March 11, 2016: Gunstock-Belknap-Piper

Having just wrapped up production on a Patternworks catalog a couple days early, and knowing that hubby and I would be working on house stuff again this weekend, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and take the day off today to do a nice, looooong hike.

I decided on hiking Gunstock and continuing over to Belknap Mountain. And while looking over the trail map last night, I thought why the heck not do Piper as well? So that’s what I did.

Click on any of the photos above to view the gallery and read captions. The photos above are all from Gunstock Mountain.

Click any photo to view the gallery and read captions. This photo set includes Belknap and Piper mountains.

See my February 6th snowshoe post for links with directions to the lower gate of the Belknap Mountain carriage road. The Belknap Range Trails website has trail maps for the entire Belknap range, as well as individual maps for each mountain, including Gunstock, Belknap and Piper.

It was a great day for a hike. A bit overcast now and then, but I had occasional moments in the sun, mostly when I was on Piper Mountain. I started off from the lower gate of the Belknap Mountain carriage road. I took the Gunstock Mountain trail (blazed orange) to the peak of Gunstock, taking the green-blazed Winter Shortcut trail and rejoining the orange trail near the summit. The Panorama Quad chair lift was running, but there was nobody skiing at 9 AM when I was up there. I didn’t need my spikes at all on the trail, but I was glad I brought them along because I needed them at the top of Gunstock. The snow was frozen solid along the edge.

From Gunstock, I picked up the Brook trail (blazed yellow) for a short hike over to the Saddle trail (blazed white) to Belknap Mountain. In the saddle between Gunstock and Belknap, the Saddle trail meets up with the Belknap Mountain blue trail, which I followed a half-mile to the summit of Belknap (stopping in the meadow part-way up to take in the view back towards Gunstock). It looked so far away – I could hardly believe that I had just been there. (It’s really only maybe a mile away.)

Upon reaching the summit of Belknap, I took off my spikes and attempted to climb the fire tower steps. I only went up one flight – it was a bit windy and I would have had to go all the way up to even hope to get a good view. The trees are actually pretty tall – I wasn’t even sure if I could get a good view. I then headed down the white/yellow merge trail toward Piper Mountain.

Somewhere along here is another scenic overlook – I can’t remember for sure if it was where the white and yellow trails split into the Belknap white trail and East Gilford trail (yellow), or if it was further along where the white trail meets up with the Old Piper trail (orange) and Piper-Round Pond Link trail (green).

After reaching the Old Piper trail, I followed it to the Piper-Whiteface Link trail (blazed green). Before reaching the north peak of Piper Mountain, I came across the first fellow humans on the trail – a man and woman who had hiked up the Piper trail and were on their way back down. On the Piper-Whiteface Link, I crossed over the north peak of Piper Mountain, then followed the yellow-blazed Vista trail over to the south peak of Piper. The south peak is pretty interesting – like Lockes Hill, people have built makeshift chairs and benches out of the stones. There’s even a fire pit. On the bench by the fire pit is where I stopped to sit for a few minutes and eat an oatmeal square – it was just about lunchtime and I was starting to get hungry!

I backtracked on the Vista and Piper-Whiteface Link trails until I returned to the intersection of the Old Piper trail. Here, the Piper Mountain trail (blazed red) also branches off and heads back down to the carriage road. I followed the very muddy, sometimes steep and occasionally icy trail to the bottom. It was pretty slow going on this section, as I was trying not to fall. I did slip quite a few times, but didn’t fall. About two-thirds of the way down, I came across the second pair of fellow humans of the day – two women on their way up Piper.

It was a great hike, but I was ready to finish up, head home and grab some lunch. My mileage estimate was a bit off – I had added up 5.5 miles, but it was more like 6.5. I missed adding up a portion of my backtracking to get to the Piper Mountain red trail. I was also off on my pace estimate. I need to remember to plan for a slower pace on these longer (for me) hikes. Normally, I hike at about a 35-min/mile pace on a 2- to 3-mile hike, but on a longer hike like this where I’m stopping at several overlooks and taking a snack break, it’s more like a 45-min/mile pace. So if you do the math… I was hiking for nearly five hours instead of the three I had estimated!


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