Bear Brook State Park: New Gear Testing

Bear Brook State Park – 4/28/2018

As spring continues to beat back the icy grip of winter here in New Hampshire, we’ve begun to seek out locations that are less treacherous. Bear Brook was on the list due to its location in the more southern region of the state.

I had just picked up a pair of Merrell Trail Glove 4  and some new dual-layer socks the night before and was itching to try them out. The socks were important for me because I really only started hiking in the autumn of last  year, so I had purchased thick wool socks, which work great and provide lots of cusioning, but are obviously just way to insulated for spring/summer hiking. My search for some socks that wouldn’t cause hotspots seems to have been relatively brief, if my results with the Wrightsock Coolmesh hold true on longer outings.

We arrived at Bear Brook State Park around 4PM, which gave us somewhere around 4 hours of light, plenty of time to get a few miles in. I hadn’t been to Bear Brook in many, many years, so while I had a rough idea of what to expect, I wasn’t certain as the elvation changes, etc. and went into it disclaiming that “my memories may be incorrect”. Thankfully my memories served pretty well and we had a lovely afternoon of low 70s and high 60s with no humidity, a gentle breeze, and no insects to speak of.

Bear Brook State Park

The park itself is a little over 10,000 acres and according to the NH Parks site features “Forty miles of trails through the heavily forested park lead to seldom visited marshes, bogs, summits, and ponds.” We found our chosen path to be a very pleasant walk down One Mile Trail for a few tenths, until we turned off for a ramble in the woods with a quick 450′ climb up Catamount Hill which got our legs warmed up nicely. We continued on Cascade trail and then onto Sentinel Pine trail until the intersection of Lane Trail and Hayes Farm Trail which was blocked by a large fallen tree.

Turning left onto Lane Trail we continued until we reached Lower Bear Brook Trail and followed that along its namesake waterway the majority of the way back to our starting path of One Mile Trail and back to our parking spot by the main entrance.

All in all it was a wonderful afternoon out in the woods and we were able to cover some miles, see some lovely sights and even heard the “peepers” down the hill in Hayes Marsh, a true indication that Spring has sprung!

It’s relatively near home, so we will certainly go back to get some more miles in in the days and weeks to come!

Merrell Trail Glove 4 Knits

In a word: Sublime.

They’re quite light, weighing in at 8oz (227 grams)each, which is a big difference from my Moab FSTs, which tip the scales at 14oz (397 grams) each. This is a welcome ~60% weight reduction for certain.

Grip: They are remarkably good on soil, leaves, and other loose surfaces – perfectly serviceable on rock, though I do wonder about long term durability on hard surfaces. The rocky presidentials will probably chew these up pretty quickly.

Fit: OMG. They’re tight across the bridge with a *lot* of room in the toebox, which is awesome for me, because my toes splay a lot. We did 5.5 miles in them at about 2-2.25mph and had no hot spots or other discomfort whatsoever.

Comments: Descents in these seem less jarring, if only because of the reduced weight and sensitivity. That’s one of the big takeaways on this shoe; you can feel everything, which enables you to make more informed foot placement / weight bearing decisions. I think the novelty of that will wear off and/or be largely filtered out by my subconscious as I get more miles in on them, but I kept being surprised just how much I could feel and how planted I felt with each footfall. We didn’t do that much vertical, so it remains to be seen if all of this holds true on something with 3 or 4k of vertical, but descents felt much more comfortable than I’m used to.

Verdict: These receive my highest recommendation, assuming you’re looking for a lightweight, comfortable no-drop running shoe. You can pick them up for right around $100 at most retailers, including Amazon.

Wrightsock Men’s Coolmesh II Quarter Socks

These worked quite well in conjunction with the Trail Gloves and while I can’t say for certain whether it was the socks or the shoes that made my feet so comfortable, the fact stands that these kept my feet cool and dry while, as claimed on the label, I went blister free. At the end of the day these are socks. There’s only so much you can say about them and there’s only so much technology that can be woven into them, but they worked, so that’s something. For $13 they’re a pretty good deal, and if you suffer from hotspots or blisters, I would recommend them. The quarter sock length is perfect for these shoes, as a true ankle sock would potentially shift down and expose your ankle to the inside of the shoe, which could cause blisters.

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