November 27, 2016: Belknap Redlining, the big finish!

Well, maybe not exactly a “big finish,” but after two short hikes in about 4 hours, my redlining in the Belknap Range is all done.

Even though there was no big celebration as the last few feet of trail was hiked, I wanted to have some company for these hikes today. It’s very fitting that my hiking buddy Lucy, who really got me started on redlining, accompanied me.

After clarifying the location of the trailhead on the Belknap Range Hikers Facebook group earlier this week, we met up this morning at the end of Jesus Valley Road, then hiked a short way down Old Stage Road (not exactly a road, more of an old logging road/snowmobile trail) to reach the connecting trail that leads to the Jesus Valley/Beaver Pond Trail (JVBPT) on the southern side of Mt. Major.

The connecting trail is short, under a quarter-mile I think, and when we reached JVBPT we headed left, which leads to the Straightback trail and the summit of Mt. Major. This part of the trail was a little steep at times and a bit rocky. In a little under a half-mile, we reached the junction and took the Straightback trail to the left (west). From here, it was just under a mile to the southern summit of Straightback mountain. The whole way up, I alternated between being a bit hot (just needing to take off my mittens) and a little too cold (having to put my mittens back on). It was a little windy on the open summit today, and we did have to dodge patches of ice on the rock slabs. No microspikes required, though.

After a few quick pictures, we headed back down the way we came, and about a half-mile down we took the Blueberry Pasture trail off to the right. This trail heads west for a little under half a mile, then makes a bend to head south/southeast back to Old Stage Road for the last three-quarters of a mile or so. Again we were dodging some icy spots on the slabs in the upper section, but closer to the bottom it was just rocky and leaf-covered. We finished out the hike with about three-quarters of a mile on Old Stage Road to return to our cars.

This hike ended up being slightly longer than I estimated (4.23 miles instead of 3.8), but I did estimate the time correctly (about 2.5 hours).

Straightback/Blueberry Pasture hike map

From here, it was a five to ten-minute drive over to the Evelyn & Albert Morse Preserve, located on Avery Hill Road just off of Alton Mountain Road. This site is managed by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF). We parked across the street at Mike Burke Town Forest, then began our second hike of the morning.

The Arlene Frances Morse trail leads you from the trailhead on Avery Hill Road, a little under three-quarters of a mile to the summit of Pine Mountain, which offers a spectacular view for such a low elevation (1400 ft.). There’s even a visual guide at the top pointing out the names of the mountains in the Belknap and Ossipee ranges that can be seen from this humble summit.

Continuing a short way beyond this point, we reached the Mary Jane Morse Greenwood trail, which leads back down to Alton Mountain Road. For my redlining purposes, we headed down this trail and back up again to finish the loop. Upon returning to the junction just southeast of the summit, we headed south on the Robert A. Greenwood Sr. Loop trail, which eventually swung back around to rejoin the main Arlene Frances Morse trail.

This was a very quick hike, only 3 miles and just under an hour and a half. Definitely an easy one for kids, and a good regular dog-walking spot. A great place to get an awesome view in a short trip, without needing any major hiking gear. (Really, a good pair of sneakers would be just fine for this one.)

Morse Preserve hike map

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