Trip Report – Franconia Ridge

Destination: Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, Little Haystack
Date: 2-22-2015
Route: Falling Waters Trail, Franconia Ridge Trail, Greenleaf Trail, Old Bridal Path
Elevation: 5,260′ / 5,089′ / 4,760′
Distance: 8.82 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,508′ (approx.)
Time: 8:22 Hours
Equipment: Snowshoes, Light Traction

Report: Snow was excepted the night before our hike. Anticipating this, we headed up to Littleton Saturday evening. By the morning, about 5-6 inches of snow had fallen at lower elevations. The roads had been plowed, but the Lafayette trailhead parking lot was not yet cleared. The weather report was calling for promising conditions including milder temperates, light wind, and moderate cloud cover. We put on snowshoes and started heading up the Old Bridal Path, planning to ascend to the ridge via the Falling Waters Trail. We were the first people on trail, so I started breaking trail through about 5-6 inches of loose powder. As we ascended, the snow deepened and our pace slowed. Approaching the tree-line, the snow was very deep at 12-18 inches in some places. We finally reached the summit of Little Haystack a bit tired, and without having seen another person.  Thick clouds were rolling in reducing visibility significantly as we discussed if we wanted to continue across the ridge, or head back down the Falling Waters Trail. Thankfully however, just as were were deciding on what to do, the cloud cover lifted, and a hiker appeared coming up the Franconia Ridge Trail from the opposite direction. He told us that he had spent the night camping just below the tree-line on Lafayette, and had come across the ridge that morning. We let him know he was completely crazy, but none-the-less, we were inspired and decided to continue across the ridge.

As we made our way from Little Haystack to Lincoln, the ridge was in-and-out of the clouds for a bit. Finally, the clouds vanished and we were treated to fantastic views of Lincoln and Lafayette. Overall the ridge was mostly clear of snow, only small drifts in places. We saw another hiker and her dog pass us making a great pace. We reached Lincoln and stopped for a quick break and photos. We stayed in snowshoes until we decided to switch to microspikes to go down the chimney coming off of Lincoln. The ascent of Lafayette was easy enough and were treated to dramatic views across the ridge.  Winds were relatively mild, and the sun was shining.

Descending Lafayette via the Greenleaf Trail we saw several climbers in both spikes and shoes. It was early afternoon by then, and the skies and completely cleared. Despite the the wind, we were almost a little warm in the direct sun (which is very strange to say at 5000′ in the middle of February). We reached the tree line and switched back into snowshoes for the remainder of the trip. By that time, the Greenleaf Trail has been pretty well packed by many hikers heading up. We made it to the hut for another break before making a fairly rapid decent via the Old Bridal Path. The skies remained clear and we were able to get several great views along the Old Bridal Path.

Overall, it was pretty epic hike. The weather turned out better then we could of possibly imagined, making our hard work breaking trail up the falling waters entirely worth it.

Trip Report – North & South Hancock

Destination: North & South Hancock
Date: 1/18/2015
Route: Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, Hancock Loop Trail
Elevation: 4,420′ / 4,319′
Distance: 8.95 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,650′ (approx.)
Time: 5:36 Hours
Equipment: Snowshoes

Report: We arrived at trailhead around 7:40AM after staying overnight at the Historic Thayer’s Inn, which is about 35 minutes from the Hancock Notch trailhead.  The weather called for rain beginning around 1PM so we made an effort to get an early start. We arrived at the trailhead around 7:40AM and chatted for bit with an AMC group that was planning on heading up both peaks as well.

After crossing the highway from the parking lot to the actual trailhead we put on our snowshoes. We could of used light traction as the trail was hard packed, but we were hoping to get some more experience with the snowshoes, and a very nice snowshoe track had been set that would of been a shame to tear up with boots.

The approach along the Hancock Notch and Cedar Brook trails was pleasant. Water crossings were mostly snow-bridged over. We reached the Hancock Loop trail without seeing anyone else and eventually made it the split where we decided to head up North Hancock. While I had read the trail description, I couldn’t remember which way was easier so I took a guess. Overall, heading up the north peak was steep and increasingly windy as we approached the top. For the most part, the trail was hard packed with some minor drifts approaching the summit. Unfortunately, there was no view what-so-ever as the summit was entirely in the clouds. We reached the summit where we snapped a few pictures. We didn’t bother going to the outlook, given the lack of view and strong winds, and instead made our way below the tree line for a quick snack and a rest.

