"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn." ~ John Muir

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An Older Trip Report - Henderson-Swasey Town Forest in Exeter

Last fall, in September, Lylah and I went for a short hike in Henderson-Swasey Town Forest in Exeter, NH. I meant to do a trip report back then but got caught up with other things and then forgot about it all together. I figure late is better than never!

Going anywhere for the first time by yourself with a two year old is little intimidating, in my humble opinion. You never know how the little one will react to the environment and if you’ll be able to handle them easily enough without your counterpart. Bringing Lylah into the woods for the first time by myself, was no exception to this.

I decided on something short which was the previously mentioned Henderson-Swasey Town Forest in Exeter, just off from Route 85. There’s a nice granite sign at the parking area, which is pretty large and there is a kiosk with a map to reference. You can also get a map / brochure here. From what I gathered on the website, the trails are also used for mountain biking.

We started off as we always do when going into the woods, getting sunscreen on and applying bug spray. At the truck, I asked Lylah if she wanted to walk or get carried in the backpack. She of course said she wanted to walk, but changed her mind after 50 feet. This continued the entire hike…in the pack, out of the pack, in the pack, out of the pack!!!

The trails are nice and wide. There are few bridges over what I’d call some wet areas as they didn’t really seem like stream crossings. The footing on the short loop we did was level for the most part, but there were some larger rocks and roots to take care on to ensure you didn't trip. We also saw one mountain biker who was very courteous and slowed down as he passed.

We eventually made it back to the truck and both lived to tell about it. Lylah had a great time and I think this area of land and trails lends itself to small children very well. After the "in and out of the backpack" cycle was over, Lylah occupied herself by hunting for rocks, seeing a mountain bike (which she was very excited about) and crossing the bridges (which she continues to call the Troll Bridge from Dora). The short loop we hiked is shown below. 


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

No Northern Pass Stickers

Hi Everyone - The good folks over at No Northern Pass sent me a bunch of stickers to pass out to you guys. If you're interested in one, please just email me at karl.m.searl AT gmail DOT com and I'll get one right out to you.

Also, visit and like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NoNorthernPass or follow them on Twitter @NOTONP


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winner of the Strong Volt Solar-7 Portable Solar Charger

And the winner is....Comment #5 using Random.org's True Random Number Generator. This comment was left by hikemaryland!

Hikemaryland, please contact me via email (karl.m.searl AT gmail DOT com) and I will get the device right out to you in the mail!

Thanks Everyone!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

YAKTRAX Walker Gear Review (Running) - Guest Blogger Post

By Keith LeBlanc

I would recommend the Yaktrax Walker to both walkers and runners. I gave them a whirl on two occasions. The first occasion was a 5 mile run on hard packed snow and ice. I was pleased with the traction in the hard packed snow, however I thought the traction would have been better on ice.

I figured a one time 5 mile run was not enough to write a review so I figured I try them again. I was a little skeptical going further than a 5 or 6 mile run because I thought they would be uncomfortable after a while. Well, I ran 15.5 miles in them and was pleasantly surprised. The traction was no different than before (however the traction is 10x better than not having them) and they were comfortable. There was even a 2 mile stretch when I was running on pavement (not recommended by the company) and they held up.

All in all I would recommend the Yaktrax to other walkers and runners. They were comfortable on and off pavement, traction was good (sufficient), and they were durable. If you like to exercise in the winter these are a great investment.

Keith LeBlanc is a long time friend of mine that I've had the pleasure of hiking with, running with and when we were younger, partying with. He's a program manager by profession, but an active outdoor enthusiast whenever possible. He enjoys cycling (street and off-road), surfing, snowboarding and hiking, but his real passion is running. He's run multiple marathons and is an officer in his running club, The Winner's Circle Running Club in Salisbury, MA (of which, I'm also a member!). A big thanks to Keith for writing this review! - Karl


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Giveaway and Gear Review: Strong Volt Solar-7 Portable Solar Charger

I was able to demo a new piece of equipment from StrongVolt that may be of interest to the hiking community. I’m also going to give it away to a lucky LFAHNH reader (so keep reading)! I can see a lot of great uses for it, but for this gear review, I wanted to look at it strictly from a day hiker’s perspective. It’s a solar charger which has a USB female connector so that you can plug in any device that powered through USB. In most instances, that’s all cell phone and smart phones today. I’m not sure if that is the case for GPS devices or not, but if so, that may be a good use for it as well.

