Monthly Archives: February 2017

Arethusa Falls And Frankenstein Cliff Trail

Many years ago I worked with a fellow named Dave Anders.  He was a crazy Italian guy who loved hiking and was amazing to work with taking care of the juvenile delinquents where we both were employed.  My first experience hiking the Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliff Trail was with Dave and a group of those wonderfully behaved kids (cough cough!!).  This hike was one of Dave’s favorite short hikes and he had done it numerous times.  He always did it “backwards”, or going up Frankenstein Cliff first and then ending at the falls to cool off and then down to the vehicle.  Unfortunately, Dave has since passed away due to cancer from the many not so healthy things he did when he was younger.  I miss Dave and his humor and whenever we do that hike, we do it “backwards” and when we get to the top of the cliffs, I have a little chat with Dave.  I’m actually getting a little teary typing actually.

Two summers ago, 2013, our little family decided to hit the trail and do our favorite hike.  Given that we had done it with kids before, we didn’t really think about how terribly out of shape we all were.  Our daughter was 10 then and well within the age to handle the hike.  When we had previously done the hike, it was somewhere around 4 miles.  Well, what we didn’t realize, was when that area got hit by tornadoes, they had to reroute the trail which made it 6 miles!!  We paid dearly for that lack of information!!!

The complete 6 mile hike is pretty rugged.  We passed numerous folks coming the other direction that were seriously under-geared and in inappropriate dress and footwear.  I can’t count the number of college aged boyfriends dragging their girlfriends along for a hike, with their soon to be ex-girlfriends dressed in tanktops, flipflops, and carrying their useless gear in string satchels on their shoulders.  I would guess you could take some pretty heartbreaking but amusing video at the parking lot of the interactions between these doomed relationships, and of course the blood and scrapes from slipping and sliding on the rock faces below Frankenstein Cliff.

Well, we all survived the hike, despite our terrible physical shape and our daughter having bronchitis (we didn’t know at the time).  We packed the appropriate gear, water, and food and dressed appropriately for the hike.  Despite our extreme physical pain after the hike, we enjoyed it as usual and I got to chat with Dave again, which is important to do every so often.

As to the hike itself, many people just hike up to the falls, which is not an easy hike, but not hard either.  It is all up hill basically but worth getting to.  The water is super clean and cold, but once you get to the falls, the rocks are big and the trail is very rugged.  We passed numerous folks on our way down who clearly had health problems, were overweight, and were not prepared for even that short hike, which I believe is a mile.  For us that day, the mile down to the car was BRUTAL!!!  Our muscles were outraged at our treatment of them and told us so repeatedly.

Ancient Lakes In The Spring

On the edge of the Columbia River, in central Washington, is a fascinating landscape. Carved by floods of unimaginable proportions, one finds the dry remains of Ancient Lakes sitting in what were once the plunge pools of enormous but brief waterfalls. Standing below the sheer walls of basalt it is hard to comprehend what it must have been like when the Missoula Floods roared across the landscape carving out channels, in some places hundreds of feet deep, in the basalt that covers most of central Washington State. At the base of these dry falls, fed by small streams lies the small lakes named Ancient and Dusty Lakes.

After a long winter and a cold wet spring I was itching to get out on the trail. So with the excuse of having some gear to review, and despite having a tight schedule, I headed out. The plan was to hike the 3 miles into Dusty Lake late on Friday, spend Saturday hiking and exploring, then hike back out Sunday morning in time to pack and head across the mountains (3hrs drive) to start work on a major project by 8PM. Yeah, a recipe for disaster…but I needed to recharge my batteries after a few difficult weeks at work, and in preparation for what I knew was going to be another long and difficult week.

So I get off work a bit early, load up my gear, and head to the trailhead. On a whim, I thought it might be nice to have a few sips of something in the evenings so I picked up a small bottle of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey. At the trailhead, the day was warm and clear, one of the few nice days so far this year, and the hike into the lake was mostly uneventful. The terrain was easy to walk, with most of the trail following old jeep roads.