After a short break, we headed out along the ridge trail. The decent from the north peak was a little steep. We came across another hiker and her dog headed in the opposite direction, and then another pair of hikers a few minutes later. After some time we came across the AMC group who was coming down off the south peak. The walk along the ridge was nice, with a few minor ups and downs. We reached the south peak and stopped again for a few minutes for pictures and rest before heading down the south peak side of the trail.

The south peak trail was much steeper then the north side. It was very slow going and was quite difficult. After struggling for 10 or 15 minutes I was startled by a hiker yelling as she came up from behind me doing a butt-slide down the mountain. She was quickly out of sight and looked to be having a lot of fun. We carried on at a snails pace for a few more minutes before finally deciding that the butt-slide was the way to go. Laura went first and I followed. It was awesome, and made quick work of what would of otherwise been along and painful decent.

The trail finally leveled out enough where we could no longer slide, but we soon reached the intersection with the north peak trail and made our way back towards the Cedar Brook trail. We passed a few hikers heading up. As we made our way down the rain finally hit. It really started to pick up after we re-joined with the Hancock Notch Trail. By the time we were about 1/2 from the trailhead, we were both pretty soaked. The trail was starting to get a sloppy because of the rain and boots. Water crossings were fine, but starting to look a little sketchy.

Despite the less the ideal weather, it was overall a great trip. We had a ton of fun and bagged two 4000 footers!

Trip Report – Mt. Lafayette

Destination: Mount Lafayette (Attempt)

Date: 12/26/2014

Route: Old Bridal Path, Greenleaf Trail

Elevation: 5,249′

Distance: 8.0 miles (approx.)

Elevation Gain: 3600′ (approx.)

Time:  6 Hours (approx.)

Equipment: Light Traction

Trip Report – Mt. Moosilauke

Destination: Mount Moosilauke

Date: 12/14/2014

Route: Glencliff Trail, Carriage Road

Elevation: 4,801′

Distance: 7.8 miles (approx.)

Elevation Gain: 3100′ (approx.)

Time:  6 Hours (approx.)

Equipment: Light Traction, Snowshoes not necessary


We drove up Saturday evening and stayed at the lovely Historic Thayers Inn in Littleton, NH where we received a great rate (thanks Groupon) on a comfortable, if very slanted, room. The plan was to get an early start up Moosilauke via the George Brook Trail.  After some consideration we decided that since Ravine Lodge Road was closed, and we were not in the mood for the extra 3 mile road walk, we would change our plans and head up the Glencliff.

The following morning we got up pretty early and were able to hit the road before the sun was up. It’s about an hour from Littleton to the trailhead. Unfortunately we were detoured several times and didn’t end up hitting the trail until around 8:45AM. Regardless it all worked out because the hiking was great, and a later start turned out to be to our benfit. It was a truly beautiful day to be on the mountain. All the tree branches were covered with snow. Weather was cool, but not too cold. Some cloud cover, but it cleared as the day progressed.  We wore microspikes as the trail was mostly hard packed. We passed one other couple and a dog going up the Glencliff. We also met a solo hiker coming down about 1/4 mile from from the junction with the Carriage road. He let us know that the conditions were great up there. After reaching the Carriage Road junction, we put on extra layers, and may our way the last 0.8 mile to the summit. Above the tree line the wind picked up a bit and it was chilly, but beautiful. Lots of rime covering the branches and rocks to the point where you couldn’t tell the difference between a tree and a cairn.

We reached the summit around 12:45. Another group of 4 and their dog arrived at around the same time as us. They had come up the George Brook. We snapped a few photos and headed back down. I also decide to put on my snowshoes mostly because they were new and I wanted to give them a try. We made it back to the junction and then made a very speedy decent. We passed several people coming up as we were coming down, some were wearing snowshoes which may of been helpful as the midday sun was loosening up the trail.  We reached the trailhead around 2:30PM.

Overall, it was a great day on one of best peaks in the Whites.

The Lycian Way

This is my first post in what will hopefully be a series of posts on hiking the Lycian Way. In case you’re wondering, the Lycian Way is a 335 mile (540 km) hike along the coast of ancient Lycia in modern day Turkey. My goal for this series of posts is to provide information on planning and executing the hike, as well as a trail journal of our experience.

