February 4, 2018: Lockes Hill

I wanted to get out for a hike this morning, but needed to keep it short so I could be home by noon (for Kitten Bowl, of course). I checked the weather forecast, which showed only rain starting in the afternoon. So, I was a little surprised when I arrived at the trailhead parking lot and noticed snow flurries beginning to fall (just barely – so light that I half wondered if I was imagining it).

I put on my spikes and my pack, set the app on my phone, and headed up the Lakeview trail on the northern side. I reached the Glade pretty quickly. It was still just barely flurrying, but looking out over Lake Winnipesaukee it appeared there was also a bit of snow falling to the north. I couldn’t even see Red Hill or the Ossipee range on the other side! Heck, I could barely see past the nearest islands.

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View to the north over Lake Winnipesaukee from the Glade. Can’t even see the mountains on the other side!

After a few quick photos and a text to Lucy, I continued on to the summit (and continued texting with Lucy before going back on airplane mode to try to save my battery).

A couple weeks ago when Lucy and I hiked up Lockes Hill, we noticed an old Jeep road on the opposite side of the summit that appeared to head down the western side. So upon reaching the summit, I began heading down that trail to see where it went. There had clearly been someone on this trail earlier, but not today. There were old footprints mostly filled in with snow, plus some dog tracks. And tons of squirrel tracks as well.

After only about a tenth of a mile, the trail took a hard turn to the left and there were snowmobile trail signs — “dead end, keep out” and “trail closed”. I ventured just several yards further, then turned around and took what looked like another trail branching off at the dead end sign. This trail quickly narrowed and became more of a herd path heading back toward the summit, emerging from the woods on the northern side just below the summit clearing. I turned around and returned to the summit via the old Jeep road (or snowmobile trail, whatever it was) rather than climbing up the snowy northern slope.

I hiked past the airport beacon atop the summit, and headed back down to the parking lot via the Quarry trail, which meanders down the south side of the summit and loops eastward back to the parking lot.

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Heading down the Quarry trail in light snow flurries (not that you can see them at all in the photo).

Shortly after beginning my descent, the barely visible snow flurries morphed into a snow shower. I continued quickly down the trail, half-jogging at times to make a quick descent, since the snow and my leaky thermos were beginning to soak the outside of my fleece jacket.

By the time I returned to the parking lot, the snow showers had become a bit of a snow squall. I saw nobody else on the trail today, and there were no other cars in the parking lot. Then, just as I was driving out, someone else drove in.

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January 28, 2018: Klem-Mack Loop

After a last-minute change of plans on Saturday, I ended up doing a Sunday afternoon hike out to Round Pond and over the Klem-Mack Loop with Kim and her sweet doggie, Miss Tory.

We started from the Wood Road trailhead, parking along Bickford Road since the right-of-way to the trailhead parking area is not maintained in winter. After a month or more of deep freeze, the temps in the 40s were a welcome change of pace. What little snow remained on the trails (up to six inches in some spots) was of the mushy mashed-potato variety. We frequently encountered spots that were completely bare, as well as thick layers of ice in some areas.

We headed out to Round Pond first. As we neared the pond, I noticed something that looked like dirt – almost like graphite powder – in some puddles on top of icy spots. Looking a little closer, I realized they were moving – they were snow fleas! Not actually fleas, and in fact, they’re beneficial little bugs. After reaching the pond, we took a left onto the Klem trail. On our way up to Klem, we came across a couple of small blowdowns that had fallen across the trail. We carefully moved them off to the sides, and cleared away several branches littering the path.

Continuing past the summit of Mt. Klem, we headed over to Mt. Mack, then completed the loop, returning to Round Pond and retracing our steps back to Wood Road.

Other than two people and two dogs on the Round Pond trail, we didn’t see any other hikers today – possibly because we didn’t start until noon.

January 21, 2018: Pine Mountain and Lockes Hill

Yikes! I can hardly believe it’s been more than a month since I’ve hiked! Between holidays, crappy weather, extremely cold temps, and my car being at the garage for two weeks over Christmas/New Year’s due to squirrels building a nest under the hood and chewing various things (including the brake line), I just haven’t been able to get out until now.