As a day hiker, I try not to use my cell phone much on the trail. I put it in my pack and pretty much leave it alone. I do keep it on in the event I get an urgent call, but for the most part, I’m not checking email or social media when enjoying nature. Once I’m on the summit, I will typically pull it out and start checking Facebook and/or emails. I’ll usually take a photo from the top and post as well. Now, depending on how long the hike is, and if I have service on the trail or not, my battery may be anywhere from 50%-70% drained. Being able to charge my phone or possibly, GPS device, is great for peace of mind. These are devices that may be needed in a survival situation and sustaining power in them through solar means could be very valuable.

So how does the product work? It’s important to understand first that it’s simply a converting tool to convert solar energy into battery energy. In no way do the solar panels store energy. The device they sent me was a StrongVolt Solar:7 Portable Solar Charger. It was packaged in a heavy canvas material, held together with Velcro. Once you release the Velcro, the solar panels roll out with a small cord exiting the casing. Again, the cord has a USB female connector on the end. My first impression was, for a day hiker, it’s a bit bulky and also kind of heavy. It did also come with a small instruction card on how to use the device.

To test out the equipment, I decided to drain my iPhone pretty low, to below 10% of the battery charge level. I plugged in the USB cord and placed the panels in direct sunlight. At first, the little charging icon did not show up. I thought at first maybe I had a defective unit. But after about one minute, the charging icon (the little lightning bolt) showed up. It started charging! One thing that I thought of right away was that leaving your device in the direct sunlight isn’t a good idea, so the user must remember to cover it or put it in the shade while the panels stay in the sun. After taking a closer look at the instructions for use, I did see that there is cautionary terminology regarding having your device in direct sunlight.

My iPhone took about 60 minutes to fully charge. I’m sure this varies depending on what type of device you’re charging, the amount of direct sunlight you have and maybe even your geographic location. However, I didn’t think it was too bad as plugging it into my PC or truck takes about the same amount of time. Note, the AC power of my house charges much quickler, maybe 25 minutes or so! So, from the standpoint of a day hiker, I would say the following:

Pros: Great survival tool in an emergency situation (sustainable energy source), charges in a reasonably timeframe

Cons: Heavy, bulky

I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons and I would recommend purchasing one of these items for your survival kit. I thank StrongVolt for giving me the opportunity to review this product. Now for the giveaway opportunity. I’m going to make it pretty simple. Leave a comment on here as to why you’d like to use one of these power charging devices for hiking, camping, etc. and your name will be entered to win this item. I’ll pull a random now on February 16th, so please come back here to check who won!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Snowboarding - Take Two at Gunstock Mountain

Gunstock Mountain Resort

There’s something about snowboarding that has always appealed to me, even long before I became a hiker. My family never skied or snowboarded, so I was never introduced to it like many of my friends. However, when I was in college, I decided I was going to try it. I took lessons with Jill (then my girlfriend) at Ski Bradford in Haverhill, MA. This was ten years ago, so bear with me on what I recollect. I recall the lesson went by pretty quickly and the guy (a teenage kid) teaching us wasn’t too passionate about helping. But we made it through the lesson and I started planning out my first trip to a “real” mountain!

I recruited my buddy Alex, who you’ve met in three hiking trip reports on this site; Moosilauke, Doubleheads and Mount Crawford. We headed up to Loon and I can remember being very excited to snowboard and get past the learning curve. Little did I know, I wasn't going to be able to play around for an hour during a quick lesson and then just “be a snowboarder”! After I got my rentals, I put them on and realized immediately that my foot seemed to float a lot in them. I dismissed it and figured it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. I ended up fighting to keep my feet down on the board the whole day, which added to the challenge. Alex brought me up to the first slope, which wasn’t a very a high one. I spent some time trying to redo what I had learned at my lesson, but the more I fell, the more tired I got and the harder it seemed to get back up. After getting down from the first hill, Alex brought me to the summit of the mountain. This is where the pain really started. I remember thinking, “wow, we’re really high up…I should be able to get snowboarding down by the time we’re at the bottom”. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Every time I fell down, it seemed to take so much effort to get up. I remember being exhausted. And my wrists and tailbone hurt so badly that I thought the next fall would be my breaking point. I finally did make my way to the bottom, but it took a couple of hours. I remember Alex asking if I wanted to do it again but I couldn’t. So, we hit the Woodstock Inn Brewery for a few beers and called it a day. I didn’t return to the slopes again until this year!

