June 17, 2017: North & South Kinsman (9/48 and 10/48)

Just a little over one year later, and I’m finally in the double digits. And back in Franconia Notch-adjacent to get them!

Today, Lucy and I hiked North and South Kinsman mountains from the west side, the Mt. Kinsman trailhead along route 116 just across the town line in Easton, NH. The Mt. Kinsman trail is a 3.7-mile hike to reach the Kinsman Ridge trail, and offers relatively easy footing with a steady climb for about the first 1/3, then gets progressively more rocky in the middle, with some steep, ledgy climbs at the top.

Along the way, there are three primary stream crossings, the second of which includes a gorgeous waterfall spilling from mossy boulders to the left of the trail. There are also numerous smaller water crossings that mainly look like drainage, and may be nonexistent in drier years. Since we’ve had an extremely wet spring, and plenty of rain yesterday, the trail was quite wet throughout, and frequently muddy (sometimes avoidable, sometimes not).

From the junction with the Kinsman Ridge trail, it’s a .4 mile climb with some steep, ledgy sections to reach North Kinsman summit. There’s a stellar overlook of Franconia Notch from a ledge a short hike on a spur trail off to the left just beyond the summit.

Continuing another .9 miles along the Kinsman Ridge trail, and descending steeply down and then back up, gets you to the summit of South Kinsman, marked with a large cairn and offering even more spectacular views.

I did take a wee little spill on the way back down from North Kinsman – and that was decidedly UNspectacular. No exciting injury to report, just a scratched-up knee. At the top of a steep section, but on a flat-ish spot, my foot slipped a tiny bit on a rock or root or something. I tried to regain my footing, but just the tiny bit of momentum was enough for me to end up on my knees, and the weight of my backpack combined with that tiny bit of momentum had the rest of my body falling forward and to the right at the same time. My knees landed on pine needles and some twigs, and I ended up on my side with my upper right arm and shoulder on a soft bed of pine needles and moss. Kind of like I was just laying down to take a nap or something. It felt quite comical. My arm and shoulder were perfectly fine, but covered with dirt. My knee also appeared fine, but dirty, initially – until I saw some blood. Not exciting, gushing blood. More like the equivalent of a shaving nick. I climbed down the ledge, cleaned the wound with a bit of water, dried it off as best I could with my bandana, and attempted (unsuccessfully) to get a couple of band-aids to stick. I ended up tying my spare bandana around my knee.

If you’re reading the trail descriptions in the 4000-Footers of the White Mountains book, there appears to be some erroneous information in the directions to the Mt. Kinsman trailhead. Coming from the north on Route 116, we actually passed both the Kinsman Lodge and Tamarack Tennis Camps before reaching the trailhead on the left (it’s just past Tamarack Tennis Camps sign by maybe 100 yards or so). A White Mountain National Forest sign for Kinsman Trail (parallel to the road) marks the entrance. Also, there is a parking lot off-road – the stone pillars, which are set back from the road several yards, no longer had a chain between them. If you turn onto this dirt road, follow it back several yards past the stone pillars, and follow the bend to the right, you’ll see a small parking lot right there. It did fill up by the time we left, though, and there were several more cars parked along the road with us. (It is possible, however, that the dirt road to the parking lot is closed in winter.)

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Location of the trailhead – as you can see here, the trailhead is just south of the tennis courts at Tamarack Tennis Camp. Across Route 116 from a cow pasture.

June 10, 2017: Jackson-Webster Loop (8/48)

Now that the snow is gone, the weather is warmer, and mud season should be tapering off (but appears to be hanging on a bit), it’s time to head back to the White Mountains and hike some more of the 48 4,000-footers. Today, Lucy and I decided to tackle the Jackson-Webster Loop (of which only Jackson counts as one of the 48).

There were lots of rocks, tons of tree roots, several small water crossings, and copious amounts of mud. And it was awesome. The bugs weren’t so bad on the way up to Jackson, but on our way over to Webster they started buzzing around my head a bit. I started off the hike in long sleeves, but about halfway to the summit of Jackson I removed a layer and was just fine in a tank top (with bug spray on my arms). After sitting and eating a quick lunch at the summit, I got a little chilly and put the long sleeves back on. During the second half of the hike, I got pretty warm again but left the long sleeves on due to the bugs.