Lucy and I headed to Pine Mountain in Alton, NH, intending to break in her new snowshoes. Unfortunately, even though we got several inches of new snow this past week, the warm-ups from last weekend and yesterday left very little snow on the trails. Certainly not enough for snowshoes. We probably would have been just fine bare-booting, but we wore our microspikes for safety just in case.

It was a beautiful day, with temps at or just above the freezing mark, and great views across Lake Winnipesaukee toward the Ossipee range and the White Mountains beyond (though Mt. Washington was hiding behind clouds as it normally does 67% of the time).

Since Pine is a short, quick hike just under two miles, we headed north up Route 11 and made a quick loop around Lockes Hill. Lucy is working on her Belknap Range redlining, and hadn’t yet completed this section that’s a little disconnected from the rest of the range.

At Lockes, we took the shorter, slightly steeper Lakeview trail to the summit, stopping at the Glade to take a couple of photos and enjoy the view over Lake Winnipesaukee. We passed a few groups of people along the loop, including two women walking their dogs. Taking the slightly longer and gentler Quarry trail, we descended back to the parking lot. Once again, snowshoes weren’t necessary. There were even some areas where the ground was completely devoid of snow.

2017: My Year Outdoors

Though I didn’t achieve my goal of hiking more (in either number of hikes or total mileage), there are two goals (and one secondary goal) that I reached:

  • Run more.
  • Finish the Runaway Pumpkin 10K (and don’t finish last).

I managed to hike or snowshoe in every month of the year; however, I did notice that the hiking was pretty lacking in March and April, likely due to the extremely wet spring we had this year. But I had also started my run training at that point.

I also didn’t meet my goal of checking 20-21 NH 4000-footers off the list (though I don’t remember if I meant doing 20-21 this year, or getting to 20-21 completed). I managed to check 10 more off the list, so I’m at 17 done and 31 to go. I hoped to complete them before I turn 49, but I’m revising that goal to finish before I turn 50. Maybe. (I don’t hike 4K’s in winter.)

Some favorite moments above: Snowshoeing on January 1st | Biking on the Winni Trail | Feeding a Gray Jay on Mt. Webster | Adam’s 48 finish on Mt. Isolation | Tandem kayaking with Mela in Connecticut | Lucy’s 48 finish on Mt. Adams | The final climb up to Eisenhower | Lisa’s 48 finish on Mt. Moosilauke

I enjoyed the time spent outdoors and saw some great views with my regular hiking crew. I was also glad to meet and hike with some new friends as well! There were also some Hikes From Hell, like that hike of Mt. Isolation with torrential above-treeline rainstorms, copious amounts of mud, and an unexpected but somewhat intentional dip in the Rocky Branch river. Joining Lucy, Devon and Cat for Lucy’s 48 finish atop Mt. Adams was definitely a high point, and the stunning views on a bluebird day on Pierce and Eisenhower ran a close second.

I’ve set a goal for 2018 to complete 45 hikes (not all 4K’s) for the year. It’s doable, but we’ll see if I manage to reach that one.

Workouts

As usual, way more walking than anything else. But a lot more running than I did last year.

MonthlyStats

August was my busiest month – it was tied for first with May last year.

December 17, 2017: Round Pond Snowshoe

A bit of a broken record here… Round Pond yet again! But it’s the go-to for a last minute decision to hike with Cat. Plus, it’s a good choice for a first snowshoe outing of the season.

We originally planned to also hike the Mack-Klem loop, but just hiking out to the pond was plenty tiring enough. We continued a bit further to check out the beaver dam, then retraced our steps to return.

It was quite cold when we started – around 10 degrees Farenheit – and it was a little windy crossing Cat’s neighbor’s field. Fortunately, some neighbors had already broken out the trail with snowshoes, so that made it a bit easier. I did wear my snowshoeing gaiters that cover my toes – it was the first time wearing them with my new boots, so I wasn’t sure if they’d fit over them, but they did. I took my poles along, but didn’t need to use them.

The pond looked pretty well frozen, but there’s no way either one of us was going to test that out. A layer of snow covered the ice. When we reached the Klem trail, we noticed that nobody had broken that trail out yet. We continued further down the Round Pond trail, past the Boy Scouts’ fire ring, out to the camp road, and part-way down the Round Pond South trail to the beaver dam. There was just one narrow strip of open water below the dam where the water was draining from the pond, over the dam, and out into the brook.