Along the way I spotted one small rattlesnake in the shade of a large sage bush right on the edge of the trail, so when I met up with a couple of folks with a dog, I warned them they should probably keep the dog close as they pass that area. Upon reaching the lake, I found there did not look to be many good campsites. I found a nice spot near a few tents and hung around till the owners returned and asked if they minded if I camp near them. They said they were OK with it, but that they were expecting a few more people and they might get rowdy.

I said I did not mind and set up my camp. As it turned out, I was more tired than I thought and ended up falling asleep rather early, completely missing any roudyness that may have occurred, but not before I discovered a good size rattlesnake not far from our camp area.

I got up late the next day, chatted with the guys in the adjacent camp (mentioning the snake I saw) and headed out for a day of hiking. My only footwear for the trip was my Vibrum Five Fingers Sprint shoes and I was wearing shorts. With a light pack (the Platypus Origin 9 that I was reviewing), minimal gear, and my MP3 player, I was off for a day of easy but fast-paced hiking (about an 8-mile loop down to the Columbia River and back). This trail was much narrower than what I had been on the previous day and in some places partially overgrown.

The day was cooler and slightly overcast, combined with the cold nights it was ideal conditions to encounter rattlesnakes out during the day. It was not long after leaving camp that I decided the MP3 player was probably not such a good idea, so I put it away (probably the only smart thing I did the entire trip). Before long, I encountered my first snake of the day…by almost stepping on it. I was glad I was not wearing my headphones as my first indication was the rattling next to my foot.

During the day I encountered many more snakes, most by almost stepping on them. One particular snake refused to get out of the trail until I prodded it with my trekking pole, and even then it simply coiled up under a sage bush directly adjacent to the trail and started rattling, forcing me to bushwhack around it (praying there were no other snakes in the low growth I was walking through, and contemplating the irony of getting bit by an unknown snake while avoiding a known one). The day remained cool and overcast with a few light showers, quite pleasant for hiking, and despite the snakes was enjoying myself immensely. About 2 miles from camp, the trail I was on reconnected with the old jeep road I had hiked the day before.

Energized by a day of easy hiking, and relieved by the relatively (but false) safety of a more open trail, I decided to run the rest of the way back to camp…but it was not to be. Within about a half a mile I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and looked just in time to see a snake shoot out of the brush and narrowly miss my leg. I let out a few choice words that I can’t print here and decided maybe running in these conditions was another bad idea.

I returned to camp to find a few kids who were searching the area for snakes, spiders, and scorpions (all of which they found in abundance). Not long after I got there, they turned over one of the rocks only yards from my tent and discovered a small rattlesnake! They were nice enough to capture it and move it quite a distance from our camp.

That evening after dinner, I went over to chat with the guys in the adjacent camp. They were drinking and playing a game that one of them invented, and invited me to join them. One thing lead to another and the next thing I know my whisky is gone and I find I am drinking some vodka they poured for me. I have no idea what time we finally turned in for the night, but I am sure it was quite late, and I was feeling no pain.

 

Hiking In Harold Parker State Forest

Hiking in Harold Parker State Forest

Description

Harold Parker consists of 3,300 acres with more than 35 miles of logging roads and hiking trails. The forest is almost all hardwood, hemlock, and pine.Ten ponds are available for the water enthusiast, using non-motorized boats

Location

Harold Parker State Forest is in Massachusetts north of Boston close to Interstate 93. To get there from Interstate 93, head east on route 125 for about 4 miles. Harold Parker road is on the right just after the State police barracks. This is one of the several entrances to the forest. Harold Parker road leads to the intersection of Jenkins road, then taking a right leads to the Lorraine campground which is open during the summer. (check for dates). Going left leads to the intersection of Middleton Road. Going right on Middleton Road leads to the main headquarters of the park, on the left side of the road.

Historical Background

  • 9000 BP to 1676: Area inhabited by Pennacook people (BP Archaeologists term for before the present)

  • The 1750’s: Dispersed farmlands in the area

  • 1914-1916: Harold Parker Chairman of the State Forest Commission

  • 1916: Commission acquired 800 acres forming Harold Parker State Forest

  • 1933 -1941: CCC constructed ponds, roads, trails, and recreation areas (CCC Civilian Conservation Corps).

Lorraine Park Campground

The campground has 89 spacious sites that are well spaced out. I have camped there several times. The bathrooms and shower area may be old, but everything functions well. The showers are clean and provide adequate hot water. The restrooms are clean.