Lyican Way MapFirst a little backstory: My interest in the Lycian Way started in early 2014 while cruising the internet at work. I came upon the Lycian Way on some list of the “10 Best Treks in the World”, or something similarly inane.  Despite my resistance to experience life through Buzzfeed slideshows,  the idea piqued my interest. I had always wanted to visit Turkey, especially Istanbul, but I also love hiking and being outdoors. A few months later, I had managed to convince my girlfriend Laura that a trip to Turkey would be a fun adventure, and the best way to experience that adventure would be on foot, walking the Lycian Way. We booked our flights and ordered the guide book, ready for a new adventure.

However, sometimes even the best laid plans are thrown awry. Earlier in the year, we had made plans to visit family in California and do a few days of backpacking in Yosemite. We were fortunate enough to acquire permits for the Happy Isles trailhead, and were looking forward to a nice couple days in the backcountry hiking the first 25 miles of the John Muir Trail.

However, during the course of that summer, Laura found herself without a job, and an interesting opportunity presented itself: We could hike the entire John Muir Trail. We reasoned that there probably would never be a more perfect time to do the all 210 miles of JMT: We had the permits. We had the flights. We had the gear. All we needed to do was keep walking. So we did.

Without getting into the details of that trip, it is enough to say that it was amazing. We loved every minute of it (or most minutes of it).  The JMT hike took about 3 weeks, but I ended up taking 4 weeks of vacation in July and August. Given the amount of vacation time I had already taken, I could no longer justify taking more time off in October to go to Turkey. Despite my employers generous vacation policy, I didn’t think it was appropriate or fair so we decided to postpone our trip until the following year.

After much procrastination, several rounds of miscommunication,  threats of a lawsuit, and midnight trip to the airport we managed to change our flights. We’re now booked to fly from Boston to Istanbul in mid May.

We have 5 months to plan this trip, and during that time, I will hopefully be posting as much information as I can on this blog. My research has revealed that there is only a limited number resources online about the hike,  so I hope that my contributions will benefit others looking to complete this trek.

Controlling a Brushless PC Fan with PWM

For a couple weeks, I’ve been looking into improving the Fan Controller in my tank. The purpose of the Fan Controller is to – you guessed it – control the fans. The main drive motors I have can throw off a lot of heat, and having good airflow through the tank is critical in not burning them out. I picked up a few different fans, but the one’s I choose to use are 24V DC brushless fans rated at ~4800RPM/~120CFM. They are really nice, but also use a fair amount of power. To help cut down on power usage, and increase battery life, the Fan Controller is supposed to control the fan speed based on motor temperature. And since I also love collecting all sorts of data, the Fan Controller is designed to record the fan speed.

My initial approach was to use a simple MOSFET with an optoisolator to control the fans from an Arduino’s PWM signal. This is pretty straightforward, and works pretty well. However, when I eventually went to work on the code that reads the fan speed from the fan’s tachometer, I kept on getting some really crazy results whenever the PWM duly cycle was anything but 100%. I finally hooked up the scope to see what the TACH signal looked like and I found that the PWM signal was being superimposed on TACH signal for any duty cycle less then 100%. I have no idea why this happens, but obviously my approach wasn’t going to work.

My first thought was going to be to try to find some 4-wire brushless fans with dedicated PWM input. The ones that I found were $60/each. I’m pretty sure I’ve already invested like $100 in fans, so that was a non-starter.

After some despair, I finally came across a few good resources. The idea was rather then use PWM to control the fan directly, use a PWM signal to control an LM317 adjustable voltage regulator and control the fan speed by varying it’s voltage. Clever Girl!

I modified the circuits referenced by choosing a different OPAMP that can support railed to rail 30V, and adjusted the gain for 24V operation. Below is the completed circuit. The fan controller uses an ATTINY84, OPA251 and an LM317.

MinuteMan Fan Controller

MinuteMan Fan Controller

Tank Control Board Update

I’m making progress on the next major subsystem for my tank project. Before Christmas, I had ordered the RobotEQ VDC2450 DC Motor Controller. It finally came in last week, and I can say I am really pleased: this thing is a beast. The VDC2450 supports two channels up to 150A each (!!!!!). It also features RC, Serial, Digital, and Analog inputs. It has all types of built-in monitoring (all accessible via the serial interface), and a whole mess of other insane features.