My buddy Rob learning to make a toe side turn
My buddy Rob and I decided to take lessons at Gunstock Mountain Resort this past week. I can’t explain to you how great these lessons were compared to the lesson I took at Bradford 10 years prior. My instructor, also named Rob, had been snowboarding for 20 years and really took the time and patience to help us with our questions. The first thing he did was helped me tighten my boots properly so that my feet stayed flat. The lessons started off learning how to glide downhill and veer toe side and then heal side. From there, we went up to a sluice and learned how to connect toe side turning to heal side turning. I’m sure this all sounds pretty easy, but it was difficult! I liked the fact that Gunstock had a conveyor belt lift called the “magic carpet” so we didn’t have to struggle with rope or tee handle tows. After we made progress connecting turns, we learned how to traverse down a steeper banking, one way and then another. Once the instructor thought we made progress there, he brought us up to the Peepsight slope. For me, riding the lift is one of the most intimidating parts. Well, I guess not riding it, but getting on and off from it. I was able to successfully go down the trail and only fell a couple times! I was able to switch from toe side to heal side and check speed in between using what I had learned traversing. I really feel I need to go one more time to get more comfortable and call myself a “real snowboarder”! I’ll keep you all posted on my progress!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Contemplation in Conway - Guest Blogger Post

By Loren Valliere

How lucky are we to be able to share in Karl’s many adventures! If you’re like me, blogs like this one remind you why you love the northern landscape, and inspire you to get outdoors and enjoy it. Adventure is engrained in our Yankee spirit, and these wild spaces are deeply appreciated by everyone who is privileged to visit the granite state.

Today Karl has given me the opportunity to share some of my own experiences with his readers. Below is a picture of one of my hikes in the North Country this past year, up to Cathedral’s Ledge. We stayed at the newly-renovated Comfort Inn in North Conway and were looking for an easy afternoon hike on our first day up there. We looked at the trail map in the parking area for a while, a very rudimentary brown sign with not much to intrigue our current adventurous spirits. There were a lot of people out during a prime-tourist weekend, so we decided to ditch the trail and climb through the woods to the summit (I don’t recommend this- it was dangerous!). Before we knew it, we were scaling rocks without any equipment, pulling each other up steep areas, and catching great views between the trees as we ascended. To catch our breath, we stopped and listened to some of the different bird species. I could make out the purple finch (NH’s state bird!) and the common chickadee, but my limited identification skills stopped me there.

Before we could see the summit, we could hear voices. A few boosts up some tall rocks, clinging to some trees for dear life; I remember thinking we are certainly not taking this way down! Open blue sky was a welcome sight for me, and I crab-walked on all fours to make my way up the flat gray rock, cool on my hands in the fall sun, and finally I could stand straight up at the top of Cathedral’s Ledge. The top is fenced in many areas where the best views are, to keep you from walking straight off the cliff. From there we could see real rock climbers (not the young-and-stupid form of rock climbing we had just done) navigating the sheer cliff face. I learned later that this ledge formed during the retreat of the last ice-age. The cliffs are sheer granite and spectacular to see. During the summer months, you can hire a guide to help you navigate the cliff (oh, and there’s an autoroad to the top). Cathedral’s Ledge is part of Echo Lake State Park, along with White Horse Ledge, which were both purchased in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s by area visitors and local residents, and later deeded to the state of NH.

People laughed at our clamoring around, and probably thought those people obviously aren’t from around here (although, in truth I’m a born and raised granite-stater – go wildcats!). We stood with a friendly group catching some sun rays and delighted in our prize: the astounding views at the summit. People love New England, and that is for sure. I’ve lived in Oahu, Hawaii, and traveled every stretch of the island there; I’ve visited Mexico and the southern states, seen the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, and have gone north into Canada, but there is something about New Hampshire that keeps people coming back. Maybe it’s the charm, a strange kind of northern warmth even in cold weather. On this brisk fall day, you couldn’t feel any sense of chilly gray up there. Colors abound and the air is crisp, renewing the spirit.

