January 24, 2016: Mt. Roberts

Oh, what a gloriously beautiful day!

While my friends and family in the mid-Atlantic states were getting buried in three feet of snow yesterday, all we had in central New Hampshire was clouds, cold, and a little wind – not one single flake. I spent a “sympathetic snow day” on the sofa working on some knitting projects.

But today, as they were all shoveling themselves out of the mounds of snow, I made it a hiking day. And what a fabulous day it has been! (You can plainly see in the photos below.) It was still mighty cold, but the sun was shining down brightly from a blue, cloudless sky.

Click on any of the photos to enter the gallery and read the captions.

The Mt. Roberts trail is accessible from the Castle in the Clouds property. Use the Ossipee Park Road entrance, which takes you to the Riding in the Clouds stables. (See my 12/20/15 post for details.) The Mt. Roberts trail is blazed in orange and it’s about 2.5 miles to the summit. From the parking area before the gate, follow the road ahead toward Shannon Pond. Just before the pond, you’ll reach a “T” in the road – follow the road to the left here, and continue past the stables (stay to the left where another carriage road trail branches off to the right). Just past the stables, you’ll see a sign for the Mt. Roberts trail.

At about 2 miles, you’ll reach a rocky, open area that looks sort of like it might be the peak – but it’s not. Keep following the orange blazes and cairns, and you’ll soon enter a cozy, narrow section of trail through pine trees. Shortly after passing through this wooded section, you’ll reach the peak – there’s no mistaking it, since it’s clearly marked with a sign. On the other side of the peak, the High Ridge trail continues on, blazed in blue, to Faraway Mountain (I didn’t hike this section – saving that one for another day).

I’ve hiked this trail before. A couple of times with a friend and her dog, in the winter, on snowshoes; and once with my hubby in the springtime. I didn’t reach the summit either time – on snowshoes, we stopped a little short of the halfway point, and with my hubby we made it about 2/3 of the way.

I’d say it’s a moderate trail, right smack between easy and difficult. There are some short, steep areas, some slow, steady uphill segments, and a few rolling up-and-down bits. You’ll pass through typical New England woods, rocky terrain covered in scrub oak, open areas of granite, and cozy stands of pine trees on the way to the peak.

When I arrived, there was only one truck in the parking lot, so I expected to have the trail mostly to myself. We still don’t have enough snow for snowshoeing, so today I wore my microspikes. They’re definitely needed on this trail in the winter. The more exposed areas facing southwest are prone to ice from melting and refreezing. I also brought along my snowshoeing poles, but only used them through about the middle half of the hike up to the peak, and not at all on the way down.

I spent several minutes at the top, taking pictures of the mountains – especially since it was so clear and Mt. Washington wasn’t hiding in the clouds today. All that fresh mountain air must have done something to me, because I suddenly had a ton of energy on the way back down. I even broke out into a bit of trail running through the pine trees below the summit, and at a couple of other spots on the trail. (And in other areas, where it was kind of steep, I was very nearly running – unintentionally.)

As expected, I didn’t see any other hikers at all on the way up to the peak. (I guess whoever owns the truck in the parking lot was on another trail.) In fact, when I reached the open granite sections near the top, there weren’t even any fresh footprints – yesterday’s wind had blown snow across parts of the trail, covering up any tracks from the previous day. On the way down, I passed several groups of people on their way up. About a half-mile below the peak, a couple was headed up. I heard the man say something like, “Well, we made it.” I decided not to tell them they had a little further to go – and let them have the fun of figuring that out on their own, like I did. And down by the scenic overlook, there were four more hikers headed to the top. Further down, there was a man with two young boys. And finally, as I nearly reached the upper edge of the horse pastures, there was another couple hiking with a dog, who was apparently very happy to see me. The friendly Boxer came bounding up the trail, looking for ear scritches (and getting them).

Back at the parking lot, there was another group with a couple of dogs just starting to head out for their hike. The parking lot had filled up quite a bit more, but not completely full like it was last weekend. I guess because there wasn’t any brand new snow, there weren’t quite as many people anxious to get out on the trails.


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