It was definitely worth it to take the 1/10th mile spur trail over to the craggy summit of Mt. Webster. Though we didn’t see any gray jays on Mt. Jackson, we saw one on Mt. Webster. Yes, we fed it. I’m kind of torn on that one – I generally don’t agree with feeding wildlife, but the gray jays are so used to it. Plus, they’re pretty harmless. It’s not like feeding a bear (which is NEVER a good idea – even unintentionally).

We didn’t see any other people until we reached the summit of Mt. Jackson – as I was climbing the last several yards to the summit, I noticed there was a guy climbing up behind me. Turns out he was first in line in front of three of his friends, and they were hiking across several of the peaks in the Presidential range, from Jackson to Washington. There was also another woman at the summit when we arrived there. We passed by several other hikers (and a couple dogs) completing the loop in reverse while on our way to Mt. Webster. And we encountered even more hikers in groups (and even more dogs) at the Mt. Webster summit and on our way back down.

June 4, 2017: Quarry/Straightback

I had planned to take the day off Monday, June 5th, and go hiking. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and the weather forecast called for rain. So instead I went for a hike on Sunday after grocery shopping. The goal for the day was mainly to get outside and hike quickly, since I didn’t get to go hiking the previous weekend and I didn’t get outside much during the week due to rain.

This was my first time hiking from the relatively new (last summer/fall) Quarry Mountain Forest trailhead on Reed Road, managed by the Forest Society. Having seen several recent hike reports and photo albums in the Belknap Mountain Hikers group on Facebook, I was very surprised to find the trailhead parking lot completely empty just shortly after 9:00 AM on a beautiful, sunny Sunday.

I parked, loaded myself up with bug spray, and headed up the long gravel road to the hiking trail. To get to the trail, walk out of the parking lot and make a left, following the gravel road up, up, up the hill. Keep going until you reach the green gate with the Forest Society sign on it, then go around the gate to the other side and continue following the gravel road. There’s actually a tiny parking area on the left side just before the gate, enough room for two cars at most. About 150-200 yards past the gate, there is a clearing to the right and the gravel road continues to the left – keep following the road here. Soon you’ll come to an area with a large meadow to the left, with an awesome view north to the Sandwich range.

Just past the meadow, a stream passes under the road, and a short walk later you’ll see the beginning of the hiking trail up ahead on the right, marked by a set of stone steps leading up from the road. Be sure to turn around at the top of the steps and take in another amazing view, with Mt. Belknap, Gunstock, and Mt. Rowe to the far left, the Sandwich range straight ahead, and the Ossipee Mountains to the right. On an even clearer day, I expect you’d be able to see Mt. Washington from here – but on this day, it was hiding in the clouds as usual. It felt like it took forever to get to the hiking trail, and just when I began wondering if I had missed it, I realized I was finally there. In reality, it was only a 15-minute brisk walk up the gravel road.

From here, it’s a steady and at times steep climb up to the Dave Roberts Quarry Trail, emerging just slightly west of the eastern summit of Quarry Mountain. The trail is mostly dirt, pine needles, and grass, with occasional rocky spots and roots. It was also quite muddy with all the rain we’ve had recently.

Originally I had planned to take the Quarry Trail west to Mt. Klem and Round Pond, but when I realized the trail from Reed Road would lead me to the eastern end of the trail, I opted to loop around Straightback and Marsh Crossing instead. The climb up to East Quarry has some steep areas and short rock scrambles.

At its eastern end, the Dave Roberts Quarry Trail meets the Belknap Range Trail just west of the southern peak of Straightback Mountain. I decided to take the short out-and-back to the summit, since I was already so close. After getting a little turned around and forgetting which direction I came from, I figured out which part of the trail I needed to take to retrace my steps and continue on to the Marsh Crossing Trail.

Marsh Crossing can be hard to spot. I didn’t remember seeing a sign at the junction, but there’s a large rock right smack in the middle of the trail, with a tiny cairn (like 2 rocks) on top of it). Coming from the east, Marsh Crossing is a right turn here. The trail is blazed in yellow. Once you hike in a bit, say 50 yards or so, you’ll see a tiny white sign labeled “Marsh Crossing” on a tree.

The trail is relatively flat until you cross the marsh at about the halfway point. After that, there’s a steep climb with a little rock scrambling until you reach the Quarry Trail at what appears to be the western summit of Quarry Mountain – since there’s a tree with a sign reading “West Quarry” with the elevation. However, this is not the true summit. To get to the true summit, follow the herd path straight ahead (not the Quarry Trail) several yards to a cairn. I ended up taking this short walk to the true summit, because I missed the Quarry Trail immediately to my right. After an initial steep descent from West Quarry, it’s a relatively easy ridge walk back to the not-yet-named trail that leads down to Reed Road.

