December 11, 2016: The Silent People of Alton, Goat Pasture Hill, and Mt. Shannon

Although I’d been to the trails near the end of Alton Mountain Road twice before, I had never found (or looked for) The Silent People of Alton. Today, hiking buddy Cat showed them to me before we started our hike.

These silent people were inspired by The Silent People of Finland. You can read more about Charles Westen’s display in Alton, NH in an article by Gordon DuBois which appeared in the Laconia Daily Sun this past summer.

After visiting with our wooden stick-figure friends, we returned to the parking area and began hiking west on Old Stage Road. It’s an easy .7-mile walk to the point where the Mt. Anna-Goat Pasture Hill trail crosses. To the right (north) leads to the summit of Mt. Anna, and to the left (south) leads to Goat Pasture Hill and Sunset Lake at the Hidden Valley Scout Camp.

At the junction, we took a left and headed south on the red trail to Goat Pasture Hill. I was just here a few weeks ago, but today’s hike had the added feature of snow! In many areas, trails were snow-covered, but we did encounter a few bare spots. The layer of snow was pretty thin, though, so we chose to keep our microspikes in our packs.

After descending Goat Pasture Hill, we continued on the red trail to Sunset Lake. It looked like the water level at the lake had risen a little since the last time I was here, but it was still low – and now mostly frozen.

Compare these two pictures from roughly the same spot: November 19th on the left, and December 11th on the right. The water (ice) seems to be a bit closer to the shoreline when you look at the rocks on the far right, and it looks like there’s a little less of the dirt from the shoreline out to the island.

We walked the trail along the shoreline until we reached the junction of the yellow trail, then headed to our next summit, Mt. Shannon. This trail approaching Mt. Shannon from the southeast side is a slightly longer but more gradual climb than the approach from the northwest. There’s only a short, steep section just below the summit. Today’s beautiful weather presented us with a stunning view of the scout camp as well as frozen-over Lake Eileen below.

Turning north/northeast, we followed the blue/yellow merge trail along the ridgeline and down to its junction with the blue trail, where we continued north back to Old Stage Road. Coming down a little steep spot, my foot started sliding. I was hiking with just one trekking pole today (which I normally only use in snow), and I must have leaned on it a bit to try to stop myself from sliding, to no avail. What I ended up doing was slowly and sort of gracefully (that’s what it felt like anyway) turning around 180 degrees to face uphill, with both feet now continuing to slide downhill, and planted both unmittened hands straight down into the snow, descending to the ground in a reverse push-up. This was probably the best sort of “fall” I could have, not injuring myself at all and giving me a good laugh at myself.

The rest of the hike was uneventful, apart from spotting lots of small animal tracks. It’s the one thing that made the 1.5-mile or so walk on Old Stage Road back to our cars a little more interesting.

One of the things I love about hiking in cold weather is, well, that it’s cold. So there’s very little sweating with the right amount of layering. The second thing I love about it is spotting all the animal tracks when there’s snow on the ground. Today, we saw lots of deer tracks throughout our hike. And of all the small animal tracks we spotted on Old Stage Road, I’m not quite sure what they all are. I really need to print out the NH Fish & Game Pocket Tracks Card to take along with me. Looking at the card at home, I think we may have seen tracks of skunk, raccoon, grouse, and possibly fisher.

Today was particularly cold. 14 degrees (F) when we started, and 29 degrees when we finished up a little bit before noon. I’m still re-learning how many layers I need to wear, but today I got it right: long-sleeved running shirt, fleece-lined running shirt, fleece jacket on top. My fleece-lined leggings are also working well, but today I also added some knee pants (which I usually wear kayaking in summer) – mainly because they have pockets. I also wore two buffs, one on my head under my hand-knit hat, and one around my neck to pull up just in case my face got cold. My hand-knit mittens were on and off throughout the whole hike – my hands warmed up pretty quickly and I was able to take them off, until we’d stop and take a couple pictures or grab a snack, when my hands would get cold and I’d have to put them on again. Since I couldn’t use my hydration bladder/tube today due to the cold, I left my “real” backpack at home and used my smaller basic backpack, which was just big enough. For hydration, I brought along hot green tea in a travel thermos, and a bottle of water stuck upside-down into two hand-knit socks. My water didn’t freeze! (Really, the tea would have been enough – I don’t really get thirsty on cold-weather hikes.)

I didn’t use the tracking app on my phone today due to the cold, so I just relied on my Vivofit for time and distance, which came out to 3 hours 36 minutes for 6.74 miles. (I had estimated the hike at 5.5 miles, but considering I didn’t have a map with actual distance marked on it, that probably wasn’t an exact calculation.

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