This was about the same time I was embarking on a separate adventure. In my professional career: I had just been hired by the National Wildlife Federation to research and outreach to New Hampshire citizens about climate change. And now, standing up here on the rock face of Cathedral’s Ledge, it was all I could think about. It was very real to me that, in several years, my children and grandchildren may climb to this same summit, and discover a very, very different north country.

Most of us have accepted that climate change is here. The accelerated warming trends are well documented, especially here in the northern areas of the country where climate change will have the first and probably most devastating effects. If you haven’t read into this, I certainly encourage you to do so. There has been lots of press lately about how moose are being affected by shorter winters that allow ticks to literally suck the life out of our state’s icon (see the National Wildlife Federation’s recent report: “Nowhere to Run: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World"). Moose tour businesses are feeling the effects, since they have to search longer and put in more hours to find a moose to show their clients. The shops that rely on ice fishing during the non-tourist months are hurting because the ice just isn’t reliable for fishing anymore (see www.nwf.org/sportsmen for more information). Ice forms later and breaks up earlier, shortening the ice fishing season.

The maple sugar industry, also economically important for New England, now fears the northward movement of sugar maples out of this area as the warming climate proves inhospitable for their continued growth. US Forest Service models predict that New Hampshire’s future climate will support plant species that typically grow to the south and in lower elevations – think oaks and southern pines, not the smooth, stretchy-armed, long-fingered, yellow-and-red-leaved sugar maples. As hikers and people who connect with the outdoors, we know what a shift in plant species means for our wildlife species—lots of changes, lots of movement, and perhaps even loss. I thought then about the birds I heard earlier on my hike— the purple finch isn’t going to stick around in a warming climate, and is one of several species that has already begun to shift its range northward according to NH Audubon.

National Wildlife Federation is one of many groups in New Hampshire working to take action on climate change. If you’re interested in doing something to reverse our negative impacts on New Hampshire’s landscape, I encourage you to contact us and use our many resources to make your voice heard. You can take action right here in New Hampshire, and it can be as easy as making a phone call to your senator or signing a petition to set carbon pollution standards. So, I encourage you to speak up; this is one issue where every voice matters, and together we have the power to make positive change in 2014. Happy New Year fellow outdoorspeople-- keep adventuring!

Loren Valliere is a NH wildlife biologist and an outreach consultant for the National Wildlife Federation. Please feel free to contact her through e-mail (Loren.wildlife@gmail.com) or on FaceBook (NH Wildlife and Climate News)

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this guest post are that of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Live Free and Hike NH.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year's in Conway!

I hope everyone had a great holiday, and a happy and safe New Year. Jill and I have been very busy these days and Lylah is growing up quickly. She’s 2-1/2 now and this is the first Christmas that she actually “understood” that Santa was coming and that she was going to get gifts. That made for a fun holiday season for us. As usual, we cut down a tree that had not been traditionally trimmed, but instead, had a more natural, crazy look to it.

For New Year’s, we decided to take a trip up North, like we used to every year before we had kids! However, with Lylah this time, we decided to make this winter trip much more kid friendly.

We stayed at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort in Conway as we had heard it was very child friendly and had a lot of activities to keep busy. When we drove up to it, we saw that it had a great sledding hill out front which we decided to try out later in our trip. The room was spacious and we had a great view of the Moat Mountain Range from our window.

During our stay, we took advantage of the indoor water park onsite, as well as the sledding hill and story time. We ate at a couple of our favorite restaurants in Conway, the Black Cap Grille and The Moat Mountain Smoke House & Brewing Company, and had breakfast at a favorite, Peach’s. For New Year’s Eve, we traveled over to Jefferson, via the Pinkham Notch and went to Santa’s Village which was great, but very, very cold (negative degrees)!!! My favorite part, though, was the mountain scenery which was beautiful!

 Action Shot!!!

Overall, it was a great and successful trip up north with the little one. One thing I’ve learned from having a toddler is that a vacation up north isn’t as relaxing as it used to be (when it was just Jill and I) but does bring us just as much joy and happiness! Soon, we’ll have another little one to keep us company when we travel up there as well! 