The bugs could have been bad, but I didn’t have too much trouble with them since I made sure to keep moving. The couple of times I briefly stopped, they did begin seeking me out before I quickly made my exit. Amazingly, I escaped without any bites, even though I took off my long-sleeved shirt about 30 minutes in, and hiked in a tank top with fully exposed arms (AKA mosquito and black fly smorgasbord) the rest of the way.

In addition to my surprise at seeing an empty parking lot when I arrived, I was even more surprised that I didn’t see one single other person on the trail (not even at the South Straightback summit), and my Jeep was still the only car in the parking lot when I returned just a little after noon.

Reed Road is right on the Alton town line, on Route 11A just west of Route 11. To get to the parking area, be sure to follow the paved part of the road where it makes a right about 1/10 of a mile in. Eventually the pavement will end and it becomes a gravel road. Just keep following it past lots of houses until you reach the large parking area on the left, with a “Quarry Mountain Forest” sign at the entrance.

May 21, 2017: Precipice Path & Mt. Anna

I heard recently that BRATTS received permission from the Scout camp to do some maintenance on the trails within the camp’s property, and that some new signage had been added. I decided to go check out some of the new signs, and also take a peek at what the falls on Precipice Path look like in spring.

When I reached the small, grassy parking area at the end of Alton Mountain Road, there were no other cars there. I quickly loaded myself up with bug spray (the Cutter stuff with DEET on the bottoms of my pant legs and on my hat, and Repel lemon/eucalyptus on my arms and neck), put on my backpack, and headed out.

I headed west on Old Stage Road to get to the Anna/Goat Pasture Hill trail. When I reached the marsh (which is a perpetual wet spot in the road/trail), the marsh was actually overflowing across Old Stage Road, and was up to maybe a foot deep in some spots. I stuck to the left edge of the road where the planks are, and carefully crossed there (stepping into a little of the brush along the edge of the road at a couple spots). A little further beyond this area, Old Stage Road takes a bend to the right and another snowmobile trail continues straight ahead. This would be another good spot for some directional trail signage, but I’m not sure whether BRATTS has permission from the landowner to perform maintenance here. I now know that I need to take the right, but my first time here last fall I had to use the interactive map on my phone to make sure I was going the right way.

Soon enough, I reached the red-blazed Anna/Goat Pasture Hill trail, which is now easily found with the new sign. The purple-blazed Precipice Trail was also easy to find, as there was a new sign there as well.

The falls were flowing very well thanks to recent rains, but without making crossing difficult. After crossing near the top of the falls, I began climbing the steep trail that runs along the edge of the cliff.

Fast-forward to the junction with the Belknap Range Trail (blazed blue). I turned left and headed west toward Mt. Anna, which is maybe a third of a mile away. After pausing to check my map, I decided to continue following the blue trail, which becomes the Anna/Old Stage Road trail. It’s about a mile longer than taking the Anna/Goat Pasture Hill trail back to Old Stage Road, but I was making good time.

At the end of the Anna/Old Stage trail, there was another new sign (as well as several yards away on Old Stage Road where the southern end of the trail heads down to the Scout camp). I decided to head a little further west on Old Stage Road to check out a small bridge over the stream about a hundred or so yards away. It’s a pretty spot and was worth the extra walk.

After visiting the bridge, I turned around and followed Old Stage Road east to return to the parking area. It’s about 1.7 miles of walking on an old dirt road that serves as a snowmobile trail in winter.

When I got back to the parking area, there were a couple more cars that arrived since I started my hike, but I didn’t see anyone else there or while I was out on the trail.

May 20, 2017: Bike Ride on the WOW and Winni trails

Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day, so I dug my bike out of the shed for an afternoon ride. Since last fall, I’ve been wanting to ride the full length of the WOW Trail, plus the northeastern end of the Winni Trail to Belmont.

I started from Lakeport and followed the WOW Trail to downtown Laconia, passing by Lake Opechee along the way. Once downtown, the trail continues across Main Street, past the train station that houses Burrito Me, Prescott’s Florist, and a couple other businesses. After crossing several more streets through town, the trail reaches Bartlett Beach on the eastern shore of Lake Winnisquam.

