July 3, 2016: Mt. Rowe, redlined

I had a wee bit of redlining to finish on Mt. Rowe: GES Nature Trail, Yellow trail, and the tippy-top section of the Benjamin Weeks trail between North Spur and Ridge trails. I decided today would be a good day for a solo hike since I needed something shorter (just a few months ago I wouldn’t have considered five miles to be all that short) and my main hiking buddy is off camping for the holiday weekend.

I started off on the Gilford Nature Trail, located behind the Gilford Elementary School, right by the playground. This leisurely trail winds its way through the forest and around the marsh for about a half-mile, joining the Mt. Rowe (blue) trail just above the bridge over the marsh.

After about a half-mile or so on the blue trail, I took a left onto the Yellow trail. This trail is steep and rocky from the very start until about halfway through. Thankfully, it’s not a very long trail. A little more than halfway along the Yellow trail, it levels off a bit and becomes a pleasant walk through the woods, with just a little bit more incline until you reach the junction with the upper end of the blue trail.

When I reached the end of the yellow trail, I noticed the blueberries along the blue trail. Most of them weren’t ripe yet, but I found one ripe one (which I ate). It was tiny, but tasty. After reaching the end of the blue trail, I headed left on the Ridge trail toward the Mt. Rowe summit. I can’t hike Mt. Rowe without hiking up the Ridge trail to take in the amazing eastward view of the Belknap Range and the Gunstock resort below. Once up on the ridge, I spent a little extra time admiring the view, including looking at my map to figure out which summits I was seeing. Other than identifying the Cobble by the Gunstock parking area, Gunstock Mountain itself, and Belknap Mountain, I’m still not quite sure. Mt. Klem was most likely in view, but I’m still not quite sure which mountain it was (I’ll be researching that later).

I spotted some lilies along the ridge, and lots and lots of ripe blueberries on the open, sunny ledges. I didn’t eat any blueberries up here, leaving them for the critters of the wilderness instead. In fact, just after turning around to head back down the Ridge trail, I witnessed a chipmunk snacking on some blueberries. He stood up on his hind legs, reached up and pulled down the top of a blueberry branch (only about 8″ high or so) and nibbled some right off.

Also along the Ridge trail, I came across a squirrel perched on top of a cairn. He didn’t jump down immediately; instead, he turned around and looked right at me. Since he was sitting there so nicely, I took quite a few pictures of him. I continued following the Ridge trail until I reached the Benjamin Weeks (purple) trail.

Shortly after starting out on the Weeks trail, I spotted a little butterfly. Speaking to all sorts of wildlife as I usually do, I said something like, “Hello, little butterfly,” and immediately scared a grouse in the woods just off the trail. It did all sorts of flapping around and making noise (well, “grousing”!). I assured the grouse I was just taking a picture of a butterfly and not coming after its babies. (I didn’t see any babies – just assumed that’s why it may have been making such a fuss.)

When I last hiked the Weeks trail back in February, I noticed that the sign at the bottom end of the trail said “seasonally wet” and remembered thinking that was quite an understatement. Back then, there were three stream crossings, each several feet across, and a lot of mud. Now, nearly five months later, there was still a little mud here and there, but it wasn’t particularly wet. In fact, the three stream crossings were now just two very easy stream crossings. The final stream crossing, which was still a stream as recently as the first weekend in May, was nearly dry, with just a few shallow puddles. And most likely, that stream was bone dry until the thunderstorms we had this past week.

I also noticed quite a bit of recent trail maintenance by BRATTS, including the work I helped out with back in May. There was even a “trail work ahead” sign hanging on a tree, but nobody working today.

Other than the wildlife, I did come across some other humans on the trails today. First, a man mountain biking down the blue trail, just below its junction with the Yellow trail. Then, a couple trail running along the Mt. Rowe ridge. And finally, another couple just heading out on their hike when I returned to the elementary school parking lot.

With today’s hike, I’ve completed my redlining on the Mt. Rowe trails, though I’m only about 45% done with redlining the whole Belknap Range, and much of what I still need to do is in the central Belknaps, and the eastern Belknaps west of Mt. Major.

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