Friday, January 3, 2014

We'll Be Back Soon!

Hi Everyone - We've taken a break for a bit with the holidays, but we'll have some new posts going up soon! Stay tuned!!!


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tell It On The Mountain Film Review and Giveaway Contest!!!

I had a great opportunity to get my hands on a new film, Tell it on the Mountain, that was recently released which chronicles a handful of hikers thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Being an east coast kid and a passionate hiker, I’ve always been interested in the Appalachian Trail and have enjoyed any documentaries I’m able to catch on the topic. I was actually unaware of the existence of the PCT since I concentrate on the local trails primarily, so this film was enjoyable from an educational standpoint as well.

Tell it on the Mountain Trailor

It’s approximately two hours long and starts off explaining the trail route which runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, across deserts and the tough terrain of the Sierra-Nevada Mountain Range. The hikers are likeable from the start and range from a variety of different personalities and ages. However, I felt their main objective for being on the trail was the same…to be closer with nature and maintaining a healthy state of mind. One hiker in particular, Billygoat, was an older hiker and made a choice earlier in life to spend his later years on the trail, as much as he was able. He explains to the watcher that working your life away in a factory will kill you faster than being outside and enjoying God’s country.

A couple, Carsten and Alina (from Germany I believe), were thru-hiking together for the first time (Carsten had thru-hiked the AT prior) and injury plagued their bid. Carsten’s back was injured part of the way through and Alina needed to continue part of the way without him. He continued to get treatment and met her at checkpoints along the way, hoping to be able to hit the trail at some point again. Unfortunately, his injury was too severe to continue. The film explains the years of preparation and financial savings it takes to commit to such a trek and in Carsten case, can end so abruptly. I think it’s something that many hikers can relate too and sympathize with even though many have not been in the same situation.

The film also introduces the viewer to the people behind the scenes, along the trail route, that are critical in helping the hikers get from point A to point B. Since the trail is so long, 2,663 miles, they go through a wide variety of terrain, elevation and climate. They need different equipment for different legs of the hike. Many people along the route help store this equipment for them and allow them to pick it up when they reach different checkpoints. It sounded like the hikers typically mailed the equipment to these people (items such as mountaineering axes, etc.) to hold onto.

Watching this film gives you an overwhelming feeling of wanting to hit the trail. If you’re as passionate about hiking as I am, it makes you question why you’ve never attempted such a huge hike yourself. The film does a great job capturing how beautiful the terrain is along the PCT and really draws the viewers into the different situations the hikers face. Hiking this trail is an enormous accomplishment of a hike! Watch this film, and you’ll fully understand why!

You can view more information or purchase this film on their website, TellItOnTheMountain.com. The site has great information on the hikers, the film makers and the trail stats. I noticed the DVD is also available on Amazon.

Here’s best part, for my readers that is; I have two copies to giveaway!!! Note that one DVD is already opened as it’s the one that was used to do this review. Trust me, if you win one of these copies (or purchase on from the sites mentioned above), you will not be disappointed! Here’s how you can enter to win a copy of this DVD. Everyone will get (4) possibly entry chances in this giveaway contest.

1. Comment on this blog post as to why you would like a copy of this film.

2. Share this blog post review and giveaway on your personal Facebook Page. YOU MUST COME BACK AND LEAVE SEPARATE COMMENT TELLING US YOU SHARED ON FACEBOOK (Separate from the first comment on the blog).

3. Share this blog post review and giveaway on your personal Twitter Page. YOU MUST COME BACK AND LEAVE SEPARATE COMMENT TELLING US YOU SHARED ON FACEBOOK (Separate from the first and FB comment on the blog).

4. If you have a blog, write a quick post regarding this giveaway opportunity, linking back to my review. YOU MUST COME BACK AND LEAVE SEPARATE COMMENT TELLING US YOU SHARED ON FACEBOOK (Separate from the first, FB and Twitter comments on the blog).

So, to summarize, if you want to enter 4 times, you have to write a comment as to why you want to win this giveaway, share on FB and Twitter and share on your blog. You would have a total of four comments left on Live Free and Hike. Note, you don’t have to do all four, do as many as you’d like…but you have to let me know!!! The winner will be chosen using Random.org. I will draw the winner on September 13! Don’t miss out, this is a wonderful film!!!