After a difficult Thursday at work, I was so ready for my planned 4-day weekend (using up time off that I would otherwise lose after year-end). I originally thought about hiking up Whiteface (the one in Gilford) and continuing past the summit to see the cliffs. But my heart was telling me to go to Round Pond – even though I’ve been out there several times recently.
For today’s hike, I started from the East Gilford trailhead just off of Wood Road. When I arrived at the parking area just before 8:30 AM, I was surprised that there were no other cars there. Then I remembered it was Friday, not Saturday. There were also a lot of heavy equipment tracks in the parking lot and just beyond the gate. (Not really surprising since there is occasionally some logging done in the area – though I don’t think any logging was done this year.) Poorfarm Brook was babbling away at the start of the trail. It looked like there may have been some recent repairs to the trail, possibly due to the heavy rains and flooding we experienced just before Halloween.
At the fork, I chose to follow the more scenic East Gilford trail instead of the Fire Road. This leg of the journey, as well as the Round Pond trail, always turns out to be longer than I remember – though it’s by no means a long hike. Just beyond the bridge crossing over a wider section of Poorfarm Brook, I spotted some relatively fresh-looking drainage work on the upper end of the Fire Road, where it meets the Round Pond trail. A drain tube had been installed and covered over with large gravel – much needed in this extremely wet area. I continued on the Round Pond trail, and soon reached the Round Pond-Piper Link trail. From here, it’s a pretty short, easy jaunt out to Round Pond.
When I reached the pond, it was nearly all frozen over. I only spotted a section of open water within a 10 to 20-foot margin of the northern shoreline. I continued a quarter of the way around the pond, just until I arrived at the junction with the Klem-Mack Loop. Since it was in the low 30’s and I was on the shady side of the pond, I just took a few photos and headed back (after finding a loose, softball-sized rock along the trail and throwing it out on the pond to check the ice – it chipped it, bounced, and skidded, but didn’t break through the ice), eating my snacks as I walked. Luckily, when I got in the Jeep this morning, I discovered the extra single-serving bag of Combos the hubby didn’t eat last Saturday while we were running errands, so I claimed them as one of my hiking snacks.
Heavy equipment tracks in the parking area off of Wood Road, and continuing beyond the gates.
Heading out on the East Gilford trail to Round Pond.
Poorfarm Brook near the start of the trail (there’s a nearby house just beyond the right edge of the photo).
Poorfarm Brook from the same spot, looking upstream.
Crossing the bridge on the Round Pond trail.
View from the bridge.
Upper end of the Fire Road, where it meets the Round Pond trail. Normally, this spot where I’m standing is extremely wet, essentially covered by a huge puddle. The recent drainage work seems to have helped with that, though it was a little muddy in spots.
Round Pond, nearly covered with solid ice.
A huge, four-trunked tree along the green trail.
Poor Mr. Beaver worked so hard, only for this tree to get hung up in another tree instead of falling.
Moon over Mt. Belknap at 9:40 AM!
On my way back, something about the steep slope just north of the pond was calling to me. I just felt this incredible urge to climb it and see where it went. Looking at my map, I did see it was indeed a high spot, and I remembered reading something about it in a hike report (I think there’s a geocache or log book there or something). Anyway, I could make out a relatively easy way up through the sparse trees, and soon found a herd path near the state forest boundary line. I followed it up and in the direction of the Round Pond trail, thinking it might take me to the summit of this rocky hill… but very soon I spotted another hiker up ahead and realized I had nearly reached the Round Pond-Piper Link trail and passed by just south of the hill’s summit. (Checking the old Dave Roberts map when I got home, I saw the name of the hill was Heator Mountain – I knew it had a name but couldn’t remember it out on the trail.) I think sometime I’ll come back and do some actual orienteering with the map and compass – it’s a pretty good place to practice, since the forest isn’t very dense, there are some easy landmarks like the state forest boundary, and it’s mostly surrounded by trails, so if you walk in a straight line you’ll eventually get to one of them.
The return trip was much faster, since all the uphill sections of the Round Pond trail were now downhill, and I took the slightly shorter Fire Road back to the parking lot. This hike only took me a little over two hours, so it wasn’t even 11 AM yet. I decided to stop at Weeks Woods for a second short hike on the way home.
Driving back on Route 11A towards Laconia, I turned in at the Gilford Town Hall and parked at the end of the Public Works building’s parking lot closest to the road. My friend Cat had recently mentioned a great view at Weeks Woods, which I thought I had seen before (and wasn’t impressed with). But it turns out the view Cat was referring to was actually beyond the Weeks Woods property.
I followed the eastern side of the yellow-blazed Lower Loop trail, then got on the blue-blazed Upper Loop trail at its eastern end. After stopping at the Picture Post to do my citizen scientist duties (taking photos as instructed and uploading them online), I continued on the Upper Loop trail briefly until the Upper Loop forked to the left and I continued straight ahead on the trail that leads off the property. (Note: If you use the Picture Post, north is no longer marked on the top. If you’re facing the sign on the post, and consider the side of the octagon closest to you as the “bottom”, north is the side of the octagon just to the right of that, at the bottom-right corner. Don’t follow the diagram of the octagon shown on the sign to determine which side is north – or just use a compass.)
My German is extremely rusty, so I ran this through Google Translate, which says this reads “Just like the sundial, count the serene hours only.”
View of the field toward the north-northwest.
View of the field to the northwest. I could see the wind turbines on Tenney Mountain from here.
Soon I reached a spot where the wider trail continued straight ahead and a well-worn narrow trail branched off to the right. Though I have no maps for these trails (and I wasn’t able to find any online), they were certainly well used and I knew all I had to do was head towards the sun to get back. After following the trail through lots of twists, turns, and junctions, and passing by several logged areas, I somehow managed to reach the viewpoint, where there was a bench crafted of logs overlooking a large field with a view of the mountains to the northwest. I stood on the bench to take a couple of disappointing iPhone shots that just couldn’t compare to the view I was seeing with my own eyes, then continued following the trail along the upper end of the field.
Originally, I thought this was simply the opposite end of the same field I had seen from the scenic overlook at the corner of the Weeks Woods property on earlier hikes. But it turns out it was the field next door (and, I believe, one of the fields that Beans and Greens farms). Following the trail and making some left turns without truly knowing where the trails would lead, I eventually ended up back at the bench. Here I made a right, figuring I would somehow finish a loop and end up either back where I started or on a different section of the upper loop. At one point, I encountered a huge pine tree that had fallen directly on (along, not across) the trail, and had to go around it. Sure enough, I soon emerged at the Weeks Woods boundary where I had initially left the property, just above the Picture Post. With my mission for this little trek accomplished, I just headed back down instead of completing the loop.
I returned to the parking lot, took off my backpack, put it and myself in the Jeep and headed home. Somewhere between Piche’s and Bolduc Park, I suddenly realized I didn’t have my mittens. When I first arrived at Weeks Woods, I had put on my backpack and tucked the mittens under the waist strap of my pack. I knew exactly where they were: in the Gilford Public Works parking lot, right next to where the Jeep had been parked. So I turned around just over the Laconia town line, headed back to Gilford and retrieved my mittens. It had only been 15 minutes, so as I figured, nobody had picked them up yet.
I’m looking forward to another day off on Monday and doing some additional exploring! Now I just have to figure out where.