March 27, 2016: Mt. Major (and then some)

My original plan for today was to hike up Lockes Hill at sunrise… but I didn’t get up early enough this morning, and decided instead to hike Mt. Major, going up the main blue trail this time, and down the Brook Trail (yellow).

When I checked the weather forecast the night before, it said the day was supposed to be clear with high temps in the low 50s. However, it was much cooler in the morning (as expected), just slightly below freezing at 30. It was also cloudy.

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

I arrived at the Mt. Major parking lot just before 8:30 AM. There were already several cars there, a dozen at most. I wasn’t sure if there would be any snow or ice left on the trail, so I brought along my spikes. Heading up the main trail (blazed in blue), it started off a little muddy, which became frozen mud further up the trail. At the 1.3-mile mark, where you have the option of tackling the ledges to the right or taking the ledge detour to the left, I caught up with another hiker who was pondering which way he was going to go. Sure enough, there was quite a bit of ice on the ledges. I decided to take the detour as I usually do – my stubby little legs aren’t so good with ledges, especially not icy ones. There were some icy spots on the detour as well, but I was able to get around/over it. Just below the summit, though, there was quite a bit of icy slush and I put on my spikes. And then I waited for a decidedly unprepared group of four to slide down this icy section on their butts (while they looked surprisingly at their hands when they got dirty from touching the rocks). Imagine me rolling my eyes here.

Anyhoo, once they managed to get past the ice, I warned them that there was some more ice further down, but not as bad as that, and I continued my climb up with a bit more sureness in my footing. After getting past the ice just below the summit, I stopped and removed my spikes and continued up the broad expanse of rock. The hiker I met while deciding to detour the ledges was just behind me, and I heard another hiker ask him how far to the top. He answered “right up there” – and I thought it was the typical friendly lie you’re told by other hikers when you really have a bit further to go. But as I climbed up over a section of rock, right there was the summit and its landmark cabin remnants.

Just a few seconds later, the hiker asking about the summit arrived, a bit out of breath considering he sort of ran up the blue trail (reaching the summit in 25 minutes, he told me) and his wife and daughter were a bit further behind. We chatted for a bit – he was from New York and it was his first time on the mountain, so he was asking which route I recommended for the trip back down. (I recommended the Brook Trail since the Boulder Loop Trail is so steep – but gave him a quick description of both trails and pointed the directions to them.)

Unfortunately, there was no view at all today. It was still cloudy when I arrived at the summit, and it was completely socked in. There was, however, a magical frost over all the scrubby trees. I took some pictures (of the frost), sat down for a bit and ate an oatmeal square. I was kind of amazed at how quickly and easily I managed to reach the summit today. So I pulled out my Belknap Range map and took a look at the trails. I saw I could get a slightly longer hike by heading over towards Straightback. I started off down the Brook Trail on the yellow/blue merge section, then continued on the Major-Straightback Link (blazed blue) where the two trails split after about a half-mile. When I reached the junction with the Quarry Spur Trail, I briefly considered continuing on to the South Peak of Straightback, but decided to continue on Quarry Spur (blazed orange) instead, and save Straightback for another day.

The Quarry Spur trail is pretty short, just three-tenths of a mile. Meeting up with the Dave Roberts Quarry Trail (blazed white), I followed the Quarry Trail to the right for a short distance where it meets up with the North Straightback Link (blazed green), which I followed to its junction with the yellow-blazed Brook Trail. While on the North Straightback Link, I realized it probably wasn’t a good idea to make a last-second route change without first reading the trail description. This trail is quite steep, and there’s a section that requires a bit of rock scrambling. It just took a bit of scooting on my butt and careful foot placement, and I made it down just fine.

When I reached the Brook Trail, I encountered a lot more hikers (and dogs) on their way up. I expected to find the parking lot pretty full when I arrived at the bottom, and it sure was. Completely full, and cars were already starting to park along the shoulder of Route 11. Some lucky person was all too happy to take my parking spot as I left!

You can find more details about Mt. Major in my January 3rd post.

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