Since it was quite cold, we tried not to stop for any length of time. But my left butt cheek/thigh was freezing, likely due to me losing my balance and landing in the snow a little earlier. On the return trip, we paused at the Boy Scouts’ fire ring to get our down jackets out of our packs and tie them around our waists for a little extra warmth. I even zipped mine up a little around my legs, turning it into a makeshift skirt. It did help a bit, but I was still a little cold. I’ll be adding my lined hiking pants to my pack as a backup/additional layer next time.

While at this brief stop, I also took out the bagel thin with strawberry cream cheese that I had stuffed in my pack. During the time we had been hiking, it became a frozen bagel thin with partially frozen strawberry cream cheese. I held it in my mittened right hand and ate it while walking. I don’t know if it had anything to do with holding that frozen bagel, but afterward the fingertips on my right hand became extremely cold. (My left hand was fine.) I tried putting my hand in my pocket, then tucking my hand inside my coat, but neither attempt to warm my hand worked. Then Cat mentioned skin-to-skin contact. Well, I kept my mitten on, but I unzipped my two fleece jackets and half-zip running shirt just enough to get my hand in there and stick my fingertips in my armpit. That worked!

It was an exceptionally clear day, so we were treated to a spectacular view of Mt. Washington from the old trail through Cat’s neighbor’s property. Unfortunately, it was such a sunny day that my camera completely lost old George against the sky (I was taking the photo under tree cover, so compensating for the shady location washed out the sky too much). If I had taken the photo with my phone instead of my little point-and-shoot, I might have been able to adjust the brightness better.

We ended up with a four-mile trek in a little over two hours. Pretty respectable for a first snowshoe of the season.

December 11, 2017: Whiteface Mountain (the one in Gilford, that is)

I only ever hiked Whiteface in Gilford once before, and that was a tick-filled experience in May of last year. I’ve read about the cliffs on the southern side of the mountain several times, and after recently seeing some new photos of them and reading additional descriptions on how to get to them, I decided to head out today to hike beyond the summit to see if I could find them.

Now, this would probably have been a better idea last Friday, before there were three inches or so of snow on the ground. A faint herd path that could possibly be tricky to find without snow cover is made more difficult to find once there’s a coating of the white stuff.

After dropping off a shipment of Christmas gifts at the post office, I headed out to Gilford and followed Belknap Mountain road to its end, parking in the small lot along the side of the road. A woman, who I assume lives in one of the nearby homes, was out walking her very happy and friendly dog on the road. Well after they had passed by me (and we exchanged hellos), I headed down the dirt section of the road a little further to get to the trail… and was greeted again by the dog running toward me, wagging its tail. This might scare or startle some people who are wary of dogs running loose – but I’m rather used to it at this point and it didn’t bother me (especially since I could just tell that the dog was happy and friendly, and just wanted to say hi). I put out my mitten-clad hand for a sniff, and before I could even pet the dog, it was already running back to the driveway it came from.

I easily found the clearly marked trail, located between two houses, and headed up. It looked like there hadn’t been much activity on the trail since the snow; it appeared that there were just two sets of human and dog tracks – one set each ascending and descending. I was fairly sure there wouldn’t be enough snow for snowshoes (and there wasn’t), but I had brought along my microspikes, leaving them attached to my pack with a carabiner to start. I followed the trail up through the forest, eventually reaching the halfway point at its junction with the Piper-Whiteface Link trail. Here is where I decided to put on my spikes, since the trail would eventually get rockier, with open ledges closer to the summit.

After donning my spikes, I stepped over the broken-down remains of a rock wall and continued on the Whiteface trail (blazed blue). I was somewhat surprised to see that absolutely nobody had been out this way since the snow on Saturday afternoon. (The tracks I saw on the trail earlier headed toward Piper at the junction.) I was occasionally surprised by the sound of cracking ice under my feet, and realized I needed to watch out for lightly frozen puddles hidden under the snow. In one spot, I actually broke through a frozen muddy spot with my right foot and got a bit of a muddy boot (but partially frozen December mud is easier to get off a boot than wet June mud, especially when you can use the snow to help clean it off).

