Having time only for one outdoor activity today, I ended up choosing hiking over kayaking. Looking over the Belknap Range map and checking what trails I still needed to redline on Gunstock, I thought I could check off that part of the spreadsheet today. (But by the time I finished my hike, I realized there’s still a wee bit unfinished on that one.) And I’m by no means done redlining the Belknaps – after today’s hike, I’m just over 49% complete, both in number of trails and mileage.
Map of today’s hike. From the Gunstock parking lot, I hiked up Brook trail (yellow) to Gunstock summit, down the Gunstock (orange) trail to the Winter Shortcut (green) trail, down Winter Shortcut and back up Gunstock (to redline the part I missed in March when it was still icy) to the summit again, down Brook trail to Saddle, Saddle trail (white) to Belknap (blue) trail, up to summit of Belknap (climbed fire tower again), down Yellow/White merge to East Gilford trail, down East Gilford (yellow) to East Gilford/Round Pond merge (yellow/red), down that to split, Round Pond (red) down to merge w/Overlook (orange) and back down to Gunstock parking lot. (You can find a trail map here.)
The Brook trail is the most direct route from the Gunstock parking lot up to the summit (that is, except for the Panorama lift – HA!). It zigzags across some ski slopes in a few spots, including the Lower Recoil Glades – which is quite magical-looking in summer, covered in lush ferns and peppered with trees reaching to the sky. The upper section of the Brook trail has received a lot of TLC from BRATTS this summer – I noticed some new drainage and trailbed work, as well as a whole lot of new rock steps just below the summit. The tip-top of the Gunstock (orange) trail has also been improved with some trailbed work and a step. Both trails are so much better than they were when I hiked them in March/April of this year. Human sighting: just one guy, who reached the Gunstock summit shortly after I did, and I saw him again on my return to the summit via the orange trail.
When I hiked Gunstock back in March, there were still quite a few icy spots on the upper part of the trail, so I took the Winter Shortcut. This left a section of the orange trail to be redlined in summer or fall. Since it only added about a mile total to my hike, I decided to hike down the orange trail and Winter Shortcut, then hike back up to the summit, picking up that section of orange trail that I missed this spring. I can see why they don’t recommend that route in wet/snowy/icy conditions – it’s pretty steep and rocky on that section of trail. Returning to the Gunstock summit, I headed back down the Brook trail until I reached its junction with the Saddle trail, and took that route through the Gunstock-Belknap col to pick up the blue trail to the Belknap summit. Upon reaching the summit, I climbed the fire tower for a quick photo, then started down the East Gilford/White trail merge. While I had been on this part of the trail before, I hadn’t previously hiked the East Gilford or Round Pond trails, so my redlining goal was to knock those two out as well today. Human/dog sightings: one young (20-something?) guy with an adorable 5-month-old puppy while I was at the blue trail overlook (brief chat with the guy and many ear scritches for the doggie); and an older gentleman with about a half dozen or so younger people (high school or college age, I guess) at the Belknap summit. Possibly a guided hike, I’m not sure. Also one guy on the uppermost public level of the fire tower when I climbed it.
After leaving the yellow/white merge section, the East Gilford trail was quite buggy. I was constantly swatting them away as they buzzed by my ears and at my eyes. The lemon-eucalyptus bug repellent seemed to keep them from biting me, but didn’t stop them from being annoying. There were lots and lots of blueberries on the East Gilford trail, picked and eaten in some areas, but still in abundance in other spots. The upper part of the East Gilford trail is quite steep, rocky and ledgy. I was taking my time and allowed a pair of faster, younger, more athletic women pass me, since I didn’t want to hold them up. They were wearing running sneakers and commented that hiking boots would have been a better choice! The Round Pond trail was just as buggy as East Gilford, and I developed a rhythmic arm movement of swatting them away. Reaching the Round Pond/Overlook merge trail, which is more of a woods road covered in grass and weeds, the bugs got much worse. Here, my goal was just to get to the parking lot as quickly as possible, so I didn’t even stop to take a single photo. Human sightings: besides the two women, a group of three younger guys (teens or college age) a little further down the East Gilford trail. And of course lots of people at Gunstock by the time I returned to the parking lot. I’m pretty sure I heard the “woohoos” of some daring souls coming down the zipline.
So, I’m not entirely done with the Rowe/Gunstock tab in the redlining spreadsheet. I still have the uppermost 1 mile of the Round Pond trail above the East Gilford merge. I’ll probably save that for fall when it’s not so buggy, and start from the Wood Road area. (And as I just looked at the map again, I realized I actually have a teensy bit of the East Gilford trail left to do – the last 1/10th mile or so between Wood Rd. and the Round Pond merge – but thankfully, that’s on a different tab of the spreadsheet.)