There is a swimming area at Frye pond, which is non-supervised. A section of the shoreline is sandy. This is a popular play area for young children.

Near the campground entrance is a small self service free library.

Hiking and Walking Trails

When the park was first settled it was farmed. Since the soil was not suitable for farming, thus, it was abandoned The area reverted to being a forest. The forest has some stone walls, remaining stone foundations of buildings and a few stone-lined wells are still visible. The ruins of a soapstone quarry as well as a power generation from water are still visible.

Forest Resources

  • 35.7 miles of trail

Trail condition

  • Good 12.5%

  • Fair 83.6%

  • Poor 3.9%

Existing roads and trails

  • Paved Access Roads 15 ft wide 8.2 miles

  • Unpaved Forest Roads 5-10 ft wide 12.4 miles

  • Forest Trails 3-5 ft wide 35.7 miles

Horse riding trails

I have seen horses as well as horse skat on some trails while hiking. Horseback riding on the some trails. Please check for locations.

Mountain Biking

I have seen some sign of bikes riding but have rarely seen any bikes on the trail. I would prefer to bike on trails that are less challenging as these trails. I have not done much mountain biking. I am seldom hiking when mountain bikers are on the trail.

Picnicking

The picnicking I have seen is with a blanket and finger food. It was a wonderful place to visit when my children were young.

Fishing

This is a popular fishing area as launching a small boat, canoe, or kayak is easy as several ponds are accessible by motor vehicle. There is an inactive fish hatchery in this area, which may someday become activated.

Hunting

Hunting isn’t allowed on Sunday in all portions of Harold Parker State Forest in the Town of Andover, west of Jenkins Road. Please refer to the Harold Parker Forest website for complete details on all hunting restrictions.

Historical Points of Interest

Soapstone Quarry Site

The soapstone quarry consists of stone remnants with tool marks scattered over an area. The appearance varies from almost finished to raw material. The forest is hiding the items of interest. Without intervention nature may take over completely.

Jenkins Sawmill Mill Site

The Jenkins site consists of a pond, dam, stone-lined waterways, stone walls, mill foundation, and an intact wheel pit. There is enough of a drop in elevation to provide power for this sawmill. Starting in 1630 sawmills used a single technology for about 200 hundred years. This consisted of a waterwheel with a crank connected by a “pitman” arm to a wooden frame connected to a straight saw blade. This resulted in the saw blade moving up and down in a vertical motion. Without intervention, nature will take this site over.

Timothy Eaton Homestead

This site consists of a cellar hole with stone foundation, livestock enclosure, stone walls, a well, and the remains of a kitchen garden. Nature is taking over this site.

Robert Mason Homestead

Only a few things remain at the site of the Robert Mason Homestead, a large field stone, and bronze marker. The plaque is well oxidized but readable. We know it was the home of Robert Mason, a Revolutionary Soldier (1759-1821).

CCC Dynamite Storage Shed

Construction of the dynamite storage shed was by the CCC.(Civilian Conservation Corps) A simple shed sits on a poured cement foundation. Corrugated metal covers a wooden frame. Steps lead to an entrance which once had a door, that no longer remains. Metal vent sits on top of a side-gabled roof. The structure has bullet holes, with rust taking over.

Collins Pond Fish Hatchery Buildings

The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) built Collins pond and the dam associated with it. The hatchery is most likely a result of the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife wanting to supply fish for stocking ponds and lakes of Massachusetts. The hatchery is a small concrete building with a wooden roof. All that remains of the roof are the rafters. I visited this place in the late 60’s with my wife and 3 children, but can’t remember if it was a working hatchery at that time.

An Encounter With Wildlife In New Mexico

As I was walking alone at night on the mesa, all I could think was I don’t want to be eaten, but then I remembered some good advice I once heard; ‘Be kind to wildlife because you’re alive when they start eating you.’These kind words reinforced my decision to reach for the nearest ‘cat bat’, which essentially resembles a lengthy branch with which one could defend themselves from a vicious predator such as a mountain lion.