I soon reached an ATV/snowmobile trail coming up from the western side of the mountain, which is shared with the hiking trail the rest of the way to the summit. Here’s where I had to start watching out for those partially frozen puddles, since some of them can be a little deep. The dead giveaway is a large, perfectly flat area in a low section of the trail. I came across about three or four of these on my way to the summit, and was careful to follow whichever high side looked to be the most stable. I succeeded in keeping my feet only snowy and not soaked, so that worked well.

As I neared an open area, I noticed some larger tracks (that is, larger than the chipmunk and squirrel tracks I had been seeing so far)… which were clearly coyote tracks. They looked sort of fresh – maybe from overnight or earlier in the morning, rather than from yesterday. I just hoped they weren’t super-fresh and that I was making enough noise so that I wouldn’t meet up with the coyote that made them.

I emerged from tree cover onto the ledgy false summit, which has excellent views to the west over Lake Winnisquam, north to the White Mountains (though I couldn’t see any further than Red Hill today due to clouds), and northeast to the rest of the Belknap range. After a few quick photos, I continued on to the high point of the summit.

Once at the summit, I continued beyond, briefly following the ATV trail and then looking in the junipers for the faint herd path that leads to the cliffs. I read some conflicting descriptions – one I recently read said the herd path was on the left, but photos and other descriptions made me think the cliffs would be to the right. I wandered around to the left, came back. Wandered over to the right, came back. Continued further down the ATV trail a bit, then came back (and regretted going that way, since it was kind of steep). I decided that trying to find a faint herd path under snow cover, even as little as it was, was futile and probably not a good idea when I was alone on a trail that doesn’t seem to get much traffic this time of year (at least until there’s enough snow for snowmobiles).

I returned to the summit and headed back down the same way I came up. I didn’t see any other hikers on the trails at all, and it didn’t look like there were any other footprints after mine on the lower half of the trail. Sure enough, mine was the only car in the parking lot when I returned.

December 8, 2017: Round Pond & Weeks Woods

After a difficult Thursday at work, I was so ready for my planned 4-day weekend (using up time off that I would otherwise lose after year-end). I originally thought about hiking up Whiteface (the one in Gilford) and continuing past the summit to see the cliffs. But my heart was telling me to go to Round Pond – even though I’ve been out there several times recently.

For today’s hike, I started from the East Gilford trailhead just off of Wood Road. When I arrived at the parking area just before 8:30 AM, I was surprised that there were no other cars there. Then I remembered it was Friday, not Saturday. There were also a lot of heavy equipment tracks in the parking lot and just beyond the gate. (Not really surprising since there is occasionally some logging done in the area – though I don’t think any logging was done this year.) Poorfarm Brook was babbling away at the start of the trail. It looked like there may have been some recent repairs to the trail, possibly due to the heavy rains and flooding we experienced just before Halloween.

At the fork, I chose to follow the more scenic East Gilford trail instead of the Fire Road. This leg of the journey, as well as the Round Pond trail, always turns out to be longer than I remember – though it’s by no means a long hike. Just beyond the bridge crossing over a wider section of Poorfarm Brook, I spotted some relatively fresh-looking drainage work on the upper end of the Fire Road, where it meets the Round Pond trail. A drain tube had been installed and covered over with large gravel – much needed in this extremely wet area. I continued on the Round Pond trail, and soon reached the Round Pond-Piper Link trail. From here, it’s a pretty short, easy jaunt out to Round Pond.

When I reached the pond, it was nearly all frozen over. I only spotted a section of open water within a 10 to 20-foot margin of the northern shoreline. I continued a quarter of the way around the pond, just until I arrived at the junction with the Klem-Mack Loop. Since it was in the low 30’s and I was on the shady side of the pond, I just took a few photos and headed back (after finding a loose, softball-sized rock along the trail and throwing it out on the pond to check the ice – it chipped it, bounced, and skidded, but didn’t break through the ice), eating my snacks as I walked. Luckily, when I got in the Jeep this morning, I discovered the extra single-serving bag of Combos the hubby didn’t eat last Saturday while we were running errands, so I claimed them as one of my hiking snacks.

