More redlining today! Most of the trails today were new to me, except for the eastern leg of the Klem-Mack Loop, which I hiked two weeks ago. Today’s hike was a solo, since I had just decided the night before to go hiking, and the two hiking buddies I contacted already had plans.
I headed south to the Hidden Valley Scout Camp in Gilmanton, NH, to hike up to Round Pond from the south via the Mack Ridge. Though there’s still some activity at camp, it’s much quieter in late fall with very few people around. Directions to the camp can be found here.
Arriving at the camp, I parked, and left a note on the dashboard with details of where I was hiking and when I planned to return (as they request hikers do so in the off-season – during camp season, hikers need to check in at the camp office). Heading around the eastern shore of Lake Eileen, I walked on camp roads to get to the orange/yellow merge trail. This is a relatively short trail, which splits shortly after crossing another camp road. The yellow trail to the right takes you to Mt. Shannon and Goat Pasture Hill (which I’ll need to hike for redlining later). I followed the trail to the left, the Lower Mack Ridge trail (blazed orange).
Lower Mack Ridge is a relatively easy trail with just one moderately steep section just beyond the halfway point. After crossing over Old Stage Road (an old Jeep/logging road), the trail becomes the Mack Ridge trail (still blazed orange). About 200-250 yards from this point, the Mack Ridge trail becomes extremely steep and rocky as several short switchbacks lead you up about 300 feet of elevation gain over the next 200 yards or so (as best as I can tell from the map – that doesn’t seem so steep now that I typed it, but trust me, it was steep!). This part was a little tricky today, with the trail wet from rains last night, and tons of fallen leaves with more rocks hidden below them. Once that steep section is behind you, though, it’s a relatively level hike along the ridge with just a couple of short, steep climbs until you reach the Round Pond-Mt. Mack trail junction. After one of those short, steep climbs, you’re rewarded with a little herd path off to the right that leads you to a spectacular view. I’m not sure what I was looking at, but I think it was toward the east or southeast. Reaching the junction, I crossed over the Round Pond-Mt. Mack trail to continue on the remainder of the Mack Ridge trail, which meets the western ends of the Round Pond-Mt. Mack (blazed red and orange) and Klem-Mack Loop (blazed red) trails along the eastern shore of Round Pond.
Since today was all about redlining, I needed to make sure I hiked all of the Round Pond-Mt. Mack trail, so I took a left and hiked along until I reached the Round Pond South trail, then turned back and retraced my steps to return to Round Pond, where I decided to stop and eat a quick lunch. After taking off my pack, I could hear some people further ahead on the Piper-Round Pond Link trail, and soon a friendly black Lab came into view. Of course, I said, “Hi doggie!” and he enthusiastically bounded over to me for some attention. Then the people came into view – a woman (who assured me the dog was friendly – obviously), and a man, followed by a younger woman and a little girl. When the man spoke, something about him seemed familiar. At first I thought maybe he was a hiker I ran into before (at this point, he was still too far away for me to see his face clearly). But as he got closer, and spoke some more, I recognized him as… my neighbor! As his hiking group and I talked for about a minute more, he finally said, “Do I know you?” To which I replied, “Yeah, I’m your neighbor!” Outside in my yard or on our street, I never look like I do when I’m hiking, and my hair was pulled up with a buff covering most of the top of my head, so I’m not surprised he didn’t recognize me right away. That was definitely the most entertaining part of my day!
They went on their way, continuing along the shoreline, and I sat down briefly to eat my PB&J by the water with a view of Mt. Belknap. After finishing my sandwich, I began the climb up to Mt. Klem via the Klem-Mack Loop trail. It was an easy to moderate climb from this side. After reaching the Quarry Trail junction just east of the Mt. Klem summit, I continued on the Klem-Mack Loop to Mt. Mack.
First, there’s a bit of descending off of Klem, followed by a relatively easy climb up to Mt. Mack. The Klem-Mack loop ends here at a “T” intersection. Following the red blazes to the left takes you to Mt. Anna (where I was two weeks ago). To the right is the eastern end of the Round Pond-Mt. Mack trail (blazed orange and red).
I followed this side of the Round Pond-Mt. Mack trail, crossing over the Mack Ridge Trail about halfway through, and continued until I reached the north end of the Round Pond South trail. Actually, I had to walk down the camp road about 50 yards or so to get to the Round Pond South trail. Round Pond South (blazed red) is an especially scenic trail at its northern end, following along a gorge with a steep drop to one side, with a babbling brook below. There’s a relatively steep but short section along the gorge, and another short, steep section about a quarter of the way from the southern end of the trail. This trail ends at the lower quarter of the same camp road that meets its north end.
The rest of the hike was super-easy, except for some steep spots on the camp road where there was large, loose gravel (but no slips or falls, thankfully). I continued down the camp road, crossed over Old Stage Road, then followed the camp road all the way back to the northern shore of Lake Eileen. I chose to follow the camp road back down instead of walking down Old Stage Road to the Lower Mack Ridge trail – since I had just hiked that trail at the start of my hike, and it would have involved some slippery downhill hiking, I opted for the easier walk down the dirt road instead. I only saw one other hiker on my way down the camp road, and when I reached Lake Eileen one of the camp mini-buses drove by (full of people!) and headed over towards another part of the camp.
My time wasn’t too shabby, 4 hours and 36 minutes for just under 8.5 miles of hiking, which comes out to a very respectable 32:47 min/mile pace. I guess the ridge hiking and final descent on camp roads helped counteract my pokey 2-hour climb to reach Round Pond. I know I was going pretty slowly up Mack Ridge!