I decided to splurge on this controller ($545 + Shipping) because I would like to be able to reuse this in future projects. Also, its way more capable then what is probably necessary for the tank, so I shouldn’t have to worry about burning it up (I might add some additional fans near the control board just to get some air moving across the heatsinks). The only gotcha so far is that the serial interface is RS232 only, so I ordered some MAX3232s to be able to interface with the Arduino.

Progress on the main control panel for my tank. Showing the RobotEQ Dual Channel ESC.

Progress on the main control panel for my tank. Showing the RobotEQ Dual Channel ESC.

In this picture, you can see the main power distribution components in addition to the VDC2450. The main breaker is 100A and feeds a MAXI style fuse block I picked up off Amazon.

Also in the works as part of the control panel is the “power supply” that I’ve been working on. It’s really a hybrid power supply/power distribution board. It features a 5V DC-DC switching regulator to power the 5V systems on the tank. It also has fused and switched 24V outputs to power other tank subsystems (e.g. Fan Controller, eMarker Solenoid, etc.). One of the main reasons building this board was to add a few safety features. The VDC2450 will be powered through this board, in order to allow the controller to be “turned off” without disconnecting it from the main power. The eMarker Solenoid will be powered similarly to allow the eMarker to be disarmed.

The 5V buck regulator should be able to drive ~3A or so, which should be more then enough.

Eagle Layout for Power Supply

Eagle Layout for Power Supply


Shakepoko – Episode 1

A few weeks ago, my Shapeoko hardware kit that I ordered from the fine folks at Instructables arrived. My life has been a bit crazy lately, but I’ve managed to make pretty significant progress on getting this bad-larry up and running. I ordered the stepper motors from SparkFun. I need a few more major components, including a CNC controller. I’m pretty sure that I am going to go with the TinyG. I’ll also need a 24V power supply, and a spindle of course. I’d also like to get an enclosure to mount all the electronics in, and a big red E-Stop switch just to make everything look extra badass.


When I get around to it, I intend on making some replacement belt anchors. The default design is pretty weak.




Workshop Gets A New Bench

A fellow member of the Artisan’s Asylum was getting rid of an old workbench today. After some slight modifications (I took it apart so I could cut the depth down by a few inches, and removed the casters), I now have a new bench for the shop! I am really pretty pleased. The space a looking good, and now I have more room to start my next project (its a secret).

workshop new bench 1

New bench with a little storage underneath.



workshop new bench 2

Shot of my workspace


TinyRC: RC Receiver to Serial


Because why not. Actually, a few months ago as part of my long running project to build a 1/6th scale M1A2 Abrams paintball-shoorting tank, I was looking into how to make an Arduino read data from an RC aircraft receiver (namely the Spektrum AR6210). I came across this fantastic series of posts over at RCArduino. I tested it out with my Arduino Mega, and it worked great.

At the time, I was also working on an ESC  based of the Open Source Motor Controller using the HIP4081A H-bridge driver. The thing I don’t like about the OSMC is that it requires a separate board to convert RC/Serial/whatever into the commands to control the HIP4081. The goal of my ESC was to eliminate the need for the second board. This is where I came up with the idea of using an ATTiny micro to read RC signals from the AR6210 and drive the HIP4081A. The ATTiny was perfect because I was trying to keep the ESC as small as possible.

However, I eventually decided to table the idea of building an ESC (thermal management is tough), though I do have a working prototype (perhaps a topic for a future post). That said, I thought the little bit of code ATTiny code that reads the RC channels was pretty clever. Not to mention the OCD part of brain kicked that wants to create “modules”, “buckets” and “subsystems” for everything. After a little rework of the RC->HIP4081A code, I came up with a RC->Serial interface that should be usable by anyone looking to interface and RC receiver with any Arduino or other TTL serial thing-a-jig. The best part: you only need 1 pin on your Arduino. The also best part: it’s open source. Hooray!

About the TinyRC:

  • 1.1 inches x 1.1 inches (with 4 mount holes)
  • 5V
  • ATTiny84 Microcontroller (8Mhz)
  • 6 pin ISP programming header
  • Power Indicator LED
  • Can Power Receiver



I did a quick calculation for price on this. The board can be ordered from BatchPCB for about $2.50. The parts from DigiKey will run you about $3.45. So thats about $5.95 in material costs. The AVR programmer will cost you about $15. This its entirely optional though if you have an extra Arduino to use as an programmer. A cable to connect from the TinyRC to receiver would probably be another $5.

TLDR: The Eagle files, code, and instructions are up on GitHub.

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