On my way back, something about the steep slope just north of the pond was calling to me. I just felt this incredible urge to climb it and see where it went. Looking at my map, I did see it was indeed a high spot, and I remembered reading something about it in a hike report (I think there’s a geocache or log book there or something). Anyway, I could make out a relatively easy way up through the sparse trees, and soon found a herd path near the state forest boundary line. I followed it up and in the direction of the Round Pond trail, thinking it might take me to the summit of this rocky hill… but very soon I spotted another hiker up ahead and realized I had nearly reached the Round Pond-Piper Link trail and passed by just south of the hill’s summit. (Checking the old Dave Roberts map when I got home, I saw the name of the hill was Heator Mountain – I knew it had a name but couldn’t remember it out on the trail.) I think sometime I’ll come back and do some actual orienteering with the map and compass – it’s a pretty good place to practice, since the forest isn’t very dense, there are some easy landmarks like the state forest boundary, and it’s mostly surrounded by trails, so if you walk in a straight line you’ll eventually get to one of them.

The return trip was much faster, since all the uphill sections of the Round Pond trail were now downhill, and I took the slightly shorter Fire Road back to the parking lot. This hike only took me a little over two hours, so it wasn’t even 11 AM yet. I decided to stop at Weeks Woods for a second short hike on the way home.

Driving back on Route 11A towards Laconia, I turned in at the Gilford Town Hall and parked at the end of the Public Works building’s parking lot closest to the road. My friend Cat had recently mentioned a great view at Weeks Woods, which I thought I had seen before (and wasn’t impressed with). But it turns out the view Cat was referring to was actually beyond the Weeks Woods property.

I followed the eastern side of the yellow-blazed Lower Loop trail, then got on the blue-blazed Upper Loop trail at its eastern end. After stopping at the Picture Post to do my citizen scientist duties (taking photos as instructed and uploading them online), I continued on the Upper Loop trail briefly until the Upper Loop forked to the left and I continued straight ahead on the trail that leads off the property. (Note: If you use the Picture Post, north is no longer marked on the top. If you’re facing the sign on the post, and consider the side of the octagon closest to you as the “bottom”, north is the side of the octagon just to the right of that, at the bottom-right corner. Don’t follow the diagram of the octagon shown on the sign to determine which side is north – or just use a compass.)

Soon I reached a spot where the wider trail continued straight ahead and a well-worn narrow trail branched off to the right. Though I have no maps for these trails (and I wasn’t able to find any online), they were certainly well used and I knew all I had to do was head towards the sun to get back. After following the trail through lots of twists, turns, and junctions, and passing by several logged areas, I somehow managed to reach the viewpoint, where there was a bench crafted of logs overlooking a large field with a view of the mountains to the northwest. I stood on the bench to take a couple of disappointing iPhone shots that just couldn’t compare to the view I was seeing with my own eyes, then continued following the trail along the upper end of the field.

Originally, I thought this was simply the opposite end of the same field I had seen from the scenic overlook at the corner of the Weeks Woods property on earlier hikes. But it turns out it was the field next door (and, I believe, one of the fields that Beans and Greens farms). Following the trail and making some left turns without truly knowing where the trails would lead, I eventually ended up back at the bench. Here I made a right, figuring I would somehow finish a loop and end up either back where I started or on a different section of the upper loop. At one point, I encountered a huge pine tree that had fallen directly on (along, not across) the trail, and had to go around it. Sure enough, I soon emerged at the Weeks Woods boundary where I had initially left the property, just above the Picture Post. With my mission for this little trek accomplished, I just headed back down instead of completing the loop.

I returned to the parking lot, took off my backpack, put it and myself in the Jeep and headed home. Somewhere between Piche’s and Bolduc Park, I suddenly realized I didn’t have my mittens. When I first arrived at Weeks Woods, I had put on my backpack and tucked the mittens under the waist strap of my pack. I knew exactly where they were: in the Gilford Public Works parking lot, right next to where the Jeep had been parked. So I turned around just over the Laconia town line, headed back to Gilford and retrieved my mittens. It had only been 15 minutes, so as I figured, nobody had picked them up yet.

I’m looking forward to another day off on Monday and doing some additional exploring! Now I just have to figure out where.