In my opinion, one of the creepiest things to see in the woods at night is eyes glowing back at you in the faint light from a headlamp. Those not very well accustomed to the outdoors may not be able to distinguish between which are the deadlier pair of eyes. In the event that any reader happens to encounter a glowing pair of eyes, this may be useful information. When reflecting light from a headlamp or flashlight, deer have green eyes and they are spaced farther apart. Mountain lion eyes are yellow and closer together, also generally closer to the ground. A black bear’s eyes are silvery and very close together. Feel free to use this information and allow it to coincide with any instincts of ‘fight or flight’ because if any friends see you running away in sheer terror from a mule deer, you’ll never hear the end of it.

I have personally had multiple encounters with all three of the animals listed above. One thing to keep in mind if you do happen to spot a mountain lion is that he saw you long before you saw him. The typical reason for encountering one at all is that they want you to see them, unless the encounter involves a sneak attack from the bushes, in which case just remember the advice from earlier about how to behave whilst being eaten alive.

This encounter begins with my walking alone at dusk in mountain lion infested territory; already not such a great idea but I was on my way back from Inspiration Point after visiting so I knew the way to take for sunrise the next day. While I scrambled down the rocky outcropping back toward the trail, I spotted a mule deer standing near the trail grazing on a Gambel Oak sapling. As I continued to hike down toward the trail head, before my eyes could comprehend the scene, a cougar streaked from amidst the foliage and pounced on the mule deer in a horrific yet graceful reminder of the food chain. The cougar quickly drug its kill out of sight into the foliage as I stood shell-shocked, trying to grasp what I had just witnessed.

I knew I was nearly a mile from the camp I had left earlier and now I had to make that journey back without any headlamp at night with a predator very near. Given the carnage that had transpired on the trail I should have taken, I chose to follow the flat of ground I was already atop above the trail thinking it would lead to the camp which also resided on a flat meadow on the side of this mesa. I soon found out how wrong my decision was. The terrace I had followed quickly angled with the rest of the mesa’s side and became a steep cliff side. It was very dark, near impossible to see under the trees at this time of night and as I stumbled along I suddenly heard a very large branch crack, then snap not twenty ahead. It seems the cougar had returned, as deer lack the ability to sinisterly break tree limbs in the dark for added effect.

It was at this point I tried shouting to scare my unseen adversary on an alternate hunt. I picked up and threw rocks toward the direction the sound had originated hoping to hit what I could not see. After a few moments of silence that seemed to drag on for hours, I fumbled around trying to grasp any branch I might possibly use as a ‘cat bat’ in the event of an attack. Luckily I discovered an adequate limb that I felt could withstand more than a single strike to the cougar’s head and also provided the comfort of false security. I stood ready to swing my weapon in that spot for what felt like a lifetime, given the situation at hand. Off in the distance I could barely discern the faint sound of clapping at what must have been the evening program at my destination in camp. I slowly crept downhill toward the clapping with my hands raised, ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

After a few moments I heard the shrill blast of a whistle and a voice shouting. A friend, Rosy, had hear my yelling from at the program fire and had run up the side of the mesa along the trail I had lost looking for me with a headlamp. I yelled back to Rosy and his light soon appeared in the dark giving me a view of him running with a hand-axe raised at the ready. I recounted the events that had transpired to him and the situation at hand as we set off in the direction of camp. We found and followed the trail with aide from his light. As we hit a switchback and turned the corner in the trail, not even fifteen feet ahead was the cougar bathed in the headlamp, crouched half behind a large Ponderosa right off the trail waiting to ambush the two of us. This was the one time I was actually glad to see those glowing eyes staring back at me.

That cougar must have stretched about seven feet from nose to tail and I would put him around 250 pounds, easily too much for either one of us to handle if it pounced. The two of us stopped at that corner waiting to see what would happen next, each with our weapons raised. The cougar let loose a guttural growl that would have sent a novice running, which is exactly what the cat wanted; a delightful game of chasing prey for a meal. We stood our ground as the cougar slinked toward us from his concealed position, presumably to be within pouncing distance. Suddenly the mountain lion broke into a full-on sprint whilst snarling its piercing cry into the darkness of the night. As the cougar closed the gap between us, Rosy asked me, “Ready?” to which I responded, “You know it.”