After Bartlett Beach, the trail winds gently over a couple of boardwalks and continues following the railroad tracks between Court Street/Laconia Road and Lake Winnisquam to the end of the trail at the entrance to Leslie Roberts Recreation Area. On the other side of the entrance, the Winni Trail begins. While the WOW Trail is mostly flat, the Winni Trail has some slight climbs in both directions. The Winni Trail winds through mostly wooded areas, then emerges to a great view of Lake Winnisquam just above the Mosquito Bridge. The trail then re-enters the woods, and shortly afterward ends by the Agway along Laconia Road in Belmont.

There were tons of people out enjoying the trail. Lots of cyclists, including some families. A few runners. Several people walking. And even one guy on a scooter (the non-motorized kind that you push along with one foot). As I finished my ride, I encountered a couple of people walking their dogs near the Lakeport end of the trail.

April 16, 2017: Pine Mountain

My criteria for this hike on Easter morning was that it be short and easy, but still with a view. So I headed down to Alton for a quick trip up Pine Mountain in the Evelyn & Albert Morse Preserve, managed by the Society for the Protection of NH Forests.

I went minimalist with the equipment on this one: car/house keys, driver’s license, phone, hydration belt with a couple small bottles of water and a pocket to hold my stuff. No backpack, no ten essentials. Don’t scold me… this is really just a walk through woods and fields up to the top of a hill with a view, not a full-fledged hike. Plus, I wanted to be able to break out into a trail run if I felt like it (which I briefly did a few times).

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Entrance to the Morse Preserve.
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Panorama from the summit of Pine Mountain – Belknap Range to the left, Lake Winnipesaukee to the right.
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Yes, it’s 60 degrees (Farenheit), I’m wearing a tank top, and there is still snow in the woods.
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Straight ahead, the tallest mountain in the distance is Belknap – trail is pointing right toward it.

There were some bits of snow remaining off-trail in some shady spots, and only a couple small but avoidable patches on the trail. The summit was sunny and open with no snow at all. With all of the recent melting and a little rain, there were lots of wet and muddy spots (again, avoidable, as long as you’re careful of branches that may want to poke your eyes out).

Taking the Arlene Morse trail to the summit, then following the Robert Greenwood loop around and back to the Arlene trail to return to the entrance, I completed the 1.8 miles in a little over 46 minutes, including photo breaks. I didn’t run into anyone else on the trail, though on the way down I did hear a dog barking, probably down near the parking lot or at one of the nearby homes down along the road.

April 2, 2017: Mt. Rowe Snowshoeing

Just when I thought it was safe to put away the snowshoes, we got an April Fool’s snowstorm that dumped about a foot of sticky, heavy, white stuff on us! I’ve been bitching about the snow for a couple weeks now – I’m so done with it – but this time, I decided to stop bitching and try to enjoy the snow with one (hopefully) last snowshoe of the season. My usual hiking buddies were otherwise occupied, so I announced my plans in the NH Women’s Hiking Group on Facebook and made arrangements to meet up with Kim and her rescue pooch, Miss Tory, to tackle Mt. Rowe in Gilford. Though we had never hiked it together before, we’ve each hiked it numerous times and it’s a mutual favorite.

The snow from this storm was a bit wet and heavy, so throughout the whole hike, snow was falling out of the trees onto our heads. The snow was also weighing down lots of tree branches, and in the scrubby pine sections about 2/3 of the way up, it was hard to spot the blazes on the trees – where they would normally be easy to see, low-hanging branches were blocking our line of sight.

It was pretty deep, too. Judging from the maze of deer tracks criss-crossing the trail, the snow looked to be about 2 feet deep. We weren’t sinking down that far, thanks to our snowshoes, but we were sinking anywhere from 10 inches to a foot into it.

Only the lower half of the blue trail had been broken out, by one snowshoer who came through either yesterday afternoon or early this morning. From the blue/purple merge section up to the ridge, we had to break trail in the fresh, soft snow ourselves – which was pretty tiring! We took turns leading the way, with Miss Tory following in our snowshoe tracks so she wouldn’t sink too much.

It was a pretty tiring hike for a small mountain – anyone who breaks trail on a 4000-footer has my greatest admiration and appreciation! But even though my legs are tired, my ankles ache, and I somehow managed to get a blister on the side of my heel even when wearing my trail runners (due to the physics of snowshoeing more than the actual shoe, I think), it was worth getting out there for one last hurrah in the snow.