miles (Den’s GPS read 7.1, but I’m going by the map) and we had a great day. Good company, a few laughs and I didn’t pee my pants on the rock scrambles.

What more can you ask for, really?

A Misguided Tour of Champney Falls Trail

Yesterday was a great day.

The sun was shining with the bright and hazy heat of late summer, the sky wore infinite shades of blue, and I performed a public service.

I introduced a friend to hiking.

This is D

This is D.

D is a newly baptised hiker and fellow Milspouse. Her sweetie is where my sweetie is.

We hiked Mount Chocorua. This is pronounced “Cho-koo’-ra”, unless you are my husband, in which case it is purposely mispronounced “Choke-a-roo-ah” in order to elicit an eye roll from me.

Because this was D’s first hike, I picked a mountain that I had climbed before in the hopes that it would maximize our chances of staying on the right trail and minor things like that.

While we’re on the subject, here’s a piece of hiking advice: When you see an arrow that points to the right, like this…

Turn right

…you should not immediately cross the stream directly in front of you and hike 30 feet into the woods.

At least I only went 30 feet before I realized something was wrong.

Anyway, Champney Falls Trail starts our fairly wide and flat, but trail maintenance should really consider putting the signs a little lower. And making them bigger. And maybe yellow. With blinking lights.

Hey, MilSpouses with deployed soldiers have a lot to talk about, okay? We can’t be distracted by trivial things like trail markers.

After a slight but steady climb of about a mile and a half, we came to this juncture:

Champney Falls sign

Now that’s what I call a sign.

We took a left and headed another 0.3 miles to the falls.

Champney Falls

The falls were beautiful – peaceful with the sound of rushing water and refreshingly cool.

Which was probably why I got distracted, crossed the stream again and headed off in the wrong direction. Again.

But I realized it right away! That’s got to count for something, right?

Right…?

After the falls, if you go the right way, there is a steep rock staircase and the climb gets tough for another mile or so. It levels out for a bit before the trail comes out of the woods.

Rock summit

Those little dots covering the second peak are people. In this picture, it looks lower than the nearer peak, but it’s really not. In fact, the last 0.2 miles are a bit hairy, and not particularly well-marked. The yellow blazes had kind of faded out by then.

It’s true!

Excuse me, but the point of the story is that we eventually, after a couple of freaky rock scrambles, made it to the top.

D and I at the summit

The mountain in the background with all the clouds hovering over it is Mount Washington.

I think.

D and I took a nice long break for lunch and had a very pleasant chat before making our way back down. D, who is a runner, was a super trooper. We made ridiculous time on this trail. The trail description advised that you allow six hours for the roundtrip hike. We made it in five and a half, including our lunch break.

She was also excellent company. We talked about shoes and ships and deployment. I had forgotten how nice it is to have someone to talk to that is going through the same things you are.

And the best part is, I didn’t even scare her away from hiking by almost getting us lost three times! She’s hooked now, too.

I’m looking forward to trying another hike soon. Only this time maybe I’ll bring a compass. And a GPS. And…

Oh hell, I’ll just bring Denis and we’ll follow him.

A Pleasant Hike

Yesterday I hiked Pleasant Mountain with our friend Denis and his daughter, A. I had originally planned on taking Owen along. The moderate 5.8-mile roundtrip would have been perfect for him, but, alas, Owen has been sidelined for the rest of the summer hiking season. He has a shoulder injury that has put him on the DL indefinitely. Doctors orders.

(The doctor has also ordered pain meds, massage, controlled activity, physical therapy and 5-10 minutes of icing per night. Let me tell you a little something about how much Owen enjoys having his shoulder iced: he doesn’t. But if his limp improves, the struggle will be worth it.)

The hike went off without a hitch. It was a beautiful day (I forgot my hat and my sunscreen, so I got a little crisped), the views were phenomenal for a 2006-foot peak and we had a lot of fun.

Care to join me for a pictorial tour?

Southwest Ridge trailhead

There are several trails leading up to the peak. We took Southwest Ridge Trail, which has a total elevation gain of 1,800 feet. Not a bad little workout.

A Pleasant view

The trail was not as wooded as we were anticipating, which meant that 1) the views were plentiful and 2) I got sunburned.

Denis gets a closer look

Here we have the North American Outdoorsman in his natural habitat. He seems pretty focused on something. Let’s take his picture and see what he does!

(It’s a lot funnier if you read that with an Australian accent.)

Summit sign

Oddly enough, after this summit sign, we made a steady decent for a good third of a mile or so. There is a smaller peak that we hit before heading down into the ravine and back up to the main peak.

Pleasant summit

The “shoe-around-the-summit-marker” shot is a tradition.

Den and A at the summit

Den and A are checking out the view westward into the White Mountains. Look at those misty shapes – just beautiful! There is something almost spiritual about being out there for me. It is very humbling. Very therapeutic.

You can’t see it in that picture, but the summit was literally a-buzz with dragonflies. Iridescent blue and green wings were darting everywhere. It was very cool.

The bonfire

Gondor calls for aid!

That was all I could think when Den and A scrambled up on this rock slab where someone had built a deadwood would-be bonfire. I hope no one tries to light it anytime soon. The area is so dry that the leaves on all the trees are wilted and sad-looking. The whole mountain would go up like kindling.

All in all, not a bad way to spend the day. I almost forgot, for a few minutes, how very, very ready I am for this deployment to be over.